It’s too early to call Ray Nisi an empire builder, but he seems to be making a success of Bottles & Burgers in Tivoli Village, the most recently opened member of his Double Helix wine bar family. And lord knows this mall can use him.
The concept is simple: wines by the glass or half-bottle, imaginative and well-crafted burgers, shareable plates and both a soda fountain for kids and a bar for adults. Anyone fancy a Hostess with the Mostess—Three Olives Cake vodka, vanilla ice cream and a pulverized chocolate cupcake? I thought as much.
Of course, Nisi has an ace in the hole with the talented chef Doug Vega, a man who is, perhaps, working under speed here. Like his counterpart Anthony Meidenbauer of Block 16 Hospitality (the Barrymore, Public House, etc.), Vega has free rein to create an upscale menu with considerable variety and international flair.
One can just as easily get plates of hummus or arancini here as half-pound Angus beef burgers. And don’t for one minute expect anything as pedestrian as lettuce and tomato. The Block Sixteen—named after a portion of the original city grid, but still paying unwitting homage to the competition at Holsteins—is topped with caramelized onions, sharp cheddar and chipotle aioli on a tender brioche bun baked by a small, local Vietnamese bakery. As burgers go, this one is a must.
This is a large space, more than 6,000 square feet including the outdoor patio. The best seats may be at the soda fountain, where soda jerks create those adult milkshakes like the aforementioned cupcake affair.
Since the place has been designed for families as well, there are gooey milkshakes with add-ins such as Oreos and sprinkles in addition to the grown-up stuff. If you’re in the mood to be cozy, booths are spacious and comfortable, leather lined and plush.
When I first visited, the signature Double Helix burger was a baseball-size gob of chopped beef stuffed with pork belly, short rib, horseradish and tomato compote. Now it has morphed into the Double Helix BBQ, which subs in bacon, cheddar and charred onions for a more conventional, more appealing take.
You don’t have to go beef, but spicy turkey and an oddball vegetarian option—a quinoa mushroom patty that a kid could turn into pure mush before a parent could turn his head—make unusual burger bedfellows.
I’m a total mark for Irish sliders, which the menu says is grilled beef brisket, but is really corned beef with sauerkraut, a Thousand Island dressing thick enough to stand a spoon up in, and Jarlsberg cheese. I wonder why they don’t simply call the damned thing a Reuben. I’d eat them anyway.
Fries are done five ways: Baltimore, with brown gravy and pepperjack cheese sauce, is the closest thing to poutine you can get in northwest Las Vegas. (For that dish, visit Meidenbauer’s Public House.) The Double Helix fries get shallots, sherry aioli and fines herbes. These are my two faves, anyway.
The extensive wine and beer list includes seven boutique drafts, such as the terrific Canadian dark ale, Trois Pistoles, and endless wines in half bottles, full bottles and glasses. Two killer bargains include a Curran grenache blanc ’09 ($45) and the ’06 Costa de Oro pinot noir ($27) both from Central California.
Mr. Nisi, we think you might be onto something.