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CITIZENS KITCHEN

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Mandalay Bay

3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-832-9200

website

$20-$50

Sun-Thu 7:30am-11pm

Fri-Sat 7:30am-12am

American

A

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

A casual eatery serving huge portions of fantastic American comfort food.

Where is it?

At Mandalay Bay on the South Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Lots of American diner style specialties from burgers and sandwiches to meatloaf and fried chicken.

What is the atmosphere like?

Relaxed and completely without pretense.

How is the service?

Absolutely terrific service from a team of really professional people.

What are the prices like?

Moderate, especially when compared to most Vegas restaurants.

What else do I need to know?

They have a very well stocked bar and a takeout counter.

What's the bottom line?

One of my favorites in Las Vegas.

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FULL REVIEW

There is a reason they call it comfort food. It is designed to be "comfortable" to the masses - easy to comprehend, familiar in construction, appealing to look at, satisfyingly proportioned, pleasing to the taste buds, and not too expensive.

I am here to declare Citizens Kitchen at Mandalay Bay as the new capital of comfort food in Las Vegas. Not only do they tick off every box on the list above they go beyond it to serve food that is way better than just pleasing - it's bang your fists on the table fantastic.

The restaurant is in the space of the former Red, White & Blue, at the head of the restaurant row near Fleur and the Mizuya Lounge. It is done with an old-school kitchen vibe - white and black tiles on the floor, green backsplash style tiles on the walls, lots of wood tables, and industrial style factory lights. A display case with take-out items greets you and a big bar dominates one of the two dining rooms. It's warm, inviting, and yes, I'm going to say it, comfortable.

My table of seven ate more than our fair share of the menu, starting with the starters. Baked meatballs of beef, pork, and veal smothered in a red sauce gravy and topped with shredded provolone were immediately devoured with gusto and our only regret is that we hadn't ordered more. Buffalo wings were hot (but not too hot) and came with an extra creamy blue cheese dip. The mac and cheese with ham hocks and the tater tots smothered in cheese are actually side dishes but we sided in favor of adding them to our appetizer list and pretty much licked the respective bowls clean. I especially loved the tots - classic taste evoking memories of childhood but with that fantastic gooey cheese giving it a tangy twist.

Other starter options including things like queso fundido with chorizo and Velveeta cheese, calamari, and shrimp cocktail.

We skipped the soup and salad section because we wanted to save room for the "real" food but if you are so inclined they have a few selections like chicken noodle, French onion, chili, and your basic wedge, Caesar, Greek, and Cobb salads.

We also thought about burgers - I mean, how could you not when one is called the Baconator with "bacon, bacon & more bacon" and another is called the Fatty Melt, a double grilled cheese with caramelized onion.

But in the end we went to their signature entree section and pretty much stayed there. The southern fried chicken was perfectly simple - deeply crispy on the outside like a really good onion ring and tender and juicy on the inside. Spaghetti and meatballs satisfied our desire to have more of those meatballs we devoured in the first round of food. The prime rib is cooked for 18 hours and served with a roasted garlic and rosemary crust - cut it with a fork tender and bursting with flavor. Bag of Bones comes in an honest-to-goodness paper bag that became the clown car of food - just when you thought no more of the mouth watering, dry-rubbed baby back ribs or onion rings could come out of it, there was more. I kept expecting a couch to be next. There was also a masterpiece of a Maine lobster roll, served on a fresh griddled bun.

And then there was the meatloaf. Both of us that ordered it and sampled the other dishes (often when the people to whom they belonged weren't looking) decided that it was the clear winner at a table full of them. I wanted to call it spicy but zesty is probably a better word for it, made with beef and pork in a tomato glaze with a side of creamy mashed potatoes. Perfect.

Other options we didn't explore include fish and chips, mussels, fish tacos, steaks, and hot and cold sandwiches including a muffaletta (Italian meat, olive, and roasted pepper salad) that is big enough to serve six. If you eat it by yourself they will waive the $135 cost of it. Don't do this. It's crazy.

Dessert is a long list of cakes, ice creams, and sorbets. We basically told the waiter to surprise us with a couple of them and got a well-constructed seven layer chocolate cake and the most divine piece of cheesecake (with a cherry compote) that any of us had tasted in quite some time.

Speaking of our waiter, a huge part of the evening's success was the staff, which went out of their way to make sure that we never spent more than a moment without something to stuff our faces with. It was deeply appreciated.

Note that the restaurant is also open for breakfast with eggs, omelettes, pancakes, parfaits, pastries, cereals, and more.

Prices are beyond reasonable especially for the amount and quality of food you are getting. Starters, soups, and small salads are all right around the $10 mark; entree salads a few bucks more; sandwiches and burgers are mostly in the $14-$18 range; all of the signature entrees are under $30 and only the steaks cross that boundary. My table of seven had a ridiculous amount of food and more than a few cocktails and we did it for about $60 per person including tax and tip. A normal person could do it for significantly less although I say why be normal when you've got this much good food to eat?

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