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 readers to these potential discoveries, Eater Vegas enlisted some of the city’s food players to share their recommendations for a feature dubbed Dining Confidential.
Justin Kingsley Hall is stirring up Downtown Las Vegas with his cuisine at The Kitchen at Atomic, the restaurant next door to Atomic Liquors. He started his culinary career washing dishes for a catering company at age 16 in San Luis Obispo, California. In 2011, he started working at Comme Ça, the former French brasserie in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. After spending five years teach future chefs at the Art Institute of Las Vegas, he started the pop-up series SLO-Boy outside Dino’s Lounge. Then he helped open Sparrow & Wolf as the chef de cuisine. Last year, he became the executive chef of The Kitchen at Atomic. Here he shares some of his favorite restaurants in Las Vegas.
Do you remember your first trip to Vegas? What happened that was memorable?
I flew in from Florida to help cook at an event.
What made you decide to move to Las Vegas?
I was eager to move out of California again and I was choosing between Vegas and Portland. While interviewing at Comme Ca (formerly in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas), I looked around and thought it would be great for my career to say I worked on the Strip and could move to Portland some other time. My intended roommate made a strong case that I’d have a great time and she’d show me the ropes. Six years later, she became my wife and we have a son together.
Where do you like to eat breakfast in Las Vegas?
The Coffee Cup in Boulder City is my number one. A cup of coffee and a BLT, add avocado and two sunny side up eggs. It’s simple and the people are great.
What about lunch?
The Goodwich as they have a lot of tasty sandwiches with a chef’s twist. When tomatoes are in season, I’m all about the heirloom tomato, salted butter on griddled white bread. Otherwise I grab a cobb-ish salad.
If you’re going out for dinner, which restaurants do you like to frequent?
Other Mama does simple things really well. That goes for the food and dining room. It feels like home when I’m there. If you check out the paintings on the wall, you’ll find the artist also leading the bar. Their grilled branzino or kimchi fried rice both make me stop and smile.
Sparrow & Wolf serves a wide range of dishes meant to share that can be paired with craft cocktails while you listen to a playlist that ranges from Beastie Boys to Louis Armstrong. Order the Chinatown Clams Casino and be prepared for rich indulgent flavors warmed in a clam shell.
Esther’s Kitchen is serving up Southern California Italian with pasta and bread made in house. Their plates are made by a local pottery shop, and it’s already becoming a solid neighborhood restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. Start with the creamy and delicious Caesar salad, along with some bread and wine.
Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
Bardot Brasserie in Aria. The ambiance, staff and food are constantly stellar. When I want my family or friends to feel like royalty, that’s where we go. I’ve been taking my son there since he was a few weeks old and I think that’s why he’s hooked on foie gras.
Are there any brunches in town you like to frequent?
I tend to enjoy French restaurants when it’s brunch time and Andre’s Bistro is great at execution. The room is bright and beautiful and feels like you can dress up or come casual. My go-to is the Lyonnaise salad, escargot and a shellfish platter, and most likely beignets too. I need them with my coffee.
Let’s say you want to hang out with your friends after work. Where do you like to go?
I spread my time pretty equally between three places once i get off work. Although they are very different, what they have in common is being great at what they do.
The Sand Dollar Lounge: Live music and excellent whiskies.
Herbs & Rye: late night happy hour (half off steaks!) and exceptional cocktails.
District One: Pho, egg rolls, cocktails & fernet. Enough said.
• All Dining Confidentials [ELV]