Category Archives: Restaurants

7 Great Cheap Eats in Offbeat Las Vegas


Viva Las Arepas owner Felix Arellano delivers some awesome Venezuelan areas near downtown Las Vegas

This is from my new ebook Marathon Mouth, available to purchase from online booksellers Amazon (Amazon Canada), iTunes, Kobo and Chapters/Indigo.

Las Vegas  has plentiful fine cuisine in the top-end hotels/casinos. But you have to venture off The Strip to find the best cheap eats. The bonus is these places are often in far more colourful, less sanitized parts of town.


The most colourful area of Las Vegas is just a few minutes drive removed from The Strip

Only a five-minute drive removed from the tourist hordes is a decidedly more downbeat neighbourhood with colourful signs reminiscent of the 1950s. Here, you’ll find the fabulous Viva Las Arepas, where friendly owner Felix Arellano can often be found cooking chicken and beef over a mesquite-fired grill and then stuffing the meats inside cornmeal Venezuelan pockets splashed with house-made hot sauce.

Not far away, chef Josh Clark is making innovative, epic sandwiches (like seared bratloaf and smoked whitefish) at The Goodwich and charging less than you’d tip a bellhop at a strip hotel. Note: The Goodrich is currently moving to a new location, so check the website for the opening and hours of operation. In the meantime, their old food truck, next door to Viva Las Arepas, is now an incubator for a rotating series of talented young chefs and is definitely worth checking out.


Best BLT I’ve ever eaten, thanks to the house-cured bacon at The Goodwich

More culinary adventures await in an even less polished part of downtown. Inside the marvelous, new LGBTQ Center, with its impressively landscaped front patio, is the Bronze Café. While much of its creative fare is vegan, there’s a maple-glazed bacon sandwich, slathered in bacon jam, worthy of a carnivore’s trek.


The Bronze Cafe serves up some great vegan and carnivore meals

Away from the city center, Bachi Burger brings an Asian twist to American classics. Would you believe fabulous oxtail chile fries, wagyu burgers with caramelized bacon and Peking duck sliders, all washed down with a unique black milk tea or yuzu soda? To the near west, Chile Verde Express is a one-man show, pumping out inexpensive burritos, tacos and the like, inside a gas station.

There are more fantastic cross-cultural things happening at Komex Fusion. Throw some Korean, American and Mexican cuisine into the blender and what emerges is, say, bulgogi fries topped with melted mozza, meat, pico de gallo and Korean hot sauce—a big, tasty plate of food at a most affordable price.


Hungry for a multinational dish? How about bulgogi fries at Komex Fusion?

If you’re looking for a good caffeine fix, visit Sambalatte Torrefazione at two cafes in the Vegas hinterlands and one in the Monte Carlo Casino on The Strip. It small-batch roasts beans and turns them into fine espressos, pour-overs and ice coffees.


Las Vegas


Viva Las Arepas
1616 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Suite 120
Daily 8 am-midnight

The Goodwich
900 South Las Vegas Boulevard (upcoming location. Check for hours)

Bronze Cafe
401 South Maryland Parkway
Weekdays 7 am-10 pm, weekends 10 am-8 pm

Bachi Burger
470 East Windmill Lane, Suite 100 (two other Las Vegas locations)
Sunday-Monday 11 am-11 pm, Tuesday to Thursday 11 am-midnight, Friday-Saturday 11 am-1 am

Chile Verde Express
8095 South Rainbow Boulevard (Choice Sinclair Gas Station)
Monday to Thursday 8 am-7 pm, Friday-Saturday 8 am-6 pm. Closed Sunday

 KoMex Fusion
633 North Decatur Boulevard (one other Las Vegas location)
Monday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday

 Sambalatte Torrefazione
3770 South Las Vegas Boulevard (two other Las Vegas locations)
Daily 7 am-10 pm


Yelp! Restaurant Reviewers Say the Darndest Things

Everyone's a critic when it comes to online restaurant reviews. Which can lead to some hilarious bloopers

Everyone’s a critic when it comes to online restaurant reviews. Which can lead to some hilarious bloopers

When researching potential places to eat and drink during my long, intensive road-food trips, I spend considerable time reading online reviews from TripAdvisor, Yelp, Zomato (nee Urbanspoon) and their ilk.

Occasionally, I run across some unintended zingers, often the result of a fortuitous spelling mistake, no doubt committed while typing with thick thumbs on a smartphone with a mind of its own. So here, for your consuming pleasure, are some of my favourite online reviews. The sources shall remain anonymous, to protect the guilty. Comments in italics are mine.

The coffee here is excellent, which is likely the most important thing about a coffee shop (lol)… for me personally, I’m not a coffee drinker.

I only had iced tea (preceding a six-paragraph, five-star review).

Full disclosure (after a lengthy review): I did not eat here.

The hours are kind of strange, as they close before a person under 60 would even consider eating dinner….I wish this place were a Filiberto’s style late-night place, but alas, I’ll be forced to eat here sober.

I don’t feel right writing about a bakery because I rarely eat bread and don’t have much of a sweet tooth (in the midst of a five-paragraph review). Continue reading

I’m a Content Puppy at San Jose’s Happy Dog

Joe delivers my pork pineapple sausage at Happy Dog in San Jose

Joe delivers my pork pineapple sausage at Happy Dog in San Jose

I’m parked somewhat precariously at a 10-minute-only stall in front of a 7-Eleven near San Jose State University. Joe, the manager at Happy Dog next door, says it will take seven minutes to prepare my pork pineapple sausage.

The good news, then, is my dog will be made to order. The bad is I’ll only have three minutes to choke it down or risk a ticket, tow or reprimand. So, I’m keeping one eye on my watch and the other on proceedings as Joe lightly grills a fresh French roll and walks the grilled dog aboard. I add a squirt of mustard, a sprinkling of sauerkraut and a healthy dose of Joe’s homemade, crunchy pickled cabbage.

“If it’s a good dog, you don’t need ketchup,” he declares. Agreed. Still, by the time everything’s loaded up, I’ve got scant seconds to legally choke the hot dog down. But with the first bite through the bursting skin into the meaty goodness within, my efficient resolve dissolves. “Screw it. I’m savouring this puppy.”

Happy Dog
284 South 11 Street, San Jose, California
Daily 11 am-10 pm, except 9 pm Sunday. Cash only
Supreme Dog on Urbanspoon

Big as a Lion’s Head Soup in Davis, California

Burger-sized meatballs in this boat of a clay-pot soup at Shanghai Town Restaurant in Davis, California

Burger-sized meatballs in this boat of a clay-pot soup at Shanghai Town Restaurant in Davis, California

Why am I in Davis, California, a university town northeast of San Francisco that would normally register as no more than a passing freeway sign? I’m here on a flyer, after a seatmate at a Sacramento sandwich spot suggests I visit Shanghai Town Restaurant, a nondescript plaza eatery with formica tables and a lunch combination plate featuring the usual Chinese food suspects.

Specifically, I’m here to try just one thing: a Shanghai specialty known as Lion’s Head clay-pot soup, featuring pork meatballs. After ordering, I’m thinking $10.45 is a bit steep for soup in a Chinese hole-in-the-wall. But then this veritable cauldron is plunked down on the table, still bubbling.

“Gee, maybe I should have order a medium,” I say to the older, co-owner. “One size,” he replies before leaving me to do battle. In I dive, slurping the delicious broth and chewing delicate cabbage and soft, fist-sized meatballs; the rice noodles are lurking somewhere in the depths.

After 15 minutes of yeoman work, I’ve scarcely made a dent in the still smouldering pot, despite having sweated through a couple of napkins. I leave with a carton of untouched meatballs and a litre of broth, content my $10 has bought me two more bowls of a delightful discovery.

Shanghai Town Restaurant
1260 Lake Boulevard, Suite 111
Tuesday to Sunday 11:30 am-9:30 pm. Closed Monday
Shanghai Town on Urbanspoon

Fantastic Lunches at Magpie Cafe in Sacramento, California

Magpie Cafe, in Sacramento California, serves the perfect BLT, with simple, sensational ingredients

Magpie Cafe, in Sacramento California, serves the perfect BLT, with simple, sensational ingredients

Usually, I know what I want to order within seconds of scanning a menu. But at *Magpie Cafe, on the edge of downtown Sacramento, California, I’m at a complete loss. My first instinct is to go with the duck confit salad. But then I see an absolutely loaded, pulled-pork sandwich slide past on a server’s arm. Hmmm. The grilled Diestel natural turkey sandwich, with sage cheddar, also looks enticing. And I’m only halfway through a lunch menu of sandwiches and salads. Aaargh!

Hard to resist this duck confit salad

Hard to resist this duck confit salad

I finally settle on a boring, summer BLT (a steal at $9.25), if you can call bursting-with-flavour orange heirloom tomatoes, thick-cut bacon, cress and caper aioli on a fresh baguette boring. Even the scoop of potato salad seems to contain heirloom, blue potatoes. In all, it’s simple but simply outstanding ingredients, creative details and great execution by owners Ed Roehr and Janel Inoyue and their attentive staff. Sandwich makers of the world, take note.

I’m so focused on the food, I scarcely look at the inviting surroundings—scrubbed, old brick walls and exposed ductwork running along the high ceiling. But I do notice the line of salivating customers forming behind me in late morning. They’re no doubt waiting for me to make up my damn mind.

People lining up for fabulous sandwiches and salads at lovely Magpie Cafe

People lining up for fabulous sandwiches and salads at lovely Magpie Cafe

Magpie Cafe
1409 R Street, Sacramento, California
Monday to Wednesday 10:30 am-9 pm, Thursday-Friday 10:30 am-10 pm, Saturday 8 am-10 pm, Sunday 8 am-2 pm
Magpie Cafe on Urbanspoon

I finish my midtown Sacramento afternoon with an exacting pour-over at elegant, spare Temple Coffee, arguably the best California roaster not located on the coast.

Temple Coffee might be the best California roaster not on the west coast

Temple Coffee might be the best California roaster not on the west coast

Temple Coffee Roasters
1010 9 Street (two other Sacramento locations)
Daily 6 am-11 pm
Temple Coffee on Urbanspoon

6 Ways to Eat Out Three Times a Day, Without Becoming Fat

Do you really need all that toast at breakfast?

Do you really need all that toast at breakfast?

“How do you stay so slim eating all those road-trip restaurant meals?” people often ask me. The answer? Wearing loose clothes to hide the little tire that gets pumped up by about five pounds after a month of steady grazing on volumes of fatty, starchy foods I certainly wouldn’t inflict on my body back home. It all tastes great at the time, but I know there’s a starvation diet in my near future. Still, it could easily be worse, say 10 or more pounds worse. But I’ve learned a few tricks to keep the ballooning at bay.

Continue reading