In Business, Dining, Magazine, News

By Don Chareunsy

James Beard-nominated restaurateur and Chef James Trees opened his new and larger Esther’s Kitchen location at 1131 S. Main St. in the Las Vegas Arts District on March 8, offering dinner, weekday lunch and weekend brunch in a restaurant that serves three times as many customers as his previous outpost down the block.

Replacing the original and popular location on California Street (aka 1130 Casino Center Drive), which closed Feb. 28, Esther’s Kitchen now offers 187 seats, including 28 bar seats in a 10,432-square-foot space, in total more than three times the capacity of the first restaurant.

“We are really excited to provide the same neighborhood, seasonal experience for our guests that we have been doing for six years,” Trees said in a news release. “Only now, we won’t have to turn anyone away.” (That’s not true, but keep reading. Ha!)

Taking over a 1940s corrugat- ed-steel-and-concrete building previously home to the vintage store Retro Vegas, the new Esther’s Kitchen – named for the great aunt who was Trees’s first mentor – continues the seasonal Italian and craft cocktails restaurant popular with locals and visitors alike since opening in 2018.

In recent years, reservations have frequently been booked out weeks in advance, creating the demand for a larger space. Trees was adamant about keeping the restaurant in The Arts District, waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself, as the new location in Downtown Las Vegas is just steps away from the original.

While staying faithful to the spirit of the original, the new Esther’s offers several new exciting features, including a vastly improved entrance experience, live pasta making and wood-fired pizza stations, a private dining room seating 55 and a wraparound bar includ- ing window bar rails with a view of Main & California.

I’m a fan of Esther’s Kitchen and dined there before it closed – and then recently on a Monday night at the new location. The fresh, seasonal and local menu never disappoints and has kept customer favorites among its offering over the years alongside new seasonal items.

Our dinner for two, with no missteps and some of the delicious dishes I’ve ordered before in previous meals: Chef ’s Spread (all eight spreads to go with the signa- ture housemade sourdough loaf, a must-order

in groups of two or larger), Nduja butter mussels, Vitello Tonato (tuna carpaccio, crispy sweetbreads and salted zucchini – unique and delightful) and duck confit pizza (rich, flavorful and surprisingly light).

Also: radiatore (made with tripe, mint, celery and parmesan – we loved it), whole grilled market fish (it was branzino on this Monday night and the standout of the standout dinner), butcher beans, butterscotch budino and the cocktail Best Intentions. Yes, there were a lot of leftovers.

I love the new space. A lot. The cozy, hipster-Italian neighborhood spot has super-sized without losing
its exemplary quality of food and service and too much of its casual vibe. I was told business was boom- ing (so walk-in customers have been turned away), partly because Esther’s Kitchen is shiny and new and because it has a loyal following. It was jam-packed the Monday night I dined there.

The new kitchen includes a wood-fired hearth, adding large-format entrees to the menu and a full professional baking suite. An additional loft bar experience will open at a later date. A rear hallway, where the restrooms are located, pays tribute to the first six years of Esther’s with a collage of menus beneath framed awards.

Trees, a James Beard Award: Best Chef Southwest semifinalist in 2020, is joined on his management team by Executive Chef Sean O’Hara, Director of Operations Keith Bracewell, General Manager David Klarer, Event Coordinator Gatsby Darwin and Bar Manager Tucker St. John.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman joined Councilwoman Olivia Diaz and Las Vegas Arts District President Becky Miller in honoring Trees with a proclamation and the official Key to the City of Las Vegas on March 28. Trees also has Al Solito Posto and Ada’s Food + Wine Bar in Tivoli Village.

Esther’s Kitchen, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. GO Saturdays-Sundays, 1131 S. Main St., Las Vegas. (702) 570-7864; EsthersLV.com.

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