It appears like an apparition. From I-93, Lake Mead is a dazzling splash of blue in the desert. Up close, the national recreation area serves as an impressive reminder that it’s not always necessary to drive to Los Angeles to see water.
Located just a half-hour from the Strip, the 1.5 million-acre Lake Mead National Recreation Area features beaches, marinas, campgrounds, and ample opportunities to get out on — or get into — the water. From kayaking the Colorado River through the Black Canyon to swimming at Boulder Beach, Lake Mead offers hikers, fishers, boaters, and sunbathers a chance to get away from the concrete and neon of Las Vegas and spend some time among black lava rock and cool cerulean water. Here are five restaurants near Lake Mead that are perfect for a weekend trip to the shores of this desert wonder.
If the deep blue color of Lake Mead conjures up dreams of the actual ocean, it’s best to just go with the fantasy and order a Mai Tai. The place to do it is at the Harbor House Cafe & Lounge. Located dockside at Hemenway Harbor, the casual restaurant serves wings, popcorn shrimp, and other fried bar food favorites along with beer, wine, and cocktails. Harbor House Cafe & Lounge sits as close to the lake as one can get without falling in, and the view of the water is sublime with a cocktail in hand.
Harbor House Cafe & Lounge, 490 Horsepower Cove, Boulder City; 702-293-3081
Champagne brunch on the lake
Brunch is an important event in Las Vegas, one that requires reservations, the perfect table, and bottomless champagne. And yet one Las Vegas brunch often flies under the radar: The Sunday champagne brunch cruise on Lake Mead. Hosted by Lake Mead Cruises, this open water affair features a buffet of scrambled eggs, bacon, French toast, crepes, and more plus champagne, a full bar, and stunning views of Lake Mead. The 90-minute cruise starts at 10 a.m. on Sundays for $45 for adults and $19.50 for children up to age 11.
Lake Mead Cruises, 490 Horsepower Cove, Boulder City; 702-293-6180
After a day in the sun at Lake Mead, what’s better than a good steak, a cold beer, and a sunset view? Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The Boat House is another dockside restaurant right on Lake Mead. Located just moments from the campground at Boulder Beach, the restaurant serves salads, soups, sandwiches along with steaks, seafood and a full bar.
The Boat House, 490 Horsepower Cove, Boulder City; 702-293-3484
Barbecue in Boulder City
The lakeside town of Boulder City (one of only two places in Nevada that prohibits gambling) is home to the award-winning Fox Smokehouse BBQ. A member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the restaurant serves tender brisket, pulled pork, and ribs along with hearty sides such as macaroni and cheese, fried okra and sweet potato fries. The restaurant’s tacos — served with chicken, pork, or brisket — make for the perfect post-Lake Mead lunch.
Fox Smokehouse BBQ, 1007 Elm St., Boulder City; 702-489-2211
A pub in a boutique motel
Located inside the Oasis Boutique Motel in Boulder City, Maxx’s Food & Drink is a delightfully kitschy, yet down to earth spot that serves hot dogs, tacos, nachos, hamburgers, and other casual options in a Tiki-inspired setting. Cocktails are available, and happy hour on the patio — plus occasional karaoke — is always a good idea.
Maxx’s Food & Drink, 708 Nevada Hwy., Boulder City; 702-293-4330
• Where To Dine in Boulder City [ELV]