Chris Herrin is a serious baker and restaurant owner, but if you ask him, he’ll tell you he mostly just wants to have fun. This ruddy, cheerful man, who looks as if he stepped right off a Pillsbury box, has already secured a coterie of friends who assemble almost daily at Bread & Butter, his Henderson bakery and informal breakfast/lunch stop.
The bakery closes at 4 p.m. weekdays and 2 p.m. weekends, though—much to the chagrin of his loyal following. So when a small space opened a few doors down, Herrin grabbed it with the intention to do a casual dinner place serving American comfort food, a genre he knows well. But just to bolster his kitchen, he’s retained the services of a colleague, Brian Lafferty of Bouchon and Alizé.
Open officially Nov. 1, Meat & Three is his Southern-style cafeteria concept, where you order a main course—the meat—and a choice of up to three sides with the price adjusted accordingly ($11.50 for meat plus one side, $13.50 with two sides and $15.50 with three). Those meats vary: fried chicken, short ribs and porchetta, for instance. And sides come both cold and hot, anything from potato salad shot through with bacon and dill to sautéed green beans with caramelized onion. Cannellini beans with Italian sausage are incredible.
The day’s menu is listed on a board above the kitchen, and dishes are described on interchangeable paper signs. Seating is on long benches or reclaimed chairs at tables Herrin built himself. The only décor, per se, is the hanging wooden slats, embossed with lyrics by artists/philosophers, such as Paul Simon.
Herrin, if you didn’t know, worked for Thomas Keller—arguably America’s most famous chef—as head baker at Bouchon in the Venetian, and is highly trained. That explains the attention to detail and high standards here. He insists that this is all fun food, but for the serious eater, it’s going to be thought of as serious food.
The fried chicken, for instance, is the paragon I’ve been hoping for since I moved here more than 12 years ago: crunchy, moist, golden-brown and coated with the tastiest buttermilk crust I can ever remember eating. Calling it the best fried chicken in Las Vegas is like saying that Holly Madison is relaxed in front of the camera.
His porchetta is also amazing—tender, moist and expertly seasoned, cut into thin slices swirled with an herbal blend based on fennel and garlic, and served inside the crisp outer skin of the pig. I’m looking forward to Herrin’s double-crusted chicken pot pie, which he’s putting on the menu soon, as well as meat loaf.
Hot sides are hearty and imaginative. Cylinder-shaped potato croquettes are creamy and crunchy at the same time. Arancini, golden rice balls perfumed with the faint scent of truffle, have shatteringly crisp exteriors. Got to have mashed potatoes? You bet, and the chicken gravy on top tastes like your grandmother made it.
It’s the little touches that elevate Meat & Three. The house bread is fresh, hot mini-pretzels paired with a piquant, addictive pimento cheese spread crowned with olive paste. There are artisanal soft drinks, too, and wonderful puddings for dessert, topped with a layer of thick whipped cream.
The banana pudding is a must, but the butterscotch pudding is truly a game changer. Meat & Three may turn out to be one as well.