A reader once lamented the relative lack of a late-night Las Vegas scene outside the nightclubs. It was surprising, given that for most of our city’s history, the cliché “nothing good happens after midnight” didn’t hold true. Witness: During our city’s 24-hour heyday, casino lounges often scheduled four shows—Live music! Bawdy comedians! Go-go girls! Two-drink minimum!—between midnight and sunrise.
But Las Vegas has given up much of its grown-up late-night scene in exchange for (happy hour) dining, (high-end) shopping and some family-friendly clown shows. It’s been polished up, this Las Vegas of mine, and not all of it shines for the better.
Yes, our casinos still never close, but the overnight lounge shows are essentially gone. Many hotels still have a 24-hour eatery, but Mr. Lucky’s, Grand Lux Cafe and most others are far fancier than the lowbrow coffee shops I remember. (Thank you, Jerry’s Nugget, for keeping the 24/7 steak-and-eggs staple alive.)
For those who still crave friends, food and fun well into the wee hours, and want places where the social energy stays strong long after others go limp, the Chinatown stretch of Spring Mountain Road (from Interstate 15 to Jones Boulevard) is it. I once pulled up to the Golden Tiki (open 24 hours, natch) around midnight midweek, smack into a line of taxis fronting Pho Kim Long (I did not make that up) and Lee’s Sandwiches. Both are open 24 hours, and many Chinatown restaurants that aren’t serve very late. You can nosh before, during and after gambling, watching live music or televised sports, or belting out Sinatra’s “That’s Life” in a private karaoke room .
Thankfully, classic joints such as the Peppermill, Four Kegs, Tap House and Bootlegger continue to crank out grub, booze and an increasingly hard-to-find old Vegas vibe ‘round the clock. But Chinatown just might be where old Vegas transforms itself into new Vegas. It’s not surprising that a developer wants to build a nice apartment tower in the middle of all that energy. Walk for pho at 3 a.m.? I’d do that.
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