If you’ve ever wondered what authentic Mexican food really tastes like, here’s the place to get your comparison point. Even the name is authentic: Lindo Michoacán. This Las Vegas favorite is named in honor of its owner’s birthplace, “Michoacán”: one of the states of Mexico. Pronounced roughly, “mitch-wa-kan,” this “Beautiful Michoacán” restaurant delivers great food and great service—in fact, you just may leave feeling like family.
When we say “Las Vegas favorite,” we’re serious. The restaurant has been voted “The Best of Vegas” six years in a row in the Las Vegas Review-Journal poll, a designation they display happily on their menu, along with the words, “We take our cooking seriously,” and “gourmet Mexican cuisine.”
The restaurant (with four locations in Las Vegas), is owned by Javier Barajas and operated as a family affair under Barajas and his son, also Javier, the new Executive Chef and—to extend it even further—the chef’s twin sister, Stephanie, who handles much of the service side of the restaurant.
“When I first came to Vegas,” says the elder Barajas, “I worked for a Mexican restaurant. I put my attention on what people liked, how the service should be, and noticed we didn’t have it so good!” He continues, “I noticed the Mexican food was burritos and enchiladas. I said, ‘Something is wrong. We have more than burritos and enchiladas in Mexico!’”
So, he took the training that he had from cooking for the priests at a Seminary in Michoacán and put it to work. “My dream was to open a real Mexican restaurant. I wasn’t happy about the decor, either—we have more than the serape and the sombrero! So, now we have a very extensive menu and a showcase for very good artists from Michoacán,” he says.
Indeed, the decor is one of the many charming things about Lindo Michoacán. Everything on display is handmade, and shows the talents of specialized artists from the various small towns: wooden toys, pottery, copper pans, textiles, and more.
But the food really is the focus, from the tableside guacamole to the speciality margaritas, to the mole, to the Gallo al Conac™ (pictured, left). It’s a chicken breast pan-fried, sauteed in olive oil, lemon juice, mushrooms, a bit of sour cream, onions, and “my mom’s secret spices” plus a little cognac (and, yes, the spelling in the trademarked menu item is intentionally different).
The special chicken is just one of many tempting dishes—150-plus—on the menu. And, the mention of his mom is not unusual, either. Mom and Grandmother each featured heavily in the training of the two Javiers, and in the ongoing development of the menu.
“I learned some from my mother and father,” says the younger Javier, “but my grandmother—she’s the one that really taught me and my Dad. Every morning I’d come in and be prepped by her.”
He went on to Le Cordon Bleu, where, he says, “they taught me different cooking techniques and how to season well,” but the influence of his family remains the strongest. “I’m the third generation who just loves cooking in general,” he says with a grin.
The food is all made from scratch, right down to the tortillas. “We use good quality ingredients. We buy shrimp from the Gulf, and the meat we use is Choice,” says Chef Javier.
“Really good quality; that’s our secret. If a customer comes here and orders a steak, then goes to another restaurant . . . believe me, they are going to know the difference!”
The father and son also extol the virtues of their customer service. “The most important thing for me is for you to try it,” says Barajas. “Besides our food being delicious and the best, we have the best customer service. It’s our passion. We care about everyone who comes in. We are like one big family.”
That extends to the restaurant employees, some of whom have been with the restaurant since it opened.
While they get a lot of local business, the Barajas’ also say that repeat tourism traffic is something they count on—those customers who come back time after time whenever they are in Vegas (like the ones pictured, left, who make it their first stop before an annual convention every year). “Even the tourists are loyal,” says the senior Barajas. “They always come back.”
And, he says, that’s the difference that has helped them in a bad economy. “People go where they know it’s good. They are being smart with their money, and they are going to spend it where they know they’ll get quality.”
There’s more to this story, but you may have to visit Lindo Michoacán to get it (ask the elder Barajas about how he came to the United States, or the younger about his internship with Disney, for example). Or, just enjoy the atmosphere, the service, and the quality food.
Like the Carnitas (pictured, above). The margaritas and the fresh chips and dips (pictured, above). The Buey al Cilantro™. Camarones Sarandeados Estilo “Tia Esther™”. Or see what they have new on the menu, like the Shrimp a lo Mostaza that Chef Javier is planning right now. And, whatever you do, end with the flan—it’s melt-in-your-mouth fabulous.
Go ahead, try to get the recipe. As the chef says, “My Grandmother makes it. She won’t even tell me exactly how to do it!” After all, some things—even authentic family recipes—have to be earned.
See our Food Channel interview with Javier Barajas & our own Christen Nehmer, here.
See how to make Javier Barajas’ version of a Classic Margarita, here.
See Lindo Michoacán’s recipe for Salsa Verde, here.
This is a Raves & Faves Featured Restaurant.
Visit any of four locations in the Las Vegas area:
Lindo Michoacan Desert Inn
2655 E. Desert Inn Road
Las Vegas, NV. 89121
Lindo Michoacan West Flamingo
10082 West Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV. 89147
Lindo Michoacan Centennial
7870 West Tropical Parkway
Las Vegas, NV. 89149
Lindo Michoacan La Loma
645 Carnegie Street
Henderson, NV. 89052