Why isn’t Vegas the big, bad, barbecue capital of the West? You can’t give me a good reason why we can’t be Barbecue City USA. Everybody loves it, just like everybody loves Vegas. There’s no special regional requirement for making delicious smoked meat, and they don’t have anything in the South or in Texas or in either of the Carolinas that we can’t have delivered to our desert. I’ll put Vegas burgers and pizza up against the best, but our barbecue—maybe the most American of foods—could use some work.
The Strip has been without a high-quality version of this essential cuisine for far too long. In fact, in the recent era, there hasn’t been a legitimate barbecue eatery on the Boulevard until about two years ago, when TI resurrected Gilley’s and the Mirage opened B.B. King’s. Both are tourist-oriented, musically themed destinations where you wouldn’t expect much from the food. Now we have a third tourist-oriented, musically themed barbecue joint on the Strip, but almost unbelievably, food is the focus.
Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer at Excalibur has the best barbecue on the Strip, and maybe the best in the city. I’m as surprised to type these words as you are to read them. I can’t think of any other reason to direct you to Excalibur, the gaudy medieval castle that demonstrates the worst traits of the Disney-ish 1990s era of casino-resort development. But I’ll brave just about anything to get some kick-ass barbecue, so here we are.
- Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer
- Excalibur, 597-7818.
- Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; Friday 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday 9 a.m.-1 a.m.
Don’t let the theme scare you off. It’s as if a giant barn was dropped in the middle of the casino, a country cafeteria complete with live music, a big bar, lots of space and lots of paper towels and squeeze bottles of barbecue sauce on each table. It’s big and loud and messy, a good place to do some shots. The refined part comes with the food, which hails from Lockhart, Texas. Drive This Entertainment operates Lynyrd Skynyrd Las Vegas, and wisely decided to import the style and recipes of the legendary Kreuz Market, carried out by executive chef Casey Houghton. I haven’t eaten Kreuz, but this stuff is just as good as what I have sampled in the Lone Star State, where beef is the preferred protein and sauces come only on the side.
There are beef ribs, brisket and prime rib, but the fatty, smoky shoulder has been the most impressive cut of cow so far. The boldest flavors come in the form of housemade sausages, particularly the jalapeño-cheese link that explodes with spicy juices. Whether you go with these meats or pork ribs, chicken, turkey or ham, you pay by the pound as you move down the line, an old-fashioned process that makes you feel as if you’re anywhere but a casino.
Many decent local barbecue joints fall short when it comes to side dishes, but Lynyrd Skynyrd excels, offering everything from braised collard greens (heavy on the bacon) to baked beans (heavy on the bacon). The mac and cheese and sweet-spicy corn succotash are my favorites, and you should try cheese grits fried into sticks, a nice substitute for boring potatoes. There’s not a lot of boring going on here, just surprisingly good food in an unlikely venue.