The Adventurist Guide to Downtown Las Vegas

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.

Goodbye to an Old Friend

For more than 60 years Ms. Nancy Williams costumed, adorned, accessorized and cared for showgirls, dancers and performers on and around the Las Vegas strip. She was a gifted dancer who not only danced in shows and modeled, she also taught the children of some infamous mobsters how to dance! Nancy used her intelligence and drive to buy a store across from the main post office (now the Mob Museum) where she was able to serve the dance and performing community for many years. When the opportunity presented itself, she sold and moved to the corner of Third Street and Colorado where Williams Costume sits today. Ms. Williams petitioned the City to have her apartment right above her store so that she could be close to her investment. She won that battle and has lived and worked in that amazing building for decades.

Anyone who has ever visited Williams Costume knows how wonderfully eclectic it is. You can get beads, feathers, hats, masks, material, sideburns, dance accessories and anything you may need to put together costumes or just your own unique look. The staff here is knowledgeable and experienced and so very kind that you will immediately feel at home.

 

 

It was such a joy for me to have met Nancy Williams. She shared wonderful stories of Vegas in the fantastic 50’s and 60’s. She was always so welcoming and had a smile on her face for every single person she met. Her love for dancers and performers is evident in every nook and cranny of her shop. There are so many photos of people, famous and not so, who have visited the store and/or shared the stage with Nancy. It is a must visit spot for anyone with an interest in Las Vegas and the entertainment industry.

Today we bid farewell to the beautiful, gifted, and generous woman who touched so many. Thanks for the memories Ms. Nancy Williams.

Las Vegas Antiques and Oddities Grand Opening

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On Halloween day, the City of Las Vegas welcomed the newest edition to The Arts District: Las Vegas Antiques & Oddities. Located at 1228 S. Main Street, Oddities joins a full roster of over a dozen vintage boutiques and antique stores that make up “Antiques Alley.” As the name implies, the items inside are more than typical antique store fare. One can find rogue taxidermy, medical exhibits, a used soviet space suit and an old version of the Last Supper, retired from Madame Tussaud’s in the 1960’s.
For the grand opening, Mayor Carolyn Goodman was in attendance to cut the ribbon, and some showgirls helped add some Vegas-style spectacle to the event.
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Oddities is like a museum where all the items are for sale. There are unique items tucked into every conceivable place in this store and it is nearly impossible to take everything in on one visit. For folks looking to buy an eye-popping collectible or antiquity, make sure to schedule a trip to this uncanny boutique.

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Photography by Devon “D-Mob” Norwood

LipSmacking Foodie Tour

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Whether you are a local or a visitor, finding a great place to eat in Las Vegas can be a challenge for many reasons. Location, price, proximity to other activities; so many things to think about! One of the great ways to sample restaurants and explore an area is to take a guided tour. If you are food fans like we are, you take a food tour. One of the most interesting tours that takes you to four fabulous Downtown restaurants is the LipSmacking Foodie Tour.

20160723_191422This tour begins in the Carson Kitchen. A lovely restaurant founded by the late Chef Kerry Simon. Carson Kitchen features American Comfort food in new and interesting ways and top notch cocktails. You will really get a feel for the place as you get to sample four great dishes: Crispy Chicken Skins with smoked honey, “Devil’s” Eggs with crispy pancetta and caviar, Roasted Young Beets with pistachio, orange, and goat cheese, and Veal Meatballs with a sherry foie gras cream. We absolutely loved every single item on the menu. Thankfully our wonderful guide advised us to pace ourselves as we would be eating more on the tour.

On the way to our second stop, our guide gave us a little history of the businesses that began with the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. We got to peek into a secret nightclub.  (You’ve got to take the tour for more on that!) Our guide also pointed out several places that we could enjoy some live entertainment, dance, and have a few cocktails. The second stop on the tour was two blocks away in the Lobby of the Ogden.

20160723_175408We arrived at Itsy Bitsy Ramen and Whiskey ready for an adventure. This cozy place features a DJ in the evenings and noodle bowls that you customize to your taste. We were treated to a signature cocktail, Sake-To-Me, (we highly recommend it!) and a beautiful array of dishes. We sampled a Snow Crab Hand Roll, Shrimp Pot Stickers, Japanese Sweet Corn and the Chef’s Ramen Selection. So much to taste! The presentation was beautiful and each dish was unique and delicious.

20160723_182935A short walk from Itsy bitsy was our third stop, Inspire. We traveled south down Las Vegas Blvd. and our guide pointed out some of the other eateries and bars. Inspire has a very low-key façade. This space was once a 7-Eleven and was completely gutted and totally remodeled for the needs of the new owners. It is very inviting once inside and we were greeted by an enthusiastic employee. We walked around in the lounge area up front and took in the atmosphere of the bar. Our tour began with the Inspire Theater. It is a complete theater with a stage and seating that was acquired from an old church somewhere in the Midwest. The theater has comedy shows, drag shows, musical performers and even political rallies! We were treated to the view of the theater from Tony Hsiehs’ private box on the second floor. This venue houses one of the top ten private lounges in the world.  365 Tokyo only seats 10 so members, who pay a membership fee (call for information on fees)  must make reservations. Outside on the third floor is a nightclub. This may be the best view of Fremont Street. We sampled craft beers from local brewery Tenaya Creek and took some photos of the amazing view before heading to our final stop.

20160723_190756We walked east on Fremont to sixth and our guide told us about the Market. We took a short stroll through Container Park exiting on Carson in front of our final destination-Glutton. We were greeted with a signature cocktail and some incredible featured dishes. We started with Ahi Tuna Tacos, then sampled Braised Pork Flatbread, Wood Roasted Cauliflower, Pickled Tomatoes, Caramel Corn Profiteroles, and for dessert a Peach Cobbler. Everything looked as wonderful as it tasted!

You must consider LipSmacking Foodie Tours for you and your guests to get a taste of Downtown Las Vegas. If your stomach is growling you should go to VegasFoodieTour.com immediately, and tell them we sent ya!