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All things to all people
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All Things Streetwise
Story by Andrew Kiraly
Orbiting on an outer ring of the University District, the Trop-Eastern quadrant offers cheap clothes, cocktails and even haircuts — and a handful of delis and restaurants proving that authenticity comes in many flavors.
1. Just as much a Cuban cultural hotspot as a restaurant — if you want to polish your merengue moves, come on a loud and lively Friday or Saturday night — Cuba Café serves up a strong menu of classics. Their ropa vieja, literally “old clothes,” is said by expats to be some of the best in town: a steaming heap of tender shredded beef served with black beans, rice and fried plantains. 2055 E. Tropicana Ave. #1, 702-795-7070, cubacafelv.com
Fox’s Spy Outlet
2. So, the owner puts a cigarette lighter on the counter. I look at it — and it turns out I’m peering into a tiny bug-eye camera lens! Then he pops off the lighter’s top to reveal that it’s also a USB stick, so my shocking indiscretions as a nanny are easily downloadable! Also: lie detectors, surveillance cameras, infidelity tests and cell-phone pepper spray. In other words, the accouterments to modern romance. 2055 E. Tropicana Ave. #10, 702-262-9313
Pinball Hall of Fame
3. O, glimmering shrine to clamorous machines of electromechanical zen, I will forever flip, shake, rattle and nudge your praises. 1610 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-597-2627
Village Meat & Wine
4. This bustling bodega of gourmet noshables is what Trader Joe’s is trying to be — except Village Meat & Wine boasts an actual meat and deli counter. Exotic meats range from antelope to buffalo to camel. Ever wanted to chew on a kangaroo drumstick? You can hop to it here. (“Kangaroo is sweet,” says the owner.) 5025 S. Eastern Ave. #23, 702-736-7575, villagemeatandwine.com
A Simple Life
5. Dedicated to the fare of Wisconsin, A Simple Life is part café, part specialty food shop, part HOLY MACKEREL THAT’S A BIG WALL OF JAMS AND JELLIES. Testament to their Midwestern chumminess: I barely had the “hello” out of my mouth when they handshook me into a chair and next thing I know I’m eating hearty vegetable soup with new friends. 5025 S. Eastern Ave. #21, 702-490-4916, asimplelifelasvegas.com
6. Found some unlikely scores in this reliable outpost of the thrift store chain: a literature subsection in the book aisles and boxed vinyl sets of Beethoven. 2300 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-433-1402
7. Once a daytime drunk’s sleep-away hole with a kitschy, ponderous water wheel, the Dispensary has blossomed into a hub for weekend nightlife, with live jazz and a late-night menu (mothership: half-pound burger and fries, $5.95). Most importantly: The beloved kitschy, ponderous water wheel still turns. 2451 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-458-6343, thedispensarylounge.com
Aveda Institute Las Vegas
8. The future hairdressers of America need your head — and starting at $15, these bright young cosmetology students will give you a shampoo and a thorough snip. If you’re tight on cash but have a high-maintenance ’do, know that these understudies thrive on follicular challenges. 4856 S. Eastern Ave., 702-459-2900, avedalasvegas.com
9. Formerly known as BLOKHAUS, this building now houses an Internet domain startup. Consider it when you’re driving down Trop. Architecturally, I always found the building playful — its insistent stoutness humorously at odds with its silver suit, like a fat kid in a spaceman costume. 2121 E. Tropicana Ave.
Pick up your Desert Companion today at one of these Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or Jamba Juice locations.
Also available at Clark County and Henderson libraries.