Vegan banh mi from a drive-thru? Yes, please! I’m not strictly vegetarian, but I like eating a plant-based diet, and I love a chef who’s skilled enough to convince me that fried bean curd is actually crispy beef. So when one of my favorite vegan spots—Chef Kenny Chye’s Chinese restaurant Veggie House (you know they’re serious because there’s a warning on the door not to bring meat or seafood inside)—opened up a fast-food drive-thru recently, of course I jumped into the car to try it out. And that visit seemed like the perfect excuse to revisit some of my other favorites and try out some new menu items. Here are my picks for the week.
Much has been made of El Dorado’s location, adjoining Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club on Industrial Road. You might, as I did on my first visit, feel like you need to slink in the front door before someone sees you. But once inside, you’ll not only find one of the best power lunch crowds in the Vegas valley dining in fancy surrounds (wrought iron fixtures, deep leather booths, sparkly star lights), but also one of the best power lunches. Super-conscientiously sourcing from farms they list on their site, El Dorado marks everything on its menu that’s vegan or gluten-free, and several entrees can be made vegan. I always break for nopales, the naturally tart pads of the prickly pear cactus. Here, they’re grilled and served in tortillas with mildly spicy salsa cascabel, pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, and queso fresco (I like it without the queso, in vegan form). Eat your organic, GMO-free, vegan lunch and you’ll emerge feeling way more virtuous than anyone else parked in a strip club lot. 3025 Sammy Davis Jr. Dr., 702-722-2289
Chef Kenny’s new vegan drive-thru contains many things you’d expect, including, but not limited to, awesome veggie burgers and a crowd of hipsters in man-buns eating them. But go for the less "Amurican" choices. My favorite is the vegan banh mi (on the menu as the “veggie beef sandwich”), whose soy meat convincingly lends the salt and heft you need to the Vietnamese sandwich, accompanied by super-crunchy pickled vegetables, cilantro, and cucumber in a soft, squishy baguette-like roll. (Word to the wise: This sandwich is best eaten in, since it’s so wet it will soak the bag by the time you’re out of the parking lot. Trust me on this one.) I love it with crispy sweet potato fries you can feel (mostly) good about. Another winner: veggie popcorn chicken, a basket of crispy, tempura-like nuggets with soft, chicken-like interiors. 7790 S. Jones Blvd., 702-614-3380
Frank Hedary ran his Lebanese restaurant for a decade before he sold it to Cathy and Joey Davey—who may not be of Lebanese descent, but learned enough in their time working for Hedary to stay true to his traditions. Happily, they haven’t strayed from the menu of salads, kabobs, kafta, and shawarma. I’ve had nearly everything on this menu, but when I need an easy dinner, I’ll always go for the (vegetarian) mezza—served as it is in the Middle East in at least a dozen small, appetizer-sized plates and bowls, all accompanied by piles of fresh pita. It easily feeds two, plus a 7-year-old with a capacious appetite. My favorites: labni matoom (yogurt cheese with garlic, mint, and olive oil); loubieh (green beans sautéed with onions, garlic, and tomatoes); and the garlicky, smoky baba ganoush. Eat this with someone you love, since you’ll both be garlic-scented for a day or two. 7365 W. Sahara Ave., 702-873-9041
I love the slightly spicy and sweet veggie fish with tamarind curry at this little place in a Spring Mountain Road strip mall, and Chef Kenny does magical and mind-bending things with soy, cornstarch and rice flour to turn it into General Tso’s “chicken,” veggie roast “pork,” and spicy kung pao “beef.” But my favorite so far is his spicy, crispy beef with broccoli. Didn’t know soy could take on this texture? Neither did I. It’s crispy on the outside, with just enough sticky caramelization and crunch from ground peanuts to convince you it’s the real thing. Bonus: Unlike most beef and broccoli dishes, the broccoli is bright green and on the side, not swimming in sauce. This photo? #nofilter. 5115 Spring Mountain Road, Ste. 203, 702-431-5802
How do you keep pace with a party-packed Vegas lifestyle without burning out? Vegas Editor-in-Chief Andrea Bennett seeks out the healthy indulgences, insider finds, and desert beauty tricks that help you balance Vegas’s unique climate, nightlife culture, and fabulous temptations. (Hint: It’s not all yoga and kombucha here.)