Aces and Ales Comes To Tenaya

Updated on October 8, 2015.

Aces and Ales Tenaya EntranceBack in April I wrote with much enthusiasm about my visit to Aces and Ales, just east of the Boulder Highway on South Nellis Blvd:

There are lots of places in Las Vegas to drink beer and play video poker, but this one in particular is worth a special trip.

So, when I heard that they opened a new location in Summerlin (opened on Jun 21, 2013) I just had to check it out!

Aces and Ales Tenaya BarThe new location at 2801 North Tenaya Way is not a carbon copy of their original location, but they got the important stuff right. There’s comfortable seating, friendly staff, an amazing selection of reserve, limited and other hard to find craft brews in the fridge and enough flat screen HDTVs that you can easily catch a game or three no matter where you choose to sit.

Aces and Ales Tenaya Mac and CheeseI went for their House Mac and Cheese ($9.50) for comparison (I loved this dish at the original Aces and Ales). I was not disappointed. It arrived in the skillet it was cooked in, just like at the original Aces and Ales – and was just as creamy and delicious. We also tried an order of their Arrogant Bastard Fried Zucchini (no longer on their menu), which had a similar batter to their fantastic onion rings, but with a little extra spice. There were three sauces to tame that spice… ranch, blue cheese and marinara. I thought the marinara was the best match. I can’t say they are quite as good as the onion rings, but we did clean our plate.

So what’s different about the new Aces and Ales? Well, I didn’t see a pool table or any video games. Instead, they do have a nice outdoor patio for when the weather is a bit less oppressive. The music is a bit more diverse, covering everything from Lady Gaga to Johhny Cash while we were there. The new location is bigger, brighter and feels a bit more upscale. The happy hour specials didn’t carry over from the original bar, so you’ll still have to go to South Nellis for that burger and a beer special I raved about from 12-3.

Oh, and there’s one other little change. Fifty taps! That’s easily twice as many as you get at the original location, and the beers they put on them are just as special. They’ve got a great selection of popular craft brews from the likes of Stone, Deschutes and Lagunitas, plus a selection of local Las Vegas brews from Big Dogs, Tenaya and Joseph James. There’s plenty to choose from whether you’re looking to try something new or indulge in an old favorite.

Aces and Ales Tenaya KegsAnd just like the original, they change the taps and clean the lines regularly. Unlike the original, you can watch them do it. The kegs and lines are on display inside a cool glass case near the entrance that reminds me how much I want to set up a kegerator at home.

Looks like Las Vegas has another great beer bar!

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Sauced Food Truck: Awesome Balls!

Sauced MenuI didn’t have much appetite left when I caught up with the Sauced food truck at the Vegas StrEATS Festival, but with a menu item like “Big Easy Balls” I had to give them a try. Sauced menu is divided up into small plates and big tastes, with offerings of appetizers and sandwiches. The “Big Easy Balls” is considered a small plate ($4 for 1, $7 for 2, $10 for 3), and includes two golfball sized balls of deep fried goodness.

Big Easy Balls

Big Easy Balls

The “Big Easy” part is the fillings… including andouille sausage, chicken, rice, cheese and sriracha mayo. It’s a flavor straight out of New Orleas. The “Balls” part is the shape… big round textured balls filled with warm goodness. I’ve never had anything quite like them. They’re hot, moist but not greasy, with a crispy fried chicken type coating on the outside and the insides are bursting with texture and flavor. Awesome balls!

Sauced TruckBased on my small plate, I’ll definitely be back in line at the Sauced truck soon. Next time I’m trying the Loaded Fries with drunken cheese, bacon and jalapenos! How evil is that?

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Bridge: Cello Rock!

Bridge PlayingFremont Street is full of enterprising folks trying to make a buck. There are beggars, costumed characters, dancers and artists. There are people doing stupid human tricks, con artists and musicians. It’s a bit of a carnival experience. And, most of these people are more of a nuisance than they are entertainment. They clog up the pathways, pester you for change, and generally offer minimal entertainment for your dollar – should you choose to offer them one. So, while I’m a big fan of the official entertainment the Fremont Street Experience offers, most of the unofficial entertainment downtown doesn’t deserve a mention.

Except for one act – Mert and Jerry. These guys are classically trained musicians who used to play in the string section of the Lion King production, and when that gravy train rolled off the tracks they got creative. Very creative. Together they formed the strangest, most fascinating street music duo I have ever seen – Bridge.

They perform tons of great cover tunes with no guitars, no drums and no vocalist. They tear it up, belting out songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N Roses, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin on, get this, a pair of electric cellos. Their fingers are quick and their bows are accurate. They take turns, one cellist on lead, playing the vocal track the other playing the melody and/or rhythm. They finger, they bow, they even bang on their ridiculous looking instruments… and the crowd loves it. I loved it.

I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s the energy with which they play, how amazingly recognizable the songs are, or the novelty of hearing Metallica played on dueling cellos – yes, they play Metallica too. It’s different, it’s fun, and it drew me in. For the first time in countless trips to Fremont Street I found myself tossing dollar after dollar into a street performer’s tip jug.

Bridge SignThey play late at night (typically from midnight onward) on the Fremont Experience when the official entertainment on the stages ends and the FSE security won’t hassle them about the volume they play at. There is no official schedule, but the best nights to catch them on Fremont are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

They’ve been playing together like this for about a year – though they sound like they’ve been at if for much longer. They are constantly adding new songs to their repertoire. They will take requests, even playing one song that neither of them knew, using sheet music displayed on their iPad, on the night I was there. And I’ve got to say they did a pretty good job. These guys are very personable, they’re great musicians, and their act is very unique. If you’re out on Fremont after midnight, look for them.

Bridge on Facebook:

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Four Queens: Fremont Street Experience without the Fee

Four Queens MarqueeIf you love the Fremont Street Experience like I do, then one great way to stay in the heart of it is to book your room at 202 Fremont Street – The Four Queens. The Four Queens offers small (by Vegas standards) clean, comfortable rooms with all the expected amenities for a very reasonable price, right in the heart of Fremont. The casino has a classy old-school vibe, yet still contains some of the newer games. There are plenty of good paytables for video poker enthusiasts. You get Hugo’s for upscale, romantic (ladies receive a rose) basement dining, and Chicago Brewing Company for great pizza and beer.

I stayed on a gambling comp, which are easy to come by. Just give them a little play with a player’s card at either Four Queens or Binion’s and you’re likely to get comped or discounted room offers for the Four Queens. That said, even the going rate to the general public is quite reasonable. Midweek rates are showing for $37/night with your third night free throughout the month of July as of this writing. Some nights on the rate calendar are as low as $29.

Four Queens BedMy “Standard Deluxe” room included a comfortable queen bed, flat screen television, coffee maker, electronic safe, hair dryer, iron and ironing board. There were two desks with chairs for work and a clock radio on the nightstand to wake me in the morning. All the basics. The bathroom was adequate with one sink and a tub. The shower head was high enough for a six footer to use without too many contortions. Toiletries were limited to soap, conditioner and shampoo. All were adequate but not fancy.

On this particular trip I decided to go against all the advice I have read online and book a low floor in the North Tower. The common advice is to either request a high floor or the South Tower in order to avoid the noise from Fremont Street keeping you up at night. I figured it’s Vegas… why would I be trying to sleep before 1am?

Four Queens BathroomSo, I will preface this with a word of warning – if it is important to you to sleep between the hours of 6pm and 1am, then you should definitely follow conventional wisdom and avoid these rooms. However, if you love the Fremont Street Experience and you plan to be up during the Viva Vision show anyways, then a room like mine on the sixth floor of the North Tower facing Fremont Street affords a pretty amazing experience.

View from the 6th floor of the Four Queens North Tower

View from the 6th floor of the Four Queens North Tower

If you’re up high like the room I had on the eleventh floor on a previous trip, you look down upon the framing and scaffolding of the Viva Vision screen… it’s not a pretty sight. Furthermore, the screen actually blocks your view of all the cool casinos on Fremont. You might hear the Viva Vision shows, but they’re on the opposite side of the screen, so you see nothing more than a few flashes of light. However, my room on the sixth floor looked right out on Fremont Street. I could see the full length of the screen with very little obstruction, and the music was loud enough to penetrate the window to my room. It was like having a luxury box for the Viva Vision shows!

I’m pretty sure this is the best view you can get of the Viva Vision shows from a hotel room. I took these video clips of the Doors and Bon Jovi shows from inside my room:

Another advantage of the North Tower at Four Queens is that these rooms are the closest rooms to Fremont Street of all the hotels. It takes about fifteen steps to reach the sidewalk from the North Tower elevators. So, if you’re out having a good time on Fremont and want to make a trip back to your room, it’s quick and easy. I find that to be a big advantage staying downtown as I’m often popping back up to the room to change camera batteries, grab a drink, or use the bathroom.

So, grab a room at the Four Queens and ask for a low floor in the North Tower. You get a decent clean room with all the amenities you need, a short walk to and from the Experience, box seats (your room) to the Viva Vision shows, all inside a classy old-school casino with good video poker, good restaurants and beer. You get all of this with no Resort Fees and no “Fremont Experience Fee”. I’d call that a win!

Update (11JUL13): The name of the “Fremont Experience Fee” at the Golden Nugget has been changed. It is now referred to as the “Downtown Destination Fee” and includes a coupon book for local attractions.


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Sin City Wings: The Word On The StrEATS

Sin City Wings taking ordersThe first truck I tried at the Vegas StrEATS Festival was Sin City Wings. It’s was easy to find. It’s a bright yellow truck with a big red wing logo on the side. Fans of the show “Doctor Who” will appreciate the blue police box on the side. They offer boxes of meaty deep fried chicken wings (bone-in) or tenders (boneless) with your choice of half a dozen homemade sauces for seven bucks. Sauces range from mild (The Feinberg – an apricot based sauce) to wild (The Oscar Goodman – made with ghost chilies… need I say more?). The wings may be southern style, but those super-spicy wings are really “Oscahhhh” Goodman style. The owners hail from closer to Southie (Boston) than the deep south. Don’t let that put you off though, they know how to cook!

There are also french fries ($5), fried pickles ($5) and pot stickers ($5). They serve Shasta brand soda cans for a buck. I chose to bring my wings back to my room where I could enjoy them with a cold Fat Tire – a great combination!

Bobby Q Wings

Bobby Q Wings

For my wings I went with the Bobby Q sauce. The wings came smothered in a brown sugar barbeque sauce similar to what you might get if you could buy Sweet Baby Rays sauce on the day it was made and spice it up just a touch. It had a nice balance between the sweet and the spice, and there was more than enough sauce to cover the tender juicy wings (bone-in), my fingers and my face. Like most truly good, eat with wild abandon foods, these wings are messy! Finger-licking and a pile of napkins may not be enough – get some moist towelettes or eat them in reasonable proximity to running water.

They sprinkled a few specks of fresh cilantro on top, adding more visual appeal. On the side was a small cup of creamy ranch dressing that did a good job of cutting the spice. There’s not really enough to smother all the wings, so save some for the end to keep the heat from lingering.

Sin City Wings Sauce MenuI must say, my wings were delicious! I’ll definitely be back to try more of their sauces – and those fried pickles!

  • The Sin City Wings Truck shows up at a lot of multi-truck events like the Vegas StrEATS festival.
  • Although the fries are a bit pricey at five bucks, they offer a special “box” price – $10 for wings or tenders and fries- a far better deal!
  • The best way to know where to get you wing fix is to follow Sin City’s Twitter feed.


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Vegas StrEATS Festival: Road Food!

Vegas StrEATS entranceOn the second Saturday of each month from 6pm – 1am, just across Sixth Street from the El Cortez, is a fantastic community event with local bands, djs, artists and food. Admission to the Vegas StrEATS festival is free, and it’s easy to come and go throughout the night, sampling the wares of the various food trucks.

Since we first discovered the great gourmet food trucks of Las Vegas, we’ve made it our mission to try out some of the most highly recommended trucks and share our experiences with you. In the last few months we caught up with Bad Ass Coffee downtown by the courthouse and Fukuburger outside MadHouse Coffee.

Vegas StrEATS trucksChasing around the trucks is fun, but having them all gather together in one place is even better! Especially when I happen to be staying across the street. If only I had an unlimited appetite I could try them all!

I had to return to Bad Ass for a frozen mocha, and say “hi” to John, the truck’s friendly wild-eyed proprietor. After that, I followed his suggestion and hit up Sin City Wings. John was the one who convinced me to try out Le Thai on East Fremont. He hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

Later on, I finally got my hands on some of the famous Big Easy Balls at the Sauced truck. More on that coming soon.

Vegas StrEATS DJHere are a few things you should know before you head out to the StrEATS festival for an eating adventure:

  • There is a gate, but admission is free. They check bags, so leave your weapons and contraband at home.
  • There are no tables, no seating. Be prepared to eat on your feet, and order accordingly.
  • Drinks are available (beer and shots) at a single beer tent towards the front.
  • You also get local artists, local musicians and local DJs. Plan to hang around a while and take in some local talent!
  • The lineup of food trucks, musicians and artists varies from month to month – it’s never the same experience twice!


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Ashley Red: The Next Big Thing?

Ashley RedI really don’t want to like this band. One of their biggest claims to fame is that some spoiled sixteen year old brat had them play at her birthday party on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen back in 2007. The lead singer, Cass Cates, boasts in their promo materials that they are the next big thing. They’ve got a fresh style and a familiar sound. They’re edgy enough to draw a young crowd, but mainstream enough to appeal to the older generations. It all seems very planned and purposeful, and I don’t want to like it. But, I do.

Ashley Red performs a wide range of modern dance/pop covers like “Tonight I’m Loving You” by Enrique Iglesias and “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. If I’m honest, they nail each and every song… some songs sound even better than the original artist.

And then they do something else that makes me not want to like them. Cass gets on the mic and says “That was just karaoke.” Really? It seems to me that’s a bit of an insult to all the great cover and tribute bands that I love – and to the musicians (Hector Rios, John Kurimai and Thor Jeppesen) standing behind him. He probably doesn’t mean it that way, but that’s just the way it hit me. Then they go on to play one of their original tunes.

And I don’t want to like it, but I do. I just can’t help it. The band has a great sound. Their original songs sound just as polished and are just as catchy as anything on the radio today. They get the crowd into it. The lead singer will jump off the stage and run out into the crowd to get people dancing. The whole band seems to be having a good time. They get members of the audience to sing a few words. It’s interactive, its alive and it’s fun. When Ashley Red is playing it feels like a party.

The lead singer may be right. Ashley Red may really be the next big thing. Check them out while there’s still room in front of the stage.

  • Ashley Red plays at the Fremont Street Experience every Thursday night in June (free).
  • You can also catch them at Blue Martini in Las Vegas on June 26th.
  • If you like to buy your music the old fashioned way (on a disc in a case with art and stuff) I’ve seen Cass selling the band’s CD at their Fremont Street shows.
  • Contrary to my initial impression (from checking out a few videos on Youtube before deciding to go out and see their show) the band is actually very approachable.

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Radio City Pizza: Grab a Slice on Fremont East

RCP-entranceThe Fremont East district is heavy on bars, but short on food options. Le Thai is a great option if your looking for something exotic and spicy, but where do you go for old-fashioned American drinking food? Look no further than Radio City Pizza at 508 Fremont St East.

Radio City offers cheese pizza by the slice for $3.25, and there’s a long list of toppings they will add for just fifty cents. If you’re real hungry you can get a full pizza made fresh for $16.50 with $1.50 toppings. Garlic knots ($6 for five knots) are chewy and loaded with garlic, a great starter if you don’t mind the inevitable garlic breath. Their buffalo wings and meatball appetizers are also quite popular.

RCP-Cheese-SliceI know that what constitutes “good” pizza is a highly contested issue, so I won’t give my personal opinion, just a description:

RCP’s pizza is thin-crusted, but it’s not quite fold-it-over NYC style as one might suspect – given the name of the place. Instead, it’s more like the Italian bakeries on the North Shore of Boston make it… it has a crisp bottom, chewy middle and a sweet sauce under a layer of cheese that is cooked just to the point where browning starts, leaving just a hint of glistening oil.
Radio City Pizza Ham Slice
Toppings are of good quality and they give you enough to get a taste in each bite. All the slices start out as cheese, toppings are added when you order. Of course pizzas with toppings will be a little better if you order a full pizza so that it’s made fresh. Also, the more recently your slice came out of the oven the better it will be, so if you’ve got the time it might be worth waiting for a new pie to be made.

While you wait, you can enjoy the nice patio out back, with open-air dining, watch some sports on the numerous tvs, or kick back with a craft beer (taps when I was there included Sierra Nevada Pale, Magic Hat #9, Goose Island Honkers, Pyramid and Pabst). Cocktails are also available – half the bar seems like an homage to Ciroc vodka.

RCP-open-air-seatingRCP is open until midnight weekdays and 4am on the weekends – perfect for a late night bite. If you want your food quick, just belly up to the bar in front, but when the temperature is right, the best experience is hanging out in the open air patio out back.

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Sigma Derby: Old Fashioned Low Rolling at The D

Sigma Derby The D Vintage VegasNormally I tend to play casino games that offer the best possible odds, in hopes of stretching my gambling dollar and maybe earning a few comps. However, there is one casino game I like to play just for the fun of it – Sigma Derby. The very first casino game I ever played (yes, a very long time ago) was a Sigma Derby machine. I played about an hour on a roll of quarters and actually walked away a few dollars ahead. Beginner’s luck, but I was hooked. After that I looked for that machine in every casino I entered – but over the years they’ve become harder and harder to find.

For those that don’t already know, Sigma Derby is a large, multi-player, electromechanical horse racing game. There are very few of these machines left in the world, and only two that I know of at casinos in Las Vegas. One is on the Strip (in the MGM), and the other is the centerpiece of the new “Vintage Vegas” gaming area at The D. The first time I wandered up the outdoor escalator and into the second floor of The D, I saw their Sigma Derby machine in all it’s glory. On an otherwise quiet afternoon on Fremont Street, this particular machine was flooded with action. All (ten) seats were taken, and there were people behind some of the players cheering on the game and waiting for a seat. I didn’t feel like waiting, so I changed a ten for a roll of quarters and vowed to ride that escalator each time I got near it, until I found an open seat waiting for me. Later that night my persistence paid off.

Sigma Derby table at The DSigma combines the effortless play of a slot machine, the excitement of a horse race and the comradery of a table game. Each race, five plastic horses make their way around an oval track that’s set into the table glass. The machine makes galloping noises, and the plastic horses vary their pace throughout the race, just like real horses – often ending in a near photo finish. Bells go off, the winning numbers are displayed on an old, rudimentary red digital display, and the people around the table cheer and curse. Winnings (anywhere between 2 coins and 200 coins per coin bet) make a lovely old-fashioned clickety-clack as they drop into the coin hamper. (The machine at The D is set to hold your coins until you cash out, but a lot of people like to hit the button after each win to hear that classic coin-drop sound.) A few seconds later, the odds for the next race are posted and players get roughly sixty seconds to place their bets before it starts all over again.

Check out this video of the Sigma Derby game in action:

There are ten “quinella” (first and second horse, any order) bets available on each race, and the odds are shown for each quinella before the race starts. Each race offers different odds. Some races the best possible payout is thirty for one, some it’s two-hundred for one. Anywhere from one quarter to twenty can be played on each combination. With ten seats at the table and ten possible winning combinations, there’s a winner almost every race. With a max bet of twenty quarters ($5) and max odds of 200 for one, there’s no need to worry about W2Gs, the biggest jackpot possible is only a thousand bucks.

My biggest win of the hour!

My biggest win of the night!

The odds, by all estimations, are horrible. I was very lucky to walk away a winner the first time I played this game, oh so many years ago. But I still play it. It’s low limits, it’s vintage, and it’s a hoot. In the same way that black chips don’t seem quite the same as hundred dollar bills at the blackjack tables, twelve credit wins ($3) seem much more exciting than the dollar amount would warrant, when playing this unique machine. Especially if you and your table-mates have had a few drinks. And, drinks you can have!

The table service at the Sigma Derby machine in The D was as fast and friendly as any table I have played at in downtown Vegas. Even though I only played a quarter or two a race for quite a few races, the drinks kept coming as fast as I could drink them. I slowly lost my ten dollar stake, but that ten spot (plus a toke a drink for the cocktail waitress) bought me well over an hour of entertainment. At times the Sigma Derby table gets as rowdy as a craps table with a hot shooter, and I can only imagine how crazy it must get if that two-hundred for one hits… There’s rarely anyone at the table that doesn’t have at least a quarter on that combo when it’s available.

Save me a seat!

Save me a seat!

If you can be truly disciplined, and stick to one quarter a race, a roll of quarters would last an hour – even if you never won a race. It’s simple mathematics – there are forty quarters in a roll and forty races in an hour. Where else in Vegas can you play for an hour, get great cocktail service and only risk ten bucks in the process? Get up to the vintage gaming area on the second floor of The D and play the Sigma Derby machine while it lasts. It’s the other “most fun you can have for a quarter” in Vegas. Oh, and save me a seat!

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I-Naba: Another Kind of Noodle House

I-Naba entranceIf you go to the right off-the-beaten-path strip malls in Las Vegas you can find all manner of Japanese foods. Having enjoyed the soups at Monta Ramen, I decided to try a different type of Japanese noodle house.

Don’t be confused by the “Na Na” sign at 3210 South Decatur Boulevard Suite 104, Na Na Thai Kitchen has been replaced by I-Naba, a Japanese soba noodle house. I-Naba makes fresh traditional soba noodles using buckwheat flour. Soba noodles are the slender cousin of udon noodles – similar in size and somewhat heavier in texture to spaghetti. Soba noodles are served either hot in soup or cold with a dipping sauce (tsuyu). The latter (cold) is the preparation that I ordered.

I-Naba yuzu limeadeI started off with what was described as a “House Made Yuzu Limeade” ($2.00), which was delicious and refreshing, but turned out to be a mild mistranslation. It’s actually a fresh made, sweet lemonade, with a little taste of fresh mint. It was decked out with a fresh wedge of lemon and I’m pretty sure no limes were harmed in its preparation. Still, a good start.

I-Naba Zuke-DonI-Naba just began serving Donburi (rice bowls), which come with a side salad and you can get a half order of soba or udon for just $4 extra. I went for the Zuke-Don ($11), which was a large bowl of sushi rice smothered in soy marinated tuna sashimi with daikon radish, carrot and ginger and more shreds of nori to the side. The rice was moist and sticky and the tuna tasted clean and fresh – if a bit salty from its soy bath. Overall it was a good, filling dish. The salad that came with it was a simple mixed green salad with a mildly spicy sesame soy dressing and a few slivers of carrot. Even though I was feeling pretty full after the salad and the donburi, I had to try the specialty of the house.

I-Naba cold sobaI went for a half order of “Zaru” ($4 with my donburi, full order is $8). The soba noodles were served cold on a bamboo mat with a few shards of ice underneath. There were a few shreds of nori (dried seaweed) on top, which added an earthy flavor. Served with the noodles was a cold, flavorful soy-based broth (tsuyu). Wasabi and scallion were provided on the side. I mixed in some wasabi and scallion to my broth and twirled the noodles in the broth before each bite. Since every bite of noodles had a different combination of broth, nori, wasabi and scallion, each bite had a slightly different mix of flavors. A fun and delicious adventure.

I-Naba tsuyuOnce my noodles were gone, the friendly (and patient) waitress brought out a small pitcher with the water that my noodles had been cooked in. Sensing I was a novice, she explained that I could add the hot water to my cold broth and drink it. This made for a nice, warm “soup”, which turned out to be quite tasty. I cleared my palate with a couple last sips of my “Limeade” and a couple slices of ginger left over from my tuna bowl.

I-Naba serves up a great, filling meal, full of interesting flavors and textures for a very reasonable price.

  • Go between 5:30 and 7pm and enjoy cold draft Asahi beer for just $2 a glass.
  • Soba is a relatively healthy noodle, containing essential amino acids, B vitamins and antioxidants.
  • I-Naba also has locations in California and Hawaii.

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