Visiting Vegas?  Are you looking for an off-Strip dining experience?  An old-school joint where locals congregate for a good meal, strong cocktails, a little gaming, and even dancing and live entertainment?  Well, in a nondescript strip mall on East Flamingo and Pecos, is Ichabod’s Lounge, where you’ll find good, hearty real-people food and drink - a true throwback to the restaurants I remember from my childhood.

As a kid, my Dad would take us to dinner at semi-fancy steak and seafood spots with names like The Golden Plough, or Victoria Station - a railroad themed eatery, created from refurbished train boxcars, where you entered through a genuine caboose, to find a space with dim lighting, plush banquettes, dark wood accents, and a gigantic all-you-can-eat salad bar.  Some of these restaurants had separate cocktail lounges, often hidden behind swinging doors with little diamond shaped windows.  I’d  hear people inside laughing and singing, and wonder what was happening in there that was so much FUN!  Ichabod’s Lounge transported me back to those days the moment I walked in!

I was accompanied by my friend Rhiannon - pin-up girl, plus-size model, and all around great gal!  We were greeted by an elegant woman in a black gown and escorted inside.  To one side was a glassed off section for non-smokers, the bar was to our left, with tables and chairs to the right and on the far side of the bar.  Directly in front of us was the piano bar and dance floor, bordered by a few more tables.  This was where we were seated.  There were a few adorable older married couples dancing and enjoying the music provided by Howie, the pianist, and Elisa, the vocalist.  We sat down and almost immediately, Shannon, our server was there to take drink orders while we studied the extensive menu.  We began with two nice, strong Lemon Drop Martinis, and chose a few appetizers to split.

First came the Fried Mac & Cheese Bites - crispy little nuggets filled with creamy macaroni and cheese, a bit too salty, perhaps, but still tasty and addictive.  We also had the Jalitos - fried, breaded jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese, which mellowed out the pepper’s natural heat.  Both dishes were served with house made Ranch dressing for dipping and were definitely guilty pleasure foods!  The kitchen also sent out a little bonus; the classic Shrimp Cocktail.  Fresh, cold, and sweet, served with house made cocktail sauce, those jumbo shrimp were gone in a flash!  Then came the Steamers - two pounds of Littleneck clams swimming in a delicious broth, and served with garlic toast.  And while I was expecting the plumper Ipswich clams that I know as steamers, the Littlenecks were fresh and meaty, and the broth was fantastically garlicky.  We considered asking for more bread for sopping up the extra broth!  Clearly someone in the kitchen loved garlic, and we loved him for it!

As we worked on our appetizers, Howie and Elisa provided pleasant musical accompaniment; light country pop tunes like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou.”  I must confess I sang along a bit, having worked for years in piano bars, and when Howie found out I had been in a Doo-wop group years ago, he gave us a couple of fun 50’s songs: “Why Do Fools Fall In Love, “ and “Da Doo Run Run.”

Shannon brought out our main courses; the 14 oz.Choice Rib-Eye Steak for Rhiannon - flame broiled, tender and juicy, the steak had a lovely caramelization on the outside, while the inside was done to a perfect medium pinkness.  Seasoned just right, it needed no steak sauce or condiment of any sort - perfect just the way it was!  Served with a side of fresh broccoli and a steaming hot baked potato, it seemed a perfect old-school meal.  I opted for one of their daily specials: the Blackened Snapper - a firm, dense piece of fish, coated in Cajun seasonings, and lightly grilled, the subtly delicious spices never overpowered the flavor of the snapper.  I was also curious to try one of the pasta dishes, so Shannon had a side order of the Shrimp Scampi Pasta sent out.  The linguine was done to a nice al dente consistency, and the shrimp, while just a tad undercooked, were still highlighted nicely by the buttery sauce of garlic, lemon, herbs, and dry white wine - overall, a strong, irresistible scampi.

Finally, Shannon brought out two desserts for us to sample: the Tiramisu - yummy layers of espresso-soaked lady fingers, cocoa, and a creamy mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese.  While the coffee flavor was strong, it never overshadowed the sweeter ingredients, making it a beautifully balanced dessert.  We also tried the Limoncello Mascarpone Cake - a lighter than air sponge cake made with the traditional lemony Italian digestif, a creamy mascarpone filling, and topped with shaved white chocolate.  A perfect not-too-sweet ending to a fantastic meal!

There is so much to like about Ichabod’s Lounge.  From the old-school Vegas atmosphere, to the varied menu, to the charming entertainers in the piano bar, Rhiannon and I enjoyed it all.  Ichabod’s is family owned and operated, and indeed, we felt like family when we were there - the staff were all warm and welcoming.  They’re also open 24 hours, so whether you’re craving breakfast, lunch, dinner, a late night bite, or just some good strong cocktails, Ichabod’s Lounge will be able to accommodate you.

And yes, the place is named after Ichabod Crane, from Washington Irving’s “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow.”  So if you want a Vegas experience that’s unlike anything on the Strip, don’t lose your head!  Just head on over to Ichabod’s Lounge.