Unbeknownst to most, Hussong’s Cantina is one of the oldest, most storied Mexican dining destinations out there. It’s roots date all the way back to the late 1800s, when German emigrant Johann Hussong opened up his first eatery in Ensenada, Mexico. Hussong and his team have been credited with inventing the margarita, and while this and many Mexican favorites have been replicated across the US, Hussong’s Cantina itself has made the jump to Las Vegas.
A humble setup in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place, Hussong’s Cantina delivers the laid-back experience you’d hope to find at a beachside eatery in a quiet Mexican fishing village (yes, Ensenada was a quiet place back in the day). But don’t fool yourself: with a margarita recipe that’s more than 125 years old, Hussong’s Cantina knows how to make a mean drink and get the party going. Seriously though, they make a darn good margarita, and many variations of it. If you can’t decide on just one, they also serve them in flights of four.
Tacos are, of course, a specialty. You’ll certainly have your bases covered with your classic carne asada, which boasts a rich meatiness not found in most cuts north of the border, as well as the fish taco, beer battered with excellent texture and consistency. Hussong’s Cantina has gotten inventive over the years, with new creations such as the pork belly taco topped with cabbage and crushed chicharrones. The taco selection is mix and match, so patrons will be able to enjoy a happily satisfy their curiosity.
Enchiladas are another iconic favorite, where guests can customize the selection with their choice of filling from land or sea as well as any of three sauces—red, green, or signature cheese—or they can go with all three for a meal that resembles the Mexican flag.
Quite a bit of American influence has taken over the dessert menu, but with good intention and even better results. Fried ice cream with a Frosted Flake coating and sweet tomatillo glaze is just as decadent as it sounds, and the churros are top notch, served a la mode atop a mountain of candied walnuts.
Hussong’s Cantina is located at the Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 3930 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89119. Open 11a – 11p 7 days/week. Average out-the-door price for split appetizer, entree, split dessert and 1-2 drinks is ~$55/person. For more information call (702) 632-6450 or visit HussongsLasVegas.com.
Once Chef Brian Malarkey’s brain child and now owned by the ever-growing Hakkasan group, Searsucker melds sophisticated flavor profiles with a playful and energetic atmosphere. Chic lighting, chef-centric wall art, a spacious dining room and an upscale menu are certainly a big step up from Munchbar, the late night spot that used to occupy the space.
Even though Chef Malarkey is no longer at the helm, Searsucker continues to showcase a globally inspired menu of upscale renditions on comfort classics. Hovering somewhere in the ecosphere between high-end gastropub and modern steakhouse, Searsucker presents a concentrated yet diverse array of options to satisfy a broad spectrum of palates and budgets…by Vegas standards, at least.
Begin your outing with Searsucker’s award-winning bone marrow, with a buttery richness and bold, flavorful crust that sits perfectly atop the grilled crostinis served alongside. Also worth checking out is the calamari, where Searsucker goes in a great new direction with slices of calamari steak breaded just enough to add texture and drenched in a chili honey glaze.
A number of off-beat steaks (think flat iron) make up a fair portion of the entrees, as does some excellent seafood. The seared diver scallops are perfectly cooked and go very well with the meaty hen of the woods mushrooms served alongside. If you’re really in the mood to indulge, make your way to the ‘family’ section and spring for the 2-pound lobster, a succulent masterpiece in all its glory. Pair it, or anything on the menu for that matter, with the duck fat fries, a mountainous concoction chock full of garlic, parmesan and pancetta.
End your meal with the chocolate croissant bread pudding, or another cocktail from Searsucker’s inventive list. Watch the lines build up at Omnia nightclub right next door. You never know; your evening might just be getting started.
Searsucker is located at Caesar’s Palace, 3570 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109. Open 5 – 11p Sun, Mon, Wed and Thu; 5p – midnight Tue, Fri, Sat. Average out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split side and 1-2 drinks is ~$145/person. For more information call (702) 866-1800 or visit SearSucker.com/Las-Vegas.
A bit of Texas. A bit of Carolina. A bit of Kansas City. Virgil’s Barbecue combines them all and many more styles under one roof along the LINQ Promenade. Getting its original footing in New York, the Las Vegas location is the restaurant’s first expansion, and has been well-received by many a patron looking for hearty taste in this bustling thoroughfare.
Virgil’s Barbecue is about the closest you can get to a Southern backyard summertime gathering on Las Vegas Boulevard. Casual tables, dish rag napkins and oversized silverware, as well as an indoor performance stage and an outdoor patio make you feel right at home and ready for whatever fun the day throws at you.
The menu focuses on pit master classics, and does them well. The dry-rubbed pork ribs, smoked for hours on end, are packed with flavor and that hearty, feel-good quality you look for in American comfort food. The beef brisket boasts many of the same qualities, as do all of the classic sides—mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, cheesy grits and so on. Also factor in the Texas barbecue nachos, where tortilla chips are simply a vehicle to house as much pulled pork and barbecue sauce as humanly possible.
A fun-filled drink list brings together country flavor and Vegas pizzazz. The bloody Mary is exceptional, with just a hint of barbecue sauce to make it something new and different, garnished with a piece of homemade secret recipe beef jerky. Just about every part of the drink program is homemade for that matter, with fresh-squeezed juices and house made mixes, making each order rise above the norm. Another star player is the electric lemonade, which packs a much stronger punch than the taste gives off.
A few more fun gimmicks add to the dining experience. For one, most orders are served in either cast iron skillets or, more likely, on metal trays. And, while it’s not often that a bathroom feature makes a restaurant story, every guy who’s used the facilities will attest that urinals made out of retrofitted kegs are simply hilarious.
Virgil’s Barbecue is located at 3545 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109. Open 10a – 11p Sun – Thu, 10a – midnight Fri - Sat. Average out-the-door price for split appetizer, entree, split dessert and 1-2 drinks is ~$72/person. For more information call (702) 389-7400 or visit VirgilsBBQ.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.