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HOLSTEIN'S SHAKES AND BUNS

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The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-698-7940

website

$20-$40

Daily 11am-12am

American

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

Fancy hamburgers but with a fun attitude that makes it less annoying than most fancy burger joints.

Where is it?

At The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on the Center Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Burgers (traditional and gourmet), sausages, salads, and more.

What is the atmosphere like?

Fun barn theme but can be loud late at night.

How is the service?

Very good.

What are the prices like?

Pricey but not outrageous.

What else do I need to know?

Don't miss the milk shakes.

What's the bottom line?

There are lots of fancy burgers in Vegas but these are worth knowing about.

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FULL REVIEW

Burgers are big business in Las Vegas and I'm not just talking about the kind that come in a paper wrapper that you eat in your car. No, these days the lowly hamburger has become a gourmet experience with ingredients and toppings that turn what has been a cheap eat into a major meal and a big bill at the end. There are no fewer than a dozen upscale hamburger joints around Vegas and it seems like a new one opens every other week.

Holstein's at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas doesn't quite fit into the gourmet burger category. Yes, there plenty of out-there options including a duck confit stuffed with foie gras and a Greek spiced lamb with feta cream cheese and tatziki sauce. And yes, the prices are certainly higher than what you'd pay at a drive through. But the wide ranging menu is filled with all sorts of fun choices, some of them downright traditional, and at costs that aren't significantly higher than most Strip restaurants.

The room is delightfully kitschy; all rustic wood with cozy booths and big statues of brightly painted cows all around. A bar fronts the place and it can be loud in the evenings especially when the crowds from the adjacent nightclub congregate nearby.

We'll get to the burgers in a second but let's start with the other ideas that help fill out what turns into a limited experience at other gourmet burger places.

Snacks include the traditional and the wacky and a bunch of stuff in between. You can get Buffalo wings with a traditional bleu cheese dip but you can also select lobster corn dogs, a quesadilla stuffed with Korean beef and kimchee, a Philly cheesesteak version of spring rolls, and braised veal and risotto spheres that they call "Bull's Balls." We went for the fried chicken fingers and waffles and were thrilled with our decision - the fingers had a bit of a spicy kick to them and the waffle came with enough sweet maple syrup to drown a small Vermont town.

So called "Tiny Buns" are slider sized small plates that run the gamut from beef to turkey to Asian style crispy pork to an Italian meatball grinder and beyond.

They have some salads but, really? At a burger place?

A sausage section offers traditional Chicago dogs with tomato, pickle, and sea salt plus an Italian, and a Greek touri (spiced lamb with tatziki) among others. From this section we sampled the bratwurst, served on a crusty, toasted roll (more like submarine sandwich bread than a hot dog bun) and piled high with braised sauerkraut. The accompanying spicy mustard was a kick in more ways than one.

Then finally we have the main event - the Big Buns. In addition to the ones mentioned earlier, there are a couple of "classic" options including the Gold Standard; a sirloin burger topped with smoked bacon, goat cheddar cheese, tomato confit, and a garlic-chive aioli. It was big (but not too big) and loaded with so many complementary flavors that it was impossible to figure out where one ended and the next one began. You also have Atlantic salmon, Tandoori chicken, turkey stuffed with sage and giblet gravy, and Vegan choices. Or you could go whole hog and get the Hen House - a beef burger topped with an egg done over-easy - or the Longhorn - a beef patty topped with coleslaw and Texas smoked beef brisket. Yes, beef topped with beef. Why didn't I think of that?!

Unlike many other high-end burger joints, all of their sandwiches come with your choice of fries so even though they range from $13-19, you are getting a side dish with them so it makes it a little bit more affordable.

But let us not forget the Shake portion of their name. They serve big, thick milkshakes in the typical varieties like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry but go to the Bamboozled section for the truly fun options. They've got a Drunken Monkey with peanut butter crisps, banana, and frangelico; a Cookie Jar Malt with cookie and brownie pieces and Tuaca; Campfire Smores with fudge, marshmallow, graham crackers, and rum; and an Oreo with the cookies plus Bailey's Irish Cream. If you aren't a drinker you can order any of them without the booze, which I did since it was lunch and I had work to do afterward and didn't think I'd be able to read my own writing. Thick, creamy, over-the-top sweet (in a good way), and a perfect way to end a meal.

As mentioned, prices are not cheap -- appetizers are $6-16, Tiny Buns $9-15; salads $9-12 (more if you add chicken, salmon, or lox); sausages $7-9; and burgers $13-19. Shakes are $8 for a regular flavor and $11 for the spiked versions.

I'm the kind of guy who is normally very happy with that burger eaten in the car, but Holstein's makes me glad I decided to slow down.

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