I know the rule: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But does the rule apply if your greatest transgressions involved eating great food with great company?

Let me spill just the juicy details of the great food we ate on our recent rendezvous in Sin City.

Husband, Mark, and I and our oldest son, Dave, who lives in Austin, flew into Las Vegas to celebrate our youngest son, Cole’s, 21st birthday. Since he lives there, Cole was in charge of scoping out fun restaurants and attractions.

He planned a great itinerary filled with interesting eateries, hiking and amusement parks. Don’t worry, you can keep reading this aloud at the family dinner table. Nothing we did involved showgirls or waking up in strange hotel rooms with tigers and chickens. The highlights I will share are all family friendly and just good clean fun.

Our first stop was at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on the strip. With a slogan of “Just the right amount of wrong,” it seemed like the perfect place to begin our Vegas experience. Cole and his roommate, Parker, wanted to eat at the secret pizza parlor in the hotel. There are no signs to point the way, you simply have to know where to look. I’ll give you a hint — it’s on the third floor tucked away down a nondescript hallway to the left of the sushi bar.

It was Dave’s first visit to Las Vegas so we had to walk the strip at night to gawk at all the lights and people watch. The water show at Bellagio is still beautiful.

We spent a lot of time during the day and night in the downtown Fremont Street area, the old section of town, which is undergoing serious redevelopment. The brightest star of the rejuvenation is the Downtown Container Park. You can’t miss it — just look for the giant praying mantis at the front entrance. Old freight shipping containers have been converted into a village of shops, restaurants, galleries and businesses. It is bright, cheerful and a big hit with locals and visitors. There is a giant treehouse play structure with a 33-foot-tall slide that is fun for kids of all ages. Adults are welcome to play on it, too. The Container Park holds concerts, plays and other events.

Park on Fremonts Texas Tuxedo Bloody Mary was particularly tasty, according to Randall.

The Fremont area is hip and happening. Restaurants and galleries are opening and adding a freshness to the area. We particularly enjoyed eating at Park on Fremont. It’s one of Cole’s favorite spots. The food is great and the décor delightful. Be sure to check out the adult-sized teeter-totter behind the wall covered in antique plates. Both are cool. Other favorites include Commonwealth and Gold Spike, which, at the time we visited, featured an ice skating rink on its back patio, complete with warming fires and couches.

We ate delicious tapas at Firefly Tapas Bar.

Mark Randall takes in the beauty of Red Rock Canyon.

Don’t want to spend all your Vegas time in casinos? Get some fresh air at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. A visit to Vegas isn’t complete without hike at Red Rock.

Not everything that happens in Vegas has to stay in Vegas. In fact, Las Vegas folks are proud to share a lot of what is going on. One of the best tools I’ve found to keep up on restaurant news is the website Eater. They share food and entertainment news for most major cities, including Las Vegas and Portland. Learn more at or

What might be my favorite foods from our trip? Well, let’s just say that the Texas Tuxedo Bloody Mary at Park on Fremont is refreshing and packed with so many cucumbers, basil leaves and tomatoes it’s like eating a salad after you finish the drink. And I really enjoyed the tapas at Firefly, so you get recipes for a really good bloody Mary and tapas.

Bon Appetite! Make eating an adventure!

Texas Tuxedo Bloody Mary

Use Ciroc vodka, cucumber slices, basil leaves, grape tomatoes, bloody Mary mix and garnish with a cucumber slice and a basil leaf.

From Park on Fremont

Mother Pepa’s Garlic Shrimp

Makes 5 to 6 servings

This recipe is not from Firefly, but is staple at most tapas bars. Be sure to serve it with lots of bread to soak up the sauce.

— BR

3/4 pound small shrimp, shelled

Kosher or sea salt

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons amontillado (medium-dry) sherry

Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and let sit for 10 minutes. In a shallow casserole, preferably earthenware, heat the oil with the garlic and parsley until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the shrimp and stir until they are opaque. Add the sherry, salt to taste and cook over medium heat for a minute or two until the sherry evaporates and the sauce thickens slightly. Serve immediately, in the casserole.

From La Cocina de Mama

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 100, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter at @barbrandallfood.

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