The Cosmopolitan’s restaurant offerings have always been a big part of the resort’s cutting-edge reputation. When it opened in late 2010, the Strip was already crowded with celebrity chefs and elite dining destinations, so Cosmo created a new blueprint by bringing in first-to-market chefs and concepts like José Andrés’ Jaleo and China Poblano, the Bromberg brothers’ Blue Ribbon Sushi & Grill and Costas Spiliadis’ Estiatorio Milos. The second wave of Cosmo eateries heightened the trendiness with Beauty & Essex, Zuma, Eggslut, Momofuku and Milk Bar. If it isn’t the most delicious casino on the Boulevard, it certainly remains the coolest one for dining.
Next week brings the unveiling of what might be the Cosmopolitan’s hippest culinary concept yet: a stylized food hall offering made-to-order, fast-casual eats from some of the most in-demand restaurants across the country, including Portland’s Pok Pok and Lardo and Nashville’s Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.
“The approach is exactly the same as our restaurant collection, to bring first-time chefs and concepts to Las Vegas. It’s just a different category,” says Patrick Nichols, the Cosmopolitan’s senior vice president of strategy and business development. “We’re going for faster service and a lower price point but still awesome food, and rather than one option, why not a bunch?”
Located on the second floor near China Poblano and Holsteins and opening on August 31 in time for the busy Labor Day weekend, the Block 16 Urban Food Hall was designed by AvroKO in partnership with the Marnell Companies to have a metropolitan alleyway feel, complete with graffiti wall and neon accents. Various seating styles will allow convenience for guests to make the rounds and sample food from the different vendors; the lineup also includes New Orleans’ District Donuts Sliders Brew, New York City mezcal and nacho bar Ghost Donkey and local restaurateur Takashi Segawa’s new Japanese handroll and sake concept Tekka Bar. Hours will vary, but most will be open late on weekends.
Other Strip resorts have updated and upgraded their food court setups (and Park MGM is still working on its version of massive Italian marketplace Eataly) but nothing quite like Block 16 exists here. If there was a Vegas version of a southeast Asian street food night market, it might look and feel like this, and Andy Ricker would know. The James Beard Award-winning chef is installing Pok Pok Wing at Block 16 and he’s constantly traveling through Thailand and Asia to stay on top of his game.
“This is interesting, and I think the dining public is a lot more interested in this type of stuff these days, rather than looking for the most familiar thing,” says Ricker. “The way it all works is reminiscent to me of the way the night market works with a bunch of vendors and you choose what you want and eat at a central location. You can get a plate of wings and a sushi roll and your friend can get a hot chicken sandwich, and then a Mezcal when you’re done.”
But it’s not just any plate of wings, it’s Pok Pok’s legendary Vietnamese fish sauce wings. Hattie B’s chicken and Lardo’s sandwiches have also inspired cult foodie followings. Nichols says the search for the right food hall partners was a long and elaborate process. The keyword was “craveable.”
“That was the buzzword we keep going back to, that you would want to eat there all the time, every time of day,” he says. “And I think you know a good concept when you walk in and meet the owners and chefs and eat the food. It’s pretty obvious. A bell goes off.”
That bell has been ringing at Cosmo for almost eight years, and it just keeps getting louder.