Hi, my name is Gray, and I love coffee. So much so, that I wrote a love poem about coffee in college for my poetry workshop. I read it during a poetry night at–where else? Our local coffeehouse. It was a big hit with the owners, as you can imagine.
I also love Las Vegas. You know this. But if there’s one thing the Las Vegas Strip has been missing in all the years I’ve been visiting, it’s a great coffeehouse. Coming from a city known for its great coffeehouses, I find this baffling. Doesn’t everyone love a good coffeehouse? Where else do you read the newspaper? Or meet friends? Or plot world domination?
Don’t get me wrong: I like Starbucks iced coffee very much. And I appreciate the fact that there’s a Starbucks every twenty feet in Vegas, so when I’m struck by sudden caffeine withdrawals, I can get a quick fix. But the atmosphere at most Starbucks shops leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s generally not a place I want to spend much time.
Most resort “coffee shops” are what I’d call a “restaurant” and the “cafes” are more like bakeries with limited seating. Coffee stands and shops tend to be crammed somewhere in a high-traffic spot just off a casino where peace and quiet–not to mention seating–is hard to come by. It’s like they really don’t want customers hanging around too long. “Take your coffee and move along, bub.”
When I want to enjoy a good cup of coffee, I don’t want to drink it on the run; I want to linger over it. I want to sit somewhere with a little peace and quiet, where I’m not feeling rushed, where I can read or people-watch and savor the coffee flavors as they roll around my tongue. To me, that is the quintessential coffeehouse experience, and that’s something that has been sadly missing from my Vegas experience–until now.
I actually discovered two great coffeehouses on my last trip (one was Downtown, I’ll review it later). For those of us who stay on the Strip, Sambalatte at the Monte Carlo is the answer to our coffeehouse prayers. You could easily pick this place up and set it down in Burlington, VT and it would fit right in. It’s a gem.
Let’s start with the coffee. The iced coffee is tasty and cold and hits the spot on a hot day–but honestly, it didn’t strike me as being any better or worse than Starbucks.
Despite the 100-degree temps when I was there, I went out of my way to try a hot coffee drink as well, the “Flat White.” Now that was the experience I was really looking for. Having coffee served in a real coffee cup with a saucer and a cute little design drawn in the foam is absolutely an invitation to linger over it, don’t you think? Even more so when the coffee is among the best I’ve had in Las Vegas.
Not only is Sambalatte a locally-owned business, but it serves fair trade coffee. (If you don’t know what that means, read about it here.) They also roast their coffee beans on site, although I didn’t get to see that happening.
A superior coffee experience is all in the attitude. You can treat the creation of a cup of coffee as a craft, or you can treat it like a production line. They treat it like a craft here. In addition to coffee, they also offer tea, pastries, sandwiches and more. Yes, the coffee here is expensive* (hello, Vegas prices), but not much more so than Starbucks. But the quality of coffee isn’t enough–the setting is just as important to me, and Sambalatte definitely delivers.
Sambalatte’s layout is attractive and spacious with plenty of tables both indoors and outdoors. (They can seat 80 people indoors, 100 outdoors.) I tried both experiences. Indoors, you can listen to piped-in jazz playing and daydream about where you want to travel while staring at maps of the world on their walls. Or write in your journal. Or read the newspaper or a good book. Or jump onto the Monte Carlo’s slow wifi with your mobile device.
Outdoors, you can soak up some fresh air and sunshine and do a little people-watching. If you’re lucky, you might catch some live music, as I did one day. There was a young man singing and playing guitar on the steps of the new plaza in front of the Monte Carlo who was very good. Live entertainment, too, is a staple of a good coffeehouse experience.
Sambalatte has what I’d call a mellow, adult environment, as a coffeehouse should. Granted, I wasn’t there during breakfast, which is reportedly busy–so it might well be frantic then for all I know. But my experience was that it was a relaxing and peaceful place to sit and gather my thoughts. Here, the world slows down for a little while.
There just aren’t enough places like that on the Las Vegas Strip, in my opinion. But at least there’s one more now. Thank the coffee gods for that.
Are you a coffee fan? What’s your favorite place to linger over a coffee on the Strip?
*Sambalatte’s prices, as of June 2014:
- Coffee drinks ranged in price from $3.50 to $5.75
- Iced Tea (Green Peppermint Yerba Mate, Black Ginger Peach Mango, Herbal Mountain Berry) was $4.50
- Frozen Frappes (Tahitian Vanilla, Mocha, Java Chip) were $6
- Breakfast items (muffins, croissants, oatmeal, parfait, quiche, frittata) ranged in price from $5.50 to $8.75.
- Sandwiches ranged in price from $8.50 to $10.50.
- Desserts & Sweets ranged in price from $2.25 to $8.