April 29, 2009

Las Vegas finally has a serious arts scene, three miles from the high-wattage museums on the Strip. In the city's old downtown, more than a dozen galleries are taking over storefronts and industrial buildings that date from Vegas's ancient history—the 1950's—and are drawing busloads of young gamblers from the slots. • It all began at the Arts Factory (101-109 E. Charleston Blvd.; 702/676-1111), where Wes Myles, who photographs everything from showgirls to showrooms, opened his studio a few years ago. • The Godt-Cleary Projects (1217 S. Main St.; 702/452-2200), the vast new outpost of the tony gallery on the Strip, puts up major exhibitions. Its Rauschenberg show (January 7- March 12) is currently the talk of the town. • Three walls at the back of Cindy Funkhouser's cluttered antiques shop make up Art@The Funk House (1228 S. Casino Center Blvd.; 702/678-6278), where she displays the works of a different local artist each month. • L.A. transplant Dray has turned his house, cramped with his graffiti-inspired canvases, into Dray's Place (1300 S. Casino Center Blvd.; 702/205-9031). • At Dust Gallery (1221 S. Main St.; 702/880-3878), Vegas-based Carrie Jenkins's paintings pay homage to fashion photography. • Art Z Studio & Gallery (4 E. Charleston Blvd.; 702/878-2433) juxtaposes a welded-steel structure by Jerome Ellis with a stained-glass sculpture by Kathy Hogan. • Classic film posters are reprinted on period presses in the middle of S2 Art Group (1 E. Charleston Blvd.; 702/868-7880). • When you've had your fill, take your appetite to Casa Don Juan (1204 S. Main St.; 702/384-8070; dinner for two $30) for authentic Mexican, another Vegas favorite.
—Peter S. Green

Casa Don Juan

A local favorite for authentic Mexican fare in downtown Las Vegas, Casa Don Juan is ideal for a casual, affordable meal off the Strip. The restaurant’s exterior pairs rustic stone with brightly hued walls, while the equally cheerful interior is adorned with simple wood furniture, bright paper flags, and painted pottery. As live music fills the space, patrons can begin their meal with not-too-sweet margaritas made with fresh fruit behind the thatched-roof bar. Then, it’s on to house specialties such as the guacamole and the carnitas de puerco: roasted pork served with rice, beans, and pico de gallo.

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