The pocket of Spring Valley near Fort Apache and Russell roads was once poised to be the next super suburb, but, alas, it was not immune to the flatlining of the real estate market. However, hope is not lost—where housing has come to a halt, commerce curiously continues to thrive. Hidden between vacant lots and stalled developments is a dining scene that’s alive and well. Three shopping plazas within a half-mile stretch host a wide variety of restaurants. Most depend on the patronage of locals and employees of nearby medical offices, but they are also worth a drive. Here are five neighborhood fixtures that give foodies reasons to rejoice:
Baby boomers will experience a wave of nostalgia (or possibly an acid flashback) upon entering this cozy, 1960s-themed diner. Kitted out with a kaleidoscopic array of vintage tchotchkes and memorabilia, the dining room is a visual assault—just don’t let it distract you from the food. Any one of the deliciously messy dishes satisfies a craving for comfort fare. SpaghettiOs and Miracle Whip-slathered sandwiches are kitschy and fun, but opt for something heartier such as the Rambo Burger, which comes piled with pulled pork and an onion ring. Ask for a board game to pass the time while your meal is being prepared. If you’re lucky, you may even be treated to a rare appearance by Rambo, the owner’s rambunctious Maltese. 6085 S. Fort Apache Road, 722-2626, RambosKitchen.com.
When it comes to ethnic cuisine, the usual rule of thumb is that authenticity is only found in low-key hole-in-the-wall joints. Here is the rare exception. With its grandiose interior and tongue-searing dishes, Panna Thai is both flash and flavor. Garlic lovers should try the Sweet Chili Basil, an aromatic beef stir-fry that’s pungent enough to drive away a pack of vampires, while heat-seekers will relish the level-10 papaya salad—cool and crunchy at first bite, then slowly growing spicy enough to clear your sinuses. More conservative diners can’t go wrong with respectable renditions of curry and pad thai. Gaze at the oversize Asian art during your meal and you’ll forget that you are sitting in a generic strip mall. 6015 S. Fort Apache Road, 823-2345, PannaThaiRestaurant.com.
When you’re ready to forgo fast-food Greek for something fancier, head to this family-owned Lebanese restaurant for honest Mediterranean fare. An open kitchen allows you to watch cooks prepare flatbreads in the brick oven, but, for the love of man, skip the barbecue chicken pizza in favor of something authentic such as the feta fatayer, stuffed with salty cheese and mint, or share a monster-sized mezza plate before hitting the hookah in the outdoor garden. If that’s not enough, pick up a jar of house-made pickles on your way out. They’ll tide you over until the next visit. 6115 S. Fort Apache Road, 671-0005, KhourysLV.com.
This sexy space is not just a welcome addition to the Southwest but the entire city. Steady traffic, even during weekday afternoons, is evidence that Vegas diners are in dire need of more exciting options in this vein. The menu, inspired by co-owner Dalton Wilson’s Jamaican background, is familiar yet eclectic: fried chicken and burgers are infused with jerk spices, while fried plantains replace the standard French fries. And it’s not just the food that’s for sale—the restaurant doubles as a gallery. Any of the paintings that dress the walls are available to the budding fine-art connoisseur. 6115 S. Fort Apache Road, 527-5200, DWBistro.com.
Tony’s Mexican Food
Coincidence or not, this particular branch of Tony’s, a local mini-chain, set up shop next to a former medical marijuana dispensary. But the food isn’t just for folks with the munchies. Families, young locals, and even the occasional tourists find their way over for quick Mexican grub. For a cheap gut bomb, try a torta stuffed with marinated pork. The more adventurous eater may want the tender lengua (tongue) tacos or sopes stuffed with tripa (pork intestines). This ain’t no Taco Bell, and that’s exactly why the neighbors love it. 5752 S. Fort Apache Road, 597-4795.