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STACK

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The Mirage

3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Las Vegas, NV 89109

702-792-7800

website

$40-$80

Sun, Tue, Thu 5-10pm

Mon, Fri-Sat 5-11pm

American

B+

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

Fresh and festive take on American Diner classics.

Where is it?

At The Mirage on the Center Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Limited but fulfilling, with steaks, seafood, and fun appetizers and desserts.

What is the atmosphere like?

Energetic and upscale - also kind a loud.

How is the service?

Good.

What are the prices like?

Expensive but what on The Strip isn't these days?

What else do I need to know?

This is from the same people who do Fix at Bellagio.

What's the bottom line?

If you can put up with the noise, the food will reward you for your patience.

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FULL REVIEW

Those who know me know that the very mention of the word "trendy" usually makes me itch. Somewhere just before my 30th birthday I became a cranky curmudgeon and now that I'm past 40 I'm veering straight into dangerous hermit territory. I'm sure there's a cabin in Montana in my future somewhere.

This is all to explain that restaurants like Stack at The Mirage and its cousin Fix at Bellagio are not the kinds of places I usually like eating at. Normally I would find them too crowded, too loud, too expensive, and simply "too" everything.

But like Fix, Stack manages to shake off the mantle of trendy restaurantdom with unique twists on comfort food to become something both interesting and alluring.

The design of the place is similar to Fix, with what appears to be an undulating cocoon of wood set off by dramatic high-ceilings and lighting. There is an often raucous bar at the front open to the casino and that, in combination with the nightclub worthy sound-system, conspire to make quiet dinner conversation virtually impossible. But this is not the place you come to for an intimate meal over a simple bottle of wine. This is the place you come to for a high-energy experience, socializing, and fun. If those trendy ultra-lounges served food, they'd be a lot like this.

The simple one-page menu is something like an American diner gone mad. Under the appetizer section you'll find pigs in a blanket and chili cheese fries alongside buffalo wings and sushi. Don't miss their signature shellfish "stack" with Maine lobster, tiger prawns, crab, and oysters that comes in "wow," "oh my God," and "will that actually fit on the table?" sizes.

Main selections feature beef selections like a Kobe burger with Vermont cheddar cheese all the way up to a 40-ounce porterhouse for two, plus pork chops, sea bass, lobster, organic chicken, lamb, surf and turf, and a couple of pastas. The selection is not vast but there is something on here for just about every mood or taste bud.

Feeling somewhat decadent we started with the pigs in a blanket just because we could. They were fine, but nothing to get too excited about, especially for $15.

For dinner we went with a couple of steaks - the bone out filet and sirloin - plus the penne pasta with prosciutto and truffles. The portions were typically huge and the steaks, while not quite as original as the ones they do at Fix, were quite good and came with a choice of steak sauces to jazz up the proceedings. The pasta was excellent, with layer after layer of delicate prosciutto blending expertly with a light cream sauce.

The fun continues at dessert with irresistible items like mini cheesecakes with caramel dipping sauce, banana brownie bon-bons, cherry crème brulee, and the one we couldn't resist: miniature jelly donut holes with a warm vanilla dipping sauce. Those were powdered with a cinnamon dusting and perfectly deep fried - so much more interesting than a typical piece of cake or one of those oh-so-delicate constructions of exotic flavors you often find at trendy eateries.

The prices, as you would expect, are high. As mentioned, the pigs in a blanket were $15 and most other appetizers are in that neighborhood. Steaks run in the $36-$48 range the other main dishes start at $29 for the pasta and go up to $49 for the petite filet and half-lobster.

But for me it comes down to the essential realization that a really good meal on The Strip that doesn't involve a buffet line means paying these kinds of prices these days. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm advocating doing so - I tell people to get away from Las Vegas Boulevard all the time for (often) better food at (usually) more reasonable prices. But if you're going to be spending this kind of dough on a meal, don't you want one that isn't a typically staid affair with lots of menu choices that seem designed more to impress epicurean snobs than to actually feed people?

Stack is the kind of restaurant where you can be fed and fed well without the pretention.

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