You know you’re going to try. Lose weight. Exercise more. Budget better.
But really- if you’re really going to make another New Year’s resolution, why not make it one that you’ll actually be excited about keeping?
Here are 10 unique dining experiences you can find in the Silver State. Resolve to tickle your tastebuds at each of them this year!
1. Pampas Churrascaria (Las Vegas)
For those of you not familiar with Brazilian dining, the churrascaria is to Brazil what dim-sum is to China. Waiters will come to your table, carrying large skewers stacked with various types of meats- lamb, pork, chicken, sausage, and a variety of different cuts of beef. If you want some, they'll carve it for you right there at the table. There’s even a seafood add-on to the meal if you need a little surf with your turf. When carnivores die, this is their Valhalla.
And it's all-you-can-eat, so feel free to try everything. Actually, I take that back. Feel morally compelled to try everything. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life regretting “the meal that might have been.”
But, to keep things in balance, there's also a full salad-and-side bar available to you.
And grilled pineapple. Really- grilled pineapple. Did I mention the grilled pineapple? If you leave the restaurant without trying this, the culinary gods will strike you down.
2. Rose. Rabbit. Lie. (Las Vegas)
You know if you’re heading over to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for anything, you’re in for a top-shelf evening, and Rose. Rabbit. Lie. doesn't disappoint.
The décor has a classic 1920s air about it, and elegance permeates every part of the establishment, from the monogrammed napkins to the culinary artwork that reaches the table. In fact, the food presentations are almost too pretty to eat. But trust me- they’re twice as tasty as they are beautiful.
The experience doesn’t end at the table- some of the most interesting and eclectic entertainment wanders the room, creating a unique experience that can't be duplicated.
A night at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. is a full-immersion adventure not to be missed.
3. The Little A’Le’Inn (Rachel)
Sometimes, an unforgettable dining experience is less about the dining, and more about the experience.
Now, don’t get me wrong- the Little A’Le’Inn has perfectly acceptable diner fare, including some pretty knockout pies, and tasty signature burger, as well as a couple of beers that are only available here and in Roswell, N.M.. But it’s the feast for the mind that puts this eatery on the list.
Located on the Extraterrestrial Highway, near the alien hotspot that is Area 51, the Little A’Le’Inn is not shy about embracing its out-there attitude. There’s no shortage of spaced-out swag available for purchase, a myriad of memorabilia decorating the walls, and a ceiling papered with currency left by excited visitors.
Be sure to get a tale or two from the staff, and keep your eyes and ears open for your own close encounter.
4. Cell Block Steakhouse (Ely)
You might not give the Jailhouse Casino in Ely a second thought for dinner as you drive by.
That would be a big mistake.
Nestled in the former Ely jailhouse, the Cell Block steakhouse is a restaurant which prefers to talk quietly and let its food speak volumes.
For most of us- hopefully- this will be our only opportunity to eat inside a jail cell. If all prisoners got the kind of meals you’ll get here, however, you’d be hearing about jail break-ins instead of break-outs.
The food is outstanding, and very complimentary to the décor- thick cut, perfectly seasoned steaks, hearty soups, and filling side choices. Paired with the authentic feel of your "behind-bars" seating area, you’ll expect to hear spurs and see silver stars on the lapels of your wait staff. And you’ll relish every minute of it.
5. Owl Club (Eureka)
Dining in rural Nevada is a lesson in not judging books by their covers. The exterior of the Owl Club projects “mom n’ pop diner.” But don’t let that fool you- there are some serious culinary skills at work behind those unassuming doors.
Whether you’re grabbing biscuits and gravy for breakfast, or a hearty cut of beef and all the trimmings for dinner, there are no mediocre meals in the Owl Club. The fact that you’ll see a packed house on many evenings attests to that truth.
This is authentic, down-home cooking, and you can taste the care the staff puts into every plate that comes out of the kitchen.
6. Middlegate Station (Middlegate)
Just because an eatery happens to be your only option, doesn’t mean it can’t also be a total gem.
Middlegate Station is one of those places. It's smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, if you blink, you’ll blow right past it.
Whatever you do, don’t blink.
Originally a Pony Express stop, it’s now an oasis for travelers adventuring down America’s Loneliest Highway.
The signature item here is the Middlegate Monster Burger, a 1 1/3 lbs. burger heaped to the skies with fixin’s and accompanied by a mountain of fries. Finish this burger, and cement your place in history (and score a free t-shirt.) It makes it easier that this epic meal is also highly tasty.
7. Thai One On (South Lake Tahoe)
If you’ve never tried Thai before, what’s wrong with you!?
Thai food utilizes coconut milk, curries, and basil to create culinary concoctions that will make your taste buds stand up and salute. And Thai One On does a banner job in representing.
It’s a little place, but it’s packed with awesomeness.
For the uninitiated to Thai cuisine, the staple of any Thai place is its pad thai- a rice noodle dish with eggs, tofu, lime, peanuts, and some kick from chilis. And Thai One On has a totally solid entry in this category. It's well worth a first-time experience, and a good example of what pad thai should taste like.
But I always go for the curry. While normally, I like a yellow curry- spicy, with carrots, potatoes, and made richer with coconut cream in addition to milk, Thai One On has a pumpkin curry that is just insane. I have to tear myself away from that every time I visit so I can try some of the other dishes on the menu. Remember that you can ask them to customize the heat of the dish- maybe kick up the heat a bit to keep you warm on those snowy Tahoe winter evenings!
While you’re reveling in the explosion of flavor that you’ll experience, make sure you complement your meal with a Thai tea- a sweetened tea with a float of evaporated milk, and finish the meal with the mango pudding and sticky rice- sheer perfection.
8. Zagol Ethiopian Cuisine (Reno)
As far as uniqueness of experience, Zagol tops this list. This is not the type of cuisine you see in most cities, and it’s a shame, because the food rocks.
Serving a selection of meats and vegetarian dishes, Ethiopian cuisine is robust and spicy, where the main ingredient plays center stage, uncluttered by a ton of filler vegetables. (You know, like that sweet-and-sour pork you ordered the other night, which had two pieces of pork and a dozen bell peppers?)
By itself, the food places Zagol firmly on this list, but its final coup is the way in which you eat these wonderfully flavorful offerings.
Your food will arrive on a plate of injera- a spongy, slightly sour flatbread, along with additional pieces of injera in a basket. It’ll be about this time when you notice a distinct lack of silverware on the table. That’s because your eating utensils just arrived in that basket. That’s right- put your napkin in your lap, grab a piece of injera, and scoop away. It’s messy, and totally tasty.
I recommend some Ethiopian tea with your meal- it’s a hot, sweet tea which features strong ginger flavor, and works wonderfully in conjunction with the kick-in-the-pants flavor of the entrées.
9. JJ Sushi (Sparks)
You may not think of Nevada as a prime sushi location, seeing as how we’re all beach and no ocean, but the state has quite a few top-notch sushi joints.
There are several in Sparks, but one of the new up-and-comers is JJ Sushi.
Like most sushi spots in town, JJ offers both a la carte sushi, and all-you-can-eat. (AYCE, for those who dig the acronyms). I recommend dining just off peak hours- either right at the start of lunch or dinner time, or just after prime eating hours. Because JJ gets busy, eating at off-hours allows the sushi chefs to pay more attention to you. And the more time they can spend with you, the more they can offer suggestions and make sure to customize rolls to your desires. (Don’t like tobiko? They’ll make sure none of it shows up on your rolls, even if you forget to ask.)
If you’ve never had sushi before, let’s clear one thing up. It’s not all raw fish. JJ has over a dozen rolls that are totally cooked- many with crab or shrimp. You can eat to your heart’s content and never come in contact with raw fish (though, I gotta tell ya- you’re missing out if you don’t at least try it. If you’re new to sushi, try an order of the salmon, tuna, or yellowtail nigiri- not very fishy tasting fish, so an excellent introduction to the raw stuff.)
JJ has its own specialty rolls, and they have some pretty diverse flavor profiles. What sets the restaurant apart from the other joints in town, though, is that it has a robust appetizer menu, which is included in your AYCE. In addition to mussels, a staple at most sushi spots, it has jalapeno poppers, calamari, and a little gem called ‘The Hunger Game’ which is totally brilliant and a must-eat.
10. The Star Hotel (Elko)
There may be no food in our state more uniquely Nevada than Basque cuisine. And nowhere is it done better than the Star Hotel in Elko.
The first thing to note for those unfamiliar with Basque food is that there’s no such thing as a “little something to eat.” These are sheepherders, folks- it’s a big job that brings with it a big appetite. So be prepared to have a lot of food in front of you.
Second thing- meal time is traditionally a community event. This means you’ll be seated at a large common table with, potentially, a bunch of people who are not yet your family members (but will be by the time the meal’s done.) Everyone at the table shares the side dishes, so take some and pass it down- whether you know the person next to you or not.
Lastly, don’t expect foo-foo meals at the Star. They don’t hide their entrees under copious amounts of sauce or other fillers. You are going to get perfectly executed food that shines on its own.