Boulder City is all too often regarded as just that little town on the way to Hoover Dam, a gas-tank fill-up and little else for those in a hurry. Growing up in Las Vegas during the ’70s, I heard Boulder City referred to as “Mayberry” (do I have to explain the reference?), and that was good or bad depending on your perception. As I got older, my appreciation grew for the city’s playful insouciance to modern times. It’s refreshing that Boulder Bowl is a bowling alley that is not attached to a casino. I like the fact that I don’t hear the metronomic clanging of coins hitting the base of a video poker machine when I walk into a convenience store. Most of all, I enjoy a compact, walkable downtown area that has easy access to a cluster of excellent eateries and bars with an attractive variety. Is it a rhythm I would endure on a cycle of 24/7? I can’t answer that, but isn’t that what respites are for?
Evan’s Old Town Grille. From the delicate, old-town country store lettering on the door to the thoughtfully arranged photos of Hoover Dam and the city in its early stages, Evan’s doesn’t have to try hard for grace—it achieves it effortlessly with understated decor, quality entrées and prompt service. All the basics are covered: chicken, beef and seafood, with high points in each category. Whether it’s the heady savor of the chicken Sparta, sautéed with artichoke hearts and black olives; the fittingly lean but delicate cut of filet mignon; or the robustly flavored orange roughy in garlic and cilantro pesto with herbs that thankfully are not overdone, the supple, straightforward presentations earn Evan’s its good credentials. 1129 Arizona St., 294-0100.
Milo’s Cellar. There’s much to take in here: a nice sidewalk set-up; a clean, nicely lit restaurant; a well-stocked wine cellar; swift (almost nurturing) service and attention; and a handful of good things on the menu. You can get filled up on simple things like the portabella and spinach salad with asiago cheese, the Beef, Blue and Dews sandwich (even if I don’t care for garlic mayo Dijonaise, I don’t say no to fresh beef, blue cheese and peppadews on a hoagie), and the inspired Southwestern vegetarian sandwich with avocado, red peppers, sprouts, baby greens and provolone on ciabatta. I will never claim to be a wine connoisseur, but the inventory of various cabernets, merlots and chardonnays make for some solid pairings. If you still have room, close with the cheesecake with liqueur and peaches. If you crave good food and good wine with good company, and you don’t want to feel rushed, I’d start here. 538 Nevada Highway, 293-9540, MilosCellar.com.
The Coffee Cup. The no-frills setting—like a diner from a low-budget ’70s indie flick—is a bit deceiving. The Coffee Cup’s artful breakfast platters have earned them strong lip service, glowing Yelp reviews and attention from the Food Network. Even the website (WorldFamousCoffeeCup.com) is not lacking in immodesty. Still, as a rule, if you have it, strut it. The press the pork chili verde omelet receives is well-deserved—succulent pork with an ornery green chili sauce, held under siege by mounds of cheddar cheese. It is stellar. Also jumping into the mix is the Pacific burrito (eggs, sausage, cheddar cheese, refried beans, sour cream and salsa fresca) and while that might not sound blindingly original, it’s fresh and heaping in portion. Don’t bypass the scrambled skillets, either, served with your choice of meats, cheese and hearty diced veggies within for just $8. I can never finish that one. 512 Nevada Highway, 294-0517.
Boulder Dam Brewing Company. This is a fine option for anyone who knows a thing or two about good beers. Favorites for so many visitors include the Powder Monkey Pilsner (I love the full flavor of malt) and the Black Canyon Stout, a burnishing combo of chocolate, black malt and roasted barley). Elsewhere, for starters, they are big into beer-battering everything worth noting in pub-grub-land: french fries, zucchini, onion rings and mushrooms. My personal favorite is the Coney Island, a hearty, one-third-pound dog in fancy dress, served on a giant sesame roll, drenched in chili with fresh onions and cheddar. The spacious outdoor patio setting only makes this one an easier call, and the live music 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays makes it just that much harder to leave. 453 Nevada Highway, 243-2739, BoulderDamBrewing.com.
Star Burger. You can’t deny a place that writes its specials on a mini chalkboard. From there, work with the streamlined but boisterously effective menu. Starters include spicy pickles fried with jalapeno-laced beer batter (before judgment, have you tried it?) and some excellent burgers (the kids hand-press these patties with Dickensian workshop fervor!), notably the kielbasa with mushrooms and cheddar and the half-pound oger, the Kobe, which earns standout mentions. Oh, closing it with a rich, tall combo shake (I’m a raspberry and chocolate guy) for just $3 is a grand, self-rewarding gesture. 825 Nevada Highway, 293-0872.