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From catfish to collard greens, the South lives on in Nevada.
Photo: Charlie Johnston (above & middle)
It’s easy to imagine that whomever first said “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was speaking of soul food. Collard greens, crawfish, fried catfish and chicken, peach cobbler, and smoky slow-cooked meats epitomize this distinctly American cuisine that has won the stomachs and hearts of men—and women—around the country.
Nevada may be thousands of miles away from the humid summers and casual drawls of Dixie, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the best southern food this side of the Mississippi right here in the Silver State. So y’all come on in for a spell and make yourselves at home. Supper’s almost ready.
B.B. King’s Blues Club, Las Vegas
The folks at B.B. King’s Blues Club inside The Mirage had better be careful, because even the bluest blues could be cured by the down-home comfort food served up at the restaurant. The house-specialty fried dill pickles come with homemade horseradish sauce and can easily whet the appetites of a table of four. From lightly breaded, flakey catfish filets to fall-off-the-bone barbecue-rubbed hickory-smoked ribs, B.B. King’s menu is full of blues-busting southern favorites. Other menu items include fried green tomatoes, barbecued pulled pork, chicken and waffles, collard greens, and sweet onion hush puppies.
What would a restaurant named for a blues legend be without a little music? B.B. King’s delivers on entertainment as superbly as it does on food. While enjoying the soul-lifting eats, guests can groove on some heel-tapping beats with live music from the likes of the B.B. King All-Star Band and guitarist P.J. Barth. Seven days a week, patrons can count on live music beginning at 8 p.m. or later.
On August 16-17, B.B. King himself will perform at his namesake club and restaurant. Tickets are available by calling B.B. King’s Blues Club at 702-242-5464.
Carolina Kitchen & Barbeque Co., Sparks
While many restaurants use upscale décor, fancy art, and ostentatious food presentation to win the hearts of customers, some rely solely on great food and good ol’ southern hospitality. One visit to Carolina Kitchen in Sparks will reveal precisely which category the Reno area’s oldest southern-style eatery falls into.
The simple dining room is adorned with numerous trophies, an ever-growing wall of accolades from local and regional newspapers and magazines, and a clutch of gingham-clothed tables. A lunch visit to the eatery will present a line that often extends dozens of customers deep all the way to the door.
The line is courtesy of the slow-cooked pork, beef brisket and ribs, and fried specialties such as catfish and pork steaks, which have put Carolina Kitchen on the map. “The pork is definitely our most popular,” says owner Clayton Cobb. The pork is basted in Cobb’s own North Carolina-style, vinegar-based sauce before being slow cooked for hours and served dry. The tender, smoky meat is pure pork paradise and needs no accoutrement—but a litany of sauces is provided, just in case.
Sides run the gamut of comfort foods from savory creamed corn to collard greens with chunks of bacon. Desserts such as peach cobbler and sweet potato pie could break even the most devoted dieter. Southern fish fries every Friday night rival lunch at Carolina Kitchen for the dish’s ability to draw a crowd.
Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen, Sparks
While air travel has made the world a much smaller place over the past century, there’s no denying that Nevada is still a long way from New Orleans’ French Quarter. Until January 2009, this meant any Renoite looking for an authentic bayou banquet was out of luck.
Enter Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen. “When you come into Jazz you get all the sights, sounds, and tastes of New Orleans,” says owner Matt England. The small Lubbock, Texas-based chain specializes in cuisine that is quintessentially Big Easy.
The enormous menu offers something for everyone, with blackened, grilled, sautéed, and Cajun options. Gumbo with shrimp, catfish, and Andouille sausage is savory and filling with a spicy kick. The tilapia filet is blackened at more than 500 degrees, sealing in a rich, buttery flavor, before being drenched in creamy Czarina sauce: a Parmesan cheese sauce with lemon juice, cayenne pepper, shrimp, and julienne carrots, squash, and zucchini. Blackened Tilapia with Shrimp Czarina sauce is a house specialty. Boiled crawfish are a customer favorite and come piled high with corn on the cob and warm drawn butter.
On weekends the eclectic, New Orleans-inspired dining room and bar are filled with the sounds for which the restaurant is named when local jazz bands take the stage.
Kathy’s Southern Cooking, Henderson
Kathy’s owner, Kathy Cook, was born in Vidalia, Louisiana—a state that seemingly turns out as many chefs as musicians. After operating a Southern-style restaurant in Palo Alto, California for seven years, Cook and her family relocated to Las Vegas in 1991. “Failure wasn’t even in our minds,” Cook recalls. “We knew we had a good product.”
The menu at Kathy’s features a blend of traditional southern favorites such as fried chicken, smothered pork chops—their most requested items—and shrimp etoufee, served over rice. An extensive list of side dishes includes savory black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, and yams. No southern restaurant would be complete without a bounty of desserts. Kathy’s delivers with some of Southern Nevada’s best cakes and cobblers.
Tucked away on a shady Henderson street, Kathy’s is easy to miss. But visitors will be welcomed into a cozy dining room with an open kitchen. A mural of a Louisiana dock scene fills the back wall.
When asked what sets Kathy’s apart, Mary Prince, Cook’s daughter and restaurant manager, says, “We’re a small family-owned business, with big southern hospitality.”
Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar•b•que, Henderson
Decades-old debates about who makes the best barbecue have become a part of American culture. Usually, these conversations include top contenders like Kansas City, Memphis, North Carolina, and Texas—unless you know of Lucille’s in the West.
Restaurateur Craig Hofman created the southern-themed barbecue eatery Lucille’s in 1999. Finding early success in his native California, Hofman next set his sights on Las Vegas.
The Henderson location opened its doors in The District at Green Valley Ranch in 2004. Typical fare includes three kinds of ribs, chicken, brisket, and pulled pork, all slow cooked. But according to general manager David Hayes, the ribs reign supreme. Side dishes are reminiscent of southern home cooking: sweet potatoes, greens, and cheesy grits. And everything is made fresh daily.
Fridays and Saturdays Lucille’s features live bands in the restaurant’s lounge. Lucille’s has also partnered with the Silverton Casino, where it caters Bikinis & BBQ, every Sunday through Labor Day weekend.
Rhythm Kitchen Seafood & Steaks, Las Vegas
In a town where dining options are as dizzying and varied as the deluge of themed casinos, distinguishing yourself from the crowd can be an exercise in futility. But nestled inconspicuously in the southwest corner of the city, Louisiana-French-Creole-themed gem Rhythm Kitchen does just that.
Owner and head chef Scott Ghormley is a Las Vegas native with deep Louisiana roots. His parents are Louisiana natives and longtime Las Vegas and Louisiana restaurateurs. The influence of the family business and history led Ghormley down the path to his own venture—his goal: southern cuisine in a refined, upscale environment. “I love the food and culture in the southern part of the country,” he says. “And that’s what I wanted to bring to Las Vegas.”
The menu features recognizable favorites such as jambalaya, gumbo, and etoufee, but the New Orleans Seafood Delight has emerged as Rhythm Kitchen’s signature dish. This frequently requested favorite features blackened catfish served over rice pilaf in a creamy Cajun Parmesan sauce with shrimp and is paired with fresh vegetables. “I wanted to make it as authentic as possible,” Ghormley says. “And translate that right to the plate.
Kathy’s, Lucille’s, and Rhythm Kitchen written by Veronica Henry.
B.B. King’s Blues Club
3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas (inside The Mirage)
Carolina Kitchen & Barbeque Co.
950 Glendale Ave., Sparks
Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen
1180 Scheels Dr., Sparks
Kathy’s Southern Cooking
6407 Mountain Vista St., Henderson
Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar•B•Que
2245 Village Walk Dr., Henderson
Rhythm Kitchen Seafood & Steaks
6435 S. Decatur Blvd., Las Vegas
The most complete southern-style eatery listing in Nevada:
LAS VEGAS AREA
Memphis Championship Barbeque (three locations)
1401 S. Rainbow Rd.
2250 E. Warm Springs
4379 Las Vegas Blvd.
4390 Blue Diamond Rd.
9695 W. Flamingo Rd.
1951 N. Rainbow Rd.
2630 E. Craig Rd.
Dickie’s Barbecue Pit
7430 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Ste. 110
Cookies BBQ & Southern Cooking
1216 Owens Ave.
House of Blues
3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
(inside Mandalay Bay)
1911 Stella Lake St.
Hot n Juicy Crawfish
4810 Spring Mountain Rd.
3620 E. Flamingo Rd.
M & M Soul Food Café
3923 W. Charleston Blvd.
Big Mamma’s Rib Shack & Soul Food
2230 W. Bonanza Rd.
TC’s Rib Crib
8470 W. Desert Inn Rd.
M & M’s Fish & Chicken Shack
3080 Mill St.