A&E

Chatting with Michael Symon, the chef behind new Palms spot Mabel’s

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Michael Symon
Photo: Wade Vandervort

When Cleveland-based celebrity chef Michael Symon announced he’d be bringing his Mabel’s BBQ concept to the Palms, desert-dwelling meat-eaters celebrated. Great barbecue might seem simple, but consistency can lead to complications in the restaurant world. We caught up with the James Beard Award-winner to talk about his first Vegas venture and doubling down with a meat-based speakeasy.

Was your Vegas restaurant always going to be barbecue? People have been asking us to do something in Vegas for 15 years, and we’ve come close to doing projects before, but they weren’t always going to be barbecue. Once [Station Casinos CEO] Frank [Fertitta] explained what they were doing at the Palms and in this space, it felt like the right concept, and obviously it’s a style of cooking I really like.

Even though barbecue can be tricky to execute? Yeah. Believe me, when I said I was doing barbecue in Vegas, there were people coming with, “Oh, bro, barbecue doesn’t work in Vegas.” But we believe in what we do and that people are going to enjoy it. It is tricky, but fortunately we have another restaurant where we feel comfortable and confirmed that we know how to do it the right way. When it comes to barbecue, we’re purists to the extreme.

What can we expect at Sara’s, your restaurant-within-the-restaurant? I was just now testing a truffle fried chicken for Sara’s. We’re calling it a “meat-easy,” because it’s that great speakeasy kind of room with very high-end cocktails and a limited menu. When we came up, we were all working as tableside service waiters in places with that tuxedo standard and we wanted to bring that back in a sort of jewel box environment. We’re having fun with it, doing five appetizers, shellfish towers, tableside salads, carving smoked prime rib tableside, and then bananas Foster and cherries jubilee and baked Alaska. I love that you go from the bustling barbecue bar scene at Mabel’s, then get transported in time a bit. I also really want it to be that place where the industry [workers] know they can go to get away from the noise.

MABEL'S BBQ Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Palms, 702-944-5931.

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Brock is an award-winning writer and reporter who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently ...

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