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Desert Companion

Best of the City: Neighborhood watch

Raves from the expert next door

Meet our Neighborhood Experts

CENTENNIAL HILLS - Christie Moeller
HENDERSON - Scott Dickensheets
DOWNTOWN - James P. Reza


Best massage

Centennial Hills Salon & Day Spa

In Centennial Hills, you’re away from the city’s bustle, but the commute makes for some MASSIVE ROAD RAGE. If this spa’s massages don’t dispel stress, their Sunday meditation classes will.

7991 W. Tropical Parkway #120, 839-9669,

Best sushi

Sushi Loca

Crazy for sushi? Then this is the place for you. Music pumping, sake bombs blowing — and scrumptious sushi with irreverent names such as “68 and I Owe You One” and “Tastes Like My Ex-Girlfriend.”

6181 Centennial Center Blvd, 558-5622,

Best breakfast joint

Support comes from

The Cracked Egg

Why are crowds lined up at the door? Because this breakfast is so good it’s worth waiting for. From their coffee cake of the day to specialty scrambles and skillets, this locally owned eatery will start your day off right.

5570 Painted Mirage Road, 645-9438,

Retro BakeryBest bakery

Retro Bakery

The dynamic and quirky husband-and-wife duo of Brian and Kari Haskell offer everything from Alice in Wonderland-worthy fantasy cake designs to classic wedding cakes, but they’re best known for dishing out tasty cupcakes from Maple Bacon to Cotton Candy. Even sweeter: They offer vegan and gluten-free goodies, too.

7785 N. Durango Drive #130, 586-3740,

Best organic experience

Gilcrease Orchard

Buying organic is great. Even better is when you can pick organic. Gilcrease has everything from pears to potatoes, apples to arugula. Check their website to see what’s in season.

7800 N. Tenaya Way,

— Christie Moeller



Raves from the expert next door

Best restaurant

Off the Strip Bistro & Bar

This fine dining restaurant with a casual vibe has me and my family visiting every week. My favorites: the superb penne a la vodka and, of course, the chicken saltimbocca. You can’t go wrong with sautéed chicken breast layered with prosciutto.

10670 Southern Highlands Parkway, 202-2448,

Best breakfast

Rise & Shine

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. Ask my wife — she’ll tell you how cranky I get without a good breakfast. And my mood is never better than after having the heavenly Eggs Benedict at Rise and Shine.

10690 Southern Highlands Parkway, 202-4646,

Spa Mio at M ResortBest spa

Spa Mio at M Resort

The massages here are incredible — and the prices won’t leave you sore. Get a monthly membership to the gym, and get discounts on massages, haircuts and manicures. Keep your eyes open: You might see some local celebs getting in a workout.

Best view

Southern Highlands Golf Club

Whether or not you’re a golfer, this place has one of the most lush and luxurious landscapes in the valley, thick with trees and flowers. The private course is incredible, and the spa, pool and gym are gorgeous, too.

Best park

Goett Family Park

The critics have spoken: My three-year-old daughter McKenzie will gleefully spend hours upon hours (upon hours) frolicking in this beautiful park. Thankfully, the open green is picnic-ready. 10950 Southern Highlands Parkway

— Craig Tann



Raves from the expert next door

Sunrise CoffeeBest coffee house

Sunrise Coffee

Most days “busy” doesn’t cover Sunrise, packed with everyone from grandmas in twinsets to hipsters working the Times crossword. Staring into the heart-shaped foam of the latte you were served in an actual cup by an affable barista, you’ll get why.

3130 E. Sunset Road, 433-3304,

Best dinner

Cuba Café

Authentic Caribbean food is a tall order in the desert, so when I found tostones — twice-fried, smashed and seasoned golden coins of platano — that transported me to my grandmother’s kitchen in San Juan, I forgave them for being Cuban and not Puerto Rican.

2055 E. Tropicana Ave. #1, 795-7070,

Best hair

Sam Tarini at Shag Me Salon

Sam transforms ordinary heads of hair into moveable art with a wave of her blow dryer. She magically makes you look cooler than you actually are and inspires you to loudly wonder where the hell she was in high school.

4110 S. Maryland Parkway #21, 823-5446,

Best vet

Jennifer Willey at Desert Inn Animal Hospital

Ever wanted to kiss your vet? Of standard sexual magnetism, Dr. Willey’s real appeal is the casual way she saves your best friend’s life, checks on her in the middle of the night and texts you a picture. Gandhi’s got nothing on Dr. Willey.

3065 E. Desert Inn Road, 732-2210,

Best sandwich

Pita Pit

The Pita Pit does greasy-bag Phillies better than any South Street dive, all while offering vegans healthier options like falafel and sprouts. Take that, Eagles’ fans.

4680 S. Maryland Parkway 431-6675,

Cugino's Italian DeliBest pizza

Cugino’s Italian Deli

With their made-from-scratch croquettes, chicken salad and cookies, you’ll have to beat hordes of dedicated lunch-goers to get your hands on a slice of carb nirvana or a nibble of the gods’ garlic knots.

4550 S Maryland Pkwy., 895-7561,

— Molly O’Donnell



Raves from the expert next door

Best reason to eat in Green Valley

Chicken cutlet hero at Fanny’s Bistro

Humble ingredients — chicken, some kind of dressing, mozzarella, basil — transformed by the benevolent mojo of a family-run kitchen into the sandwich of my heart. Tip: order a side of marinara to dip it in. 

80 N. Pecos Road, 269-1699,

Best Nosh

Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar

Waiter, more sliders! And ribs! And stuffed mushrooms! And spicy beef salad! And bacon-wrapped dates! And ceviché! And skewers! And did I ask for sliders? Yes? Well, more sliders!

11261 S. Eastern Ave. #200, 778-1400,

Best crossroads

The Coffee House

The other morning: To my right, one kid doodles aliens, another strums “Seven Nation Army.” To my left, two geezers stop discussing the Middle East so they can recite the lyrics to “Come Together.” Oddballs + good coffee = Henderson needed this.

117 S. Water St., 752-3199

Hidden Falls Park

Best place to work off the effects of indulging at Fanny’s Bistro

The trails at Hidden Falls Park

My savage wheezing on these foothill paths led to fearful rumors of “The Portly Chupacabra of Black Mountain” — a “Destination: Truth” film crew has tracked me for weeks. I hope they enjoy the stark volcanic rockscapes as much as I do.

281 W. Horizon Drive 

Book BoutiqueBest bookstore until Henderson expands its northern border

Book Boutique

About the size of a three-and-a-half-car garage, this place always offers up a surprise — a book I didn’t know I wanted until, BAM!, there it is, patiently waiting for me, two shelves east of the Zane Greys. Until Henderson annexes Plaza Books at Warm Springs and Eastern, this’ll do fine.

19 W. Pacific Ave., 697-0001

— Scott Dickensheets



Raves from the expert next door

Best place for all work and all play


Forget about battling with surly teens at coffeehouses or hibernating in your cave. This residential-up, warehouse-down shared workspace off the 215 is the secret club of local entrepreneurs, whether they’re building empires or PowerPoint decks.

6445 S. Tenaya Way #120, 527-7551.

Studio222Best workout approved by Mother Nature


From green machines (yes, the actual equipment is curated with Mother Nature in mind) to a Friday farmers market, Studio222 is no hook-up gym. Here's the place to repent from your holiday naughtiness, all with a small carbon footprint.

8645 W. Flamingo Road #104, 769-2991.

Best place to be a ninja

Hardkore Parkour

Indulge your inner Spider-man, courtesy of Vegas inventor, gymnast and stuntman Jeff Jay. Scale a building, jump off the ledge, roll out, fly through a window … well, okay, not on the first lesson. But stick around and you’ll find yourself doing the impossible.

3680 N. Fifth Street #130, 518-4575.

Hardkore Parkore

Best casual gourmet

Rachel’s Kitchen

No more driving to get a fennel apple salad, other healthy morsels or even a bacon cheeseburger. This self-styled “affordable gourmet” eatery is close enough to walk to from my house. And carnivores, pay heed: There are plenty of antioxidant-rich juices and smoothies to be had.

9691 Trailwood Drive, 317-7000,

Best pizza

Custom Built

Banana pepper and bacon pizza paired with pistachio pesto, anyone? Custom Built makes Neapolitan-style, artisanal pizza with all fresh ingredients — with as many toppings as you want for just $1 extra. And the taste? My husband, a self-proclaimed NY pizza snob, loves it.

4165 S. Grand Canyon Drive #105, 473-9918,

— Monera Mason



Raves from the expert next door

CommonwealthBest star-watching


Someone balled up and built an open rooftop lounge on East Fremont. Finally! This staple of the urban renaissance is executed exceedingly well at this Boston-styled bar. Even better? It’s pulling a fresh brand of boozers downtown.

525 Fremont St., 445-6400,

Best bluegrass brunch

Bar + Bistro

Downtown probably needs only one Bluegrass Brunch. And because the B+B kitchen can, uh, take its time when prepping your delectable, fresh-baked scones, you’ll appreciate the band’s quality rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Add a $6 mimosa or Bloody Mary and the sorrow slides away.

107 E. Charleston Blvd. #155, 202-6060,

Best Yelp success story

Viva Las Arepas

Hipsters! Tourists! Downtowners! Almost everyone adores these chunky Venezuelan street tacos. Started as a semi-permanent stand in the Dino’s parking lot, this foodie favorite will soon hop a block south into a permanent storefront, a success fed at least in part by 164 mostly-happy Yelp reviews. Cheap, fast, yummy.

1516 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 366-9696,

Retro VegasBest afternoon killer

Antique Alley

Main Street south of Charleston (SoCha perhaps?) has become the place to browse furniture, vintage housewares, Mid-Mod accessories, and more. Boosted when Retro Vegas scored a huge new spot (check out that tie rack!), several shops have since opened, joining stalwarts such as the Funk House.

Retro Vegas: 1131 S. Main St., 384-2700,

Best Caesar Salad


Caesar Salad is like eggs: Many restaurants offer them, few do them well. Oscar’s, on the other hand, might plate the best Caesar in the city. It’s fresh, crisp, and perfectly balanced with just a hint of anchovy. Simplicity perfected. Pair one with a bowl of Alpine Village Inn Chicken Soup (yes!) and a happy hour Manhattan, and nobody gets hurt.

1 Main St., 386-7227,

— James P. Reza

DC Bonus:  Out and about on the town? Here are some bonus Best of the City picks from our neighborhood experts.   Bonus


Best thrift store


The University District is king for stunning second-hands with Saver’s, Buffalo and Mustang Exchange all within blocks of each other. When the gloves are off, though, Savers stands over its KO’d opponents. Purple skinny jeans for under $10? Yes, please. (2300 E. Tropicana Ave., 433-1402, — Molly O’Donnell

Best hidden way to the Strip

Past the recycling center through UNLV to Harmon

We call it the bat-cave because it’s the fastest way to get to the Strip. Helping locals avoid blistering traffic lights and immobile autos, weaving your way past dumpsters through back lots has a hidden bonus: feeling like a spy. MO

Best grocery store

Sprouts Farmers Market

Someone has to say it: Since Sprouts took over the beloved Sunflower Market on Trop, things have gotten a lot fresher. Organic, straight-off-the farm produce isn’t cheap, but Sprouts beats Whole Checks and still keeps everything green and clean.  (3365 E. Tropicana Ave., 777-0650, MO



Best piece of history

Quonset hut

Briefly in the early ’50s, this funky building housed Jim Thorpe's All-American Club, as the Native American Olympian — possibly the 20th century's greatest athlete — slid toward his sad, drink-fueled death. Evocative on so many levels. (1100 N. Boulder Highway) — Scott Dickensheets

Best pioneer

Sam McMackin, VAST Space Projects

Not only does this Henderson native have guts, opening an ambitious art gallery on an overlooked stretch of industrial Sunset Road, she's also got game, showing some of the most contemporary, challenging work in the valley. (Formerly Pop Up Art House, 730 W. Sunset Road, 323-240-2888, SD



Best place to get your dinner fix


When it comes to food, don’t keep up with the Joneses — beat them with calorically balanced, ready-to-go meals made by Fixt’s elf-chefs. Yes, the dishes are pricey, but having everyone think you made that gluten-free butternut squash ravioli with braised short ribs yourself is priceless. (8560 W. Desert Inn Road #D-5, 900-8790.) — Monera Mason

Best bakery

German Bread Bakery

Yes, the Germans gave us Beethoven, but they also gave us delicious bread — and this bakery does not disappoint. From tasty pretzels to cheesy Knusperstangen, here is the spot to satisfy your inner Viking. More refined tastes? Ah, the crisp apple strudel. (2237 N. Rampart Blvd., 233-2733, MM



Best place to score a vintage jacket

Electric Lemonade

RIP Vintage Madness and The Attic, hello to this classy boutique. Two sisters curate a superb selection of vintage and boutique designs for ladies and gents, complemented by artisan jewelry and ever-changing window displays. Yes, Jackie O, there is a Santa Claus. JR (220 East Charleston Blvd., 776-7766, — James P. Reza

Best breakfast club


Downtown has suffered an indie diner drought for decades. Thankfully, this comfort-food haven is here to heave the hangover. Chef Natalie's eats honor foodie trends (free range this, bahn mi that) without slaving to them. The menu is honest, delicious, and perfect for suits and slackers alike. (707 Carson Ave., 534-1515,  JR

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