There’s a steady, years-long tradition of chefs cutting their teeth in the kitchens of Las Vegas hotels and casinos before deciding to open their own restaurants off the Strip. This has been the essential factor in the development of our local food scene. But what has occurred recently in the area of Rampart and Charleston boulevards, the arrival of two terrific new restaurants almost across the street from each other, is something different.
First it was Honey Salt, which opened last fall in Rampart Commons. Now it’s Ogden’s Hops & Harvest at Tivoli Village. These are neighborhood restaurants developed by all-star teams of operators, created just for locals. The chefs and partners and managers involved didn’t learn the ropes on the Strip; they were recruited and compensated to create great restaurants inside casinos, and now they’re doing it for us. Let’s hope this is a trend that continues, because the food and experience at both are outstanding.
Hops & Harvest, of course, is the product of acclaimed chef and farm-to-table innovator Bradley Ogden and his beyond-capable progeny, Bryan Ogden. They built their Caesars Palace restaurant, which closed last year, into an influential game-changer on the Strip, not to mention a James Beard award-winner. The new project is much more casual, with friendly price points and familiar cuisine, and should generate the foodie buzz and neighborhood traffic Tivoli Village needs most.
The 180-seat space is divided into rustic dining rooms, bar counters and patios, and the design is improved from the days when Bottles & Burgers resided there. Along with Red Rock’s Yard House and the newly opened Aces & Ales, Hops & Harvest is one of the top places to drink interesting beer on the west side, with 18 taps and an edgy bottle selection along with fun beer cocktails. Try the Watermelon Cream: Pyramid Weiss cream beer, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and fresh watermelon juice, a summer dream.
Several popular dishes from the Caesars restaurant have been resurrected, including blue corn mini-muffins, butterscotch pudding, sweet corn soup, a silky smooth Maytag bleu cheese soufflé ($12) and a faithfully mouth-watering rendition of that bar burger ($15). Simplicity is the name of the game here. Everything is easy to eat and to love, like a great Bibb lettuce salad ($10) with balsamic vinaigrette and a tiny goat cheese crepe on the side, or a patty melt ($14.75) of provolone, Gruyère and beef short ribs.
Here are your must-bites: a starter of heirloom tomatoes, more Maytag bleu and rosemary brioche ($7.50), followed by succulent chunks of slightly Asian barbecue pork belly ($11) and a big, juicy and shareable bone-in ribeye ($45). That steak is the priciest dish on the menu, and that pork belly is about to become the most talked-about appetizer in town.
H&H is a great spot for lunch, happy hour, dinner with friends or at the bar, and brunch, too—the weekend menu adds lemon-ricotta griddle cakes with peaches and almonds, a goat cheese omelet, or some nice grabs from the lunch and dinner lists. This is as comfortable as neighborhood dining gets in Las Vegas. If you live near Rampart and Charleston, congratulations to you.
Ogden’s Hops & Harvest Tivoli Village, 476-3964. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.