African-American cuisine and Black-owned restaurants jazz up the valley’s food scene

Black culinary traditions are as significant a contribution to the history of American creativity as any made by the people of the African diaspora. Many flavors we perceive as central to American cuisine originated in kitchens run by Black people. If you’ve ever enjoyed a potato chip, you have indulged in a Black American delicacy as definitive as a Jimi Hendrix solo. Las Vegas may not be a soul food hub such as Houston, Atlanta, or even Washington, D.C., but it is a place of deep diversity, and many of the most beautiful expressions of Blackness in our valley can be found in its kitchens and dining rooms.

Annie’s Kitchen Just north of U.S. 95 is a veritable ghost town hidden within our city. Once upon a time referred to as the Black Strip, the historic Westside is a beautiful neighborhood that has seen its wealth looted and its growth stifled. There is scant activity there, save Sunday mornings when the churches are in session. However, a regular hub of activity does reside within our metropolitan erēmus: Annie’s Kitchen. This place has been making barbecue longer than Street Foodie has been on these streets. Well-smoked meat; skinny tamales rolled in foil and smoked like little cigars; deep, delicate collard greens; candied yams that feel as familiar as your granny’s living room; and a sauce somebody put their foot in. I’ll say this once as a friend: Get the ribs, get the brisket, and then get more ribs, all coated in a subtle, smooth sauce that provides the foundation for the classic soul food flavors you’ll experience here. Little wonder that while the neighborhood struggles, Annie’s Kitchen has been a West Side institution for decades. 1212 D St., 725-214-6062

Big Jerk Big Jerk Caribbean Here is Street Foodie’s shortcut to the Caribbean. Drive south on the 15 to Silverado Ranch Boulevard, exit, and head east. When you see the sign for Big Jerk Caribbean, you’ve arrived. Now go in and order the ackee and saltfish and enjoy a rare treat. Ackee is a fruit native to Ghana, imported to the Caribbean along with more dubious cargo. When cooked, the fruit attains a velvety texture that almost melts on your tongue. Sautée it with salted cod, onions, and peppers, and you end up with enough contrasting textures and flavors that you may start plotting your own Tacky’s Rebellion (look it up). For something more familiar, try the oxtail. Big Jerk’s oxtail is made with love — but if love isn’t enough, it’s also coated in a rich brown sauce that carries its flavors to a higher plane. All that and they produce some of the more perfect Jamaican patties (think spicy Hot Pockets) in the township of Paradise. 430 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd. #100, bigjerkcaribbean.com

Simply Pure Vegan CafeSimply Pure Vegan Café [pictured above] Black people are not a monolith. Our cuisine does have its proclivities, but there is more to our culinary identity than soul food. Simply Pure offers some of the valley’s most dynamic vegan food. After seven years in business, chef Stacey Dougan must be doing something right. Street Foodie adores their spring rolls, which are brighter and fresher than any I have had in many Vietnamese restaurants. The vegan nachos grande are straight fire. No cheese or beef necessary for this complete nacho flavor. Wash it all down with the High Octane, a cleansing juice concoction. In the Downtown Container Park, simplypurelv.com

 

Your WayYourWay Breakfast + Lunch [pictured above] After beginning with a food truck called Gold Box, this crew of six young, born-and-raised Las Vegans moved into this brick-and-mortar in October. YourWay is a build-your-own breakfast spot focused on high-quality ingredients and swift service. Three eggs, a side of meat, hash browns or breakfast potatoes, and three unique toppings, ranging from bell peppers to chorizo, make for a mighty satisfying first meal of the day. The open kitchen lends a sense of immediacy to the food’s preparation. Street Foodie recommends you sweeten the mix with a waffle — delightfully spiced, crispy, and light, they’re waffle good. The goal for this founding group of friends is a franchise-like expansion. Street Foodie would be thrilled to see YourWays on corners around the valley. 6121 W. Lake Mead Blvd. #110, yourwayrestaurant.com

Cereal KillerzCereal Killerz These days, you may require a second breakfast or more than one dessert. Indeed, a high-carb diet may be the fuel you need if you’re engaging in intense cardiovascular activities, such as taking long walks, perhaps while carrying signs protesting inequality, or dodging heavy police action. If so, all of the mono- and disaccharides are waiting for you at this wild cereal-themed sweets joint. Steel yourself for breakfast mutations like the Killerz Pop-Tart: strawberry ice cream, with strawberry cereal stacked high, riddled with fresh berries, and a whole frosted strawberry Pop-Tart. Sure, there are more moderate choices, such as the Loxacado, avocado toast with smoked salmon — but, as Street Foodie says, lean into the crazy. Pack in bowl after bowl of the crunchy, sweet goodness your mother would never buy; there are more than 100 kinds here. Or get an iced coffee like the S’more Fire Thing. Toasted marshmallows and chocolate whipped cream, with that jolt of caffeine your tired, haggard body requires to feel alive. In the Galleria Mall, Henderson, thecerealkillerz.com

 

PandorasPandora’s Burgers [pictured above] There are burgers and then there are burgers. The Pandora Burger is the latter, a monument to American gastronomy, one that Street Foodie has no interest in tearing down. A quarter-pound of beef with seasoning reminiscent of its creator’s Louisiana roots, it’s a sizable meal. As indomitable as your humble Street Foodie can be, he couldn’t topple it in one sitting. Most oversize burgers are produced more for novelty than flavor, but Pandora makes every bite an earnest affair. Along with soul food standards such as catfish and hot links, the menu also provides more diverse fare. The stuffed turkey legs will keep even the most distracted diner’s attention. And the peach cobbler should be taken seriously — get a second order to go. 3131 W. Craig Road #110, 702-636-9859

For more Black-owned eateries, search “Street Foodie” at desertcompanion.com for our tours of island food and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in particular.

Street Foodie: Soul Food and Beyond

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