Endless strip malls. Nellis Air Force Base. The pig farm and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But, when I think of North Las Vegas (or Northtown), the first thing that comes to mind is food. Cheap, tasty, down-home food made by friendly people who have been serving their community for decades. Propelled by my hunger for comfort foods, I recently headed north for a dining adventure.
Established in 1977, Broadacres Marketplace (2930 Las Vegas Blvd. North) is not only an open-air swap meet, but a hub for locals to shop, drink a michelada, listen to live banda music and—most importantly—get their grub on. After browsing through the stands full of tchotchkes and gently used tools, I ran into my cousin Joelly and her family (my cousins are everywhere) eating in one of the patio areas. Her husband was enjoying lomo saltado (a traditional Peruvian dish of stir-fried marinated steak strips and vegetables served with rice) from Café Peru, one of the dozens of vendors located in the market’s covered “Food Fair” section.
After catching up with them and making plans for spring break, I headed to one of my favorite taquerias, Taco Tijuana, in the southeast corner of the swap meet. There’s always a line, but it’s worth the wait. Most people order carne asada and al pastor tacos, but my personal favorite is the tripa (tripe) tacos—fried till crispy in beef fat, giving them a rich flavor. The meat is tucked into two warm corn tortillas, and then topped with cilantro, onions and mild red salsa. For just $2 a taco, it is a screaming deal.
After the snack, my family and I perused the Lucha Libre masks, patio furniture and saint statues, where I found the perfect ceramic baby Jesus. Satisfied with my purchase, I crossed the street to U.S.S. Fish ‘N Chips & Oriental Food (3297 Las Vegas Blvd. North, Suite 61), a family-run restaurant that opened in 1989. The dining area is small, but clean with a few tables, a TV in the corner and charming decor that includes a giant taxidermied king crab hanging on the wall above our heads.
To get the full experience, we ordered from all three sections of the menu: fish and chicken, Chinese and Korean. The fish ’n chicken combo was generously battered and fried, guaranteeing a crunch with every bite. The proffered condiments include tartar sauce, ketchup, chili paste and—my favorite—ranch dressing, which I used to dip my crinkle-cut fries. The pork-fried rice was smoky, with the rich flavor that can only be gotten from an old, well-seasoned wok. Presumably, that wok has been around since the restaurant opened. The bulgogi beef is spicy, tangy and sweet, and served sizzling hot. In all, we feasted for less than $30 total.
Before heading home, we stopped at Jerry’s Famous Coffee Shop in Jerry’s Nugget (1821 Las Vegas Blvd. North) for the house-made desserts. We were particularly looking for something sweet, yet light to finish the day. But that all went out the window when we saw the Reese’s peanut butter chocolate cheesecake and seven-layer carrot cake. As you might imagine, the cheesecake tasted like a giant candy bar, except richer and with an Oreo crust. The carrot cake was surprisingly spicy with fresh ginger balanced by the layers of cream cheese. We sipped on coffee and quickly grabbed our check before we could be seduced by another of their confections proudly displayed at the front of the restaurant.
Justin Favela is a Las Vegas native, artist and taco enthusiast. When not in his studio, he is usually eating. Visit JustinFavela.net to see more of his work.