Downtown Container Park, Building Community Downtown One Container At A Time

Disclaimer: This post is not about food, but something I still think you’ll enjoy.

Today marks the grand opening of Downtown Container Park, a new addition to the downtown Las Vegas landscape. While today is the official opening, many of the stores and restaurants opened to the public last week.

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On Saturday, I headed downtown to check it out. What I found at Downtown Container Park, was more than just new shopping and dinning options in the city, but something more special to downtown, a place to just “be.”

When I first moved to Las Vegas, downtown was not a place to “be.” In fact, many people turned their noses up at downtown. For locals, hanging out at Boca Park, or Town Square, were much more acceptable and respectable options. I grudgingly accepted them, but they just never felt right. I guess, once a city girl, always a city girl. I wasn’t the only one who must have felt this way, because slowly, things started to change downtown.

First, there was Beauty Bar, then the Griffin and the Downtown Cocktail Room, then the economy took a nose dive, and people wondered if that was it for Fremont East and downtown. But downtown was just taking a break, and the ball began rolling again, slowly picking up steam. That steam would soon include Insert Coins, The Smith Center, Le Thai, Drink and Drag, the Neon Museum and the Discovery Children’s Museum, to name a few, and now Downtown Container Park.

While Downtown Container Park could be described as a mall, a typical mall it is not. The developers of Downtown Container Park, took a more innovative approach. The shops, galleries, and restaurants, that make up Downtown Container Park, are each housed in a container or cube, stacked up and arranged like legos, around the center piece park. All the shops are run by small, local designers and business owners, you’ll find everything from handbags, to a shop dedicated to crazy and colorful leggings, called no other than “Crazy Legs.” Each shop is only the size of a New York studio apartment (a descriptor for my east coasters) or about 250 sq. ft. Yes, only 250 sq. ft. While I know people who have closets bigger than this, my New Yorkers know, you can do a lot with just 250 sq. ft.

While I enjoyed walking through the shops, and love the innovative use of the containers, my favorite thing about Downtown Container Park is the park, because what better place to just “be,” than a park. Las Vegas was built on adult entertainment and even as kid friendly as it has become over the years, its main driver is still adult entertainment. With the exception of the Discovery Children’s Museum, downtown was no different. Downtown Container Park changes that. On Saturday, I saw something that I don’t always see in downtown, families, from the littlest baby, to grandparents, all together, enjoying the park.

While I usually write about food, I didn’t get a chance to check any of the dining options at Downtown Container Park, of which there are 4 (Big Ern’s BBQ, Bin 702, Pinches Tacos, Pork ‘n Beans). But I will be back, so look forward to future posts on what the food scenes is all about, at Downtown Container Park.

While there is still more development and projects in the works downtown, to date, I have to say Downtown Container Park is my favorite. I encourage all to pay a visit, even if only to check out the giant praying mantis, that shoots flames out its antennae, because what would Las Vegas be without a giant, fire spewing praying mantis.

The giant preying mantis minus the fire

The giant praying mantis overlooking Fremont street – minus the fire

Downtown Container Park
7th and Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV
Open Sun-Thurs 9a-11p
Fri+Sat 9a-1a

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I’m Back.

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It’s been quite a while since my last post (almost a year to be exact). During that time, I’ve update the look of my blog, hope you like it, and I’ve partnered with Foodio54 and FoodSpotting. I’ve also changed my eating habits slightly, there will be a future post about that coming soon.

In the year I’ve been away, I’ve missed a lot:
The Restaurant vs. Food Trucks War was settled. The City Council instituted a 150 foot buffer zone, between restaurants and food trucks on public streets, and is in the process of implementing a pilot program, establishing designated parking areas for food trucks downtown. To make sure there was no lingering tension between food trucks and downtown restaurants, Fukuburger and Bar + Bistro “Burried the Hatchet” during a cook-off between chefs; Robert “Mags” Magsalin (from Fukuburger) vs. Beni Velazquez (from Bar + Bistro). Bar + Bistro owner, Wes Isbutt, was pretty vocal about instituting a buffer zone for food trucks downtown, so it was good to see the two representatives of each side, in a friendly competition.

In other downtown food news, there are several new restaurants that opened, while others closed. Downtown said hello to a Las Vegas favorite, Rachel’s Kitchen, as well as newbies, Eat and Pizza Rock, and it said goodbye to a late night hangout, Mamita’s Mexican and Cuban Restaurant. The owners of Mamita’s, helped to start the petition that initially began the Restaurant vs. Food Truck war, because they were concerned that food trucks were stealing their customers. In an interview on KSNV, Maria Corvino, the owner of Mamita’s, mentions that “people are not afraid to come to Fremont Street anymore.” They might not be afraid to come to Fremont anymore, but they might have been afraid to eat at her restaurant, since it was closed on several occasions by the Southern Nevada Health District. It looks like instead of being so concerned about the competition from food trucks, Corvino should have been more focused on keeping her restaurant open and demerit free. Like I said, cream always rises to the top. But on the bright side, an upscale grocery store is in the works for the former Mamita’s location, something that has been on the wish list of downtown residents for some time.

And if those weren’t enough happenings, I also missed all the spectacular food events that took place in Las Vegas just last month alone. There was the Las Vegas Food and Wine Festival, the Foodie Fest, the Food and Wine All-Star Weekend, Lucky Rice, the Aki Matsuri Festival, Grapes and Hops, Pure Aloha, the Lebanese Festival, Taste of the Nation, and the brand new, Life is Beautiful Festival. I get full just thinking about all the good food served at each of these events. We might as well dub October, Foodie Month in Las Vegas.

Well, I’m back now with new ramblings, reviews and recipes coming soon. Enjoy!

Update – Las Vegas Food Fight: Restaurants vs. Food Trucks

So it looks like the Las Vegas City Council  couldn’t come to an agreement on the distance for the proposed buffer zone and the issue was tabled during the September 5th City Council meeting. While the matter may still be brought up at a later date, it looks like at least for now, your favorite food truck will be able to freely roam the streets of Downtown Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Food Fight: Restaurants vs. Food Trucks

I’ve been away from here for a while. I worked the past month with only 1 day off so it was pretty hard to find time to write, but I’m back. While I still have more posts to share about my trip to Annapolis, something really important came up that I just had to write about.

If you follow the food truck scene in Las Vegas, then you’re probably already aware of the August 15th September 5th City Council meeting to take up a proposed ordinance that would prohibit Las Vegas food trucks from parking within 300 feet of an established restaurant.

The initial proposal, by the City Council’s Recommending Committee back in March, was 1300 feet (about the length of 3 football fields). The recommendation was based on pleas from downtown restaurant owners, arguing that food trucks poach their customers by moving into restaurant space during peak foot traffic hours. Restaurant owners also argue, that food trucks operate at an advantage because they don’t have to pay rent or property taxes. Ultimately, members of the City Council’s Recommending Committee voted in favor of a 300 foot zone, which will be brought before the City Council for review on Wednesday, August 15th September 5th.

While I think that some sort of buffer zone between brick and motor restaurants and food trucks is fair, I think that Councilman Bob Coffin, along with certain restaurant owners, are unfairly trying to give food trucks the short end of the stick.

My thoughts:

  1. Cream always rises to the top. It’s as basic as if your food is good, people will want to eat it. I’ve eaten at some of the restaurants that have been the strongest supporters of the ordinance, and I have to say, the food they serve just isn’t that good. The food trucks they’re so mad at, aren’t “poaching” business, they’re just offering a more appetizing option.
  2. It’s called survival of the fittest. Animals can become extinct and so can a business. Food trucks have been around for a while, but they’ve only become the “hot thing” the last couple of years. Maybe the food truck trend will last, maybe it will go the way of polaroid cameras and disco music. Either way, only the strong and delicious will survive.
  3. It’s called a marketplace and America is full of them. Have you ever been to a mall, how about a grocery store? Well, they’re full of different brands/stores selling similar stuff, all clustered together. It’s the stuff our capitalist society was built on.
  4. Get in the game. If you think that food trucks have an advantage because they can follow foot traffic, then do what Pop’s Cheesesteaks did when they added a food truck to their existing brick and motor establishment.
  5. Can’t we all just get along. I’ve been to a food truck that’s run out of something and has referred me to another truck. It shocked me at first, but it was a pleasant surprise. In the end, isn’t that how communities are built? Because if you aren’t for competition, how about cooperation.

If you want to know more about how food trucks and other street vendors contribute to economic growth and enrich communities, then you should read the Institute for Justice report, Streets of Dreams: How Cities Can Create Economic Opportunity by Knocking Down Protectionist Barriers to Street Vending

Fukuburger has been very vocal about their opinion on the proposed food truck ordinance, and has scheduled a Park and March to the City Council Meeting on Wednesday, August 15th at 9am. Since writing this, the City Council meeting has actually been pushed back until September 5th. Follow Fukuburger on twitter @fukuburger for more info and updates.