The Pho (and Sandwich) That Saved Las Vegas

Can a simple bowl of soup do what Tony “Mr. Personality” Hsieh’s millions could not?

Could a kick-ass sandwich:

…. accomplish what all the well-intentioned-yet-ultimately-tepid  redevelopment plans could not? Mainly, create a sense of neighborhood economic accomplishment among the downtown denizens who are hungry for the barest glimpse of something substantive, beyond cocktail bars and used furniture stores?

In other words, could good food be the answer to making people actually want to live somewhere, when that somewhere is the cultural wasteland of downtown Las Vegas?

Let’s hope so. Because yours truly has been saying the same since 1996…and he’s watched his words fall on the deaf ears of everyone from politicians to economic mavens to redevelopment wizards.

“Gays and food is what’s going to re-gentrify this area,” is what we said to a private meeting of urban renewal bigwigs almost twenty years ago. “Gay men are the greatest redevelopment resource in America, but you’ve got to give them somewhere to eat. Once you do that, the suburbanites will follow.”

“Parking, parking, parking,” was the reply. “People have to have convenient parking.” (This coming from people who thought humongous, hermetically-sealed shopping malls were the end-all and be-all of civilized living.)

“Bullshit,” was our response. Then and now, we’re convinced that if the food’s really good, people won’t give a damn about inconvenient parking. Parking convenience is what real estate honchos use to lure piece-of-shit places Asian buffets and Applebee’s into their lame-ass shopping pads in soulless shopping centers.

Build it (and serve good stuff) and they will beat a path to your door….has always been our mantra… and that appears to be just what is happening on the corner of 3rd and Bonneville and in the Soho Lofts. (As for armies of tool-belt-wearing, hammer-wielding gay men, well, they haven’t exactly shown up in force yet, but when they do, and the gay-ing of downtown Vegas finally happens, it will be a very good thing.)

Neither eatery is exactly easy to get to. So it takes a little effort to actually find a parking place and walk a block or so to get to the front door. So what? That would make it exactly like every other successful eatery in every other big city in the world. You want easy access? Then haul your sorry ass to whatever franchised crap is on the corner of your cookie-cutter shopping center anchoring your unimaginative, give-me-convenience-or-give-me-death existence.

The people in Las Vegas who know good food and who want good food are going to find these places, and once they do, they will be richly rewarded.

To put it simply, the Vietnamese food (and the bar and the decor) at Le Pho is on a much higher level than you’ll find on Spring Mountain Road. The concept also rocks with groovy-cool things like a “spring roll bar” — where you can build your own — and the obligatory curated cocktails, along with Khai Vu’s unusual usurpations of classic Viet cooking (don’t miss his Hoi An Chicken Rice or the Watercress Beef Salad). Judging from the crowds who have filled this place from day one, each of our twenty-year-old predictions has turned out to be true.

Will the same hold true for The Goodwich?

Well, it wasn’t packed on Day One (as Le Pho was), but people were steadily streaming in. They’ve expanded the menu, and if the three sammies we had are any indication, there’s been no drop in quality from the limited offerings they used to sling from a tiny food truck in the Dino’s parking lot a mile to the south. In fact, with their fancy new digs (see above), and the talent they’re pouring into their new menu, you can expect these odes to proteins on bread to get even better.

Both places have done it right, building their brands and customer base before expanding into the uncharted waters of downtown dining. Both anchored themselves to residential buildings and neither is taking anything for granted. They’re doing it with quality and hoping they will come.

And come they will, because good food has finally come south of Fremont Street.


353 East Bonneville Ave. #115

Las Vegas, NV 89101



900 Las Vegas Blvd. South #120

Las Vegas, NV 89101


2 thoughts on “The Pho (and Sandwich) That Saved Las Vegas

  1. For someone who went into semi-retirement from writing last week, you have been very verbose.

  2. There’s a ring of truth in your ‘gays and food is what’s going to re-gentrify this area.’ and I think it applies to most cities. And please, I love your long blogs. There are too many websites and blogs that are so perfunctory. Your very articulate and descriptive reviews are what keeps me coming back for more.

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