Distinctive Southwestern cuisine hasn't rung up much account in Las Vegas over the years.
Green Chili Chicken Posole Soup.
Mexican Chocolate Brownie Sundae.
Perhaps the plethora of Mexican restaurants—some quite remarkable, like the Michoacán group—has all but cornered the market on chili-based cuisine in the Valley.
However, one first-rate casa de poblano in the midst of refreshing itself in delightful ways is Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill.
Z'Tejas (the name reflects its Texas origins with a hint of Zorro thrown in) has been around town since '93.
That's Pre-Cambrian by Vegas standards.
The old location on Paradise Road has given way to spacious appointments in Summerlin while the menu itself— thanks to executive chef Saul Garcia—is infused with creative touches that make for a worthwhile trek out on West Sahara.
Z'Tejas has always received high marks for its appetizers—zesty concoctions like Blackened Catfish Tacos, Catfish Beignets and Chili Pork Verde.
During the annual September Chili Festival it adds newly harvested New Mexican peppers to starters like Green Chili Chicken Posole and Chipotle Mint Shrimp Salad.
Of course traditional Southwestern entrées featuring poultry — like Diablo Chicken Pasta or Smoked Chicken Chili Relleno — and grilled steaks topped with ancho or chipotle sauce remain menu staples.
Chipotle Mint Chicken Salad.
Citrus Thyme Mojo Fish
with Green Chili Rice.
The availability of fresh fish allows Chef Garcia to weave in specialties like Baked Seafood Enchiladas and Grilled Cilantro Pesto-Rubbed Ruby Trout.
Still at Z'Tejas the chili pepper — red or green, smoked or fresh, grilled or sauced — remains indisputable king.
Each autumn more than 1000 pounds of renowned Hatch, N.M. capsicums are trucked in to highlight the Chili Fest.
"This year we created a unique menu to illustrate the versatility of the chili pepper." says Garcia.
"Not only did we use the chili peppers as a hot and spicy ingredient, we also used them to sweeten, accentuate flavors and even tone down other spices for a flavorful twist."
Meanwhile general manager Orlando Bell has invigorated both the happy hour and weekend brunch gigs to spice up the joint—Summerlin-style.
"We've always been known for our fabulous margaritas and appetizers,” explains the GM.
“Now we're offering half-price appetizers and $4 margaritas from 3-6 p.m. in the restaurant and until closing in the bar.
Executive Chef Saul Garcia.
GM Orlando Bell.
"Plus for weekend brunch (11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. -3 p.m. Sunday) we've put in a Bloody Mary bar with four mixes and twenty pepper sauces."
Ever popular with local groups, Z'Tejas hacienda-style eatery features a large seating area for private parties. As cooler autumn weather rolls in patio dining becomes an agreeable option for both lunch and dinner.
Personally, an attraction I wouldn’t mind adding to my Sunday morning rum mojito and grilled shrimp quesadillas is a lively salsa/merengue combo (talking music, here, not another chili hors d'oeuvre).
How about it, Orlando?
Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill owns and operates ten restaurants in western states (the original site is still open in Austin, Texas).
The Las Vegas operation at 9560 W. Sahara is open Monday -Thursday (11 a.m. to 10 p.m.), Friday - Saturday (11 a.m.-11 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.-9 p.m.).
Call 702-638-0610 for reservations and information or visit the website at www.ztejas.com
— Feature by Jerry Nemanic, Jetsetters Magazine Las Vegas Editor.