This up-and-coming neighborhood is full of hidden watering holes.
Though few Las Vegas tourists venture this far north of the Strip, the ones that do are welcomed by the Arts District's surprisingly “un-Vegas vibe.” In contrast to the opulence and in-your-face glitz of the casino-laden streets, the neighborhood offers the same gritty quirk and quiet nonchalance you might find in the hipster neighborhoods of San Francisco or New York.
The Arts District has existed in Vegas since 1998, but it’s only been in the last six years that it’s undergone the beginnings of Downtown Las Vegas’s renaissance. While remnants of the neighborhood’s rough history remain in the boarded up storefronts and clumps of bail bond lenders, pawn shops, and peep shows that pepper the neighborhood, signs of a burgeoning art scene exist, too. Colorful murals liven up brick walls; a 10-foot-tall yellow cat statue sits on the corner of First Street; and vintage clothing shops, antique stores, and art galleries peek out between the boxy store fronts of Main Street.
While Downtown’s East Fremont Street is often the area’s go-to destination for trendy bars and cheap cocktails, several new locations have opened in the Arts District in the last year that are worthy of a visit. These offbeat bars, lounges, and breweries remain quiet, unhurried, and deliciously under-the-radar. For now, that is.
Step through Velveteen Rabbit’s wooden doors and you’ll immediately feel as though you’ve entered a world far from the neon and noise of the crowded city. The narrow bar, filled with vintage furniture and whimsical art, provides patrons with a calming respite from the pulsing city outside.
Though the bar’s name evokes a feeling of cozy nostalgia—the book Velveteen Rabbit was a childhood favorite of the owner—what makes Velveteen one of the most unique bars in the Vegas Valley is its cocktails. They’re made with out-of-the-box ingredients such as yogurt liqueur, house-made honey coconut cream popsicles, and cherimoya, a fruit native to South America. Bon Appétit calls them “the weirdest cocktails in Vegas. And the most delicious.”
The first thing you’ll likely notice when you walk into antique store-themed ReBar is the deer head-wearing a lampshade on the wall behind the bar.
“ReBar is the only bar where everything’s for sale,” says owner, Derek Stonebarger. “Literally everything. The glass you're drinking out of. The bar stool you’re sitting on. The things you're looking at on the wall. Even the bar is for sale for the right price.”
Throughout the bar, mismatched furniture play host to Candyland tournaments and quiet conversations. Every Thursday night the back patio turns into an open air theater for screenings of the bar’s impressive collection of thrift store movies. Local comedians, bands, poets, and storytellers also grace the venue throughout the week.
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Nevada Taste Site
Two doors down from ReBar, Stonebarger’s new Nevada Taste Site is a fitting neighbor. Nearly every item in the bar was handpicked to showcase Southern Nevada’s offbeat past. From the photos, drawings, and newspaper clippings that line the walls to the bar’s wood paneling—repurposed from the city’s old courthouse—to the vintage Las Vegas restaurant menus that decorate the back wall, the bar is a love letter to Las Vegas’s unique history. Only here, just the beer from 32 Nevada breweries and plates such as chicken satay and seared tofu sliders are for sale.
Millennium Fandom Bar
A Storm Trooper checks IDs at the door. A female Mad Hatter battles a Wookie with a lightsaber on the bar’s checkered dance floor. A gaggle of Disney Princesses pose for photos with a life-size R2-D2. Welcome to the Millennium Fandom Bar, the city’s hidden cosplay speakeasy.
Though the bar and event space has earned a reputation as being a “nerd bar”—thanks to the often-costumed patrons, sci-fi trivia nights, and anime music—owner Alex Pusineri is quick to point out that Millennium caters to “fandoms of all sorts,” including rockabilly, current pop culture, and classic cinema.
This 6,500 square-foot bar, which is a combination of an Irish shebeen (speakeasy) and a Jamaican rum shack, was named after a famous reggae record store in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “We like to keep [the menu] very curated,” says co-owner Allen Katz. “Like a good record store, we're out to offer those that come to sip a truly personalized experience.” Jammyland encourages patrons to embrace the tropics in the desert with a batida (a Brazilian drink made from passion fruit, lemon, or coconut) and a platter of Jamaican Patties or with an amaro-spiced coffee cocktail next to the fire-pit. Katz and partner Danielle Crouch’s cocktail menus have earned critical acclaim from both Food and Wine and the LA Times. “The cocktails are all classically oriented,” says Katz, “but cheeky and clever with a culinary edge.”
Image credit: Andrew / Flickr.