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Titan Brands VP of Operations named Restauranteur of the Year

On November 8th 2012, our own Operations Manager Michael Jasilewicz Jr. (“MJ”) was awarded the “Restaurateur of the Year” award by the Nevada Restaurant Association for his overall contribution in the hospitality industry.

By MJ’s own words, this is absolutely a team effort: “The people I work with who make my job easy… our family at Hussong’s Cantina, Slice of Vegas Pizza and Titan Brands, we did this together.”

Many reasons for why this is a tremendous honor. Let’s start with the most obvious few: an accredited association recognizing the efforts of our team member and acknowledgement by peers being at the top of that list.

Beyond these reasons, and without taking any importance away from those, we have our on list of why this award means a lot to all of us.

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From Left: Tony Cordovana, Slice of Vegas General Manager; Susan Perkins, Hussong’s Las Vegas General Manager; Scott Frost, Titan Brands President & Founder; Noe Alcala, Titan Brands Corporate Chef; Michael Jasilewicz, Titan Brands VP of Operations & Founder; Brian Mangino, Titan Brands Operations Manager & Founder; Natalie Gula, Titan Brands Events Coordinator; Kim Repetti, Titan Brands Financial Controller.

First off, Titan’s path wasn’t straight forward, or made easy by family wealth, lucky timing or really, much of “lucky” anything. We are grateful to each and every investor from the big ones to the small ones, grateful to those who believed in our potential and our talents. Every building brick of Titan’s properties have been fought for, handled and laid with extreme effort, dedication, labor and discipline. There were several personal challenges including but not limited to the most severe one, Scott Frost’s dirt bike accident; there have been arguments, battles, let downs and disappointments, but mainly, there have been plain hard work filled days. All through this, we have been committed to upholding moral codes, honoring few simple rules and acting according to our core values. Recognition of this caliber validates not only our blood and sweat, but also our strength and faith in ourselves and the direction we chose.

Second, who are we kidding – Titan Brands was the under dog in the line up of nominees, and who doesn’t love a good under dog story? Titan, although undoubtfully an accomplished management company with a great deal of success, still younger than many companies up for the award. Our list of currently operated restaurants is, well – briefer. With a strategic focus on casual concepts, our resume is absent of the sexiness, loudness and extravaganza, often connected with steep but short term profits. And yet, none of this ever served as an excuse to compromise our values – good quality of food, great service and – the most noteworthy reason this award warms our hearts: employee happiness.

Employee happiness is a long-term investment. Its lack of instant return is why many companies choose to ignore it or somewhere down the road abandon it as their core value. Titan didn’t and will not.

We live and work in a city whose lights are often in stark contrast to its own residents’ emotional states. The money made, invested and played with, could easily fill up the Mojave desert. Side by side with all tourists busy forgetting about their real lives, are hard working people with sadly too real of lives, with normal problems like broken down cars, sick children, heartbreaks and losses much more serious than roulette money. These realities though are not welcome in the fun lights of the Vegas night. Employees in these lit-up, energy buzzing buildings become shadows with seemingly irrelevant stories, unfit as a backdrop for everyone’s personal Hangover movie.

On a daily basis, MJ chooses to make these stories (and their characters) not only relevant, but also heard. Through providing each working family member with a sense of belonging and purpose, positive work environment and integrity in the work place, he’s built a dedicated and hard working team. He’s made it his goal to share this skill and mindset with all managers working under the Titan Brands umbrella; he’s also learning much from his staff and his partners. On any given day (some are harder, some easier) MJ is striving to live out his motto: “Be the difference you wish to see in the world.”

As a testament how well he’s done at this, this family comprised of Husssong’s, Slice of Vegas and Titan Brands employees and partners, has chosen to re-pay him the favor and took the actual step of submitting him for a nominee of the Restaurateur of the Year, voluntarily sharing genuine words about the impact MJ has made.

The fact that the Nevada Restaurant Association chose to recognize this as one the greatest successes a man can achieve is remarkable and a more optimistic forecast for Las Vegas than any anticipated economic upturn.

Congratulations to MJ!

With gratitude and pride,
The Titan Brands team.


World Vegan Month in Las Vegas

For some it’s a choice, for others a moral issue and for some it’s simply a health concern. Either way, the option to dine out as vegan, vegetarian or gluten free is not always so simple.

I grew up in Boston, MA with a firm belief in the All-American steak and potatoes diet that would make us all big and strong. We had eggs and bacon for breakfast, turkey breast for lunch and steak tips or spaghetti with meatballs for dinner. And how could I forget the meatloaf. Just like the Brady Bunch, we had our fair share of ground beef. My better half grew up in Eastern Europe where the four-course meal consisted of pork tenderloin, sausage, potatoes and a side of sausage. Needless to say, we were both bred to eat meat. How could we ever consider diverting from everything we were told? Anything without meat was bland and tasted like cardboard. To not eat meat was sacrilege.

I have been in the restaurant business my entire life. When someone would come in and say they were vegan or vegetarian, a server would just roll their eyes and the kitchen would scream profanities in frustration. Now I understand the kitchen’s annoyance. They were taught to cook with butter, milk, sour cream, lard, and the list goes on. You want a good steak? Cook it in butter. You want good toast? Slather it in butter. You all know what I mean. I was taught the same thing. But the world has changed, and so are the offerings of the food we eat.

Human beings have been using herbs and spices for eons. They not only enhance flavors, but they are vital in a healthy diet. When mixed with vegetables, legumes and fruit, a meal becomes robust and tantalizing. You feel full but not bloated. I personally feel great and energized. It was an experience I did not expect. All I had known about eating vegan or anything close was that it was tasteless. Snacks tasted like cardboard and everyone I saw that was vegan looked emaciated and unhealthy. That was all I really knew. After some exposure to new ideas, it was time to learn more.

Our journey together began approximately 3 years ago. As the years rolled by, we began eating less meat. It didn’t seem like it was by choice. It just kind of started removing itself from our meals. What once was the cornerstone of our protein rich diet was quickly becoming the furthest thing from our minds. We began learning that protein is found in many renewable resources such as beans, quinoa and broccoli to name a few. On their own, they may sound boring, but with the proper concoction, the flavors were explosive!

I have been blessed with an amazing woman in my life. She keeps me alive. While living on very little, she would make meals that were just amazing and nutrient rich. She would take classics she knew how to make and challenge herself to convert them to taste just as good or better and remove all animal product from them. The result was almost always just great food that anyone would like. Even her Eastern European family has been treated to her meals, and to their surprise, it was GOOD!

We continued to learn about the different options. It didn’t sound easy, but we were considering removing all animal products from our diets, but we loved cheese and baguette. Brie cheese and grapes? Mmmm! We enjoyed pizza and sandwiches. We loved baked potatoes with sour cream, butter and chives. It wasn’t going to be easy. Then we saw a movie called Forks Over Knives, and we decided to give a plant based diet a shot after learning about the connection between animal proteins and cancer cells. We call ourselves vegans instead of having to explain our motivations all the time. We enjoy honey, beer and wine (often not considered “vegan” items), but we avoid all products that are derived from anything with a face. No meat, poultry, fish or dairy. We avoid fake sweeteners, high processed food, high fructose corn syrup and anything with ingredients we can’t pronounce. It’s tough. HFCS is in everything, but we avoid it like the plague. There’s a lot we choose not eat, but contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot we can.

We used to really enjoy dining out. The experience of trying new concoctions and a great bottle of wine was just so fun. It has been a part of our lives for the last 20 years. But after making the decision to change our eating habits, dining outside of our home wasn’t so fun anymore. We got a few eye rolls from servers, but mostly, everyone’s options are a salad of some sort. After creating what was possible at home, we knew better, and we wanted to affect change.

Fortunately, I’m in a position to affect change. Diners who are vegan, vegetarian or gluten free are almost 10% of diners and they deserve to have more choices than just a salad. We have just started the process, but I am proud to say we have options that few people offer. At Hussong’s Cantina we offer vegan Mexican rice and beans as well as vegan burritos, quesadillas and tacos to name a few. At Slice of Vegas Pizza you can get a vegan pizza with Daiya cheese, a vegan burger, vegan Panini, gluten free pasta among the options. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In November of 2012, in honor of World Vegan Month, we are launching menus that have numerous options. This is not only to honor vegans. It’s also to create awareness that things can taste good and be healthy alternatives to what we’ve been eating our entire lives.

We are vegan hybrids that still enjoy life and try to avoid synthetic foods. We believe in fresh healthy alternatives, and so do our chefs. In honor of a month dedicated to those who choose or have no choice to be vegan, vegetarian or gluten free, try the new alternative and be surprised. Who knows, maybe there’s a vegan hybrid inside you. At least you can say you tried it.

Live-Love-Eat,

MJ


Hussong’s Happy Hour; don’t miss our most popular appetizer for only $4!



Camarón a la Diabla; so spicy you need a Bulldog with it!


Craving some spice today!? Enjoy our weekly special, sautéd shrimp covered in our house A la Diabla sauce. Served with a torta crostini along side a cauliflower pure, sauté bok choy and white rice, for $18. And since it's Thursday (Bulldog's on special for $13) and you will probably feel the kick of the Devil from these shrimp, don't leave here without a Bulldog to kill your thirst after this meal!


Hussong’s Enters its 3rd Year Stronger, Smarter and More United

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This past week Hussong’s Cantina Las Vegas marked the beginning of its third year of successful operation. Unlike our first anniversary, we celebrated our second birthday quietly and without a party. In no way does this mean we are less proud of the progress and accomplishments our staff and management showed in 2011. It’s in fact the other way around. We’ve been so busy working hard and maintaining the levels of performance established that we just worked right through our own second birthday!

2011 was a great year for Hussong’s. After some initial clean up, we stabilized our operations, improved our food, remodeled our kitchen, increased sales, had fun with the marketing, added a whole new line of retail and made adjustment in the food and beverage product. All for the better. Most prominently though, 2011 was a people year.

Our Hussong’s family grew strong and our family bond was strengthened in our second year. While we were working on the business, we constantly reminded ourselves to follow our core values and continued to treat others as we would like to be treated. We believe all team members should share in the rewards so we took the opportunity to create teams consisting of both back of house and front of house family members. The teams competed against one in another in sales and attendance contests.  Teams were eligible to win weekly and monthly competitions. All winners enjoyed a month long fiesta resulting in the sharing of cash prizes, camping gear and 2 hours of go-cart racing at Pole Position. Guided by our core values, we stood by our family when it got tough, and in most cases, we were rewarded with the most loyal team members we could ever wish for. We welcomed new additions to our team whom, within no time at all, fit in perfectly. Among these new hires is our General Manager of four months, Susan Perkins.

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"The Three Amigos" - GM Susan, Front Manager JD & Stephanie (from top to bottom)

Susan has been working without sleep since she’s been hired, but since she’s a Fem-bot, this doesn’t present any issues. At times, upon following the sounds of rhythmic banging, we find her in the walk-in cooler and discover (as we feared) that the banging is her head hitting the wall. She calls this her stay-cool-chi practice. For the most part, Susan maintains her sense of humor about her new role and handles her responsibilities with relentless warrior like focus and determination. We thank her for that, and we are thankful that she chose to become a member of our elite fighting force. You never want to be opposing a Fem-bot. Susan wasn’t the only change in our management ranks.

2011 saw the rise of JD from server to manager. It is always a proud moment to see your children grow up. JD has been learning his new position and progressing nicely, proving that promoting from the inside has major advantages. We are looking forward to doing more of that this coming year, and also thank JD for all his hard work.

Our management team wouldn’t be complete without our most recent hire, Stephanie. Stephanie has become a part of our family, and we feel lucky having such a responsible and dedicated manager.  She completes The Three Amigos in front of house management. She’s also tall. We like that. (Since it’s only been few months since Stephanie got hired, we will report on her coping mechanisms as we learn more about them. We hope they won’t involve the walk in cooler. It might get a little crowded there.)

Overall, our team has shown tremendous growth and we couldn’t be prouder. We thank all of our workers for riding the ups and downs with us and continuing to work hard as a team. It isn’t always easy, but it surely always rewarding. The steps we took together towards higher standards and better performance in 2011 have now become automatic. This allows us to continue to raise the bar and challenge Hussong’s team members further. Constant challenge is a way to guarantee progress and not only better our services and product (which benefit our customers). Constant challenge also ensures individual growth of our employees, and that is one of our goals for 2012. Besides efforts towards service improvements, which we believe begin with happy and stable employees, we worked on our food and made some great improvements in this department.

Chef Noe and Sous Chef Jesus worked on many changes to our menu in the last year. We all agree that our dishes selection and consistency is still a work in progress as we continue to receive the plethora of opinions and feedback from our guests. Trying to reflect on all the suggestions we receive, without losing our own identity and the “Hussong’s touch” continues to be the biggest challenge we face. During our table visits with our customers, reading review website posts and sorting through comment cards, we patiently and openly welcome and weigh all feedback. We then make changes where a collective consensus is reached, while staying consistent with the definition of our brand. Please continue to share your thoughts and ideas with us, while keeping in mind that the most helpful comments are the honest, specific and constructive ones. The difference between: “I didn’t like this.” vs. “The soup was too salty for me.” is that the latter we can use and apply to wards a positive change.

Involving our customers in the evolution process is what we enjoy the most about this industry. But we are not mind readers (yet. Mind reading is also one of our goals for 2012).

Chef Noe congratulates one of our staff member during our Christmas party.

And last but not least, besides taking mind reading workshops, what will we do with ourselves in 2012?

Well, although it sounds boring, it will be more of the same. We want to continue to push our own limits and certainly continue to improve our services and our product. It is truly with great pride that we do what we do. We are proud to prepare meals for you, we are happy to serve you great drinks and provide you with a fun, laid back environment where you can enjoy your friends and family and have some laughs. Not everyday do we manage to perform these responsibilities to perfection but every day we try our hardest. Just like Scott Frost, Titan president and partner of Hussong’s Cantina Las Vegas.

Since being paralyzed in May 2009, Scott has taken small but fully committed steps towards perfecting his vision. At the grand opening, Scott personified our dedication to perseverance by taking 18 steps from the front door of Hussong’s to a seat at the bar. Just like Scott, we know where we are going. Some days are easier to get there than others, but there is no giving up. We have learned that our journey is what we make it, and we choose it to be enjoyable. We choose to work beside worthwhile people. The very people that support us in who we are and work together towards achieving our goals. This includes both our customers and Hussong’s family. We want to thank you all for an amazing second year. Please come raise your glasses with us, welcoming our third year and drink to many, many more years to come.

Salud!


We Added New Flavors to Menu Favorites!

A twist on taste brings new spice to Hussong’s Baja meets Mexican-American dishes

 LAS VEGAS—Hussong’s Cantina & Taqueria reinvents its sizzle with new flavors that expose diners to Baja’s best. Executive Chef Noe Alcala continues to create classic Mexican-American dishes and authentic Baja street fare that diners can enjoy in a fun and casual atmosphere.

Grilled Corn Plazero, a Must at Hussong's Cantina!

Hussong’s tasty yet affordable menu allows guests to start their night off with a selection of traditional appetizers with an original twist including cult favorite Plazero Grilled Corn, which is lightly brushed with mayo-butter and given a healthy sprinkle of cotija cheese and chili flakes, and Ceviche Baja Style with fresh shrimp marinated in lime and jalapeno and served in a Baja mix of cucumber, red onions, tomatoes and cilantro. The Guacamole Mango/Habanero is Hussong’s signature guacamole enhanced with mango, sundried tomatoes and Habanero peppers.

Our newest appetizer addition, mango-habanero guacamole with sundried tomatoes!

Delving into the heart of the menu, Hussong’s features simple and authentic entrees. These include the Carnitas Platter, charred Ensenada style carnitas finished with a citrus soda glaze, placed over fajitas veggie mix, topped with Habanero pickled onions and served with corn tortillas, rice and beans;

Carnitas Platter at Hussong's Cantina

Delicious, charred, perfect texture, juicy carnitas platter.

Mixed Plate Tacos gives guests a foursome of street tacos stuffed with the choice of protein on fresh corn tortillas, flour tortillas or lettuce shells, topped with pico de gallo and Mexican white cheese and served with a side of homemade Mexican rice and borracho beans;  Grilled Salmon is finished with a honey chipotle glaze and served over roasted garlic red potatoes and sautéed vegetable spaghetti. The Huarache, a tenderized flap steak atop a crispy tortilla and borracho beans and topped with layers of chile negro salsa, Chimichurri, pico de gallo, cotija chesse, sour cream and lettuce-cabbage, is a unique dish that gives 10% of sales to Fast-Aid, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support for teams and their families and give support and assistance to injured racers to complete a thorough recovery and rehabilitation from motor sports racing incidents.

Grilled Salmon with Yummy Garlic Potatoes

Grilled Salmon with Yummy Garlic Potatoes

For dessert, guests can indulge in Fried Ice Cream, dulce de leche ice cream breaded with panko and served with fruit pico de gallo and a tomatillo salsa or Dessert Nachos made of fried flour tortillas coated with a sugar/cinnamon mix, drizzled with condensed milk and chocolate sauce, topped with a fruit pico de gallo and finished with a touch of whipping cream, strawberry and mint leaf.

The margarita was invented at Hussong’s in Ensenada and the Las Vegas location would not be complete without the Original Margarita, made of Azul Reposado 100% Blue Agave Tequila, Triple Sec, freshly Squeezed lime juice and Agave Nectar, which has never been known to disappoint. Another house favorite is the El Pepino Margarita, a combination of Milagro Silver 100% Blue Agave Tequila, Triple Sec, fresh sweet and sour and Gran Marnier.

Although a strip dining destination, Hussong’s also caters to Las Vegas locals with 20% off from 11pm to 4pm daily.

 


Hussong’s Cantina & Taqueria Celebrates Dia de los Muertos

The traditional Mexican holiday brings themed cocktails, food specials and fun to Hussong’s

LAS VEGAS—Hussong’s Cantina & Taqueria will host creepy cocktails, food specials and the Most Interesting Painted Skull Contest in a weekend-long celebration of Dia de los Muertos. The Day of the Dead holiday is celebrated in Mexico for family and friends to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have passed away.

Food and beverage specials will be offered Thursday, October 27 through Monday, October 31 including: Dos Equis pitchers for $18 and Don Julia Blackberry Margaritas served in a skull for $9.95. The Oaxacan style Turkey Tamale, a Mexican dish topped with silky traditional black mole, chile ancho, sour cream, queso fresco, broccoli sprouts and cabbage salad, served with a saffron rice and double fried white beans will be available for $14.95.

The Most Interesting Painted Skull contest will take place on Sunday, October 30. Paint supplies and skulls will be provided to contestants looking to win a handful of “deadly” prizes. The first place winner will receive a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon for two, second place will receive a Stratosphere SkyJump pass, and third place will receive a zipline ride with Flightlinez down Fremont Street.

The Most Interesting Painted Skull contest will run all day with judging at 7pm. Contestants must be present to win.


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