In the east side’s once-venerable Twain Center, a few doors down from longtime Las Vegas nosh spot Bagelmania, a new mom ’n’ pop eatery opened in late-September: Fry Dayz Fish & Wings. With menu roots in Memphis, Tennessee (the hometown of co-owner Danny Robinson), the punnily named nook is squarely in soul food territory—deep-fried fish, chicken wings, and shrimp and Cheddar grits are on the menu along with sides like mac and cheese, greens, baked beans and sweet potato pie.
And then there’s the surprising house specialty: the spaghetti sandwich. It’s a pressed and toasted hoagie bun filled with cut noodles, meat sauce, mozzarella cheese and a scattering of parsley. Each plate comes with crispy waffle fries and a ramekin of creamy-style cole slaw. It’s an update on comfort food from Robinson’s childhood. “I used to eat it when I was growing up. My grandmother and mother cooked it,” Robinson says of the original, which featured sliced white bread with butter as the base for the spaghetti. The toasted bun and addition of mozzarella was an update he made for modern, panini-centric sensibilities.
At first glance, a spaghetti sandwich might not look like it’s part of the familiar soul food tradition, but its tomato sauce has a sweet taste. An extra bit of sugar is a hallmark of Southern cooking; plus, it’s Robinson’s grandmother’s Tennessee recipe.
The noodles-on-a-bun creation isn’t the only tweaking of soul food norms diners can find at Fry Dayz. Most notably, pork is absent from the menu, such as with the sautéed turnip greens. Instead, Robinson opts for turkey bacon and smoked turkey necks for dishes that usually call for porcine saltiness. The protein swap-out came from customer demand, notes partner Monica Sylvester.
“People will come in and ask you what’s in the greens. They’re not asking directly if there’s pork, but you know that’s what they’re after,” Sylvester says of guests looking to avoid pork for personal dietary reasons.
Spaghetti in sandwiches and smoked turkey neck in turnip greens? You don’t find that sort of down-home experimentation just anywhere.