Life Is Beautiful is just around the corner. And while most attendees plan their weekend around the music and the art, many also go for the food. The dining options have been a major draw for the festival [owned by Vegas Seven parent company WENDOH Media] since it launched in 2013. And this year’s show will once again offer a delicious culinary lineup.
Perusing the list of participating food vendors, three things are likely to strike you. First, it’s a long list, with more than 40 food trucks and booths planned for the show.
Second, it’s locally-focused. In previous years, the dining attractions leaned heavily on celebrity chefs, many of whom had no full-time presence in Las Vegas. That trend has been on a downward slope over the years. And this year, nearly everything you eat at the festival will be something you can enjoy in our Valley year round.
“We have an unbelievable platform to show off what is available in Las Vegas,” the festival’s culinary director Eve Cohen says. “There are so many options out there, with so many different types of festivals, that we should be highlighting what is amazing about Las Vegas—both to locals, to make them feel excited about what’s happening in their hometown, and also for guests that come in. Because a lot of times all they see is the Strip. And there’s so much more to the city than just that.”
The third thing you’ll notice about this year’s food lineup is that it’s more accessible, even—dare we say?—populist. At this point the schedule includes no fancy private dine-arounds, and the various cooking demonstrations appear to have been left in the past. There’s no denying the cooking demos were a blast, but few people got to try what was being prepared. This time around, every chef is cooking for the general admission audience, and offering dishes at the prices you’d expect to pay at any concert. So if you were planning to spend the cash on special events, this just leaves you more to spend eating on the concert grounds.
So who, exactly, will be feeding you from September 23-25? Representing the Strip environs will be Sushi Samba, Nobu, RM Seafood, Rx Boiler Room, N9NE Steakhouse, Buddy V’s and Fleur by Hubert Keller. The Downtown contingent will include booths from the Plaza, El Cortez, Downtown Grand, Park On Fremont and Nacho Daddy. Food trucks include 50 Shades of Green, Buldogis, Dragon Grille, Sasuagefest, Stripcheeze and Oming’s Kitchen, among others. And from the ’burbs, you’ll find Origin India, Eatt Healthy Kitchen, Grouchy John’s Coffee and Honey Salt.
Restaurateurs Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau, who will bring two of their restaurants to the festival footprint this year, have been with the festival from the beginning. They’ve participated in some of its most posh private dinners, and have also sweat out the Las Vegas heat in the booths. To represent Honey Salt, Canteenwalla says he’ll bring back a favorite he introduced last year at a cooking demo: a Biloxi chicken sandwich. “It’s just the type of thing people want to eat out there,” the chef says. “So we’re staying with that. In the past we did banh mi, and they didn’t move as well.” From Buddy V’s in the Palazzo, Canteenwalla promises “a meatball grinder/slider sandwich with some hot peppers and mozzarella.”
If Canteenwalla and Blau represent the type of culinary all-stars who have been supporting Life Is Beautiful from Day One, the team from Eatt Healthy Food is the other end of the spectrum. They participated for the first time last year, when they were a simple catering company still dreaming of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Co-owner Nicolas Kalpokdjian says they were completely unprepared for how popular their booth would be, and on the first day were completely sold-out by sunset. That success, he says, “really inspired us to move forward with our business.” With a restaurant now open on West Sahara Avenue, they’ll be back this year with the same brightly colored juices and iced teas the crowd loved last year, and are also promising at least one fresh vegan dish for those who want a break from animal products.
Clearly, there’s going to be something for everyone. So if you want to get to know this town’s food a bit better, be sure to show up at Life Is Beautiful hungry.