Here’s a good rule of thumb when assessing barbecue joints: If you don’t enter into a haze of lingering grill smoke, chances are it won’t be great. But there are exceptions.
At Clevelander Michael Symon’s new Mabel’s BBQ at the Palms, the smokers are enclosed behind glass, so there’s nary a hint of slow-cooked meat aroma. Not to worry. Concerns should be alleviated with your first bite of beef brisket ($17), smoked so the fattiest bits melt in your mouth, in strong contrast to the charred skin. Equally noteworthy is the Cleveland-style chopped pork ($15), mixed with jalapeño and sauerkraut. Though not a classic Southern presentation, the dish brilliantly delivers heat and sourness without overwhelming. I suggest foregoing the sauces; none are super-memorable, and good ’cue works better without.
As for sides, skip the healthy-yet-bland cucumber salad ($6) for the less-healthy-yet-delicious fried potatoes ($6), drizzled with sherry vinegar for a touch of acidity. Even better are the decadent loaded potatoes ($14), piled with chopped brisket, cheddar sauce and pickled jalapeño. That delicious monstrosity easily makes for a meal on its own itself, so don’t let the tariff dissuade you.
Sandwich-wise, if you ever get a hankering for an Arby’s Beef ’n Cheddar, try Mabel’s excellent Beef & Cheddar ($16), which delivers even without the showing signs of smoke on the sliced prime rib. Mabel’s Pig Parts menu section also delivers some intriguing options, like the Cracklin’ ($6)—ethereal pork rinds served hot and paired with Lawson’s onion dip, a Cleveland legend. And Crispy Tails ($8) live up to their billing, the crunchy skin a proper foil to the gelatinous meat pocketed within.
A trio of rotating local brews highlights an eclectic draft list. It’s yet another way Mabel’s is raising the bar on a rather moribund Vegas barbecue scene. Doing without the traditional smoke haze seems like a reasonable trade-off.
Mabel's BBQ Palms, 702.944.5931. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30:a.m.-midnight; Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.