1/19/14 Eating Report - Jerry's Famous Coffee Shop, Pink Box Centennial, MTO Cafe, Embers, and Mixers Ice Cream and Boba
Jerry's Famous Coffee Shop: http://endoedibles.com/?p=15799
Largely incapable of sleeping in on weekends and having thus taken it upon myself to explore the Vegas 24/7 dining scene after my morning run a somewhat atypical Sunday would mark my first visit to North Las Vegas, home of Jerry’s Nugget – a casino having celebrated its 50th anniversary just three days prior – and Jerry’s Famous Coffee Shop, the 24/7 retro-modern eatery within. Decidedly different from the Luxe resort-casinos of the southern strip but featuring a gritty sort charm it was just after 5:00am when I arrived at Jerry’s and with a skeleton crew catering to just six other patrons in the large space service was expectedly accommodating with coffee kept brimming throughout as a somewhat slow (likely understaffed) kitchen prepared hot dishes allowing me to focus first on pastry – a collection of over fifty options baked in-house featuring cakes, pies, danishes, donuts, and more. Beginning with the famous “Strawberry Ring” it should first be stated that for a choux-based pastry baked at least 8 hours prior to remain crisp and buttery beneath two types of rich cream speaks volumes to the quality of kitchen and with both textures and flavors aplenty the dish proved wonderful, a lightly sweet take on the Paris-Brest with a portion big enough for two or three more than justifying the $6 tab. Working slowly through the ring with frequent coffee refills as I awaited my sandwich it was with some disappointment that when the Monte Cristo arrived the flavors would only prove average, the fried bread shining while proteins and cheese proved meager in both taste and portion, but propping the dish up with a touch of real maple syrup it should be said that at $1 each, the biscuits at Jerry’s are worth seeking out – an excellent rise and good layer separation beneath a crisp, buttered top. Taking the rest of my order to go, a veritable bargain at $5/slice, suffice it to say that while Jerry’s may not be the best choice in town for a sandwich I’d be hard pressed to name a better choice for cake as each of my three selections shined; the anniversary cake a sort of dulce de leche with buttercream and frangipane vying for top billing over a delicate crumb, the bread pudding featuring two layers of rich pound cake topped with lightly sweetened egg custard and a bruleed top, and the carrot cake dense with cinnamon, nutmeg, carrots, raisins, and walnuts beneath thin ribbons of cream cheese frosting – the best I’ve found in the city to date and a contender for the best I’ve tasted anywhere in years.
Pink Box (Centennial): http://endoedibles.com/?p=15901
Having made it a point to sample through a dozen varieties of Pink Box Doughnuts even before relocating to Las Vegas I knew it would only be a matter of time before I made my way up to Centennial Hills to take a look at their gas station based 24-hr satellite, a promise of fresh daily deliveries at 6:00am driving a Sunday visit where nearly two dozen novel selections and a smiley young clerk stood waiting. Without a doubt the most trendy doughnuttery in town it was with some restraint that I opted for a half-dozen +1 and at a $10 tally the majority of selections were saved for NFL game time snacking, the exceptions being a still-warm $2.25 take on Dominique Ansel’s ‘Cronut’ that unfortunately proved oily, flaccid, and uninspired plus the cocoa-laden pink velvet whose hefty chocolate notes found needed levity in rich, though overly sweet, cream cheese. Moving onward to the rest, much like other quirky “Voodoo inspired” shops across the country standards like the blueberry cake and buttermilk bar proved above average while novelties stole the spotlight, each filled option featuring natural ingredients and both the banana pudding and key lime gel spot-on representations of the iconic pie fillings inside a fluffy leavened pocket. A mixed experience to be sure and a prime example of why places of its ilk rarely appeal to purists I personally look forward to seeing how the company evolves over time…hopefully a bit less cronut/bacon/cereal ‘me too’ in favor of more ambitious ‘outside the box’ thinking a la the Nutty Pig, Salted Caramel Twist, and Cream pies.
MTO Café: http://endoedibles.com/?p=15905
Always happy to see a chef preaching the ethics of local-seasonal sourcing and scratch-made-to-order cooking, particularly in the breakfast scene, it was unfortunately a rocky start for myself and MTO Café as even before they opened for business a steady trickle of shady “Five Star” reviews began to fill the internet, a trend not uncommon but nonetheless off-putting and causing me pause until more respectable voices were heard…in this case 3 months later. Open seven days a week from breakfast till lunch and already a downtown darling with critics, city hall, and Zappos affiliates it was on a lazy Sunday that a friend and I sat down to a table in airy, charming space just after 8:15 and with on-point service highly praiseful of both Chef Church and owner Ben Sabouri’s vision much of what followed would prove well worth the hyperbole, a total of seven items and nearly as many cups of coffee comprising our 90 minute stay. A menu broad in sections yet well-culled in scope it was with a wide swath that we cut through the options and requesting that items be sent out individually as the kitchen felt fit it was from sweet to savory that the morning progressed, an early offering of doughnuts that came off a touch oily and the doughy bread of the ‘Fat Elvis’ minor disappointments more than offset by fluffy vegan pancakes, creamy brie on lightly sweetened brioche, and superlative proteins such as the fried chicken smothered in béchamel or the tender turkey burger atop savory bread pudding alongside signature “mashed browns,” a crunchy/creamy juxtaposition of butter, brine, and starch. Off to a good start and informed by our server that the new menu is scheduled to debut in just a few weeks I look forward to seeing how MTO evolves over time – early marketing tactics aside this is a spot with ‘destination breakfast’ potential and along with ‘eat’ already a reason for suburbanites and tourists to make their way downtown before dusk.
Embers (Brunch): http://endoedibles.com/?p=15909
Generally skewing my dining out towards Saturdays as to allow for a lazy Sunday, the Martin Luther King extended weekend conveniently allowed me to visit a spot just down the street for Sunday brunch with a new friend – the noon start time of the AFC Championship, a 20% off coupon, and wonderful customer service from a reservationist named May further sweetening the deal promised by a creative brunch menu. Billed as an American Grille and located in upscale Boca Park near Sambalatte and Panera it was just before noon when we arrived at Embers and opting for a seat at the bar instead of the small dining room in order to afford full vantage of the dual plasma screens it would not be long before we were greeted by the friendly bartender and with menus presented plus a round of stiff but well-crafted $8 cocktails soon in hand the meal that followed would unfold in three acts, each piping hot and nicely presented at a veritable bargain even before the discount. Opting to pair sweet with savory at each course it was with six dates curled in crispy bacon that found adept balance in funky bleu and light acid that we began and moving on to the smoky yet smooth juxtaposition of bacon and garlic Alfredo atop crisp bread the hits continued to arrive as round two served up at least eight ounces of aromatic, juicy chicken amidst mild curry on one plate and the dish of the afternoon on the other, two slices of custard imbued French Toast with light cocoa notes serving to mellow fresh, boozy fruits as granola added just a touch of sweetness and plenty of crunch. Battling satiety from prior means yet still debating a third proper course as the first half of the game wound to an end, it was with a bit of sadness that we ended up passing on both the pancakes and the fried chicken sliders, but unable to resist dessert it was in the restaurant’s bread pudding that we invested our last bites – the warm buttery croissants layered with fresh apples and soaked through with custard before being crowned with a ball of gelato and finished table side with rich crème anglaise, the send result a slowly melting masterpiece on par with some of the city’s best and plenty of impetus to head back in the future for the chicken, pancakes, and a second round.
A surprisingly under recognized shop given their nearly 17 years in the local market, Mixers Ice Cream & Boba had been on my ‘to try’ list ever since I heard that each of their thirty-plus ice creams or gelatos were made in house and with an extensive day of eating already behind me plus two slices of cake from Jerry’s serving as ‘dinner’ there seemed no better way to round out the evening than with a sundae – no less one consisting of three traditional Chinese flavors topped with house made mochi in a fresh baked waffle bowl. A small shop cleverly appointed with cutesy décor and a few traditional packaged candies to go along with an extensive list of boba, frozen confections, waffles, ice cream cakes, and even French fries it was to a small line that I arrived and after a short wait what followed can only be described as plethoric tasting session including sweet cream, butter pecan, jackfruit, lychee, cake batter, cheesecake, ginger, Thai tea, and more before settling on a traditional trio of Taro and Azuki Bean Ice Creams plus Black Seasame Gelato, a scoop of mochi and a spritz of whipped cream adding texture and the entirety of the amalgam impressively well flavored without being overly saccharine in the least. Perhaps not as ‘trendy’ as Snowflake – though also serving snow ice – or esoteric as Art of Flavors – though with a much more extensive menu – and featuring lovely service in a pleasant setting there is no doubt in my mind that this will not be my last visit to Mixers; the avocado boba smoothie, red velvet waffle sundae, ice cream cake pops, and churros are all calling.