Desert Companion

DEALicious meals: Rise and shine -- Vegas breakfast is served

Whether you love classic coffee, gourmet pastry or old-school eggs and bacon, there’s no better time to wake up to breakfast in Las Vegas

Morning jolt

Just coffee, thanks

Sambalatte

I’m a creature of habit, especially when it comes to coffee. For most of my adult life, Starbucks’ venti-skinny-extra-hot-latte has been my caffeine constant. But not since I began venturing out of my comfort zone to give local baristas some love. I recently headed to Summerlin’s Sambalatte Torrefazione (750 S. Rampart Blvd #9, sambalatte.com), a bustling café with European flair, cozy tables, board games, outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi. The signature 16-ounce Nutella Latte ($4.50) has chocolate hazelnut spread swirled into the hot milk, making it sweet enough to require no doctoring, and it’s presented in a large mug with a decorative flower swirl. (And no, I couldn’t resist grabbing a raspberry macaroon for the road.)

Fully awake, I headed east to Grouchy John’s (8520 S. Maryland Parkway, grouchyjohns.com), where I was the only customer who wasn’t a regular — surely a good sign. I had my eye on “The O.G.” with salted caramel and vanilla, but co-owner J.J. steered me to “The Grouchy John,” a sweet white chocolate and amaretto latte. (For my next visit, I have my eye on the “Evil Monkey”: chai, espresso and banana (12-ounce, $3.25; 16-ounce, $4).

Support comes from

At The Beat (520 Fremont St. #101, thebeatlv.com), a downtown java joint with live music and vinyl records, don’t even think about getting your large latte ($3.49) to go. Instead, settle in for a few hours, watch the mix of business people, politicians, hipsters, yoginis and artists — and prepare to meet some interesting new friends. 

Last stop was Sunrise Coffee (3130 E. Sunset Road #A, sunrisecoffeelv.com), a Portland-esque organic and fair-trade shop with a friendly and knowledgeable staff, vegan offerings and freshly roasted, single-source beans. I would have loved to lounge with a book from the shelves and a French press coffee ($3.85) served in a real mug, but I had to grab a not-too-sweet orange mocha ($3.50 medium, $4.45 large) for the road. Pastries were calling.

Rich and flaky

Perfect pastries

Whether they’re crafting authentic French croissants or Bavarian specialties, talented pastry chefs are no longer confined to the Strip. The German Bread Bakery (2237 N. Rampart Blvd., germanbreadbakerylasvegas.com) is the kind of place my grandfather would have loved to walk to every morning for a generous slice of poppy seed coffee cake ($1.99) or a blueberry pudding Danish ($2.20). They also bake authentic Bavarian “teilchen” (pastries) and bread daily, and the iced almond coffee cake ($1.99) is worth crossing town for.

Former Aureole pastry chef Megan Romano’s new venture, Chocolate & Spice (7293 W. Sahara Ave. #8, chocolatenspice.com), piqued my curiosity after getting its fair share of love from the foodie community. Beautifully displayed cases entice with an abundance of muffins, scones and croissants. On the sweet side, there’s the honey caramel sticky bun brioche. And on the savory, there’s the pinwheel prosciutto brioche bun (both $3). Just make it easy on yourself and get both. Tip: They taste even better heated.

Off west Sunset, tucked away in the back of an office park, the tiny Baguette Café (8359 W. Sunset Road, baguettecafe.net) is worth seeking out. Owner Olivier cheerfully juggles phone orders between pulling perfectly golden croissants from the oven and helping customers practice their French. At his recommendation, I selected the pain au chocolat, airy layers of buttery pastry studded with bittersweet chocolate, and the moist fresh strawberry muffin with almond crumble (both $1.95).  

Apple Turnover at Patisserie ManonThree words come to mind when I think about my visit to the spacious Patisserie Manon (8751 W. Charleston Blvd. #110, patisseriemanon.com): croissant aux amandes ($3.25). Of all the pastries I tasted on this epic breakfast crawl, this was most memorable. Owners Jean-Paul and Rachel’s twice-baked treat is filled with frangipane and topped with powdered sugar and almonds, a perfect combination of sweet and buttery.

Smart starts

Healthy morning meals

At this point, I decided that I would either need to start running from destination to destination or start thinking healthy. I’m not a runner.

Sunrise Cafe's My Big Fat Greek Omlette

First up was the Original Sunrise Café (8975 S. Eastern Ave. #5, eatatsunrise.com), with a relaxed atmosphere and a great outdoor patio where your dogs can bask in the sun. Their healthier options include My Big Fat Greek Omelet ($8.99), a zesty combo of egg whites, spinach, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, Greek dressing and feta, or the Power Wrap ($7.99), with grilled chicken, egg whites, salsa and Swiss. You won’t even miss those potatoes you skip. (You’re being good, remember?)

A flax seed’s throw from Sunrise Café is the popular Greens & Proteins (8975 S. Eastern Ave, greensandproteins.com; see profile on page 65), whose “healthy fast food can taste good!” approach seems to be working. Those really committed can start the morning with a Wellness Drink ($7.50), containing a produce drawer’s worth of green veggies and fruit. If you’d rather ease into the day, a nicely spiced Apple Pie Smoothie ($7.50) or a refreshing Watermelon Strawberry Cocktail ($5.99) should do the trick.

If it’s your first visit to Pure Vida Bakery and Bystro (1236 S. Western Ave., puravidavegas.com), allow yourself some extra time. The enthusiastic and warm Chef Mayra will personally walk you through the lengthy (and somewhat confusing) vegan menu, offering suggestions and samples along the way. My well-seasoned Southwestern Latintude Burrito ($10.99) — stuffed with brown rice, black beans, tofu scramble, vegan cheese, peppers, avocado and potatoes — was large enough to share, and it’s also offered on their gluten-free menu.

The Cracked Egg (multiple locations, thecrackedegglv.com) is one of the few places where health nuts and bacon groupies can breakfast in harmony. While your significant other scarfs down a hearty fried skillet, enjoy the satisfyingly flavorful Low-fat Scramble ($8.95): egg whites scrambled with chicken, diced green chilies, tortilla chips and salsa. Choose the seasoned potatoes and toast in lieu of the hash browns and signature coffee cake (take a nibble of your partner’s). They also offer a menu for diners sensitive to gluten.

Flat and flavorful Pancakes and waffles

Dupars PancakesEsquire Magazine named Du-par’s (inside the Golden Gate hotel-casino, du-pars.com) Buttermilk Hotcakes “Best pancakes in the USA.” I can’t vouch for the rest of the country, but these pancakes are, hands-down, my pick for the best in Las Vegas. Generously sized, fluffy and porous, the three-cake short stack glazed with melted butter and maple syrup ($5.50) could satisfy a Green Bay Packer. Eat at the counter and chat up the sassy waitresses as they press you a freshly squeezed O.J.

Can’t decide between waffles or eggs? Chef Chris Herrin at Bread & Butter (10940 S. Eastern Ave. #107, breadandbutterlv.com) has the answer. The brilliant country ham and egg waffle sandwich ($9.50) combines aged white cheddar, smoky ham and scrambled eggs between two soft waffles topped with creamy rosemary béchamel. Prefer your waffles in a more traditional style? Herrin’s crisp sourdough version ($8.50) stands up to the trifecta of toppings: pure maple syrup, honey butter and fresh berry jam. 

Bread and Butter

If you have a seriously serious sweet tooth, hightail it to the Black Bear Diner (6180 W Tropicana Ave., blackbeardiner.com) and order the cinnamon roll French toast ($7.99).  I prefer the not-quite-so-sweet seven-grain granola nut cakes ($6.99), almond-flavored and hearty. Either way, you’ll likely need a nap in the booth afterwards. Arrive early on the weekends or prepare for a wait, which you can spend browsing the collection of teddy bears and the cabin-themed décor.

Bar + Bistro at the Arts Factory (107 E. Charleston Blvd. #155, barbistroaf.com) is the new kid on the weekday breakfast block, so I think I took them by surprise when I walked in the door at 7:05 on Monday morning. The huge portion of five cinnamon and vanilla B+B Pancakes ($9) were crisp on the outside and appealingly dense, served with pure maple syrup (skip the whipped cream.) Flan brioche French toast ($10) is coated with a sweet lemon glaze, crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.

Take a dive

Eggs and bacon

If your late night out leaves you craving food with hangover-banishing heft, Vegas has you covered. McMullan’s Irish Pub (4650 W. Tropicana Ave., mcmullansirishpub.com) is the perfect place to soak up whatever ails you from the night before. It’s dark, quiet in the morning and, if you’re so inclined, you can order hair of the dog in the form of a perfectly poured Guinness. The hearty Farmhouse Irish Breakfast ($11), with three eggs, black and white pudding, spiced sausage, Irish bacon, just-sweet-enough baked beans, grilled tomato, outstanding sautéed breakfast potatoes and thick homemade brown bread, is the only way to go.

Dining at the Omelet House (2160 W. Charleston Blvd., omelethouse.net) almost feels like having breakfast at your grandparents’ place. Open since 1978, the décor of this locals’ favorite hasn’t changed much, with kitschy knickknacks on the wall and wood paneling. The courteous waitstaff will proudly tell you that their 38 omelets are made with six (yes, six!) eggs, but you can get a “baby” version for $.89 less, or split one for $.95. Try the Rio Grande Surfer ($8.89) with chorizo sausage, onion, and cheddar — and don’t miss the famous pumpkin bread.

Occupying one end of what used to be White Cross Drugs (now closed), Tiffany’s Café (1700 Las Vegas Blvd S., tiffanyscafelv.com) is a 24-hour, cash-only classic diner for locals and the post-clubbing crowd. Artery-clogging options abound, such as the sausage biscuits with country gravy ($6.75) and a moist pork chop with three fried eggs ($8.50).

Walk into the Del Mar Café (2950 S. Durango Drive, delmarcafelasvegas.com), and chances are that you’ll get a warm greeting by owners Dee and Jim. Located in a small strip mall, this breakfast joint with a clever racetrack theme serves up “Quarter Mile Pole Wraps,” “Paddock Skillets” and “Starting Gate” build-your-own omelets. The generous Seabiscuit skillet ($8.99) combines eggs, country potatoes, onions, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, Swiss and avocado. The service is exceptional, the surroundings are spotless and, if you want your espresso to go, there’s a drive-thru on the side.

Sunrise (on the) Strip

Waking up fancy

Bouchon

Up for a mini-staycation? Pony up a little extra cash for these spectacular Strip standouts. Sure, it can be a pain to go to the Strip just for breakfast, but dining at Bouchon Bistro (inside the Venetian, bouchonbakery.com) is well worth the effort. Service is impeccable — your coffee cup gets refilled as though by magic — and the food? Well, this is a Thomas Keller restaurant. The Breakfast Jardinière ($22) is a fairly good value: two eggs, toasted brioche with creamy salted butter, tropical fruit salad, sautéed spinach, Lyonnaise potatoes, juice and coffee with your choice of pastry. You can’t go wrong with the flaky pain au chocolat, but be sure to ask about special pastries of the day. Oh, and you can also order a side of fries. Tres francais, n’est-ce pas?

Breakfast at the breezy Verandah Café (inside the Four Seasons Hotel, 632-5000) feels like you’re dining at … um, at just about anywhere but on the Strip. Attentive (but not overbearing) service and thoughtful, artistically presented dishes make the somewhat hefty price tag (almost) bearable. Keep things light during the week with the vegetarian hash or egg white frittata with tomato relish ($16). Weekends are for splurging via Verandah’s elaborate brunch, where the “make your own donuts” station is a mandatory first stop ($37).

If the tables were kind to you last night, treat yourself to the breakfast — and the view — at MOzen Bistro (Inside Mandarin Oriental, 888-881-9367). Feeling a bit exotic? Try the Japanese Bento Breakfast ($35): teriyaki-glazed salmon, silken tofu with ginger, poached eggs in dashi soy, sushi rice, miso soup with wakame, and tropical fruits served with green tea and juice. Want to keep things domestic? Go for the Nantucket Eggs ($28): beautifully plated grilled jumbo lump crab cakes, poached eggs, baby spinach and hollandaise sauce, served with asparagus-topped breakfast potatoes.

Going to Payard Patisserie and Bistro (inside Caesars Palace, payard.com) and not ordering the chocolate waffles ($14) is akin to going to Peter Luger and ordering the vegetable plate. The master pastry chef does not disappoint. Decadent without being heavy, the crispy waffles are plated with caramelized bananas, whipped cream and a generous drizzle of Nutella. If you must do savory, opt for the Croque Madame ($17): sunny-side up egg, ham, béchamel, Swiss, baked tomato and salad. Feeling a bit drowsy after such a big meal? You can always sleep it off — and wake up tomorrow for another go. 

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