Best Scene-y Brunch
Simon Restaurant & Lounge (At Palms Place, 944-3292) Simon Restaurant’s weekly pajama breakfast draws in a crowd of celebs and beautiful civilians that makes it the place to see and be seen while battling a hangover. And the menu doesn’t hurt, either. Can’t you just taste the hipness?
Best Korean-style Short Ribs
Wazuzu (At Encore, 770-7000) Leave it to an incredibly talented Thai-American chef, Encore’s Jet Tila, to outdo the Koreans in town with regard to kalbi, everyone’s favorite Korean barbecue dish. Perhaps it’s this lean, tender beef, redolent of garlic and sesame oil, or it could be Tila’s technique that makes these ribs so special. Either way, you win.
Best Dim Sum
Ping Pang Pong (At Gold Coast, 367-7111) Owners Kevin and Karrie Wu—he’s from Taiwan, she’s from Hong Kong—understand so well what both their Chinese and American customers want. That means you get perfect ha gow and siu mai, shrimp and pork dumplings, respectively, but also very Chinese fare such as chicken feet, pea shoots and cheung fan, mouth-watering stuffed rice noodles.
India’s Grill (222 S. Decatur Blvd., 880-8893) Curry is really a generic term for what Indians call masala, spice mixtures that vary as much as the demographics of the Indian sub-continent itself. But Freddy Fernandez, chef wonder from the former Portuguese enclave of Goa, makes a fish curry for the ages using coconut milk, green chilies and his own spice blend, but only on request.
Best Steak: Delmonico Steakhouse
Best Old Restaurant
Staff pick: Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse (At Binion’s, 382-1600) How old-school is this joint? You get there by an exclusive elevator, and you’re greeted by a guy straight out of The Sopranos. Perched atop Binion’s, this restaurant echoes with the memories of decades gone by, and serves something you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else: deep-fried lobster. Trust us, it’s worth the trip.
Best Spaghetti and Meatballs: Rao's
Readers’ choice: Rosemary’s Restaurant (8125 S. Sahara Ave., 869-2251) Michael and Wendy Jordan have created a true Vegas original with their world-class spins on American classics. And their personal touch is everywhere—Hugo’s Texas BBQ Shrimp is named after Wendy’s stepfather; Caesar for Mark is named after a neighbor who wanted it on the menu, etc. Who knows? They just may name a dish after you.
Sen of Japan (8080 W. Desert Inn Road, 871-7781) The majority of our neighborhood sushi bars are Korean- or Taiwanese-owned, but this place is pure Japanese, and the chef treats sashimi with the proper respect. The toro (fatty tuna belly), uni (sea urchin) and kampachi (amberjack) are all as fresh and flavorful as they would be at 5:30 a.m. in Tsukiji, Tokyo’s legendary fish market.
Fausto’s (7835 S. Rainbow Blvd., 407-9445; 595 College Drive, Henderson, 568-1220; 2654 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson, 617-2246) Yes, we’ve tried this tried-and-true Mexican staple all over town, and there’s nothing that compares to the amount/quality/price of a plate here.
Best Beer Selection, Bottles
Readers’ Choice: Freakin’ Frog (4700 S. Maryland Parkway, 597-3237) With around 700 bottles of beer on the menu, Freakin’ Frog is the hands-down leader in the race for Vegas’ rarest collection of brews. The bar serves everything from Sam Adams Utopius MMIII, which clocks in at 25 percent alcohol by volume, to Westvleteren, a Belgian Trappist ale that runs $75 for a 12-ounce bottle. Sure, that’s steep, but the beer isn’t available for import, so someone actually had to fly to Europe to pick it up. Seventy-five bucks for a liquid hop across the pond doesn’t sound so bad.
Best Beer Selection, Taps
Readers’ Choice: Yard House (6593 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 734-9273) With more than 150 taps and a steady supply of at least 136 different labels on hand, this is a suds-lover’s paradise. There really isn’t a dud in the bunch (even Pabst Blue Ribbon out of a tap is great!), but try the Firestone Double Barrel Ale if it’s available, as well as the Black Velvet—Wyder’s Pear Cider and Guinness Stout (sounds iffy, we know, but you’ll thank us later).
Staff pick: Simon Restaurant & Lounge (At Palms Place, 944-3292) Chef Kerry Simon goes bonkers every Sunday, with a killer sushi bar, American comfort foods such as chicken and waffles or his celebrated meatloaf and, for an extra charge of $7, an all-you-can-drink Bloody Mary bar. The pastries, desserts and peel-and-eat shrimp with homemade remoulade are worth a detour by themselves.
Readers’ Choice: Carnival World Buffet (At the Rio, 777-7777) This vast spread, which has helped redefine the Vegas buffet from a tired comedian’s punchline into a genuine culinary experience, is a true Sin City classic. Three hundred dishes! From Asian barbecue to American comfort food, this place has it all.
Best Sliders: Claim Jumper
Best Outdoor Dining: Morels French Steakhouse and Bistro
- Best Clam Chowder: RM Seafood
Best Place to Eat With Your Hands
Merkato Ethiopian Café (855 E. Twain Ave., 796-1231) Walk into Merkato Ethiopian Café, and you can smell the authenticity. You can see it, too, in the crowd of Ethiopian immigrants that fills the restaurant’s tables, but what you really need to do is taste it. Order up one of the combo platters or create your own, mixing and matching richly flavored stews of beef, lamb and vegetables served on a traditional sourdough crepe called injera. To enjoy the silverware-free meal, just rip off a piece of crepe, scoop up something delicious and devour, repeating until your platter is empty or your belly is full.
Best Place to Eat for Under $10
Staff pick: Noodle Palace (5115 Spring Mountain Road, 798-1113) This mezzanine-level Cantonese restaurant serves a won ton noodle soup for under $7 that rivals the best of them in Hong Kong, stocked with more than a dozen shrimp-filled dumplings. Rice plates, crispy Hong Kong-style noodles and creative vegetable dishes—a green bean sauté with black olives comes to mind—have no peer in Chinatown.
Readers’ Choice: In-N-Out
Best Lunch Specials
Staff pick: Joe’s Stone Crab (In the Forum Shops at Caesars, 792-9222) For an upscale lunch that would sink a ship, Joe’s has unveiled a $21 extravaganza. Choose between their famous stone crabs with all the trimmings or a juicy steak, which is accompanied by a riot of side dishes that literally fill the table: Jennie’s potatoes, homemade coleslaw, a cheese-topped baked tomato with spinach. As if that weren’t enough, a dessert, banana cream or Key lime pie, is also included.
Readers’ Choice: RA Sushi
Focus On: Breakfast
Best Coffee: Dunkin’ Donuts (Multiple locations) Coffee houses be damned. Dunkin’s coffee is fresh and full-bodied, smells delicious and, with cream, constitutes a sound and satisfying wake-up call.
Best Breakfast Burritos
Fausto’s (7835 S. Rainbow Blvd., 407-9445; 595 College Drive, Henderson, 568-1220; 2654 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson, 617-2246) Fresh off the griddle, these rolled wonders burst with earthy goodness: bacon or ham, potatoes, eggs. Splash on the red salsa for some extra caliente.
The Cracked Egg (Multiple locations) We’re partial to a chile verde/jalapeños/sour cream combo, but it’s tough to screw up the Cracked Egg’s build-your-own “Sin City Skillet” no matter what ingredients you’re into. Two eggs (we can’t decide if scrambled or over easy is better; both rule), melted cheese and whatever add-ons you want—from broccoli to Polish sausage—in a heaping stack served over fluffy seasoned potatoes. Damn, we’re suddenly hungry.
Best 24-hour Breakfast
Blueberry Hill (Multiple locations) This locally owned chain has been satisfying night owls and early birds alike since 1987. Every location has character to spare no matter the time of day, and the food certainly ain’t bad either. Best of all, it’s popular with the late-night crowd, so it’s great for some otherworldly people-watching, too.
Weiss (2744 N. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson, 454-0565) These bagels are serious: big, chewy affairs, abundantly seasoned—from everything bagels to garlic or cinnamon raisin, there’s nothing wimpy or Frisbee-ish about them.
Best New Restaurant
Staff pick: Raku (5030 Spring Mountain Road, 367-3511) New York Japanese star chef Mitsuo Endo’s postage stamp-sized haunt has only minimal sushi, opting instead to serve pub dishes, but he already has every famous Vegas chef as a regular customer. His fans come for house-made tofu, amazing grilled rice balls and funky stewed offal, and the sake and beer flow like a local sprinkler system in July.
Readers’ Choice: Yellowtail (At Bellagio, 693-8300)
Staff pick: Paymon's Mediterranean Cafe (4147 So. Maryland Parkway, 731-6030; 8380 W. Sahara Ave)
Readers’ Choice: In-N-Out Splendid choice, readers! These are exemplary fries, neither grease-soaked like some, nor planks of potatoey blandness like others.
Staff pick: Memphis Championship Barbecue
Readers’ Choice: Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ
Best Cheesesteak: Capriotti’s
Best Home-style Dessert: Blueberry pie at Blueberry Hill
Best Offbeat dessert: S’mores at N9NE Steakhouse ---->
Best Pizza Mini-Debate
Settebello (At the District, 140 S. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson, 222-3556) Pizza is pizza, except when it isn’t. Settebello says they make pizza like real Italians do; I’ve never been to Italy, but I sure would like to, if it means I’d get to tear apart delicately prepared, perfectly crisp, amazingly flavor-combined thin-crust pies like these all day. Really, once you’ve had Settebello, everything else just seems like, well, pizza. –Spencer Patterson
Metro Pizza (Multiple locations) Sorry, Settebello fans. When friends come in from out of town, and they want pizza, there’s only one place in town that will do. Metro Pizza features a wide array of pizzas, with representative samples from pizza meccas like the Big Apple and Chitown. But whichever pie you pick, the bold and brassy flavors will make you happy. There are several outlets in town; the one at 1395 E. Tropicana Ave. (736-1955) is best. –T.R. Witcher
Readers’ Choice: Metro Pizza
Best Salad: Whole Foods Market
Best Healthy Eating: Go Raw Café
- Best Spicy Tuna Handroll
The Ka (2269 N. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson, 598-4352) Moist, fresh tuna—spicy, yet with no mayo-sauce in sight. Ahhh.
Best Power-Lunch Spot
Verandah (3960 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 632-5000) and McCormick and Schmick’s (335 Hughes Center Dr., 836-9000) Walk into either of these restaurants any day of the week and odds are you’ll be surrounded a who’s who of Vegas’ power elite. It was literally impossible to choose between these two, so we’re giving them both the honor this year.
Best Chicken Wings: Readers’ Choice: Buffalo Wild Wings
Pink Taco (At Hard Rock Hotel, 693-5525) Las Vegas has yet to really make a name for itself in the nacho realm, but this is clearly the best of the current bunch. The chicken and chipotle cheese really make the flavors in this one come alive, and best of all, you get to enjoy them with one of Pink Taco’s signature margaritas.
Arts + Entertainment
Best Show on the Strip
Staff pick: Jersey Boys (At the Palazzo, 414-9000) This show should not have survived, coming after the Broadway West vanguard (Avenue Q, Hairspray, The Producers and Spamalot) went down in quick succession. Unlike those shows, Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is a serious drama that maintains its length and its intermission and offers no Vegas stagecraft to punk up the fun factor, à la Phantom. This is a serious Broadway musical that, without compromise, continues to thrive thanks to word of mouth, being a great theater experience and, these days, having almost no competition in the category of Broadway West.
Readers’ Choice: The Beatles Love
Best Piece of Public Art: “Monument to the Simulacrum,” Stephen Hendee --->
Best Theater Company
Atlas Theatre Ensemble One of the pleasures of theater here is the ad hoc company of actors that has grown around such troupes as Atlas Theatre Ensemble, Good Medicine Theatre Company, Insurgo Theater Movement, Las Vegas Little Theatre and Test Market Theater, among others. With all the varying modes of production, actors have an almost unprecedented range of material to work with. This past year, though, the group that consistently got the best out of these performers was Atlas Theatre Ensemble. With works ranging from the sketch show Feed the Monkey to Charles Mee’s Trojan Women 2.0, they’ve shown a range of styles and quality of work that is highly impressive.
Best Bowling Alley: Readers’ Choice: Red Rock
Best Movie Theater
Rave Motion Pictures (6587 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 362-7283) We’re lucky to have a lot of high-quality movie theaters in Vegas, and all of their best aspects come together at Rave Motion Pictures in the Town Square mall, which has lovely digital projection in every auditorium; clear, crisp sound; and extra legroom (four feet) for maximum comfort. It also has eight luxury auditoriums with wide, plush seats that are more like easy chairs, plus larger armrests so that you don’t have to stick your popcorn on your lap or on the floor. Combine that with all the shopping and dining available at Town Square for pre- or post-movie activities, and you’ve got an unbeatable moviegoing experience.
Best Concert Calendar
House of Blues (At Mandalay Bay, 632-7600) Animal Collective. Erykah Badu. Joe Rogan. Matisyahu. The Crystal Method. The Vermin. Testament. Pauly Shore? Yeah, the House of Blues will book just about anyone once. Which works well for those with diverse tastes in music and comedy—and for those who thought they’d never see their favorite act hit the Vegas Strip. The Pearl and the new Joint have some heavy hitters coming in, but for sheer consistency, there’s still no beating HOB.
Best Performing Arts Organization
Las Vegas Philharmonic Only 11 years old and just finishing its second season under the direction of conductor David Itkin, the Las Vegas Philharmonic consistently delivers a high-quality and varied product. This year, while still programming the classical staples, Itkin freshened up the repertoire by adding accessible contemporary pieces, less-performed works by popular composers and a new Pops series. With the new Smith Center scheduled to open in early 2012, expectations are high for local performing-arts groups. The Phil is clearly up to the challenge.
Best Music Radio Station
Staff pick: KBET 790-AM Hidden in the middle of the AM dial is this relatively new station with no DJs, minimal commercials and a playlist completely free of overplayed current hits. It’s Country Legends 790, playing a wide range of classic country songs from the ’50s through the ’80s. Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, Loretta Lynn ... that’s just a sample of what you could hear in a given hour. Sure, some of the songs are more cheesy than legendary, but almost none of them can be heard elsewhere on the radio. In a sea of similar-sounding stations (and two interchangeable contemporary-country FM outlets), Country Legends is a true original.
Readers’ Choice: KLUC 98.5-FM
Atomic Testing Museum (755 E. Flamingo Road, 794-5161, atomictestingmuseum.org) Amidst all the bellyaching about Yucca Mountain, it’s hard to remember that Nevadans were once crazy over all things nuclear. This small museum confidently takes us through the science and culture of the atomic age, and gives us another insight into the region’s larger-than-life character.
Best Live Band (Local)
Staff pick: Caravels You might have to visit a random taco shop, municipal building or stranger’s house to see ’em, but trust us, it’s worth it.
Readers’ Choice: The Killers
Best Rock Singer
Paige Overton, The Clydesdale Does cowpunk qualify as rock? Who cares? Miss Overton has chops and personality.
Best Dumb Band Name: Dangerboner
Staff pick: David Ryan Don’t let the cool aesthetic of David Ryan’s pop abstractions fool you—these paintings are ridiculously generous. Get up close. Move around. The studied consideration of linear form is flawless, and the color deftly reveals and accentuates the secret layers of MDF and Corafoam that organically iterate into perfectly delectable treats. Ryan’s is an intelligent and funny abstraction that rewards prolonged consideration. Judging from Ryan’s shows in the last two years spanning LA, London and Paris, the rest of the art world would seem to agree. But we certainly don’t need their stamp of approval to know a good thing when we see one.
Readers’ Choice: Jerry Misko Weekly readers picked an excellent artist—best known for plumbing the town’s spirit through carefully edited close-ups of its signage—and a good guy, a tireless arts advocate and gallerist.
Best Art Gallery: Naomi Arin Contemporary Art
Best Talk Radio Station
Staff pick: KNPR
Readers’ Choice: KNPR
Best Place to See a Local Band
Staff pick: Beauty Bar backyard
Readers’ Choice: Beauty Bar
Best Place to See a Visiting Headliner: The Pearl at the Palms
Focus On: Strip Talent
Lance Burton (At the Monte Carlo, 730-7160) Even among the abracadabra set, Lance Burton is the best. No magic show offers better pacing, more perfectly presented illusions and an experience that can still drive a child mad with wonder. Burton offers magic without irony or cynicism or any attempt to gussy it up for a new generation. Rather, he counts on the ability of his tricks to still amaze. And they do.
George Wallace: (At the Flamingo, 733-3333) Wallace usually gets more attention for his marketing savvy and his friendships with more famous comedians. But through valuable giveaways, riffing on the news and his specialty “your mama” jokes, he manages to offer a freewheeling show that even on a slow night is plenty entertaining.
Terry Fator (At the Mirage, 792-7777) Fator is the star of the moment. Not since Love has a Vegas show gathered as many positive notices. Fator went from the Hilton to the Mirage, building an audience along the way with his impressions married to his skill as a ventriloquist. As an impressionist he can do a flawless Etta James or Roy Orbison. His tight show at the Mirage has combined optimism and energy into a new quality family show.
Stoyan Metchkarov, Peepshow (At Planet Hollywood, 785-5555) All muscles, pulling himself out of a wet bathtub in tight blue jeans, Metchkarov then flexes his biceps, triceps and every other muscle, working two sheets as an aerialist, lifting from tub to ceiling. He is meant to be a payoff for women’s libidos, and based on the collective howl that greets him, the cheetahs agree.
Best Lounge act
Zowie Bowie (At the Palms, 942-7777) Lounge bands are often imitated, but few are actually courted. If one band does good business with ’80s covers at Casino A, then Casino B hires a lounge band to do ’80s covers, too. But Zowie Bowie has built a loyal audience of locals while appealing to tourists. In March the Palms took the unusual step of grabbing Zowie Bowie from Red Rock resort, where they had been brought to Vegas to perform.
Best Newcomer To The Scene (Venue)
Staff pick: XS ---->
Readers’ Choice: Christian Audigier the Nightclub
Best Mega Nightclub
Staff pick: Tao (At the Venetian, 388-8588, taolasvegas.com) With the perfect mix of spaciousness, a high-energy dance floor, a powerful wow factor, a celebrity following and undeniable local popularity, Tao Nightclub remains this city’s favorite large-scale nightclub for seeing and being seen.
Readers’ Choice: Tao
Best Intimate/Boutique Nightclub
Staff pick: Lavo (At the Palazzo, 791-1818, lavolv.com) It’s hard to say whether Lavo would have worked as a megaclub. There’s something very reassuring in the diminutive dance floor, the closeness of the bar to everything and the visibility of the DJ. With all the bells and whistles of larger, less intimate clubs, Lavo is our choice when size matters. Sometimes less really is more.
Readers’ Choice: Blush Boutique Nightclub
Staff pick: Tabu (At MGM Grand, 891-7183) For those who enjoy the simplicity of drinks and beautiful nightlife scenery, Tabu’s iconic bar décor, concrete tables and model staff make this ultralounge a favorite the world over.
Readers’ Choice: Flirt Lounge
Best Afterhours Club
Staff pick: Afterhours Obsession, The Playground (3525 W. Russell Road, 673-1700, penthouselv.com) Bouncing back from the sudden closure of Empire Ballroom one year ago exactly, the Vegas Alliance crew has proved they’re the masters of the afterhours game. Obsession has become the go-to spot for the nightlife crowd and dance-music fans who want to keep the party going until after the sun comes up.
Readers’ Choice: Drai’s
Best Happy Hour
Blue Martini (6593 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 949-2583, bluemartinilounge.com) No, your friends and co-workers have not been abducted by aliens. But if everyone suddenly goes missing between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. on a Wednesday (or any day of the week, for that matter), you can pretty much bet they are bellying up to one of Blue Martini’s four bars for happy hour, rocking out with Dave from accounting to rotating live acts or DJs, or testing the cocktail table’s weight limits with any one of Blue Martini’s mondo cocktails, all of which come with a second helping in a neat baby cocktail shaker.
Best Nonhotel Bar
Staff pick: Downtown Cocktail Room (111 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 880-3696, ) Sure, Vegas has plenty of nonhotel bars. But few are as amazing as the Downtown Cocktail Room. Why? Let us list the ways: the creative and ever-changing cocktails, the bartenders who serve them (we heart you, George), the speakeasy-style Downtown locale, the mysterious bathroom stalls, the non-gaming bar top, the music, the ...
Readers’ Choice: Blue Martini
Best Nightlife Figure
Michael Fuller, N9NE Group The N9NE Group VP continues to impress us with his keen business sense while remaining remarkably down-to-earth. Fuller doesn’t just sit behind a desk and call the shots, but is also out in the clubs asking partiers their opinions. Plus, if a DJ calls in sick, “The Funkler” himself can always jump in and command the dance floor.
Best Nightclub Alternative
Staff pick: Fremont East No trekking through casinos or fancy attire necessary. With Downtown Cocktail Room, the Griffin and Beauty Bar all within stumbling distance of one another, the ADD partier never runs out of options. As an extra bonus, you don’t have to spring for bottle service just to sit down.
Readers’ Choice: Blue Martini
Best Recession Reaction
Christian Audigier (At TI, 894-7580, audigierlv.com) Most clubs try to be as exclusive and as ritzy as possible (remember the Bank’s original $50 cover). Christian Audigier at TI has sought the opposite strategy. Its pragmatic No Money in the Bank promotion ($2 entry, $5 wells and table service starting at $150) is a good example for the folks in Washington.
Best Networking Event
The Executive Lounge, Lavo (At the Palazzo, 791-1818, theexecutivelounge.com) Founders Jimmy Foster and Eamon Springall took the work out of networking when they began the popular and highbrow Executive Lounge, at first a weekly, now a monthly Tuesday evening at Lavo Nightclub, where relationships come before business cards, and etiquette is the law of the land.
Best Party (One-Off)
Perrypalooza, Bare In Vegas, one-off parties are as rare as unicorns. Perrypalooza, Perry Farrell’s star-studded 50th-birthday bash, is one exception. A revolving concert of rock legends, the party ended with Billy Idol, Dave Navarro, Debbie Harry, Juliette Lewis and more playing backup to Farrell, in an all-hands-on-deck cover of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Best Rising Star DJ
Jordan Stevens Almost no one beyond the afterhours circuit had heard of this Georgia native a year ago. Stevens’ flawless sets energize tourists and picky locals without selling out to the commercial music formula, which has earned him regular spots at the best parties in town as well as respect from some of the biggest DJs in the world.
Best Resident DJ
Staff pick: Keith Evan Perhaps we should have named him Best Juggler, as this seemingly omnipresent deep-house dynamo successfully maintains gigs all over town while tenderly nursing his newest venture, Taste Wednesdays at Café Soleil, and mindfully shepherding his Soundbar monthly into its eighth year along with the rest of the House Society Crew DJs.
Readers’ Choice: DJ Hollywood
Best Staff Uniform (Cocktail Servers/Bartenders)
Privé/The Living Room (At Planet Hollywood, 523-6002, privelv.com) Cocktail-server dresses we’d happily step out in, smart caps for the runners and male bartenders dressed in the style of Clooney. Not that we’re hoping to meet George Clooney in a Las Vegas nightclub or anything—that’s been done—but the bartenders at Privé and the Living Room Lounge do take a great cue from Clooney, leaving those bow ties untied and women tongue-tied.
Best Go-Go Dancers
Wasted Space (At Hard Rock Hotel, 693-4040, hartswastedspace.com) Dancing alone onstage for extended periods of time—especially while sober—takes a special kind of person who truly enjoys what they do, and the go-go dancers of Wasted Space take that intense passion to heart as they help the crowd get just as lost in the music as they are.
Best Party (Recurring)
Perfecto Saturdays, Rain (At the Palms, 942-6832) Clubbing has become fun again. Maybe it’s Paul Oakenfold and guest headliners offering something other than mainstream music, or the performers tantalizing the crowd, or even the staff’s ability to make everyone feel welcome—who knows? But the multi-sensory experience is different every week, and keeps us coming back for more.
Best Nightlife Cheerleader
JRoc, N9NE Group With his infectious trademark “Thunder Clap,” unquestionable popularity and creative personally themed events, N9NE Group’s Jason “JRoc” Craig has taken the positive moral of Las Vegas entertainment as his own personal quest and remains our favorite nightlife cheerleader.
Best Nightlife Comeback
Rain (At the Palms, 942-6832) We had almost given up. Almost left Rain to drown in what was left of the post-Real World tourist crowd and every other club’s sloppy seconds. And then … there was Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto Saturdays. And now … there is DJ AM on Fridays. With crowds once again flocking to Rain, we truly can’t wait to see what happens next.
Best Sports Bar: The Sports Bar, Palazzo
Noir Bar (At Luxor, 731-7873) There are few places left where you can bring someone who says they know Vegas and watch their jaw literally drop. Gorgeous when it’s empty, decadent when packed, this little hideaway can glide from night to morning on a sea of freshly crafted cocktails at the hands of three of Las Vegas’ most distinguished bartenders. Ken, Andrew, Trevor—mwah!
Best Pool Party
Staff pick: Wet Republic
Readers’ Choice: Rehab
Best Dive Joint: Double Down Saloon
Best New Gimmick: Girl-on-girl kissing contests
Best Hotel Bar: Parasol Bars, Up and Down, at Wynn
Best Strip Club: Spearmint Rhino
Best Gay/Lesbian Club
Staff pick: Piranha
Readers’ Choice: Krave
Focus On: Cocktailing
Jerry Vargas, Sidebar (201 N. 3rd St., 259-9700, sidebarlv.com) With his combination of solid mixology skills and the warmest personality Downtown, Vargas has won us over like a brother from another mother. Lending a hand—or a drink—to a Sidebar regular down on his or her luck also earns points in our eyes.
Best Bottle Service
Lavo (At the Palazzo, 791-1818) Las Vegas nightclubs have unquestionably written the world’s playbook when it comes to bottle service, but Lavo’s intimate size and close attention to detail take it to the next level by ensuring that your glass will never be empty and your guests will never find themselves playing the dreaded game of Can You Spot the Waitress?
Best Signature Cocktail
Downtown Dill Bloody Mary, Downtown Cocktail Room (111 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 880-3696) The mark of a good cocktail is when it outlasts its time on the menu, when it becomes “the usual.” The Downtown Cocktail Room’s George Austin Sproule was still tinkering with his gin-based Bloody Mary, served it up with fresh dill, when he first put it on his autumn 2007 menu. Come winter, Downtown Dill devotees may as well have staged a sit-in—they have simply never let Sproule stop making them their usual.
Best Overall Cocktail Menu
Downtown Cocktail Room (111 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 880-3696 ) Each quarter, Sproule scraps the current menu and starts at Square 1, keeping only what is relevant and working with fellow bartenders Alicia Sanchez and Steve Perez to favor seasonal produce, feature new spirits or honor time-tested classic cocktails. Like clockwork, this coming June 27 George Austin Sproule will unveil his next highly anticipated seasonal menu.
Best Place to Buy Sneakers
Undefeated (4480 Paradise Road, 732-0019) It isn’t going to make you lightning fast or help you with your pronation problem, but just across from the Hard Rock, Undefeated will make you feel cooler simply because you know that it exists. Not only does the fashionable sneaker spot have exclusive collaborations with Nike, Vans and Converse—which means Undefeated’s six international stores are the only places that carry certain high-cachet shoes—but its status as a gathering place for “like-minded creative individuals” also means you’ll be greeted and surrounded by other sneaker fiends as you browse the shelves in search of the perfect pair of high tops.
Best Tattoo/Piercing Shop
Readers’ Choice: Dragon Tattoo (3340 E. Tropicana Ave., 558-8282) This was a tight competition, with strong showings from Hart & Huntington, Pussykat Tattoo and Vince Neil Ink. No surprise; tats are big business, and clients tend to stick with good needlers. In the end, the Dragon Tattoo loyalists carried the day—and if that many people vote for the place, it’s gotta be good.
Best Place to Buy a Suit for Less Than $500
Zara (At Fashion Show Mall, 733-1113) Every man needs a good suit. And if you’ve just been laid off, you need one more than ever. But your money is tighter than ever. What to do? Get over to Zara at the Fashion Show. The stylish, cost-conscious retailer stocks an array of fashionable suits that won’t make you look like a square and will go easy on your wallet.
Best Place to Pick Up a Good Party Dress
Maude (At Mandalay Place, 262-0024) We’re just mad about Maude! This tiny boutique in the bridge-mall between Mandalay Bay and the Luxor gets it right by having an appropriate mix of hip, trendy casual clothes for, say, a rock concert at the House of Blues and the sexy sparkly things we ladies love to wear to LAX or Mix. They also have your entire ensemble covered, from the belts and baubles to the scarf and hat for those rare occasions when you arrive at a party along with the dreaded dress-twin.
Best Used-book Store
Plaza Books (7380 S. Eastern Ave., 263-2692) If you’re even remotely fond of books, don’t stop in here before your lunch hour or you’ll be going hungry that day (how do we know? Oh, we know). Owner Ann DeVere knows how to pack her shelves with quality merch—not only what you want, but also what you don’t know you want until you see it.
Best Specialty Foods Shop
Staff pick: Valley Cheese & Wine (1770 Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson, 341-8191) It only takes one taste of this shop’s imported meats to realize that owner Bob Howland (who runs this shop with his wife and partner, Kristin Sande) is a maniac. In addition to chocolates, pastas, the city’s best cheese counter and an array of imported foods that can’t be found elsewhere in the Valley, the store has wines from importers Jorge Ordonez, Eric Solomon and several other boutique negotiators.
Readers’ Choice: Whole Foods Market (Multiple locations) How can you ever stop gushing about a store that sells every type of olive? This is a specialist’s paradise, with a charcuterie that will keep you busy for days and a raw-food bar that will have vegetarians weeping with joy. Our personal favorite—getting to sample the seriously fresh produce before buying it. Now if they can just start doing that with the pizza ...
Staff pick: Green Valley Ranch Spa (617-7570) Whether you want to be wrapped in a Hydra Quench Cocoon or get a Hot Cinnamon Facial, GVR’s spa is the place to go. The facility is beautiful, the beauty pros are friendly and super-qualified, you don’t have to fight Strip traffic when you leave (which really sucks if you hit a spa on the Strip without booking a room), and they run locals specials. Right now it’s 30 percent off for Nevadans.
Readers’ Choice: Green Valley Ranch Spa
Best Garage-sale Alternative
Zia Record Exchange (4225 S. Eastern Ave., 735-4942; 7293 W. Sahara Ave., 233-4942) Assuming you haven’t been using your old CDs and DVDs as knife sharpeners, odds are pretty good Zia will give you cash for them. Like, real money you can use to buy food and pay rent with—that same day. Careful, though; if you’re anything like us, you’ll find at least three movies or albums while you’re waiting. Eh, food is overrated anyway.
Best Place to Buy Something for Your Alienated Gothic Teen
Cash 4 Chaos (4110 S. Maryland Parkway, 699-5617) For the last 12 years, Cash 4 Chaos has been the king of subculture clothing and swag from the primal punk and goth eras to modern metal and more, yet while fans of emo and faux-punk may choose the mall-centric Hot Topic, any truly alienated teen knows that Alien Sex Fiend, 45 Grave and Christian Death are way more goth (and have way scarier names) than Silverstein or Escape the Fate. Hey, not only that, but also that they’ll never be able to find real bullet belts or inverted cross necklaces at the H-Tizzle, so for goth authenticity and celebrating true teenage rebellion, Cash 4 Chaos always will reign supreme.
Best Place to Buy Gadgets
Staff pick: Apple Store
Readers’ Choice: Best Buy
- Best Place to Get Pet-pampering Supplies: Flea Bag’s Barkery & Bowtique
Best Clothing Boutique: Readers’ Choice: Buffalo Exchange
Best Wine Shop: Marche Bacchus
Best Place to Buy a Wedding Gift For Under $50: Unica Home
Best Place to Buy T-shirts To Express Your Extreme Emotions: Hahn’s Military Surplus
Anthony Marnell Everyone thought he was crazy, opening a massive enterprise—the M Resort—10 miles from the action on the Strip and focusing on restaurants rather than headliners. (He even set up a pharmacy!) And with fewer than 400 rooms, how could it make money? But Marnell is laughing now, with more than 100,000 new customers the first month (they were hoping for 25,000) and lines out the door.
Best Local Writer
Dave Hickey Hickey is both opinionated and intelligent. He is willing to speculate and to push himself into new areas of writing. A short-story writer, an essayist, an art critic and a reviewer of all kinds of creation and organization, Hickey’s a sort of Vegas resource. The crucial writing by Hickey on Vegas can be found in his collection Air Guitar, where he conjures the city with more of an insider’s feel than Hunter S. Thompson could ever dream of, and Hickey—not that he draws attention to the fact—actually has the Ph.D., and thus really is Dr. David Hickey.
Rick Moonen (RM Seafood, at Mandalay Bay, 632-9300) New York transplant Moonen is riding high. His upstairs dining room, RM Seafood, has just reopened with the able assistance of Adam Sobel, and his seafood bible, Fish Without a Doubt, has catapulted him into the national spotlight as king of sustainable seafood. It doesn’t hurt that he makes the world’s best clam chowder, either.
Readers’ Choice: Oscar Goodman Well, who else? Harry Reid? Sure, he represents Nevada, but Reid belongs to the nation now; he’s trying to be a statesman. Oscar’s an unapologetic local politician. Let Obama say something about Vegas conventioneering. Reid? Oh, he might issue a carefully manicured, passionless statement pointing out whatever. Oscar will demand an apology, damn it. Buffoonish? Maybe. Depends on your perspective. But it’s certainly what the best local politician would do.
Phil Ruffin What counts as against the grain in an against-the-grain city? Well, here’s one idea: In an age when the dominant mode of casino ownership on the Strip is the empire of multiple properties—your Harrah’ses, your MGM Mirages—Ruffin’s canny purchase of T.I. at a fire-sale price recalls an early mode: the maverick owner who puts his stamp on one place. Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, each with two resorts that reflect their owners, are the contemporary prototypes. Welcome to that club, Mr. Ruffin.
Best Local Hero: Readers’ Choice: Andre Agassi
Best Las Vegan You Love to Hate: Readers’ Choice: Criss Angel
Best Only-in-Vegas Personality: Readers’ Choice: Oscar Goodman No contest.
Best Broadcast Figures
Staff pick: Paula Francis and Gary Waddell, KLAS Channel 8 So many new faces come and go, so many new names and new ears and new wardrobes, but always—in fact since the dawn of time—Gary and Paula are there. They keep us in check. They’re the standard-bearers, Ma and Pa Media. When things suck, as they are prone to, and the whole world seems topsy-turvy crappy/scary, turn on Channel 8. Watch Gary and Paula. Take a deep breath. Some things are still solid.
Readers’ Choice: Jason Feinberg, KVVU Channel 5 Presumably Weekly readers were moved as much by his smooth handling of the anchor desk as by his good looks. Feinberg is the suave face of Fox 5’s morning, hosting Live in Las Vegas at 7 a.m., followed immediately by More. We can forgive him for wearing Cirque du Soleil tights in those promos.
Best Resident Genius
Penn Jillette It isn’t just that Jillette is brilliant. You can read his books or see his show to learn that. Rather, no headliner or casino executive or politician has managed to find so many ways to share with the public his views on so many issues. From his half-million followers on Twitter to his regular video blogs, Jillette manages to get the word out on whatever his quirky yet libertarian-atheist mind is thinking. He may be a juggler, comedian and magician, but when someone wants deep thought in Vegas, Penn Jillette is also colossus of quantity and quality of genius.
This + That
Best Place to Go on a Second Date
Staff pick: Red Rock Climbing Center (8201 W. Charleston Blvd., 254-5604) First dates are all about nervous chatter and heavy flirting, but second dates? That’s when you make a real lasting impression. Skip the get-to-know-you-better dinner and go straight to putting your life in your partner’s hands at Red Rock Climbing Center. The indoor climbing gym can teach you to belay, rappel and rocket up the walls in a short one-on-one session that will leave you plenty of time to practice climbing and work on important elements of a relationship, like building trust and laughing at your date’s awkward harness wedgie.
Readers’ Choice: Social House
Best Day Trip From Las Vegas: Back road to Valley of Fire
Best Day Trip in Las Vegas
Cactus Joe’s Nursery (12740 Blue Diamond Road, 875-1968, cactuscactus.com) Just beyond the outer fringe of the residential Valley, Cactus Joe’s Nursery is an unexpected Vegas gem. The store sells cacti, other desert plants, new-agey decorative glass, fountains, pottery, jewelry and more. There’s even a wedding chapel. The place just goes and goes and goes. It’s like stepping into Sedona, or a dream.
Best Local Advertisement
Staff pick: Steve Wynn atop Encore No ad had us scrambling to our computers faster, trying to figure out how much of the ad was trickery and how much was real. Turns out this mini-stunner, directed by Brett Ratner, no less, is pretty much the real deal—Wynn was actually up there, and in high winds. We always knew the guy had business cojones, but now we know he’s got the other kind, too.
Readers’ Choice: Bait & Tackle
- Best City Mascot: The Chopper
Best Way to Save Vegas
Readers’ Choice. Selected reader responses:
“A new governor”
“Back to old-school attitudes about service”
“Burn it down”
“Finish all the construction sooner”
“Fire Superintendent Walt Rulffes”
“Free up lending so people can buy cheap houses AGAIN”
“Increase casino tax”
“Legalize and tax brothels and marijuana”
“Local music on the Strip”
“Loosen slots on the Strip”
“LVCVA hires new agency”
“More efficient and convenient public transportation”
“State income tax”
“Stop the growth!”
“Throw the corporations out and bring back the mob”
“Weed out the morons”
Best Underpublicized Charity
Second Chance Foundation (6375 S. Pecos Road, 369-5876, secondchancefdn.org) This little-known charity works with those in the community who need organ transplants, as well as educating the community about the process itself.
Best Local Gay And Lesbian Resource
The Center (953 E. Sahara Ave., 733-9800, thecenterlv.com) Aka the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. Events, activities, activism, support groups, business resources—your connection to everything.
Best Comeback: Donny and Marie
Staff pick: World Market Center complex (495 S. Grand Central Parkway, 599-9621) What to make of these crazy buildings? These giant, geometrically skewed, windowless boxes that you can’t even go inside? Only in a context-free corner of Downtown—a blank canvas, if you will—could such large buildings even work. And amazingly they do work. They should be oppressive, but instead, their size reminds us that this is a real city up to big things.
Readers’ Choice: CityCenter No surprise. Whatever its financial woes, there’s no denying the dense muscularity of the CityCenter complex, nor its curvaceous beauty, nor the way it’s rewriting the skyline right before our eyes.
Best Natural Wonder
Mount Charleston We know, we know, Red Rock! How can it not be Red Rock, or Valley of Fire, or Sunrise Mountain, or the Springs Preserve, or Oscar’s red nose, or the Crazy Girls’ legendary asses? It’s all those things, but lately, we’ve been rediscovering the gift of the mountain. Handily, since the city has sprawled unnecessarily, Mt. Charleston has gotten a lot closer. Fall was beautiful: actual autumnal leaves falling, brisk, cleaner-than-Vegas skies. Snow season was incredible—snowboarding, angel-making, snowball-fighting fun. Spring is gorgeous: You can sit on the deck at Mt. Charleston Lodge and look out at thousands of green, green trees climbing the mountain face in front of you, or, if you’re not a lazy person, hike one of the great hidden trails, crunching bristlecones under your boots. And summer? All we have to say is: 30 degrees cooler. Thanks, Mother Nature!
Best Place to Find Intelligent Conversation
Readers’ Choice: At home Well, that’s a vote of no confidence in our public spaces! (Another popular choice was variations of “not here.”) The student union at UNLV not working for you? The aisles at the Reading Room? Apparently not. The closest readers got to voting in a truly public place was the wan showing for the answer “libraries.”
Best Sign the Apocalypse Is Near
Readers’ Choice. Selected reader responses:
“45 percent high school graduation rate”
“All the vacant houses”
“MGM Mirage selling off casinos”
“Carrot Top is still around”
“Criss Angel is still working”
“Danny Gans is gone, Gordie Brown is still here”
“City Hall will be built”
“Harry Reid is still in office”
“I’m turning into a Republican”
“Jim Gibbons ... period!”
“People support Sarah Palin”
“Republicans crying like babies”
“The current president”
“I can get laid”
“Joaquin Phoenix DJing at Lavo”
“All the Euro trash in Vegas”
“Lack of water in Lake Mead”
“No replacement for Wet N Wild”
“Vegas is dead”
“Vegas is still here”
Best Facial Hair on Local TV
-George Knapp. No one outbeards The Man.
Best View of the City: Top of Summerlin Parkway ---->
Spring Mountain Road between Valley View and Arville Road Better known as Chinatown Plaza, this is as close an immersion into the Chinese culture as you’re likely to find in the middle of the desert. The food here is like nothing else in town—Hong Kong-style roast duck, pho noodle soup and banh mi Taiwanese sandwiches are highlights. This is the real deal, folks, complete with a Chinese-language bookstore, bakery and much more. Did we mention this is some of the more affordable food in the Valley as well? Don’t leave without trying a boba tea. It comes with an extra-wide straw for sucking up the tiny tapioca balls within the drink, and you’ll be back for another. We guarantee it. –Ken Miller
Town Center Drive We’re a suburban city, and a suburban nation, and sometimes that sucks. But one of the few reliable pleasures the suburbs provide are nice parkways to drive along. None is better in Las Vegas than Town Center Drive, which beats a north-south path through Summerlin. Largely free of commercial development, and studded with parks, a few churches and, yes, those tricky traffic circles, Town Center is immaculately landscaped and offers stunning views of Red Rock Canyon, as well as the sweeping ring of mountains at the southwest end of the Valley. It’s suburbia at its best. Take 215 west to Town Center Drive; hang a right.–T.R. Witcher
Maryland Parkway What I like about Maryland Parkway is that it’s a street’s street. You don’t come here for the view, the ambiance or any felicity of urban planning. It’s not an enjoyable cruise. Mostly functional, this street carries a load. If you’re not fighting clotted traffic, you’re mashing your brakes for the coed who chose the moment of your approach to imperiously cross from UNLV to Einstein Bagels. Maryland has chosen choosing gritty functionality over a rarefied notion of livability, however appealing. But there are nuances to this street, from the spectacle of decline at the Huntridge Theater to the contested ground of Circle Park. To say nothing of Sunrise Hospital, the entropy of the Boulevard Mall or the patio at the Coffee Bean, where you can watch the coeds come and go. Like I said, it’s a street’s street.–Scott Dickensheets
Horizon Ridge Parkway The quickest route home from my folks’ place in Arizona would have me zipping from the 95 onto the 215. But driving isn’t just about speed, so I typically exit at Horizon Drive and head west on Horizon Ridge. Tucked between the cars zooming along the 215 to the north and the foothills of the Black Mountain range to the south, Horizon Ridge offers one of the most breathtaking views of the Vegas Valley—one that passes in and out of sight as the road gradually slopes up and down along its winding path. The fun pretty much ends at Stephanie, at which point I usually begin questioning my decision. Until the next trip back from Phoenix, when Horizon Ridge’s unique vantage point draws me in yet again.–Spencer Patterson
Best Recent Quote From a Politician, Oscar Goodman Division
“Nobody’s going to come to Downtown Las Vegas to look at paintings, they’re not going to look at porcelain, they’re not going to look at miniature trains.” –Talking up the proposed mob museum by talking down the arts district
Best Recent Quote From a Politician, Jim Gibbons Division
Okay, so he claims he never actually said these words, but according to documents filed on his behalf in his divorce from Dawn Gibbons, being with his wife was “like being locked in a phone booth with an enraged ferret.” We’re not lawyers, but if Gibbons didn’t say that, he needs to put a gag order on his own lawyers.
Best Place to Take the Kids: Lied Discovery Children’s Museum
Best Hotel to Take Advantage of Cheaper Rates: MGM Grand
Best People-Watching (On the Strip): Margaritaville
Best People-Watching (Off the Strip): Town Square
Best People-Watching (Downtown): Corner of Fremont and Las Vegas Boulevard
Best People-Watching Readers’ Choice: The Strip
Best Place to Take a Visitor: Top of the Stratosphere
Best Volunteer Organization: Three Square Food Bank
Best Unheralded Neighborhood: Readers’ Choice: Summerlin
Best Manmade Wonder: New Mirage volcano
Best Person/Project in Need of Federal Bailout Bucks
Staff pick: NV higher-ed system
Readers’ Choice: You
Best Oldie-but-Goodie: The Golden Steer
Focus On: New media
Best Local Blog
The Gleaner (lasvegasgleaner.com) In the post-Obama age, being ignorant of the issues affecting your state is not an option. Luckily, Nevada’s got Hugh Jackson to take care of that pesky little task for us. What’s more, he spells it out in the most entertaining way possible. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (mostly at what the Bush administration’s done to this country for the last eight years), but most of all, you’ll learn. And you’ll be very pissed off. God bless the Internet.
Best Wi-Fi Hangout
Tea Station (4355 Spring Mountain Road, 889-9989) Tea Station has always been known for its exotic teas and its late operating hours (staying open well past 2 a.m. almost every night) to members of Vegas’ young Asian and culturally in-the-know community, but who would have thought that the brightly lit tea joint also was a hub for free wi-fi? Well, it is, so while you surf the web, write your Homeric epic or edit photos of celebs looking like they’re having fun at a party, you can also drink some of the best (and cheapest) exotic fruit, oolong, Earl Grey or whatever tea you want while surrounded by people who are the furthest thing from pretentious. You really can’t go wrong.
Best Local Band MySpace Page
Escape the Fate Whether or not you like the six songs up for streaming, you’ll want to dial up myspace.com/escapethefate to scope out the Vegas rockers’ four ghoulish face illustrations. Besides, where else are you gonna run across the occasional jailhouse tirade, courtesy of ex-singer Ronnie Radke?
Best Website to Refer a Visitor To
Vegas.com Much like Target, Vegas.com (which shares a parent company with Las Vegas Weekly) is a one-stop shop for visitors to Las Vegas looking to scoop up deals on hotel rooms, lock down show tickets or get inside the doors at the hottest spots on the Strip. While you can’t pick up yard-long margaritas on the ubiquitous website (drinking them would prove difficult), you can get just about everything else you need to make what happens in Vegas worth telling everyone at home about.
Focus On: Sports
Best Sports Figure
Kyle Busch He might be one of the bad boys of the NASCAR circuit. But with 11 Sprint Cup victories in the last two seasons—including the hometown Shelby 427 in March—Busch’s name now comes up in conversations about the best driver in the world, not just the biggest hothead on the track.
Best Local Team
Las Vegas Wranglers (471-7825, lasvegaswranglers.com) Who says you can only find ice in cocktail glasses here in Vegas? After reaching the Kelly Cup finals last year and the semifinals this year, the Wranglers are consistent winners and put fans in the seats with creative promotions and a party atmosphere at the Orleans.
Best Annual Event
World Series of Poker This venerable tournament brought thousands of visitors to Binion’s long before ESPN put it on the national map. Now online grinders and starry-eyed wannabes flock to the Rio for the only open event in town where the great unwashed can literally rub elbows with pros and celebrities alike.
Best Vegas-Based League Ultimate Fighting Championship (ufc.com) While not exclusively a Las Vegas sport, the UFC has made its home in Las Vegas, with major fighters like Frank Mir and Randy Couture training locally (at Striking Unlimited and the Extreme Couture gym, respectively). The biggest fights are held here, and The Ultimate Fighter, a reality series, is filmed here, launching some of the sport’s brightest stars. Plus, UFC president Dana White and the Fertitta family, who own the UFC’s Zuffa promotions company, are locals.
Best Bargain Sports Ticket
51s (386-7200, lv51.com) With multigame packages that start at about seven bucks a ticket, or single-game prices that range from $9-$14 a seat, fans can get up close and personal with the future (or former) stars of Major League Baseball for a minor-league investment.