Boyd Gaming has rebranded and upgraded virtually all the steakhouses at its Las Vegas properties—Alder & Birch at the Orleans, Cornerstone at Gold Coast, Redwood at the California and more. Sam’s Town doubled down on its meaty renovations, converting Willy & Jose’s Cantina into the Angry Butcher and Billy Bob’s Steakhouse giving way to Big Mess Bar-BQ. A solid steakhouse is a requirement at neighborhood casinos, but the latter is a bit of a bold move. Barbecue is tough to execute, and most locals seem fine sticking to franchise dining when it comes to this cuisine.
Guess what? Big Mess is high quality. It’s a slightly nicer version of a country roadhouse restaurant, with a soundtrack and menu to match. Deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes and hot wings lead it off, but there’s at least one enterprising appetizer in the form of brisket fries ($7.99), with shredded beef and horseradish sour cream.
After that, the focus is on smoky meats, and they’re all better than your average chain ’cue spot. Pork spareribs are meaty and moist and hit the precise point of being tender yet not mushy. (Big Mess does beef ribs, too, on a plate with beans and slaw for $21.49.) The brisket is delicious and tender, and if it’s a bit dry, a squirt of the house or spicy barbecue sauces on the table makes it magical. Smoky, spicy sausage is a big winner, and unlike so many local barbecue eateries, the side dishes shine, particularly the baked beans, home-style potato salad and cornbread served with honey and butter. I recommend a three-meat platter ($18.99) so you can see just how big a mess you can get into.
Big Mess Sam’s Town, 702-456-7777. Wednesday & Thursday, 4-9 p.m.; Friday, 4-10 p.m., Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.