Broadacres Is a Destination for Latino Culture and Cuisine in North Las Vegas

Music, mayhem, and ridiculously good carnitas tacos at Broadacres Marketplace.

Broadacres Marketplace
Photo by Fred Morledge
Photo by Fred Morledge

Las Vegas has always been a place that operates by popular demand. It's hard to put a limit on what a tourist will spend on a Strip residency or Cirque. Yet on a consistent week-to-week basis, the highest-drawing paid-ticket in town is rarely discussed in travel guides and nowhere near the Strip. It's about seven miles away in North Las Vegas. Admission is just a buck or two and lines outside the main gates stretch the equivalent of a New York City block, attracting anywhere from 16,000 to 34,000 weekend visitors. Once inside, you're suddenly a world away from the tourist-driven casino culture of Las Vegas and knee-deep in the most extensive and immersive display of Latino culture and community in Southern Nevada.

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

22 Acres of Culture and Discovery

Broadacres Marketplace opened as little more than a routine outdoor flea market in 1977. About 30 years later, it was sold and grew to become a greater, larger attraction more in tune with the surrounding neighborhoods. Located on the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Pecos, Broadacres Marketplace is now a street market, carnival, food festival, amusement park, petting zoo, concert hall, and beer garden all in one. "There are families who will come here in the morning and leave six hours later," says General Manager Yovana Alonso. "Before, it was a one-stop shop and that was it. Now, they can spend the whole weekend here."

About a thousand vendors cover 22 acres (with another 22 dedicated to parking), renting space for as little as $15 a day. You can buy almost anything—electronics, clothes, toys, candy, and fresh produce are especially popular. Imported items range from Mexican cowboy boots to Lucha Libre wrestling masks. Or maybe you just need a new pair of jeans for $5? The presence of what regulars call "mini-Walmarts," selling toiletries and other common household items, has only grown since the onset of the pandemic. But feel free to think big. You can shop for kitchen appliances, furniture, mattresses, a washer and dryer set, and maybe even a house. Just check the listings posted by a local Realtor. At least one vendor regularly resells "mystery" Amazon returns obtained in bulk through a liquidation website. You don't know what's inside until you open the package, but they're just a dollar each.  

Despite the grid layout, It's easy to get lost when navigating the rows of vendors. It wouldn't be a stretch to think of Broadacres Marketplace as its own self-contained town. At times, the outdoor aisles begin to feel like the streets of a small village, especially near the trees that line the perimeter. Not all vendors take credit cards, so play it safe and bring cash (unless you don't mind fees at the ATM). A few have signs posted saying they now take Zelle or Venmo. 

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

A Taste of Home for Las Vegas’ Latino Community

The authenticity is real. You don't come here to get Starbucks. Michelada is the drink of choice—a combination of beer, tomato juice, lime, and spices with a salted rim. It's almost like a Bloody Mary with a good, cheap brew in place of vodka. They're everywhere, and very much a social thing. "A lot of people come for the beer," says Alonso.

Prefer to skip the booze? Go for an agua fresca, a refreshing mix of water, fresh fruit and sugar. Coco Loco makes 'em fresh without any artificial ingredients. Strawberry is the best seller, but experiment with something different like guanabana, a white fruit with a flavor somewhere between a grape and a banana. Otherwise, you can order an extravagant fruit platter with a stuffed pineapple as the centerpiece or horchata made from scratch with rice and cinnamon. The family-owned business began as a single, modest stand that sold fruit with coconuts and cueritos (pickled, spicy pork skins) before expanding operations. It's now grown to five locations within Broadacres Marketplace. 

"A lot of people come here because it reminds them of home," says Coco Loco's Catherine Ramirez. "It's not just Mexico, but a lot of other Spanish-speaking countries. We see a lot of Cubans and Salvadorans."

The connection between culture and cuisine is also felt at Maris-Cocos, where the specialty is fresh coconuts, chopped open on the spot, and stuffed with shrimp cocktail. Other popular toppings include octopus and crab or if you're staying on the sweet side, a variety of fresh fruit. "We have pineapple, cucumber, jicama, watermelon cantaloupe, and mango," says Enrique Velasquez, who runs the business with his family.      

"Coconuts are very popular with the Latino community, especially people who've lived in coastal areas in places like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras," adds Alonso. "Walking around with a coconut reminds them of home."

Photo by Rob Kachelriess for Thrillist

Food That's Fair Game

Your greatest variety of eats is in the Food Fair, a long indoor hallway that's similar to a food court, but without a Sbarro anywhere in sight. The smell alone will draw you to Machetes, which cooks jumbo-sized quesadillas on a circular flat-top grill. As the name suggests, they're long enough to be compared to a machete. Mr. Papas is all about potatoes—fries, hash browns, tater tots, baked potatoes, and more. Crepes are generally considered a French dish, but Crepe Express prepares them with a distinct Central American influence, topping the thin pancakes with a mix of sweet and savory ingredients.  

One small unnamed stand serves tejuino, a drink made from the odd combination of masa (maize), lime, ice, and sherbert. Everyone says the same thing: it's an acquired taste. Even though it looks like coffee, it's an unexpected mix of salty, sweet, and citrus flavors with an almost nutty aftertaste.

No matter what you do, make a point to stop for the tacos and tostadas at Carnitas El Cunado. No beef or chicken here. Just carnitas. Choose from meat, stomach, skin, or all of the above. Chef Gustavo Parada arrives early at 5:30 am to slow-cook the pork for up to three hours based on his grandfather's recipe.    

"We cook with lard in a big pot, but we also add water," explains Parada's wife, Albena. "The water drips the fat down, so it's not as greasy and heavy. Chefs from the Strip come here to eat with us. The cueritos—just the pork skin itself—is so soft. It's like caramel."  

When they're gone, they're gone. It's not unusual to sell out by early afternoon. "These are the best carnitas I've had," Alonso confirms. "And I've had carnitas everywhere. These are the best."

Photo by Fred Morledge, courtesy of Broadacres

Generation to Generation, it's Family First

Broadacres Marketplace is open Friday (4–11 pm, $2 admission), Saturday (6 am–5 pm, $1 admission), and Sunday (6 am–5 pm, $2 admission). While Fridays can be the most crowded due to shorter hours, Sundays draw the most people overall. It's common for families to visit after church. Kids love the bumper cars and pony rides and keep themselves busy by blowing bubbles, shooting Silly String, and tossing Bang Snaps to the ground. 

The enduring legacy of Broadacres Marketplace is reflected in Alonso herself. She's only 39 years old, but has been an employee for the past 27 years, dating back to 1994. She grew up on the grounds and understands the synergy it has with the surrounding neighborhoods.  

"Most Latinos live in North Las Vegas, especially the first generation," she explains. "Slowly, we have seen a transition… Now we're getting the second and third generation of Latinos. And things are evolving as the years go by."

A great example is the banda musicians who play the concert stage near the center of the property (although live entertainment is on pause during the pandemic). The music is upbeat with brass, woodwinds, and the occasional accordion. Kids enjoy it, but often view it as their parents' music. In response, Broadacres is looking to bring in more rock and R&B acts. DJs aren't out of the question, but even the younger crowd seems to prefer live instruments. Once COVID restrictions are loosened, expect sporadic Saturday night concert events to return.   

The area in front of the stage is dominated by a shaded picnic table area with more than a dozen mounted high-definition televisions. Sure, it's a fun party spot for watching the Super Bowl, but it's nothing like the World Cup—or any soccer game involving Mexico. 

The pride for culture and heritage is matched by a distinct local community spirit. Flags for Central American nations and the Vegas Golden Knights hang side by side. Nobody's here to judge. Whether you're bringing a date or bringing your kids, Broadacres Marketplace is equal parts cool and quirky while being confident and comfortable in its own identity. 

Is it the best kept secret in the Las Vegas Valley? Maybe. But it's not like the place just popped up out of nowhere. After close to 45 years, maybe you're just late to the party? With the weather warming up, there couldn't be a better time to spend the day outdoors and check it out for yourself. Begin with a round of Micheladas and take it from there.

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Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than seven years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Modern Luxury, Leafly, and Luxury Estates International's seasonal publication. He's craving carnitas. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.