I field lots of questions from out-of-town journos, most of whom are looking for a new wrinkle on a Vegas food story. Then, most of them end up writing the same story, with a cast of supporting players that invariably includes Robuchon, Lotus of Siam, a Strip steak house and the Peppermill, as the all-night coffee-shop entry. Yawn!
Not to knock the Peppermill, but Vegas is jammed with places that stay open 24/7 and serve creative, delicious pub grub. One of the new candidates for where to eat at 3 a.m. is stuck out on a lonely stretch of St. Rose Parkway a mile east of the M Resort and Casino. I’d never heard of The Bar until someone mentioned a fried PB&J on the dessert menu. For a food writer, that’s tantamount to a call to arms.
Being a 9-to-5 sort of guy—not counting the six nights a week I go to dinner (Saturday is amateur night)—I ventured in first at 4 p.m., when the restaurant side of this freestanding, handsomely built edifice is quiet. When you drive up, you’ll doubtlessly be impressed by a polished granite façade and the sheer girth of this place.
Inside, the restaurant has huge black-leather booths, a half-dozen TV screens featuring ESPN or CNN and comfy tables and chairs, plus lots of space. When it isn’t too toasty, a dedicated outdoor patio facing the scrub and sagebrush can be a nice place to sit. But my zeal was dampened by a complimentary bowl of homemade potato chips. The chips were several shades darker than ideal—and way salty.
- The Bar
- 11624 Bermuda Road, Henderson. 269-3177.
- Open 24/7
- Suggested dishes: bacon cheddar grits, $4; crab cakes, $12.50; meatloaf sliders, $10; spaghetti carbonara, $14.
Happily, things improved rapidly. The chef, Tom McGrath, worked at Fix, a top Strip steak house in the Bellagio, and he’s been well trained. Mini corn dogs in a stainless steel pail are not a health food, but almost worth the consequences, especially when smeared up with the accompanying stone-ground horseradish mustard.
Another killer—if you don’t mind the metaphor—appetizer here is “angry” mac ’n’ cheese, which gets its dudgeon from the addition of jalapeños, and has a nice, bubbly top crust. If you like crab cakes, The Bar does the genre proud, although at $12.50 they are expensive for this menu.
The only app I didn’t approve of carries the simple name “tuna”—cubed, seared ahi, avocado, cucumber and what I’m guessing is a touch of sesame oil. It comes with a pile of oily wonton crisps, and my dish lacked the vivid colors and flavors one should expect.
Later on, we had two more excellent dishes. One was a textbook Cuban sandwich, with the grandiose name of “Tony’s ‘exactamente’ Cuban.” For those who have never tried a Cuban, this combination of roast pork, ham, pepper Jack cheese, pickles and mustard can be one of the world’s great sandwiches, served on pressed, grilled bread.
And then came the richest, creamiest spaghetti carbonara I’ve ever tasted. In actuality, even if only a few Italian restaurants do it, the original carbonara recipe uses eggs, peas, pancetta and Parmesan cheese. Most chefs in this country make it with cream in place of the eggs, as here. Eat three forkfuls of this concoction and you’ll be out of business.
The big letdown was the PB&J. It is topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream from a spray can (a particular bête noir of mine), but I could have overlooked all that. What I couldn’t ignore was that the cubes tasted as if they had been fried in the same oil as our pigs in a blanket. Yow!
On a subsequent visit, though, the kitchen made a good impression without glitches. A potato-and-cheese soup was again wickedly rich, but splitting a bowl with a friend turned out to be a terrific bargain that set us back the princely sum of two bucks apiece. Ditto an amazing bacon-and-cheddar-cheese grits, available on a terrific breakfast menu that also offers buttermilk pancakes with vanilla maple syrup and biscuits with real bacon gravy.
But the real star at The Bar is a dish I’m told is soon to be on the menu. I noticed that a lunch dish, sliders, featured chicken Parmesan instead of burgers. So I asked if their meatloaf could be substituted, and the servers told me the dish was “the owner’s favorite,” and was happy to comply. Now this dish is my favorite, too.