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August 1, 2014

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Downtown Renaissance, Part 1: ‘My kind of town, downtown Las Vegas,’ by Christopher LaPorte of Insert Coin(s)

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Christopher LaPorte of Insert Coin(s) in downtown Las Vegas.

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Christopher LaPorte of Insert Coin(s) in downtown Las Vegas.

Newspapers and magazines across the country normally focus on the bright neon lights of our Strip, but in recent weeks, much attention has been lavished from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times on downtown Las Vegas.

Thanks to the mega-million-dollar commitment of Zappos chief Tony Hsieh, news reports have focused on the new-look happening at and still coming to Fremont Street East.

Derelict storefronts have sprung back to life. Grubby pawnshops and adult stores are being squeezed out by newcomers. A new tech and online world is on the horizon. Strip restaurateurs have already opened up new eateries there.

Crowds are growing each weekend in larger numbers to party there. Hipsters are likening the resurgence to the arrival of Austin, Texas, on the national entertainment scene.

Can downtown Las Vegas eventually be placed on par with New York’s Greenwich Village, NoHo and SoHo districts? Can downtown Las Vegas become another Silicon Valley, albeit smaller in size and scope?

Follow the change and progress of downtown in our colleague Joe Schoenmann’s Downtown Joe columns in the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly. Today and Thursday, Vegas DeLuxe focuses on downtown with two guests columnists who provide a snapshot of what’s going on now.

Here with his “My Kind of Town, Downtown Las Vegas” perspective is Christopher LaPorte of Insert Coin(s), one of the new lounge attractions there. On Thursday, we take an advance look at Golden Gate.

•••

Just a few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of having DJ Jazzy Jeff perform a set at Insert Coin(s). This being his second time appearing in my venue, I had to ask him what brought him back downtown.

With a flash in his eye behind those dark trademarked sunglasses, he smiled and said, “This is the Other,” and proceeded to explain what he enjoys in every major metropolitan city — that area of entertainment, dining and culture that you have to find yourself whether by word of mouth or complete accident. However you get there, you immediately call it your own because you feel at home.

Here’s the thing. I’ve lived in Las Vegas for nearly eight years now. In that time, I always felt more comfortable at Beauty Bar on First Friday enjoying the Get Back, a funk and soul dance party going on for nearly 10 years now, than a nightclub on the Strip. But that event was only once a month.

Cut to 2013, and suddenly DTLV and its surroundings offer the same amenities as most venues on the Strip, but in a distinctly different elegance. Want a new kind of night out? Check out the Arts District (they are open on days that aren’t First Friday) and relish the horseradish sauce with the skirt steak salad at Mingo. Then head to v on Main Street for a mixology presentation elegantly named Green Bitch after checking out nearby art galleries.

Thinking of barhopping? They call Fremont East the Entertainment District for a reason, folks. All the venues new and old have their own style and charm. Multiple genres of music emanate from each building beckoning you to try something outside the traditional nightclub fare.

Get a room at the boutique Cabana Suites. But before your night of drinking and dancing, make sure to try Puerco Ahumado at La Comida, Awesome Noodles at Le Thai and a slice at Radio City Pizza.

Downtown’s outskirts have plenty to offer, as well, with restaurants like Herbs and Rye mixing big-flavor drinks with even bigger steaks, and the fancy but unpretentious Barrymore at Royal House, where wine couplings are mandatory.

Finally, you can’t say you’ve done downtown until you’ve tried the tropical concoctions (likely filled with 151) at Frankie’s Tiki Room, ordered a beer at the iconic Dino’s Lounge or simply sat at the newly reopened Atomic Liquors.

All this, and we didn’t get to even touch on the Life is Beautiful festival, Andiamo Steakhouse at the D Hotel or Downtown 3rd, which has the remarkable downtown Grand currently in construction that should be on everyone’s watch list. Things are really that good in DTLV.

You see, we don’t have to try to be like everyone else. We choose to be who we are. Because, in the end, to satisfy the needs of the community is what downtown Las Vegas is striving to do. Come as you are, and enjoy something different. Get out of your comfort zone and try out the Other.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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