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.
Table 10’s chef de cuisine James Richards got his culinary career started in Iowa, where he graduated from the Iowa Culinary Institute in 2010. The Ankeny, Iowa, native remembers cooking in the kitchen with his Greek great aunt and mother and traveling to France in high school on a chef exchange scholarship. But the kitchens of Las Vegas beckoned, and Richards headed to Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian to work as a line cook, then a saucier and manager in training. By 2012, he was the sous chef at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand, before going to Andiron Steak & Sea in Downtown Summerlin. Last September, Richards returned to the Emeril Lagasse family of restaurants as the chef de cuisine at Table 10 at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
"When I have the time to go out to dinner, I’m not looking for all the glitz and glam of the Strip since I probably see more of it than I need to," Richards says. "Every now and then I’ll go out for fine dining, but usually I’m just looking for good food, a good atmosphere and friendly service. If you have that figured out, like the following restaurants do, then most likely you’re serving more confidential diners than you know."
Here he shares three of his favorites.
Which restaurants do you turn to when you’re not working?
Lola’s, Mercadito (which closes after New Year’s Eve) at Red Rock Resort and Five Guys Burgers & Fries.
What dishes are most memorable?
Lola’s has Abita Purple Haze on tap. That alone should be the only reason needed. But when I need a Cajun/Creole home away from home this is the place to go. The chicken wings are my go to. Just the right amount of heat served on top of fresh cut fries that soak up all the extra wing sauce, what’s not to love? Like spice but need something lighter? Try a blackened chicken Caesar salad, simple but done just right.
Happy hour and industry nights are the way to go at Mercadito. With every taco you could imagine on the menu, I still have yet to try them all. There is one taco though that I always never seem to leave without eating. The Mahi Mahi fish tacos are simple, but done just the way fish tacos need to be. Fresh fish, crispy batter and fresh garnishes. They just added a new side dish of chorizo stewed Brussels sprouts that are a must try as well.
My guilty pleasure is Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Classic rock on the radio, brown paper bags, burgers wrapped in foil and peanuts everywhere. There’s nothing classy or elevated and quite frankly nothing needs to be. When you do one thing really, really, really well and it tastes really, really, really good why bother with the fuss? Go for a double cheese burger with grilled onions, lettuce, mayo and bacon. It’s the only thing I ever order and I don’t plan on ordering anything else anytime soon, it’s that good.