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Blue Ribbon’s fried chicken is served with wasabi honey dipping sauce.
Baby back pork ribs at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, with a hoisin sauce glaze.
Culinary Dropout’s coleslaw is already earning raves around town.
The foot-long hot dogs at Serendipity 3.
Singer-guitarist—and American Idol season five winner—Taylor Hicks works up quite an appetite performing five nights a week at Napoleon’s Lounge, inside Paris Las Vegas. In his rare off-time, the Southern gentleman favors good old-fashioned home-style cooking. Celebrating his one-year Vegas anniversary this summer, Hicks—the first “Idol” to secure a long-term Vegas residency—has been indulging in the city’s premier culinary offerings, finding new spots dishing up many of the rustic flavors that he craves.
Quite the wiz in the kitchen, Hicks even has a chef’s secret for making chicken salad: “I marinate the chicken overnight in sweet tea and pickle juice, which provides that authentic Southern flavor.” Not a cook yourself? Indulge in the posh version at Cosmopolitan’s only 24-hour restaurant, The Henry—it comes with tomato, bacon, and lettuce on cranberry nut bread with a side of truffle tater tots. Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, 702-698- 7980
“One of my favorite places to bring friends and family from out of town is Gordon Ramsay Steak, which I believe is one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas,” he says. “Corn on the cob is a staple of any summer barbecue, but this restaurant puts its own spin on it with its fire-roasted corn.” Add even more down-home flair with the Brussels sprouts with corned bacon and a Pimm’s Cup. Paris Las Vegas, 702-946-4663
Deviled eggs are a classic picnic treat, but Hicks knows where to find them year-round. “I love the ‘Little Piggy’ Deviled Eggs with applewood bacon at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill,” he says. “They come deconstructed so you can have a little fun putting the filling into the hard-boiled egg.” Caesars Palace, 702-946-4663
Fried chicken and wings
Vegas’s tastiest fried chicken is found, ironically, at Cosmopolitan’s Japanese hot spot, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill. “To me, the secret behind great wings is to make them a little sweet and not too spicy,” Hicks says. “I prefer for them to be smoked, and for that smoky flavor to permeate every last bite. Another secret is to flash-fry the wings right before serving them so that they have a nice, almost-caramelized crust. Of course, a good dipping sauce is a must.” Blue Ribbon agrees: Its decadent, crispy fried chicken and wings are both served with wasabi honey sauce on the side. Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, 702-736- 0808
What could be more all-American than a hamburger? Hicks has tried every variety at one of his favorite haunts, Gordon Ramsay BurGR. “My favorite is a bacon cheeseburger, and Gordon’s twist is the Farm Burger, which has duck-breast bacon, English cheddar, and a fried egg.” Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, 702-785- 5555
Hot dogs aren’t just for baseball games and backyards. On the Strip they’ve gone gourmet. “While I love Serendipity 3 for the desserts and great view, few people know that they also have amazing hot dogs,” Hicks says. “One of my favorites is the foot-long with nacho cheese.” To cool off, he suggests pairing it with the restaurant’s famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate or a sundae. Caesars Palace, 702-731-7373
Summer fun is synonymous with good old-fashioned grilling, particularly smoky, glazed barbecued ribs. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse cooks some of the best fall-off-the-bone baby back pork ribs at Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand. Glazed with sweet hoisin sauce, they’re served with braised bok choy with ginger and garlic, and tempura fried shishito pepper. MGM Grand, 702-891-7374
A rare find in Vegas is hidden on the menu at the ultrahip Culinary Dropout (which also boasts Southern favorites like jambalaya), where coleslaw accompanies the beer-battered fish and chips. A huge slaw fan, Hicks put it on the menu at Saw’s Juke Joint, the restaurant he cofounded in his hometown of Birmingham. “I like to make mine different by adding a little bit of spice,” he says. “I serve a jalapeño slaw that’s to die for.” Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 702-522-8100
For a taste of home, Hicks prefers the USDA Prime porterhouse or the “Lollipop” rib-eye cuts at superswanky Old Homestead Steakhouse. “All of the steaks at Old Homestead are USDA Prime that are dry-aged in their own aging box for a minimum of 30 days,” he says. “By the time the steak makes it to your table, it practically melts in your mouth.” Caesars Palace, 702-731-7558
photography by christopher devargas (hicks); jacob andrzejczak (ribs); courtesy of the cosmopolitan of las vegas/blue ribbon (chicken); courtesy of culinary dropout (coleslaw)