Claiming your barbecue restaurant is “real” is a dicey move. Authenticity in cuisine is truly in the eye of the beholder, er, palate of the consumer. If the cook’s prized spareribs are nothing like what you devoured last time you went to Memphis, how real can it be? You could make a case that Las Vegas doesn’t have any “real” barbecue, because most people identify this food with certain regional specialties, and most prominent local ’cue shops are chains founded in other cities.
Virgil’s Real Barbecue is the latest franchise to land here, created by the Alicart Restaurant Group (Carmine’s at the Forum Shops) and placed in a prime location along the Linq Promenade leading to the High Roller wheel. There are no surprises on this menu, a list that borrows favorites from various barbecue hotbeds in an effort to satisfy the cravings of any Vegas visitor. Texas-style brisket is smoky and savory, avoiding the all-too-common mistake of being served in a dried-out state. Carolina pulled pork is a tender, sweet complement to barbecue nachos ($15.95) or a righteous foundation for a hefty sandwich ($14.95). And those Memphis-style spareribs are served two ways, as a sauced-up riblet appetizer with mustard coleslaw ($10.95) or by themselves, perfectly presented pink meat from plenty of smoke with maybe not enough dry seasoning. Sample more than one with the two-meat combo plate ($24.95), which comes with a tasty cornbread muffin and two sides that could be gravy-smothered mashed potatoes, collard greens or rich mac and cheese.
Virgil’s treats chicken particularly well. Whole smoked wings, available in orders of four or eight ($9.95 or $14.95), are a far cry from the tiny, crispy drums and flats from your favorite neighborhood sports bar. Large and juicy with a thin layer of sweet, spicy sauce, a couple of these wings might make a meal. The Kansas City fried chicken ($22.95) is coated in aggressively seasoned crunch, a bite made to match an icy lager and a scoop of that mac and cheese. Other Southern favorites include fried catfish and chicken fried steak, and the house burger ($17.95), which adds brisket, cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce and onion rings atop the grilled patty.
For the purposes of Las Vegas, let’s say “real” barbecue means they’re doing it right, smoking meats forever and serving them in large portions in a comfortable space. Defined this way, it’s an experience that isn’t readily available out here, but Virgil’s fits the framework. Combine it with other recent Linq additions In-N-Out Burger and Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips and you have a Strip space that satisfies.
Virgil's Real Barbeque Linq Promenade, 702-389-7400. Daily, 11 a.m.-midnight.