Eat Downtown is a hip, vibrant breakfast and lunch spot at 707 Carson Avenue, just a couple blocks over from the El Cortez. Standing on the corner of Carson and Seventh, in front of the place, one only wonders where the hip, vibrant community is to go with it. Well, the Downtown Project promises there soon will be one, and it’s already got a culinary head start.
Once inside, you see bright whites, reds, and silvers, dark woods and masonry. There is a floor to ceiling mural on one wall by Krystal Ramirez that simply repeats “I will see you in the flowers” over and over again in cursive handwritten script. The kitchen is open, with a breakfast bar in front, lined with aluminum barstools. White tables carry real cloth napkins and are surrounded by simple red chairs that are more comfortable than they look. It feels clean and energetic. The music plays a little louder than most breakfast spots, and when I was last there, seemed to be leaning towards 90’s Seattle rock. I think it’s the first time I’ve heard Pearl Jam in a breakfast joint.
The dishes at Eat are a little pricier than other downtown breakfast and lunch offerings, but for that little bit of extra cash you get fresh premium ingredients, and beautiful presentation. You can peak into their open kitchen and see your food being prepared with care. If the crowds I have seen when dining here are any indication, downtown is going to need a lot more restaurants like Eat if Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project dream comes true.
The thing to get here is the breakfast foods, and to get breakfast, you must place your order before 11 am – at least during the week. They seem to be very particular about this. Even if you are seated before eleven, you will not be able to order off the breakfast menu one minute past eleven o’clock. Think of it as motivation to get an early start to your day. On the weekend you can sleep in a little bit, as they serve a separate Brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday from 8am until 2pm.
On my first visit I arrived too late for breakfast and wound up trying their Killer Grilled Cheese with Kick-Ass Tomato Salad ($9) from the lunch menu. The tomato salad was very fresh and flavorful, but the grilled cheese left me a little flat. The ingredients were quality, it’s just that the sandwich was dominated by the bread, rather than the gooey cheese I was anticipating, and the sandwich as a whole was a little dry. It wasn’t bad, but I guess with a name like “Killer Grilled Cheese” I expected to be wowed. Not this time. Thankfully, I decided to return for breakfast.
From the breakfast menu, the Made to Order Beignets with Seasonal Jam and Vanilla Mascarpone ($8) were perfectly presented, but fell a little short of the world-famous beignets that I’ve had in New Orleans. The jam and mascarpone were fantastic, but the beignets themselves were a bit dry and scone-like rather than fried-doughy like I had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly cleared the plate, but I was glad we’d ordered some of their smooth, medium-bodied Coffee ($3) to wash them down.
The Truffled Egg Sandwich ($11) is as delicious as it is beautiful. A large, soft, buttery croissant is loaded with eggs, cheese, mushrooms, chives and delicious thick sliced bacon. I needed to eat it with a knife and fork, but that’s a small price to pay for what I’m pretty sure is the best breakfast sandwich I have ever had. This is worth getting up early for. Yeah, it’s that good.
On my most recent trip to Eat (a Saturday Brunch), I ordered the Golden Brown Pancakes with Chicken Apple sausage and maple syrup ($9). There’s only one restaurant I know of downtown that has a reputation for amazing pancakes, but I decided to try these anyways. Well, once the word gets out there will be two. I wouldn’t have believed it if someone else told me, but the pancakes at Eat are even better than that other downtown restaurant. Slightly crisp and buttery on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside, Eat makes the perfect stack of pancakes, every bit the equal of Du-Pars on their best day.
What elevates the pancakes at Eat even further is the little jar of real maple syrup they give you on the side. There is no “pancake syrup” or “maple flavored” anything that tastes as good as the real thing, and that puts Eat over the top. I’m really surprised that they don’t make a bigger deal of this on the menu. The sausages were also good, but kind of an also-ran next to the pancakes. They’re sweet, mild and were cooked thoroughly without a hint of char.
My girlfriend ordered Two Eggs Any Style with Smoked Bacon, Chive Smashed Potatoes and Toast ($10). Her eggs, ordered over medium, were cooked perfectly, accompanied by two thick bacon slices, a good portion of home fries, toast and a split fresh strawberry for garnish – nice touch! Care is taken in the presentation of every dish. The extra effort makes the experience feel that much richer, and the food look that much more enticing. I expect this sort of chef artistry at a posh dinner restaurant, but at a breakfast joint with $10 entrees it’s quite special.
Eat is currently the only restaurant of it’s kind downtown, and it’s quite a bit more “revitalized” than the neighborhood that surrounds it. Chef Natalie Young delivers where it counts with good food across the board and a couple of standouts to keep people coming back. When people look back on the rejuvenation of downtown and ask which came first, the vibrant urban eateries or the vibrant urban community the answer will be clear: Eat came first.
- If you’ve never had real maple syrup you are in for a treat, but you should know that you don’t need nearly as much of it as you would the fake stuff. The little jar they give you might not look like much, but it’s more than enough.
- If you plan to split the check, be sure to bring cash. If they are busy, and they pretty much always are, Eat requests that customers use only one credit card per table.
- A rarity in Las Vegas, the on street parking in this area is metered. Bring a few quarters if you are taking a car.