Flip Arbelaez and Doug Bell love great barbecue, just like you do. “We worked together at Gallagher’s Steakhouse [at New York-New York] 13 years ago, and we were both in our early 20s when we decided we wanted to start our own restaurant,” Bell says. “But then we realized in no way were we prepared or able to do that …”
“We were green,” Arbelaez finishes. They went in different directions, with Arbelaez going to work for chef Todd English in Vegas and New York, and Bell jumping to chef gigs at Stripsteak, Sedona and Heraea.
Back together again, they realized “we can do this,” Bell says. They started Authentic Kitchen Alliance and created their first original concept, Pot Liquor Contemporary American Smokehouse, a new barbecue joint set to open at Town Square in September.
“In New York, there are all kinds of barbecue popping up, sort of a refined take on southeastern American cuisine,” Arbelaez says. “It’s kind of a trend. If it can survive in a competitive market there, we knew we needed to do this in Vegas.”
To capture all the elements they—and you—love about barbecue, Bell spent six weeks driving around Georgia, Tennessee and both Carolinas, tasting regional specialties and learning Southern secrets. “For most of my life, ribs were baby backs, cooked nice and sauced off the grill, but when I went to Memphis and had these huge, dry-rubbed spareribs, I was blown away,” Bell says. “I just sat there looking at them, thinking this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life and I can’t wait to replicate this.”
Pot Liquor will bring different regional favorites together, with the goal of making it deliciously difficult for you to choose what to order. Think Carolina pulled pork, Texas brisket, Kansas City burnt ends and everything in between.
Bell is working on four different sauces—no names, just numbers—including a version of the rare Alabama white sauce. “Most people have never heard of it,” he says. “It’s cold and mayo-based with horseradish, lemon juice, a little Worcestershire and hot sauce, and they take whole smoked chickens and just dunk ’em in this stuff.”
Pot Liquor will serve lunch and dinner, rounding out the menu with innovative items like boiled peanut hummus, fried catfish Benedicts, brisket-filled French dips, and a whiskey-heavy cocktail menu incorporating house-made lemonade variations.
Arbelaez and Bell plan to fuse the warm spirit of the South into a hip, urban-cool atmosphere, a place aimed straight for the hearts of locals. “We want this to be a Las Vegas restaurant. This is our home,” Bell says. “We want you to get off work and cruise south on the Strip for happy hour. Tourists, of course we welcome that business …”
“But this is your spot,” Arbelaez finishes.