Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Escape from Douchebaggery, Part 31: Eat

Nothing proves a city's true hipster credentials like a hip brunch spot with a minimalist name. I have no scientific, statistical proof of this claim, but I do have plenty of anecdotal evidence to support my thesis (something that uber-stat wonk Nate Silver would surely frown upon, using math-wizardry). To compliment places like Good in Silverlake, Home in Los Feliz, Gravy in Portland, Radish in San Francisco's Mission District, and Egg in Brooklyn (which has its own farm, of course), Downtown Las Vegas now has Eat.

Fed up with the corporate culture that came with working in Vegas kitchens for two decades, veteran Chef Natalie Young was about to move away to El Paso before Downtown Cocktail Room impresario Michael Cornthwaite recruited her, Avengers style, to stay in town and open her own restaurant. When Young protested that there was no way she could afford to open her own place, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh swept in with his magic powers (read: money) to finance the brunch spot. With that, Eat was born.

Dedicated to filling a hole in the emerging but still slightly sparse dining scene in Downtown, Eat is a hip spot that serves inventive takes on American classics with a French twist. Eat's menu is designed to be hearty and healthy, with items made from sustainable, fresh, ingredients, with as many local and organic elements as humanly possible. So on the hipster brunch checklist, the restaurant hits pretty much all the right notes.

Eat is one of those places that really makes Downtown feel like a neighborhood with a thriving community, with art installations personally curated by Young, including large murals and wood sculptures on permanent display as well as rotating photographs and paintings from local artists. Natural woods, exposed bricks, and overhead lights with exposed light-bulbs give the place a funkily rustic vibe.

None of these cool features would be anything more than gimmicks if the food wasn't good, but thankfully the food at Eat is very, very good. Cornthwaite made the right call by keeping Chef Young in town, because her menu is pretty darn amazing. I ordered the Huevos Motulenos (2 over easy eggs with Red and Green Chili, Black Beans, Peas, Feta, and Sauteed Bananas served on warm Tortillas... yes, sauteed Bananas are part of that amazing dish), while my friends ordered Chicken Fried Steak and the Truffled Egg Sandwich.

We all shared bites of each other's meals (but only one bite each because none of us were particularly keen on giving away much of our amazing orders), and everything was ridiculously delicious (though I'm pretty convinced my meal won the day, if only for the friggin' Sauteed Bananas). For dessert, we split an order of fresh Beignets, served with Raspberry Jam and Vanilla Mascarpone. I love Beignets. I've been to Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans multiple times... and these were some of the best Beignets I've ever tasted. Eat's steamy and strong Coffee, which is always just as important an element to a good Brunch as the food itself, was served fresh in a French Press, which was a very nice touch.

As much as I love the runaway gluttony of a good (or even mediocre) Brunch Buffet, Eat is so perfectly executed that it's probably going to be my new go-to destination for Sunday Brunch on future Las Vegas weekends. Thank goodness Michael Cornthwaite was able to pull a Samuel L. Jackson and convince Chef Natalie Young to stay in Las Vegas and open Eat, which will surely become a staple of the burgeoning Downtown Las Vegas community for years to come.

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