Sunday, April 28, 2013

Breakfast in Vegas

Hola darlings!

I am back home from three wonderful days in Las Vegas.

Whew! What a whirlwind. I have lots to write about, don't know if I'll get to it all, but it sure was fun showing Thelma around for her very first visit to the city that is my #1 place to go for a great short fantasy get-away.

The weather was so perfect in LV for this waterlogged Milwaukee girl! Arrived in LV on Tuesday March 23 to sunshine, a few horse-tail like clouds in the sky, low humidity and about 83 degrees F, after nearly two solid weeks of unrelenting darkness, gloom, cold and rain rain rain here! Flash floods warnings were all over the place in Wisconsin, up north (unofficially defined as any place north of Milwaukee 100 miles or more, LOL!) got SNOW - lots of SNOW! Awful awful awful.

I want to talk about breakfast in Las Vegas - specifically, my breakfasts in Las Vegas.

These days, as I continue to educate myself on the importance of proper nutrition in aiding weight management, I try for a good balance among carbs, fiber and protein. I don't always do that in practice during the harried work week, but when I'm on vacation, I go for it because I've got the luxury of time (and someone else making the actual meal) do to so. And the good habits do carry over for awhile, at least.

The Peppermill

If you are familiar with Las Vegas, perhaps you have heard about a restaurant that has achieved iconic status in LV: The Peppermill!

It is just to the south of the Riviera Hotel complex on The Strip in a stand-alone restaurant -- a rarity these days -- and kitty-corner from Circus Circus, which is across the wide roadway. I am not sure, but my guess is that the Riviera and Circus Circus are the oldest remaining intact hotel complexes still existing on The Strip. So much has changed since 1979, which was the very first time I ever step foot in LV.

But the Peppermill is still there and, judging by the number of people coming and going as Thelma and I enjoyed our breakfast there on Wednesday morning (April 24), it is as popular as ever! That makes me very happy. The food is great. Yes, the prices have risen over the years - what hasn't? Generally speaking, though, lower than average elsewhere at the hotels on The Strip. Everything I've ever eaten at the Peppermill has been and continues to be cooked perfectly to order.. I'm very fussy about my scrambled eggs being cooked 'loose,' for instance, and although I am generally loathe to send a dish back or complain because I appreciate how hard these people work to try and please us, I've never had a complaint, not even a miniscule one, about any dish I've had at the Peppermill. Value-wise, best on the Strip, to my knowledge. Be careful what you order, because the portions are so generous, unless you have a lumberjack appetite you will be leaving food behind or taking it to go, and good luck with that because the vast majority of Las Vegas hotel rooms do not have a fridge and microwave to allow you such a luxury as keeping left-overs for later!

The staff is - wonderful. The bussers are discreet and uber-efficient. The wait-staff are pros but friendly and homey, and just make you feel comfortable right away. These people know there stuff! The decor is - purple and pink and green and very 1970's and I luv luv luv it! Immaculately clean and well-maintained. Best hash browns I've ever had -- perfectly cooked -- tender, juicy, not overdone, or mushy (underdone), with just the right degree of "brown-ness" on the outside. And not greasy. YUM! How the hell do they do that???

These days my appetite is not what it used to be. I get filled up quickly and ordering a $12.95 gigantic plate of food I cannot possibly eat is a waste of money for me. Fortunately, The Peppermill offers an excellent ala carte menu and I can build a meal that I know I will be able to eat with pleasure because it won't be too much, so I won't feel as if I'm wasting food (hey, I am a child of two parents who were raised during the Great Depression, and it left its mark on them, and they have left their marks on me) and I am happy with the prices of the individual selections, too.

Normally, darlings, I do not have a cocktail first thing in the morning with my breakfast. But this particular day, with this particular travel companion, I thought - what the hell. And so when the cocktail waitress came around and offered some suggestions, I ordered a non-spicy Bloody Mary and, to my delighted surprise, Thelma ordered a Mimosa!

Our meals were perfectly cooked and delivered. Wish these photos did justice to them:

Thelma ordered a feta cheese and veggie omelet which comes with a side of your choice, she chose hash-browns.  While we were waiting for our food we were chatting away, I was giving Thelma some historical background on LV as she made inroads on her Mimosa, as you can see.

And I ordered this --

-- aforesaid non-spicy Bloody Mary (as you may be able to deduce by the markedly decreased volume of liquid in the glass, I was happily sipping away, too). Our dishes arrived piping hot and done to perfection. I ordred ala carte three soft-scrambled eggs (did I mention that they were perfectly cooked? Because they were perfectly cooked), and hash browns -- look at them - hey, what can I say, I'm salivating just looking at this photograph I took - woo woo!  These are some of the best hash browns I've ever tasted, and I've had hash browns at plenty of different restaurants over the years.  I don't know if it is the potatoes used or the cooking oil used, but these are just delicious, and tender but not mushy, crispy but not overdone on the outside.  How do they do it? 

Left nary a bite-size morsel on my plate. Thelma polished off most of her somewhat larger meal, too. Well, she's still a growing girl.  She has a hearty appetite.  Ahhhh, to be Thelma's age again...  Thelma and I left the Peppermill happy and full, and nodding to each other that we will be back again, soon.

P.S. Shortly after I took this photo, a couple were seated at the table that you can see at the top of the photo, above. She was definitely American, he was definitely European. I wasn't eavesdropping on their conversation, but sometimes you overhear snippets of conversation... her accent was American with a slight hint of Latina, and his accented English was German, I think. What can I say? Hey - Las Vegas - universal city. That's one of the reasons I love visiting there. Not to mention, but here I am doing it anyway, that the Peppermill was Mr. Don's favorite place to have breakfast after I took him there for the first time in November, 2003 and several visits thereafter. Going there again after his passing away last October brought back many fond memories, as well as making new ones. So I was sad/happy at the same time.

Here is a photograph I found of the Peppermill from Planet 99 online, taken, I believe, in January, 2003. Oh, the memories! The Peppermill is still the same but the background to the southeast no longer exists... The Encore and the Wynn are there now in place of the torn-down buildings that used to be there:

I did not take photographs of the other breakfasts I had during this Las Vegas dash (April 23-25, left at 1:55 p.m. April 26). Each of those breakfasts in their own way, were just as good!

Betty's Diner at The Quad (formerly known as Imperial Palace)

Thelma slept a little later Thursday morning (we had a late night Wednesday night), but I was up at the crack of dawn.  It's like a curse or something...  Anyway, I was hungry!  The Quad (f/k/a Imperial Palace) has Betty's Diner, which isn't really a diner but you can get enough there to stave off starvation when you need quick, and especially, very good fresh coffee and something to eat.  Fresh sweets, bagels, croissants, toasts, sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches made to order, fruit, yogurt, assorted juices, beverages and of course, regular and decaf coffee, ice creams and shakes.  So, about 6:30 a.m. I took the elevator down to Betty's and got coffee, fresh cut-up fruit in a large container and a croissant with whipped butter on the side.  On the way out I grabbed a couple of grape jelly packs and headed back to my room.

Wish I had a picture of that croissant to show you, for it was large, flaky, light, deliciously buttery even without the extra butter I added, and fresh fresh fresh!  Bar none, the best croissant I've ever had anywhere, ANYWHERE!  Kudos to Betty's Diner!  Coffee, like I mentioned, is hot and fresh, and made perfectly to my taste because it is not weak, but it is not overbearingly strong either. Or worse yet, stale and burnt-tasting!  There is always a demand for Betty's coffee so it is constantly being made up fresh.  Coffee, croissant and a large fruit cup was a little over $10 - but that includes that 10% LV sales tax, so underlying prices are less than many places.  Sounds expensive?  Not for The Strip!  I have found Betty's prices to be comparable or lower than other places I've visited on The Strip.

From The Quad website

When I got back to my hotel room I had a little mini-feast at the round table by my open sliding door to the balcony and was in Heaven, enjoying the gentle, warm early morning breezes as the Sun climbed higher in the sky.  The added luxury of the grape jelly - oooooooohhhhh.....

Betty's Diner is as good as ever, and it has actually improved it's internet service -- more stations where you can plug in your own computer or use one already there, for a modest fee.  For fast, convenient, and excellent quality, please do try Betty's Diner at The Quad (f/k/a Imperial Palace).

The Coffee Shop at Treasure Island

Friday, April 26, was our last day in LV and we didn't have much time before we had to hustle back to the hotel and find our loading spot for the shuttle (I'll write about that soon). Thelma and I hit The Strip about 8:30 a.m. in search of breakfast.  Our plan had been to go to Denny's for breakfast for nearby, well known and inexpensive by LV standards.  But there was a waiting line twisting it's way down the sidewalk as we approached!  Holy Goddess!  So, that plan was nixed and I said, let's try the coffee shop at Treasure Island, which was about two blocks south of where we were.  Fortunately, at that time of day, there weren't hundreds of people vying for sidewalk space, but since it was Friday and the start of the weekend it was more crowded than what we had seen during our previous days there.  Still, we made good time there. 

Treasure Island is a lovely hotel, one of the "smaller" resort hotels/casinos on The Strip today when compared to the new mega-resorts (would never stay at one of those mega-resorts, too overwhelming, in my opinion).  It is famous for it's two (or is it three?) times daily maritime "battles" and sirens shows in the lagoon/harbor area fronting the hotel on The Strip.  It is excellently done, by the way, and a great hit because all passers-by can see it for free.  People line up hours before the next show, blocking the narrow sidewalks, in order to get a good standing room only view!

When I went to LV in August, 1999 to visit Isis and Michelle and also, incidentally, watch the knock-out series of matches that was the FIDE World Chess Championship being hosted at Caesar's Palace at the time, I breakfasted one morning at TI's coffee shop.  Back then, it had a counter with stools where singles could comfortably eat and not feel spotted-out, and I travelled to LV several times by myself, so it was a convenient and welcoming place to go.  I felt comfortable there.  The scale of the place is not mega-watt but person-friendly and at the time, the menu was extensive and the prices were very reasonable, even by Milwaukee standards.

Having fond memories of my past breakfasts at TI, I steered Thelma there.  Alas, the counter with stools is gone, and the coffee shop is much enlarged over what I remembered from 1999 and 2001!  But the staff was excellent. The surroundings are lovely, and the food was very good.  Pricey -- Las Vegas Strip pricey -- but very good. (By way of comparison, this morning was my investment club meeting and we had breakfast at Meyer's Family Restaurant less than a mile from where I live.  I ordered off the Breakfast Specials menu and had a very large 3-egg omelet with chopped ham and swiss cheese on top, plus hash browns plus toast, which I declined, for $5.04, and coffee is $1.70 a cup with unlimited refills). 

Photo from The Urban Spoon.

My sole complaint about the TI Coffee Shop breakfast menu is that the ala carte menu was very thin, almost non-existent!  I knew if I ordered a regular omelet with hashbrowns at $14.95 or, for that matter, any of the other offerings, it would be far more than I wanted to eat, and I hate, absolutely hate, wasting food!

Fortunately, a bowl of fresh seasonal berries was offered on the ala carte menu, and with a side of hash browns, plus coffee, the meal was around $11 or so and gave me exactly what I wanted.  I was craving fiber, and fresh fruit is an excellent way to get it.   The berries were delicious, not frozen and thawed, as far as I could tell because they were not mushy at all -- blueberries, red and blue rasberries, and quartered strawberries.  YUM!  Hash browns were very good, not greasy at all and served piping hot and - a definite plus in my eyes - our waitress instantly offered ketchup!, to which I promptly said yes. 

Those hashbrowns were not quite as tasty as those at The Peppermill, but they were delicious, eminently edible!  Atmosphere was great, it's a lovely "coffee house" - looks more like a Milwaukee Steak House, actually, with plenty of wood beams on the ceiling, plush carpeting and dark-stained wood everywhere, but no red flocked wallpaper, fortunately :)  Thelma and I were seated in a roomy booth and plenty of space among tables/booths.  Quiet, elegant.  I would definitely go there again. 

Coffee was served in large cups plus an aluminum hot pot left behind, which kept your refills hot and ready to pour yourself.  The coffee was very good.  I'm not a coffee connesieur, but I do like my coffee a certain way, not too weak, not too strong, like Goldie Locks in the old fairy tale, I like mine "just right."  LOL! 

Score Las Vegas on breakfast

Ten out of ten, ding ding ding ding ding!  Prices are high compared to what you may be used to and especially to bargain-bred Milwaukeeans, but not higher than the norm for Las Vegas.  Service was uniformly excellent at both restaurants that Thelma and I breakfasted at -- The Peppermill and the Coffee House at Treasure Island (inside the casino, on the left hand side near the entrance). 

Price wise, for what you get, Betty's Diner, which is not and does not pretend to be, a full-service restaurant, is the best bargain and I found the food to be fresh and the coffee excellent, always fresh.  For a full-service meal in a unique atmosphere with excellent service and somewhat lower prices than elsewhere on The Strip, The Peppermill cannot be beat!  TI's Coffee House also rates excellent in my book, but more expensive, I'd say, by around $1 to $2 per similar offerings.  Very different surroundings there, quiet and elegant, with a wood-beamed ceiling, rose-colored wallcoverings, discreetly uniformed wait-staff.  Not that the Peppermill is rowdy and loud, just different ala 1970's psychedelic chic and the wait staff is more "relaxed." 

Try them all, and enjoy. 


RuralRob said...

My wife and I spent a three-day weekend in LV a few months ago, and we ate breakfast at Peppermill. Well actually it was lunchtime, but we both ended up ordering breakfast, because the omelettes looked so good. I'll definitely second your recommendation to eat there when in Vegas!

RuralRob said...

My wife and I spent a three-day weekend in LV a few months ago, and we ate breakfast at Peppermill. Well actually it was lunchtime, but we both ended up ordering breakfast, because the omelettes looked so good. I'll definitely second your recommendation to eat there when in Vegas!

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