Ah, those stuffed dates. Ahh, that sangria. And ooooh, the sexy late-night atmosphere! Thanks to some creative construction and some well-placed (we think) faith in Downtown, locals and tourists alike will soon be enjoying all the Mediterranean goodness that Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar offers at its Paradise location at a sleek new Downtown outpost.
“We’ve probably got the most iconic location in Las Vegas,” says Firefly owner John Simmons, surveying his new territory at the intersection of Main and Fremont Streets. The Plaza Hotel’s famous dome (ever see a little movie called Casino?) has had a number of incarnations over the years, first as the hotel’s swimming pool in 1973, and then as the Center Stage restaurant, which was one of Vegas’ most revered fine-dining steakhouses even right up until two years ago. And when the Weekly stopped by for an exclusive first look at Firefly Kitchen & Bar (Simmons dropped the “Tapas” for Downtown), the sign for the Dome Ultra Sports Lounge was about to be removed.
When Firefly soft-opens in mid-July (a grand opening is slated for August), guests will first notice from afar the vibrant red glow emitting from within the dome. A cluster of dazzling red pendant lights radiate from the heart of the dome, playing off the industrial red pipe relocated from the floor to the ceiling to make more room for seating. From afar, the multifaceted glass exterior might even resemble a large ruby, like that from, say, the pinkie ring of a wiseguy. Or: “It’s like a big gypsy spaceship,” Simmons says matter-of-factly.
The 10 front-most tinted windows have been replaced with clear glass to allow for as much enjoyment looking out as in; the view is a straight shot down the middle of the Fremont Street Experience and beyond. Firefly is the only restaurant with live sound fed from whatever is going on in the Experience, be it a live concert or the nightly shows.
In all, 9,500 square feet make up Firefly, which will open nightly at 5 p.m. and stay open as the crowd demands. Simmons intends to bring over his drummers and Flamenco guitarists, and says he is not opposed to letting the evening morph organically—as it often does at the Paradise location—into a late-night party. He is also working on a proposed pyrotechnics show for Saturday nights, the effect of which would send tiny red “fireflies” sparking off the exterior of the dome.
Eight of Center Stage’s original leather booths retain their places of honor, and these are surrounded by additional seating; a large chef’s table will likely occupy the dome’s very center, though Simmons jokes that his personal throne might have to go there, too. Simmons’ lightheartedness, as well as his background, is effused throughout the space.
After 10 years in Las Vegas, the native Chicagoan and Mon Ami Gabi opening chef has a pretty good idea what his clientele wants. Guests will enter from the dedicated valet beneath the dome. Just a few steps away is the dedicated elevator that drops guests right on Simmons’ doorstep. There, the dome awaits, as does a large and comfortable lounge with banquette seating, low tables and high-boys, a 20-seat bar with flat-screen TVs and, Simmons hopes, large containers for his signature sangrias. “We’re renovating this whole 9,500-square-foot space for what Tao probably paid for their golden Buddha,” Simmons says, likely only half-joking.
Fans will still find menu favorites, though the Mediterranean flavor might be turned down just a skotch to appeal to Downtown’s tourist crowd. But nothing on the 60-small-plates menu will go over $10. “We’re the start of the wave of the Fremont rejuvenation,” says Simmons. Any way you slice it, Downtown will benefit from Firefly and Simmons’ ready-for-anything attitude; tourists will find a fresh, hip new side to their Old Vegas, while the locals pouring hungrily out of the Griffin, Beauty Bar and Downtown Cocktail Room will find a friendly neighborhood eatery for pre-/post-partying. “I’m a chef,” Simmons explains. “I always get off late, so I wanted to make something not just for tourists but for locals as well.”
Regarding the future, Simmons goes beyond hinting, assuring that Firefly Summerlin is already en route, with Henderson not far behind. “Complete world domination is my goal,” he says. We don’t doubt him one bit.