Eat is so good that I’m willing to dispose of any hater-ish cynicism that might be floating around my brain regarding the Tony Hsieh-ification of Downtown Las Vegas. If the Zappos leader’s Downtown Project fails completely in its attempt to turn old Vegas into one big happy dorm room sleepover, at least it will have resulted in a charming place to eat an incredible breakfast.
The specific breakfast I’m thinking of is chef Natalie Young’s shrimp and grits ($11). Stunningly light, fluffy grits are topped with two crispy strips of bacon, two artfully cooked over-easy eggs, three plump shrimp and the unexpected twist that blows this dish into best-ever territory: slightly pickled pico de gallo. The simple addition of lime juice adds surprising brightness to these diced tomatoes and jalapeños, an acidic, almost sweet kick that cuts through the richness of runny egg yolk and the blissful creaminess of the grits. There’s a lot going on here, I say while eating it. “There’s always a lot going on with my food,” Young says. “There’s even a lot going on with my grilled cheese sandwich. You can’t be afraid.”
- 707 Carson St., 534-1515.
- Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Indeed, there’s nothing to be afraid of at Eat, and that includes its seemingly odd location at the base of an old apartment building. But this is kinda ground zero for Downtown Project, across the street from the planned shipping container park. There will be places to eat there, but no matter what else opens, Eat will stay on my Downtown short list. It’s so comfy and city-ish, with its small counter peering into the kitchen, metal chairs and quirky artwork. It’s a very thoughtful place; Young is more than capable of filling Downtown’s breakfast-lunch void.
Back to that breakfast: Crispy beignets are made to order and worth the short wait. The pancakes outdo the neighborhood’s previous favorites at Du-Par’s, thinner and armed with butter-crunchy edges. The wild card is huevos motuleños ($10), a Yucatan-inspired dish of eggs, red and green chili sauce, black beans, corn tortillas, peas, feta cheese and sautéed bananas. If you’re into savory-sweet-spicy bites, this is going to mess you up good.
For lunch, Eat serves a few light sandwiches and salads, and the weekend brunch is a mishmash of favorites from the morning and midday menus. Young’s grilled cheese ($9) features aged cheddar on sourdough with tomato salad, and she does her own version of banh mi, too. But these are going to change, not just with the seasons but also with whatever the chef feels like cooking. It’s more than a lovely coincidence that her vision of comfort food just happens to be exactly what this new-old neighborhood needs.