Damn fine bean dip, neighborhood openings, and more Big Wong to love

Full disclosure: I don’t venture often enough out to the extreme north side. Sometimes, I’m sorry to say, I let one or two really interesting places slip through the cracks. For a little while, anyway.

So I’m happy to have finally made the trip to Leticia’s Mexican Cocina (7585 Norman Rockwell Lane, 445-7722), a terrific Mexican restaurant not far from Centennial Parkway. Leticia is a charming, accomplished chef from Mexico’s capital city, and her restaurant is as handsome as she is beautiful.

Four of us feasted on a quartet of complimentary house dips, including a smoky bean dip I couldn’t stop eating, exquisite pork tamales with a green sauce just like you’d get in Mexico, cochinita pibil (slow-cooked Yucatan-style pork) and other delicacies. Milanesa, thinly pounded, lightly breaded pan-fried chicken, is a must here. The $10 lunch combination includes it as an option, as well as carnitas and enchiladas.

I don’t always get to Summerlin, either, because I live in the opposite corner of the Valley. But at the urging of a friend who lives near The Lakes, I finally made it to Those Guys Pies, a take-out pizza joint in a shopping center at 2916 Lake East Drive, and I loved what I ate. One of the owners, Roy Bass, is from Philly, and his version of the cheese steak, laced with onions, is terrific. I also had a coupla slices of their iconic white pie, topped with sausage, ricotta, garlic and other goodies.

In other restaurant news, Presto Neighborhood Café has opened at 4950 S. Rainbow Blvd. The restaurant specializes in Turkish savory stuffed flatbreads known as pides, a staple in that part of the world, as well as salads, sandwiches, smoothies and coffee.

Another interesting addition to the local food scene is Manan Bakery—not to be confused with the very French Manon Bakery—owned and operated by the artisan baker, Naira Vardanyan. Manan Bakery (6620 W. Flamingo Road, 733-4000) features a variety of fare such as bazook, a glazed Armenian sour cream biscuit; barbari, a Persian flatbread; and many European-style desserts, from French tarts to Italian tiramisu. On Fridays, Vardanyan even bakes traditional Jewish challah.

Finally, one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city, Big Wong, (5040 Spring Mountain Road, 368-6808), has added several new dishes. The restaurant is already famous for Brooklyn-style Chinese fare such as shrimp wonton and salt-and-pepper chicken wings, but now, Wei Hee, the only Hong Kong-born Yankee fan I know, has added stewed baby-back pork ribs, ong choy cooked in a sizzling pan, and fried catfish to his authentic, Hong Kong-style menu

Hungry, yet?

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‘Gimme the Usual’

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If you’re doing your sworn duty as a regular bar patron, one or more bartenders somewhere in this town should know your flavor and spirit preferences. More than just reflexively reaching for your usual as you file through the door and claim your usual seat, he or she should be able to guide you to similar drinks that might appeal to you or, under the best of circumstances, even create something original just for you. Me, I’m an easy mark: whiskey, artisan liqueurs and Italian amaros, stirred Negronis on the rocks with plenty of Campari and, more recently, craft beer.