At the grand opening of Mingo Kitchen & Lounge, 1070 First St., No. 180, there was an eclectic mix of political power, downtown hipness and nightclub outfits. It all makes sense considering the owners, recent Las Vegas mayoral candidate George Harris, chef Robert Solano and the face and name of the restaurant, Mingo Collaso.
“George is in politics, and he invited all of his friends,” Collaso said. “I invited a lot of cool downtown people.”
The restaurant specializes in American comfort food, including staples such as grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, burgers and chicken wings, but Collaso said they make them with an upscale or modern take.
The trio also jointly owns nearby Mundo, an upscale Mexican restaurant at the World Market Center, 495 S. Grand Central Parkway. The owners describe Mundo as Latin chic and said they wanted to go in a different direction with Mingo because of the location’s proximity.
“We decided to do a lounge,” Collaso explained, “not a bar, but a lounge where you can just hang out. It’s kind of like a nightclub vibe, without having to go to the Strip, but with food as well.”
Collaso grew up in Las Vegas and lives up the street from his new restaurant. The 32-year-old worked at a few diverse positions prior to getting into the restaurant business, including as a hotel manager at the Hard Rock Hotel and in the accounting department of Red Rock Resort.
“I went to Vo-Tech (High School) and I learned a lot there,” Collaso said. “I took the computer information class there and I learned lots of useful stuff, including accounting.”
He was working on a side project, making candles with his aunt to sell at specialty boutiques when he decided to open up his own place where he could sell his wares and have a restaurant. The result was La Madonna in the southwest part of the valley.
“The president of the World Market at the time liked the restaurant and asked us to take over the space down there,” Collaso said. “I’ve always liked downtown. I knew The Smith Center was coming. We just had to wait two years.”
They closed La Madonna and took a calculated gamble on the new location. They’ve been very happy with the results.
“The Smith Center is open now, and the business is showing us that we did the right thing,” Collaso said. “When Brett Wesley asked us about coming down and opening a place in Art Square, we were ready.”
Wesley had already built the Brett Wesley Gallery, a high-end gallery down the street at 1112 S. Casino Center Blvd. He had purchased several industrial buildings behind The Arts Factory that he wanted to turn into a new venue for diverse businesses called Art Square.
“I thought the three of them were doing something really great at Mundo, and they really seem to work well together,” said Wesley. “I thought they could make a restaurant that would really add something to Art Square, and they have.”
As Collaso explained it, with some investment in time, money and sweat, they’ve turned it from a run-down industrial complex into the kind of place U.S. senators, mayors and local trendmakers are excited about visiting.
Plans for Mingo began in April 2012, but complications with construction design, paperwork and permits kept construction from beginning until December. Collaso said the challenges included sealing a brick wall and raising the floor 8 inches so it would match work done to create a garden in the courtyard outside.
“The permit process was complicated,” Collaso said. “We had to keep adjusting plans.”
Collaso was quick to break out the before pictures that showed the transformation from a shuttered, graffiti-filled auto repair facility into an upscale hot spot full of glossy features with clusters of glass globes seemingly raining down from the ceiling.
“Those rolling steel windows over there were originally the doors to the garage,” Collaso said. “I wanted to keep something of the old place as a nod to what it had been.”
The rolling windows close on top of a pair of bars. When the weather is nice, the windows are opened, creating an indoor/outdoor dining and drinking space.
Mingo had a soft opening in April, and Collaso has hosted special weekly events, but the schedule for them is still in flux. Tentative plans include social media nights, Whiskey Wednesdays, DJ Fridays and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
“Tuesday is Onnoland,” Collaso said. “Onno one of our bartenders. She’s a fire dancer and she does reality shows. We have DJs, and Onno’s go-go dancer friends come out. It’s just a big party.”
Mingo is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. It is closed Sunday until Sunday brunch hours are announced.
For more information, visit eatmixmingo.com or call 702-685-0328.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.