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.
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.