One thing is true about the Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet — you just never know what you will find. Sure, there are old timers such as Crafty Fox, Extremely Incognito and Lee’s Fashions (Yong) that have been with the indoor flea market for 27 years. But newcomers arrive nearly every week, changing the complexion of the space every time you go.
The 150,000-square-foot market features more than 600 ever-changing booths, with 10-foot by 10-foot booths starting at $565. That makes it a great place to try out a business idea. And with hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays, business owners can test the waters to see how their business goes over without the long grueling hours of a seven-day-a-week operation that may (or may not) work out. Keep in mind that to get in will set you back $1, but coupons are easily found online.
Many make a trip to the swap meet an afternoon adventure, and that means those people will get hungry and need food. Here, Eater Vegas photographer Amelinda B Lee fixed her lens on three of the restaurants inside the Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet at 11 a.m. on a Sunday. Each features dishes galore under $10.
"This is just like home," one diner says as he walks into Hula Hut.
The restaurant, pictures above, is a seven-week-old business from New Zealand’s Mahara (Margary) and Bill Peters, but despite its infancy, regulars populate the tables to listen to the Polynesian music and eat the Maori food. The walls are lined with Maori cultural references, while the cafeteria-style restaurant dishes out Kahlua pork, teriyaki chicken, Hawaiian chicken and curry chicken (more delicate in flavor than the Japanese-inspired curries found in Hawaii) served in bowls or plates for $4 to $7. Must-tries include the New Zealand meat pies for $4.95 shipped in from Los Angeles with chicken or steak and cheese with each.
The Peters ran a dinner theater in Sydney, Australia, with seating for 300 for years before "retiring" to Las Vegas. "We packed them in six nights a week," Mahara says.
The couple has been coming to Las Vegas since the ’60s, performing at the Sands and The Mint with Frank Sinatra and the like with their group called the Maori Volcano.
Once their show, performed in a faux hut, is done, friends will stop by to play ukuleles. One of the chefs even steps out from behind the counter to serenade the growing audience on a microphone.
At Hula Hut, it’s just as much about the show as it is the New Zealand-tinged food.
Golden Land Super Sushi & More is the newest restaurant, a tiny setup with one table and folding chairs lining the "sushi" bar. And the sushi rolls served on Styrofoam plates are just what you would expect at the Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet. The three-week-old business proudly boasts that the rolls here are "prepared fresh daily with no MSG added."
Four of the most popular dishes include the yummy roll with tempura shrimp for $6.99, the crunchy roll with spicy shrimp and an unusual butter crunch on top for $5.99, the trio roll with crab stick and a crab salad on top for $6.99, and the spicy roll, described as tuna/salmon, for $4.99. A steady stream of customers stop by the sushi bar to order, quickly dine and get on with shopping.
"Everyone likes food on a stick," says Jeanne Pesch of the veteran Hot N Fresh Cinnamon Rolls sitting on prime real estate on Jackpot Highway at the swap meet. The three-year-old business is like a cottage of carnival fare with cinnamon rolls using Jeanne’s own recipe, soft serve custard, hot dogs, nachos and of course, waffles on a stick. Jeanne and her husband Dale man the booth, baking up fresh rolls, frosting them with cream cheese and enticing the entire center with the aroma of cinnamon and waffles wafting through the air.
"We’ve thought about expanding, but the traffic is so concentrated here," Dale says during a short break from the lines. He moves over to the hot nuts cooking in cinnamon and gives them a stir. Pick those up out of the roaster for $4 or two cones for $7.50.
The newest dish brings chocolate-dipped cheesecake, on a stick naturally, for $3.75 and soon an ice cream sandwich dipped in chocolate joins the roster.
But it’s those cinnamon rolls that keep customers returning. They start at $3.59 and then go up 20 cents for raisins, 60 cents for fruit and 40 cents for caramel, strawberries, raspberries, chocolate or nuts. Want more cream cheese frosting? That will set you back 40 cents, too.
And those waffles on a stick? They start at $3.25 and the toppings are gratis.