If you are my friend on Facebook, you know that we had some trouble getting out of Cleveland Hopkins on our way to our Vegas Vacation. As fate would have it, we were delayed so much Tuesday evening that we missed any connecting flights out of O’Hare. We got bumped to a direct flight from CLE to Las Vegas for early Wednesday morning. It was quite the start to our trip and I hoped that our Wednesday would go better than our Tuesday.
Luckily for us, the next morning was uneventful and our flight departed without any delays. Upon our arrival in Las Vegas Wednesday, Hans and I were STARVING. Luckily, Aunt Linda was ready for her lunch break. We decided to meet at a location super convenient to the airport: Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay:
From the Mandalay Bay website: The ultimate burger experience, from the famous restaurateur Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys, comes to Mandalay Place. Incorporating the finest varieties of beef, buffalo, turkey, vegetarian and vegan products, a range of gourmet toppings and delicious buns, Burger Bar has a little bit of everything for the creative eater. Complete the experience with a Sweet Burger dessert or a hand-crafted micro brew.
We waited a significant amount of time for a table for what should have been a standard lunch rush. You know when you are waiting and it seems like EVERYONE ELSE is getting seated, including the people you don’t remember being there before you? It felt like that. Okay, it was probably only 15 minutes but my jet lagged mind was cranky.
We were sat at one of booths that you’ll find on the back wall in the photo above. Each booth had its own television that was tuned to ESPN. Hans gave the restaurant big points from the get go for giving him LeBron coverage before free agency began.
We ordered our round of waters and our server excitingly and sarcastically declared, “let’s get this party started!” Yes. I’m lame, exhausted and dehydrated. Don’t forget the lemon.
While we searched the menu, Aunt Linda debated between trying something new or enjoying the only menu item she had ever ordered. On our way from the airport, I tweeted at Mike from Tasting Las Vegas asking for suggestions. He recommended the buffalo if we were up for it. I knew I could talk my better half into an “alternative” burger. And after a long morning of travel, my body was SCREAMING for veggies.
Side note: The following pictures are not my best work in the photography department. In fact, they are pretty horrible food photos. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was featured on the Tasting Las Vegas blog in their weekly “Bad Picture of Good Food” in the near future. My advance apologies to Chef Keller. Moving on…
Aunt Linda stuck with her guns and selected the Hubert Keller Burger: Buffalo, caramelized onions, baby spinach, blue cheese on a ciabatta bun (Hubert’s favorite choice) with skinny fries.
My awesome aunt allowed me to take a big bite of her lunch. I knew immediately why she continually ordered this burger. Packed with so many flavors, it was phenomenally delicious. The combination of buffalo meat, onion, spinach and blue cheese could not have been better matched. Super juicy, you would never know you were eating buffalo. I actually thought it was beef! I understand why Chef Keller recommended the ciabatta: the hearty bun gave a solid foundation to hold all the ingredients together. I immediately wished I ordered one for myself.
Hans ordered the Buffalo Burger: Raised in the mountain of Wyoming this buffalo meet is lean, low calorie, low calorie, low cholesterol. Extremely rewarding with great taste. Hans ordered his on a sesame bun with Swiss cheese.
Since I’m a bossy wife, I demanded a bite of Hans’ burger. It surprised me that both his and my aunt’s burgers were buffalo meat. I swore they tasted differently, although both extremely tasty. All the added ingredients on my aunt’s burger gave hers extra moisture. However, I would never say that Hans’ burger was dry. In fact, it was the perfect amount of moisture without needing 15 napkins to eat it. I liked his pairing of the Swiss with the sesame bun. I must be rubbing off on him! Hans polished this thing off in no time.
You’ll see Aunt Linda’s skinny fries in the picture, behind Hans burger. I would compare them to an uber gourmet version of Burger King fries – you know the texture I’m talking about, right? They had a good solid crunch and were lightly seasoned with salt. These ain’t no Lola or Greenhouse Tavern fries, but they would do us fine at lunch that day.
While I considered the veggie burger, I ended up with the Vegas Vegan: slow roasted eggplant, marinated and grilled roma tomato, grilled zucchinis, sauteed peppers. All sandwiched between two portabella mushroom caps. I opted for the mixed greens as a side with balsamic dressing.
The visual presentation of the dish impressed me. Those mushroom caps really look like a burger bun!! There was no chance I was picking that thing up, so I disassembled everything into one glorious veggie heap of goodness. The roma tomatoes were nothing special. Otherwise, the rest of the veggies had great flavor but were not overdone or mushy. I ate what I could, but was quite full and didn’t finish the second mushroom caps or the roma tomatoes. I would definitely order this non-burger again.
LONG STORY SHORT: A solid sandwich after a ridiculous travel situation created by a world renowned chef? What better way was there to start a vacation?! Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay satisfied our need for a solid meal to get us going again. If you are looking for a celebrity chef experience in a more casual setting, pick this laid-back casino selection to fuel you through an afternoon of adjusting to Pacific Daylight Time.