A lifelong Vegas writer whose knowledge has been tapped by Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today, Zagat and Time Out, James P. Reza has expanded this year’s hit list to reflect downtown’s growth and expansion.

Best Place to Chat Up a Lawyer

It was hit-and-miss for a minute, but the Arts Factory’s Bar + Bistro has found its footing, thanks to the talents of chef Beni Velázquez. The action is in the bar, where one can nosh the entire menu either at the bartop or on one of the comfy sofas. With city government dark on Fridays, Thursday-night happy hour feels like walking into an episode of LV Law in 3-D. Not since Frogeez have the barristers had a better place to BS.

Best Place to Play Hide & Drink

Hidden and still relatively unknown, the Lady Silvia bar is nestled, signless, between a salon and an art gallery at SoHo Lofts. Once inside, you’ll discover a comfortable, upscale space reminiscent of a Victorian parlor. Flat-screens back the bar, while books and sofas accent the lounge. Ambitiously, Lady Silvia opens at 3 p.m. seven days a week, so it’s a perfect place to pull an afternoon disappearing act—until evening, that is, when DJs, special events and promotions take over on most nights.

Best Multipurpose Room

Quiet, comfy happy hour spot? Yes. Late-night live music? Sure. Romantic banquettes? Of course. The young and restless macking on the weekend dance floor? Check. Bottle service in a private alcove? Live variety shows? Windows that open? Art and easy parking? Huh? Somehow, Brett Sperry and Trinity Schlottman managed to cram all this into one Arts District spot, Artifice. It works, and it nicely complements the eclectic goings-on at the Arts Factory across the way.

Best Place to Pretend to Work

We were a little uneasy after chef Andy Knudson’s departure, but The Beat Coffeehouse has survived as one of downtown’s most interesting spots for lunching, kvetching, and noodling around on the ‘Net while trying to finish that term paper or legal brief. Forget accomplishing anything, though. The people here are quirky, smart and intriguing—and that’s just behind the counter. The menu has expanded (Nicoise salad? Yes!), but tantalizing treats such as the Slap & Tickle remain.

Best Reinvention

Forty years is a Vegas eternity typically acknowledged by an implosion. Not this time; downtown’s Plaza has instead been reborn. Guest rooms were gutted and recast, Fontainebleau-style. The casino floor was remodeled. Restaurants were rebuilt for new tenants. Bars were added. And former Mayor Oscar Goodman has lent his name—and his attitude—to a new restaurant and speakeasy. About the only old-school remnant is the classic tiered Vegas showroom, and we’re OK with that.

Most Urban Dining Experience

Dan Coughlin’s latest adventure is about more than just tantalizing tricolor curry. By bringing a trendy staple of urban cuisine to East Fremont, Le Thai might represent the tipping point for downtown dining. Take a table inside, call up a beer and a plate of noodles, and enjoy the parade of peculiar going on outside. Or sequester yourself on the back patio and disappear. While we adore Mundo and Lola’s, Le Thai is the quintessential downtown treat.

Best Drinking Chow

WTF is an arepa? Long answer: It’s a delicious Venezuelan street treat sold from a semi-mobile cart in the parking lot of Dino’s Bar called Viva Las Arepas (formerly I Love Arepas). It stars a (usually) meaty filling: beef, chicken, shrimp, pork butt. Or just beans and cheese, for the hippies. You have to sit outside. You have to buy or bring a beverage. It’s not entirely comfy. And it’s cheap. Short answer: It’s a South American taco. Shortest answer: Mmmm.

Suggested Next Read

Crown Prince of the City

Crown Prince of the City

Warning: Illegal string offset 'key' in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 902

Warning: Illegal string offset 'key' in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 903

Warning: Illegal string offset 'key' in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 902

Warning: Illegal string offset 'key' in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 903

Warning: Illegal string offset 'key' in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 902

Warning: Illegal string offset 'key' in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 903

The Downtown Cocktail Room’s doors are impossibly un-door-ish. You walk up from the intersection of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, happy to join the buzzing downtown camaraderie—the urban revolution taking hold of Las Vegas—and you’re faced with walls of one-way glass and no apparent door handle. For the uninitiated, it makes for an awkward moment. Had this happened to me, and I’m not confirming that it did, the larger metaphor wouldn’t have been lost: Maybe everyone doesn’t fit in here.