One of LA’s top cheesesteak spots is far from what you’d think of as the city’s foodie hotspots. Housed in a humble storefront on the corner of 39th and Figueroa, directly across from the coliseum and a half block from the USC campus, Figueroa Philly isn’t the posh hautespot you’d find in Silverlake or Westwood. Faux wood communal tabletops and rustic industrial décor simply aren’t a fit in an area that far away from the yuppie hustle and bustle, not to mention that any true Philadelphian would balk at seeing a cheesesteak spot all dressed up in such a way.
Figueroa Philly sticks to its roots, or rather, borrows the roots of your classic east coast hole in the wall. Rib eye steak, Amorso rolls shipped directly from Philly, and of course your ever-popular cheese whiz. The only thing that owner Danny Hizami, who bears an interesting resemblance to Ray Romano, ‘LA-ified’ about the place was the sourcing of high-end ingredients. The meats and cheeses—the real cheeses, at least—are all Boar’s Head, veggies are fresh, and of course everything is cooked to order.
While Figueroa Philly has been open since 2010, the property where it resides has been in Hizami’s family for more than 40 years. And because he has the ridiculous advantage of owning his restaurant outright, he’s got the freedom to charge less and experiment more. He’s assembled a small but loyal team that’s been with him for nearly two decades, and they’ve hatched not just a slew of indulgent cheesesteak offerings, but also a secret menu that unlocks even more.
Your classic cheesesteak, or the ‘Famous Figueroa Philly,’ has your classic rib eye steak, onions, peppers, mushrooms and cheese whiz. Branch out a bit for a New Yorker with Pastrami, mustard and pickles, and in any case get an order of onion rings, delivered in massive quantity and fried to a perfect golden brown. Things get interesting on the secret menu, where the Yin Yang essentially combines the two orders and the Philly fries turn carne asada fries on its head.
These carnivorous compilations are joined by the up-and-coming Hot Cheeto cheesesteak. Exactly as it sounds, this new-age concoction melds crushed hot Cheetos into the whiz, plus a few on top for good measure. Similar to Doritos mac ‘n’ cheese, if it sounds good then you’re going to love it. Also be on the lookout for an eating challenge with 'The Frankenstein,' a massive double cheesesteak with hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, pepperoni, peppers and onions.
Figueroa Philly is located at 3850 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90037. Open 10a – 8p 7 days a week. Avg. out-the-door price for cheesteak, split side and a drink is ~$15/person. For more information call (213) 748-9073 or visit FigueroaPhilly.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.