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LUCILLE'S SMOKEHOUSE BAR-B-QUE

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The District

2245 Village Walk Drive

Las Vegas, NV 89052

702-257-RIBS

website

$20-$40

Sun-Thu 11am-10pm

Fri-Sat 11am-11pm

Barebecue

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

Authentic down-home barbecue that's a little more expensive than it should be but darned good anyway.

Where is it?

At The District in Henderson, near Green Valley Ranch.

What kind of food is served?

Traditional smokehouse flavors abound and all the fixin's and sides you can imagine.

What is the atmosphere like?

Like a real down-South roadhouse.

How is the service?

Terrific.

What are the prices like?

On the expensive side of things.

What else do I need to know?

You'll get so much food here you won't know what to do with it all.

What's the bottom line?

Good barbecue is hard to come by in this town so I'm a fan.

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FULL REVIEW

Finding authentic barbecue outside of the American South is a little like trying to find gold in the Nevada mountains. Sure, you may stumble across something that looks like the real thing but chances are it's just fool's gold.

So when I walked into Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, I didn't have high hopes for finding honest to goodness, down-home barbecue cooking but it seems that even out in here in the desert you can occasionally find some treasures.

There are six Lucille's, mostly in southern California and this one location in Henderson, right next to the Green Valley Ranch Resort on the south side of Las Vegas. It's the descendant of the original Lucille's in Long Beach, around since World War II when Lucille Buchanan brought her grandmother's authentic recipes to a little diner near the naval shipyards.

The place sure has the look. Helicopter the building to a broken highway in the south and you have the makings for a real roadhouse joint, albeit one that is much cleaner and more sparkly than the real deal. It's got a series of wandering dining rooms and sun porches, a bar where they have live blues music, and a big outdoor patio (called "The Backyard") for eating when it's not too hot. The centerpiece is the working slow cooking smoker, making their various meats fall-off-the-bone tender over hickory wood.

Your meal starts off with a basket full of tender buttermilk biscuits and apple butter but then it's up to you to figure out where you're going next.

The menu is packed with a delirious series of choices - the kind where you may be spending more time trying to decide what sounds best than actually eating your meal once you get it. Start with one of the true blue barbecue appetizers like ribs, wings, southern fried dill pickles, or fried green tomatoes, or go a little more new age with something like the Dixie egg rolls, stuffed with barbecue chicken, andouille sausage, and grilled corn. In between you'll find Cajun chicken strips, deep fried crab cakes with a smoked jalapeno tartar sauce, and Cajun black tiger shrimp among others.

A series of interesting salad choices follow on the menu, with shredded smoked pork over greens in a southwestern vinaigrette or a fried chicken salad being two of the most unique.

But who wants salad when there's all that great southern cooking to get to. Take a look at the specialties - fresh pan blackened catfish with Cajun and Creole seasonings, slow-cooked hickory smoked pork chops, jambalaya, fried chicken with pan gravy, pecan crusted snapper, and New Orleans gumbo. Or go directly to the barbecue section with baby back or St. Louis spare ribs, spice-rubbed barbecue beef ribs, a barbecue half chicken marinated in Lucille's special sauce for 24 hours, and barbecue tri-tip.

Most of that kind of stuff is also available in sandwich form, with fried or barbecue chicken, tri-tip, hickory smoked ham, fried catfish, and even a couple of burgers as options.

Since we visited at lunch, we decided the sandwiches were the best way to go and tried the spicy hot link, barbecue tri-tip, and pulled pork varieties. The links live up to their spicy moniker with a Creole mustard providing a kicky transition to Lucille's signature barbecue sauce, more sweet than tangy. The pork was superbly tender and piled high enough that the cushy potato bun became almost superfluous. And there's a good reason why the tri-tip, tossed in a mop sauce, is their most popular sandwich. While the surroundings may feel a little slickly theme restaurant processed, the food is not, preferring instead to go for a measure of care in preparation that you don't usually see at a restaurant you find in a shopping center.

The portions are huge even before you add in the sides - roasted garlic mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, honey roasted peanut slaw, flame-roasted sweet corn, baked beans, and creamy cheese grits are just a few of the options. Almost all the meals come with your choice of two included in the price so it definitely falls into the "stuff yourself" category by the time you get to desserts (perfect seasonal cobblers, bread pudding, apple pie, banana pudding, or a flourless chocolate cake with warm fudge and white chocolate sauce).

While certainly substantially cheaper than most restaurants on The Strip, it is not cheap to eat at Lucille's. Appetizers are in the $7-14 range, salads $11-14, sandwiches and burgers $10-14, and the barbecue and specialty entrees running from $15-28, probably a hefty premium over what you'd pay if this place was on that broken down highway in the deep south. But if you're a fan of good barbecue, it's worth the cost.

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