Sin City is home to a lot of restaurants and bars, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Las Vegans aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's food players to share their recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential. Know a chef who wants to share some top dining spots? The tipline is open.
Jolene Mannina [Photo: Chelsea McManus]
Jolene Mannina worked for 16 years at Commander's Palace in New Orleans and then Vegas when it opened at the Miracle Mile Shops, and later N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms and STK at Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. She launched her own food truck, Sloppi Jo's Roving Eatery, which led to organizing food truck events such as the Saturday Night Truck Stop at Tommy Rocker's every weekend. Mannina organizes pop-up dinners with chef Joshua Clark through ChowDownTown and puts together the Back of the House Brawl, the event that pits chefs against each other in an Iron Chef-style challenge with a mystery basket of ingredients on food trucks. Now she's the head of culinary arts for the Life Is Beautiful festival coming to Downtown Vegas in October. Here, she generously shares her favorite restaurants in Vegas for sweets, salty and texture.
Where do you enjoy eating when you're not working?
Eat — The pancakes with a crispy buttery edge are served with a juicy piece of chicken apple sausage, butter and syrup. I'm MAD, in a good way, about the shrimp and grits. I guess it's the Southern girl inside me. Creamy grits served over thick slices of bacon and topped with garlic shrimp that have been perfectly seasoned. I have not been disappointed yet and I eat at Eat every week. It's a good day when you can watch a new local business thrive in front of your eyes.
Le Thai — short rib fried rice. The dish reminds me of dirty rice, even though it's not made with liver, I get the same flavor. I find myself carefully watching the bowl to save it all for myself when dining with friends. Dan [Coughlin] has done a great job with setting the bar for restaurants for downtown Las Vegas.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill — chicken wings. Blue ribbon is famous for their fried chicken. My favorite dish is the chicken wings, more salty fried chicken skin with every bite. They are served a wasabi/honey dipping sauce that toys with my emotions. I almost always sit at the bar. Great service every time. I can decide to go light with a vegetable roll or indulge with the crisp pork belly or oxtail friend rice.
Raku — My favorite dish at Raku is the poached egg with sea urchin and salmon roe. Salty from the broth, creaming from the egg and sea urchin, okra and diakon radish add a lovely sliminess with crunch. Needless to say, texture, texture, texture. I continuously go to Raku late night to find out what fresh on the menu board.
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