Tag Archives: The Beat

The Food I Ate (Las Vegas Edition)


I love to eat, but I hate to cook. So I love to eat in restaurants, but I hate to spend a lot of money. You see my dilemma.

I did eat some really good food in Las Vegas, although I didn’t go to any upscale restaurants. (In my whole life, I haven’t eaten in upscale restaurants more than a few times.)

My first night in town, my hosts, The Poet and her husband the Activist, invited me to join their community dinner. Organizers from the Las Vegas Catholic Worker community shared their delicious meal of spicy black beans and rice with me. (Baked chicken was on the table too, but I stuck with the vegetarian option.) I enjoyed eating a tasty meal with nice people.

The next morning my hosts and I awoke early to help the Catholic Worker group serve breakfast to hungry homeless and poor folks. I wasn’t hungry for toast before we left the house, and I didn’t care to try the breakfast dish (rice and beans with chorizo) being served. After the meal, we returned to my friends’ house; then I went to a credit union where I deposited my last paycheck. From there I stumbled upon the Las Vegas Goodwill Clearance Center and got distracted.

I was supposed to meet The Poet and The Activist at 11:25 so I could ride with them to the Catholic Worker House to help serve (then eat!) lunch. I shopped at the Goodwill Clearance Center until the last possible moment, then was slowed down by the one-way streets in West Las Vegas. By the time I got to my friends’ house, it was 11:15, I was super hungry, and their car wasn’t in the driveway. I was afraid I’d missed them (and lunch!) and texted The Poet in a panic. She texted right back to say they were on the way to pick me up. Sigh of relief!

When we got to the Catholic Worker House, I saw the lunch crew was as efficient as the breakfast crew. It was taco day, and everything was prepped and ready to go. The taco shells were filled with meat at one end of the line. A volunteer would serve the tacos while the person next to him offered beans. Someone else spooned out guacamole. The Activist was next, offering lettuce and tomatoes. I stood to his right. My job was to serve shredded cheese. The young man by my side passed out tortilla chips, and The Poet was at the end of the line dishing out salsa.

According to the Las Vegas Catholic Worker website, every Wednesday is

Hospitality Day, [and they] invite 20 homeless men home for showers, to wash clothes, & to have a great lunch.….

(On the day I was there, a couple of women lined up with the men.)

The serving went fast; then the servers were welcome to make themselves a plate. I made mine taco salad style with corn chips, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and a generous dollop of guacamole. I joined The Poet and The Activist at the umbrella shaded table on the backyard patio. It was a great lunch! As we were relaxing after our meal, one of the cooks brought us freshly baked cookies, and we didn’t even have to wash the dishes!

On the third day of my visit, we were up early again to serve breakfast, this time macaroni and cheese. I served bread alone while The Poet handed out jalapeños. Back at the Catholic Worker house, we helped with dish washing. The Poet rinsed while I gave the pots and pans a quick dip in the sanitizing water. The man doing the washing was quick and thorough, and we were out of there in no time.

Next on the day’s itinerary was the 11am peace vigil in front of the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse at 333 Las Vegas Blvd. We arrived early, so The Activist suggested we grab doughnuts at the O Face doughnut shop a couple of blocks away. Although I just referred to O Face as a doughnut shop, it is more like a doughnut boutique.


I took this photo of the door to the O Face Doughnut Shop. Can you see my reflection in the glass?

First of all, you don’t pick your doughnuts by looking at racks with rows and rows of doughnuts of each variety. Oh no. The doughnuts here are artfully displayed, in small bunches. Customers see only one sample of each variety.

The doughnuts are lovely to behold. Love-a-lee! Each doughnut is good looking. Each doughnut looks delicious. Each doughnut appears to be begging to be eaten. These factors make choosing a doughnut difficult.

Some doughnuts are rings and easier to eat by hand. These are called “in hand” doughnuts. Others doughnuts have fillings that are made in-house and are easier to eat with utensils. These are called “fork and knife” doughnuts and are more expensive than “in hand” doughnuts.

I ended up picking out a banana-flavored sort of cake doughnut/fritter hybrid with dark chocolate frosting. SO GOOD! I’m not even a huge fan of bananas, but for some reason that doughnut was calling to me; I was not disappointed. The fried doughnut was the perfect degree of greasy. The banana-ness was from real bananas, as far as I could tell, not from some artificial banana flavor, and the dark chocolate frosting was sweet perfection. This was a seriously good doughnut.

My friends got vegan doughnuts. When we all tried bites of each other’s doughnuts, I can’t say I was too excited about theirs. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of traditional doughnuts. Give me the cake kind, or I’ll usually just pass. The vegan doughnuts were even more dough-y than regular doughnuts, and I thought they tasted quite like bread. However, since I’ve never been vegan, I don’t really know what a good vegan doughnut tastes like. Maybe vegans would really appreciate and enjoy the O Face vegan doughnuts. After all, my friends voiced no complaints.

O Face doughnut shop is small, but does have limited seating. But my friends and I didn’t eat inside. We took our doughnuts outside and ate them standing on the sidewalk right near the door.

The O Face doughnut I scarfed down was probably the best doughnut I’ve had in my entire middle-age life.

After the peace vigil, The Activist and I walked down to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, home of The History Channel program Pawn Stars. About an hour later when we met The Poet at The Beat Coffeehouse and Records, where she had been writing while waiting for us, we were ready for lunch.

In thanks for their hospitality, I’d offered to treat The Poet and The Activist to lunch. The Poet immediately suggested an East Indian restaurant they really like called Mount Everest. She said out of the several East Indian restaurants in Las Vegas they’d tried, this was their favorite.

To be fair, I am not an expert on Indian food. But I have eaten at Indian restaurants in San Francisco and New Orleans and Philadelphia and Penang, Malaysia and probably some other places I don’t remember, so I’m not a complete novice either. The food I ate at Mount Everest was the best Indian food I have ever eaten.

We had the lunch buffet, and almost everything I tried was so good. The rice was perfectly cooked, and all of the sauces were hot and delicious. I loved the potato and squash dish, but I thought the samosas were a bit tough. They were barely warm; I think a huge batch had been made for the lunch rush and had maybe been sitting around too long. The naan, delivered promptly to our table, was fresh, hot, and tasty.

All of the employees we encountered were smiling and friendly, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating at Mount Everest. I’ll eat there again, next time I’m in Vegas, if I can spare the cost of the buffet.

On Friday morning, The Activist drove us 45 miles north of town to the Temple of Goddess Spirituality. After we visited to Goddess Temple, we stopped at the Desert National Wildlife Range, where we walked around for a while on well-maintained desert trails. Luckily, it was a cool and overcast day, so walking in the desert was unusually pleasant.

We were all hungry by the time we got back to Vegas, so The Poet suggested we eat breakfast at The Omelet House on Charleston Blvd. We arrived midmorning and were seated immediately.

The first thing I noticed about the place was the weird decor. The dark walls and heavy furniture gave the place a fancy cabin feel, but there were also lots of breakable knick-knacks scattered about. I felt as if I were eating in the living room of some old lady’s cabin/ski lodge. I wondered how often those knick-knacks are cleaned and definitely saw dust on an artificial plant.

The table my friends and I were led to was tucked in a corner. I sat across from The Poet, and The Activist sat to her right. A wooden knick-knack display about two feet tall with three shelves and a drawer stretching across the bottom was hung on the wall to my right. After we placed our orders, we looked closely at the items displayed next to us. They were kitchy, breakable salt and pepper shakers. (Why, oh, why did I not take a photo of this monstrosity?) I was quite intrigued with the drawer and slid it open to inspect its contents. Empty! I decided I would leave little notes for the next curious diner who inspected the drawer. The Poet and I wrote some words on little slips of paper and tucked them away to be found by future guests.

The menu offered many options including omelets and pancakes and sandwiches.

I had the Health Nut omelet (so named, perhaps, because it includes lots of veggies) with spuds and pumpkin bread. The pumpkin bread, delivered before the entrée, was served warm with butter on the side. The omelet was made with three eggs, although a six egg omelet was also an option. The spuds were thinly sliced, deep fried potatoes. They were essentially potato chips prepared in small batches. I was surprised and delighted by them. Everything on my plate was delicious.

That omelet was my last big meal in Vegas. On Saturday morning, I was back on the road and back on a budget, eating cheap burritos at Del Taco and Dairy Queen and longing for my next chance to indulge.


Tourist Day in Las Vegas


When The Poet and I were in communication about the things I wanted to see and do in Las Vegas, I sheepishly admitted I wanted to visit the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop where The History Channel program Pawn Stars is filmed.

I can’t remember when I first watched Pawn Stars. It was probably in some crappy motel room when my then-boyfriend and I were trying to distract ourselves (and each other) from our ridiculous, relentless fighting and our steadily deteriorating relationship. Then, a couple of years ago during a house sitting gig, I watched a Pawn Stars marathon, half-hour episode after half-hour episode all day and into the night. The marathon sealed the deal: I was a Pawn Stars fan.

I enjoy the show’s focus on items of historical significance. Unlike Hardcore Pawn , which I remember focusing on the antics of the wacked-out customers (and not-quite customers), Pawn Stars really does attempt to teach some history. Sure, some of the sellers featured on Pawn Stars are a little zany, but colorful characters do make for good entertainment. And while familial bickering is a subplot of every Pawn Stars episode, it always takes a backseat to trying to educate viewers via the items brought into the store.

When I realized I’d be in Vegas and the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop is in Vegas, I decided I wanted to see it. I was a bit embarrassed to admit this desire to The Poet. First, it seemed like such a stereotypically tourist thing to do. What next? I imagined The Poet wondering. An Elvis impersonator extravaganza, topless showgirls, and all night at the blackjack tables? Also, I didn’t know which side of the TV wars The Poet was on. Some of my friends think all television is soul sucking and mind mushing, while others think a person who doesn’t watch TV is weird. What if The Poet judged me harshly?

I told her in the letter I sent outlining my Las Vegas interests that of course I didn’t expect her and The Activist (her husband) to accompany me on my visit to Gold and Silver. I told her I’d go alone, at some time when they needed a break from being hosts and tour guides. So I was a bit surprised when The Poet told me The Activist wanted to accompany me on the pawn shop visit, unless I needed special alone time there. I assured her I didn’t need to go alone, that I wasn’t on some kind of a pilgrimage. (I’m not that kind of fan.) I told her I’d be happy to have  The Activist along.

The day we went to the pawn shop started with a peace vigil.

Every week, members of the Las Vegas  peace community hold a vigil in front the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse at 333 Las Vegas Blvd.

…a group of people stand with signs about peace, about the cost of war, asking people to honk in a sign of solidarity if they’re in a vehicle. This particular vigil has been taking place for over ten years. It is very friendly and encouraging.

In warm months, we stand on So. LV Blvd. near Clark. In colder months we stand on So. LV Blvd. near Bridger.

It was a pretty low-key affair the day I attended. About seven of us held signs with various peace slogans on them. The youngest women in the group held the sign that read “Honk for Peace.” She got a lot of honks.

After an hour, the peace group split up and The Activist and I walked The Poet to a coffee shop called The Beat  on the corner of  6th and Fremont. In the back of the coffee shop is a large area with art displays and The Las Vegas Zine Library (LVZL). We poked around back there for about half an hour, then The Poet settled in to write while The Activist and I went on our excursion.

We walked down Fremont Street to get to Las Vegas Blvd. Fremont wasn’t very busy since it was a Wednesday morning. I did the tourist thing and took some photos.


And since I was playing tourist, I took some photos of the wedding chapels we passed on the way.



I mean, if getting married in a ceremony with the “KING” is good enough for Rock Star Jon Bon Jovi, it must be good enough for me. (The question is, is Mr. Bon Jovi still married to the lady he wed in the Graceland Chapel?)


While we walked, The Activist told me he was glad to have a reason to go to Gold and Silver. He said he’d wanted to check it out since he’d moved to Vegas, but none of their other house guests had expressed any interest in visiting the place.

We approached Gold and Silver from the parking lot side. There weren’t many cars parked there, but there were several guys in orange vests monitoring the lot and the people in it. I wondered if they only allow people with items to sell or pawn to park in the lot.

During my preliminary research, I’d read there’s sometimes a line to get into the shop. I was glad to see that on this day there was no line outside and we wouldn’t have to wait to get in.

I’d also read online complaints from people who’d expected to see the actual stars of Pawn Stars–Rick, The Old Man, Corey, and Chumlee–and were disappointed when the guys weren’t in the shop. Give me a break! I’d never expect the stars of a big History Channel program to be standing around to chitchat with the riffraff. Maybe in the earliest days of the show, a visitor might run into one of those guys in the shop, but now? Forget it! Those guys are big shot famous people. They probably only come around for filming and probably stay in the office until the cameras are ready for them. I would have been astounded to see one of the show’s stars hanging around in public.

When The Activist and I approached the entrance, there were three other tourists (a family, perhaps, and by their accents European) blocking the sidewalk while taking photos of each other. Ugh! I don’t like to be the kind of tourist who gets in the way of other people, so I decided I was not going to be taking a lot of photos.


This is my one tourist photo from Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, the outdoor sign in front of the store.

The Activist and I went inside, and I was shocked by how small and…shabby the store looked. On TV, the shop seems spacious and glamorous, but in real life it looked something like a warehouse lit with fluorescent lights, the merchandise on display crammed too closely together.

The first thing The Activist noticed and pointed out to me was a display case full of the same model of Rolex watches. Why were they all the same?

As we made our way through the store, we saw a lot of collectible coins and currency, jewelry, art, items I guess would be referred to as “collectibles.” I didn’t see anything that even mildly piqued my interest, but I’m weird that way.

At the back of the store was a life size cardboard cutout of Rick folks could stand next to for a photo-op. No one was doing that.

One area of the store was filled with Pawn Stars souvenirs. One could buy the book Rick wrote. (Until the moment I saw the book in the store, I had no idea it existed.) One could buy dashboard bobble heads representing the guys on the show. One could buy Pawn Stars magnets and keychains and ink pens. (They almost got me with an ink pen, but I told myself sternly that I did not need one.) There were several Pawn Stars t-shirts to choose from displayed on the wall next to the cash register and its bored-looking cashier. There were even wristbands with the words “Chumlee Is My Homeboy” stamped on them. And then there were postcards.

I love postcards. I probably came to love them when I was in middle school. Whenever my family went on one of our infrequent trips, the first thing I wanted to do was buy postcards. Then I’d spend as much time as possible ignoring my family and writing out postcards to send to my friends back home. Now I look at thrift stores for postcards from places I’ve never been. I send them to friends when I don’t have enough to say for a whole letter.

I wanted to send postcards from Vegas, but I hadn’t seen them for sale anywhere I’d been. I thought if there were Pawn Stars postcards, maybe I’d buy some and give my friends a good laugh about what a tourist I’d been.

When I was a kid, I was thrilled when I’d sometimes find 10 for $1 postcard deals, but those days are long gone. Now 4 for $1 is a good deal for postcards, and 2 for $1 is about normal. (I did buy postcards with local historic scenes on them for $1.50 each when I was in Trinidad, CO, but that was partly because they were the only postcards in town and partly because the guy selling them was my friend’s friend on whom I had a tiny crush.) I know I probably wouldn’t get four Pawn Stars postcards for $1, but I figured 50 cents each would be ok.

I turned the rotating rack until I found the few remaining postcards. They were kind of boring, but they would do. Then I saw the price tag: $2 each!

Are you fucking kidding me?!?

Where do they get off charging two bucks for their postcards? Even when I bought postcards of my own photos from Vistaprint 100 at a time, I only paid 20 cents each. Certainly Pawn Stars gets a better deal than that.

At that point I was over the whole Gold and Silver experience. I’ll continue to watch the show (and try to figure out how the cameras make the store look so big and upscale), but I won’t be giving them any of my money…Greedy bastards…

On the way to lunch, we were stopped in traffic right in front of the driveway to the Bonanza Gift and Souvenir Shops.


Hey! I called from the backseat. Can we stop here so I can get postcards? I’ll be real quick.

 My friends indulged me, and we pulled into the parking lot. I jumped out of the car and went in one of the many doors. Right inside was a rack of postcards. The price? 3 for 99 cents. The price was right for me.

Several of the attractions mentioned in this post are on the Jen Reviews list of 100 Best Things to Do in Las Vegas. Bonanza Gifts is #18.

If you’re going to Las Vegas and have a bigger souvenir budget than I did, check out this Tripedia article about the Top 7 Souvenirs to Buy in Las Vegas. Elvis jumpsuit, anyone?

I took all the photos in this post.