Why Las Vegas’ Arts District Culinary Scene Rivals The Vegas Strip – Robb Report
James Trees is going all out in the arts district of Las Vegas.
Trees, the forward-thinking culinary entrepreneur who opened a seasonal Italian restaurant Esther’s kitchen in 2018, is poised to cement the neighborhood’s status as a vibrant off-Strip dining destination. He thinks carefully about the balance between art and business as he expands Esther’s kitchen and moves it to a building he has purchased. He ponders the possibility of the Michelin Guide returning to Las Vegas as he does research and development for a future fine-dining restaurant.
And like other prominent chefs, mixologists, and hotel operators in the neighborhood, he’s focused on delivering experiences that are different and no less impressive than those you’ll find on the Strip. Perhaps the best way to understand this is to ask Trees to explain how Esther’s Kitchen, which serves pastas like mafaldine nero with Maine lobster and rigatoni carbonara brightened up with snow peas, will have a live pasta at its future location.
“It’ll be next to the wood-fired pizza oven when you walk in,” Trees says. “We will actually roll pasta to order. It’s something no one else in Vegas tries to do. We do things they wouldn’t even consider on the Strip.
Trees, which plans to open Esther’s new kitchen next year, is also adding a 4,000 square foot kitchen with a hearth on the Main Street building, which was originally built in 1943 and housed previously a car wash and junkyard. When he’s finished, his new restaurant will occupy a 16,000 square foot building next to his current Esther’s Kitchen space. The original place of Esther’s Kitchen will become a tasting place with French and American influences.
“If Michelin did Florida, I don’t know why they wouldn’t bring Vegas back,” Trees says. “If they show up, I don’t want to be behind the curve. I want to be ready.”
The arts district, where excellent cocktail bars like velvet bunny and jammyland attracting discerning crowds of locals and tourists alike who want expertly crafted drinks and an alternative to the overheated nightlife, is already one of the nicest neighborhoods to roam in Las Vegas. Food crawls are easy here with notable eateries like Vincent Rotolo’s good pie, which blends three flours for pizza dough and excels in Brooklyn-style, Detroit-style, Sicilian-style, and Grandma’s pies. by Bruce Kalman soul belly a barbecue serves up awesome Texas-style barbecue, smoky burgers, and smoky nachos in a neighborhood that’s also teeming with craft breweries (including Able baker ahd Hop nuts), a new mezcal bar (Mystery), Sushi (Yu-Or-Mi) and a lively café that serves a wide variety of Latin dishes (Creators and Finders).
“There’s a camaraderie and a sense of community here,” says Rotolo, who regularly sends pizzas to feed cooks at nearby restaurants. “I was in Brooklyn before Brooklyn became Brooklyn. The arts district of Las Vegas reminds me of Brooklyn before it became what it is today. I felt the change coming. There were musicians and murals, and a lot of breweries were coming in. There were all these creative people around a neighborhood, with artists creating on a daily basis. It’s inspiring.
Rotolo, who was born in Brooklyn and ran The Meatball Shop in Williamsburg, is also keen to point out that the neighborhood’s food scene is driven by experienced restaurant professionals. Trees, a Vegas native, opened five restaurants for Michael Mina and served as the executive chef for the Superba restaurant group in Los Angeles. Kalman cooked with Paul Bartolotta at Spiaggia in Chicago and ran the kitchen at the acclaimed Union in Los Angeles.
“With James Trees, Bruce Kalman, myself and others in the Arts District, there’s a commitment to be the best in the country, to be national,” says Rotolo, who uses a blend of four mozzarellas for its cheese pizza and has a temperature-controlled dough room and $25,000 water system at Good Pie. “We have the talent and the work ethic to do it. We feed off each other. »
Relationships run deep here. Trees roasted a whole pig for Rotolo’s wedding reception at the Arts District wine bar mechanic as a gift. Rotolo is working with his former boss, Meatball Shop co-founder Daniel Holzman, on an Arts District restaurant that’s in the design phase.
Even the pioneers of OG Strip-dining are jumping. Sources say Wolfgang Puck is working on a bakery and bread depot in the Arts District. Todd English, who opened Olives in Bellagio in 1998 and now owns Olives in Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, recently launched the store English hotel. Inside this hotel there is English’s The Chilli Clubwhich serves sushi, robatayaki, roast duck, oxtail fried rice, and “cross-cultural” dishes like tuna tataki with tahini and black olive chips.
“I always laugh that when I left cooking school a long time ago there was a lot of talk about the fact that you can’t mix cuisines,” says English. “Fusion cuisine was a confusing cuisine, and no one understood it. And God forbid, mix extra virgin olive oil with soy sauce.
Since then, restaurants across the country, propelled by the influence of chefs like English, have embraced the idea of fusing global flavors. It’s the kind of food that works well in the Arts District, where English says his customers “are 100% more adventurous, experimental and excited” than he’s seen on the Strip.
“Sometimes a casino customer doesn’t live on that edge,” he says.
The leaders who are creating the future of the Arts District want to preserve the advantage and accessibility they see in the neighborhood. English says he just had a discussion to make sure cocktails at the Pepper Club are cheaper than drinks on the Strip, “so people feel comfortable going in and don’t have feel like they’ve been ripped off.” He plans to start a $5 martini happy hour.
The trees, meanwhile, take a big step forward in preserving the vibe of the Creative District.
“I rent a space to do valet parking because it’s an obvious convenience that we could use here,” he says. “And the other half of that equation is that I get a building that I’m going to put subsidized artists in. Rather than making them pay the same rent as everyone else, we will create a gallery space and a workspace for artists. And I’m going to use valet parking to subsidize the cost of their attendance. We’re actually trying to favor a neighborhood. We want to try to keep this neighborhood isolated as much as possible from the effects of the outside world, to allow it to stay fresh and retain what makes it so special.