Pub 1842, Las Vegas NV
The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is way bigger than we thought. Once inside, it’s labyrinthine. Don’t be afraid to ask your way around, though, because Pub 1842 is worth the maze. Chef Michael Mina’s gastropub has a completely different vibe than the nearly solemn San Franciscan Bourbon Steak, but his signature style and demand for quality are on par. More finger foods and casual yet inventive takes on classics cry out to the younger Vegas partying crowd, especially if paired with one or many of the alcoholic libations available; the place is named for the year pilsner beer was invented, after all, so beer plays a big role here.
Try a sampling of the more than fifty beers on hand with a beer wheel. “Wild World” crosses the globe with eight ales, stouts, and lagers, which our server and beer enthusiast Will described as being a more malty selection. Because August likes hoppy brews, we went with “Born in the USA.” PBR Lager, Anchor Steam CA Common, Batch 19 Vienna, Blue Moon Witbier, Deschutes Pale Ale, Ommengang Abbey Ale, Dogfish Head Double IPA, and Speakeasy Porter represented a broad range of brewing styles and tastes, and coincidentally when tasted in order alongside our food, there were some serendipitous pairings that surprised our palates.
Zach had been studying the menu since Pub 1842 opened not even two weeks ago, and knew immediately that he wanted to try the deviled eggs. The tender egg whites were not overcooked, perfect vessel for the super creamy yolks. Thankfully the tangy and somewhat sweet filling wasn’t overly spiced, or else we might not have been able to appreciate the crab. Each egg had a large lump of Maryland blue crap with a sprig of dill and a sprinkling of paprika.
The spring rolls, extra light and crispy, were made with wonton wrappers rather than phyllo dough or egg roll wrappers. Zach almost thought they were wrapped with what they weren’t, since the wonton wrappers were deceptively thin. Tender, well seasoned duck was rolled with cabbage, mushrooms, and cilantro. An orange sauce was more tangy than sweet with a touch of mild warmth from chili pepper (we won’t call it spiciness), and the cilantro made the sauce more earthy to balance the tangy. At this time August was sipping the Batch 19 Vienna, and she found it to accentuate the duck very well, and vice versa.
This might be one of our most enjoyable Caesar salads ever. Avocado makes nearly any dish better in August’s book, so we liked the fresh, ripe slices for garnish here. Instead of croutons, artichoke chips served as a playful interpretation. They were lightly crunchy and helped to round out the mix of flavors. A garlic streusel with sugar made the salad sweet, but the bitter kale mellowed that. Freshly shaved Parmesan added that cheesy, salty bite necessary for Caesar salads, so in that regard tradition was honored. Otherwise, this was a modern and almost scientific experiment kind of way to present a Caesar.
Tender, hand picked lobster was buttery and sweet, nestled in a crisp buttery roll. It was accented by jalapeño, tarragon, green onions, creamed corn, and popcorn. The jalapeño provided flavor with no heat, acting as a seasoning like the tarragon and green onions. Popcorn is not usually our thing, but here we had a decreased likelihood of getting it stuck in our teeth because there was so much more involved with each bite. Zach particularly liked the roll; as a pastry chef, he felt that it complemented the filling quite well, and whoever grilled it did an impeccable job. The fries, prepared from a frozen state but handled well, were herbed with variety but sage was the most predominant flavor.
Wagyu beef, creamy peanut butter, ruffled potato chips, bacon jam, and pimento cheese combined for what our server Will described as most patrons’ “amazing burger” or “best burger ever.” We have to agree, never would we have considered peanut butter with beef but it was in fact amazing. With creamy, salty Jif instead of sweet, the savory quality worked well with the juicy Snake River Farms patty. Zach doesn’t typically go for potato chips, but here they provided an essential crunchiness. The bacon jam was smoky, tangy, and very slightly sweet, while the pimento cheese gave a little kick and gooeyness to the burger. It came on a potato bun baked with cracked pepper, adding flavor as well as an interesting visual appeal. We liked that the fries here were distinct from the lobster roll’s; like the others these were previously frozen but well handled, but with a different cut and different seasoning.
Peanut butter was the star a second time in our final course of a tasty dessert and milkshake pairing. Will told us that some customers are dumbstruck after already having such rich flavors in the appetizers and entrees, so he simplifies it for them, asking if they like chocolate, lemon, peach, or coconut desserts. That’s a tough choice, but the chocolate one’s description with “peanut butter, pretzel, delicious” lured us. Moist chocolate cake with a medium chocolate flavor was layered with smooth, creamy, chocolate butter cream. Dollops of delectably smooth peanut butter ganache dotted the cake, while salty, crunchy, chocolate-dipped pretzels offered a contrasting texture, as did a kind of candied nut. A simple yet delightfully malted shake was not overly malted but just right, for another kind of chocolate to pair and share.
Foodies, families, and fraternities alike can all find something here. With modernized variations on classical themes, Chef Mina is a master at taking something known and making it new and vibrant. It would seem that Pub 1842 has had an excellent opening, and we hope they continue to tantalize the palates of many Vegas diners.