Visitors to Las Vegas interested in discovering what locals are eating or will be eating can now head to Vegas Test Kitchen, which opened downtown last month.
Rotating restaurant concepts, pop-ups and special events are planned for the space at 1020 Fremont St. near Fergusons Downtown, which is a blocklong, community-oriented space springing up around a former nongaming motel.
"Times are tough for everyone right now, but I truly believe that downtown Las Vegas needs this, and our chefs are craving it," said Jolene Mannina, Vegas Test Kitchen founder and a presence on the Las Vegas food scene for more than two decades. "This incubator kitchen will give chefs an opportunity to test concepts, see what sticks and get the community to fall in love with them and their food. It's a win for everyone involved."
Three-month chef residencies and pop-up eateries will operate simultaneously around Vegas Test Kitchen's central dining room. Guests can choose to dine in, take their food to go or eat next door in the Yard at Fergusons. Resident chefs will be in the Vegas Test Kitchen from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays for walk-in experiences.
"So many visitors today like to discover how locals eat, what locals like to do," Mannina said. The Vegas Test Kitchen offers a wide variety of different cuisines under one roof, so it won't be hard to attract the foodies that come to Vegas."
The concept gives chefs a low-risk opportunity to develop and fine-tune their menus, branding and price points, Mannina said.
Chef Lanny Chin, a winner on the Food Network show "Chopped" who serves as chef de cuisine for the Slanted Door Las Vegas and Greene Street at the Palms, is testing his ramen concept, Slurp Society. Bodega Bagel by Rooster Boy Cafe owner-chef Sonia El-Nawal and Banichka by Forte Tapas owner Nina Manchev were also among the first to set up shop. Sliced Sushi and This Mama's House (with a stuffed lobster dinner) are among the other current concepts.
Hours vary depending on the pop-up but are available on the Vegas Test Kitchen calendar.
"Not only are we seeing repeat guests, but we now have seven concepts up and running out of the space," Mannina said. "We just received our liquor license, and we're going to start hosting intimate pop-up dinners on the weekends."
Mannina said she is hoping to build "a more robust pipeline for younger, more diverse chefs to take a chance and continue to add to our already fantastic food scene."
She said she believes Vegas Test Kitchen will always be worth visiting, "because it's never the same from month to month or season to season. There's a sense of excitement when you enter a location that is always evolving and not afraid to test the waters. We are already forming a waiting list of local chefs that want the opportunity to play with food."