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ZYDECO PO-BOYS is Closing (Sigh)

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Zydeco Po-Boys — that bastion of casual N’Awlins cooking in Downtown Las Vegas — will shut its debris doors for good on March 3rd.

Here are some of the comments (taken off Facebook pages) from some of its fans and other folks about its demise:

This was predicted by City planning when they recommended to deny Container Park’s box enclosure plan realizing it would artificially cut off the streets behind it from normal urban flow. Making it many times harder for a business to succeed. But Council let amateurs make planning decisions for better (sometimes) and worse (most times).

“Unfortunately, people don’t want to be eating inside a restaurant while watching someone dig in the trash directly outside the window.” – Chef Bradley Manchester – Glutton (Who knows a thing or two about operating downtown.)

This is the most pathetic excuse I have ever heard. Obviously chef Bradley Manchester has never been to San Francisco or any other major metropolitan area in the United States. To even make a comment like this is beyond the pale. I can’t even believe I spent a dime at Glutton.

Parking rates are too high and parking control hovers around more than a panhandler needing a fix.

Parking, planning, panhandlers…what caused the failure? Well, to answer the question, we put it to the chef/owner Brandon Trahan, a thoughtful fellow who poured his heart and soul into the business for the past two years. Here’s what he had to say:

Was it the landlord?

No, not at all. The Downtown Project did everything they could; they built the space and gave me every chance to succeed.

Was it your location?

In a way, yes. It’s hard to get tourists to make the trek just a couple of blocks over from East Fremont Street to here.

Was it the closing of Glutton?

That didn’t help. Glutton created foot traffic on the block that we definitely benefited from. Once they closed, there were a lot less people walking by. Also, after Glutton closed the street got much darker at night. It’s really dark down here and not having that business open on the corner did not help things.

Are there too many places downtown?

Maybe. Maybe there aren’t enough people (living) here to support all of us. VegeNation does great though, so does EAT, Carson Kitchen and the Donut Shop. They’ve been great neighbors. We’re like a community down here.

Was it the bums?

Not really. I didn’t see some of the bad activity that others have described. Besides, anywhere you go in any big city you’ll see lots of bums. You’ve been to San Francisco, right? There, you can be having a fancy meal and see all sorts of homeless right outside the window of a nice restaurant.

Was it your food?

People here don’t really understand Cajun food. They think it’s real spicy. It can be, but it mostly is just well-spiced. We also fry a lot of things so it isn’t a light cuisine, but, of course, that’s where the flavor is.

What about parking? Everyone always wants to blame the parking.

Everyone wants to blame the parking situation, and it could be better, but I don’t think that causes a business to fail.

What would it have taken to stay open?

40%. 40% more customers, 40% more gross revenue. Without that it just didn’t make any economic sense to continue.

Any parting words?

We tried our best. The landlord was great, it was all on me to make a success of the place. They let me do my thing my way, and for that I am very grateful. In the end, there just wasn’t enough daily business down here to keep the place open. Some days we were busy; some weekends I’d see a line out the door at EAT and we’d have only a handful of customers the entire day. I’m sad but I gave it my best.

We’ll miss Brandon — a second career chef who went to culinary school and left Louisiana after the Hurricane Katrina disaster wiped him out. We’ll miss his warmth and good humor, as well as his gumbo and shrimp po-boys. He also fried the best skinny onion rings on earth:

If my waistline would’ve allowed it, I would’ve eaten his food at least once a week.

Zydeco Po-Boys closes a week from tomorrow – March 3, 2017.

ZYDECO PO-BOYS

616 East Carson Street

702.982.1889

https://www.facebook.com/zydecopoboys/

Bah Humbug!

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‘Tis the season to be jolly, isn’t it? The time of year for rejoicing and celebrating; for toasting the year’s ending with reminiscences, good cheer, and hale and hearty fellowship. Am I right?

Nope, not this year. Not by a long shot. Why? Because lovers of good food downtown are in mourning.  Because Bradley Manchester’s Glutton closed its doors for good last night, after just twenty months of operation. Because the number of good places to eat in downtown Las Vegas just got cut in half. Six days before Christmas.

That means Manchester and his small crew of chefs and bartenders and waiters are out of work, less than a week from what is supposed to be the happiest day of the year. The day of the year when gifts are bestowed and glasses are raised in celebration of the year’s past, and in hopes of a prosperous new one.

Not for Glutton, and not for downtown. Because the closing of Glutton portends dire days ahead for the downtown dining scene. Soon enough, a chain restaurant called Eureka! (exclamation point essential) will open in the space once occupied by The Beat coffee shop, and the marketing muscle it will bring to the scene will no doubt further endanger the survival of the small, locally-owned stores like Carson Kitchen, The Smashed Pig, Bõchõ, and La Comida — places that, like Glutton, had  foodies all atwitter just a couple of years ago.

Truth be told, we were never fond of the name, or the logo of Glutton. The name sent all the wrong messages, and the logo looked like some cheap eatery you’d find in a food court. But from our very first bites back on April 10, 2015, we were taken by the place. Manchester’s concept was everything people say they want in a restaurant: intimate, local, chef-driven, and delicious. The size was right, the corner location attractive, and the open kitchen/bar/dining room just the sort of Millennial-friendly space that the post-recession zeitgeist seemed to call for. He also had a solid mixology program as well as what might have been the best burger in town.

Alas, it was not enough. “I strongly stand behind the product we offered. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get enough consistent business through the doors,” is how Bradley put it when I asked him what went wrong. Sometimes, though, quality isn’t enough. To succeed in the restaurant business, you’ve got to capture people’s imagination, and perhaps that’s where Glutton fell short.

Or perhaps downtown Las Vegas is about to get the (boring, derivative, franchise) restaurants it deserves.

 

Ruminations on THE Arnold Palmer

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I hate iced tea. I hate iced tea because iced tea is nothing. It is not tea and it is not water. All iced tea is is a murky brown liquid that has only the vaguest resemblance to its name.

Iced tea looks and tastes like a polluted, stagnant swimming pool. Iced tea is what you order when you want to pretend to be drinking something, when actually you are drinking nothing but rusty, mouth-drying H2O.

You know who loves iced tea? Americans. Americans order it because it makes them feel like they’re ordering something special to drink, when in reality, they are ordering nothing but perfectly good water that’s been spoiled by a weak bag of gawdawful, cheap tea.

Tea is, and always has been, a warm drink. A drink whose flavor derives from the steeping of leaves (fresh, dried or fermented) in hot water — the better to release the essences, aromas, antioxidants and tannin from the leaves. I hate hot tea too, but when it’s made properly, i.e., carefully and warm, at least it tastes like what it is….and what it’s supposed to be.

Arnold Palmer obviously recognized the loathsome qualities of iced tea when he had the good sense to add some lemonade to his way back in the Sixties. But to my mind, he only made things worse. Because once the most popular athlete on the planet decided to do christen a drink (especially at the dawn of the television advertising age), everybody wanted to get on board. As a result, from about 1964 forward, every single, goddamned country club, golf course, watering hole, backwater diner, luncheonette and shithole restaurant in the goddamned country has been making gallons of iced friggin’ tea to slake the thirst of  slackjawed customers who would be better off with a glass of f*cking water.

Yep, Arnie sure figured out how to make the worst cold drink on the planet palatable, but he also ended up ruining a perfectly good glass of lemonade in the process.

I can forgive Arnie this transgression because I, like so many others, loved Arnold Palmer, the man.  By all accounts he was the genuine article. A kind, warm, friendly fellow who never let his fame go to his head. There are probably a million people out there who have a story about Palmer shaking their hand, looking into their eyes, and treating them, if only for a moment or two, like the most important person he had ever met.

I forgave Arnie a long time ago for his sins. For never winning the PGA, for blowing a seven stroke lead on Billy Casper in the U.S. Open and for not beating Jack Nicklaus more than he did. He let me and my dad down more than once as we stared into a grainy TV picture and tried to cheer him on to one of his famous “charges” on the back nine of a tournament. But somehow, in losing, he became even more beloved, even more noble. Palmer fans felt the heartbreak with every missed fairway or putt. His expressive face and emotions-on-his-sleeve demeanor pulled us into his world — unlike the cold, calculating Nicklaus who exuded all the warmth of a two-iron.

They say they don’t make ’em like that anymore and they don’t. When news of his death reached the PGA Tour late yesterday, the tributes and accolades came pouring in. But one of the most telling came from Rory McIlroy (from all accounts, a decent chap in his own right):  “If it weren’t for Arnie, we wouldn’t have all the success we have (on the tour), and we wouldn’t be playing for the obscene amounts of money we do today.”

So true, and so true that athletes today (in all sports) can make a name for themselves and immediately rope themselves off from reality and their fans. Arnold Palmer never roped himself off from anyone. For over half a century (and most of my life), he was one of the most famous people in the world, but he never acted like it.

I saw him in person only once, at the Citrus Open golf tournament in Orlando, Florida, back in 1967. He walked right past me on his way to the first tee, surrounded by fans and officials. (You could actually walk along with the players then, unlike today.) I remember thinking he was smaller than I thought he would be. In my teenage brain, I guess I expected him to be a foot taller than me. But there he was, smiling at everyone, and shaking hand after hand with those big, bricklayer paws of his. A gentleman in a gentleman’s sport who didn’t know how to be any other way.

“My father taught me that just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be nice,” he liked to say, and boy did he ever take the lesson to heart.

The world seems like a lesser place when someone like Arnold Palmer dies. No other athlete ever has had, or ever will have, the uplifting and transcendent impact on his/her sport that Arnold Palmer did. He got me into golf (the only sport I’ve ever been good at), and by doing so, he gave me a bond with my father that lasted a lifetime. Most of all, though, he showed me (and the world) how to be great at something and do it with grace and style and humility.

RIP Arnie. I don’t hit the links much anymore, but the next time I do, I may even have an “Arnold Palmer” in your memory. But please forgive me if I opt for a Rolling Rock (which used to be made in your hometown) instead.

 

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