Expert Opinion: Blasts from the Past

The native, writer and connoisseur of Old Vegas offers his seven favorite blast-from-the-past businesses that are older than he is:

1. Las Vegas Drive-In (1966). A drive-in is more than just nostalgia; it is a good-humored, approachable place that is cheap and has easy access. In the mood for uncritical fare? Sneak in snacks and bottles of brews, head down there and see how accommodating they are. 4150 W. Carey Ave., 646-3565.

2. Huntridge Tavern (1956). I love this most welcome home for the gleefully jaded, featuring an air of minimalist décor, from the low serpentine ceiling to the stark lighting (thank goodness for the backlight of the Budweiser clock). 1122 E. Charleston Blvd., 384-7377.

3. El Sombrero Café (1949). As the “El” moves casually into its seventh decade of serving the Valley with its fine blend of good salsa and welcoming brio, you must remind yourself that longevity owes a lot to the goods. In short, the enchiladas with the right touch of cinnamon have been my standard-bearer forever. 807 S. Main St., 382-9234.

4. Freed’s Bakery (1959). I wanted a Batmobile cake for my eighth birthday, but my dad, a World War II vet, bought me an American flag cake instead, befitting that Bicentennial summer. I forgave him, and I forgave Freed’s for baking it, and have long since moved on to the chocolate strudel and Zzyzx Road Bar. 9815 S. Eastern Ave., 456-7762.

5. Tod Motor Hotel (1962). Once a sweet motel in the 1960s, it took an unattractive downturn until recently. Now it’s a smart 24/7 hostel, the ideal place when it’s 3 a.m. and you’ve wandered off from your friend’s downtown bachelor party. 1508 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 982-1481.

6. Little White Wedding Chapel (1951). I love the history, such as the infamous Sinatra-Farrow pairing, and the crafty tunnel of vows. Mostly, though, I love how people walk away from here with the most interesting stories. 1301 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 382-5943.

7. YESCO (1933). When Thomas Young opened the office branch of his electric sign company in the Apache Hotel, Southern Nevada was best known for a massive project in Black Canyon. Hoover Dam’s still pretty famous, but Young’s extraordinary neon signs would alter the perception of our corner of the Earth forever. 5119 S. Cameron St., 876-8080.