Back in August, chef and restaurateur Marc Marrone felt as if the state might impose another restaurant shutdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. The state already closed nonessential businesses including restaurants in March until early May, only allowing takeout and delivery service. In July, bars that did not serve food reclosed as COVID-19 cases started to rise again.
Marrone decided to open a ghost kitchen inside his restaurant Graffiti Bao that would serve two purposes — keeping his staff employed and serving difficult-to-find dishes in the southwest neighborhood just north of Mountain’s Edge.
Gemma Gemma’s Square Pies specializes in custom square pies that use a three-day fermented pizza dough baked in iron pans to create the light and crispy crust. He also serves Italian torpedoes in hot beef and roast pork.
While Marrone certainly isn’t the first to open a ghost kitchen in Las Vegas, he is one of the highest profile chefs to add takeout and delivery only fare to his menu.
Ghost kitchens essentially don’t include a restaurant for dine-in service, and during the coronavirus pandemic, grew in Las Vegas. The market research firm Euromonitor says that the ghost kitchen industry could grow to a $1 trillion business by 2030.
The owners of Cafe Lola and Saint Honoré opened Pizza Anonymous with Roman-style pies at Pizza Anonymous over the summer as well. The two couples — Lin and Stephen Jerome and Alexandra Lourdes and her husband, Michael Santos — say they’re trying new things to not only fill the hole in the dining market at Flamingo Road and the 215 Beltway, but also to help themselves and their employees survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Co-owner Stephen Jerome says the spin on Roman-style pizza fills a gap in the dining scene near Summerlin. “We certainly want to keep people employed, and there was a way for us to cross utilize products that they already had,” he told Eater Vegas last July. Now Pizza Anonymous also has a location inside Cafe Lola in Henderson as well as Saint Honoré.
Rafael Salines Catalá, who worked at Julian Serrano Tapas at Aria for 11 years, opened JamonJamon Tapas in July, concentrating on takeout dishes. Imported Ibérico ham and cheeses join family feasts that include lechon roasted suckling pig and crispy pork belly prepared baboy style, enough food to feed a family. Four paellas range from al horno with sofrito and pork ribs or fideua de cameron with shrimp to Ibérico pork or the popular black paella with calamari, shrimp, and saffron in squid ink.
Salines Catalá recently moved his business from North Las Vegas to 6135 W. Sahara Ave. to accommodate indoor dining as well as takeout and delivery.
Even celebrities have gotten in on the trend.
Rapper Tyga teamed up with restaurateur Robert Earl and Earl’s son Robbie to launch of Tyga Bites, a ghost kitchen serving delivery-only oven-baked, boneless chicken bites, in 30 cities including Las Vegas. The chicken bites feature one of three spices — black garlic, lemon black pepper, or peri-peri — paired with 12 sauce options. Other menu items include regular or sweet potato Tyga tots, chocolate chip cookies, and beverages.
Singer Mariah Carey also worked with Earl to create her delivery-only Mariah’s Cookies, with availability in Las Vegas and 30 other U.S. cities. Customers can order chocolate chunk, triple chocolate chunk, Heath Bar, lemon cooler, and spiced oatmeal raisin, as well as holiday flavors white chocolate cranberry, pumpkin, and gingerbread. Options include boxes of a half dozen or dozen that can include all one flavor or a mix.
Other chefs in Las Vegas followed. Jonathan Batista, who runs Your Panadas food truck, decided to open a ghost kitchen in September to reach more people. Now the ghost kitchen inside Cut & Taste in southeast Las Vegas serves takeout empanadas, Southern Creole food, soups, chicken wings, and meal prep.
To Be Frank opened in October with delivery, takeout, and catering options featuring hot dogs and sausages inside Every Grain at night. Underground Burger opened with vegan burgers, fries, tots, and shakes but sans the animal products available only via delivery. The ghost kitchen serves oversized three versions of Impossible burgers. Scooped Cookie Dough Bar plans to open its first location in Las Vegas featuring edible cookie dough in January.