California has beaches. That’s not something Nevada can claim, because you can’t surf on the shores of Lake Mead. So that’s one up for the Golden State. So what can Nevada lay claim to? Lots of things, of course, but the one I always think about when I travel to the edge of the continent is a simple one. Nevada has better taverns. When I go to L.A., which I do pretty often, I always miss the lovely availability of good food and drink at any hour of the day or night. Sure, SoCal has plenty of restaurants and plenty of bars, but not a single place that wraps both into one, 24 hours a day. The restaurants in L.A. all seem to close at nine, and the bars that stay open late don’t serve much in the way of food. So yes, they’ve got all that lovely sand and waves and vistas that stretch on out to tomorrow, but you’re stuck with schedule when it comes to getting a beer and a sit-down dinner at 2 a.m.
Imagine my delight to discover a place here in Henderson that offers some genuine SoCal ambience while also offering all the advantages of a Nevada-style tavern. Balboa Pizza, in The District at Green Valley Ranch (map) serves some mighty fine thin-crust pizza 24 hours a day. And pizza is only the beginning. The full menu includes salads, sandwiches, fish & chips, tacos, and, before I forget, an amazing variety of Buffalo wings. Lots of pizza choices, too, which means I’ll have to be back. Then the challenge will be forcing myself to order something besides the chicken and roasted garlic pizza, which I really think I could eat every day for the rest of time. The house salad was great, too—way better and bigger than most, with shredded mozzarella and pecans topped off with a nice smoky dressing.
Living up to its tavern status, Balboa has a full bar with nice draft beer selections including seasonal brews. The wine list, something that a lot of taverns don’t seem to pay much attention to, is decent here. And if you’re into video poker or watching sports, it’s all here too, surrounded by understated seaside décor and surfing mementos that will have you humming a Beach Boys tune without even realizing it.
Is it Balboa Island? Well, no, any more than New York New York is the Big Apple or the Venetian is really Venice. But like those other tributes to iconic places, Balboa Pizza takes you on a sweet virtual journey to its namesake as it serves you very real and delicious food and drink. It’s Nevada-style tavern dining at its best.