A taste of Mexico is waiting downtown just a few blocks north of the Stratosphere on Main Street. Tucked away between the arts district and industrial buildings is Casa Don Juan. The family owned restaurant is committed to preparing traditional recipes from scratch.
I’ve dined at dozens of Mexican restaurants across the valley. Few offer authentic dishes that bring me back to my travels in Mexico. Most offer gringo fare like mildly seasoned tacos, burritos and fajitas. However, Lindo Michoacan, and Frank and Fina’s Cocina (Cochinita Pibil – yum!) are exceptions to the rule. I’m happy to report that Casa Don Juan also earns that distinction.
Last summer, friends introduced us to Casa Don Juan. It wasn’t the friendly service or home-like setting that won me over. It was the freshly handmade tortillas that did it. After one bite I was transported to memories of our meals in Mexico. Particularly, La Cueva del Chango, a charming eatery on the outskirts of Playa del Carmen. While on vacation I can’t get enough of their handmade tortillas, they are such a wonderful treat. Thankfully I’ve since learned I can get my fill at home between trips at Casa Don Juan.
My favorite dish is a house specialty, carnitas for two ($17.99). It comes with rice, beans, tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole and grilled jalapenos. The pork is succulent and savory. Toss a few chunks with toppings in a fresh corn tortilla and you’ll taste something truly special.
If pork isn’t your preference there are more than thirty lunch and dinner combinations from $8.99. Casa Don Juan is also known for its shrimp plates ($13.99-$16.99). They are well seasoned and nicely prepared. The enchiladas are notable ($8.99). The fresh corn tortillas make all the difference. The chile rellenos are also worth a mention, the batter is light and not at all soggy like I’ve often encountered at other valley restaurants. Recently, tamales have been added to menu. I sampled the pork tamale ($2.99) on our last visit. I know what I’ll be ordering in addition to the carnitas from now on. Muy bueno!
A large bar takes center stage at the restaurant. A wide variety of cocktails can be mixed and nice selection of cervezas are priced from three bucks. They also offer a number of fruity waters and milk shakes from $2.50, varieties include strawberry, papaya, mango, pineapple, watermelon, banana and cantaloupe.
You can expect evening entertainment from a strolling guitarist and each month there is a full on fiesta for First Fridays. If you need an excuse to make the haul downtown there is none better than a First Friday visit. For those unfamiliar, First Friday is a community festival that began in 2002. It takes place the first Friday of every month 6 pm -10 pm; $2 donation is appreciated. Art galleries, antique and thrift stores open their doors to crowds. Street vendors sell their wares and there is live entertainment. It’s a fun block party of sorts and Casa Don Juan is steps away from the heart of the event. The next First Friday is June 4, 2010. Check it out and grab dinner at Casa Don Juan, 1204 S. Main Street Las Vegas, Nevada 89104.