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Hispanic sabor livens up this part of the avenue

Just before it enters North Las Vegas and becomes Civic Center Drive, North Eastern Avenue has drowned tortas, simmering molcajetes and locally made cheesy ice cream. Also: piñatas!

1. El Buen Gusto

Don’t let this small, cafe-style eatery fool you: It’s representing at least three countries in the kitchen, with Mexican, Guatemalan and Salvadorean cuisines on the exhaustive menu. The namesake dish, El Buen Gusto ($14.99), is a caloric protein nuke from Guatemala featuring rib-eye steak, ribs, sausage, stuffed bell peppers, rice and beans, Russian salad, plantains and mucho mas. 1593 N. Eastern Ave., 702-444-7966

2. Los Molcajetes

A molcajete is a Mexican mortar and pestle — you know, for grinding spices, mashing guac, crushing your foes. Here, the molcajete is turned into a volcano of flavor, a careful-don’t-touch! hot stone bowl of beef, chicken, shrimp, peppers, avocado and cheese simmering in a rich tomato broth. Scoop some into a tortilla and gorge. One molcajete serves two very hungry people or one gross piggy glutton man (me). 1553 N. Eastern Ave., 702-633-7595

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3. El Rey de la Piñata

This party shop doesn’t sell piñatas so much as host a formidable standing piñata army — crepe-papered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hulks, Power Rangers and Angry Birds — ready to rock your next party, with prices from $10-$28. There’s plenty of candy on hand, too, to stuff your piñata’s innards for your child’s dark effigy-smashing coming-of-age blood rite. 1539 N. Eastern Ave., 702-642-1824

4. First Congregational Church

By now, you are abuzz with rib-eye and molcajete and, hopefully, a few Coronas. The church’s architecturally curious, telescoping rainbow facade extends indefinitely toward you in a recursive fractal gesture of holy invitation. 1200 N. Eastern Ave.

5. Carnitas Tortas

You can’t miss this sunny lunch spot: It’s a pointy yellow-orange building with patio seating. Their signature dish: the torta ahogada, or drowned torta. Imagine a Mexican sandwich taking swimming lessons in chili sauce, and then all of a sudden you come along and put it in your mouth. 640 N. Eastern Ave., 702-927-4471

6. Cardenas and Mariana’s

These two respectable Hispanic supermarket chains have stores on either side of Eastern. I favor Cardenas for its fresh produce and dazzling salsas, Mariana’s for the bakery, magic birthplace of its legendary tres leches cake. Cardenas, 2400 E. Bonanza Road, 702-853-6692; Mariana’s, 574 N. Eastern Ave., 702-387-5588

7. Winchell’s Donut House

Closing out a heroic downtown club crawl? Winchell’s serves wooze-stabilizing donuts 24 hours. Popping by on a Sunday after church? Make friendly with the regulars and they might teach you dominoes. 401 N. Eastern Ave., 702-384-3463

8. La Flor de Michoacan

This family-run sweet shop offers a rainbow riot of sundaes, shakes and smoothie concoctions. But there’s nothing quite like an old-fashioned scoop in a waffle cone — all the more classic because the family makes this rich, milky ice cream themselves. The cheesy vanilla? Muy bien! 235 N. Eastern Ave. #132, 702-388-0750

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