Category Archives: Downtown Las Vegas

Lit eSports Arena Opens at Downtown’s Neonopolis

We should probably say it right up front: It might be called “eSports,” but it’s not sports. In sports, there’s activity involved.

ESports, on the other hand, is competitive gaming, featuring things like sitting, the polar opposite of sports. In this context, by the way, when we say “gaming,” we’re not talking about the casino kind (gambling), we’re talking about the millennial kind, involving videogames like Halo, League of Legends, Counter-Strike and others.

Now that we’ve provided some context, a new eSports arena has opened in downtown Las Vegas at the Neonopolis shopping complex. Let’s blast something to smitereens.

eSports Arena Las Vegas

Note: Millennials don’t use the term “smithereens.”

The eSports arena is called, wait for it, “thE Arena.” We are not kidding. In the news release for the arena (which we are fully committed to never calling “thE Arena” again), says, “The ‘E’ stands for eSports, the ‘A’ stands for ‘arena.'”

Which is adorable, you have to admit.

The 15,000-square-foot facility, in a part of Neonopolis formerly occupied by movie theaters, officially opened March 3, 2017. The arena hosted a three-day Halo tournament to launch the new venue.

The eSports arena consists of two spaces. One area is a 200-seat arena that looks a lot like a movie theater, but with a dozen screens of varying sizes rather than one large screen.

eSports Arena Las Vegas

It’s fun watching other people have fun, isn’t it? Just like porn, but with controllers.

The other area is the Main Hall, which can accommodate 900 people.

That area (pictured below) can hold up to 15 “player stations,” with each of those having space for 14 players.

eSports arena Neonopolis

The percentage of females taking part in eSports has skyrocketed in recent years. Specifically, to about 2%.

The facility boasts an Internet speed of a gigabit, whatever that might actually be.

Approximately three miles of CAT cables were required to make the venue tournament-ready. From what we can tell, “CAT” stands for “Category 5.” Some people capitalize “CAT” to make it sound more important. Let’s just say it’s an Ethernet thing, and that’s a lot of cable.

The eSports arena at Neonopolis is impressive and was bustling with activity during our visit. There’s already evidence eSports can draw big numbers of people to a venue. Thousands of people, for example, filled the Mandalay Bay Events Center in 2016 for the North American League of Legends Championship Series Spring Finals.

eSports arena Las Vegas

Like we weren’t going to point out the fact we used “lit” in our headline ironically. Related: Get off our lawn.

Just about everyone in Las Vegas is hot to attract millennials, especially casinos, despite the fact millennials don’t seem all that into gambling.

For a long-struggling venue like Neonopolis, having large numbers of people in the building can presumably only help. A likely beneficiary of the new foot traffic, the Fremont Arcade, hasn’t seen any lift in business, but we did see a small group of gamers dining at Denny’s. From what we could tell, each ordered a glass of ice water, so there’s that.

Others brought their own water.

ESports millennials

Please join us in perpetuating a millennial stereotype, thanks.

We’re a big fan of new Las Vegas things, so we look forward to seeing the eSports arena flourish. Given the fact the Halo World Championship finals have a $1 million prize pool, we’re also excited to learn more about “containment protocol,” “orbital bombardments” and “Plasma Frag Rockets.”

Because while we may not personally get eSports, we are a huge fan of prize pools. In fact, if Megabucks isn’t careful, it might end up getting smithereened.

ESports Arena at Neonopolis

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Best Ice Cream Shop in Las Vegas, Lappert’s Ice Cream, Closes at The California for Renovation

Lappert’s Ice Cream at the California casino is our favorite ice cream shop in Las Vegas, and it recently closed for an overhaul.

Lappert's Ice Cream renovation

Just when you thought it was curtains for Lappert’s, it’s only temporary.

Lappert’s closed at the Cal on Feb. 7, 2017, and will open again at the end of March 2017.

Naturally, we stopped by for a security breach of this beloved enabler of our ever-expanding waistline.

Lappert's Ice Cream renovation

This is what it takes to make us stop eating Lappert’s ice cream for a minute.

Lappert’s is a hidden gem downtown. In addition to its stand-out ice cream, the shop also makes the best shaved ice in Las Vegas. Sometimes, the shaved ice is piled so high, it gives the Stratosphere an inferiority complex.

While the specifics of the Lappert’s upgrade haven’t been announced, we have our fingers crossed the renovation will include the return of our favorite flavor, chocolate chip.

If chocolate chip isn’t added back to the list of flavors, we’ll be forced to reduce our visits to a mere five times a week. No pressure, Lappert’s.

Lappert's Ice Cream California

If you ever want to make us weep openly, show us this photo.

The renovation of Lappert’s is the latest in a series of upgrades at the California hotel-casino. The entire casino has been renovated over the past year, as has the Cal’s registration area, Redwood Steakhouse and Aloha Specialties restaurant, just across from Lappert’s on the hotel’s second floor.

The Cal recently opened two new bars, the Holo Holo Bar and Cal Sports Lounge.

It’s rumored the California has invested more than $40 million in its renovations and new venues, which, coincidentally, is about what we personally spent on ice cream at Lappert’s during 2016.

When Lappert’s Ice Cream re-opens at the Cal, you can rest assured we’ll bring you (wait for it) the scoop.

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 42: Food Critic John Curtas, Exclusive Scoop and Predictions from Pappy

It’s time to go ears deep into the latest episode of the Vital Vegas Podcast.

First, we congratulate ourself on reaching our first 100,000 podcast downloads! It’s more like 108,097, but who’s counting?

Also on the show, we share tons of scoop about construction commencing on the new 18 Fremont resort project. Demolition of two shops marks the official beginning of what will become a resort taking up a full block on Fremont Street, including the closed Las Vegas Club casino, Glitter Gulch strip club and Mermaids casino.

18 Fremont construction

Many great Las Vegas resorts have sprung from humble beginnings. This qualifies. Demolition of two shops has carved a path from an alleyway to Fremont Street. There’s a lot more to come.

You’ll also hear from veteran food critic John Curtas, co-author of “Eating Las Vegas,” the definitive guide to 50 essential Las Vegas restaurants. On his Web site, EatingLV.com, Curtas speaks his mind like few others in Las Vegas, and shares his picks for the best dining in Sin City, including his five favorite steakhouses.

As usual, you’ll get an earful of Las Vegas news and history, and the “Listicle of the Week” features 10 predictions about your next Las Vegas visit from special guest, Pappy.

Pappy

Think Zoltar, but more prospectory. Which may or may not be a word.

This week’s show has even more WTF than the Oscars, so break out the earbuds and roll around naked in a giant pile of Vegas.

Or something.

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Tasty-As-Hell Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs and Hamburgers Opens at Pawn Plaza

Pawn Plaza has been shuffling its deck of shops, with most of its restaurants closing in recent months. Now, it’s doubling down on classic American fare in the form of Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers.

Jared's Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

Hungry? Oh, you will be.

Jared’s has taken up residence where Smoke’s Poutinerie used to be, right next to the closed Inna Gadda di Pizza. The delicious Rita’s Italian Ice also closed as well, but the owner of Jared’s, Jared DeBehnke, is undeterred.

If anything’s going to succeed at Pawn Plaza, we’d put our money on Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers.

Fair prices. Scrumptious, fresh, tried-and-true favorites. Quick, friendly service. That’s a recipe for kicking ass in our book.

Jared's Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

Just like at the Downtown Container Park, Pawn Plaza’s shops occupy shipping containers.

The hot dogs at Jared’s are sourced out of a farm in Wyoming, but DeBehnke won’t spill about which one. We have our team of investigators on the case, though, because we’re calling these bad boys the best hot dogs in Las Vegas at the moment.

Jared's hot dogs and hamburgers

Our tastes are simple, and Jared’s knocks it out of the ballpark, frankly.

The hot dogs are 100% beef with a natural casing, and the chili is top-notch. There’s no cheese sauce, it’s grated fresh daily.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Loved the chili, and we aren’t a chili person.

The burgers are excellent as well, and that’s saying a lot in a town where there are so many stellar hamburger joints.

The burgers are a third-of-a-pound, never frozen and the selection of a dozen or so toppings are included in the price. We enjoyed the mushrooms and onions, despite the fact we tend to like our burgers naked. Like our truth.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Beyond the meats, we’re a big fan of the buns on both the burgers and the dogs. So much so, we’re currently licking our computer monitor.

Anything you’re able to get that you can dip into Jared’s Sauce, do.

It rocked our onion rings, but we suspect it would also be fantastic on the fries or tater tots, too. It’s a little bit honey mustard, a little BBQ. We’d put it right up there with the signature sauces at Chick-fil-A or Raising Cane’s.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Yes, we made a Jared’s Sauce joke. Thank you for the courtesy laugh, Jared.

If Jared DeBehnke looks familiar, it’s because not only is his face on the signage, he’s the same guy who owns the Slingshot rental stand at Pawn Plaza.

When DeBehnke saw the space become available, he jumped a the chance to give a restaurant a go, and we’re happy he did, as it’s going into our lunchtime rotation.

Hear our interview with Jared DeBehnke on episode 41 of the highly-overrated Vital Vegas Podcast.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

Simple, yet all the bases are covered. Yes, that’s two sports analogies in one blog post. Hint: We’re drunk.

At the moment, Jared’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers has limited hours, during the aforementioned lunchtime, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. We suspect those hours will be expanded once positive word-of-mouth starts to spread.

For now, the only competition for Jared’s is the solid Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ & Tavern. The prices at Jared’s are roughly half of what Rick’s Rollin Smoke charges. Then again, Jared’s doesn’t have hooch.

Jared's Pawn Plaza

At Jared’s, it’s not about ambiance. You can’t slather mustard all over ambiance. At least not legally.

Here’s hoping the quality and prices at Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers help it thrive as Pawn Plaza sorts out its line-up of shops and restaurants.

Jared's Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers

“Tasty-as-hell” apparently wouldn’t fit on the sign.

The throngs of visitors to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured in “Pawn Stars,” provide a steady supply of customers (DeBehnke says they’re getting lots of downtown denizens, too), but in the past, it’s been challenging to get them to stay and spend at Pawn Plaza. We’re thinking Jared’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers is a great reason to stick around.

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Construction Begins on 18 Fremont Resort (Las Vegas Club), World Almost Misses It

There were no fireworks, no gold-plated shovels, no mayoral Proclamations. There were none of the trappings of a Las Vegas resort groundbreaking, but it was, indeed, just that.

That tingling sensation you feel isn’t numbness resulting from sitting at a slot machine too long, it’s the excitement of knowing a long-awaited Las Vegas resort is finally in the works on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. We’ve got all the exclusive scoop! Because having an “exclusive” is nearly as good as “having a life,” and that’s the story we’re sticking to.

Construction, or more accurately “deconstruction,” has quietly begun on a new hotel-casino from Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of Golden Gate and The D Las Vegas.

18 Fremont resort

“What construction?” you ask. We’re trying to build some suspense here, just play along for once.

Owner Derek Stevens has said he’s attended more than 50 design meetings for the new downtown resort. While it doesn’t have a name yet, its placeholder name is “18 Fremont.”

A modest demolition project, not easily seen by pedestrians on Fremont Street, marks the beginning of a major (and expensive) construction project which will make the new resort a reality.

The demolition is happening behind two closed shops, Blowout and Forever Flawless. Demolition crews are making quick work of the structure.

18 Fremont resort construction

Boom. Work on the next Las Vegas casino resort begins, sans hoopla, which would make a good band name.

Blowout and the Forever Flawless store (covering a tiny 0.08 acres) cost the Stevens brothers  a steep $13.5 million. Millionaires be crazy, as the kids say, but there was a method behind the madness.

The shops were a critical element of a series of acquisitions allowing for 18 Fremont to encompass a full block, spanning a stretch of Fremont between Binion’s and the Plaza casino.

18 Fremont casino

This is how the lot looked midday. Keep reading to see how it looked a couple of hours later. Suspenseful, right?

Mermaids and the Glitter Gulch strip club were also purchased by the Stevens brothers, along with La Bayou, currently site of an expansion of the Golden Gate casino.

The Stevens also acquired a parcel across the street from the Las Vegas Club, between Plaza and Main Street Station, for $7.5 million.

Yes, there will be a quiz.

18 Fremont construction

A couple of hours later and virtually nothing of the shops remains. They’re going to need a really big vacuum cleaner.

Why is the demolition of the Blowout and Forever Flawless shops so important to the 18 Fremont project? We won’t ruin the surprise. (Suspense!) All we can say is there’s equipment in motion at 18 Fremont and that’s enough to get us excited about what’s to come.

Derek Stevens and others involved in the project have been tight-lipped about specifics of the new resort, but Stevens has at various times hinted it’s likely to take downtown’s pool scene to a whole new level. On an episode of our podcast, Stevens described downtown Las Vegas as “underpooled.”

The casino will be the centerpiece of the resort, of course, but multiple restaurant and bar offerings will also be in the mix. Stevens has also said it’s likely the resort will have a spa, but relatively few specifics about the resort have been shared to-date. Hey, we’re working on it.

18 Fremont construction Las Vegas Club

Look closely. The shops are now see-through.

One of the existing Las Vegas Club hotel towers will be demolished and the other is likely to have more floors and rooms added. There’s a 99% chance the older tower will be taken down without an implosion due to the proximity to other structures and casinos. Sorry, no hoopla.

See below, in case that wasn’t the direction you were already going in.

las_vegas_club_towers_demolition

After watching failed casino projects like Alon, and seemingly stalled projects like Resorts World, it’s refreshing to see a Las Vegas casino project moving forward full steam ahead. Millennial translation: Nobody’s come up with a better way of saying “full steam ahead” since the steam engine, sorry.

18 Fremont demolition

Here’s a peek inside what was the Blowout gift shop. Their inventory now consists largely of debris.

This new resort represents not only hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, but also an entirely new place for us to drink Captain Morgan and diets and play Top Dollar. Just keeping it real.

Las Vegas Club demolition

The forever forgettable Forever Flawless. Anything that decreases the number of annoying salespeople chasing us down Fremont Street Experience (where we work in marketing as our day job) hawking face cream is fine by us.

Here’s a little help with where this demolition site is in relation to things you might recognize, specifically a strip club and some classic neon, including Vegas Vickie.

Las Vegas Club demolition

The good news is we can all start using “Glitter Gulch” again without feeling the urge to get a “Silkwood” shower.

Update (2/23/17): Things move fast in Vegas, and what a difference 24 hours can make. Here’s a photo to keep you abreast, and not just because we love using the word “abreast” as often as possible.

18 fremont construction

Did we mention these demolition guys don’t mess around?

It’s a pretty straight shot to Fremont Street now.

18 Fremont construction

Demolition guys must have really organized closets.

Demolition of the Blowout and Forever Flawless shops is expected to take just a few days (Feb. 24, 2017 is the expected completion date), but there’s much more in the works, so anticipate a cavalcade of security breaches in the months to come.

Update (2/26/17): Like we said, blink and you’ll miss it. We’re pretty sure we said that. Anyway, here’s another look at the site. Cleans up real nice.

18 Fremont construction

A good many great things begin in tiny spaces. Which sounds a lot dirtier than it is.

Yes, yes, there’s video. Demanding, much?

We trust this won’t be our last update about the 18 Fremont construction project, so visit this Las Vegas blog often. Hourly, if possible. No pressure.

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Zydeco Po-Boys to Close in Downtown Las Vegas

Mere weeks ago, a downtown favorite, Glutton restaurant, closed its doors. Now, its neighbor, Zydeco Po-Boys has announced it, too, will shutter.

Zydeco Po-Boys closes on March 3, 2017.

Zydeco Po-Boys opened mid-2015, a partnership between its owner Brandon Trahan and Zappos CEO Tony’s Hsieh’s Downtown Project. The restaurant is located a block south of Fremont Street, on Carson Ave.

Zydeco Po-Boys

How do you say “This sucks” in that funky Cajun French talk?

The restaurant announced it will close in a Facebook post. The post read, “It’s with a heavy heart that I announce Zydeco Po-Boys will be closing its doors on March 3rd.”

The post from owner Brandon Trahan continues, “On behalf of my staff and I, we wish to thank Tony and the staff of Downtown Project for the opportunity to be part of the downtown revitalization. We wish to thank all of our loyal supporters who came out over the last year and a half to dine with us. It has been a pleasure to share my Cajun heritage and cooking with y’all. We wish the continued success of our friends and downtown neighbors and to all of the projects efforts.”

Zydeco Po-Boys closed

For awhile, Downtown Project dumped a ton of cash into businesses losing money. Now, not so much.

Zydeco Po-Boys served casual, reasonably-priced southwest Louisiana gumbo and po-boy sandwiches.

Trahan opened Zydeco Po-Boys after losing his home and business to Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Downtown has experienced a restaurant boom in recent years, but even a boom has casualties. Beyond Glutton and Zydeco Po-Boys, other downtown casualties include Itsy Bitsy Ramen & Whiskey (at The Ogden), Inna Gadda di Pizza and Smoke’s Poutinerie at Pawn Plaza and F. Pigalle on Fremont Street.

When it comes to Las Vegas restaurants, it’s dog eat dog, which, if you think about it, is a truly inane cliche. The original phrase was “Dog does not eat dog,” which makes a good deal more sense. We blame it on the millennials.

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