Breakfast is big business in Las Vegas.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve no doubt noticed the proliferation of breakfast places across the valley over the past few years. (Yes, they serve lunch as well, but the emphasis is on breakfast, with “egg” playing prominently in many of the names.)
The latest to experience a surge is The Egg & I/Egg Works family; there now are four Egg Works (Egg Workses?) in the valley. They’re sister restaurants to the venerable Egg & I, sharing many elements (although with slightly different menus), and it was to The Egg & I that we ventured.
You may remember that The Egg & I was the scene of an accident a few months ago, when a vehicle left the roadway and crashed through the restaurant’s outdoor seating area and into a wall. Sometimes such incidents have a chilling effect on the businesses involved, but that’s not the case here, because the place was absolutely packed when we went there at 10 a.m. on a Friday.
And so, you may ask, what’s the appeal? Not the prices; these places have been hit with increased costs like any other restaurant, and breakfast is likely to set you back $10 per person or more. No, the appeal is the food, which has completely transcended the bacon-and-eggs plates that were scraped off the grills of the diners of yore.
For example, a platter of house-made corned-beef hash ($10.95). I’ve made a busman’s holiday of studying corned-beef hashes in Las Vegas and have encountered them in many forms, with the meat ranging from practically ground to large chunks.
The Egg & I splits the difference by shredding its corned beef before mixing it with the potatoes and onions and seasonings. This actually is a logical route to take in that the texture of brisket lends itself to shredding, so what you end up with are pieces that are large enough that the flavor of the corned beef comes through, but tender because they’re shredded. With it we had two perfect over-easy eggs and a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (grapefruit and pineapple), which were a nice touch.
And more potatoes. They were different from the ones mixed with the hash, cubed and seasoned and deep-fried and quite nice as these things go, but I really didn’t need more potatoes.
Also part of the meal — and brought early, to help stave off the morning hunger pangs as we waited for our plates to arrive: fresh, hot banana muffins, an indulgence in and of themselves but approaching devil-may-care levels when slathered with the butter served in little cups on the table. Toast is another option, but I can’t imagine why you’d go there.
Part of the appeal of breakfast places no doubt is the adaptability of eggs, which enables them to be prepared in myriad ways (allegedly the inspiration for the multiple pleats on an old-school chef’s toque) and their status as sort of a neutral canvas for whatever flavors the chef chooses to apply.
And so it was with the pizza-esque flavors of the Sicilian Skillet ($9.25), a foundation of potatoes topped with cheese, marinara sauce, Italian sausage, peppers and onions — and eggs, of course, up in this case. The whole thing melded together beautifully, and presented a nice mix of contrasts in flavors and textures. With this one we got fresh pineapple and cantaloupe and liked that they mixed it up.
Service? Well, as we said, the place was packed, but the promised 15-minute wait turned out to be only about 10, as a bunch of tables opened up and were quickly cleared and reseated.
It seemed to take our server a while to get to us and nobody ever appeared to refill my iced tea (coffee is an easy do-it-yourself proposition, with an insulated carafe left on the table), but when we erroneously flipped the help-is-needed egg symbol on the rack on our table, an employee appeared almost instantly.
The place is surprisingly spacious, decorated in cheery colors and with a streamlined look overall.
And if there was a deterrent to accepting a table outdoors, it seemed not because of fear of flying cars, but instead the risk of baking in the desert summer heat.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 383-0474.