Since 2010, roughly 7.5 million people have moved from California to other states. That’s nearly 275,000 in 2021 alone, according to The New York Times. And Nevada has become a major destination for ex-Californians, who now make up at least 20 percent of the state’s population.
Californians made up the majority of people (43%) turning in their driver’s licenses and ID cards in 2020, according to a 2021 Las Vegas Review-Journal story based on Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles data. In pre-pandemic 2019, 100,000 Californians moved to Las Vegas.
This dubbed “California exodus” is having some people call Vegas the new “Los Angeles East.” And the California influence can really be felt in everything from eating experience to entertainment.
So many high-end restaurants and casual eateries from Los Angeles have recently been planting their flag in Vegas that you can easily dub this town “Los Angeles East.” Early arrivals from L.A. years ago included Spago, Border Grill and Koi. Now there’s Mexican steakhouse Toca Madera, ritzy supper club Delilah, and many more.
So no matter how you feel about an influx of Californians, here’s exactly where to find a piece of the California Dream without having to leave Sin City.
To experience L.A. in Vegas, simply walk around Resorts World. Here you’ll spot the Beverly Hills-originated Mulberry Street Pizzeria, plus two upscale eateries that began in L.A.: Crossroads Kitchen, which serves “plant-based Italian/Mediterranean,” including their show-stopping pasta dish “Bucatini Con Nduja,” and the food and wine-driven Wally’s.
You can also add to the Resorts World L.A. list the Mexican restaurant Viva, by L.A. star-chef Ray Garcia, and Craig’s Vegan ice cream shop, born out of Craig’s Restaurant in West Hollywood. It’s notable, too, that longtime L.A. clothing store Fred Segal, known for its ultra-stylish threads, has opened in the hotel’s “The District” shopping area.
Why stop there if you’re feeling in an L.A. state of mind? Over at the Cosmopolitan, try the standout “Fairfax” sandwich at Eggslut and imagine you’re on the city’s iconic street.
You also can’t go wrong with the “Thai Drinking Food” treats at Night + Market at the Virgin, the health-conscious Urth Caffe at the Wynn, and the adventurous Mexican cuisine at Border Grill at the Mandalay.
For some classic L.A. donuts, head to the first Vegas outpost of Randy’s Donuts on Rainbow Blvd. I recently stopped in during their packed opening weekend for those reliably satisfying “glazed old-fashioned” donuts.
And if you’re in the mood for over-the-top hot dog creations like the “Flamethrower Dog” and “Snoop’s Dog,” there are now six Vegas locations of Dirt Dog (which also serves tacos) compared to the four in L.A. The chain’s new place on East Sahara Ave. has huge colorful murals that salute famous L.A. streets like the Crenshaw/Slauson intersection and hip-hop icons. For my visit there, I opted for the Mexican-style corn-and-lime mayo concoction billed as “Elote Dog,” which did not disappoint.
I recently had an urge to be in L.A. but saved myself the gas money by ordering the insanely great “Chef Menu” at L.A. chef Roy Choi’s modern Korean place Best Friend at the Park MGM.
It included the fusion “Kogi Tacos” that Choi initially seduced L.A. via his food trucks. And don’t forget Koi at Planet Hollywood, where their buzzed-about buttery “Miso Bronzed Black Cod” still impresses—plus, it’s always nice to eat in a setting that looks like you’re inside of a swanky disco spaceship.
Koi is just steps away from the Criss Angel Theater, where I wanted to see what Angel’s new and second show, “Amystika,” was about.
Playing Wednesday-Sunday at 9:30 PM, immediately after his long-running “MINDFREAK” show, “Amystika” is a collaboration between Angel, the magic world’s reigning superstar, and the late-Franco Dragone, creative director of Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystère” and “O.” “Amystika,” is billed as a “prequel” to “MINDFREAK,” with Angel’s narration illuminating the influences and childhood dreams that led to his massive success. Notably, Angel is the first artist ever to have two different shows a night playing in a city, which makes him Vegas royalty.
“Amystika” will thrill you if you like the feeling of being shot out of a cannon. It’s a gothy and head-spinning spectacle of illusion, magic and comedy, aerial acrobatics, and a body contortionist with shocking and unnerving moves. The show aims not only to entertain but to swallow up the audience with big immersive effects, including wind gusts and a fake snowstorm. The only thing missing from “Amystika” was a 9.0 earthquake simulation, but I suspect that Angel and Dragone are working on that now.
There are some nice desert breezes to experience when night falls at the newly reopened Ghostbar on the 55th floor of the Palms Hotel. A private elevator takes you to the top for sweeping panoramic views of the Vegas skyline, particularly on the outdoor deck, where the city looks like a seductive electric playground.
DJs supply the tunes along with “Midnight Skye—The Revival,” a skillful array of musicians, singers, and dancers moving from the indoor lounge to the deck. You never know what will unfold throughout the night. The revue star is 100% maximum soul-power vocalist Skye Dee Miles, a Vegas artist who infectiously digs her girl-power heels into Beyoncé’s “Run The World.” It’s one big happening up there, with gorgeous waitresses serving fancy cocktails, colorful lighting, and eyebrow-raising ghostly sculptures behind glass. The Ghostbar is Vegas at its sky-high best.
Fremont Street East is an essential Vegas destination for bars and eateries. There’s always something cool going on at Fremont Country Club and its adjoining smaller venue, Backstage Bar & Billiards, owned by downtown visionaries Ava Berman and Carlos (“Big Daddy”) Adley. The couple moved to Vegas in 2005 from L.A. after making their mark there with an array of clubs, including the Dragonfly, Prince’s Glam Slam, and the Viper Room, plus the Velvet Margarita eatery.
This past February, Ava and Carlos welcomed “Disco Transmission” to Backstage Bar & Billiards. The pop-up “DT” is “a trans and LGBTQ+ celebratory night club” that embraces Vegas’ diversity.
It was created by Sabrina Richmond, Jenna Church, and Chanel Chavez, who know how to throw a good party where “all are welcome.” On the night my wife and I dropped in, there was glorious dance music by DJ Alice and DJ Big Daddy—the latter of whom exclusively spins vinyl, reaching back to artists like Thelma (“Don’t Leave Me This Way”) Houston, and George (“Rock Your Baby”) McCrae—and go-go dancers galore, including a male dancer who amusingly kept checking his watch (perhaps waiting for a “Postmates” delivery?).
Their next Disco Transformation takes place on Oct. 26 with the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
But no matter which way you decide to partake in a little California culture, we’re guessing there’s a lot more where that came from on the horizon.
Each month, Mitch Schneider explores some of Vegas’ most unique offerings. Schneider has a decades-long career working with some of the music industry’s biggest stars. he moved to Vegas from LA with his wife during the pandemic in March 2020. He’s loved the city ever since.
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