By: Bob Barnes
In June, Gabi’s Gorditas opened on Blue Diamond Rd. just west of Decatur in the burgeoning area of southwest Las Vegas.
After losing a cousin to cancer, Alfredo “Freddie” Delatorre was inspired to develop a menu of healthy food via a Mexican staple he remembered enjoying as a child growing up in Texas and during trips to Mexico: the gordita.
Spanish for chubby, a gordita is somewhat like a cross between a pita and a taco—a small pastry a bit thicker than a tortilla, that’s cut open and filled with ingredients and then eaten much like a taco.
For the most part, the recipes are derived from Freddie’s grandma and mom and the menu offers seven gordita options, such as tinga de pollo with chicken brined for 24 hours; picadillo, a house blend of beef and pork; and the vegetarian Peruvian beans with oven dried tomato and caramelized plantains and rajas con queso with roasted poblano and queso panela (both of which come in vegan versions).
Your gordita comes with a handful of “chicharrones de harina,” a healthier alternative to potato chips which are actually crunchy air-fried flour chips.
For dessert, the ube pudding is a must-try: It’s a combination of ube (a purple yam), local honey, agave Greek yogurt, toasted coconut and pickled blueberries, utilizing all-natural sweeteners and no added sugar which can also be ordered as a shake called purple haze.
The beverages are unique as well, with house-made mint lemonade and hibiscus green tea, and seasonal water—a low calorie drink with no sweeteners added, obtaining its sweetness from the juice of the seasonal fruits.
Freddie’s previous work experiences prepared him well to be a small business owner. After working as a GM at eateries that ranged from casual to fine dining including Public House at The Venetian, his last position before opening Gabi’s was as a hands-on GM at Sharkey’s across the street, where he was tasked to do a bit of everything. Now as an owner, he finds himself cleaning the bathrooms, washing up in the kitchen and basically stepping in to do anything that needs to be done.
The room is decorated with colorful faux tile wallpaper, pressed repurposed wood walls, a definition of gordita on the front window and “I Love Gorditas” in red neon encased in a frame on the wall. The name is a tribute to Freddie’s sister Gabi, who he describes as his best friend, and the restaurant’s logo is a likeness of her.
Conceived during the height of the pandemic, the fast casual restaurant was designed to be mainly takeout for the safety of guests, and although there is a small dining area inside, also available is QSR ordering and curbside pickup. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu. and Sun., and till 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
5095 Blue Diamond Rd. #110, Las Vegas, NV 89139 …702-689-0941…gabisgorditas.com
Chef Bruce Kalman Nailing It at Soulbelly BBQ
Top Chef, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay alumnus and James Beard-nominated Chef Bruce Kalman worked at prestigious kitchens in NJ, NYC, Chicago and became known for his time at and ownership of L.A.’s Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market and Pasadena’s UNION. Now he’s gracing Las Vegas with his talents and earlier this year opened Soulbelly BBQ, his first Las Vegas restaurant. When asked about venturing from fine dining to BBQ he explained it stemmed from a catering job for Dave Grohl that led to a friendship and several backyard barbeques with the Foo Fighters frontman. Chef added that his friendship with local chef James Trees (owner of Esther’s Kitchen and Al Solito Posto) helped convince him to move to Las Vegas and also to venture further into BBQ.
Sandwiched in between local breweries Nevada Brew Works and HUDL Brewing in the heart of the Downtown Arts District, the restaurant is set in a former automotive garage and the décor features murals by local artists showcasing Queen of Texas BBQ Tootsie Tomanetz and musicians Koko Taylor and Buddy Guy and a rustic environment with tables, benches and bartop made from reclaimed wood. Another focal part of the room is a stage with a legit sound system where local bands play two to three nights a week.
The menu includes smoker dishes salt & pepper brisket, Carolina pulled pork, chipotle cider glazed drumsticks, pork spare ribs, pork & cheddar hot links and Texas sausages; sides such as corn casserole (chef’s mother’s recipe!), mac and cheese with chicharrón breadcrumbs, Frito pie and collard greens; and desserts including housemade banana pudding and an appropriately named ooey gooey cookie bar.
As for beverages to complement the excellent BBQ, I can’t think of a better option than beer, and there’s plenty of it here. In addition to a bevy of brews from local breweries including Big Dog’s, CraftHaus, Lovelady and Tenaya Creek, there’s a beer brewed just for Soulbelly right next door at HUDL. Called Charred & Shifty, it’s a 6% American amber ale aged with ash—slivers of oak chips supplied by Kalman from a Garrison Brothers bourbon barrel soaked in bourbon—which I found to be an excellent companion to chef’s phenomenal BBQ offerings.
Soulbelly is open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
1327 S Main Street, Las Vegas, NV 89104…702-483-4404… www.soulbellybbq.com