Many of the casinos in Las Vegas offer what’s referred to as a “Coffee Shop.” This refers to a restaurant within the casino that offers a good, basic American meal at any time of day. To help fill tables, many of these restaurants offer graveyard specials, available from eleven or twelve at night into the wee hours of the morning. None that I have found beats the Oxtail Soup ($9.99) at the Market Street Cafe in the California Hotel/Casino downtown.
Aimed at the predominantly Hawaiian clientele that frequents the California, Oxtail soup is a hearty beef stew that is made using beef (cow) tail bones which are simmered for hours to bring out their flavor and tenderize the meat. I know some of my readers will be skeptical, so I will walk you through it… Think of a t-bone steak… You know how great the meat next to the bone tastes? You know how the deepest, most wonderful broths come from simmering the bones? Alright, well, with Oxtail Soup you get both. The Market Street Cafe serves a huge bowl full of deep, rich beef broth, celery, peanuts, carrots and about half a dozen meaty beef tail vertebrae. The vegetables and nuts are crisp and flavorful. The meat is tender and delicious, the bones are brimming with marrow. It’s a carnivore’s dream, and a great way to satisfy your hunger after a night of drinking.
The brothy, meaty goodness isn’t all you get. Grated ginger, cilantro and white rice are served on the side, and I definitely suggest dumping in a bunch of that ginger and sopping up some of that fantastic broth with the rice.
The last time I was there my waiter had a look of shock and awe on his face when I (with my pale skin and Boston accent) ordered the Oxtail Soup. He returned to our table four times during my meal to check to see if I was enjoying it. So, if you don’t look and sound like you’re from the islands and you order this dish you may get some strange looks and some are-you-sures. Don’t let that put you off. For me, it’s part of the fun.
If you’re still hungry after the Oxtail, and I find that hard to believe, there’s one more late night special you have to try – the Banana Fritters ($3.99). These are like miniature banana turnovers, served with a tasty cinnamon sauce and quality vanilla ice cream. A few raw banana slices are served on the side. If you’re craving something sweet, it makes a fantastic late night snack. My girlfriend gets it nearly every time we go.
The Market Street Cafe also serves traditional American breakfast food 24 hours a day, a salad bar, and typical diner fare (with a few Hawaiian specialties thrown in). The food and service are always on point. I have never had a bad meal there. My only complaint is that some of the vegetables served as side dishes are canned, but that’s a small quibble – easily overlooked when you consider the meal as a whole. Really though, just wait until 11pm and go for the Oxtail Soup. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
- Oxtail Soup is only offered from 11pm until they run out (typically around three in the morning). At this time the large restaurant is usually packed. Nearly every customer is there for the Oxtail Soup – it’s that good. So get there late, but not too late – you won’t want to miss out.
- Accept no substitute. There are other restaurants in Las Vegas that serve Oxtail Soup, but none I have found is as good as the graveyard special at the Market Street Cafe. Even the other Boyd owned properties don’t seem to make it as well.
- The lines for seating are usually quite long, but they move quickly. Seating is done in waves to avoid overwhelming the waitstaff.
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