The newest museum in Las Vegas doesn’t charge admission. But they do accept tips.
It’s the Nevada Taste Site, owner Derek Stonebarger’s latest venture: a bar that’s filled with pieces of Nevada history from his personal collection. It’s on Main Street in the heart of the Arts District, two doors down from ReBar, which Stonebarger also owns — a wacky dive filled with knick-knacks and funky furniture, all for sale.
But here, nothing is up for grabs. That’s because Stonebarger doesn’t want any of it to sit in the dark again.
“For the rest of my life, I now have a place to put stuff on display that people can appreciate,” he said.
Inside, you can pull up a seat, tucking your feet against wainscoting that once lined a portion of the Nevada Supreme Court in 1905.
Beneath the warm glow of the historic Davy’s Locker sign, which Stonebarger literally fished out of a dumpster after its former owner decided to toss it, you can peruse a menu of Thai-inspired appetizers. And at the bar, you can order a glass of Nevada wine or one of the many Nevada beers on tap, including a few selections brewed in Reno.
The family-friendly Nevada Taste Site quietly opened for the first time this month, and for now, it will remain open to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Children of all ages are welcome, except in the bar seating area.
Come September, Stonebarger expects it will be operating seven days a week.
Until the grand opening celebration, this is his trial period. The pieces currently on display are just a portion of what he owns. He’ll be cycling them out over the next few weeks and in the years to come, hoping to make it a new experience each time someone stops in.
Some staples: The wallpaper near the back of the bar, made from reprints of old Las Vegas restaurant menus, which he sifted through UNLV archives to find.
A painting of the famous Las Vegas auto-shop owner and wrestling promoter James “Buffalo Jim” Barrier, which Stonebarger said he “traded a bunch of stuff” to get his hands on.
And an original Union Brew sign that once hung in Goldfield Brewery, which opened in 1904 and flooded in 1913.
On the floor and on a few of the walls, you also can spot copies of blueprints for portions of the Nevada Test Site — which the bar’s name is a play on — and Paradise Palms, the historic Las Vegas residential community. Personal safes that belonged to former casino executives also line the back entrance, which opens up to a large patio.
As if the atmosphere alone didn’t make you feel at home, take a seat and order a drink.
Manager Shani Garrett spent many hours and days curating the perfect set of Nevada brews for patrons. Options are available from local brewers including Crafthaus, Banger Brewing, Tenaya Creek, Big Dog’s Joseph James and Barley’s, plus Great Basin Brewing in Sparks.
“I tried to bring in one of every style,” Garrett said of the beers they have available. “We might have more IPAs sometimes. In winter, we might have more stouts. But there’s something for everyone.”
Garrett specifically sought out a handful of beers from Reno, including a small selection from Revision Brewing Company and Pigeon Head Brewery in particular, because she felt Reno’s beer scene “is underrepresented here in Vegas and a lot of places.”
One day, Garrett hopes to put together a “Reno tap takeover,” where all the beers will be from up north, just for fun.
“This isn’t a pretentious beer place,” she said, laughing.
If you’re not sure what to try, order a flight, which lets you test five different beers, all presented on a wooden serving plate handcrafted into the shape of Nevada. You can pair them with any of chef Nikki Hughes’ tasty small plates, including spiced baked wings and chicken satay with ground-peanut sauce. Hughes said she’s still tweaking the menu in advance of the grand opening.
In the future, Stonebarger hopes to host monthly “Nevada history nights,” where he brings in one or two speakers to talk about different topics. His first planned event will cover Area 51.
On the TVs above the bar, he’ll be playing only Nevada sports. When there are no games on, he will show re-runs from the previous Golden Knights season and the Tarkanian-era Runnin’ Rebels.
He wants everyone to come away from his newest bar with a fresh sense of pride for Nevada.
“It’s something that I think we really need,” Stonebarger said. “It’s something to unite our town. Our people.”