If I approach a barbecue restaurant and don’t smell smoke, I’m immediately skeptical. So when I found myself in a drug store parking lot next door to The Las Vegas Grille, and detected the delicious scent of burning wood, I began salivating at the promise of what the restaurant might offer. And my nose was right. In a town where we so often lament the lack of good barbecue, The Las Vegas Grille delivers top-notch smoked meats, alongside quality artisanal sausages and meatballs.
As you walk through the doors, an assortment of wood is on display to your right. There’s white oak, apple, pecan, nectarine, cherry and walnut. The chef uses a different variety, or combination of them, for each of the meats he prepares in the restaurant’s smoker. Past that smoker and up to the counter, you’ll find those meats and their seasoning listed on a large overhead chalkboard. The restaurant offers tri-tip in red wine jus ($17/lb.), herb-crusted pork loin ($15/lb.), chicken in your choice of barbecue or jerk sauce ($5-$16), St. Louis baby-back ribs ($9-$24) and smoked chicken wings ($9-$17). Various combinations are available for $11-$24, and all of them come with side dishes and rolls. The chicken, pork and beef are available as sandwiches on your choice of four rolls provided by nearby Great Buns Bakery ($9 with a side). All of those meats, as well as salmon, can be served in a mixed salad ($10.50).
I’ve tried each of the barbecued meats except the whole chicken, and have been blown away by all of them. Everything was tender, fabulously smoky and treated with just the right amount of seasoning or glaze. You won’t find any barbecue sauce on the table, which is a good thing, because drowning out the taste of these perfect meats by piling on sauce would be a crime. If I were to cite any complaint among the barbecue choices, it would be that the pork is a little on the fatty side. But it’s so delicious I can happily overlook that. One of my favorite dishes, surprisingly, is the chicken wings. While they’re available with various seasonings, I recommend trying them with Jamaican jerk — a subtle mixture that manages not to overshadow the meat’s wonderful flavor.
If The Las Vegas Grille only offered barbecue, I would give it my highest recommendation. But the owners don’t stop there. They also grind their own meats in-house to create three types of meatballs and seven different sausages. Each of the meatball blends is served in its own signature sauce. The beef and pork fusion balls come in a rich red wine sauce; pork and ham balls are offered in a sweet-and-sour Hawaiian sauce; and the chicken and turkey version come in a spicy red sauce. They can be purchased alone, in groups of three, six, 12 or 24 ($4-$22), or on sandwiches ($9-$11). Each of the sausages, which include Italian fennel, bratwurst and Thai green curry, comes on your choice of regular or pretzel roll ($8 with a side). I’ve tried all of the meatballs and two of the sausages, and while I found the sauce too thick on the fusion ball, I was impressed with everything else.
All of this amazing food is served up in a comfortable, cozy dining room. The owner, Phil, a refugee from the rock ’n’ roll world who moved to Las Vegas to turn his cooking hobby into a career, is usually on hand to talk food. He offers a small selection of beer and wine, and on weekends the restaurant doubles as a comedy club.
Honestly, even my trusty nose couldn’t have predicted such a neighborhood gem. But I’m glad I followed it in here.
The Las Vegas Grille 7865 W. Sahara Ave., 998-0719. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net.