Local Eats: Plantone’s Italian Market

I was invited to check out a new Italian deli/restaurant in the southwest part of Las Vegas named Plantone’s Italian Market. The restaurant is located in just south of Ikea in the same plaza that’s home to Skinny Fats (this space was previously occupied by Mac Shack).

A friend and I stopped in for lunch and split a couple of items. The “Angry Sicilian” hero was recommended multiple times so we started with that. We also split an order of lasagna since it was a bit chilly outside.

Angry Sicilian made us happy

The Angry Sicilian ($9/$14.95) is a basic Italian hero/sub with prosciutto, capicola, soppressata, mortadella, house-made (and delicious) mozzarella, roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomato, onion, EVOO, red wine vinegar, and oregano.

The ingredients in the sandwich are excellent. The mozz and peppers are as good as I’ve had in Las Vegas. As good as the ingredients are they’re just part of a sandwich. Anyone from the east coast will tell you that the key to a good sandwich is the bread.

The soft roll was nothing more than a vessel to get the good stuff in my mouth. If you’re watching carbs, you might want to get this as a salad instead. The peppers and mozzarella were the highlights of the Angry Sicilian. The sandwich was very good but the bread didn’t offer flavor or texture that the ingredients deserve.

The peppers and mozzarella were the highlights of the Angry Sicilian. The sandwich was very good but the bread didn’t offer flavor or texture that the ingredients deserve.

Lasagna at Plantone's
Hearty Lasagna

The lasagna was excellent and a nice starter when split in half. It’s a hearty way to start lunch on a cool day. Again, the ingredients were flavorful and the sauce was very good.

The sauce is the key to any pasta or pizza. I’m looking forward to trying a pasta dish with fewer ingredients so I can see how the sauce it without the cheeses and meats.

Even though I’m only about 15 minutes away, Plantone’s isn’t in a part of Las Vegas that I visit very often. I probably wouldn’t have visited without the invite.

I’m glad that I was given the heads up on this deli/restaurant and will happily return when someone is looking for a place to grab a quick bite in that area.

Visit Plantone’s Italian Market for a menu and more information.

Coming Soon: Vegas Local Eats And Drinks

Pizza
“This tastes like the slice of pizza I used to get in the Bronx.”

For the past year, I’ve generally written for other people and websites. You see those links posted here when I see the articles are live. That’s taken me away from this blog and the VegasPhotoBlog.

I usually visit bars, restaurants, and casinos in the touristy areas. The majority of my opinions are shared elsewhere. As you’ve seen I share those articles with other websites. However, I’ve been visiting more local bars and restaurants than ever before.

I rarely write about my local experiences because the traffic gods say that most of you want to read about the cool new spot on the Vegas Strip. I understand that because I used to be the same way.

I generally share my thoughts on local bars and restaurants directly with those who are specifically looking for something away from the action. I’ll be sharing more about those local joints for those people on this blog.

I won’t waste time with places I don’t like unless I have a really awful experience. I have a few bars and restaurants saved to share and a few more that I know I’ll be visiting soon.

I’ll probably end up using a lot of this elsewhere when I compile a significant number of recommendations. The reviews I write will be short and sweet like when I visited Therapy in downtown Las Vegas.

The photo above is from Evel Pizza which will be one of my first new recommendations.

Will SLS Las Vegas Be Tropicana Of The North?

Tropicana Las Vegas Trop Plus Players Club
Trop Plus Players Club

Armen Yemenidjian, VP of Casino Operations, at Tropicana recently did an interview with the local ABC affiliate explaining Trop Plus Locals. Trop Plus Locals is a separate players club from the normal Tropicana players club with benefits just for locals like special parking, extra rebates and large dining discounts. It’s been around since last year but they’ve been promoting it a lot in the local media lately.

The benefits are great for locals and really lay the groundwork on how SLS Las Vegas can market itself to locals. SLS Las Vegas has been touting that they want to be the casino for locals on the north end of the Vegas Strip. This program is essentially a marketing plan on how a casino is doing that (or trying to) on the South end of the Vegas Strip. See video for details.

A Trip To The Downtown Container Park

Praying Mantis At Downtown Container Park
Praying Mantis At Downtown Container Park

It’s rare that I agree with my first impression days after the fact but this is how I see the Downtown Container Park. Downtown Container Park just opened in Downtown Vegas on Fremont Street a block past El Cortez.

Downtown Container Park is essential an outdoor mall where the stores are all in storage containers. The mall surrounds a giant treehouse park area. The property has free wifi and a nice little grassy area with a stage for musicians to perform.

I don’t love Downtown Container Park and I don’t hate it. It’s a mall. It’s not a traditional mall but it has all the contents that you’d find in a traditional mall. It’s a place for people to shop and eat or for parents to bring their kids to play during the day. At night the restaurants will cater to the anyone who would like to eat and drink outside.

Let’s take a little tour and discuss specific parts of the Downtown Container Park.

3 Levels

The containers are stacked 2 and 3 levels high. The containers aren’t very big which could make this a tight squeeze if it gets busy. The height makes for some pretty cool views if nothing else. Thankfully all of the food and drink are located on the ground level.

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Metal Chairs and Metal Tables

As Scott from Vital Vegas likes to say “What could go wrong?”

The combination of metal tables, metal chairs and limited shade in the park seem like a horrible mix for summer in Las Vegas. Since the only seating for Downtown Container Park is outside this could pose a major problem.

Maybe this is why they rushed to open an outdoor park/mall in time for winter.

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Treehouse

The treehouse slide and park is set in the center of all the containers at Downtown Container Park. This area looks like a really cool place for kids to play. It also offers some of the only shade in the Downtown Container Park. Kids 1 – Adults 0.

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Dat Slide

Another view of the treehouse slide at Downtown Container Park. Weeeeeeeeee!

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Water Fountain

I can’t remember the last time I saw a water fountain that wasn’t from the 1920’s. This is a nice addition to the park area although the metal may become a health hazard in the summer.

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Stage

The stage area at Downtown Container Park looks pretty cool. It should fit legit bands at night and kids stuff during the day. This could be a great outlet for Downtown Project to preview bands for at no charge as a way to promote Life Is Beautiful Fest 2014.

Note that the grass is real. That’s a big deal for the Vegas locals.

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Big Ern’s

Big Erns BBQ was one of the few outlets to open before the Downtown Container Park was officially open. Early word is that the BBQ is legit. They also serve New Belgium beer. This sounds like a perfect combination. I hope to try this out before the winter comes to town. (UPDATE: I went here yesterday and wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good.)

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Gang Signs

The Llama is the unofficial mascot of Downtown Project. If I was cynical I’d say that this was placed near the front of the Downtown Container Park to keep non-DTP people out. But that’s if I was a cynic and believed that DTP was really a cult. I mean, seriously.

Downtown Container Park Las Vegas

Conclusion

Downtown Container Park is a nifty little space that essentially takes up one city block. I think that Downtown Container Park could be a cool place to grab lunch and work a little (since they don’t open until 11am), bring the family for play time and shopping or to grab a few drinks at night while watching a band on the big stage. It’s another thing to check out when you’re visiting Downtown Vegas.

Downtown Project has been doing a lot of development for a local community that they’re helping cultivate. It’s going to take some time to see if this works out as they intend. I’m not sure that I entirely understand the vision but that’s fine. I’ll enjoy the new life they’re breathing into Downtown Vegas.

Will other people? Time will tell.

Cover Photo: Vegas.com

Las Vegas Housing Market Back On Upswing

Summerlin Las Vegas Road
Road To Nowhere

I generally keep this blog to casinos, gaming and travel between Atlantic City and Las Vegas but every now and again I’ll sprinkle in a taste of life I find exploring Vegas. I typically end up in casinos or other toursity spots so this works well. A few weeks ago I was driving around the suburbs drinking coffee on a beautiful Sunday morning when I noticed that formerly barren corners of Las Vegas were beginning to get some action. I thought this was a sign that something was happening but wasn’t sure what to make of it. Yesterday we got this news:

U.S. home prices spiked 10.9 percent in March compared to the same period a year ago, with all 20 cities measured in the most recent Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller housing report posting positive year-over-year growth for the third month in a row.

Phoenix has the largest annual increase in annual prices at 22.5 percent, followed by San Francisco with 22.2 percent and Las Vegas with 20.6 percent. Boston annual prices rose 6.7 percent, according to the report.

The increase in housing sales explains the activity I’ve witnessed in my corner of Vegas. The drive on this Sunday morning took me to the edge of civilization and the Red Rock mountains. I imagine that this land, like much of the other land around it, was probably desert just a few years ago before the last Vegas building boom. The road to nowhere on this day shows where the building ended (left side of the street) and where building has ramped up again (right side).

Long Road To Nowhere Las Vegas

Las Vegas is still new to me since most of my travels end up in casinos and I often end up taking roads to nowhere when I want to clear my head. These are roads where the Las Vegas boom just stops. Roads are unfinished and there partially started construction sites. It’s kind of sad but also kind of cool to look at because it’s something I’ve never seen before.

End Of The Road Las Vegas

The road to nowhere above used to just end. There were no machines moving and nothing happening. This Sunday morning they were resting like normal people…err machines but have been working during normal work hours. Looping back you can see that houses are being worked on right now.

Nowhere House Las Vegas

The construction out in the Vegas burbs has resumed and that’s a good sign of the Las Vegas economy. The Vegas strip has also begun preparing for an improved economy with construction resuming last year with The Linq and this year with MGM and SLS Vegas construction.

The next boom in Vegas won’t be as extravagant as when CityCenter, Cosmopolitan, Wynn and Encore where built but new activity on the strip and in the burbs can only mean good things in the near future for both Vegas and Las Vegas.

Las Vegas 51’s Sold And May Move

Holly Madison Las Vegas 51's Baseball Game
Holly Madison

Baseball is my favorite sport. It’s the only organized sport I played growing up and the professional sport I attended most (Go Yankees!). Since I moved to Las Vegas I’ve wanted to get out to a Las Vegas 51’s game but have never made it. That will change this year since they’re now the New York Mets AAA affiliate and have some prospects I’d like to see play. After weeks of rumors the 51’s have officially been sold and may be moving down the street from me in the future.

The biggest new challenge for the new owners is to win public support for their proposal to move the 51s from 30-year-old Cashman Field near downtown Las Vegas to a new $65 million ballpark next to Red Rock Resort in Summerlin near Charleston Boulevard and the Las Vegas Beltway. The owners envision a ballpark called The Ballpark at Summerlin Centre with 8,000-9,000 seats on 16-20 acres to be donated by Howard Hughes Corp., which values the land donation at $40 million.

I think Cashman Field is a great location for the Las Vegas 51’s especially now that downtown Vegas is having such a large business and residential expansion. Unfortunately the stadium is an ancient 30 years old and something needs to be done. Few things in Las Vegas remain the same for that long. There, seemingly, hasn’t been anything done until now to provide a new stadium for the players or fans. It’s understandable since previous owners, who also own The D, had their focus elsewhere.

The 51’s aren’t much of a tourist attraction to Las Vegas but the team does provide an affordable alternative to seeing a show and a good excuse to go to downtown Vegas. Paid attendance was about 4,500 but fewer people actually went to the games. This won’t have a huge effect on business downtown but it will have an effect.

I’m 50/50 with the Las Vegas 51’s moving to my hood. I love baseball but don’t like the idea of giving families another excuse to clog things up in my corner of suburbia. The 51’s will probably move here and I’ll enjoy the games because I can.

photo: 1 blue jays way

Grass And Trees In Vegas

I’m not from Las Vegas. You can here it when I speak. This will always be Vegas to me. You know, eating, drinking and gambling on the Vegas strip or downtown Vegas or even my local casinos. That’s why it always amazes me when I find things you’ll see in a “normal” city.

I was in dire need of caffeine today and decided that the home brew wouldn’t be good enough so I got in my car and hit one of three Starbucks within half a mile of my house for an iced skinny latte (I actually got two). The latte’s did just what I wanted. But I digress.

Today I found what seems to be an average run of the mill park. The park has all the swings and stuff a kid could need and there’s real grass, trees, picnic tables and BBQ’s. Who knew?! My vitamin D break (lunch in the sun) for the day was splendid. It’s amazing to see how relatively normal Vegas can be when you leave the strip.

PS: Instead of going to the office after lunch I went to Red Rock Resort to grab a beer and play a little video poker. You can find pictures of the multitude of 4OAK’s on tumblr. Then I decided to grab another latte head back to the office.

Las Vegas And Vegas Are Not The Same Place

Best Of Las Vegas Logo

I began writing this post to discuss the Best Of Las Vegas Awards and I will but I realized that the real problem with the awards begins with the name. When I moved to Vegas I learned quickly that the city is called Las Vegas by people who live here. I’m a New Yorker and I’ll verbally call it what I want but you may notice that I try to use the name Las Vegas when I write. Let’s switch to the awards for a minute.

The Best of Las Vegas Awards are a product of the Las Vegas Review Journal – a newspaper for the city of Las Vegas. In theory it should be no different from local paper in any city. The Best Of Las Vegas awards are voted on by readers of this newspaper. Newspapers are mostly read by people 55 and older. About 75% of the people polled last year were over 55 read newspapers either online or in print.

Last year a study about slot machines from Oregon State University revealed that people play certain games because they are simple and familiar. The same study also showed that the average slot machine player is a woman over 50 years old. You’ll notice something with some of the winners of Best Of Las Vegas awards.

  • Best Chinese Restaurant – PF Changs
  • Best Italian Restaurant – Olive Garden
  • Best Steakhouse – Outback

These are all chains that are inexpensive and familiar. The demographic that play slot machines is similar to the demographic read newspapers (and vote in their polls). This voting does not represent my Vegas and this is probably does not represent your Vegas but this is the Las Vegas of nearly 2 million people. Actually this is Las Vegas to tbout 20% of those 2 million people who are over 55 years old and that’s really who the “Best of Las Vegas Awards” represent.

The Best of Las Vegas awards represent a medium-sized city called “Las Vegas” and not the tourist city called “Vegas”.

The real problem for these awards is that the name and logo have the ability to speak to both locals and tourists even if the voting only reflects the opinion of less than 500,000 people who live in “Las Vegas”.

Bottom line: Don’t take the Best Of Las Vegas awards too seriously.

Reaching The End of Vegas

Las Vegas is much bigger than the strip. Believe it or not. As curious as I may be, I’m not much of the exploring type. When the weather turned to windows down driving weather I went for a drive to explore the burbs where I live in Vegas.

On this beautiful day I drove by a slew of golf courses and found Rampart Casino while I enjoyed a smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Mid-drive I found a road and part of Las Vegas that wasn’t finished.

The road above was clearly meant to go straight towards the mountains and through a community, but neither the community or road were finished. Instead of building the road through vacant land to be build on when there housing market improves, like you’ll see across Vegas, the road was just curved to go into an area already build.

The road and vacant land is kind of surreal in a post apocalyptic way, but I guess this is what happens when the money stops.

As a city guy this is an area I’ll never go to when it’s dark. I don’t like the complete darkness. If you’re ever in Summerlin, near Red Rock Casino this road is just past the casino towards the mountains. It’s worth the 5 minute drive for the experience, especially if you’re from a big city.

Viva Las Business

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce is launching a campaign in Las Vegas for Las Vegan’s to help keep money in the city.  This is something that many cities try to do.  For an economy that was hurt a lot by the bad economy, this can only help.  I’m curious to see how this has an effect on local businesses.  Here’s a report from KNTV, channel 13 in Las Vegas