Chinese New Year fun for locals, too

Feb 23, 2010 5:00 PM

Around Town by Eileen Di Rocco |

YEAR OF THE TIGER: Every casino in town was busy this week celebrating Chinese New Year. Red and gold lanterns were hanging everywhere and citrus trees were set up in various locations to welcome the Year of the Tiger. (At the Gold Coast, orange trees were sitting in the middle of the casino floor right by the Pai Gow tables.) There were dragon dances, special menus and lots of events catering to the elite Eastern clientele.

But about a mile and a half off the Strip on West Spring Mountain Road, locals had their own celebration Sunday at the Chinatown Plaza. (Yes, Las Vegas has its very own Chinatown.)

We drove by after lunch and decided to stop and check it out. Luckily, we managed to find a parking space in a strip mall about three blocks away. (Since it was Sunday, the businesses were closed and not affected by the onslaught of drivers circling the area looking for parking.)

The entry fee was very reasonable ($3), and although the line was long it moved quickly.

Inside the fenced-in parking lot were dozens of tables and booths set up to display the wares of local merchants. There were wooden Samurai swords, lots of jewelry (including some exquisite jade pieces), sun parasols, beautiful silk scarves, Buddha statues in every size, and Oriental-style hats and clothing.

There was calligraphy, face painting, a psychic and a fortune teller (who both seemed to be doing brisk business) and an interesting booth for the Touro University Nevada Patient Clinic. Dr. Judy Turner offered analysis and osteopathic manipulation at no cost to those attending. Most who chose to lie on her table (including us) were suffering from some type of lower back pain. In just a few minutes after some gentle movements and slight pressure on key locations, the pain simply disappeared.

Our newly refurbished and now painless back made it much easier to walk around and enjoy the entertainment going on at the other end of the parking lot, which was continuous. There were martial arts displays, Tahitian dance, Chinese folk dance, Japanese Taiko drums, acrobats and more. Of course, there was also the famous dragon dance.

In another section numerous food booths were set up and the aroma was wonderful. It made us sorry we’d already eaten and we made a mental note to not make the same mistake next year.

NEW FAVORITE SPOT: A couple of months ago a friend re-introduced us to the Coffee Pub on West Sahara Avenue, about a mile from the Strip. Established in 1984, this cozy little restaurant with a small patio for fresh air lovers was once "the" place to meet for breakfast or lunch. We suspect a lot of business deals were forged there as all the Vegas movers and shakers were frequent visitors. You could also run into some of the big name entertainers who were working on the Strip.

But eventually we moved to another part of town and just didn’t get back that way very often. After a while the old memory cells filed it so far back we simply forgot about it.

Although it’s changed hands (maybe more than once), we were so pleased with our meal we put it on our list of regular repeat stops, and made a point of going back this weekend.

The menu is quite extensive. Breakfast options include a dozen different omelets, several scrambles, four types of Benedicts, huevos rancheros, croissants, French toast, waffles, pancakes, bagels and (according to my friend) the best oatmeal ever.

This time, we were stopping for lunch. After checking out the eight different salads, 21 sandwiches, numerous croissants, grilled specialties, Pub favorites and various smoothies we opted for soup of the day (chicken tortilla with tortilla chips) and a wrap (chicken fajita with sautéed peppers and onions in a spinach tortilla). We were not disappointed. The chips (made at the restaurant) were extra crispy and the soup (from scratch) was loaded with chicken. The wrap, freshly made, was delish!

The portions are large enough to share (or take some home), prices are moderate and the service is quick and friendly. Coffee Pub is a winner.

CLINK, CLINK! When you walk into Fitzgerald’s casino on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, your ears will pick up a sound seldom heard in today’s casinos – the distinct clink of coins hitting the hopper on slot machines. Not all, but some of the slots on the casino floor are the old fashioned coin in/coin out type, which means you can also plunk your spare change into them. So if you’re in the mood for a little of the old Vegas, stop in. Some of those quarters you’ve been collecting might be lucky.

See you around town.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Eileen Di Rocco