When August heat is stifling in the city, Las Vegans head for the hills — Mt. Charleston’s cool, leafy green.
On weekends, the mountain trails are busy, and the parking lots packed, with families trying to catch a break from triple-digit temps.
(The air up here is about 30 degrees cooler.)
Las Vegans like Mt. Charleston Lodge for the spectacular view (green! at last!), the laid-back atmosphere, and the Navajo artisans who sell turquoise and silver jewelry outdoors, surrounded by tall pines.
You don’t go to the lodge only for the food, but for the meal-with-a-view.
Nowhere else in the Valley can you see for miles without a hint of neon.
There are just mountain ridges, trees, Kyle Canyon, and that vast, desert sky.
Everything on the menu is big, from salads to the artery-busting, Elvis special (deep-fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, with fries).
Buffalo burgers ($17) and elk burgers ($16) are popular for their novelty, as well as lean meat.
On separate visits, our diner said he preferred the leaner, heart-healthy buffalo to the more gamey elk.
Like most menu items, they’re served with a small mountain of fries.
The lodge is serious about its burgers: They’re half-pounders. One is so hefty, it’s called the Paul Bunyan.
Skipped that pleasure and opted for pita pockets ($14), big, fat pitas filled with homemade, egg salad. The too-much-mayo was partly offset by a healthy salad that came with it instead of fries.
Should have opted for the “summer salad trio” ($14) of fresh-made tuna, southwestern chicken and egg salads. Other non-burger diners seemed to favor this, perhaps because there was so much fresh fruit on the plate too.
Pizzas range from $11 to $15; sandwiches and wraps, $13 to $15; and salads, $10 to $15.
Service was slow, but it didn’t matter while diners enjoyed the splendid view from the mountainside deck.
Since the deck usually fills first, head straight for the canopied section. Deck umbrellas are pretty, but not much defense against that August sun.
Indoor seating is plentiful in the dining room, where a huge, open fireplace dominates, or at the lively bar, which features old ads and stuffed animal heads.
The loft ceiling and big wooden beams make the A-frame lodge look older than its real age.
The original lodge burned, and this was a private home with add-ons, general manager Thomas Schneekloth said in an interview later.
It went from a private home in the ’60s to a bar then the current lodge, with wings and deck, by the early ’70s.
Lucky for Las Vegas.
More: Mt. Charleston Lodge, 1200 Old Park Rd., 702.872.5408 or toll-free, 800.955.1314; mtcharlestonlodge.com.
There are log cabins nearby for overnight stays, which would be worth it just for that mountain breeze among ancient, bristlecone pines.
The lodge has a great deal for sunsets: three-course dinners, with plenty of choices, for only $19.