Chef Johnny Church has cooked all over the city, from high volume Strip kitchens like P.J. Clarke’s at the Forum Shops to neighborhood spots like the View Kitchen & Wine Bar at Tivoli Village. He even took a turn as a behind-the-scenes chef for Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares show.
Now executive chef at Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room restaurants at Mandalay Bay, Church is keeping busy as usual, but one thing has been missing from his résumé in recent years: breakfast. That’s about to change. The chef is teaming up with newly formed Shift Solutions to open MTO Café later this month, a breakfast and lunch spot in the Main Street parking garage across from City Hall.
“One of my first jobs was a breakfast place. When they asked, ‘Do you know how to cook eggs?’ of course I said ‘Oh yeah!’ Then I got in there and probably busted two dozen eggs,” jokes Church. “But that was where I got my timing down on the line, getting fast. Eggs can be tricky. But breakfast is my favorite meal.”
MTO—which stands for “made to order”—will serve an egg-centric but diverse breakfast menu including a jalapeño, cheddar, sour cream and scallion omelet, or a skillet dish with chicken sausage, roasted tomato, caramelized onions and arugula. There will be house-cured salmon with cream cheese, chives and dill, and lemon poppy pancakes with blueberry-ginger compote.
And that’s just breakfast. At lunchtime, look for soups and salads, wraps full of fresh vegetable combinations and the Fat Elvis sandwich—French toast with bacon, banana, peanut butter, strawberries and Nutella.
The 65-seat MTO Café will offer a retro-industrial design, a comfortable but quick Downtown dining option centered around a huge communal table built from a Kentucky tree trunk. It will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., when it will almost certainly become a favorite for city workers and the nearby courthouse crowd, and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Ben Sabouri, a former executive with Light Group and partner in Shift Solutions, says he hopes MTO Café will be the first of many Las Vegas restaurant projects for his new company, and he appears to have chosen a smart spot to start, Downtown. “We like the culture here, we like the mentality and there’s growth. You can’t say that everywhere else.”
Church, who will balance his duties on the Strip with those at MTO Café, can’t wait to bring new daytime eats to Downtown. “We’ve been talking about this for some time now, waiting for the right time for things to come together,” he says. “Every dish on the menu will be an example of the fresh, seasonal food we’ll be doing here.”