Brrrr! It isn’t every Friday that a girl finds herself up to her earrings in Belgian ales, but there I was, teeth chattering in one of the Freakin’ Frog’s two hulking walk-in coolers. Deep in the racks, foodchannel.com “cultural correspondent” Andy Ford was querying bartender Nick Tribulato on the over 575 tasty beverages, while videographer Kurt Miller attempted to capture the enormity of the collection on video and still camera.
It’s a miracle the pair was even still standing. Since 7 a.m., the two men had been eating their way through Sin City for the Food Channel’s “Clockless in Vegas” feature for the launch of their parent company’s iRaves.com, a foodie Facebook, if you will. And they would be going till 7 a.m. Saturday.
“Everybody goes to Vegas to get away,” but Andy wanted to know, “Where do the people who live there go? Where do they go to find connections to each other? I have this fascination with how people in Las Vegas find community, how they connect.” To satisfy Andy’s curiosity and seemingly bottomless appetite, after just a few hours of sleep, he and Kurt took on the locals side of Vegas life, one taco stand and neighborhood joint at a time. They even talked a local family into taking them in for dinner! The New Yorker in me shuddered at the thought.
But come 11 p.m., they were mine. More than just clockless, Andy had requested to go Stripless—that is, to skip the casinos altogether and follow me to a few of my favorite locals joints. We started with the Freakin’ Frog. “Looks can be deceiving,” Andy said. “I was standing in the parking lot looking at this place thinking, ‘This is a college bar.’” But after touring the cooler and tucking into a nice Gouden Carolus Noël Belgian holiday ale, Andy and Kurt warmed up to the Frog.
Our next stop was close by: upstairs. There, amid UNLV Professor Adam Carmer’s 600-plus whiskeys, Nick helped Andy to his first Whisky Attic flight. “It blew me away that this existed inside a place called the Freakin’ Frog. It was a shock to me,” said Andy, also calling the Attic “a gem.”
Andy had specifically requested to visit a dive bar. But rather than follow up beer with more beer, I thought we’d head to Frankie’s Tiki Room, the only 24-hour tiki bar in the world, according to bartender Allison. “She said [that] tiki is escapism; it’s a chance to be somewhere completely different,” Andy said. “I’m right across from a convenience store, and outside is a pretty dirty intersection, but inside … it’s very celebratory. And there’s a lot of history to it.” Of course! Tiki is the Vegas of Vegas, where Vegas goes to get away!
From there it was an easy commute to Downtown Cocktail Room, where the post-First Friday furor was just easing. We soaked up some local color while owner Michael Cornthwaite had Andy taste the New Moon, Huntridge and Downtown Dill cocktails. “He thinks the way I think, and vice versa,” Andy said of Michael. “He wanted a place where people were connecting to one another.” Andy loved the history in cocktails like the Huntridge and the Red Onion Club. “Plus, the drinks were just phenomenal!”
By 3:30 a.m., we were starting to look worse for wear—I knew it was time for Forbes. In one of the KTV suites, a group of Asian locals had been marinating in four bottles of Johnny Walker Black for hours. By the time we arrived, chaos had long since ensued. We learned how to play Bullshit, the dice game, in which we vigorously shook our cup of dice and violently slammed it on the table upside down. I ate my first fish ball, while Andy sampled Johnny Walker and green tea. Karaoke blared into our now-softened brains with all the vibrato South Korean singer Rain could muster; Katy Perry and George Michael weren’t far behind. Yes, we got our Anthony Bourdain on, alright.
“That was just amazing. I lost track of time!” said Andy when it was all over. “When we walked out of there [at 6:30 a.m.], I think I was starting to lose coherence. I said, ‘This is Clockless in Miami!’ So Kurt put the camera down and said, ‘I’m pretty sure we’re still in Vegas …’” We’ve all been there. The next and final stop was Blueberry Hill for a post-party breakfast. It doesn’t get more local than that.