Elaine and Scott Harris
Elaine and Scott Harris
Spring is in the air, and with all the fresh produce invigorating the taste buds, we stopped by two of our favorite spots, Lazy Dog and Carson Kitchen, to try some of the new menu items that can now be enjoyed as the weather starts to heat up in Las Vegas. Our first jaunt on the springtime menu dining journey was at the relaxing atmosphere of Lazy Dog’s Town Square location, which boasts lots of outdoor seating and casual dining spaces for guests of both the two- and four-legged varieties.
“Our food is casual contemporary that is innovative and approachable,” said founder Chris Simms. With that sentiment behind the family-friendly menu, seasonality is reflected in the freshest products available from the market. Simms’ creative cuisine reflects his passion for allowing diners to experience food with an elevated sensibility that typically presents old-school favorites with a tasty twist. Lazy Dog boasts that its food preparation takes place within its “from-scratch kitchens,” meaning that everything is made at each venue, nothing comes pre-made or frozen, and only the best ingredients sourced from the most outstanding purveyors are included in each dish.
As we began our meal, we observed the commitment to culinary originality with the Strawberry Field Salad, composed of Humboldt Fog goat cheese, pickled strawberries, blistered heirloom tomatoes, carrots, and field greens. Not only a visually appealing dish — we do eat with our eyes first, after all — but also an interactive marriage of sweet and tart flavors, with the goat cheese packing a pungent poke to the palate. The trail mix croutons banish boring with a toasty textural component, and the balsamic dressing assimilates all the ingredients into one happy forkful after another. The Grizzly Fries are another fine example of tweaking comfort food with a innovative twist, taking golden potato wedges and adding crispy bacon, fried sweety drop peppers, a dusting of smoky paprika, and a drizzle of “secret sauce” that turns these fries into a collective “Oh My!” of delight.
The bison burger — made with all-natural Durham Ranch grassland Wyoming bison topped with creamy havarti cheese, caramelized onions, a slathering of bacon jam, field greens, fresh tomato, and a dollop of mayo and served on a brioche bun — gives diners an opportunity to enjoy a taste adventure with a novel move away from the typical burger and bun. A Lazy Dog meal would not be a howling success without a sweet finish, and the house-made banana cream pudding dotted with vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and topped with mounds of gently whipped cream stands out as a leader in the dessert pack. Spring is here, and the offerings at Lazy Dog will be worth breaking away from the pack for a bite or two with your best friend of any species.
Across town, the late Kerry Simon’s legacy, Carson Kitchen, carries on his mission to provide an urban casual eatery with a menu that reflects fresh, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients while pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity. With culinary director and classically trained chef John Courtney at the helm, the popular downtown restaurant continues to thrive and captivate the crowds with texturally rich and imaginative dishes. We stopped by to chat with Courtney and find out what was happening on the spring menu at Carson Kitchen.
Courtney greeted us with the welcoming Magarian cocktail consisting of Aviation gin, thyme and honey syrup, and fresh lemon topped with Mr. Q. Cumber soda, which was the perfect refreshing cocktail to spring forward into the forthcoming dishes.
We began our meal with a young beet salad, which captures spring on the plate with vibrant gold and purple-red beets, crunchy pistachios, grapes, and goat cheese. “The beets are roasted down and then we take the liquid from the golden beets to make the vinaigrette,” said Courtney. The tender, earthy beets mingled perfectly with the tangy vinaigrette. Next up on the social plate list was the BTLA salad, with crispy bacon pieces, romaine hearts, and creamy avocado slices dressed up with a tangy tomato vinaigrette as a refreshing, deconstructed take on the classic BLT. The surprising inspiration for the final dish on our spring dining fling came from the chef’s random research. “Typically in the South, as the story goes, hobos had to hunt and gather for their food. Often they would come together at the end of the day and put what they had into a can, heat that up, and this became a shared meal together,” mused Courtney. “Obviously, we are not hobos, but I can hunt and gather things from the restaurant and build something here, but of course I may obviously have to buy some other ingredients and put them together as we did with our Hobo Stew.” The stew combines house-made pickled okra, grilled whole prawns, andouille sausage, tomatoes, potatoes, spring peas, and toasted brown rice integrated into shrimp gravy, and this is all delightfully presented in a red bandana-adorned large-mouth mason jar. This humble looking but sumptuously hearty hobo stew is cooked thoroughly and poured from the jar into the dish with a tale of incredible taste and ingenuity. Hobos or just about anyone will appreciate even a spoonful of this delectable stew.
Many more innovative dishes await you at Carson Kitchen, including the Couscous Confetti accented with vibrant peppers, carrots, and apricot vinaigrette and the wild mushroom flatbread of velvety truffle béchamel, smoked mozzarella, and pickled onions. Whatever your selection may be, you are sure to leave satisfyingly satiated and with a spring in your step.