Category Archives: Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas is a quirky alternative to the Las Vegas Strip, with good gambling, a grittier vibe and a diverse collection of restaurants, bars and casinos.

First Word: Kestrel Planned for Area 15

Our crush on Area 15—the quirky, “experiential” mall two minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip—is officially maturing into full-fledged love with word of yet another restaurant coming to the popular destination.

Kestrel, described as a “cyberpunk dim sum bar,” is expected to open in early 2022.

It’s rare when you visit somewhere and see things you’ve never seen before. Area 15 is pretty much all that.

A kestrel is a small falcon. Falcons symbolize ambition, superiority, freedom and victory. They’re also a blast at parties, unless you keep mice as pets.

Kestrel is the newest concept from powerhouse entrepreneur Ryan Doherty.

Doherty’s Oddwood lounge is the centerpiece of Area 15, and he also operates Museum Fiasco. Museum Fiasco is the first Kunsthalle-style museum in Las Vegas, whatever that might actually be.

All we know is it’s cool.

Area 15 isn’t your average shopping mall. We are a huge fan of the mind-bending Omega Mart, as well as the next generation VR attraction, Virtualis. We also really like the bar inside the ax throwing place.

Area 15 seems an ideal playground for Ryan Doherty, as his concepts are often offbeat and creative.

Doherty has a cavalcade of offerings downtown, including the newly-opened Peyote restaurant.

Doherty also has Commonwealth, Park on Fremont, Lucky Day and Discopussy.

Discopussy

Discopussy’s restroom is a glimpse into Ryan Doherty’s brain.

In the works on Fremont Street are also Cheap Shot, a theater space (formerly Don’t Tell Mama), and We All Scream, a nightclub with an ice cream window, in the former Beauty Bar space.

We honestly have no idea what a “cyberpunk dim sum bar” is, or could be, which is part of the fun.

Watch for an official announcement of Kestrel soon. If you know this blog at all, you know waiting for official announcements isn’t how we roll. Thank you for the kind words. You can also leave them in the comments. Just saying.

Downtown’s New Peyote Restaurant Is a Trip

A trendy new restaurant, Peyote, opens in downtown Las Vegas on Sep. 24, 2021.

Thankfully, you have us, so you don’t have to wait to get a taste.

Peyote restaurant Las Vegas

In Vegas, everything’s better with sparkle.

Peyote is located at Fergusons Downtown Motel, sort of just east of Fremont East.

Look for the bigass tractor trailers doing a mating dance.

Big Rig Jig

You thought we were kidding?

Peyote is a boutique restaurant from the awesome Ryan Doherty, founder of Corner Bar Management.

While Peyote is Doherty’s latest venture, he’s got his fingers in a plethora of other popular spots.

He’s got Commonwealth, Park on Fremont, Discopussy, Lucky Day on Fremont Street and Oddwood lounge at Area 15.

Peyote is further evidence Ryan Doherty believes in downtown, and has built a team so good you’ll want to try this out-of-the-way spot even if you’ve never visited downtown before.

If you’re a Vegas virgin, hit Circa and the Viva Vision light show first, but after that, Peyote.

Peyote Las Vegas

It’s not a patio, it’s “al fresco dining,” rube.

Some of the players at Peyote include Hall and Kim Owens, the folks behind Main St. Provisions; Jolene Mannina, managing partner; Max Solano, beverage and cocktail program consultant; and Juyoung Kang, general manager and lead mixologist.

Peyote is 3,400-square feet of great food, drink and eye candy, including a patio with a custom 3D-mapped LED bistro-light canvas.

There’s also a ton of quirky art.

Peyote Fremont East

It would be difficult for us to love this hippo balancing on its tongue more.

It’s telling that at Ryan Doherty’s venues, staff are given cheat sheets about the artwork in case guests inquire. They inquire.

We knew you’d ask.

Naturally, we tried a cocktail first, and it was awesome. It doesn’t come backlit like this. That’s a blogger thing.

Peyote cocktail

We love telling friends we had a Peyote cocktail. This one’s called the Big Bliss.

The Big Bliss has Volcan de Me Tierra blanco tequila, Giffard Pamplemousse liqueur, fresh strawberries, lime-orgeat sour and fresh sage. We don’t know about you, but if they didn’t have lime-orgeat sour, we’d have been out of there.

Here’s a look at the cocktail menu.

Gird your liver, you’re downtown.

One does not live by cocktails alone, of course. Although, we have expressed a willingness to try.

We don’t entirely know how to describe the cuisine at Peyote, we just know we liked it.

Here’s the menu.

Peyote downtown menu

It sounds snootier than it is.

Here’s a bigger version of the menu so your eyes don’t implode.

We’ll let the news release do the talking. “Peyote’s upscale dinner menu will offer a decadent arrangement of appetizers, such as an heirloom tomato summer squash tart; mini shrimp toast topped with wild smoked salmon roe; American country ham on toast served with tangy pickled mustard seed, carrot aioli and wild arugula topped with red eye gravy; and more. Savory main dishes include Carolina Gold rice risotto with grilled corn, sunflower seeds, leeks and almond milk; heritage pig sandwich with grilled pork belly, grass-fed butter, radish, plum mustard, rouge creamery cheese and red pepper pickles; Santa Maria vintage tri-tip grilled on oak served with grilled baby gem, corn salad, pickles, chili preserved radish, butter ball potatoes and fry bread designed to feed three to six guests; and more.”

Which all sounds great, but our tastes are a tad simpler. So, during our media visit, we let our host, Ryan Doherty, order.

Two words: Pork chop.

Simple, effective and grilled to perfection. If you’re 80 or older, insert a Peter Brady reference here.

Even the weird food (we aren’t exactly a tangy pickled mustard seed type) ended up being delicious, and we hate everything.

We even accidentally had vegetables thinking they were French fries.

Peyote veggies

Best way to make kids eat their veggies, ever.

One of the best surprises was the Heirloom Tomato Tart, something we typically never would’ve ordered unless we were being water-boarded. It was great, despite the presence of tomatoes.

Peyote tart

Thanks to Ryan Doherty for making us eat this thing we ended up loving despite our best efforts.

There aren’t any desserts on the menu, but you won’t have room for them, anyway.

It’s worth mentioning, Peyote adds a five percent fee to its checks. We aren’t a fan of such service charges, and asked owner Ryan Doherty about the fee. He said it’s temporary, and has to do with the big price fluctuations for products (liquor and food) at the moment due to the pandemic. Because prices ebb and flow so much (he noted chicken wing pricing “is like the Bitcoin index” half the time), the fee was deemed a better way of addressing those challenges, as opposed to changing the menu prices every week. Just a heads up.

Beyond the walls and patio of Peyote, it sounds like there will be some live music in a small amphitheater that sits just outside.

Ryan Doherty doesn’t just create bars and restaurants, he creates experiences. He makes places people want to hang. Peyote is that.

Just because we don’t eat something doesn’t mean we can’t take pictures of it for you.

Peyote will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from noon to 2:00 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

There’s some free street parking nearby, but rideshare is recommended. That way you can explore the cocktail menu more thoroughly, if you get our drift.

Riseshare also sidesteps the fact it’s not the best neighborhood, although we’ve never had any issues. The area around Peyote is well-lit and there’s security at the main entrance to Fergusons.

Peyote could very well be a thing.

While Peyote is a little out of the way, it’s a great excuse to explore the Fremont East Entertainment District.

This wayfinder should help, should you choose to make the trip. See how that tied back into our headline? This isn’t our first rodeo.

It’s a challenging location for a new venture, but if you flame broil it, or create the right cocktail menu, they will come.

Enjoy more Peyote images in our expansive and poorly-focued photo gallery below.

See you there. We’ll be the one balancing on our tongue.

Old-School Main Street Station Casino Reopens Downtown

It somehow turned out to be the most-anticipated casino reopening coming out of the pandemic, and it was worth the wait.

Downtown’s Main Street Station, owned by Boyd Gaming, reopened on Sep. 8, 2021, after being closed since March 2020.

The drinks were flowing, the quads were bountiful and it was glorious revisiting all the weirdness for which Main Street Station is known, or should be.

Main Street Station

Our fellow OCD sufferers will be relieved to hear they’re working on fixing the neon.

Weird how, you ask?

Well, Main Street Station isn’t your typical Las Vegas casino.

Prior to it being Main Street Station, the hotel was The Park. It was purchased by Bob Snow in 1986, and he spent about $80 million improving the place.

Snow brought a weird a wonderful collection of antiques and oddities to Main Street Station, a collection he’d spent 25 years building. Unfortunately, Snow was a better antique collector than casino operator (at one point, Main Street Station was losing $200,000 a month), and the casino filed for bankruptcy protection in 1992.

Boyd bought Main Street Station in 1993 and wisely chose to keep the casino’s oddities on display.

Our favorite is probably a portion of the Berlin Wall in the men’s restroom.

Where can you eat, drink, gamble and express your disdain for Communism? Main Street!

Don’t have a freak-out, ladies. Security can escort you in when the coast is clear.

Our next favorite bit of weirdness is Winston Churchill’s snooker table, discreetly available for viewing via an unassuming elevator with a “Lift” sign.

If you’re wondering who Winston Churchill is, you probably went to public school in Nevada, which is why we need the lottery.

The helpful brochure highlighting Main Street Station’s Artifacts, Antiques and Artworks has been freshly updated, and we got our hands on it, of course. You’re welcome.

There are fascinating things at every turn, and one could spend a full day seeking out all these oddball discoveries.

These brass doors come from the Kuwait Royal Bank. If you’re wondering what Kuwait is, oh, nevermind.

While not an antique, also keep your eyes peeled for this artwork. We love it. There’s another one just like it at The Cal.

If you think we’re just showing you this because we like it, you don’t know this blog at all.

Casino nerds will, of course, note the dice in this piece of art, pipwise.

LeRoy Neiman was an art person, not a pip person. Opposite sides of the dice should always add up to the number between six and eight.

Such diversions should be augmented by drinking and gambling, of course, and those are in plentiful supply at Main Street Station.

Main Street Station isn’t flashy, but it’s a solid value and one of our favorite places to play downtown.

It was great being back in Main Street Station, and they even made sure we had a winning video poker session. Such thoughtfulness!

We got eight quads in a few hours, including two quad aces and four deuces. We were also dealt quad 10s, and just to show how good we are at video poker, also got a dealt
straight flush.

Video poker, the ultimate game of skill.

The bartenders were awesome at Boar’s Head Bar, and after 20 or so years visiting Main Street Station, we discovered these awesome elephants holding the brass rail at the bar.

Main Street Station is utterly unique, as opposed to the other kinds of unique.

Frequent visitors to Main Street Station will notice some changes, including fewer table games. About half of the games have been removed, replaced with electronic games. This is an increasingly common cost-saving measure, as we’ve covered extensively.

Main Street Station’s table game minimums are still some of the best around, with $10 minimums on most table games. Main Street still offers player-friendly 20x odds on craps.

We were surprised to see there was no roulette table.

Main Street Station

We trust Amazon will be delivering additional machines for this area shortly.

Another change at Main Street Station is its coin machines are gone. Another Boyd casino, Fremont casino, removed its coin machines in Oct. 2020. A third Boyd casino downtown, The Cal, still has coin machines. El Cortez is about the only other downtown casino with coin machines, unless you count Sigma Derby at The D.

Fun fact: On The Strip, hit Circus Circus for coin machines if you enjoy getting your hands dirty.

Other changes at Main Street Station include the hours of operation of its restaurants.

On the bright side, and to everyone’s surprise, the Garden Court buffet is back. It’s open daily 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for brunch ($18.99) and Friday/Saturday 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for dinner ($25.99).

Easily the most comely buffet waiting area in Las Vegas.

The popular Triple 7 restaurant was packed on reopening night, possibly because it also has a brewery on-site. And poke, whatever that might actually be. See the menu here.

Triple 7 is open 5:00 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Monday only. We trust that could change based upon demand.

Triple 7 Main Street

Hearty eats and fresh brews, also known as slot fuel.

It’s worth noting, parking isn’t free as was the case for a long time. Out front, a surface lot costs $5 per hour with a $25 per day maximum. Self-parking in the garage is a flat $10 Monday through Thursday, $20 Friday and Sunday, with the first 30 minutes free.

Parking is free for Emerald and Sapphire tier level members of the loyalty club. Main Street Station will also validate for “Dining & Gaming Guests.” That means free parking if you spend $20 or more at a restaurant or earn at least 20 tier credits or more in the casino.

Given Main Street’s challenging location, paid parking is a bold move.

Overall, Main Street Station is just as you remember it.

The customers are mostly visitors from Hawaii, the staff is friendly and it’s a wildly different experience from a typical Strip casino.

You won’t find an ultraclub or Cirque show at this downtown gem, but Main Street Station is Las Vegas the way we like it best.

Quiet, cheap, quirky and gambling is still very much king.

Popular Musician, Carl “Safe Sax” Ferris, Won’t Return to Fremont Street

A longtime fixture at Fremont Street Experience, Carl “Safe Sax” Ferris, won’t return to performing at the famed pedestrian mall in downtown Las Vegas.

Even if you don’t know his name, you probably know his music, as Ferris has entertained millions of Las Vegas visitors over the course of two decades.

Carl Ferris

This news blows.

Ferris typically performed six nights a week outside Binion’s from the back of a truck. That is, until the COVID-19 crisis.

Even when live music returned to Fremont Street Experience, on June 1, 2021, Ferris did not, and he’s confirmed to us he won’t be back.

Ferris says he’s moving on to new projects, marking the end of an era for Fremont Street.

Here’s a listen to one of Carl Ferris’ songs, which any self-respecting Fremont fan will recognize as “Dance With an Angel.”

It’s a little-known fact, but Carl Ferris was under contract with Fremont Street Experience for $1 a year. Ferris made a good living from tips and hawking his CDs.

Ferris’ truck, owned by Fremont Street Experience, served as a makeshift stage (he was signed on prior to there being a Main Street stage, near Golden Gate). His performances weren’t just great, free entertainment, he also pushed a number of crappy buskers out of the immediate vicinity, which was always appreciated.

Beyond his many fans, Ferris also had some detractors, many of whom were casino dealers within earshot who heard the same songs endlessly for years. Dealers can be a grumpy lot.

Ultimately, Carl Ferris was a victim of both the pandemic and the evolution of Fremont Street Experience.

The venue recently got a $32 million upgrade to its Viva Vision screen, and given all the other programming, Ferris’ sax playing was probably deemed to no longer be a good fit.

Still, Carl Ferris left an indelible impression on Fremont Street Experience, and he’ll be missed by many longtime visitors.

Carl Ferris Fremont Street

Carl wailed, people flocked, it was a thing.

We wish Carl all the best in his future endeavors, and when they write the story of Fremont Street Experience, you can bet Carl Ferris will be right in the middle of the action.

Because “action” is a saxophone term that refers to the mechanical feel of an instrument’s keys. Action is often described as “loose” or “sloppy,” just like us after a night drinking on Fremont Street, come to think of it.

Ah, the circularity of the universe.

Peyote Restaurant to Debut Downtown

The restaurant and bar visionary responsible for some of the coolest spots in Las Vegas, Ryan Doherty, has another project in the works: Peyote at Fergusons Downtown Motel on Fremont Street.

Doherty’s newest restaurant and bar concept debuts in Sep. 2021.

Peyote Las Vegas restaurant

Peyote, of course, is a cactus plant with hallucinogenic properties made famous in the Oscar-worthy film, “Young Guns.”

Ryan Doherty is the creative powerhouse behind Commonwealth, Park on Fremont, Discopussy, Lucky Day (all part of the Fremont East district), as well as Oddwood lounge and Museum Fiasco at Area 15.

Fergusons Downtown Motel is in a funky spot downtown, sitting in a sort of a seedy no-man’s land that used to be far seedier. It’s near Bunkhouse Saloon and PublicUs, two places you also
probably haven’t been. Fergusons is about 2,206 feet from Neonopolis and Hennesey’s.

However, Fergusons is well worth a spot because it’s home to Big Rig Jig, easily one of the best pieces of art in Las Vegas.

Big Rig Jig downtown Vegas

Anybody know a good chiropractor?

But we are straying from the point of this story. Thanks a lot, Captain Morgan.

The point is Peyote opens soon, and it is partnering with “a collection of local culinary, cocktail and design architects,” per the news release.

They include Kim Owens and chef Justin Kingsley Hall, the folks behind Main St. Provisions in the Arts District; Jolene Mannina, founder of Secret Burger and Vegas Test Kitchen; and Max Solano, formerly head of whisky education for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits who will act as the restaurant’s cocktail program consultant.

They were going to name the restaurant after Peyote’s scientific name, Lophophora williamsii, but neon ain’t cheap.

We’re especially looking forward to the decor as it’s being done by the artist behind must-see Discopussy and Lucky Day, Keegan Arthur Olton (the most artisty name in the history of art).

Peyote’s patio will have a custom 3D-mapped LED bistro light canvas. According to the release, “more than 1,500 individually addressable lights include full color RGB pixels to work together, creating a glimmering mirage from above that responds to music controlled by custom lighting control software.”

Trust us on this one, it’s going to be badass, they just can’t use the word “badass” in a news release.

Peyote downtown

You are welcome to chill here, but not the way the kids mean it, because even downtown has public indecency laws.

Peyote has already firmed up its menu.

We’re going to rattle off some of the words in the news release as if we understand them.

“Peyote’s upscale dinner menu will offer a decadent arrangement of appetizers, such as an heirloom tomato summer squash tart; mini shrimp toast topped with wild smoked salmon roe; American country ham on toast served with tangy pickled mustard seed, carrot aioli and wild arugula topped with red eye gravy; and more.”

We’re sort of hungry, you?

“Savory main dishes include Carolina Gold rice risotto with grilled corn, sunflower seeds, leeks and almond milk; heritage pig sandwich with grilled pork belly, grass-fed butter, radish, plum mustard, rouge creamery cheese and red pepper pickles; Santa Maria vintage tri-tip grilled on oak served with grilled baby gem, corn salad, pickles, chili preserved radish, butter ball potatoes and fry bread designed to feed three to six guests and more.”

Who doesn’t love a “heritage pig sandwich”? Other than pigs, obviously.

There was more, but we are getting carpal tunnel, so we’ll skip to the hours of operation.

Peyote will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; noon to 2:00 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

Ryan Doherty and his team keep knocking it out of the park, so we can’t wait to try his new place when it opens. Props to Doherty for his ongoing faith and investment in downtown Las Vegas.

Live Music Venue Planned for Plaza, Disco-Inspired Photo Op Opens

Awhile back, we shared some sweet scoop about a new bar concept coming to Plaza casino, Carousel.

Now, we’ve got more Plaza news, and it’s going to make live music fans dreamy-eyed.

Plaza has a new live music venue in the works, and it’s going to live in a space formerly occupied by The Swingers Club miniature golf.

Yes, Plaza had a mini-golf attraction at one time, but let’s keep our eyes on the ball!

This space has played host to mini-golf, The Drink lounge and, most recently, special events. Next up, grooves.

The new venue, with live music and an ambitious beer program, is in partnership with “dive bar” beloved by locals. Don’t ask for the name. If we could share the name, we’d have shared it in this paragraph. We didn’t. That’s now it works. It’s called a “tease,” not a “here’s everything all that once.”

The new venue is expected to launch in October 2021. Here’s what it looks like pre-project.

Yes, there will be bartop video poker, too. We know how you are.

Word of a new live music venue should take some of the sting out of the fact the existing live music lounge, Omaha Lounge, at Plaza has closed permanently.

It was sort of an informal affair, anyway, and we weren’t a fan of live music in the casino. That area (pictured below) is expected to host stadium-style machines in the near future.

We love us some Wonderboogie, but time and place.

As mentioned, while the entrance to the new venue is in close proximity to the casino, the space is enclosed, so the music won’t bleed onto the casino floor. The way Mother Nature intended.

In other Plaza news, a new, disco-themed photo op just opened in the former party pit.

The space has been dubbed Studio 71 and it’s glorious, especially if you were alive during the era which inspired it.

We love us some party pit girls, but time and place.

The room, free and open to the public, is decked out with a disco ball tree, a wall of colorful skates, a neon-drenched backdrop with iconic gambling symbols and other “Grammable” flourishes.

Plaza 71 is five photo ops in one, so pace your pixels.

We like this quirky space so much, we’re not going to point out they got the pips wrong on the dice. We’re classy like that.

So many things to love, all in once place.

Oh, all right, it’s these pips. Four and three are across from each other, not side by side!

We’re seeking help about our pip obsession, thanks.

Studio 71 is open Monday through Friday, 4:00 p.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday noon to midnight.

The signs are explicit: No horseplay.

Please restrict the horseplay to Fremont Street, where it belongs.

While the visuals are great, we especially love the fact Studio 71 features non-stop disco music. Disco is our musical sweet spot, and the entire space is like a glittery time machine.

Studio 71 takes its rightful place among the many quirky photo ops on and around Fremont Street, including the vintage slot machines at Golden Gate, the Blarney Stone at The D, The Mint’s exposed facade at Whisky Licker Up at Binion’s, Vegas Vic, the weight scale at Heart Attack Grill, the abandoned bras and Jim Morrison mugshot at Hogs & Heifers, the semi truck cab at Pizza Rock, the laughing Buddha at The Cal and just about anything at Circa.

Here’s some slickly-produced video of Studio 71 at Plaza.

Just when you thought the cavalcade of Plaza newness was done, you thought wrong.

In addition to the new outdoor Carousel bar, there will also be a revamp of the now-closed beer garden space next to the hotel’s ogle-worthy porte cochere.

The venue will have a carnival theme, in line with the nearby Carousel bar, and serve snacks among other things.

We knew Plaza would replace its beer garden sooner or lager.

An additional upgrade at Plaza is mostly invisible, but involves a substantial investment in how guests experience Plaza. The hotel, which just turned 50 years old, is overhauling its 18 elevators at a cost of $350,000 each.

Plaza is also shopping for partners to develop an adjoining space formerly soiled by a Greyhound bus terminal. It’s telling a group of developers from Hawaii attended a recent Oscar
Goodman dinner series event.

Plaza could have its eye on visitors from Hawaii, as they flock to the nearby Fremont casino and The Cal. (No word on when Main Street Station will reopen, but the over-under is September
2021.)

Greyhound station Plaza

Downtown currently has more big, red arrows than any time in its history.

In other Plaza news, the excellent “On the Corner of Main Street” podcast recently celebrated its 50th episode. Well worth a listen, despite our having appeared on two episodes (#10 and #40).

Plaza has a lot of plans in the works, no doubt spurred by a recent bump in business resulting  from not only a post-pandemic visitation increase but also the opening of Circa Las Vegas across the street.

The return of live music is drawing more visitors to the west end of Fremont Street, and Plaza has been a beneficiary. The re-launch of the free Downtown Rocks concert series has also been a boost for the neighborhood.

We’ll share anything else we hear about developments at Plaza, so stay tuned. If staying tuned is even a thing anymore, what with streaming or whatever the kids are doing now.

Update (7/16/21): Plaza officially announced its partner for the live music venue is Sand Dollar Downtown.