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Desert Companion

Streetwise: Your city, block by block

Streetwise

South Commercial Center District

This unassuming stretch of Maryland Parkway is much more than a launch ramp from the University District to downtown. In its own right, it’s got eclectic eats, cool boutiques and spicy salsa — both on your plate and on the dance floor.

MapA Second Chance boutique

1 Question: What does it say about this middle-aged man that I stood momentarily transfixed by this surprisingly classy storefront rioting with she-mannequins dressed up for cocktail hour, poolside brunch, girls’ night out on the Strip? And then I went in and browsed? Don’t answer. 2797 S. Maryland Parkway #29, 734-2545, a2ndchancenvegas.com

Goldilocks Bakeshop

2 Imagine a Denny’s — breakfast-joint booths, bright colors, squeaky-soled servers — but with Filipino fare. Try the crisp lumpia, stuffed with fresh veggies, minced meat and drenched in a sweet sauce the waiter only called “The Formula.” Get your pan de sal on at the bakery counter. 2797 S. Maryland Parkway, 368-2253

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The Mayan Club

3 Wear your flame-retardant undies to this late-night Latin nightclub. The seasoned dancers who flock to this unlikely storefront hotspot on weekends bust some seriously crotch-scorching salsa moves. 2797 S. Maryland Parkway, 425-0313

Hacienda Del Rey

4 This newly opened restaurant serves all the Mexican mainstays — but the setting may have you lingering over your margarita: The high, wood-beam ceilings and open tile floors feel like you’re feasting in a posh estate south of the border. 2797 S. Maryland Parkway, 541-8671

Smuggle Inn

5 Themed bars are usually like umbrella drinks: showy but shallow. Not the venerable, invitingly dim Smuggle Inn, whose crusty, pell-mell naval tchotchkes — barrels, crates, lanterns, ship wheels — are probably actual jetsam culled from the high seas. 1305 E. Vegas Valley Drive, 731-1305

Magura Restaurant

6 Really? Wagon-wheel chandeliers and mannequins draped in Bulgarian folk drag? The ambience is so thinly wrought because Magura’s too busy making awesome food: Fresh shopska salads blanketed in feta, rich seasoned meatballs and chicken and peppers served with crunchy pizza bread. 1305 Vegas Valley Drive, 693-6990

Violin House

7 From his charmingly cluttered shop, Oscar Carrescia quietly nourishes Vegas culture with violins, lessons, repairs. And concerts: For more than 25 years, he’s directed the Las Vegas Camerata and the Las Vegas Youth Camerata orchestras. 1305 E. Vegas Valley Drive, 733-0482

Loop da Loop

8 Arts and Crafts dining tables? Mid-mod desks? Drexel bedroom sets? There’s something to this name: Antique store Loop da Loop is happily all over the place. Hours can be odd, so call ahead. 1305 Vegas Valley Drive #G, 693-5667, loopdalooplv.com

Original Thai BBQ

9 Ah, the spicy kerfluffle over Original Thai BBQ: Word on Yelp is that it’s a phantom of its former glory, but I’m happy to report the signature barbecue chicken, after melting on your tongue, still enters your bloodstream like a drug. A rich, saucy, chickeny drug. 2680 S. Maryland Parkway, 363-5800

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