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Unbeatable Authenticity + Style at Leticia’s Cocina & Cantina the Santa Fe Station Hotel

When it comes to Mexican food, my wife Rana Bendixen is ultra discerning. Fortunately, for our Valentine’s Day dinner last night, I picked a restaurant—Leticia’s Cocina & Cantina at the Santa Fe Station Hotel—that delivered on all counts, starting with their just-perfect chips + salsa.

I felt like I scored a culinary winning lottery ticket by ordering the Pescado al Pastor: seared sea bass with adobo sauce, served with tossed greens, arroz poblano (which was a white casserole rice with cheese) + habanero mango salsa.

Rana kept it simpler, ordering what she described as a deeply satisfying burrito with potato, cheese + refried beans with a side of their wonderful cilantro rice.

I already dig Leticia’s groovy offshoot—the casual Mexican eatery known as Letty’s in the Arts District—and it feels good to now be in love with the eye candy-rich + price-friendly mothership where authenticity rules the day. Plus the waiters treated us like royals. Will be headed back for their Sunday brunch—the tres leches French toast sounds dreamy.



Welcome To Los Angeles East + New York West, Otherwise Known as Las Vegas

Las Vegas is not only “Los Angeles East” but “New York West” too, given the array of restaurants from both cities with outposts here.

The 25,000-square-foot Eat Your Heart Out food hall at the soon-to-open (fall 2023) Durango Casino in the southwest part of the city will have these eateries from L.A.: Irv’s Burgers, Uncle Paulie’s + Ai Pono Cafe (actually from the OC). And from NYC, there’s Prince Street Pizza.

Meanwhile, over at the new Proper Eats food hall at the Aria, there’s Wexler’s Deli from L.A. + Egghead from NYC.

Lucky me. Having grown up in the Bronx before spending the second chapter of my life in L.A., I’m saving lots of $$$ in travel expenses by experiencing LA + NYC food right here in Vegas for my third chapter.

😊 🍕 🍔


Proper Eats Food Hall at Aria

Terrific French Bakery and Eatery in Summerlin: Patisserie Manon

When you have coffee with Lonn Friend, you never know who’s going to show up. So cool to meet L.A. transplants—Stryper guitarist Oz Fox, spiritual medium/intuitive advisor Brandy Rosenberg and photographer Steve Cook—yesterday at a fave place of mine, Patisserie Manon, in Summerlin. We’re all in this photo including the eatery’s resident mannequin. Lonn may not be on social media these days, but he remains a fantastic connector!

Italian Comfort Classics In a World Gone Mad

Raising my glass to another Summerlin fine dining restaurant—the new Spiedini Fiamma at the JWMarriott, which opened in early October.

With its outstanding “Italian comfort classics” (in a world gone mad) by Chef Paula Smagacz, a beautifully designed main dining room + super-attentive service, the eatery seems destined for success.

Friends and I started with three solid appetizers—the bruschetta, shrimp scampi + meatballs with ricotta—and segued into the veal marsala, chicken piccata + salmon entrees, all served with linguini. We topped the meal off with the finely prepared tiramisu and know that we’ll be back soon to try the lasagna, lobster ravioli + pizza.

Looking at the menu, I have my eyes firmly on the enticing prosciutto + fig pizza with arugula + parmesan cream sauce.

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Ada’s Wine Bar: A Perfect Dreamscape at Tivoli Village

Can’t think of a better way to spend a late afternoon than winding down at the dreamscape known as Ada’s Wine Bar at Tivoli Village in Vegas. On a recent day there, my glass of 2020 Chardonnay, Moillard Chablis (Burgundy, France) was perfectly paired with shareable plates like Red Pepper Hummus, Peaches & Prosciutto + the  Chef’s selection of “cheese, honeycomb + Marcona almonds.” 

Owner James Trees (Esther’s Kitchen, Al Solito Posto) always knows how to supply the magic + an imaginative edge at his eateries, and Chef de Cuisine Jackson Stamper definitely lit up my taste buds. 

It was also terrific to catch up with Vegas PR/marketing guru + author Eric Gladstone (“Anything But Nirvana”), with whom I used to work when he was a rock critic in L.A. in the 90s.

Aerosmith’s Fiery Vegas Residency + Eataly

Hey, that was fun.

Drunk on the fountain of youth, Aerosmith last night lit up the Dolby Live venue at the Park MGM with their supersonic dirty blues. Tyler delivered his trademark mojo, Perry breathed fire, and there was plenty of eye candy spectacle. Thanks to the band’s camp for the hospitality—those were fantastic seats! Their “Deuces Are Wild” residency resumes November 19.

It was a terrific night out starting with dinner at the hotel on the Stripside patio of Eataly’s La Pizza e La Pasta. We split the Insalata Tricolore + a home-run pasta dish—Vesuvio Con Asparagi E Guanciale—which lured us in with this hyper-specific description: “Afeltra Volcano-shaped Pasta di Gragnano IGP, San Carlo Guanciale, Asparagus Sauce, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pecorino Romano Zerto.”

Zeppola Cafe Hits Your Sweet Spot at The Venetian

Having never tasted one before, I’m now all about this bombolone, which was my lunch yesterday at the new Zeppola Cafe in St. Mark’s Square at The Venetian.  I told the gal working behind the counter that I absolutely loved this Italian cream-filled doughnut, and voila…she gave me, for free, one to go plus two other treats. Now how’s that for hospitality?

This is the first Vegas outpost of the Zeppola Bakery in midtown NYC, and I trust they will find great success here. This is truly a cool + inviting dessert spot (with inside + outside seating) at the seductively lit St. Mark’s Square, where it is always magic hour.

You Can’t Go Wrong At Xiao Long Dumplings, The Taco Stand and Bronze Cafe

Support indie businesses—that’s how to make our neighborhoods great!

Here are three local places I go to for their food + colorful ambience: Xiao Long Dumplings + The Taco Stand, both in Chinatown, and the Neon Feast-endorsed “fit-friendly” Bronze Cafe in Summerlin/Desert Shores.

See you there…

Xiao Long Dumplings, Chinatown

The Taco Stand, Chinatown

Bronze Cafe, Summerlin/Desert Shores


Lighting It Up In Las Vegas

I love the lighting fixtures in Las Vegas + photographing them—they mesmerize me. Here are seven of them:

Planet Hollywood (The Strip)

Golden Nugget (Downtown)

AZILO Ultra Lounge (Sahara Hotel)

Pepper Club (inside The English Hotel in the Arts District)

Sahara Hotel (The Strip)

The Dorsey Cocktail Lounge (The Venetian)

The Lobby Bar (Red Rock Resort)

Finally, while this is not a lighting fixture, I was instantly attracted to the classic and lovingly revitalized neon sign Vegas Vickie inside the Circa Hotel downtown.

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