Thursday, May 29, 2014

Saturday Lunch in Las Vegas at Cantina Laredo

Tacos and Margaritas at Tivoli Village's "modern" Mexican restaurant. 

The atmosphere at Cantina Laredo on a recent Saturday at 1 p.m.:  Pleasant, with an inviting vibe. Not crowded. Pretty much just what I'm looking for in a Saturday lunch spot. 


  • My lunch companion, my good friend Diane, who never gives me a bad time about taking pictures of the food.
  • The expensive (but worth it) "Cabo Flip" Margarita ($12.75).
  • Flavorful food.


  • The service, which rocked at first, but when we lingered, we were ignored. (Note to waiters: we ladies like to linger on Saturdays, and if you come back to our table, we'll order more stuff.)
  • Small lunch portions.

The Cost: 
Modest, with most lunch entrees around $10. The tasty Margarita was expensive, but delicious. Quality booze isn't cheap, you know.

I love leisurely Saturday lunches. What about you? Are you a weekend luncher?
Photo by Terrisa Meeks

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Did Anthony Bourdain Get Las Vegas Right?

I thought Bourdain’s coverage of Las Vegas was pretty good, but no one gets Local Vegas totally right.
Most stories about Las Vegas paint a twisted picture of the city. Outsiders tend to see only the Strip, and they conclude the entire city is a phony, cynical place. They think “local” Las Vegas is a collection of gritty neighborhoods bordering the Strip and beyond that, a cookie-cutter suburban wasteland. Residents are portrayed as a sad collection of hotel employees, gamblers, crazy people, and strippers.
I commend Anthony Bourdain for not interviewing any strippers in this season’s “Parts Unknown” show on Las Vegas.

Bourdain got a lot right about Las Vegas. He started off his show at the Huntridge Tavern, a bar not far from where I grew up, a bar my uncle liked back in the days when it was considered run-down instead of trendy. My dad tended bar for a while at a bar called The Pink Panther, a cop hangout about a half a block from the Huntridge Tavern.  I spent a lot of time in that area when I was a teenager, perfecting my Galaga skills at a cool video arcade (dimly illuminated with black lights, no less) on the west side of the Huntridge Theater.

It was nice to see Bourdain give the city its due, so to speak, by starting out his show in Old Local Vegas.

From a barstool at the Tavern, Bourdain asks the bartender (who says she’s a third generation Las Vegan) if she thinks people are basically good. “About half,” she answers. (Sounds about right for a bartender to me, although I don’t my old-school barkeeper Dad would have gone that high. Maybe a quarter.)

Bourdain goes on to tell his drinking companion that he thinks that side of Las Vegas, that crusty old side, has a dim world view. “Even more dim than me,” he says.

I can understand that. Long-time Las Vegans are a suspicious bunch. We’ve seen a lot of cons, crooks, and cranks. Vegas can be a hard place to find friends.

We have our fair share of sketchy neighborhoods where the houses have bars on the windows, where “gritty” is the nicest thing you can say about the surroundings.

But the truth is that a whole lot of Las Vegans are living in neighborhoods where speeding cars are the biggest danger.

I’ve lived and worked all over Las Vegas, and the absolutely un-newsworthy fact is that if you take away the five miles of the Strip and the 40 million visitors, we’re pretty much like any other city in the Southwest these days. (Okay, except for the slot machines in the grocery stores. I’ll give you that.)

In today’s Local Vegas, you’ll find bunches of us who don’t work in casinos or bars, don’t gamble excessively, and know not a single (living) mobster—we even have Girl Scouts, for God’s sake, actual cookie-selling Girl Scouts. All of that, however, is simply too boring to write about or put on TV, no matter how many big-name chefs open up restaurants in the ‘burbs.

For years it bothered me that the real Las Vegas, the place I lived, was never featured in an article or story. It’s a city that attracts people from all over the world, and that’s one of the things I find the most intriguing. You never know when your next-door-neighbor will be an Iranian dentist, or a Palestinian refuge, or a family of Russians who dig up the landscaping (including trees) and take it with them when they leave. Las Vegas is full of characters.

I liked Bourdain’s show. It’s always interesting to see Vegas though the eyes of Outsiders, and I was glad to see he stayed away from the “Sin City” label. He showed everyone the villa on the Strip, the eccentric artist, the professional gamblers, and the amazing restaurants. He took a stab at Local Vegas, even talking about our water woes.

And, thank God, no strippers.

Did you see Anthony Bourdain's show on Las Vegas? 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

5 Tips for Surviving the Summer in Vegas

Triple-digit weather is ahead. Get ready.

If you’re from a more temperate climate and are facing your first summer in Las Vegas, let me just first say that I’m sorry, I truly am.

Judging from the stories I’ve heard, your first year of three-digit heat is the worst. Right now, if you’re used to spring in Chicago or Minneapolis, you’re amazed at our warm weather. By July, you’ll be sure you’ve relocated to Hell (at least, that’s what you’ll tell everyone).

Personally, I don’t consider it truly hot until it’s over 110F. 
Don't try this in Death Valley. It's hot. We all get it.
In colder climates, you have to work around cold and snow. In the desert, you need to work around sunlight and heat. Here are a few tips to help you survive summer in Las Vegas:

Get a windshield shade for your car.
If you’re parked outside, the desert sun turns your car into an oven. Without a windshield shade, you’ll be very sorry the first time you grab anything metal inside your car.  If you don’t have a shade, I suggest oven mitts.

Stay away from the light (the sunlight).
Standing in the direct sun in the desert is volunteering for torture. It’s a sure way to become a believer in spontaneous human combustion. Shade is your friend in all circumstances. Seek it.  

Understand that the swimming pool will lie to you.
“No, no, my lily-white friend, you don’t need shade… and who needs sunscreen? A little burn will turn to tan in a day. Just float here in my cool water with your tasty beverage(s) and you’ll be fine.” Don’t believe your pool. You’ll get sun poisoning and wind up looking like a boiled lobster.

Stay seated when you open your power bill.
If you’re going to be comfortable at home during summer, it’s going to get expensive. Even if you’ve got a really well-insulated house and a preference for warm temperatures, it’s going to be expensive. Brace yourself.

Be properly provisioned.
You should have water, lip balm, sunscreen, and sun glasses (and maybe a hat) when you go out and about. And that’s just for doing things around the city.

As far as going out in the desert… well, don’t. Don’t be a news story.

What did you think of your first summer in Las Vegas?
Photos courtesy of MrHicks46 and Kate Ter Haar at flickr