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Apr 16, 2014 06:43 PM

4/12/15 Dining Report - Roxy's Diner, Wake Up Coffee Cafe, District One, The Cupcakery, Yonaka

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  1. The Cupcakery -

    Formerly with several locations spread across the valley but recently supplanted on the Strip by Corner Cakes it was a brief meeting that brought me to Lake Meade Boulevard’s “The Cupcakery” and with smiling staff serving up several novel interpretations of their eponymous treat it seems unthinkable to me that anyone would eschew such a place in favor of its abhorrent substitute. Featuring no less than eighteen varieties on my Saturday visit with all selections made in-house of largely organic ingredients, pure butter, and no preservatives each $3.25 creation of owner Pamela Jenkins begins with an impressively moist base featuring light sweetness and a supple crumb before building upward to a variety of frostings, the majority cream cheese, ready to serve the sweet tooth but never to overwhelm – the result a series of balanced bites with subtlety and nuance at the fore, In many ways overwhelming in options given cakes both traditional and trendy it was with the dainty Kir Royale that my tasting began and progressing light to heavy it was next the appropriately titled “Sweet & Salty” that wowed, the pink crystals a textural masterstroke and veritable palate cleanser to slightly under-spiced carrot cake and the inspired chocolate freckled Zoolander instantly rousing memories of Autumn in Ohio. Tasting bites throughout the afternoon interspersed with sips of La Colombe’s Corsica it was perhaps an effect of my coffee predilections that my final two tastes of The Cupcakery would prove most memorable and as good as the prototypical Red Velvet was in delivering light cocoa beneath aggressive tang it was the seasonal “El Rolo” that stole the spotlight, an Amedei-like smokiness to the dark chocolate proving an ample foil to intensely sweet liquid caramel.

    1. District One:

      Occupying the former home of Cravin’ Cajun and serving up modern Vietnamese cuisine in a room one part hipster-industrial and one part sports bar it was with a group of five that I sat down at District One Kitchen & Bar just minutes after noon and focusing our order on variety the results proved ‘variable’ at best. Clearly untrained and understaffed to handle a restaurant nearly 3/4 full by 12:30 it was with a trio of appetizers that our meal began and with beverage refills scarce as servers ran in circles perhaps it was fortuitous that none of the first round proved remotely spicy, the hamachi tacos bright and crisp at $3 each while dull, limp wings and the vinegar tinged salad proved entirely forgettable…and not particularly ‘Vietnamese’ at all. Moving next to larger scale items, a duo of pho dishes would prove respectable if not particularly well presented; the supple oxtail imbuing long rice noodles with a meaty sapor while an enormous proximal femur laced its broth with fat to balance ample scallions, though heat remained mute even in the presence of sliced jalapenos. Moving finally to the items that showed the kitchen’s promise, suffice it to say that tender pork belly first braised then rendered soft in coconut milk proved by far the most complex option of the afternoon despite its unexpected sweetness and although a seemingly odd choice, the throwback ‘get down n’ dirty’ shrimp finally delivered in the spice department, a pound of the snappy shell-ons again leaving my water-glass empty while wondering why we hadn’t just gone to Crab Corner or Hot n’ Juicy instead.

      1. Wake Up Coffee Café:

        Having driven past the small Charleston storefront daily for nearly five months it was finally this Saturday that I decided to stop in at Wake Up Coffee Café, the husband-and-wife owned Armenian bakery greeting myself and a pair of local police officers with hot beverages and breakfast savorires alongside a tempting display of cakes, cookies, and pastries ranging several continents and cultures. Allowing the cops to go first as I browsed the options with the enviable task of spending a $20 gift certificate I was immediately taken aback by the low prices displayed below each item and fortunately en route to a brief morning meeting my selections ran a nine item gamut, the total bill a mere $21.45 and only a soggy cannoli and overly sweet baba proving anything less than impressive. Admittedly a touch slow in service as the owner tended to both the café and drive-thru it was with a warm fig strudel that my Wake Up tasting began and with shattering layers around sweet fruit my hopes for the rest soared, the boxed options experienced two hours later with much sharing and praise from my two colleagues but the glut of the bounty left to me. Trending light to rich alongside bold coffee both the macaroon-crisp walnut roll and reinterpreted napoleon offered serious textural contrast overlying mild flavors while traditional takes on the chocolate chip strewn blondie and dense baklava rivaled the city’s best – a sentiment I can only assume to be true of the novel cream-meets-crunch Bird’s Nest and a condensed milk sweetened graham and walnut butter “Honeymoon Cake” similar to the more appropriately titled “Dream” Cake at Manan.

        1. Roxy's Diner:

          Located in the lobby of The Stratosphere and operating 24/7 since its inception Roxy’s Diner had always struck me as the sort of restaurant targeting the hotel’s drunken late nights but with a recent menu update and a fresh coat of paint I suddenly found the place calling my name, a 6:00am breakfast proving well worth the trek. Large in size and copious in choices from the ‘all-day’ menu as Marilyn Monroe films and 50s décor flourish beneath an era appropriate soundtrack it was to smiling service that my arrival was met and although coffee refills occasionally required reminder nothing about kitschy cuisine lacked in the least. Beginning first with a duo of French Toasts, one part savory and one thoroughly sweet, suffice it to say that when compared to central-strip 24/7s like Central or Carnegie Roxy’s portions trend large for the price and although the sandwich was quite good with crispy bacon and fluffy eggs between supple bread it paled in comparison to the cinnamon roll’s gluttonous spiral complete with frosting and further gilded with a warm maple sidecar. Setting aside parts of the first course “to-go” (a ridiculous $1 surcharge for the box on my bill) and turning attention to desserts it was to another duo that I was treated and although I’m rather certain the bread pudding suffered a delay en route given the lukewarm temperature and melted ice cream the flavors were quite pleasant, a compliment equally offered to a sizable $6 carrot cake rife with cinnamon and thickly frosted with citrus-tinged cream cheese.