Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2017

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Night owl Ben Vaughn: My favorite late-night eats in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas Sun

A dish of grilled Kurobata pork cheeks from Raku is seen at the Las Vegas incarnation of the Lucky Rice food festival Saturday, June 23, 2012, at the Cosmopolitan.

McMullan's Irish Pub

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Raku

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I’m dating myself with this one, but The Cars and frontman Ric Ocasek had it right when they sang, “I like the nightlife, baby.” Now that doesn’t mean you’ll find me at a club at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. Being a lover of late night doesn’t mean an inverse love for partying and clubs. The song I just used as an example of my adoration of late night is approximately 35 years old.

Basically, what I’m saying is my youthful glory days are in the rearview mirror. I’ve got a wife, four kids, mortgage and responsibilities, which means early mornings, packing lunches and dropping kids off at school, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still appreciate the virtues of life before dawn.

As a chef for 20-plus years, I spent years getting used to late nights. Like an old, salty ship captain, my sea legs for night living were built on years of hanging up the apron well after most everyone else had taken the snooze train to sleepy town.

Night owls know the great places for late-night eats. We know how to function with limited resources. Every store is open at 4 p.m. Try finding a pair of fishing boots and two boxes of Crayola crayons for sale at 4 a.m. And don’t judge! Sometimes you need to color and fish before the sun comes up. I don’t make the rules.

There’s something exciting and fun about starting your day well after most have finished theirs. Unless you’re on the Strip, the roads are basically empty, people are out and around, but there are really just a choice handful of us compared to our day-faring counterparts. It’s almost like we’re members of a secret society who have access to the best parts of living, and others are simply not aware of it.

My regular late-night life is a distant memory, but even with the family, responsibilities and regular schedule, I am still drawn to the night. Now, it usually exists in the form of productivity, whether I find myself staying up late writing, cooking or working through an issue of the day. I like late night because I feel more creative, thoughtful and productive.

There was a study a few years back that was conducted by psychologists at the London School of Economics and Political Science that said intelligent individuals went to bed later into the night and that IQ average and sleeping patterns were related.

Seems right to me, albeit a little controversial at the time as day-dwellers fought back with examples of their teen children who loved to stay up late and would not be confused for someone intelligent.

While I have no empirical data or a university study to support my thoughts, I can definitely say that there’s something about the night that works for people like me. If you’re a night owl, you probably feel the same.

Maybe it’s the quiet. The ambient noise of the day is something you don’t think about while it’s happening. Cars and busses make noise. Birds chirp. Daytime productivity has a constant hum and whirl that you don’t get at night. This excess quiet allows for more thoughtful deliberation.

Or perhaps now because I don’t engage the night as often, it’s the change of speed that creates a noticeable difference. Like flipping the mattress or changing clocks back, the adjustment creates a finely acute awareness of surroundings. Changing speeds from time to time yields positive results.

No matter the reason, if you’re a night owl like me, even if just in spirit and less in execution, I think you’ll agree with Ric and me that we like the nightlife, baby.

There’s a saying that “nothing good ever happens at 3 a.m.”

I suppose this is true if you’re a professional athlete. In fact, if you’re a professional athlete and you’re reading this column at 3 a.m., call a cab and go home. The percentages just aren’t working in your favor.

For the rest of us, how about some late-night eats? Here are my favorite late-night eats in Las Vegas.

Raku, 5030 Spring Mountain Road

Numerous James Beard Award nominations over the last few years have given notoriety to Mitsuo Endo’s Japanese grill. Late-night eats don’t always have to be heavy gut-busters.

Raku delivers a quality dining experience and balanced food, and they do it every night (except Sundays) until 3 a.m. Raku’s homemade tofu is a must have, and I’m always a sucker for steamed foie gras.

McMullan’s Irish Pub, 4650 W. Tropicana Ave., @McMullansPubLV

That said, sometimes you’re up for something a little heartier. McMullan’s is exactly what you think it is: an Irish Pub. It specializes in pub food, and it does it well. McMullan’s also serves the late-night customer well, as it’s open 24 hours.

Or “unless the earth splits open and we fall in,” as Darren from McMullan’s likes to say. The sticky toffee pudding is perfect for a late-night sweet craving, and the Irish Breakfast is great at any time of the day.

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Salmon Nicoise at the Henry, part of the special three-course Dinner and a Movie menu.

The Henry, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, @Cosmopolitan_LV

If you’re looking for great late-night eats on the Strip, you’ve got dozens upon dozens of options, but the Henry is one of my favorites. In particular, the breakfast anytime option is always a welcome companion to meet on your late-night journey.

The Henry is know for its signature short rib benedict, but I find it hard to steer away from corned beef hash and eggs, which is covered in a Hollandaise sauce that’s to die for. And if your sweet tooth is calling, the cinnamon roll French toast is three bites from a diabetic coma good.

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An exterior view of the Peppermill Restaurant on Monday, July 15, 2013, on Las Vegas Boulevard South.

The Peppermill Restaurant, 2985 Las Vegas Blvd., @PeppermillVegas

Last, but certainly not least, is the Peppermill. A Las Vegas institution, the Peppermill is known far and wide for it diner approach to the late-night lexicon. The servers here are some of my favorite people. They’ve got years and years of likely dealing with unruly tourists and partygoers, so there’s no situation that they haven’t seen or managed.

Oh, and it’s purple. Shockingly, awe-strikingly purple. If Prince and Barney had a baby and it went into interior design, the Peppermill decor would be the result. The food is exactly what you’d expect. The Peppermill specializes in large portions and big, cozy booths for friends to share great conversation over late-night grub.

Ben Vaughn is a chef, author and TV personality known as a host for the Food Network. Ben’s latest book, “Southern Routes,” chronicles his journey to find the best-kept food secrets in the South from the Carolinas to Texas. “Southern Routes” is published by HarperCollins.

Ben resides in Tennessee and serves as CEO and culinary director for his restaurant group Fork Knife Spoon. Ben’s new brand of Southern Kitchen food trucks hit the streets in Las Vegas. Follow all the action from the mobile kitchen @SoKitchenLV. @BenVaughn also is host of “The Breakfast Show,” a TV series that premieres in the fall.

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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