Ed: This review is written by my friend Rachel Hayden, whom you may remember from our recent gambol at Car Wash Coffee. Hope you enjoy a different voice.
On our way from Las Vegas to Death Valley on a recent weekend, my husband and I accidentally discovered the Amargosa Café at a crossroads that looks a little like a ghost town. Originally built as an outpost for the Pacific Coast Borax Company, the Amargosa now hosts a small, funky hotel, an opera house, and the café. We actually thought the buildings were abandoned, but we got nosy and decided to poke around. Happily, our curiosity was rewarded with a delicious breakfast and coffee worthy of a mention on this prestigious blog. And, luckily, it happened to be a Friday because the Amargosa is only opened Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
I’m no Matty Macchiatto when it comes to judging coffee, but my cappuccino was rich, well-balanced, and delicious – with just the right amount of foam on top. The Amargosa Café boasts a full menu of coffee, made from beans imported from Italian roasters in Australia. It stands up to the best I’ve had in Washington DC and many other cities. In the most remote, unexpected setting – I found coffee bliss.
The food is as delicious as the coffee. We had eggs, biscuits and jam, and bacon. The eggs were fresh, the biscuits were both crusty and chewy, the jam was homemade (I highly recommend the apricot) and the cherry applewood bacon was – well, as my son used to say, “food of the gods.” If you are there at lunch time, they offer only grilled cheese or pizza. Both are probably top notch, based on breakfast. There is also a lovely variety of pastry.
The history of the Amargosa is also unexpected. In 1968, a slightly over-the-hill ballerina named Marta Beckett was touring the US and got a flat tire at the Amargosa hotel. It was love at first sight and she rented the opera house to perform in her own recitals. She lived and performed at the Amargosa for several decades before she retired 2012. She died in 2017, but her little desert empire remains. If you have time, the hotel offers tours of her opera house, complete with murals hand-painted by Marta, for $5.
So, if you happen to find yourself at the intersection of highways 127 and 190 near the California/Nevada line, don’t drive past that abandoned outpost. Stop by the Amargosa, get yourself a coffee, eat some food, and bask in the quirky serendipity of “ballet dancer meets old west mining outpost meets ‘where the hell are we?’” You’ll be forever confident that you’ve had the best cup of coffee to be found between Las Vegas and Death Valley.
State Line Rd & CA-127
Death Valley Junction, California
Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 8am-3pm