Friends with Benefits: Matt Harwell of Carson Kitchen
For Matt Harwell, general manager of Carson Kitchen, this story was about more than just him and the restaurant. So much so that he chose to have his photo taken out in the alleyway—that’s been decorated with street art—behind the restaurant. “I would hope, and I believe it to be true, that Carson Kitchen is an important part of this neighborhood,” says the Texas native. “We’re just one piece of a broader neighborhood and a culture of downtown that we didn’t make but are fortunate enough to be a part of. The character of this restaurant is deeply rooted in what downtown is and has become.”
Almost seven years ago Harwell received the phone call to come out to Las Vegas to manage and help open Carson Kitchen with his cousin Cory, the owner and chef Kerry Simon, who passed away in 2015. Previously, Harwell worked several stints in the fine dining world in Omaha, Neb., both as a server and manager, and began his career as a busser at a small mom-and-pop restaurant a block down from the house he grew up in in Oshkosh, Wis.
“The first time I saw the restaurant space, Carson, it was still dirt; and it was the first time I saw downtown,” he says. “But, you could just feel that there was really a lot of momentum downtown, and the restaurant seemed poised to be a part of that.”
And, Carson Kitchen truly deserves its reputation as a true downtown dining destination, for both locals and tourists. “Carson Kitchen is eclectic, fun, thoughtful, sometimes elevated, comfort food,” Harwell says.
When Harwell isn’t working and he has some time off, he uses that time to spend with his wife, unwind on the golf course, and cook a good meal at home. “I love my family, I love my wife,” he closes the conversation with, saying he doesn’t really get that much time off though. “If you’re fortunate enough to love what you do for work, hey, then it’s all OK.”
Libation: Project Idaho 2.0
Since Carson Kitchen reopened its doors they’ve adjusted their cocktail menu, bringing back some familiar ones but with a new twist. Such is the story with Project Idaho 2.0. Where does that name come from? “The mule is the first animal that was genetically cloned, that project happened in Idaho,” says Harwell. “This cocktail is like a Moscow Mule that went back to school and got it’s masters.” It’s mixed with St. George California Citrus vodka, Velvet Falernum, Fernet Branca Menta, ginger ale, angostura and fennel bitters and fresh lime.
Benefit: If available, grab a seat at the Chef’s Counter and participate in the rhythms of a kitchen normally inaccessible to patrons.
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