The Adventurist Guide to Downtown Las Vegas

Archive - February 2017

Hip to be Square

Written by Matthew O’Brien

For the past six years, I’ve lived within walking distance of Art Square and I’ve experienced its evolution firsthand. It started, for me, with drinks and the occasional show at Artifice, which has served as an anchor tenant of sorts. It continued with Cockroach Theatre, a black-box venue that (oftentimes) features avant-garde shows. Then it was Josephine Skaught, now considered one of the city’s top salons, and Mundo at Mingo Kitchen & Lounge.

In short, there has always been a reason to visit Art Square and now it seems like there are several. The Cube LV, formerly Brett Wesley, has long been one of my favorite downtown art galleries and it continues to make us think with Bianca Scott and Lucky Wenzel’s photo exhibit “Phaos Perspectiv,” which runs through Feb. 25. The small but stout Nevada Humanities space currently features Daniel Miller’s “Our Invisible Neighbors,” a series of straightforward and powerful paintings that reminds us of our homeless problem. (The exhibit runs through March.)

Art Square is also home to a new wedding chapel (Ace of Hearts) and a promising art gallery (Priscilla Fowler). I’m looking forward to seeing where this oft-overlooked complex takes us next.

Enter the Dragon

Written by Matthew O’Brien 

If you have yet to visit Las Vegas’ latest resort, the Lucky Dragon, it may remain something of an enigma to you. Is it Asian-themed or just Asian-style? Would non-Asians enjoy it? Is it affordable or exorbitant?

A trip to the sleek, red-dominant boutique hotel-casino, located on the southern edge of the city (on Sahara just west of the Strip), goes a long way toward solving the riddle—and I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find something there to suit your taste. Perhaps it’d be the dining options, which include a 24-hour, Asian-style eatery (Bao Now) and Pearl Ocean, an upscale restaurant that’s drawing rave, early reviews for its dim sum. Maybe it’d be Cha Garden, the tea room that sits adjacent to the lobby and features an extensive menu and a “tea sommelier.” Or it could be the 27,500-square-foot casino, intimate by Strip standards, that specializes in table games like baccarat and pai gow and above which soars a 1.25-ton glass dragon sculpture/chandelier.

Lucky Dragon President and CEO Andrew Fonfa has expressed hope that his hotel-casino will help spur a second Chinatown. This seems awfully ambitious and many years off, but it has already provided an option for authentic Chinese food a little closer to the heart of the city—and it’s certainly worth a visit.

Urban Romance

Written by Matthew O’Brien 

Let’s imagine, for the sake of this write-up, I was trying to impress somebody on Valentine’s Day. I would start at Studio 8 Ten, a gift store and art studio powered by adults with developmental disabilities, where I’d carefully select one of their handcrafted cards. (Bonus points for a secondary trip to Gaia Flowers or JinJu Chocolates.) I would start the evening at Chicago Joe’s, an intimate, 40-year-old Italian restaurant located in a renovated home on Fourth Street; the food is good, the ambience great. (Alternative dinner options include Hugo’s Cellar, Oscar’s, Carson Kitchen and the Perch.) Save room for dessert and cruise down the boulevard to Art of Flavors, where you can sample a variety of gourmet gelatos and sorbets before settling on your selection. (Luv-it Frozen Custard, of course, is across the street.) If the date’s going well, feed each other loving spoonfuls.

Leave the car at Art of Flavors and walk one block south to the Stratosphere. It will get the blood flowing and burn some calories, and the energy of the boulevard is palpable and contagious. (The romance of the inner city is hard to explain but easy to sense.) Take the elevator to the 107 SkyLounge, find a booth facing the Strip or downtown and order a nightcap. The valley, in my opinion, is most beautiful at night and this remains one of its best and most accessible views.

Do I have to spell everything out for you? This—nudge, nudge—is where you reach for his or her hand.