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Desert Companion

At first bite: Eat

Eat's Shrimp and Grits

Sitting at the breakfast counter at Eat is an inspiration. Watching the black-clad, mostly heavily-inked staff flit back and forth, you get the feeling you’re witnessing the beginning of a renaissance. Like a baby giraffe struggling to find its gait, Eat is still in its infancy but you can sense it’ll be galloping gallantly in no time at all.

Natalie Young’s Eat is the first of what are bound to be many restaurants financially backed by Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project — powered by Zappos. After helming P.J. Clarke’s at the Forum Shops and working in other high-profile Strip kitchens, Young wanted to strike out on her own. A fortunate introduction to Hsieh resulted in what is soon-to-be a downtown favorite.

Young’s menu is filled with simply prepared, classic comfort dishes. The chicken-fried steak is destined to be a classic — and may be one of the best dishes I’ve had all year. (Health food this is not, but I can think of few tastier ways to go out.) Smothered in robust gravy, the lightly battered and freshly fried steak arrives to your table piping hot. Young’s huevos motuleños — a Yucatanese breakfast dish with black beans, tortillas and plantains — have gotten more press and while they’re good, they’re no chicken-fried steak. And more delicate dishes such as the shrimp and grits are stunners as presented on the plate, but  I say the chicken-fried steak is the way to go.

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My only criticisms are really preferences. Fresh orange juice would be the perfect foil for some of the heavier dishes, but it’s not available. Also, the tasty wheat toast served with our dishes would’ve been well-served with some housemade preserves befitting Young’s made-to-order menu. These are minor nitpicks that I’m certain could be remedied in short order and would only enhance an already excellent eatery.

Service is friendly, if not frenetic — understandable for a restaurant in its infancy. As with any restaurant, mistakes are made and the staff readily responds. Young herself is also in the mix, gliding effortlessly from diner to diner, striking up conversations and listening to feedback.

If you live downtown, this will be your favorite breakfast/lunch joint. If not, it’s worth the jaunt downtown. In an area desperate for dining options, Young’s Eat is a beacon of hope. Years from now, we’ll talk about how she was among the first in the downtown food renaissance, but most assuredly not the last. 

Eat 707 Carson Ave., 534-1515, eatdowntownlv.com, Mon-Fri 7a-3p; Sat-Sun 8a-2p

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