The Arts Factory, Las Vegas

Posted on
Jul 18, 2012

Lunch at the Arts Factory: plantains with pomegranate sauce and goat’s cheese.

It’s hard to hate everything about a destination.

Don’t get me wrong – there are certain specific places that I hate with a burning passion (there is an Ashland hotel that is right now on my OH-NO-YOU-DIDN’T list, and my blood pressure spikes just thinking about it), but it’s hard to hate everything about a country, or city, or town.

“I hate Norway” sounds just absurd. Sure, you might not like salted licorice or paying $40 for a pizza, but how can you go wrong with a little smoked fish and pancakes every morning? You cannot. That is Valhalla, folks.

Search hard enough, and you can find something enjoyable about anywhere you visit. That’s part of the challenge and the wonder of travel. Good things are EVERYWHERE. You just have to search for them – it’s not unlike finding a rogue candied peanut at the bottom of your purse.

So when I’ve said in the past that I hated Las Vegas, that was because of my own shortcomings. I wasn’t looking hard enough for my forsaken candied peanut. I never strayed off the strip. I would roam casino after casino, getting lost and disoriented, breathing in overly-perfumed air and wondering if I needed to start wearing skintight dresses and drinking fruity cocktails (answer: I do not. Under no circumstances would this be a good idea, and the number of innocent bystanders would be great).

But on this most recent trip, Rand and I found the The Arts Factory, located in downtown Vegas. And we were smitten. It was just so … us. It was dorky and artsy and THEY HAD TAPAS.

The building houses a collection of small shops and galleries, as well as a large and airy restaurant. I wish I had taken more photos of the artwork, but that sort of thing is often frowned upon in small galleries and I was feeling uncharacteristically shy. Fortunately, the wall across the street from the Factory is equally awesome and art-covered:

“Hey, there’s tiny people down there!”

 

This was by local Vegas artist Juan Muniz, who does lots of variations on this character:

You can buy prints of Muniz’s work, as well as t-shirts and other goodies, at Happy Panda Toys in the Arts Factory. Rand bought a quirky little plastic elephant there (have I mentioned how awesome it is to be a grown-up? You can spend money on toys for yourself and no one can say squat about it).

And while art nourishes the soul, and should be reflected on, let’s talk about actual nourishment, because The Bar + Bistro at The Arts Factory was affordable and delicious and entirely unexpected.

It was a rogue peanut, if you will.

Chicken karaage, grilled plantains with pomegrante sauce and goat’s cheese, and sweet potato fries.

The menu was an eclectic mish-mash of items. It belonged to no one particular cuisine or place; like Vegas itself, there were no natives – everything had come from somewhere else.

And we weren’t complaining.

Kobe beef steak burger. Yummy, but have you ever tried biting into a steak with your bare teeth? It was incredibly awkward.

We sat on the back patio, the dry dusty wind whipping at the tablecloth below our food. We were so transfixed by the dishes that came out of the kitchen, we ate in silence.

After a long stretch of quiet, I looked up at Rand.

“This place,” I said, “… this place is an oasis.”

“It really is,” he replied, laughing.

An oasis. Or a rogue peanut. We just had to search a little before finding it.

—————

Tips for visiting The Arts Factory:

Give yourself sufficient time to wander around the galleries. The Bar + Bistro is shockingly affordable, especially when compared to the Vegas strip. We got at least a half dozen small dishes as well as drinks and the total (including a generous tip) was $40. The menu is quite expansive, and includes a good number of vegan/vegetarian options.

Some locals at the bar noted that our car would be safe where it was (across the street from the Factory) but that we should be careful if we were visiting after dark. Some of the streets adjacent get a little sketchy and dangerous at night, so exercise caution (and don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle).

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