Sure, fast food sucks. But every once in a while you want to walk up to a counter, and walk away a few minutes later with a meal and change for a $10. It would help if it was something a little more interesting than your typical international burger/taco/chicken chain. And it would be even nicer if, rather than buying from a truck, it was someplace you could sit in an air-conditioned room to scarf your food. Sadly, such places are difficult to find. The owners of Braddah’s Island Style Burritos, Bowls & Tacos, which recently opened on South Rainbow Boulevard in front of the Red Rock Harley-Davidson store, are clearly trying to offer just that. It just wasn’t what I expected when I paid them my first visit.
As a member of the media, I’m routinely courted to try new restaurants. Press releases deluge my inbox daily. I generally scan each for a reason not to immediately trash it — which I rarely find. But Braddah’s, with its promise of “bringing island flavors to the burrito and taco segment,” inspired me to investigate this brave new world where “pineapples, palm trees and peppers burst with our aloha spirit and flavors.” Kudos, Mr. Marketing Guy (or Ms. Marketing Lady)! That’s clearly a much more attractive pitch than referring to your restaurant as “Chipotle with a Hawaiian twist” — which is what this place really is.
The dining room at Braddah’s does, indeed, have a Hawaiian theme: posters, palm trees. And the menu board offers options like kalua pig, huli huli chicken and pulehu steak. But once you approach the counter, and begin the five-step ordering process, thing start to get a little familiar. First you decide whether you want a burrito, bowl, salad, soft tacos or crispy tacos. Then you select your filling, which in addition to those listed above, also include grilled fish and grilled veggies. Next, you add lettuce, rice, beans and so forth before moving on to your choice of salsa, and finally, another group of toppings. (Steps three through five are all pretty much the same process.) The price for your final product should come in somewhere between $6.25 and $9, even if you do spring for one of the few ingredients that has a supplemental charge.
Okay, so we’ve seen this process before. But does Braddah’s do it well?
I’ve tried the chicken, pig and fish in taco and burrito forms, with two salsas and various toppings. Both the chicken and fish were very lightly seasoned. Eaten alone you can taste a nice Hawaiian tinge. But put on even a touch of the charred pineapple verde salsa or the mango and roasted corn salsas, and that meat can be overpowered. On the bright side, however, those salsas are quite good.
The kalua pig, however, is the exact opposite. I had it on a burrito so fully packed with other ingredients I worried I wouldn’t taste it at all. But its heavy, smoky taste cut through everything else to the point of being oppressive.
To wrap up a meal here, they offer a dessert called coconut bark: a frozen slab of what I believe is coconut, chocolate, toffee and (perhaps?) a cookie wafer served in a brown paper bag. It’s a nice combination of flavors, but may be the sweetest dish I’ve had since eating spoonfuls of pure sugar as a 4-year-old.
So what’s the final verdict? I have no problem with the small menu or the derivative concept. (I do, however, find it hysterical that the owners claim it took seven years to develop these recipes — by my count three salsas, four meat glazes and guacamole!) As I said at the start, finding food that is even slightly original, quick and inexpensive is nearly impossible outside of the food truck scene. Braddah’s provides that. Moreover, the ingredients are of a higher quality than you’ll find in corporate chains. And the place is a stand-alone Vegas creation. For all of those reasons, despite all of my sarcasm, the next time I’m looking for fast food on West Sahara, I’ll pay the place a return visit. Congrats to the PR team for getting me in the door.
BRADDAH’S ISLAND STYLE BURRITOS, BOWLS & TACOS, 2330 South Rainbow Boulevard, 222-0767. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net and follow him on Twitter @almancinivegas.