Two More Square Deals

Lolita’s Cantina and Miller’s Ale House are bound to draw more crowds to Town Square—for good reasons

Photo by Anthony MairMiller’s interior is very chain-like, but the menu has some pleasant surprises.

Photo by Anthony MairMiller’s menu has some pleasant surprises, such as the conch fritters.

There has been so much restaurant turnover in Town Square, one loses track. These two newcomers, however, both rate to be around for a while.

Lolita’s Cantina and Tequila Bar recently replaced the estimable but ill-timed Louis’ Fish Camp and offers more than 100 different tequilas. Its disjointed dining spaces, DJ and cool holograms make it feel more like a nightclub than a restaurant. But chef Tacho Kneeland, who once ran the kitchens at the Pink Taco, is doing serious food, and the turnout has been encouraging.

His partner, Carlo Cavallo, has a restaurant in Sonoma, Calif., and is a corporate chef for many wineries there. That may account for the cooking style here, which is colorful and artisanal. Just nibbling on the complimentary warm bean dip—the best I’ve ever had—won me over.

I was also impressed by what I ordered. Seviches are fresh and imaginative—ahi with green onion, avocado and a chipotle marinade, shrimp with cucumbers and cilantro, and mahimahi dressed up with Spanish olives.

My vegetarian friend was in hog heaven with his chile relleno, a crisp poblano filled with corn, cheese, shiitake, peppers and onions, drizzled with two sauces. I also indulged him with fresh corn empanadas. They have an artisan cheese filling and are drenched in a black-bean crema.

Meat lovers aren’t neglected, though. Street tacos can be had with a choice of carne asada, short ribs, slow-roasted pork carnitas, al pastor with either pork or chicken, or various grilled, battered or raw fish. And my favorite dish on the menu might be pollo con tequila, a spit-roasted chicken rubbed with a tequila cilantro lime sauce.

You’ll be sorry if you don’t try the Mayan chocolate torte for dessert.

Miller’s Ale House, meanwhile, is a freestanding building by the mall entrance, across from Fry’s. Yes, this restaurant and bar does serve Miller High Life, and about every other beer you can name, but the name is a coincidence.

The Ale House looks like every other brewpub chain—wooden walls with fish mounted on them, neon beer signs ad nauseum … you know the drill. And naturally, like the chain competition here (Yard House, Blue Martini and Cadillac Ranch), the place is packed. The general public, it seems, just can’t get enough of these joints. Sometimes I wonder why I get up.

But—surprise—I liked a few of the dishes from this huge, eclectic menu. Potstickers almost tasted Chinese, but they need to lose the fake plum sauce, which, thankfully, was served on the side. The jambalaya is stocked with so much sausage, chicken and shrimp you’ll take half of it home.

Steamed clams from the raw bar were delicious, with a heady broth. If you like spinach dip—you know, the one with gooey melted cheese—the one here is as good as I’ve tasted at any chain restaurant. And there are daily lunch specials, such as the most humongous hunk of meat loaf seen anywhere in Vegas. It’s less than $6 and comes with potato and vegetable.

Give the public what they want, as Red Skelton said, eyeballing the big crowds at his boss Harry Cohn’s funeral, and they’ll turn out for it.