Jeff Hwang, owner of the new Taverna Costera in the Arts District, modeled the space after large-scale casino projects on which he has worked in the past: The more attractions a spot has, the more it will draw in crowds. So the Downtown site, which houses a restaurant, also features an adjacent coffee shop called Dragon’s Alley Coffee Co. and a rooftop bar with a 200-square-foot performance stage. (Look for Hwang’s own bands—90 Proof, The Syndicate and Grind—to make appearances in the space.)
The concept fits well within the Arts District, which has seen massive transformation lately. Breweries, shops and restaurants keep sprouting up, bringing in locals and giving tourists another Vegas corridor to explore. The growth feels organic, and despite the pandemic, the area is thriving. Add in First Friday—in full swing once again—and the Arts District has suddenly become a critical cultural center of our recovering city.
Taverna Costera has a modern industrial vibe. Work by local artists lines the walls (all pieces are for sale), and the restaurant staff mostly comprises entertainment-industry veterans. Hwang says his goal is to bring together local food lovers, artists, musicians and other entertainers together for a convivial night out.
Patrons can move seamlessly from one part of the venue to the next. Up for a full-on dinner-and-drinks evening? Head for the restaurant. A smaller, fast-casual snack? The coffee shop offers food from the same kitchen, along with coffee and handcrafted teas. Late-night drinks? The rooftop has you covered, sometimes with an acoustic set on the side.
Chef Ray Samlow describes Taverna Costera’s cuisine as coastal Mediterranean fusion, with French, Italian, Spanish and Greek influences. “Lighter, smaller portions, lots of lemon, garlic,” he notes, “but I want you to leave feeling full and satisfied and to make sure that there’s lots of flavor in there.”
Get your table started with the Taverna tapas platter ($21)—crudité, hummus, citrus shrimp, ceviche and a Rustico flatbread—and a round of cocktails ($13 each). The Lemnos (Hornitos Reposada tequila, limoncello and lemon juice) is a puckery delight that pairs well with the tapas, while Old Town (Bulleit 95 rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and orange bitters) offers a refreshing take on the Manhattan.
In keeping with the overall Mediterranean vibe, there are plenty of plant-based selections. Vegetarian favorite jackfruit ($15) makes an appearance, enrobed in sweet and tangy pomegranate barbecue sauce and served over Greek potato hash. La Femme en Papolette ($16) is a marinated pink oyster mushroom cooked with vegetables, potatoes and herbs and served in a paper purse. Really.
Among more casual fare, the coffee shop offers a build-a-plate menu ($10-$14). Choose a base (from six options, including rice, flatbread and orzo), a flavor profile (Moroccan, Nicoise, Athenian, etc.) and a protein like chicken, shrimp or fresh mozzarella to top it. And don’t skip the outstanding organic tea selection, made by local company Tranquili-Tea.
Up on the rooftop, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of fast-changing neighborhood. And Taverna Costera is right in the middle of all that action.
TAVERNA COSTERA 1031 S. Main St., 702-749-0091, tavernacostera.com. Sunday-Thursday, 3-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m.-1 a.m.
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