Even before the plummeting economy bred the trend toward downscaling, the idea of the burger joint as a gourment restaurant was popular. However, it's hit Las Vegas in a big way, with two casinos introducing their high-end take on the American classic--BLT and LBS. I guess this initial thing is in fashion now too....
The original Vegas choice for the haute cheeseburger was Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in the Manadaly Bay Casino. The restaurant's main appeal lies in its do-it-yourself menu. Seemingly infinite choices of patty, cheese, bun, toppings, condiments and other extras let you create the burger of your dreams, be it Kobe topped with truffles and foie gras or turkey with pepper jack, salsa, jalapeno and chili. Or my personal favorite: Black Angus topped with blue cheese, bacon, avocado and barbecue sauce. Last year brought the opening of Strip Burger, a flying saucer-like outdoor booth next to the Fashion Show Mall. The range of burgers is a bit unimaginative (standard bacon, swiss, etc.) but the atomic cheese fries are spicy and sticky enough to fend off any mid-shopping or mid-bender malaise.
In the past three months, two more casinos have added the upscale burger joint to their roster: The Mirage introduced BLT Burger and Red Rock Casino opened LBS. BLT Burger is the latest outpost in the Laurent Tourondel franchise, a bustling, cherry-and-steel restaurant located right where the Roy-eating white tigers used to be. BLT offers the full array of burgers, along with some standout alternatives like tandoori lamb, buffalo chicken and a pork-shrimp Asian "Banh Mi." However, the truly irresistible items on the menu are the milkshakes, which extend beyond your ususal chocolate and vanilla options to include hazelnut, orange and peanut butter and jelly. Even more satisfying are the "spiked" shakes that give the sugar rush a booze kick with combinations like bourbon-vanilla-caramel and Kahlua-chocolate-Oreo.
LBS, if you haven't guessed, stands for pounds, as in burgers that are a half-pound "after cooking" (or so our server assured us). The dining room is walled off from the casino with black lace-patterned glass and is dominated by a black-painted Victorian bar and black leather banquettes. The chic setting (Well, as chic as anything that reminds me of how I dressed in my tweeny Madonnawannabe days can be.) contrasts with the aggressively unglamorous food--how stylish can you be with sticky fingers and juice dribbling down your chin? LBS offers over twenty burgers, all with their own specially calibrated combination of cheese, condiment, vegetable, sauce and perhaps a fried egg or a portabello mushroom. Their "perfect burger" may be exactly that: a thick-dry-aged beef patty on a sweet egg bun, topped with Gruyere chese, oven-roasted tomatoes, red onion marmalade, smoked bacon, frisee, herb mayo and the house burger sauce. You won't be able to eat for the rest of the day but, man, is it worth it.