VEGAS RESTAURANT ROUNDUP: Sin City’s Lone James Beard Finalist

Only one of four nominated semifinalists from Las Vegas made it to the finals of this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the Oscars for restaurants.

Before opening Aroma, Steve Kestler was a chef at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon at The Venetian and Bazaar Meat by José Andrés in the Sahara. (Image: Instagram/Steve Kestler)

Steve Kestler of Aroma Latin American Cocina in Henderson will compete for the Best Chef in the Southwest category, it was announced on Wednesday. The Southwest includes Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

The chef and owner opened Aroma in October 2021 in part to celebrate the comfort food of his native Guatemala. Last year, the spot — which has only eight tables — was named Yelp’s best taco spot in the US.

Oscar Amador of Anima by EDO did not move onto the final round in his category, Outstanding Chef. Nor did Kimmie and Josh Mcintosh of MILKFISH Bakeshop for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker. And neither DJ Flores of Milpa nor Brian Howard of Sparrow + Wolf will compete for Best Chef in the Southwest alongside Kestler.

Last year, two chefs and a bar from Las Vegas made the Beard finals. This year’s winners will be revealed in a ceremony on June 10 in Chicago.

Dining Ins & Outs

Ciao Bella (Vita at the District in Green Valley Ranch)! (Image:

Bella Vita, a staple at The District at Green Valley Ranch for 10 years, has opted not to renew its 20-year lease. The owners left a 200-word explanation on their Facebook account that didn’t address why. However, as we note over and over in this column, restaurants that financially succeed in Las Vegas don’t close.

District Deli & Coffee just opened in the former Braeswood Barbecue spot downtown at 1504 S. Main St.

Modern Market Eatery, a healthy fast-casual chain that began in Colorado and now has a presence in five other states, plans to introduce six locations to Las Vegas in the next few years.

Dick’s Last Resort has closed at Neonopolis in downtown Las Vegas, and has been replaced by another purposefully unfriendly novelty restaurant called Hammered Harry’s.

Mr. Moto’s, a San Diego pizzeria chain owned by Gibran Fernandez, will open its first shop in Las Vegas later this month at 9270 S. Rainbow Blvd.

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