A chef-driven pizza pop-up to raise money for Project REAL
Walking into either Miracle on Spring Mountain or Sippin’ Santa at the Plaza Hotel Casino—the holiday pop-ups that take over the Sand Dollar Lounges—it looks like the North Pole’s toy factory exploded, scattering across both Las Vegas bars.
If you ask Anthony Jamison, co-owner of the Sand Dollar Lounges, he and his partner are “not Christmas guys.” He says this with a laugh and a wave of his arms as we sit and look around the downtown location; every part of the bar, including the seating, stage, TVs, and pool table are decorated.
Jamison says it takes approximately 400 man-hours to decorate everything between the two locations. Decorators are hired and staff gets involved in getting it just right.
Our community is like-minded and wants to help others
While he may not be a “Christmas guy,” Jamison is a community-oriented guy.
“Since taking ownership of the Sand Dollar, the boys have made it a place that looks out for the community,” shares Chef Justin Kingsley Hall. “A place to raise money for charities, a place that said F-U to bigots, and a safe space during the October 1 shooting when people didn’t understand what was [happening] or were waiting to hear from friends. It was an open door when I needed a place to hide from my pain. A home for our industry to spend time with one another.”
Chef Oscar Amador agrees. “Sand Dollar has done an amazing job bringing together our industry and many other incredible people from our local scene.”
This is the fourth year of the Miracle pop-up at the Sand Dollar Lounge, and the first year for Sippin’ Santa at the new-this-year Plaza Hotel Casino location in downtown Las Vegas. Jamison says they have become good at planning fundraising events, because “our community is like-minded, so we look at a lot of what we do and ask ‘how can we help others?’”
This year, the charity fundraising will benefit Project REAL. “Through Project REAL, we teach kinder- through college-aged Nevadans about their rights and responsibilities under the law, which isn’t part of the standard school day,” says Mike Kamer, Senior Director. “Basically, we engage Nevada’s younger residents in talks about how the law works for them and the people they care about.”
“Look,” continues Kamer, “justice is rooted in knowledge.” He pauses before saying, “our work brings more fairness and justice into the lives of the students we reach. For that reason, all our resources are available at no cost to the schools, organizations, and families of Nevada who wish to use them.”
Kamer references hospitality when discussing the importance of teaching young people about rules, regulations and living in Las Vegas. “Social media teaches ‘life hacks’ to the younger population and often highlights activities that, when scrutinized, are illegal when acting as a server, bartender or other service jobs–often dealing in cash transactions.”
“Some people might ask themselves why a boozy Christmas blues bar with naughty elves for a cash box would fundraise for a kid-focused education project,” says Kamer.
He continues, “Smart local businesses invest in us because they protect the community and themselves by supporting our education programs. They don’t want to see kids who never had the opportunity to learn the difference between ‘mischief’ and ‘criminal’ make a mistake.”
A chef-driven pizza party for a cause
While the bars raise money for their chosen charity by selling special theme beverages and glassware, Jamison also curates a series of chefs to take over the pizza kitchen at the original Sand Dollar Lounge off Spring Mountain Road.
“A lot of chefs ask us if they can do [a pizza night],” Jamison says. He turns people away because he has so many offers and wants to make the menu different every year. He added, “If they have done one, they don’t usually come back for a while.” He made an exception this year for Justin Kingsley Hall who is moving from Las Vegas back to his California hometown of San Louis Obispo.
Some chefs wanted to collaborate, but Jamison quashed that idea–in the name of charity. “[They’re] worth more separately than doing one night together,” Jamison laughs. “You can only sell so many pizzas [in one night].”
This Year’s Culinary Lineup
Monday, December 5
Julien Asseo, Les Petites Canailles, Paso Robles, CA
Of note: This will also be a Michelin Guide California release party.
The pizzas: “Escargot My Car-Go” with parsley garlic butter, garlic cream, and Gruyere cheese; and “Freak-a-Leek“ with roasted leeks, spicy tomato sauce, Calabrian salami and Central Coast fennel pollen.
Why he’s doing Miracle: “I just want to be back with my boys in the best bar in Vegas to sling some good pies.”
Wednesday, December 7
“Mama” Crystina Nguyen, This Mama’s House
The pizzas: “The Night Santa Went Crazy” with elk bolognese, Asian umami, mozzarella and cheddar blend, fried Thai basil and dried Thai chili; “White Christmas” with alfredo sauce, clams, leeks, white asparagus and white truffles; and “Mama’s Tears of Joy” (vegetarian) with brandy caramelized onions and shallots, mozzarella, Gruyere, and thyme and onion au jus.
Why she’s doing Miracle: “I’ve never stretched a piece of dough, unless making pizzas at home with my son when he was 5 [and adding] a smiley face counts. I know that I love to feed the masses and everything I cook is [so I can] see smiles on others’ faces and bring them comfort. I am grateful and thank you! Let’s make some pies!”
Monday, December 12
Oscar Amador, EDO Gastro Tapas and Wine, ANIMA by EDO
The pizzas: “Black Calamari” with Spanish calamari, squid ink kimchi marinara, huitlacoche, saffron aioli and purple shiso; and “King Chivo” with braised lamb neck, shishito peppers, fontina cheese, chimichurri gremolata and mint.
Why he’s doing Miracle: “Our history with Sand Dollar goes back to when we first started with our food truck in their parking lot, serving our bocata sandwiches. We feel like [this is] coming back home and [we’re] always thrilled to be there, especially when it involves raising money to give back to our community.” Amador continues, “We love what they do during the holidays, going all-out with the Miracle on Spring Mountain. I am flattered to be part of this incredible event that brings everyone together. Allowing us chefs to come up with edgy ideas for the pizzas can only sweeten the deal. What an awesome way of simultaneously contributing and having so much fun.“
Wednesday, December 14
Justin Kingsley Hall, Kindling Culinary and Whiskey in the Wilderness
The pizzas: “Long Kiss Goodnight” with braised lengua, Calabrian chili tomato sauce, queso Oaxaca, chicharrones, Tajin; and “Slo-Boy Signing Off” with smoked Campo Grande Iberico pork, charred onion, Kingsley sauce, Manchego cheese, grated hickory nut and micro arugula.
Why he’s doing Miracle: “The [Sand] Dollar has been so many things beyond just a bar. To be able to be part of that history and love is an honor. Some people daydream about being on the Food Network or center stage at Food and Wine Festival in Aspen. I’m blessed to be in the pizza kitchen at Miracle Bar serving our community.”
Sunday, December 18
Chris Decker, Metro Pizza
The pizzas: “Purple Rain” with roasted grapes, sausage, rosemary, Gorgonzola and mosto cotto; “Boycott Sal’s (disco remix)” with red sauce, whole fresh mozzarella, cup-n-char pepperoni, giardiniera, burrata and gold leaf; “Dirty Sanchez” with cauliflower carnitas, rum and Coke raisins, cilantro and avocado crema; and “Mob Ties” with roast pork, mustard greens, pickled mustard seed, spinach, shallot, dill and provolone.
Why he’s doing Miracle: “Everyone loves pizza. The fact that chefs of this level want to make pizza & donate their time & skill to give back to our community at the same time just shows you what a special city we live in. We’re all very lucky. God bless Jamison.”
Wednesday, December 21
The pizzas: “Piggy Bank” with Benton’s ham, caramelized fennel, mozzarella and parmesan; and “Garden Grove” with mushrooms, Ricotta Salata, Hokkaido squash and chestnut honey.
Hours and Locations
Miracle on Spring Mountain – The Sand Dollar Lounge
Address: 3355 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89102
Opening hours: Daily, 2 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Specialty pizzas are available from 7 p.m. on the dates listed.Our fave drinks: The “Christmas Cricket,” a tequila-based take on a minty Grasshopper; and “Elfing Around,” a holiday take on the French 75–with mulled wine!
Sippin’ Santa – Sand Dollar Downtown
Address: 1 N. Main St., Las Vegas, NV 89101 (Inside the Plaza Hotel and Casino)
Opening hours: Daily, 2 p.m. to 4 a.m.Our fave drinks: “Sippin’ Santa” with aged Demerara rum and gingerbread; “Holiday on Ice” with cold coffee and Ancho chile liqueur; and “Jingle Bird,” which invokes a pineapple nod to a Boulevardier.