Updated July 23, 2021 - 8:41 pm
Las Vegas headliner and “Mindfreak” master Criss Angel was standing in the middle of the road Friday, posing so photographers could also focus on his sign in the background. Only a few motorists approached, and those who did politely drove around him and went on their way.
It would never fly on the Strip, but it was business as usual in Overton, where Angel was celebrating the grand opening of his new restaurant, CABLP.
The event was very much a family affair — again, not really in keeping with the raucous, adults-only atmosphere of the Strip, but very much suited to the Moapa Valley community, population just over 7,000. As Angel prepared to cut the big red ribbon in front of the door, he was joined by his mother, Dimitra Sarantakos (Angel’s real last name); brother and business partner, Costa; wife, Shaunyl; 2-year-old son Xritos Yanni; and business partner and pizza maker extraordinaire Mike Baram. And, of course, his cherubic, round-faced 7-year-old son Johnny Crisstopher, the whole reason Angel’s association with rural Nevada came to be.
Johnny Crisstopher has been battling cancer for five of his seven years, and when he asked for and received a dirt bike last Christmas, the family’s search for a suitable place for him to ride it led them to the Moapa Valley community about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Angel saw his son blossom there.
“We fell in love with it,” he said in May. “We love camping; we never did that. In 45 minutes, you’re transported from the stress to an entirely different way of life. There’s a simplicity to living, and a charm, and a quality you can’t get from a big city. I just feel very at peace out here.”
Time spent in the community led them to frequent Sugar’s Home Plate, a landmark restaurant since 1991 at 309 S. Moapa Valley Blvd. When he learned Sugar’s was for sale, Angel decided to buy.
“We’ve worked really hard,” he said Friday, and the evidence was all around him. The main dining room has been extensively renovated, the old bar area removed and a service window added for walk-up Java’Freak coffee drinks, Italian ices and pizza slices.
The most striking transformation, though, is the small rear meeting room, which was a favorite of residents despite having seen better days. Now it’s … well, it’s gone! Head down the hall past the restrooms, and you’ll dead-end into a bookcase.
Ah, but what would a magician’s restaurant be without a Magic Room? Touch just the right book, and the shelves swing back to reveal a charming new space that seats 10, where Angel displays magic paraphernalia from his personal collection, including one of the first tricks he performed as a child. There’s also memorabilia, such as a straitjacket signed by all of the drivers at Monster Jam; a Vegas Golden Knights jersey emblazoned with his name and autographed by the team (soon to be joined by a Raiders jersey); and a broken guitar autographed to Johnny Crisstopher by Kiss’ Paul Stanley, which Stanley smashed into the stage in Bakersfield, Calif., and handed to the boy.
The walls of the main dining room are emblazoned with Angel witticisms such as “Forget Vegas! I’m in Overton with Criss, cowboys, bikers and aliens” (a theme illustrated in a mural on the outside of the building); “Don’t wine — drink beer!” and, from Vice digital media, “CABLP — the worst name in restaurant history.” The last is twinned with a reference to Rolling Stone magazine in 2013 naming the Beatles as among the “13 dumbest band names in rock history,” just to prove there’s no accounting for taste.
But in case you’re wondering, CABLP — pronounced ca-BLIP — stands for “Criss Angel’s Breakfast, Lunch and Pizza.”
Baram is responsible for the excellent pizza, which has a stretchy thin crust. Of the 100 flavors of Italian ices Angel makes in his plant near Allegiant Stadium, those in the case on Friday included the refreshing Summer Breeze, which tastes just as the name implies; a wonderfully tart lemon; and a creamy, decadent fudge brownie. The menu includes breakfast sandwiches, burgers, calzones, wraps and entrees such as Moapa Chicken-Fried Steak and Long Island Fish and Chips, and beverages including the Mindfreeze, made with vodka and particularly suitable to hot weather.
Angel also is developing an RV retreat in the adjacent town of Logandale for families of kids with cancer, supporting a jobs-training program and launching other philanthropies to complement his Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation, all of which the restaurant will help support.
But Friday, the crowd packing CABLP, which included Moapa Valley Fire District chief Stephen Neel, seemed to be mostly focused on the food.
“The food is fabulous,” Neel said. “It’s great to see how Criss has become part of our community and being involved.”
“It’s a great addition to the community,” firefighter Greg Johnson agreed. “It’s great to see they’ve kept some of the traditions of Sugar’s,” such as the ranch dressing and carrot cake recipes.
“People in the community have been nothing but amazing,” Angel said, as he signed autographs and greeted anyone who waited to talk to him.
He looked toward the magic bookshelf and smiled.
“We’re still embracing Sugar’s,” he said. “But we’re going to the future.”