Panhandlers. They come in many shapes and sizes. And also many disguises. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit. I will not eat them, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham.
Okay enough pathetic rhyming. But seriously, how bad is the panhandling problem on Downtown Fremont Street? Or is it really a problem at all? It really depends on who you ask. I know some who are highly annoyed by them. Others are indifferent. And still others actually seek them out to give them money.
So how do you feel about panhandlers downtown?
Before you answer, let’s group them into three categories. There may be more, but I could only come up with three.
1. The Passive Panhandler. This is the person who stays put or even sits down. He will often hold a sign and simply wait for donations to drop into a cup, bowl, or hat. Generally, the Passive Panhandler will not speak unless a donation is received. And then one of two responses can be expected. “Thank you” or “God bless you.”
2. The Aggressive Panhandler. This guy means business. And he can move, too. Sometimes he even follows you! The Aggressive not only asks for money, he demands it. There may be a quick, hard luck story attached (“Dude, I just need a couple bucks to catch the bus to my parents’ house. Can you please help me out?”). And there’s almost always anger if you refuse. There may be swearing involved.
3. The Disguised Panhandler. Oh you know the kind I’m talking about here. These dress up as movie stars, pirates, Superman, showgirls, Brett Michaels, George Clooney, and sick & twisted beer belly angels. They panhandle you under the guise of a rare opportunity to get in a picture with them. For tips. Well here’s a tip: save your money. Upon returning home, will you really look with adoration at a photo of an obviously fake Superman? You’re better off giving that money to the Passive. At least he’s being honest and not trying to fool you with Halloween shop costumes.
So with the categories out of the way, let me give full disclosure and admit I’ve given money to all three types. Yes, even the aggressive. But only because he had a dog with him.
Okay. I don’t want to be adjudged cruel or harsh, here. But I do generally avoid each of these types, now. Altogether. I got this way after enough times being approached by enough Aggressives and hearing how hungry they were. I’d offer to dash into McDonald’s and get them a big, “healthy” processed meal. Almost every time it was refused. I’d clearly offended the Aggressive by the mere suggestion that food might cure his hunger.
Call me jaded.
Now I don’t mean to imply they’re all scammers out here. I’m sure some are truly down on their luck and just need some help. But it’s just so hard to tell the difference. I’m not sure you even can.
And let’s not forget the safety considerations. I’ve heard of a few people being struck or even followed for several blocks. While I believe this is rare and it has never happened to me, it’s not something to be taken lightly. It pays to be cautious and avoid a situation where things could escalate.
So if you’re inclined to give, by all means give. It’s your call, and it may even be good Karma. But if you’d rather avoid getting hounded for money, I recommend following a few simple steps. We’ll start with the simple & obvious and work our way into more creative realms:
1. When walking, look like you know where you’re going. The more you gawk at the buildings and/or take pictures of them, the quicker you’ll be spotted as a potential “business lead” for one of the three types (especially the Aggressive).
2. Avoid eye contact. This includes Timeshare people. Enough said.
3. Look angry. Did you just lose your life savings in a long game of poker? No? Well just act like it, then. If within earshot, mumbling “I just lost bad at dice!” works wonders.
4. Don’t count your money in public. I know this is an easy one, but I see so many sifting through their wads of cash out in the public. This screams: take my money!
5. If you hear “excuse me” from behind you while walking (and you’re reasonable sure you didn’t drop anything), don’t turn around. Just keep walking. Unless you recognize the voice. And like the person. If you don’t recognize it, keep walking. If you do but don’t care very much for the person, keep walking. You can always claim later that you didn’t hear them.
6. Pretend to speak Russian. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I did it once and trust me it works. Can I speak Russian? No. But I remember what Ivan Drago sounded like in Rocky IV. I made a bunch of sounds like that (you know, a mouthfull replete with consonants) and the Aggressive looked at me like I was seriously ill. Then he walked away. It was one of my prouder moments.
7. Pretend you’re about to vomit. Okay so now we’re getting desperate, but a lot of people drink too much in Vegas so it’s never hard to convince someone that you’re about to fire hot clam chowder all over the place. And I did this once too. Just make a bunch of “blech blaaach” sounds and hold your hand over your mouth. Trust me, you’ll know what to do. I did this only once as well, and the guy backed up and quickly pointed to a nearby trashcan. I ran into the LVC, doubled over in mock pain, and the moment passed.
Just be careful. I found out that if you fake like you’re going to be sick, you can actually start to feel that way.
8. If the above fails, simply hold your hand up, shake your head, and continue walking. This will silence all but the most intoxicated Aggressive.
Generally speaking, I’ve never had a problem panhandlers in Downtown Las Vegas. Fremont street is usually packed with people. So I walk away and they move on to others. But I have noticed of late that there are more of them. When I walked downtown in 2006, 2007, and 2008 I can’t even recall being approached once. Now, it’s fairly commonplace and even seems to be on the increase.
And so in closing, I’d love to hear your thoughts on panhandling downtown. Feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment here or on our Facebook group. What say you of panhandlers? I’d really like to know.
This is a unique burger experience, that is for sure. The place is fun, much more so than your average burger joint. I mean, it’s really cool that there’s a huge scale outside where you can weigh yourself 24/7 (the scale weighs heavy, by the way). And wacky rules like, if you weigh over 350 lbs you eat for free.
Hold on a sec…so if your homeless and hungry, you don’t? Sad. But okay. It’s a business not a soup kitchen. And again I digress…
But the food? Well, we’ll get to the food. Let me first step back in time for a moment.
During the construction phase, I’d pass by and silently swear to go inside once it opened. And I really meant it. Then, during my next few Vegas visits, I’d pass by and spy the patrons inside. But I wouldn’t go in.
Why not? Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to make of it. They say a confused mind always says “no.” And I was confused. so I said no.
What was I confused about? A number of things.
First of all, I saw all these diners chowing down in there, all decked out in identical white hospital gowns. Almost like clones. Were they wearing anything underneath them? I didn’t know. And I couldn’t tell from my vantage point outside on Fremont St. Then the questions all shot through my head. Would I have to get naked upon entry? Would there be other “checks” performed?
“Here are your fries, sir. Now please turn to the right and cough,” said the sadistic nurse.
Shock therapy? And would they let me bite down on a leather strap if I requested it? No idea. But the staff are all dressed like something out of a B horror flick. Maybe I’ve watched too many of them. The movies, not the nurses.
And so that’s why I put it off for some time. But one day, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. I was hungry for lunch so in I went. And I’m happy to say, it wasn’t so bad after all.
Upon entry you are fitted with a hospital gown and wrist band. And much to my relief, you’re allowed to keep your regular clothes on underneath. I released my grip on my waistband at once. Silly me. What was I thinking?
The servers are all referred to, and dressed as, doctors and nurses. And the menu is set up that way as well (triple bypass burger, flatliner fries, etc.). There is a slight whiff of “death” in the air, too. I don’t mean a smell, but a subtle hint that this meal could indeed be your last. I sure hoped not. And fortunately for me, it wasn’t.
There’s even a sign up that reads: “Cash only because you might die before the check clears.”
And an old-fashioned ambulance parked right outside.
The food is mediocre at best. One step below a Denny’s (which is right next door now, btw). The burger was huge, and I only went with the simple “single bypass.” But it had very little flavor. Same with the fries. Kind of a cardboard consistency. I had a water and it was outstanding!
So for the kitschy experience, I’d say everyone should come do it at least once. But once was probably enough for me.
Oh and just one final suggestion: weigh yourself before you go in. You’ll thank me later.
When I was a kid, I hated the patio in my backyard. If I was bored and got on my mom’s last nerve (which was often), she’d kick me out onto the patio indefinitely. It was boring because there was nothing to do out there in a humid Maryland summer. Nothing, that is, except get sun burned and bitten by mosquitoes the whole time.
Cry cry cry. Okay over it now. Totally. Honestly? I never even think about my backyard sentences anymore. Unless I do.
So back to downtown…
But the Patio Bar outside of Four Queens? TOTALLY different story. I could sit there all night. In fact, I almost did. But let me back up…
When I first heard they were opening this bar, I wasn’t at all excited. I thought the last thing Fremont needed was another outdoor bar. With all the preexisting bars and kiosks, I was sure it would only add to the increasing clutter that maligned Fremont Street.
But I take that all back now. Yes, all of it! This bar works. Oh yeah, it’s great. It’s great because of its location right at the corner of the D and the next door cover band stage. This gives you a perfect fenced-in, front row seat of everything. Things like the band, Fremont foot traffic, and all the drunk tourists dancing and falling by the stage. Seriously, I challenge you to sit there for 10 minutes after 8:00 pm and not see somebody fall.
I’m not saying it’s fun to watch people get hurt. It’s not. But they never get hurt in front of you because they can’t feel any pain. They could shatter a hip bone and break an arm, and would still fling their bodies right back up off the concrete and resume gyrating to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” And never even spill a drop from that sacred football cup they’ve been clutching throughout the night. No pain. And you know why.
The next morning? Not so great. I might run into some of them in the Walgreen’s medicine aisle. Maybe even catch a few headed to the local clinic to get that arm fixed. Ugh.
Awww but I love ‘em all! Keep dancing, world! Life is short so make the most of it. Be happy.
Speaking of happy, drink service is happy here. There’s almost always a server making the rounds out on the patio. Also, if it’s cold, you’ve got some overhead heaters that do an excellent job (I wonder if they’ll have misters in the summer?). And if a drunk panhandler wants to come bug you, he/she would have to hop the fence surrounding the bar area. Which probably wouldn’t go so well for said panhandler. So you have sorta like a Four Queens-activated force field around you. Now that is cool.
I’ve always been partial to Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse inside the Golden Nugget. I love it there so much I make at least one stop each visit, sometimes two. And I swore I’d never find a replacement – downtown or anywhere. Well, watch out Vic’s. Andiamo is giving you a serious run for your money.
Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse is located on the second level of the D Hotel & Casino. It used to be, back when this place was Fitzgerald’s, the second level looked like a scene out of Leaving Las Vegas. Sad scenes of hungover drifters & guests, most washing breakfast down with shots and beers.About the only draw was the Vue Bar, where you could step out onto the balcony and watch the Fremont Street Experience.
But I liked the Fitz even back then. In fact, it was my introduction to downtown upon first visiting Fremont Street in 2006. Back then, it had an Irish theme and the dealers often wore either green uniforms or football jerseys. It was fun then, and things have only gotten better since Derek Stevens of Detroit bought the place last year.
Okay so enough history. Back to the steakhouse…
To get there, just go up the escalators and hang a right. Walk down the dim hallway and you’ll receive a warm greeting from the friendly and professional hostess. That’s what happened to me, anyway.
I was dining alone this evening, and heard the restaurant has a bar that also serves dinner there (Hugo’s and Binions downtown will not serve food at their bars. Only drinks. It’s solo-diner discrimination, I tell ya. Loners unite!).
It was about 9:30 pm on a Sunday evening when I arrived and, having just flown in from Denver, I was tired of Southwest peanuts and ready for some real food. Most of the restaurant was empty at this hour. The bar, which consists of six seats, was completely empty. So I had my choice of seats. I just love choices! I sat at the bar.
An extremely kind and professional server named Shannon welcomed me and handed over a menu. She was a nice “upscale” kind of server who still maintained a down-to-earth demeanor. A great conversationalist, Shannon’s personality and passion for the property colored the entire experience, which was excellent from start to finish. She has a ton of experience in the industry and shared a lot with me about what makes a place successful versus not. I enjoyed the education.
But what of the cuisine? It was outstanding! I ordered the filet mignon (medium) and a side of roasted potatoes. All were great. But be forewarned: the roasted potatoes are enough to feed a family. Maybe even a small army. But they’re very good and well-seasoned, so don’t hesitate.
There was also this huge bread basket that made its way over, with a side of spread. The spread contained olives and eggplant – two of my favorite foods. So yeah, I liked that too. And it’s complimentary, so what’s not to like?
The atmosphere here is very decorative with a modern flair. It’s dim, but not too dim. And the bar area is a more peaceful place at which to dine than, say, Vic & Anthony’s. I’m not dissin’ my former favorite steakhouse, it’s just true. And I think this is due largely to the bar’s design. It’s only open at one end, whereas Vic & Anthony’s is open at both. As I sat there, I noticed that having only one open end cuts down on both noise and traffic, making for a more tranquil dining experience. Less clinking of utensils and dishware.
My hats off to Andiamo’s. It’s slid into first place as my overall favorite downtown restaurant and steakhouse. And that was a high bar to reach. Congrats to the D! This will become a big draw I’m sure.
So if you’re downtown, check this place out. If you’re alone, sit at the bar and hang out with Shannon. If with friends, grab a table and sit with them. Unless they are uninteresting. Then simply stand up, walk over to the bar, and sit & talk to Shannon. It’ll only increase your stock with said friends.
The Fremont. I’ve always been curious about the only place that carries the name of the downtown experience. So when I was in town alone for a couple of nights, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a try. Yes, I would actually sleep here. How bad could it be? And if it’s really really bad, I know I’ve stayed in worse.
Like that month in tent city, Adana, Turkey, July 1992. Quite possibly the most hellish month of my life. 12 hour shifts, in the baking sun, usually no AC, 100 degree heat, just a cot and one sheet for bedding, and no running water. I remember one particular moment, while camped out with a stomach virus in the toilet tent, I looked at myself in the mirror and recoiled in horror. I was only 21 but already looked dead. And so I made a promise to myself:
If I make it out of here, I will never complain about any hotel in the United States for as long as I live.
And so with a nod to my promise, I’ll give an honest review of the Fremont without complaining. Which won’t be hard…
I stayed two nights here and am very happy to say, it was nowhere near the demonic tent city experience of yesteryear. The best thing going for this hotel & casino is the location. It’s a very short walk from the room elevators to the middle of the action on Fremont Street. I’d say literally 1-2 minutes from elevator to Fremont St. (depending on how fast you walk). The casino is always hopping, too. Full of lively patrons, music, and the occasional shouts of victory at the craps tables.
But be forewarned, the rooms are very tiny and you’ve got almost no counter space (see photos). Put it this way, I’m a guy. I shave my head. My counter space needs are about as minimal as they come. But I found navigating the bathroom extremely challenging. I almost had to use the bathtub ledge to place a few items.
The toilet is right there by the sink, too. And you could literally sit on the toilet and shave in the mirror at the same time. I didn’t, because it would be creepy (and remind me of tent city). But you could.
The room is pretty much a bed and TV. The bed takes up more than half the room. The closet is adequate. So all in all, just a very tight room but it serves the purpose. I slept well here. Staff was professional and I had no issues with anything. They even give you a players card at check in without your asking for it. Saves you a trip.
Again, the major advantage of staying at the Fremont is the access to Fremont St where everything happens. I liked this convenience. If you just want a room to crash in, this is a really good option.
So I would probably come back alone. But it’s definitely not a place to impress a date.
Speaking of dates, nothing would scare a date off more than that toilet tent. Please just trust me on this.
Have you ever stumbled upon a place and wondered why you had never heard of it before? Eat is just one of those places. And from now on, anytime I’m in Vegas, I will be making this one of my stops for sure. Open for breakfast and lunch, eat is truly a hidden gem downtown. So hidden, in fact, you might drive right by and miss it. But that would be sad. Just sad.
Came in for lunch and it was pretty crowded, but our party of two was able to get seated right away. The atmosphere is casual and fun. Servers were all great as was the food. I had the DWBLT and it was to die for. And if you like ginger ale, be sure and order it here. It’s the best in the world. They shake the bottle up for you and pour it into your glass. James Bond style.
And there’s real ginger in the bottom of that bottle! Just take a look!
You can sit at the counter or a table. And even get a way cool black t shirt if interested. I meant to pick one up but forgot on my way out.
Parking is plentiful by meter all around the block. Oh and speaking of the block, one side benefit of eating at eat is you get a cool, sort of urban view of the El Cortez. Right through the chain link fence (see photo).
I guess I’m just easy to please.
Anyway, some places just find a way to get everything right. This is one of them. So please don’t miss this opportunity if you’re in town (or better yet, live there). You won’t be disappointed.
[Located at 707 Carson St, eat is easy to find. If you head out the El Cortez Fremont St entrance, hang your first left then your immediate right onto 7th St. Walk down about a block and you'll see eat off on your left hand corner. It's right at the intersection of Carson and 7th).
In any order you prefer. Because the downtown Denny’s is here! Yes, believe it or not you can now do all three in one place. And in one evening. The new Denny’s on downtown Fremont Street had it’s grand opening on November 29, 2012. It’s one of only 50 Denny’s restaurants worldwide to offer a fully stocked bar, including a few specialties unique to Denny’s (Grand Slam Martini, anyone?). This will also be the first of 1,700 Denny’s around the globe planned to include wedding services.
Although the wedding chapel is not yet constructed, rumor has it a celebrity wedding is already scheduled to take place this February. But none of our sources have been able to get word on who this might be. Anyway, if you want to tie the knot there, you’ll have to wait until early 2013. But that’s almost here so book your flights now.
Will it last, or pack up a few months from now like others who have come before? Only time will tell. Many businesses have risen and fallen in the neon retail projects known as Neonopolis. But I have a feeling this one could be different. For one, downtown Las Vegas is undergoing a renaissance that seems to rival anything we’ve seen before.
I was last in town during the construction phase, but I’ll be there again in a few weeks and plan to check it out. Of course, I’m not sure how exciting it will be. It is, after all, still just a Denny’s. As a teenager I used to hang out with friends at the local Denny’, sometimes until after midnight. We’d smoke, eat a lot, talk too much, and be entertained by all of the seedy characters who made that their nocturnal nest.
I realize now how sad that really is. Sad.
And that wasn’t even on Fremont Street. What will I find late at night here at the local downtown Denny’s? I can’t wait to find out. But I’m optimistic about this project. The concept seems to fit right into the downtown area. And the outdoor seating is well-placed, right on the corner in full view of nonstop foot and car traffic.
I can see this place becoming a welcome end of the night, early start to the morning, or just the best place in the world to do some world class people watching.
If you’ve spent more than just a few hours on Fremont street, you’ve noticed there is a distinctly different vibe depending on which time you go. In the daytime, it tends to be much quieter. The music is ever-present but playing more softly in the background. The live bands are (usually) long gone. And the overhead FSE light show is dark. Of course, there tend to be some stragglers from the previous night who just haven’t quite ended the evening yet. They’ll soon crash and wake up just as the next evening starts. And do it all over again.
But usually by 10:00 am, it’s a new day for everyone milling about under the canopy.
At night, on the other hand, it’s party central! Loud music, light shows, more vendors, live bands, regulars shout outs, maybe a few fights, more frequent ziplining, costumes, photo ops, more bars open…I could go on and on. It literally transforms into a completely different place.
And then really late at night, an entire legion of street cleaners descends upon Fremont. Watch them in action sometime. They’re remarkably efficient and are able to erase nearly all evidence in just a few moments.
I think the contrast between day and night on Fremont are one of the things that makes it the most perfect street on earth. As I pull farther and farther away from my 20′s, I find myself spending a little more time hanging out during the daytime. Other than watching street cleaners, I’m not one to pull an all nighter among the neon as I once was. But I still love to make a few rounds at night and check out the attractions. I’ve also gotten to know a few who work there. And so now, stopping by to chat with them has become one of the big attractions for me.
So which do you prefer? Fremont by day or by night?
What’s a flairtender? Some may recall the 1988 movie “Cocktail,” starring Tom Cruise. If not, I’ll save you a rental and two hours of your life by summing it up with just one sentence: A New York bartender moves up in the industry due to his extreme talent in manipulating glasses and bottles in some of the most dazzling and tricky ways.
The most memorable parts of this movie were the scenes where the bartenders (aka: flairtenders) were engaged in the most creative and challenging bar tool manipulation feats. The higher the bottles flew, the louder people cheered. But it was all just a movie. It could never be that cool in real life. Or could it?
Yes it could. And it is every single night on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.
As you can tell by now, I’m very fond of these flairtenders. They combine showmanship and bartending in a way that always enhances whatever good time you’re already having – if it’s done well. And doing it well is no easy task. It takes an incredible amount of patience and practice to be able to pull this off. And even more to master the craft so you can juggle bottles, mixers, and glasses all while talking to patrons, taking their orders, smiling, and trying to hear it all over the thump thump of whatever beat is playing in the background.
I give these artists a lot of credit. In fact, whenever I’m in town, I tend to hang out at the outdoor flairtending kiosks right there on Fremont St. Since I’m not much of a clubber (like, not at all) or even a drinker, I just chill out with an orange juice (yes, they even flair that too!), listen to the music, and enjoy some world class people watching.
So where should you go to see the action? Head on over to visit Santiago working the kiosk in front of the Golden Gate. Santiago puts on gravity-defying show while serving up your favorite beverages. Seriously, some of the maneuvers he pulls off has me questioning what I learned in high school physics (who am I kidding? I never even took physics).
Working early evenings and pushing right on through to about 2:00 am, Santiago never seems to lose even an ounce of energy. And I haven’t seen him drop a bottle yet. It’s no wonder. He’s competed in over 30 national flairtending competitions – winning many awards and accolades along the way. Just spend 60 seconds watching him and you’ll know why.
My other favorite flairtender is Sooshey. I first met him back in 2009 when I was in town working for UFC 100. Each night after I got off, I’d hang out there and catch Sooshey in action. I was amazed at how easy he made his art look. It seemed as if he was born to flair – and whip the crowd up into a frenzy! He, like Santiago, is also one of the most humble, down to earth guys you’ll ever meet. One of those people who is even better than he realizes.
I’m sorry to report that Sooshey can no longer be seen downtown (Fremont’s loss!) as he’s moved to another venue. Fortunately, you can catch him at the Flamingo on the Strip. He can still be seen flairing and firing up the crowd at the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar in the Flamingo’s new Margaritaville Casino. So if you decide to leave downtown for a few hours, make your first stop there and say hello to Sooshey.
And no matter when your next trip to Las Vegas, make sure you carve out some time to see the flairtenders of Fremont Street. They’ll take your good time and make it even better. And it’s all way better than that silly “Cocktail” movie.