Michael Mina’s Pub 1842 at MGM Grand

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Las Vegas is an ever changing culinary landscape, the newest and hottest trends sweeping aside established restaurants in the name of progress and the mad pursuit of customers.   The current hot trend is the gastro-pub featuring beer, innovative twists on burgers and a casual upbeat environment and has all the chefs in Vegas jumping to create the newest burger joint.   Chef Micheal Mina, who has long been known for his fine dining offerings, has jumped into the scene with his newly opened restaurant, Pub 1842.  Opened in late June at the MGM Grand, Pub 1842 is Michael Mina’s replacement of two of his restaurants that were closed at MGM – Nobhill Tavern and SeaBlue.

Pub 1842 is definitely a burger and beer joint, but with some definite roots in Chef Mina’s refined dining background. Named after 1842, the year that Pilsner was first made, the atmosphere of the restaurant also embodies the feel of a Scottish Pub with plaid booths, dark wood paneling, butcher block tables and dim intimate lighting. A large central bar dominates the main dining room, the taps making no bones about Pub 1842’s true focus: Beer.  Humorous beer related quotes such as “Beer, making babies since 1842” adorn the menu, placemats and coasters.  Cool bar tables with a self serve beer tap in the middle of the table kept lots of patrons enjoying lots o f beer.  Good reviews by various publications and a nice preview writeup by one of the writers for famed Vegas food critic John Curtis’s Eating Las Vegas website had us excited to try Pub 1842.

We were to meet up with friends who were in Vegas for the first time for a quick lunch. Our friends are fairly new to the whole Vegas scene and asked us where a good place to meet would be. Fresh off a fantastic experience the night before at Chef Mina’s American Fish and knowing that our friends love beer, we suggested trying Pub 1842.   We were able to make reservations for four on Open Table, and upon our arrival we were able to be seated quickly.   We were taken into one of the small rooms off of the main dining room which featured two of the self serve beer taps and a couple of booths along the wall.  Water was served in a pint mason jar and the cocktail and one page lunch menu were provided soon after.  We settled on a few appetizers to share amongst the table, choosing the Crab Louie Deviled Eggs and the 1842 Nachos.

Having heard much buzz on Vegas sites about Pub 1842 and its great cocktails, I was very interested in trying out a few of the cocktails.   Mrs. Nom selected the Nacho Libre, while I picked the Heist.  The Nacho Libre features tequila,ruby port, fresh lime and a spritz of ginger beer.  Served in a tall glass with a parsley garnish, the beautiful red of the port making for a striking purplish red cocktail.  Fruity with a sharp acid bite of the lime, the ginger beer adding a light effervescence to make the Nacho Libre very refreshing.

My cocktail, the Heist, was a modern twist on a classic bourbon punch.   Made with Bulleit bourbon, vanilla, fresh lemon juice, and a strawberry pepper syrup, the Heist was wonderful balance of smoke and sweet.  The real star of the drink was the strawberry pepper syrup, sweet and fruity with a undercurrent of spice, the pepper picking up the bite of the bourbon for a classic punch cocktail.   Typically I will try more than one kind of cocktail at a place, but the Heist was such a great cocktail I ended up ordering a second one.

So far our dining experience is rolling along smoothly, the cocktails and cold beer helping the conversation lively. Our appetizers arrived shortly after the cocktails, the 1842 Nachos being served on a metal cookie sheet, the Crab Louie Deviled Eggs on a bed of leaf lettuce.  Two classic pub dishes served in classic pub fashion, the real twist is the layered bold flavors of these two appetizers.

Our dining partner Jeff chose the Crab Louie Deviled Eggs because as he stated “I love deviled eggs, and throw in Maryland Blue Crab? How can you go wrong?” I totally agree with that premise, as I personally love deviled eggs and Maryland blue crabs are one of my favorite kinds of seafood.  The plate features a serving of 3 egg halves,  the filling of the eggs rich and smooth with small chunks of crab, smoked paprika and fresh dill. The filling was piled high on the eggs, and the amount of crab was generous. The eggs were a solid dish, better than your average bar food but I felt a bit overpriced for the amount that you get (only three halves?  What happened to the other half?)

The 1842 Nachos was the favorite dish of the whole table.   Thick yellow corn chips smothered in melted cheddar, pickled fresno peppers, sour cream and chili were highlighted by a roasted sweet corn relish.   The chili was smoky and boldly spicy with big chunks of meat that had to be eaten with a fork. The pickled peppers had a slow burn that slowly builds up on the back of your throat. The roasted sweet corn relish gave a bright sweet note that helped to counter the heat from the peppers.  Satisfyingly sloppy, we found ourselves cleaning the whole cookie sheet. Its a good thing that the server let us enjoy the crumbs, because it was as this point our meal ran into a major speed bump and our quick lunch turned into a very long lunch.

While waiting for our appetizers, all of us had studied the menu and all four of us settled on burgers.  Figuring this would be a pretty simple order seeing how Pub 1842’s specialty is burgers, we placed our order and happily noshed on our nachos. Soon the nachos and deviled eggs were gone, another round of cocktails and beer came and went and still no burgers. For that matter, our server seemed to have disappeared.   Twenty five minutes after our order had been placed (Mrs. Nom being a former restaurant service manager can’t help but notice little details like timing!) and we find our table is a barren wasteland of empty plates and even worse dry alcohol glasses!   Finally our server wanders up to the table, mentions that there is a bit of a delay on the food, but “its going to be right out.”   She managed to refill the waters, but failing her mission of selling more beer or cocktails to us, she flits off.  Another 10 minutes pass with no food in sight, and we notice the table of six guys next to us is looking disgusted.  They had ordered before we had even been seated, they too were low on beer and had not received their food order either.  We overheard their server mention that the food was a bit delayed but would be right out, but this group of guys had evidently waited far to long, as they said to cancel it, tossed a few bucks on the table and left.  Now I may not be a professional restauranteur, but it seems to me a bunch of guys in their late 20’s drinking lots of beer is like printing money for a pub, so failing to keep the glasses full and get food out quickly to them is watching lots of money walk out the door.

Mrs. Nom at this point started mentioning that she was surprised that no managers had even stopped by to see how any of the tables around us were doing.   Servers seemed disorganized and somewhat confused by the delay that seemed to be kitchen related.  We noticed food was trickling out, but it all seemed to be appetizers and not entrees.  Perhaps the entree section of the kitchen wandered into the weeds and self immolated, but it is still no excuse for the travesty that occurred during one of the prime times for a Las Vegas restaurant. Finally after three visits from our server promising food, and a grand total of 1 hour and 10 minutes after placing our burger order, our food finally arrived.

While looking at the burgers, we all had settled on the smoked bacon cheeseburger, peanut butter crunch burger, or the 1842 burger.   Our friends both chose the Smoked Bacon Cheeseburger, Mrs. Nom the 1842 Burger and I ordered the Peanut Butter Crunch Burger. When we ordered our server did not ask us how we wanted our burgers cooked, which was surprising and ended up being foreshadowing for the resulting burgers.    After the long wait for our food, we were somewhat anxious to try the burgers.  My burger arrived cooked well done, the bun feeling slightly toasted and stale.   Mrs. Nom’s burger was the perfect example of inconsistency, one side cooked medium, the other side almost raw enough to moo.

All of Pub 1842’s burgers are about 1/3 to 1/2 pound burgers made from American Waygu beef, served in a basket with a pile of thin cut fries seasoned with herbs. The Peanut Butter Crunch Burger comes with a smear of peanut butter on the bun, ruffles potato chips and finished with a bacon jam spread.  A dill pickle and a pepper top the bun, which was slightly more firm than your average burger bun.  My burger was overcooked, so was far less juicy than I expected.  I wanted more peanut butter taste, expecting the sweetness of the peanut butter to pair with the salty bacon burger.  Instead I felt the bacon jam overpowered the peanut butter and when combined with the potato chips, it felt a bit salty.  Overall it was fairly unremarkable, especially when compared with the awesome burger we had from Burger Bar just a few days earlier.

Mrs. Nom’s 1842 Burger came topped with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, blue cheese and a truffle aioli.  Like my peanut butter crunch burger, a dill pickle spear and pepper top the bun.   The burger had a nice char on part of the burger, that if it had been consistent across the entire burger, would have been really nice, but alas the burger was raw on half of it, so Mrs. Nom did not finish her burger.   The onions had a nice sweetness that paired well with the sauteed mushrooms, but the truffle aioli seemed to have gone to the same place as our non-existent server, so one of the potentially most appealing part of the 1842 Burger turned out to be a big disappointment.

The check arrived at our table miraculously quick when compared with the wait for our food, and we paid.  For the price that was charged, the food was mediocre to average with the exception of the nachos, which is surprising for a chef with the reputation of Michael Mina.  The service was abysmal, management was non responsive and is a serious disappointment for a place with as much potential as Pub 1842 could have.

Pub 1842

Atmosphere: 3.5/5 – Cool tartan booths, beer tap pub tables are an awesome idea.

Service: 1/5 – Worst hands down we have had in Las Vegas.

Food Quality: 2.5/5 – Lots of inconsistency with the kitchen quality.  Nachos were awesome, the rest was pretty pedestrian / below average

Taste: 2.5/5 – Lots of awesome sounding combinations on the menu, but flavors were missing or muted.

Value: 1.5/5 –  Over priced for the quality and quantity, even for Vegas.   $18 for a burger that isn’t cooked properly is just wrong.

Overall: 2.5/5 – Cocktails were amazing and right on point.  The 1842 Nachos were awesome.  Everything else is just meh.  I would expect to find this kind of food and lack of execution at a mall food court, not at a big time Las Vegas resort.  Heck, I had a meal from Wendy’s the other day that was far more superior than the burgers at Pub 1842, and I only spent $20 bucks for four!

 

 

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