Saturday, March 29, 2014

Slow This Town Down (please)

Quite literally every other day in Southern Nevada someone’s life is taken due to vehicular traffic. Many more individuals survive these collisions, often with life-altering injuries.

Every morning that I rise to meet the day and read the daily news, there is a 1 in 3 chance that a member of our community has just been killed by or in an automobile.

I have to keep saying this because it never seems to sink in to those who hear (or read) these facts.

My mother died prematurely from medical complications that were finally unresolvable. My father passed away at a presumably expected age of 82 after several years of gradual decline in functioning ability.

My nephew lost the battle to leukemia at the tender age of 7, while my neighbor Dave was stricken down by the same disease at the age of 37.

I don’t even think I can track the number of our friends and family who have been affected from breast (among other) cancer. Some of whom are survivors and others we remember with the fondest of memories.

No amount of medicine or prayers could prevent the demise of those we lost from those awful diseases.

Yet 114 individuals who are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews in our community were killed in 2013 right here on our streets, from motor vehicle operational errors. Traffic “accidents”.

More than half of those people were pedestrians. Many of those pedestrians were declared to be at fault.

When I read this in the news, which occurs dozens of times over each year, it always makes me a little nauseous.

Eight (plus) lanes of vehicular traffic (4 lanes travelling each direction) at speeds well over 45 mph, running alongside 48 inches of pedestrian walkway, separated by a 5 inch tall curb and city blocks that are half of a mile long (standard).

No, the pedestrians are not at fault (generally speaking). The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is at fault.

Why are there laws prohibiting walking/bicycling on the freeway, when our surface streets and their juxtaposition to pedestrian access appear just as dangerous? I challenge each and every person at the RTC to attempt walking along (almost) any major street in this valley.

Better still, let me be specific, and please I encourage ANY person reading this whatsoever to take me up on this.

Take a walk along Sahara Ave from Maryland Parkway to Eastern Avenue. Eastbound or westbound, it makes no difference. Bring a friend, for two reasons; the buddy system and two, because you will need a witness to believe what you see.

Not only is the sidewalk far too close to the bustling surface street filled with angry, distracted motorists, but the geniuses who “planned” this walkway, added decorative impediments to the path itself.

As it is, the width of the walkway is barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, but you must also weave around trees, light poles and fire hydrants. In some places, there are even extra-wide spaces dedicated to landscaping that separates the people walking on the sidewalk from the adjacent parking lots or block wall, opposed to wider sidewalks or heavens forbid, create a buffer between the people walking on the sidewalk and the cars driving in the street.

To make this brief lesson in civic planning really sink in, please (at least attempt to) use the mid-block crosswalk. Watch the vehicles approaching the crosswalk as they slow down but give you no indication whether or not they see you or intend to come to a complete stop.

See if you can walk across the massive street within the allotted seconds on the crossing meter.

While you’re on this 20 minute stroll, please be sure to look down and take special note of the many tire tracks on the sidewalk you will undoubtedly pass along the way.

If Sahara/Maryland is too central or inconvenient for you, go ahead and try treading down Buffalo or Cheyenne or Sunset or just about any other major thoroughfare in this valley.

The way that I see it, every major street in this city could stand to lose a lane (sometimes 2 or even 3) which can be re-dedicated to wider buffers between motorists, pedestrians and bicycles. Bicycles and skateboards could be given their own path that is not in the street nor on the sidewalk.

The bus routes that travel these major streets need dedicated lanes, if not to be replaced by a modern light rail system altogether.

The motorist who commutes each day (to work or wherever) in their own personal vehicle has a schedule to keep, however, the minutes these individuals waste or save in doing so, is of absolutely zero importance to me.

If slow-moving traffic gets you down than figure out another way to get where you’re going . Leave earlier, switch modes of transportation, move closer to your workplace.

Sluggish commuter traffic is no justification for taking human lives (from right here within our community), and this is precisely what is happening each time a solution of adding lanes, widening streets and raising speed limits is reached in our city.

It’s been the wrong approach for more than 30 years and I doubt that in 30 years, the “public servants” who reach these decisions have ever attempted to take the walk that I mentioned.

It is so completely embarrassing for a city such as Las Vegas, which basks in fabulous outdoor weather at least 8 months out of the year, that recreational areas and activities such as walking, jogging, bicycling, skateboarding, etc., have been all but eliminated from public view.

Out in the suburban sprawling, master-planned communities, these simple things that add so much quality to one’s life exist, but on the way to get there from the city’s core there is not much more than cinder block walls, sparse trees and shopping centers.

In downtown Las Vegas, what are called “complete streets” which feature ample sidewalk space, parking, bike lanes, shade trees, benches, bike racks, mid-block crosswalks and a single lane for vehicle travel in each direction, are being constructed.

Along 1st Street from Boulder Ave to Bridger Avenue, where a “complete street” has been completed, are 8 city blocks that also equal 1 mile. It is a beautiful sight for sure, except it took nearly 4 whole years to complete this one mile stretch. For what it is worth, it is a very nice walk in either direction, connecting the arts district with city hall, Bonneville Transit Center, Fremont St and the local detention center (look for reality television show Las Vegas Jailhouse on RealTV for behind the scenes action).

In a few short years, Main Street (Las Vegas) will get a similar treatment when it is converted into a one-way street ushering vehicles north from the Stratosphere, through the arts district and toward Fremont Street. Likewise, Commerce (west of Main St) will send motorists south toward The Strip.

The future for downtown Las Vegas is progressively on course with little to fear, but this is not where the fatalities on our roadways are constantly occurring. The fatal collisions are happening virtually everywhere but in the downtowns of Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City. Lives are being taken on our surface streets and even inside our neighborhoods.

This is not an acceptable norm for our society. We can and we must stop this from continuing.

It starts with the City and the Metropolitan Police Department mandating education to those who need it.

How do we do this?

The city must first create a civics class that covers all necessary subjects, including but not limited to; rules of the road, pedestrian safety, bicycle safety and driver’s ed.

We are a transplant community, where more than 70% of the population moved here from someplace else. Insisting that all new residents, licensing themselves or registering their vehicles at the DMV, be required to take such a course in civics and local laws would be an incredibly wise decision.

Unlike the current traffic school which serves as a kind of punishment in which an offending motorist attends a class to avoid demerits on their record, this school should be a welcome learning environment that everyone will truly benefit from. Also unlike the existing traffic school (and health card class for this matter), one must actually pass the course through examinations to prove they have retained the knowledge put forth.

Certainly, these classes and teachers already exist, they are just not being properly utilized. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, we just need to gather our (human) resources and put them to a more proper use.

Next, Metro takes progressive action citing every jaywalker they see, every bicycle driving on the sidewalk, every motorist who fails to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and bicycles- essentially any person who is being reckless and/or endangering the public.

Obviously, our society has back doors for the wealthy, so you won’t be able to insure that every single dangerous person on the road will take the civics class over a hefty fine, but it is a very good step in the right direction.

Today, we have television commercials featuring some lawyer and some law enforcement officer telling us that we need to “look out” and “be careful”. Not very effective. I would much rather see ads demonstrating the difference between safe and unsafe behavior, including the “3 foot rule”.

I would bet that the majority of drivers in this town are completely unaware that they are required by law to leave 3 feet between their vehicle and a person who is riding a bicycle (when passing). Although, I suppose they’re not really “required by law” if law enforcement does nothing to enforce said law. Maybe it’s time to start enforcing this law and maybe bicyclists can get off of the sidewalk.

Bicyclists on the sidewalk.

I am afraid that I might murder someone one of these days and I really do not want to. It’s just that every time a bicycle nearly takes me (and my partner) out while I am walking on the sidewalk, I am incredibly tempted to bump them just so, sending them flying into the mass of vehicles hurling past. It would be so easy and over so fast and then I would likely live the rest of my life in regretful, utter misery inside of a Nevada penitentiary- which is why I don’t do it. That and I am a truly gentle soul.

But it is so very tempting.

I can empathize however. Though local customs define a bicycle as a moving vehicle that belongs in the roadway, I completely understand wanting to drive your bicycle on the sidewalk.

I did the very same thing when I was growing up in this town until about the age of 12 or 13 when I began to comprehend that the sidewalk is reserved solely for pedestrians aka walking.

It is such an easy mistake to make, largely because the idea of bicycles sharing the road with automobiles is suicidal at best. Who in their right mind ever truly believed that a person driving a bicycle (even with a helmet) should be using the exact same paths as 2 ton hunks of steel traveling at increasing excessive speeds? Who, I ask!

This brings us back to the civics class. Many, I mean to say, an enormous chunk of our population, have moved here from countries south of the United States.

Get this.

As it has been explained to me, in these central American countries, you are required to ride bicycles on the sidewalk and it is illegal (and even more insane) to drive them in the street.

Could it be that someone needs to sit them down and explain how things work here?

If the local governments and law enforcement don’t act then who will?

No one.

The police will simply continue to REACT to offenders and issue fines as if this is a way to prevent crime. It’s not.

This may sound overly simplified but that is just because the answers appear to be just that simple.

Educate the public.
Educate them and keep doing so until the magic number of ZERO FATALITIES is a reality.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Where I Eat (in downtown Las Vegas)

This is NOT a complete list of dining establishments in Las Vegas and it is NOT intended to be. These are a few of my favorite restaurants that are generally within two miles, or walking distance, from my house.

First, a little about me.
I was born in Las Vegas, NV in 1977. I grew up on both the east and west sides of town almost simultaneously. From the age of 3 till around 13, I would spend weekdays with my Mother and Step-Dad, attending school and playing in neighborhoods near about Pecos and Owens (the Las Vegas-North Las Vegas border), while weekends would be with my father near Washington Ave and Michael Way.

My Father taught in the Clark County School District and as he would put it, had therefore taken a vow of poverty. Mom and Stepdad worked in Hotel-Casino food and beverage, a waitress and a chef, respectively.

What does this have to do with anything?

Dad’s frugality helped me teach myself how to get the most for my dollar and how to identify value over gimmicks, while living with my Mother and Stepfather showed me culinary expertise at it’s finest and behind-the-scenes action inside some of our city’s grand resorts.

This background is enhanced by my own personal experience as a solo singer-songwriter travelling, seeking and finding quality accommodations on an impossibly small budget.

Add to this equation, the fact that my partner and I have been live/work/walking in our downtown for the past 4-½ years and hopefully you will agree that I am THE person that you want to tell you WHERE I EAT (and drink).

I will include a separate list of vegetarian/vegan dining destinations for our friends who abstain from consuming animal-based products. I sincerely respect their choice and admire those who can maintain the diet and lifestyle.

Let’s get started with the most obvious. The most popular meal in all of America….

PIZZA ROCK, 201 N 3rd St/Ogden aka DT3
Slices come and slices go and we’ve tried just about them all, but nowhere in this town can beat (maybe tie but not beat) Pizza Rock. You can dine-in and get any number of sinfully delicious craft creations and they will amaze you. I (very seriously) suggest that you start with their award-winning Pizza Margherita and experiment from there. If you’re anything like me, the futuristic dystopia decor inside Pizza Rock will prevent you from wanting to ever return. DO NOT PANIC. Do what we do, forget the dine-in restaurant and grab a NY slice from the walk-up window outside or at the front counter. $3.50 for cheese, another quarter for pepperoni and $5 for the daily New Yorker special.The slice will likely be bigger than your head and you can pull up a chair in the sidewalk seating on 3rd st. You and your +1, two of the best slices you’ll find anywhere + gratuity = $10

VIVA LAS AREPAS, 1616 S Las Vegas Blvd/Oakey
Felix Arellano brought incredibly succulent, mouth-watering, authentic Venezuelan fare to Las Vegas Blvd when he opened his arepa stand in front of Dino’s bar. The American dream encapsulated, Felix works hard everyday and every day he’s expanding his legacy, his brand and best of all, his wood-fired grilled chicken. 3 piece plus beans, rice and a drink is $6.99 and chances are you can’t finish the entire plate in one sitting. No matter what you order, you can’t resist their signature habanero and cucumber salsas. I recommend getting the full bird with two sides for $14.99, or better yet the mixed grill; chicken, ribs, sausage and asada with two sides, it’s $19.99 but feeds two people for two days or 4 teenagers once. Again, I cannot express enough just how excellent the smoky goodness is that Felix and his crew infuse into their foods. He belongs on the Travel Channel with any number of their top eating destination programs.

ROCK N’OODLES 1108 s 3rd St (south of Charleston)
The brand new Arts District noodle shop is outstanding. Their “eclectic noodle creations” are top notch and leave you wanting more. I can’t promise, but in my experience, the portions are very large and enough to feed two people (or one person twice). Once or twice, this was not the case, but it doesn’t matter because you still get a great quality meal for a reasonable price. As I understand it, the kitchen staff were all hired from the culinary school at CSN, and you can taste it in everything these kids dish out. Even better still is the daily creations and soup of the day. Top this all off with the fact that they are always cranking out the jams, which brings vibrant energy to the neighborhood.

STREETCAR PO BOYS, 1624 W Oakey/Western Ave
This brand new discovery really excites me. I only learned just last year about the power of the magical, New Orleans-style Po Boy sandwich when dining at Las Vegas’ popular Louisana kitchen, Lola’s (at Holsum Lofts). I did not enjoy my entrees at Lola’s, but the shrimp Po Boy was out-of-this-world! If you’re familiar with Lola’s kitchen, you already understand that they are a very small facility and are almost always packed- which is fabulous for Lola. I, however, don’t really care for cramped dining. Lucky for us, Streetcar Po Boys has a large spacious dining room, is really close to our house and serves a BIG menu of Po Boys every bit as good as, IF NOT BETTER THAN, Lola’s. HINT: The large Po Boy is double the size of the regular for $2-3 more. It’s very worth it.

LOS MOLCAJETES, 1553 N Eastern Ave/Owens
OK, this restaurant is not downtown but it's very nearby and it's the best of it's kind, so it is completely worth a slightly longer trek.
I have lived in Las Vegas all of my life and I have eaten Mexican food in restaurants, Mexican families homes and all over Southern California too. I noticed sometime around the late 1990’s that Mexican restaurants (in Las Vegas) began to seriously wane. Quality ingredients and fresh spice were replaced by pools of poor quality, inexpensive shredded cheese smothered over beans, rice and sauce. The curious attribute to this phenomena is that it only occurs where restaurants also serve alcohol. Taquerias are speckled all over this valley still serving good home cooking at reasonable prices, yet if they start serving tequila… watch out. Los Molcajetes is the best Mexican fare I have tasted (in this town) in I don’t know how long. Don’t make me explain this, just trust me. Go on Wednesday, bottled mexican beers are $1, order whichever one of the there molcajetes sounds most appealing for you and your guest. When the boiling cauldron of goodness arrives at your table, all will be right with the world. $16-21 feeds two, plus however many dollar beers you can handle. It is a very good thing.

PASTA PIRATE, 12 E Ogden Ave/Main St
Sometimes you just NEED a good steak and downtown Las Vegas has many, really good places to choose from. From Oscar’s at The Plaza to Hugo’s Cellar at 4 Queens to Andiamo at The D. Go to any of the restaurants and you’re likely to pay $32 to $50 for a nice filet mignon plus a la carte side dishes. Try this one on for size; 6 oz filet with prawns, vegetables, choice of potato, soup or salad AND a glass of wine for a grand total of $18. Yes, eighteen American dollars for this entire meal which just so happens that the meal is served in the slightly finer dining restaurant right next door, The Redwood Grill for $10 more. Same kitchen, same cooks, same everything but it costs $10 less inside Pasta Pirate.

CHICAGO JOE’S, 820 S 4th St/Hoover
It doesn’t matter who you’re wooing. Whether you want to meet a friend over lunch, impress your new lover or you're having a quiet anniversary with your spouse- do this. Get a table at Las Vegas’ most adorable restaurant establishment, Chicago Joe’s. Order a carafe of burgundy wine and the escargot appetizer, enjoy them together with the crusty bread on the table. It is perfect all by itself, you don’t even need to bother with an entree. Prices subject to change but it should be about $25 total. In the event that you are hungry for their American-Italian fare, I recommend the lasagna or the eggplant parmigiana.

WHITE CROSS MARKET, 1700 S Las Vegas Blvd/Oakey
This traditional market/sandwich deli carries Boars Head products. The utterly decadent italian combo sandwich full of processed meats, packed with all the pickled trimmings and drenched in oil and vinegar is perfect for those who fear not for their heart’s health. But who wants to live a long life without eating this sandwich at least once or twice? A fella I have known for 20 years recently posted on facebook that the pastrami sandwich at White Cross was the best he has ever eaten in his entire life. Is this enough of an endorsement? $8-10

CLAM CHOWDER and so much more
TIFFANY’S CAFE, 1700 S Las Vegas Blvd/Oakey
Tiffany’s Cafe may be the very last great greasy spoon in Las Vegas. Open 24/7 365 and they deliver. God Bless Tiffany’s Cafe. Tiffany’s offers the full cafe menu of breakfast, lunch, dinner, daily specials and soup du jour. On Friday, Tiffany’s Cafe makes their famous clam chowder. Naturally, I prefer eating my chowder in Monterey Bay, CA, but since we don’t have that option, Tiffany’s does the next best thing.

ART OF FLAVORS, 1616 S Las Vegas Blvd/Oakey
This corner has been famous for Luv-It Custard for so long that I can’t remember it any other way. Well, you can forget about Luv-It, because Art of Flavor gelateria has arrived. Please don’t be hasty, just let your taste buds decide. Desyree comes from Italy and she is the real deal when it comes to gelato. Everything she creates is made fresh every day and she comes up with dazzling flavor combinations that you simply have to taste to believe. OK, so you want some examples? Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Rosemary, Salmon, Chocolate and Chili pepper. These are gelato flavors I am naming. Tiramisu, Pistachio, Pickle, everyday there is something new and unexpected, plus sorbets and espresso.

MAIN STREET STATION, 200 N Main Street/Stewart Ave
My very favorite aspect of “the new downtown” is that our new inhabitants never venture further west than 3rd st. From 3rd st to 9th is bustling with young urban professionals and bars where drink prices just keep growing taller and taller with each new establishment that opens attempting to become more elite than the rest. You can cram all that noise, I have zero interest in the crowded over-priced bar scene. It’s like kryptonite to me. When I want to drink, I want to a) be able to get a drink and b) be able to afford as many as (I deem) necessary. Until now, I have shied away from telling strangers about what they’re missing out on because I don’t want to see my favorite haunts turn into the insanity that is happening right down the block. On the other hand, however, I decided that it sure would be more fun if we could ever run into our friends by happenstance while out our bar. Friends, our absolute favorite bar in this town is the casino bar at Main Street Station hotel-casino. The bar itself is regal and magnificent stretching somewhere close to 100 feet long made entirely of marble and brass. The casino is the only downtown casino that smells nothing like those you are familiar with. It does not reek of smoke and air freshener. The classic southern train station decor feels like a step back in time to Las Vegas’ railroad origins. All of these attributes only enhance the fact that THIS IS A BREWERY. HELLO!?!? Not only does Triple 7 Brewpub create a variety of tasty fresh brew, but they sell it for $1.75 per pint. I said “one dollar and seventy-five cents”! If you are drinking anywhere else in this town you are probably doing it wrong. You don’t drink beer? Call drinks average about $3.50. Yes, that means Jameson. What do you say? Will we see you there anytime soon? I can still do you one better. Gentleman only, once you have swilled your fair share of the sauce, you will no doubt need to relieve yourself. Get ready for this. The men’s room (off the casino floor) inside Main Street Station has a big chunk of the actual Berlin Wall. The urinals are attached to it. YOU, yourself, get to personally urinate on a piece of the Berlin Wall (each and every time you have to go). The feeling is so gratifying that I get emotional just writing about it. There are photos along with the story of the Berlin Wall posted overhead so you can read about it while relieving yourself.
Now, how does THAT sound?


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day whether you eat it or not. Not only is breakfast essential to “breaking the fast” of overnight sleep and giving your body and brain sustenance to survive on, but it’s also ceremonious. There are so many ways to engage breakfast and there are different solutions for varying scenarios, which is why breakfast deserves it’s own list for the many different ways we indulge in it.

Lazy, Tired, Hungover and/or just plain out of food.

Tiffany’s Cafe delivers ultimate hangover medication 24/7 365. Steak and Eggs? Philly Cheese? Tiffany burger? Country-fried steak with biscuits and gravy? Your results may vary but they are at my house in under 15 minutes in most cases.

It’s a gorgeous day and you have time to take it easy.

Viva Las Arepas patio-dining. What’s better than the amazing food at Viva? Eating it outdoors on a pristine day. Viva does an amazing breakfast arepa with scrambled eggs, ham, onions and peppers. But who says you have to eat eggs for breakfast, dive in to the whole menu.

You’re not just hungry, you could eat a cow.

Hash House au-go-go at the Plaza Hotel is absolutely famous for their gargantuan portions and plate presentations. On my last visit, I finally discovered their sage fried chicken. Holy gee whiz! I will never order anything but ever again as long as I live. (maybe)

We are sitting down with loved ones on a Sunday morning.

Golden Nugget brunch buffet. Hey. It is what it is. But the Golden Nugget buffet serves a slightly better quality nosh at their buffet than anywhere else downtown and they have a great view overlooking the pool and shark tank. During particularly nice weather ask for a table by the window which makes for great people-watching too. Oh. thats right! All-you-can-drink champagne is also included.

It’s a weekday and you live or work in or near the Arts District and need food.
Rock'N’Oodles is open for breakfast at 7:30 am. Breakfast burritos are likely near the top of the list for mankind’s greatest inventions and you can get one here before the rest of the neighborhood has risen to meet the day. Also a nice place to sit outside weather permitting.

Nothing sounds good anymore, I need something else.

Nacho Daddy is located on 4th street (which is a northbound one-way street BTW), just north of Fremont St. If you see Ogden, you missed it. We have only dined at Nacho Daddy on one occasion (their opening day), but I found the menu to be quite reasonable with a lot of options for the adventurous and mild diner alike. My burrito was quite good and left me wanting more. The chips they use for their nacho fusion creations, you will either love or hate. There is no way to recommend, you just have to try them for yourself and decide.

Just show me to a good old fashioned diner.

Du Par’s at the Golden Gate hotel (Las Vegas oldest, still operating hotel). I have loved this San Francisco themed diner all of my life, or at least as long as I have been aware of it, which has been longer than I recall. Once, the Bay City Diner, The Du Par chain of family restaurants took over operations in 2009 (or 10) and kicked it up a few notches. Besides the adorable, vintage-style outfits worn by the wait staff, this diner is now famous for their homemade pies and preserves. I can’t attest to the pies but they do make the best preserves I have found. I could have toast and jelly with a cup of coffee and be completely satisfied. One thing that did change for the worse when Du Par’s took over is the menu pricing. Bay City was famous for classic breakfast combinations for very modest prices (very old school Las Vegas). Today, a simple bacon, eggs, potatoes and toast will run you about $11. Very similar to the prices right across the street at Hash House au-go-go.

I want good food and good-looking people all around me in a crowded, noisy environment.

Eat. Downtown. I’m not grunting, that is the name of the restaurant. Chef Natalie was procured by the Downtown Project to open her restaurant at 7th St and Bridger Ave and since their inception, they have been full. Turns out there really was a healthy swath of people pining for a decent breakfast/lunch destination (downtown). The vittles this kitchen cranks out are second to none and just about the only complaint I hear anyone utter is that the incessant noise of chatter, kitchen clanging along with background music is just too much to take while trying to enjoy one’s meal. So, maybe bring some earplugs just in case.


Not very long ago at all, restaurants catering to vegetarianism were few to none in downtown Las Vegas. In fact, in September of 2009, when my partner and I relocated (from the west side of town) to downtown Las Vegas, we were both practicing vegetarians and I think the only restaurant truly catering to the lifestyle was Paymon’s Mediterranean bistro at The Arts Factory. The have since left the neighborhood but I still crave their middle east sampler; dolmas, falafel, pita, hummus, baba ganoush, Aztec fries, tomatoes and parsley salad. Mmm! The whole plate would feed both of us for a mere $12.

That meal is still available at their UNLV and Summerlin locations, but this is very beside my point. In 2009, there was one vegetarian/vegan option and today there are scores of them.

BarBistro @ the Arts Factory
Wouldn’t you know it, the restaurant that currently occupies the space left from the former Paymon’s Mediterranean is still one of the leading vegan dining destinations in downtown Las Vegas. What separates BarBistro from other vegan menus is their lack of soy. Most vegetarian/vegan restaurants use many soy-based products to compensate for the animal-based product which they are abstaining from. Chef Beni Velazquez does not believe in using soy-based products citing them as not healthy for human consumption. He rather opts for oats in lieu of beef and tapioca-based faux cheese. Try the vega-bocadillo and stuffed piquillo peppers.

My favorite dish at Rock'N’Oodles just so happens to be one of there vegetarian dishes. Marrakesh Express; Israeli couscous in lemon vinaigrette with roasted eggplant, bell pepper, zuchinni, tomato and olives, topped with toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta and harissa sauce. Hold the feta and make it vegan. This being a “cold noodle” dish, it is the perfect anytime snack for people who don’t often get an actual sit down lunch during their busy day. Spectacular vegan soups on some days.

Pura Vida
Chef Mayra’s vegan bystro (spelled with a “y” to reflect the russian origin of the word) is a true vegan mecca. Mayra takes her food very seriously to the extent of where she sources her goods, how they are treated, right down the spirituality of the plants and vegetables she uses. This is a completely cruelty-free kitchen. In fact, the only cruelty that goes on here is the amount of time you may have to wait to get your meal. She’s not shy about telling you to relax and take it easy, have some water and/or coffee because you are going to be here awhile. The coffee and the non-dairy, coconut-based creamer are fantastic.

Bronze Cafe at The Center
The Center at 401 S. Maryland Parkway is the kind of facility that every neighborhood in Las Vegas could use. This particular center is intended to service the LGBTQ community in Las Vegas. Sponsored by some of Nevada’s biggest gaming heavyweights, The Center provides outreach services for any person seeking them, internet access, a reading room, an undeniably fantastic cafe/bakery and more. The Bronze Cafe brought to you by Steve and Andrea Wynn (both vegan advocates) serves vegan and non-vegan dishes alike and every incredibly scrumptious thing on their menu is made fresh and served on freshly baked bread.

Bier Garten at The Plaza Hotel
Do you know who else is vegan? Mr Sam Cherry of Cherry Development, the fella who brought you SoHo and Newport Lofts as well as Pop Up Pizza and now the newly opened Bier Garten at The Plaza. This German inspired beer and sausage joint made sure to keep save at least one place on their menu for vegans. The Naked City; veggie Tofurkey sausage with roasted sweet peppers, chopped raw onion, kosher relish, german mustard and Sriracha ketchup. If that doesn’t do much for you, you can stroll over to the south end of the property for a slice of SoHo (from Pop Up Pizza); vegan mozzarella, spinach, mushroom, artichokes and roasted red peppers.

Huntridge Pharmacy
I have to be honest, I have never eaten at this establishment (since Bill Fong and his daughter left way back in, I don’t know, 2008?). I may venture here soon merely for the classic decor of a lunch counter diner inside of a pharmacy, a dying breed in our town. Right next door to the famed Huntridge Tavern.

This very happening new restaurant features fresh ingredients “from farm to table”, gluten-free, vegan pizza, fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies and a full bar. I have never eaten here for several reasons. #1, I go to Pizza Rock for pizza and #2, the place is always jam packed with people each time I have passed by. That must be a good sign that people are loving the place.

I have never had a falafel sandwich better than Amena bakery, on Decatur Blvd and Obannon, in the Trader Joe’s shopping plaza. But if I want to get a falafel sandwich downtown, I will probably hit the corner of Wyoming Ave/Las Vegas Blvd for a Goodwich. This sandwich hut in front of Dino's bar is where Felix from Viva Las Arepas started his legacy. Jake from Goodwich was (allegedly) the first customer of Felix's back when he first opened his arepa stand. Great guy that he is, Felix, using his own equipment and business-launching know-how helped Jake and Josh get their concept sandwich shop off the ground. Vegans and vegetarians who consider themselves "hard core" may pass on this one due to the other sandwiches they serve in their little box. Be advised.

Thank you for reading.

Where do you eat?

Leave a comment

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cannabis vs Nevada

First and foremost, can we please start by calling it by it’s appropriate name, Cannabis? You can even call it pot, weed or grass- but please do not call it “marijuana”.

Cannabis was re-branded as “marijuana” in the 1930’s in a (successful) effort to make the substance sound more menacing than it actually is. Whether one can consider a plant largely meant for smoking (although often taken as an edible), a type of medicine or not, is beside the point. Mainly because so many, so-called “medicines” prescribed in our country by physicians for patients can cause a great deal of harm, yet they are widely permissible in a dramatically hypocritical presentation of “right and wrong” in our society.

“Pot-heads” if you will, seldom if ever speak the word “marijuana” in common speech. Only teachers, police officers, politicians and the like, aka “the square community”, use this term.

In a sad, maybe even desperate, attempt to legitimize the benefits of THC consumption to the square community at large, a group of advocates came up with the term “medicinal marijuana”.

When you have a substance that is clinically proven to be far safer than the recreational use of alcohol or any number of legal prescription drugs that are found to be highly addictive and/or habit-forming, and prohibit it for 70 years, these are the kinds of extremes persons will believe in order to get their “meds” in a safer environment.

More than 10 years ago, Nevadans went to the ballot and overwhelmingly approved the use of Cannabis in their state. Some Nevadans want the tax dollars put to good use in our schools, others don’t want to see non-violent criminals locked up in Nevada penitentiaries, still others believe it to be a mere health concern that should be left up to the individual, while many more remain under-educated on the subject. Any way you slice it, Nevadans want Cannabis.

Except, no person in elected office wants to take any responsibility for the charge given to them by their constituency, perhaps because they are afraid that their constituency will cry foul or maybe these persons put their own personal beliefs over those whom they represent. All we know is that Nevada, could have been the champion of this cause, yet is currently sitting idly while other states are reaping vast rewards from Cannabis decriminalization.

Local and State legislators have no idea how to approach this issue and are clearly terrified to make a move in any direction. This inability to act or make decisions is so embarrassing for Nevada on the national (and international) stage. You can be sure that in a few short years, the worries and concerns about growing and distributing Cannabis will appear so silly in retrospect.

Allow me to elaborate.

Not all that long ago, espresso shops were popping up all over Amsterdam and the sneaky Dutch proprietors of these cafes were distributing Cannabis to their customers, illegally mind you.

In time, the local community along with their governing bodies came to the conclusion that, while smoking Cannabis is not a healthy lifestyle that the government could condone, the only crime being committed was that of an unjust law, one which The People did not support, was being broken.

This revelation led to city leaders and police enforcement agreeing to “turn a blind eye” to the Cannabis operations, allowing the coffeeshops to thrive, pay taxes, etc.,

After 5 years (or so), the rate of violent drug-related crimes recorded in Amsterdam had dropped a whopping 96% and subsequently, the lawful ban on Cannabis was officially lifted in the Netherlands.

Present day, Clark County is befuddled with how and where they can license “medical marijuana dispensaries” and grow operations.

If only Nevada’s elected officials had the clarity of vision and hubris to deal with their colleagues and constituencies, we could harness an amazing opportunity presented to Southern Nevada, that does not come around often (if ever).

You must understand that Cannabis decriminalization in the Netherlands succeeded because 1) the Dutch gave their residents what they were asking for, and 2) they capitalized on an existing infrastructure that worked within their community. They DID NOT try to create a new system that the people would not understand. They simply stopped persecuting the individuals distributing until they could institute regulations that worked.

While Nevada’s elected officials are pretending like they want to keep Nevada safe (from the substance they overwhelmingly demand), by wanting to keep it away from neighborhoods, churches and schools, THEY are the ones who are turning a blind eye to the fact that Cannabis-growing, distribution and retail operations already exist in virtually EVERY SINGLE neighborhood in Southern Nevada.

The system for Cannabis growing and distribution being used in Las Vegas (and beyond) is so perfect that neither Metro, nor the Feds have been able to make a dent in it over past 30+ years that they have been using every resource they can imagine to combat this so-called “problem”.

There are more than 1 billion dollars circulating, completely untaxed, within our community at all times in a truly free market that is based on supply, demand and agriculture.

This multi-billion dollar industry exists with an operation in or near every single community and it exists almost entirely without advertising. That means no glowing green 5 finger leaves in the strip mall next to your grocery store or hanging in anyone’s windows or on delivery vehicles.

The square community are completely surrounded by Cannabis at all times and their children are perfectly safe (so long as they are doing their jobs as parents communicating with their young).

Clark County has a limit of 10 dispensary licenses they are going to permit within their jurisdiction. TEN!?!

Which means that bureaucratic public employees are going to determine, from hundreds of applications, WHO will have permission to serve Nevada’s card-carrying “medical marijuana” patients, the meds in which they seek.

Ten dispensaries? How about you limit it to 10 dispensaries per square mile, which is far more likely to be an accurate number of operations currently servicing Southern Nevada’s cannabis-loving community.

You (might) forget that the Cannabis-lovers are indeed a community of individuals who are, at present, your friends and neighbors (whether you aware of it or not). They are everywhere and if you happen to be one of them, you likely know who your agreeable company are.

On the one hand, you have the police department wasting their resources (i.e., tax dollars) to combat non-violent “crime” that is potentially an incredible source of revenue for the state. That is pretty ridiculous.

However, on the other hand, you have a free market of entrepreneurs without corporate influence, willing to take personal risks for their gains and they are succeeding.

Despite being shrouded in secrecy, the Cannabis market has got to be one of the most honest entrepreneurial pursuits in America today. The competition is stiff and constant with little to zero loyalty in the consumer-provider relationship. If a Cannabis provider presents themselves as providing a better product and/or service, the consumer will immediately gravitate toward “the better deal”. This could mean a better quality product, lower prices, bigger quantity or convenience i.e, delivery and promptness.

Even if our elected officials had vast understanding of the Cannabis business, they are still pretty helpless when it comes to the ability of implementing and maintaining a system for regulation when it comes to Cannabis.

Already, potential landlords to proposed dispensaries are jacking up the rent on the spaces being sought for Cannabis industry-related businesses. Two obvious reasons that cannot be denied are 1) landlords are uncertain and feel justified asking for more compensation due to “the risk” they are taking, and 2) because they know the future tenants are going to make a lot of money and can therefore afford it.

A grade-schooler could inform you that this practice will drive up prices for Cannabis and Cannabis-infused edibles, which will send customers to a more affordable retailer who they likely already have a relationship with.

Rather than taking brave, decisive action (for more than a decade), the state of Nevada is fumbling about at the tax-payer’s expense, trying to implement a regulatory system that they don’t know how to operate, and is meant to replace a system that only fails the public-at-large by it being illegal.

Checks, balances, quality-control, distribution- these departments are all currently fully staffed without public employees ever being necessary.

If our elected officials wish to solve the Cannabis epidemic in Nevada, than they need to start by stopping all police action targeting Cannabis grow operations.That is first and foremost.

Next, create a license to sell. Not a federal background check, Metro scope, initiation fee plus local licensing fees. Allow persons who currently earn their living delivering Cannabis to buyers the ability to purchase a permit, not unlike the "medical marijuana" patient ID cards currently issued to Nevada patients through the DMV. While you're at it, a 30 minute written exam regarding Cannabis and it’s practical applications along with a brief civics lesson would be appropriate.

While government officials may feel that it is their duty to tightly control the market and protect the community, their intentions are short-sighted and misguided. Issuing permits to individuals who you consider criminals because the activity they engage in is unlawful may sound like a bad idea because it sends a message that their behavior is to be condoned. You must realize that the danger you perceive in widespread Cannabis distribution is invalid and incorrect.

There should be no reason to be afraid to "open the flood gates" because you believe that rapid Cannabis proliferation will destroy your community. The existing laws are unjust and not supported by the people. In a self-governing society, this is (supposed to be) how the decisions are made.

When the Berlin Wall finally came down, it came all the way down. It was not made into a doorway for just a few citizens to exercise their freedom at a time.

Create a growhouse license, even for residential neighborhoods. The surplus of abandoned homes in Las Vegas has already provided Cannabis entrepreneurs countless spaces that are presently being utilized for grow operations. Experts insist that once a home has been repurposed into a grow-house that the process is irreversible and cannot or should not be used as a residence ever again.

Remember now that you can grow just about anything you want in these facilities, including food.

Recognizing the potential lemonade from Las Vegas’ lemons is paramount to navigating today’s Cannabis issue with bravery and vision, rather than fear of the unknown and “traditional values” instilled by a lack of understanding.

Instead of raiding and seizing Cannabis operations, issue them a fine and require them to register their business with state and local officials like you would nearly any other business that is discovered to be operating illicitly.

Again, these are intelligent and courageous individuals who have put themselves at stake risking prison in order serve Nevada residents who repeatedly have demanded fair access to Cannabis. Nevadans who have made their own health decisions and have chosen Cannabis to treat their ailments opposed to pharmaceuticals (which despite having their known harmful side effects are allowed to permeate the airwaves with advertisements).

If these grow-house operations are posing a threat to their communities, it is because they have been forced to defend themselves from invasion and robbery, due to the ongoing prohibition of Cannabis.

If growers, retailers and consumers of Cannabis were allowed to operate in the open without fear of social backlash and criminal charges, they would not be forced to go through the measures in which they must in order to operate today. If growers, retailers and consumers could feel confident contacting law enforcement to protect their rights as any other citizen might, you would not see the stockpiles of cash, guns and attack dogs being used to protect their investment (when the police do raid these houses).

These operations should be able to coexist like any other neighbor on the block, as any law enforcement officer will assure you, knowing and talking with your neighbors is the first and best line of defense any neighborhood has against intruders.

This model for an indoor community garden could lead the way for the future of sustainable living in the desert.

Cannabis entrepreneurs have built the business model and infrastructure within the ruins of the great housing bubble collapse. With better guidance and cooperation from local governments, we can improve on the marvelous system that was created in secret without any public financing.

We can start by making existing and former grow-houses energy neutral by installing whichever combination of solar and wind power are necessary to create the type of power one would need to power a sustainable grow operation.

Just as horticulturists who knew to capitalize on Cannabis, seized the opportunities they were presented with at one time, many of these same individuals paired with a growing community of enthusiasts graduating every semester, will want to capitalize on growing tomatoes, corn, kale, etc., because there will be endless new opportunities for selling locally grown vegetables to their neighbors.

Cannabis may be a big cash crop, however the only customer is a Cannabis consumer. On the other hand, EVERYONE HAS TO EAT. Which means there could be equal to if not greater revenue in vegetable grow-houses as their is in Cannabis grow-houses, IF the opportunity were approached in the right manner.

It should be noted here that when Cannabis became readily, legally available in Amsterdam, actual Cannabis consumption decreased across The Netherlands.

Prolonged prohibition of Cannabis leads to grand misinformation regarding it’s use, misuse and abuse. The fact that the vast majority of Cannabis users do not report it to their physicians as well as family members prevents true data from ever being compiled as to inform the public.

This leads to public service announcements, created by substance abuse prevention groups, which use gross scare tactics in order to convey their message to the public. Rarely, if ever, do these advertisements have an effect on the audience these groups intend to reach.

On the contrary, persons who have enjoyed Cannabis recreationaly or medicinally will be fairly certain that the creators of such PSA’s are clearly misguided in their quest to save human beings from themselves.

Furthermore, they will perpetuate their own version of the truth which is likely as much of a heavy, one-sided argument as the position they are refuting, and both parties continue on without reaching any middle ground in the battle for Cannabis.

Based on the hesitation and apprehensive behavior of the Las Vegas city council and Clark County commissioners, I would conclude that these lawmakers want to have all of their T’s crossed and I’s dotted before they allow a single bud to be sold “legally”.

This is precisely the grave misstep our elected public servants are taking.

You are not going to cinch this thing. You have no idea what you are doing.

Decriminalize the plant.

Start accepting licenses.

Issue fines where you find persons operating without a license.

You have zero handle on the existing operation therefore you are not going to get this right the first time (or we would not be having this discussion today).

Be patient. Represent those who elected you.

Over time, you might be able to bring this invisible billion dollar elephant in the desert to light.

As an additional thought for anyone who might be reading this; creating a law preventing importing Cannabis from out-of-state suppliers to Nevada dispensaries is purely ignorant and petty, if not outright insulting to the (Nevadan) patients who need their medicine.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pre Order TODAY and SAVE

Dear Friends, We are going to beat the system while saving cash and reducing carbon emissions. PRE-ORDER the book with us! If you live in the Las Vegas area, you can submit your payment to Hillary Salon via Paypal and guarantee your copy of my latest work [*TINS*] TWENTY THIRTEEN Renaissance. Self-publishing through Blurb, books are actually printed and shipped to order. Order 1 book, they print and ship 1 book. Order 100, they print and ship 100. I will be placing bulk orders to fulfill local demand, this way you can get your individual copy, complete with personal autographed dedication (if desired), without having to spend the extra $7.99 shipping cost. HOORAY I recently took the book to a local retailer who specializes in underground literature for an appraisal of what I should charge, or what people would be willing to pay for a self-published work representing local Las Vegas culture, and he suggested the market rate of $15. I like the sound of that, but I'm going to keep to my original offer $9.99+ 0.59 s+H To my friends far and wide, the downloadable eBook (currently the only profitable version available) is only $1.99

Thursday, March 13, 2014

the Main thang

Main Street Las Vegas will soon be home to TWO breweries. The first of which is the Triple 7 Brewpub at Main Street Station hotel/casino. The second is a labor of love right here in 18b the Las Vegas Arts District. HOP NUTS COMING SOON We have seen bits of work going on at this address-less building just South of Charleston on Main street for many months. We have seen the special use permit for "Hop Nuts Brewing" pass through the City's planning process. But now, we finally have NEW PAINT on the sign! I have waited many moons to make any mention of this possible pipe-dream coming true in our neighborhood. I hate to get anyone's hopes up, especially my own, for no reason. Clearly, there is still A LOT of work ahead of them, but it's nice to see that progress is happening. According to Hop Nuts letter of intent, they intend to be open 24 hours a day, host live music every night and educate the public about the brewing process. That is a very tall order and i don't know anyone here who will hold them to that claim, but here's to dreamers dreaming BIG DREAMS. CHEERS HOP NUTS! Best of luck in your pursuit.