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Las Vegas Chinatown

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The Chinatown of Las Vegas, Nevada, is a series of large shopping centers with ethnic Chinese and other pan-Asian businesses on Spring Mountain Road, with the original called Chinatown Plaza. The strip mall was conceived by Taiwanese American developer James Chih-Cheng Chen, and opened in 1995. Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn officially designated the area as Chinatown in October 1999. The Chinatown area has gained in such immense popularity and also received national attention in an article by The Wall Street Journal.

As a whole, Las Vegas's Chinatown is located west of the Las Vegas Strip, not far from the Treasure Island and The Venetian casinos. Also included in Chinatown are a number of Filipino, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese American businesses as it serves a pan-Asian community. The Chinatown also serves the local population and tourists as well and, in the area where Las Vegas was lacking, was especially conceived as an area to offer authentic Chinese cuisine for inbound Chinese-speaking tourists coming from Southern California and East Asia.

Indeed, as an alternative to the typical waist-expanding buffets or tedious prime rib specials typically found in Las Vegas, Chinatown is generally the only place within Las Vegas to get truly authentic Chinese and various Asian ethnic cuisines, such as a platter of mouthwatering Hong Kong-style roast duck or succulent won ton noodles, a bowl of healthy Vietnamese pho noodle soup, fresh Japanese sushi, or a refreshing cup of cold Taiwanese bubble tea on a scorching desert day. The very popular 99 Ranch Market - where live fresh seafood or bottles of authentic oyster sauce, and other imported Asian-branded foodstuffs could now be had - had been recognized by the Las Vegas Review Journal.

The aesthetic of the Las Vegas Chinatown bears a strong resemblance to the suburban "Chinatowns" found in Southern California and Silicon Valley, in the form of sprawl with large parking lots.

For example, it is unlike Chinatown, San Francisco (undisputedly still the largest and oldest in the United States) or of Chinatown, Los Angeles. Additionally, Las Vegas's Chinatown does not share a history of gambling halls, opium dens, tong warfare, or restaurants serving unauthentic MSG-laden Chinese American cuisine (such as chop suey, chow mein, sweet and sour pork, General Tso's chicken, and so on). In contrast to most urban U.S. Chinatown ghettos -- where the quintessential old-world, unsanitary image of Chinatown prevails -- including those of displays of roast ducks on hooks in shop windows, outdoor vegetable and fruit stands, immigrant old-timers hanging about, as well as Chinese-spanking locals and stupefied tourists bumping each other on overcrowded and filthy sidewalks, and so on, this area of Las Vegas is modeled upon the Los Angeles suburbs of Monterey Park, California and San Gabriel, California, both anchored by shopping centers and supermarkets (99 Ranch Market and Shun Fat Supermarket). Before the conception of Chinatown Plaza and nearby malls, some Las Vegas residences even had to head on a 200 mile or so road trip to the "suburban Chinatown" of Monterey Park to purchase authentic Asian groceries, so to cater to the Chinese-speaking locals and tourists, entrepreneur James Chen definitely founded an ingenious niche in Las Vegas. In several cases, some businesses are extensions of prominent Southern California businesses, including Asian supermarket chains, restaurants, bakeries, travel agents, etc.

It is generally unlike the older Chinatowns throughout the country; the Las Vegas Chinatown takes the form of strip malls. The suburban-style 99 Ranch Market chain is the key anchor in the area, with other Southern California-based chain businesses such as the Sam Woo Restaurant (serving Cantonese cuisine), 168 Shanghai Restaurant (serving Shanghai and Taiwanese cuisine), Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant (serving Cantonese cuisine and dim sum), and Kim Tar Restaurant (serving Teochew cuisine). There is also a Mainland Chinese noodle and dumpling restaurant serving Shanghai-style noodles, fried dumplings, crispy spring onion pizza, and tofu. Cantonese seafood restaurants also add to the vibrant mix. One can also find a delicious Vietnamese sandwich called banh mi.

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