Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (Las Vegas, NV)

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
The Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/8/15

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Yardbird opened the first of the year, one of the newest entrants to The Venetian’s lineup of restaurants (and right next to one-year-old DB Brasserie). It’s the second location for the restaurant based in Miami, which was a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award (Best New Restaurant South) and was one of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants in 2012.

True to its name, the restaurant’s claim to fame is its 27-hour brined fried chicken but it serves a host of other southern classics as well. We stopped by for a ‘Friday brunch’ ordering this chicken with waffles along with a couple other dishes.

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dining room + kitchen

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Barrel & Ashes (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

Barrel & Ashes
11801 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604
Dining date: 4/19/15

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We first dined at Barrel & Ashes a few months ago and left impressed. Pedigreed fine dining chefs making BBQ may sound like an odd combination, but it really worked on our first visit. The recent Franklin/Perry Lang BBQ popup in LA got me craving some more BBQ, so a return visit here was in order.

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Sage (Las Vegas, NV)

Sage
ARIA Resort & Casino
3732 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 4/25/15

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Shawn McClain made a name for himself cooking in Chicago at the venerable Trio restaurant before opening his own restaurants Spring and Green Zebra. Winner of James Beard’s Best Chef Midwest in 2006, he was lured to Las Vegas in 2008 to open Sage at CityCenter’s Aria. It’s been a very popular restaurant ever since, though this was my first time dining here.

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Menu options include a la carte, a 4-course signature menu ($89; multiple choices for each course), and an 8-course chef’s tasting ($150; no choices). We went with the signature menu with optional wine pairing ($44 for 4 pours).

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Son of a Gun (Los Angeles, CA) [2]

Son of a Gun
8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 3/29/15

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Son of a Gun’s been open just over 4 years; this is my third time visiting the restaurant, but really my first time having a full ‘regular’ meal here. My first trip in 2011 was a ‘second dinner’ after a Cafe Boulud pop-up meal at Animal, while my second visit in 2013 was for a Graham Elliot dinner. After quite some time, I was excited for a return to try some of the favorite menu mainstays as well as some new dishes.

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The maritime decor reflects the fact that this is a seafood-focused restaurant, though its most famous dish has become its fried chicken sandwich.

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Playground (Santa Ana, CA)

Playground
220 E 4th St
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Dining date: 3/7/15

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I don’t often come to Orange County too often to dine, but Playground has been on my radar for some time. It was probably the OC restaurant I’ve most wanted to try and I finally got the chance when it was chosen for a birthday dinner.

Jason Quinn, probably best known for being a member of The Great Food Truck Race winning The Lime Truck, helms Playground. It’s gotten rave reviews since opening, even leading to the opening of a bakery and a lunch spot just around the corner. The menu changes often, and there’s a sort of attitude about the place. The restaurant encourages trying new things and being adventurous, disclosing on the menu that they will not charge you if you don’t love it (in fact, I observed it in practice on a neighboring table). Perhaps this is the way they’ve been able to get more conservative OC palates to try some of their more forward-thinking creations?

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Peter Luger Steak House (New York, NY)

Peter Luger Steak House
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Dining date: 3/2/15

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Peter Luger is perhaps the most famous steakhouse in the nation (and the world?), known for consistently serving top-notch steaks since 1887. Every single time I see a list of top steakhouses in the nation, Peter Luger seems to be at or near the top. I’ve always wondered if the restaurant was overrated, maybe finding its way to the top of lists due to a nostalgia factor. There is no doubt Luger’s been a pioneer in the field since opening, but surely restaurants have improved on the concept since 1887…right? Given my penchant for meat and potatoes, Luger’s been a must-try on my list and I was excited to finally try it. The restaurant currently holds one Michelin star.

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