Restaurants, cafes that hit sweet spot

Some business ideas are immediate hits. Some take time and more attention to detail before they catch on. Others seem dead on arrival.

In the “immediate hits” category, it also helps to be filling a niche. Any grungy downtown scene needs at least one breakfast nook, for instance.

About a year ago, Natalie Young supplied one with Eat at 7th Street and Carson Avenue. Recently, she made her last loan payment to Downtown Project, which forked over the money to build out the space for the restaurant. The project is now her 50/50 partner.

Eat works because of Young’s work ethic and because it’s truly a community meeting place — it’s not an ancillary condiment just beyond the casino floor. The food is good and priced right for most people.

Another hit is the Container Park, although some businesses there are more successful than others.

Owners say the Container Park has drawn some 300,000 people since opening in November. Watch them closely and you’ll see them typically drawn to two areas. Local parents with children swarm the playground. Tourists swarm the eateries inside, especially Pinches Tacos and Big Ern’s BBQ.

As for the non-food businesses there, time will tell how long they last. But don’t be surprised if you see some of them moving out when their leases come to an end. It will be portrayed as part of the Container Park’s business plan. The reality may be that they simply didn’t have strong sales figures.

For my money, the Inspire News Cafe is a no-brainer. The espresso is good, the music is low-key but pleasant, and the design, with magazines hanging on the walls, multiple outlets for laptops and seating facing life’s rich pageant on Fremont Street, is hard to beat.

And you might be lucky enough to watch the witchery of the Espresso Book Machine, which prints and cuts soft-cover books — even your own personal Great American Novel.

In the category of tough-sell is the skating rink at the Gold Spike. I have yet to see anyone skate on the plastic sheets that were laid behind the Gold Spike months ago. What looks like a Christmas tree is still up next to the rink, but it looks out of place and decidedly unfestive as spring kicks in.

My 10-year-old, who tried skating on a similar plastic rink on the Strip, turned down an offer to skate at the Gold Spike recently, saying the plastic stuff “doesn’t work very well.”

Put even simpler: It doesn’t work as well as ice, requiring much more effort to move and glide. Imagine putting in that effort when it’s 100 degrees outside.

It might be better to mothball the rink and return the lot to its original albeit unimaginative form: a parking lot.

Tags: The Sunday