They snagged me with the promise of prime rib carved tableside, but it didn’t work out that way.
Riding down U.S. Highway 95, I noticed a billboard for Arizona Charlie’s Boulder that said its Yukon Grille offered the novelty, which piqued my curiosity. Then I went to the website to check the menu, and holy moly; in this age of neighborhood steakhouses starting their beef cuts in the upper $40s and up (and up, and up …), it was shocking to see prices in the $20s. This would bear some checking out.
This is a restaurant with more than its share of regulars — generally a good sign — which was made obvious by the interaction going on around us and the fact that our server greeted us with “How have you been?” instead of “How are you?” We were impressed that it was an island of plush banquettes and crisp linens up an escalator from a casino that can best be described as middle-class. So far those mid-$20s prices were serving us pretty well, but the food would be the real test.
The bread basket came first. Nice variety; there was a sort of French roll, one with poppyseed, a pretzel roll and a slice of raisin bread. They were OK but softer than we’d expect and not in keeping with today’s more common crusty artisanal style, although we liked that they were served with real butter.
And then, a surprise: Although it wasn’t noted on the menu, our server told us dinners include soup or salad. We’d already decided on the lobster bisque, but she said she’d credit us for the switch, which resulted in a $3 upcharge — quite the bargain on a bisque that already was a reasonable $8. And it was very nice, based on a browned roux. No, it didn’t have as many chunks of lobster as those $25 versions on the Strip, and, no, we didn’t pick out the presence of sherry, but it was rich, creamy and satisfying.
Our server had described the other choice as “a nice salad” and she was right. The basis of mixed greens was piled with hearts of palm, wedges of hard-cooked egg, lots of crumbled blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber planks, large croutons that were clearly house-made and shredded carrot, with our blue-cheese dressing on the side. It was most definitely one of the most thoughtfully constructed house salads we’d encountered in a while, and the fact that it was included with dinner at these prices was not a whole lot short of amazing.
And the surprises didn’t end there. Our dinners were served with a choice of potato, which in the case of fries were, as she described, broad, crisp steak fries; a creamy-fluffy baked potato was accompanied by a plate with butter, sour cream, chives, cheese and bacon to tailor at will. Each entree also came with a rather large mound of crisp-tender haricots verts, a skinny French cousin of the string bean with better flavor and texture, and even some microgreens for a bit of color. One small quibble here was that if we’d known about the soup or salad and potato and vegetable we wouldn’t have ordered creamed spinach, but at $4 it wasn’t much of a splurge. And it was an effective rendition, a good-sized bowl of fresh spinach napped in a rich sauce tinged with Parmesan.
As for our meat: We frankly didn’t expect much from a $27 Porterhouse (especially considering all that came with it), but this steak with tenderloin on one side of the bone, strip on the other was more than adequate, grilled just medium-rare but with a reasonable amount of char flavor.
When we ordered the prime rib rare ($23; also available in a larger cut for $27) our server said she didn’t know if they had any that wasn’t medium or more. Then she told us she thought she could find one that was medium-rare, but everything on the cart was far less pink, so we missed the whole tableside thing that had caught my eye in the first place. We also missed the promised Yorkshire pudding, although with all of this food we weren’t complaining. The beef itself was indeed medium rare, reasonably flavorful and exceptionally tender, and served with a cup of rather pungent creamed horseradish and a little sauceboat of jus that proved unnecessary.
Service throughout was, as you’ve probably noticed, quite good; it was obvious our server wanted us to be happy with our dinners, and that sentiment can be surprisingly rare these days.
One caveat: Arizona Charlie’s Boulder is an older casino, without the higher ceilings and more effective air handlers of its newer brethren, which means that, just as back in the day, you’re likely to emerge from the casino with a layer of cigarette smoke clinging to you. But with service, prices and food (well, maybe except for the breads) like this, we think it’s worth the extra use of Tide and Febreze.
— Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.