Tiny kitchen Food Junky serves downtown Las Vegas

It’s not far from Banger Brewing Company at Neonopolis to the Fremont Street entrance of Inspire Theater. Plug it into Google and you get 217 feet, or a one-minute walk. Maritza Purcell will tell you that from Inspire’s door to Banger’s patio, it’s exactly 100 steps. But if you want a shot at making it in a minute, you had better time it to catch the light at Fremont and Las Vegas Boulevard.

“Otherwise,” Purcell says, “we’re left standing there for a minute and 40 seconds.”

Purcell is the proprietor of Food Junky, which has provided food for Banger’s customers since January 2016. The job has never been easy, thanks to limited kitchen space and Purcell’s inability to obtain a long-term, renewable permit to operate on brewery’s patio. She solved the latter problem late last month by moving her operation to Inspire.

In exchange for the new-found stability, she’s working in an even smaller kitchen, and has the aforementioned walk and shorter hours. But she’s also picked up some new clients, both at Inspire and the nearby bar Corduroy.

And to ensure she and longtime employee Jaimie Fisher stay in contact as they bounce between locations, she’s also invested in a set of walkie-talkies.

From the Strip to the street

Food Junky’s guerilla-style operation serving downtown hipsters is a far cry from Purcell’s early career. After attending Le Cordon Bleu in Maine, the Nevada native spent two years in Orlando cooking at high-end restaurants in Disney World. From there, she moved to Las Vegas, where she worked in the kitchens of acclaimed French chefs Joel Robuchon and Hubert Keller.

In 2015, while working at Keller’s Mandalay Bay restaurant Fleur, she opened a food truck-style operation that would run out of a mobile trailer at special events three to four times a year.

“The first event we ever did was a First Friday,” Purcell recalls. “That was for Cinco de Mayo. So it was all Mexican.”

The move to Banger Brewing Company came at the request of the owners. Taking the gig meant making a full-time commitment to Food Junky, hiring Fisher to assist and crafting a menu that would satisfy the bar’s craft beer fans.

“When we first started here, we had a nicer menu,” Purcell says. She soon learned that the crowd didn’t respond to items like polenta or pork loin.

Instead, she discovered, “everybody loves comfort food, and whenever we’d put a BLT on the menu, that was my No. 1 seller, or grilled cheese.”

Paperwork issues

Food Junky’s first permit for operating at Banger was for eight months. When it expired, Purcell learned she’d have to wait four months for another. To survive, she alternated between cooking on her trailer and securing a series of two-week “special event” permits to maintain consistent service.

Early last year, she received another eight-month permit, expecting to do the same. In October, however, she was told last year’s fix wouldn’t work. Between the paperwork issues and a proposed rent increase, staying put was no longer an option.

Fortunately, Purcell had been approached by Inspire about offering food there. The idea quickly went from that of a satellite operation to the main kitchen.

The new space has no room for a fryer, and last call for food is now 9 p.m. on weekends, so the theater can dim its lights and transform her kitchen into a ticket booth for special events. The fact that 9 p.m. is also the start of Banger’s happy hour on Fridays is definitely inconvenient for customers.

“I’ve had a couple tell me they haven’t come to Banger in a while, because they can’t eat with us,” Fisher reports of customer reaction. “They’re disappointed, I guess you could say.”

But the pair are doing their best to keep patrons happy, along with the new audience they’ve found a block over.

Settling in

With less than two weeks under their belts at the new location, however, Purcell and Fisher seem comfortable with the move.

The new setup requires them both to be on duty five days a week, with one taking orders and the other cooking, and Purcell going it alone the other two days.

When they open for lunch, Inspire and Corduroy are closed, allowing the duo to focus all their attention on the Banger crowd and orders placed at the theater’s walk-up window.

Most orders are ready to go within seven minutes of being received and are out the door as they see the light on the corner turn green.

“We’re serving everything in to-go boxes,” Purcell says, laughing at the delivery packaging, “which looks a little (expletive), but it beats someone reaching in and grabbing something, or some bird pooping in it.”

In some ways, Fremont Street is a long way from the Strip.

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20 – Tara Mack
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like