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Don’t be confused by the “Na Na” sign at 3210 South Decatur Boulevard Suite 104, Na Na Thai Kitchen has been replaced by I-Naba, a Japanese soba noodle house.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.

Website: www.inabalasvegas.com
I-Naba on Urbanspoon

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Chicago Brewing Company: Pizza and Beer

Chicago Brewing Company Thin Crust PizzaLocated up a short flight of stairs in the back right-hand corner of the Four Queens, Chicago Brewing Company offers the perfect combination to fuel your hunger and your thirst.

They offer both thin crust and deep dish pizzas as well as a variety of appetizers. While I have never tried the apps I can confirm that the pizza is very good. With the thin crust, you can choose your own toppings such as pepperoni, mushroom, peppers, etc. It is cut Chicago style and is slightly thicker than New York style pizza. The deep dish comes standard with sausage, pepperoni and cheese. It is pretty small in diameter but it makes up with it in toppings and crust!

Chicago Brewing Company Deep Dish PizzaAs for refreshments, you can choose from their variety of micro-brews. There is always a good variety. They have light ale, amber ale, brown ale, hefeweizen and stout. All are quite good and, starting at $4 for a 14 oz, they won’t break the bank. But you want to know the best thing? You can get a 64oz growler filled with your favorite brew for just $14 (note: the IPA is $20). These brown glass jugs are even refillable – so you could even tote one up and down Fremont if you wanted to.

Not feeling like a beer? Well, I hope you like root beer then because this place makes their own (excellent) root beer. Last time we went with a group and we ended up sharing a growler of it. Needless to say, everyone was impressed!

So, if you are interested in a cheap and tasty food option in the heart of Fremont Street, check it out. You can find their menu here: http://www.fourqueens.com/pdf/chicago_brew_menu.pdf

  • If smoke bothers you, ask to be seated in the dining room (to the left). The bar area to the right is both a video poker bar and a cigar bar.
  • Stop by on weekdays from 3-6pm for happy hour – all appetizers are half price!

Chicago Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Red Rock Canyon Part 3: Hiking the Calico Tanks Trail

Red Rock Canyon Visitor CenterThe Calico Tanks Trail is a moderately strenuous two and a half mile (round trip) out and back hike through the valley and up the Calico Ridge. It took us about two and a half hours to complete the hike, including photo and rest stops. Your mileage may vary. I would recommend wearing hiking boots, though it is possible to traverse in sneakers. At minimum, you should bring plenty of water, a snack, a flashlight, a camera, and a hiking buddy. This time of year, early morning is probably the safest and most comfortable time to go – it can get very hot during the day and there is limited shade along this trail. You may just want to save this hike for when things cool off a bit.

Red Rock Canyon Calico TankWe did the hike one afternoon in early February. Weather-wise, Spring or Fall would be the best time for this hike. That gives you plenty of time to plan. Refer to the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association website for park hours and admission rates.

Upon arrival, it’s worth stopping at the visitor center before you start so you can use the facilities and get up to date information and advice from one of the friendly and informative guides. That’s how we found out about this fantastic hike in the first place. We asked for an easy to moderate hike that could be accomplished in 2-3 hours in sneakers. After getting an idea of our fitness and experience levels the guide told us about the Calico Tanks Trail. She said that visitors from outside of Las Vegas tend to enjoy the view at the end of this out and back hike. I think she may have downplayed it a bit.

Red Rock Canyon Calico Tanks TrailYou can access the Calico Tanks Trail from the Sandstone Quarry Trailhead. This is the third parking area past the visitor center, off of the scenic loop road. Like most hikes in Red Rock Canyon, Calico Tanks Trail provides interesting biology and geology with beautiful panoramic views along the way. The hike follows a sandstone path, then climbs towards the Calico Ridge over slick stone and boulders. There are a few mild ridges, and the trail requires some scrambling. There are stairs cut into the steeper sections.

The reason I recommend this particular hike is the payoff at the end. The Calico Tank is kind of neat. It’s large pool of collected water in the middle of the desert. Maybe you could get a cool photo with the mountains reflecting off the surface or something. You might see some small fish in the tank, or a larger desert animal stopping for a drink. But, this isn’t the real reason for hiking all the way out here. When you reach the tank, don’t turn back yet – the best is yet to come. Hike up around the saddle to the right and just beyond the tank…

The ultimate picnic spot!

The ultimate picnic spot!

For the most amazing panoramic view of Las Vegas! You can see the valley below, you can see the downtown Fremont Street casinos. You can see the strip from end to end. It’s breathtaking! There are a couple of well placed flat rocks that are perfect for a little picnic (don’t forget, leave no trace). It’s not the easiest or the shortest hike in Red Rock, nor is it the highest or most challenging. But as far as effort / reward ratio, this hike is a jackpot win! Plan some time to soak it all in, get some photos and relax a bit. Just remember to turn back before it gets too hot (especially in summer), or too near to closing time. I hope they will offer a guided night hike out here so I can take in the view at night!

Click to view the full-size panorama (8000 x 1166 pixels)!

Click to display full-screen and click again to view the full-size panorama (12883 x 1878 pixels)!


  • Really, if you haven’t already done so, click the panoramic image above. If that doesn’t convince you to go on this hike, nothing will!
  • The Bird and Hike website offers a great detailed trail guide for this and many other Las Vegas area hikes. Print it out before you go.

Website: www.redrockcanyonlv.org

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Red Rock Canyon Part 1: Driving the Scenic Road
Red Rock Canyon Part 2: Guided Night Hikes

Fat Choy: Great Bao!

Fat_Choy-wallI love to unearth delicious foods in unlikely places, so it’s a shame that I didn’t discover Chef Sheridan Su (former Executive Chef at Comme Ca) when he was serving up Bao to long lines of customers in the back of a hair salon. I’m sure that would have made for an epic tale. After that, Chef Su went mobile with his operation, starting up the “Great Bao” gourmet food truck. Sadly, I missed that as well. By the time I was ready to venture out and place an order at his truck, Su had parked it.

Fat Choy EurekaI finally tracked down Su at his latest digs, the Fat Choy restaurant in the Eureka Casino at 595 East Sahara. Fat Choy replaces the old coffee shop for this small locals casino, maintaining a few select items from the original menu and adding in Su’s specialties. So, it’s Asian American fare – as in you can still get a burger (with bacon, cheddar, egg and short rib) or (kalbi) steak and eggs, but the real reason to come here is the bao. I ordered one of each of their bao offerings on my weekday visit, and now I know why people lined up in a hair salon to eat this man’s food.

If you’re familiar with the little baskets of Chinese dumplings (bao) at dim sum, then this is the somewhat deconstructed, gourmet version. You get a soft circle of steamed dough about five inches round and maybe half and inch thick, folded over duck confit or braised pork belly and topped with tasty sauces and fresh vegetables and spices. It eats sort of like a cross between a sandwich and a taco – definitely finger food.

Fat Choy baoI dove into the Peking Duck Bao ($7) first. It contains flavorful duck, cucumber and scallion with a tangy hoisin sauce. It tastes fresh and flavorful, but the duck, being, well… meaty, makes this bao hard to keep together while you eat. It’s worth the effort though. Just make sure any stray bits fall on your plate so you can scoop them back up again. It’s a good dish, but if you can only try one (and I’m a huge fan of duck), go for the pork belly.

The only reason you need to go to the Eureka Casino.

The only reason you need to go to the Eureka Casino.

It’s not that the peking duck isn’t good enough to recommend, but the Pork Belly Bao ($7) are truly amazing! The pork belly is marinated overnight, braised 6 hours and topped with mustard greens, peanut and fresh cilantro. The pork belly is soft and flavorful like none I have ever tasted. This bao holds together beautifully because the pork belly comes out even more tender than the steamed dough that surrounds it. The wonderful flavors of this bao lingered on my palate even after a few sips of their fresh brewed iced tea ($1.65). Food like this, I believe, is why people have followed Chef Su wherever he chooses to cook.

Fat Choy Boston Creme Bundt CakeService was very friendly and attentive. Without any provocation on my part, I was rewarded with my choice of free dessert because the waitress felt I had been kept waiting too long (perhaps the food came out a touch slow, but I hadn’t begun to loose patience). I chose the Boston Creme Bundt Cake ($3). It was a small, personal sized yellow bundt cake, fairly solid and sweet with Boston creme flavor frosting on top and filling the center. There was a light drizzle of chocolate on top. This was good, but having grown up on Boston creme doughnuts, I’d say it needs a bit more chocolate and a little less creme. It’s still good as is, especially if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, and a bargain at only three bucks.

Fat Choy tableThe bao alone is worth the trip to this little restaurant. Get there before the rest of the foodie world hears that they can get Chef Su’s delicious pork belly bao in the latest of unlikely places – inside the Eureka locals casino on East Sahara. Soon, I’m sure, they will once again be beating a path to his door.

  • Fat choy is a Chinese vegetable that, when prepared, looks an awful lot like human hair. Clever, eh?
  • Fat Choy is open Monday – Thursday 11am – 10pm, Friday – Saturday 11am – Midnight and Sunday 9am – 10pm.
  • If you want your bao vegetarian style, hit up the Sunday Brunch (all day Sunday) for Tofu and Mushroom Bao ($6) and save a buck over its meaty brethren.
  • In addition to the iced tea, Fat Choy offers bottled sodas, including some Asian specialties ($3), canned soda ($2) and beer ($4.50 Stella, $5.50 Kirin talls).

Website: www.fatchoylv.com
Fat Choy on Urbanspoon

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Kabuto Edomae: Traditional Sushi

Kabuto-EntranceThere are many hidden gems in Las Vegas. These restaurants may not heavily advertise and may be some distance from the Strip – but they also have some of the most amazing dining experiences (and are an absolute bargain when you consider what things cost on the Strip).

Kabuto is a tiny, simply decorated restaurant that seats exactly twenty four people. And, unless you are looking for it, you will probably have a hard time finding it. We even had some trouble, though we were able to find the plaza it is located in using GPS. Once there, you need to look for the restaurant with the smallest possible sign – from a distance it it looks like it doesn’t even have a sign. We had to walk right up to the door to confirm we were at the right place.

Kabuto ChefOnce inside you will notice how small it is – they have ten seats at the bar and four tables – three four tops and a two top. We were seated at a two top and kind of squished into a corner. (I soon forgot any discomfort, though, once amazing food started coming out).

In order to get a good idea of what the chef had to offer, we decided on the Middle Omakase, which costs $80 per person. We decided to just have water for a drink since the goal was to truly enjoy the fish. The waitress asked us if there was any type of fish we didn’t want to eat/couldn’t have. I took this opportunity to inform her that I have a pretty strong dislike for fish roe. I don’t mind it as a garnish on a roll but I won’t eat much of it, otherwise.

Kabuto SashimiOur first ‘course’ was more of an apertif. It was a small glass filled with the most amazing sake. The waitress told us it was a lemon sake that the chef made at home. It was really light, sweet and refreshing.

This was followed by a Jack Mackeral Salad, with sweet vinegar, cucumber, scallion and nori (seaweed). The sashimi started to come out next. The waitress was very informative, telling us what each fish was and where it had come from. The first grouping was Blue Fin Tuna (Spain), Opal Eye (Japan), Jack Mackerel (Japan) and Orange Clam (Boston). I was immediately struck by how fresh the fish was. I don’t think I’ve ever had sashimi that was quite that fresh – and I live on the Atlantic coast!

Kabuto Breem Kobe and Flying FishThe next set to come out was Breem with miso sauce, Kobe beef with daikon radish and ponzu sauce, and Spanish Mackerel with salt from Japan. The Breem was my favorite, though I also really enjoyed the mackerel. The salt it came with was light and subtle and really added to the taste of the mackerel.

The next two courses consisted of Medium Fatty Tuna (Spain), Blue Fin Tuna (Japan), Deep Sea Porgy (Japan), Snapper, Young Yellowtail, Japanese Mackerel, Sea Eel and Tamago. The Young Yellowtail was substituted for me since instead of Salmon Roe. I was very happy with this unexpected surprise since my favorite roll of all time is made with Young Yellowtail. Kabuto TamagoMy boyfriend received the Salmon Roe, which he said was the best he’d ever had. It came in a tiny bowl with a spoon, like caviar would. I also have to mention the Tamago. While all of the fish in courses 3 and 4 were excellent, the Tamago was hands-down the best I had ever tasted.

At this point the waitress came over and explained that we were finished with our main courses, though we were free to order something extra off the menu. She pointed out some of the options we had not tried and explained what they were. The boyfriend had the Triangle Tuna while I tried the Kamashita Fatty Tuna. Both tasted incredible though the triangle was bit tougher and the Fatty Tuna was smooth and rich. Two very different tastes but both are worth trying if you like Tuna.

Kabuto Fish Miso SoupWe were surprised by two more courses – a premium Fatty Tuna Hand Roll and a bowl of Miso Soup. The roll was great, with a fresh seaweed wrap and the perfect balance of rice and fish.

For dessert we had a strawberry crepe and homemade mochi. The mochi was very tasty, with a relatively thin shell and delicious ice cream. The strawberry crepe was more like a mille feuille pastry. It consisted of very thin layers of alternating strawberry cream and pastry. Much better than I had anticipated.

Kabuto Strawberry CrepeWhile the meal was not exactly cheap, it was overall the best sushi I have ever had. I would definitely do it again.

I am fairly certain that the next Omakase up included the Triangle and Fatty Tuna. I also know that the menu changes with the season and availability of fish so some items I mentioned may not be available for future meals.

Website: www.kabutolv.com
Kabuto on Urbanspoon

Fukuburger Truck: Seriously Juicy

One really great thing about Vegas, which I only discovered in the past year, is the variety of tasty food that you can get from food trucks. While we have some food trucks around Boston, they are few and far between….and only out when they weather is actually decent.

Fukuburger-#4-Kinoko-BurgerOne food truck we have returned to again and again is the Fukuburger truck. It first came to my attention when I was looking for a nearby place to eat and found all the rave reviews on Yelp. While I am not really a burger person, I found the description of the flavor combinations to be downright intriguing. It was basically Asian-fusion meets juicy burger. Who knew such things existed? When I found out I could even get garlic fries with my burger, I made it my mission to try it.

Fukuburger-#2-Tamago-BurgerThe key to trying them is finding them – and they have made that easier over time, As of right now you can go to 
http://fukuburger.squarespace.com/schedule (even on a phone) and find out where they are planning to be. Sometimes they mention a time but I’ve found that at an event they are pretty much there for the duration.

So let’s talk food. Rest assured that their burgers are seriously juicy, made with good meat and interesting toppings. My favorite burger has to be their Tamago burger which comes with teryaki sauce, wasabi mayo, onions and a big egg on it. It’s messy as all-get-out but it is so tasty! I also like the Kinoko burger or “mushroom burger”. The garlic fries are also very tasty, though they haven’t always had them when I’ve been there.

Fukuburger_Togarashi-Garlic-FriesI don’t want to give away too much of what they have but check out the photos. That should give you a good idea of what you are missing. Then look at the schedule and hall you butt over to the big red truck. Even if you see a line, rest-assured…it is worth it.

Website: fukuburger.squarespace.com
Fukuburger on Urbanspoon

Pura Vida – Vegan in Vegas

Pura Vida EntranceIn an industrial area full of strip clubs and bail bondsmen between I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard lies a pink, blue and yellow building that houses Las Vegas’ one and only fully vegan (and partially gluten free) restaurant. Chef Mayra Trabulse’s Pura Vida Bakery and Bystro at 1236 Western Ave looks a little out of place in this neighborhood, and she clearly hasn’t set up shop where her target demographic is. But that’s okay, I suppose, because for now, her target demographic has little choice but to come to her.

If you’ve been reading my prior posts, like my recent review raving about the Oxtail Soup at Market Street Cafe you know I’m far from being vegetarian, much less vegan. So why would I bother with this cruelty free, animal free save the turkeys restaurant in an industrial wasteland? I had a discount voucher and I came in search of eating adventure. And in that regard, Pura Vida did not disappoint.

Menus at Pura Vida

The adventure began with the menus.

We arrived mid-afternoon (with a reservation) and were seated immediately at a small, bright blue table just inside the door. The adventure began with the menus. We were given no less than four different menus, along with a detailed explanation of what we could and could not order off each of them. Then, as we were recovering from all that confusion, another menu arrived. It turns out that the first four menus were the “specials” menus. The final menu was the “regular” menu. This one, thankfully, required less explanation. My head was spinning, but I persevered.

I ordered one of their “Agua Frescas”, described as flavored water with essential oils. They offer different ones each day and today’s contained pomegranate juice and lime essential oil. It was dark purple in color, light in flavor and easy to drink, and tasted delicious. A great summer beverage! Things were looking up.

At the same time as my drink order, we also placed our food orders. I chose the Breakfast Wow! Puff, and my girlfriend chose the McNeil Bagel (I think that’s what it was called). My drink came out fairly quickly, but we had a lot of time to take in all the atmosphere as we awaited the arrival of our entrees.

Pura Vida InteriorThe area around the entrance is a shrine to the restaurant itself. On the wall are numerous hand written love letters to the restaurant and Chef Mayra from her loyal customers. Numerous reviews and awards adorn the walls. The door is covered in stickers from the various websites that Pura Vida has been featured on. The interior of the restaurant is bursting with bright colors. There are flowers everywhere – both in artwork and in pots. There are certificates on the wall for each of the turkeys Pura Vida has saved from the slaughter. Up front is a glass and stainless bakery case full of baked goods for sale.

I took some snapshots, we chatted and I nursed my Agua Fresca. While we were waiting for our food to arrive we watched as a couple of businessmen came in for lunch, then gave up and left. We overheard them negotiating with the waitress, trying to find something that they could order and still have time to enjoy during their forty-five minute lunch break. That wasn’t happening. They were advised to call ahead next time.

It really is as good as it looks.

It really is as good as it looks.

Our food arrived about an hour after we placed our order. It was beautifully presented, it was served hot, and it was full of flavor. Really amazing, delicious, lick your plate clean flavor. So many restaurants do vegetarian/vegan by simply replacing the meat in a standard dish with something else. Not Pura Vida. Chef Mayra is not a chef who caters to vegans, she’s a vegan who is also a chef – and it shows. She has designed a menu of great tasting dishes from within her chosen dietary restrictions, much like a talented artist might make a fabulous painting using only a few colors.

Pura Vida McNeil BagelThe Breakfast Wow Puff is a light and flaky puff pastry, covered with a delicious cheese-like sauce, and filled with tofu, onions, peppers, garlic and other spices. It was served with a small tin of the tastiest fresh-made salsa I have ever had, a fresh cucumber slice and orange slice. I devoured every bite. My girlfriend’s bagel sandwich was equally good, featuring an amazing soft chewy bagel with lettuce and tomato, more tofu and cheese-like sauce. The garnishes were similar, but also included a mildly spicy “vegan sausage” that, I must admit, I would choose over the meat-based sausages on offer at most breakfast joints.

Throughout the experience the waitress was extremely friendly and chatty. After our food arrived Chef Mayra emerged from the kitchen to chat as well. We complimented her food and made some small talk. As we talked, it quickly became clear that she doesn’t get a lot of omnivores. She assumed that we were vegan simply because we were eating in her restaurant, and I must admit it was a little awkward bursting her bubble. She handled the news well though, and we moved on to other friendly conversation. As we talked we learned that Pura Vida has a constantly evolving menu, depending on what is available locally and in season. This, I’m sure, is one of the reasons her food is so amazing. I just wish it didn’t take five menus to explain it.

If you are one of those know your food, vegan, cruelty free, gluten avoiding types, or are forced to dine with someone who is, then overlook the location and the idiosyncrasies and make your way to Pura Vida. I liked this quirky place, and even though I am not at all vegan, I plan to return. But I must offer some advice for those who dine here. Make reservations. Be patient (plan about two hours for a meal here). Try not to get overwhelmed by the menus or discouraged by the wait. Everything here is prepared from fresh ingredients, to order, and it takes time. The chef and the waitstaff are a bit disorganized, but they are very friendly, they mean well, and when your food makes it out of the kitchen it will have been worth the wait.

  • Go when you have time to chill out and enjoy the conversations with staff, and your dining companions. It’s a nice place to just relax if you’re not in any hurry.
  • Once you get to know the menu you can call your order in with your reservation, which should result in a quicker meal.
  • If you are vegan, this is the restaurant for you. It is the only place in Las Vegas where nothing on the menu is off limits for vegans. And even better, the food is delicious.

Website: www.puravidavegas.com
Pura Vida Bakery & Bistro By Chef Mayra on Urbanspoon

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The Shelby Museum: A Free Tour No Motorhead Should Miss!

Shelby Museum 2005 CS6 PrototypeAmerican swagger… the kind of conviction that makes you think “You know what that blender needs? A 500 horsepower small-block V8!” Well, in the 1960’s a bold racing driver named Carroll Shelby looked at the nimble little sports cars of AC motors in Britain and had a similar thought. This eventually gave birth to the CSX2000 (Carroll Shelby eXperimental) and Shelby was kicking ass and taking names on racetracks all over the US. With Shelby’s help soon the USA (Ford) was beating the Europeans (Ferarri) at their own game: the 24 hours of LeMans!

Shelby American, at 6755 Speedway Boulevard, near Las Vegas Motor Speedway is both a factory and a museum. Arrive by 10:15 in the morning Monday through Saturday for their free guided tour and you’ll get to see some amazing metal, and learn a few things you might not have known about the man (Carroll Shelby) and his machines. This is where the current model Shelby machines are assembled, and you’ll get to see examples of each on the showroom floor, as well as the shop where they come to life.

The first Shelby Cobra

The first Shelby Cobra

The museum is home to the very first Cobra ever built, possibly the world’s most valuable sports car. This is the car that put Shelby on the map. It’s currently blue, but has countless coats of paint in a rainbow of colors. To find out the fascinating story behind why there are so many coats of paint on this car, you’ll have to take the guided tour.

But that’s not all. There’s Shelby cars from each of the last five decades. There’s a hand polished bare aluminum Cobra that shows every speck of dust and fingerprint. There’s an original 1966 model and a more recent 2007 model of the Shelby GT-H, a car that was built specifically as a rental car for the Hertz company. In the tour they reveal some of the lessons learned by Hertz and Shelby in this experiment renting 300+ horsepower Mustangs to the general public. As you might imagine, there were a few hiccups.

Shelby Series 1 (rare, 249 built)

Shelby Series 1 (rare, 249 built)

They have an example of the only car Shelby designed from the wheels up, the Shelby Series 1. They even have the red-headed stepchild of the Shelby empire – a Shelby Dodge Omni GLHS (yes, that’s the 80’s econobox, and the GLH stands for Goes Like Hell!). Many of the cars are pristine, roped off, museum beauties and the tour is both educational and entertaining.

Dodge Omni GLHS

Dodge Omni GLHS

For those that don’t make the tour, there are signs describing the cars on display, and there’s a timeline of Carroll Shelby history on the wall. It’s all very nicely laid out, and can be toured in about 20 minutes (the guided tour is about half an hour).

If you are even vaguely interested in cars, Carrol Shelby or American ingenuity in general then this tour is well worth the time, and the trip. Did I mention it’s free?

The Shelby GT-H was build exclusively as a rental car for Hertz.

The Shelby GT-H was build exclusively as a rental car for Hertz.

  • If you want to buy something with the Shelby name on it, this is the place. From $15 t-shirts to $100,000 supercars, they’ll be happy to sell you your own piece of automotive history.
  • Smile, you’re on webcam. There is a 24/7 webcam in the showroom. Your tour will pause to give the interwebs a wave. Better look your best!

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Monta Ramen – Japanese Comfort Food

Monta entranceUnless you’ve been to a real Japanese ramen house, forget everything you think you know about ramen. This is nothing like the brick of dried, tasteless noodles with a packet of msg that you might have subsisted on while working your way through college. The ramen at Monta (5030 Spring Mountain) is as close to Maruchan Ramen as the fresh-made pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant is to Chef Boyardee. No, I take that back, it’s not even that close.

There is a perpetual line-up at Monta, and for three good reasons: The food is amazing, it’s very affordable, and the restaurant consists of only five tables and a ten seat bar. Service is quick and efficient, though, and most people don’t linger too long, so we only had to wait a few minutes for a table.



We started by sharing an order of Gyoza ($5.15). These pan fried dumplings, filled with fine ground pork and vegetables were served golden brown. The outside of the dumpling comes out al dente, with just a touch of crunch, while the inside is warm, soft and flavorful. A pretty good start.

Tonkotsu Ramen with Nitamago

Tonkotsu Ramen with Nitamago

I ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen ($6.95), with Nitamago ($1.50 add-on) which is Monta’s signature dish. The base for this soup is a strong, rich, silky smooth pork broth. This is one of those savory broths that is the result of hours of boiling bones and fat – transforming remnants into something decadent (much like oxtail soup).

Soaking up that broth are gobs of soft, thin, fresh house-made noodles and a pair of thin slices of chashu (pork belly). Some fresh chopped scallions serve as garnish. The soup is rich and flavorful, the noodles soft and there is hardly a hint of spice or salt. The meat is thoroughly cooked and a little firm, but flavorful. The egg is just shy of hard boiled, and it goes with this soup like a fried egg goes on a burger. This is comfort food, for sure.

Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi Fried Rice

What surprised me most about the food at Monta was not the delicious ramen soup – that I had expected. My girlfriend went out on a limb and got something I never would have thought to order – Kimchi Fried Rice ($6.95). Boy am I glad she did. It’s… just… wow! Perfectly cooked rice with just a hint of kimchi flavor – not too spicy, not to oily or greasy. It’s my new favorite fried rice dish.

While I do recommend trying the fried rice and gyoza, most people come here for the ramen. And with good reason. If you want a hearty noodle soup that’s easy on the salt and spice and heavy on the flavor, Monta Ramen has you covered. Forget that shiny package in the Asian food aisle at the supermarket. This is what ramen is supposed to be.

  • If you like it spicy, don’t fret. There are numerous options at your table to spice up your dish.
  • Monta is in good company – other restaurants off the same parking lot include Aribura Raku, Kabuto, Big Wong and Trattoria Nakamura-Ya. More on these restaurants soon.
  • Monta just opened a new location in Henderson at 9310 South Eastern Ave #116.

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Gold Coast

Gold Coast Deluxe King BedJust a short drive west of center strip lies a no frills locals casino with a good Chinese restaurant (Ping Pang Pong), a very reasonable 24 hour liquor store (the gift shop), good video poker (9/6 Jacks or Better at the quarter level) and plenty of low-roller action. We spent two nights in a “Deluxe King” (their lowest priced room) at the Gold Coast in March, during Viva Las Vegas.

Gold Coast has to be one of the easiest casinos in Las Vegas to come and go from. There is a large self parking garage with it’s own entrance road and traffic light on the east side of the casino. At 4000 West Flamingo Boulevard, it is about a half mile from I-15, and about a mile from the strip. If you don’t have a car, or don’t wish to drive, there is a shuttle that goes to the Orleans and to Bally’s (mid-strip) that runs every half hour from 9:00am until just past midnight. (During Viva Las Vegas there was an additional shuttle running between Gold Coast and the Orleans, 24 hours a day. Very nice!) Both the Rio and the Palms are within walking distance.

Gold Coast Deluxe King DresserWe arrived Saturday around noon and had no trouble checking in. The front desk staff was very friendly and had us booked into a room on the third floor in just a couple of minutes. The rooms in the hotel are mostly down one long corridor leading from the elevators, so it was a pretty long walk down the hallway to our room (number 370). This was no trouble for us, but if you have mobility issues or a large amount of luggage I would recommend asking for a room close to the elevators.

Inside, the rooms are a little smaller than average (by Vegas standards), but clean and comfortable. Our room had a King sized bed with end tables on either side, a sitting area with a table and two chairs, a flat screen, and a large dresser containing an iron and ironing board that doubled as an entertainment center. The mattress was firm and comfortable, and the sheets were of a good enough quality to not feel scratchy. The view from our room, only three floors up, was nothing to write home about – just a parking lot and a nearby apartment building.

Gold Coast Deluxe King BathThe bathrooms at Gold Coast are more “updated” than those at the Orleans, and like the Orleans they offer a side-hinged window that you can open to let in some fresh air. There was a small coffeemaker on the counter with coffee and cups, and a hair dryer for those more stylish than I. The standard sized tub had a shower head that was high enough for a six-footer and provided decent water pressure.

Gold Coast Deluxe King SinkWireless internet was available for a fee ($4.99 basic/$9.99 premium 24 hours), they offered room service, and wake-up calls. The only things blatantly missing in the room amenities list were a safe and a fridge (there was an ice bucket). In addition to the room amenities there was a small, but very nicely landscaped pool area for guests, and a nice gym with cardio and strength training machines with large windows overlooking the aforementioned pool.

Gold Coast GymDownstairs, the casino has plenty of good video poker, slots of every description, table games from $5 minimums up, keno and bingo, and a decent sports book. The cocktail waitresses are friendly and attractive, and the video poker bar serves New Belgium Fat Tire (a favorite of mine) on draft. There’s a bowling alley, a T.G.I Fridays, a Subway, the delicious dim sum at Ping Pang Pong, a noodle shop, a coffee shop and a buffet. For a more upscale dining experience there’s the Cortez Room.

The Gold Coast offers everything most people need. Rooms are quiet, comfortable and clean, service is friendly, and there’s a variety of food and beverage options. Comps are fairly easy to come by, and room rates are often a fraction of the cost of those just a mile east, on the strip. It’s not huge, it’s not flashy, and it probably won’t impress your friends back home, but it’s a solid option for the budget conscious traveler.

  • Gold Coast charges a mandatory resort fee of $3.00 plus tax per night. This is typically waived for stays comped through the player’s club.
  • Prices on beer and liquor in the gift shop are competitive with local liquor stores and the selection is very good for a casino gift shop.
  • Gold Coast also sports an arena which hosts occasional concerts and sporting events and a comedy club with shows Wednesday through Sunday Nights.

Website: www.goldcoastcasino.com

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