Lucky Penny is not your father’s coffee shop.
The cafe, which opened this summer at the Palms, has all of the traditions of the Las Vegas coffee shop. It’s open 24/7, has a breakfast menu that’s available all day and some Asian items to fill the role of the Chinese restaurant de rigeur in casinos. But the creativity and execution of the food put it squarely in the modern era.
The Waffle-Grilled Cheese ($13) was successful, with its comfort-food roots and au-courant cachet. No one-dimensional American cheese here; Lucky Penny uses a blend of cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and Monterey jack, some of them contributing assertive flavors, others optimal meltability, the sum of the parts delivering layers of warm, gooey flavor. The appeal doesn’t stop there — the sandwich is built on sourdough, which has been toasted on a waffle iron for seemingly endless nooks and crannies of crunch — and goes on with a cup of tomato soup, the classic accompaniment with enough of a spicy kick to earn its place on the plate.
Macho Machaca Hash ($13) from the breakfast menu was another example of improving on a classic using better ingredients. Traditional machaca is made with dried meat, once a logistical necessity but now mostly an acquired taste. Lucky Penny layers fork-tender and deeply flavored braised short ribs with fried potatoes and onions, a crisp tortilla and a peppery salsa topped off with the mellow richness of poached eggs and crema. This version elevated a workaday dish to a masterpiece of contrasting textures and flavors.
Two other dishes were not as successful, though both showed promise. Care obviously had been taken in the creation of the gyoza ($10) — lovely little pillows with delicately pleated edges pan-fried on one side. But here the kitchen was too tame; the dumpling filling tasted of pork and scallions and not much else. A jot of ginger or garlic or even sesame oil would have added zing.
A berry cobbler ($9) began well with fresh berry notes, but while a cobbler should have a crumbly biscuit topping that accents the fruit, this one was cakelike, smothering those poor little gems.
Lucky Penny is a wide-open spot but it’s away from most of the hubbub. Bedecked with spacious booths, plush chairs, contemporary light fixtures and lots of pale neutrals, the diner’s atmosphere is serene. This is a coffee shop for its era, a lucky find indeed.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.
Lucky Penny, the Palms; 866-942-7770
The essence: Not your father’s coffee shop, it has a creative kitchen and sleek styling.