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Desert Companion

My town(away from town)

Our well-traveled Las Vegans share their top stops and hot spots in their favorite cities (after Las Vegas, of course)

Boston Garment DistrictBOSTON
The Garment District
It’s like: Savers + Fremont Street – booze

Traveling to vastly different climes inevitably means forgetting some vital piece of clothing. For those who partake in the Savers scene in Sin City, a trip to The Garment District is a must. Maybe it’s the persistent retro aesthetic or the scavenger mentality, but for whatever reason, Las Vegas has more active advocates than anywhere else — and they always seem to be sporting unique finds as evidence. Even if you don’t thrift shop, you can keep up your gambling spirit with The Garment District’s by-the-pound clothes (you don’t know what you’re getting until you fork over the cash). For the less adventurous, upstairs offers try-before-you-buy nearly new threads at secondhand prices. It’s strange that one of the cheapest things to do in Boston is shopping for clothes. (200 Broadway, Boston, 617-876-5230, — Molly O’Donnell

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Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café
It’s like: The Beat ÷ Congress + Borders Books at Town Square

Everyone knows the nation’s capital doesn’t fool around when it comes to culture, but rather than brave the hordes at the Smithsonian, why not head over to Kramerbooks? Located in DuPont Circle, D.C.’s most cosmopolitan district, Kramer’s selection is exhaustive. Speaking of exhaustive: You won’t find a better store for books on politics. It more than compensates for the wonkery: Kramer’s also doubles as a café, a restaurant, a bar and an after-hours joint with live music. (1517 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., 202-387-1462, — T.R. Witcher

Tinto Restaurants

Village Whiskey and Tinto restaurants
It’s like: Firefly + Downtown Cocktail Room - Carl Icahn

The Strip was supposed to get a taste of rising-star restaurateur and champion “Iron Chef” Jose Garces at the Fontainebleau. For the time being, impatient epicures can get an appetizer where Garces got his start. His side-by-side Philadelphia restaurants show off a famously eclectic style: Village Whiskey offers stepped-up pub grub (like a steak burger sizzled in duck fat) alongside labor-intensive, Prohibition-era cocktails; neighboring Tinto dishes out Spanish tapas so authentic it’s not “tapas,” but the Basque variation, “pintxos.” Tucked away in historic Rittenhouse Square, they’ll be worth the trip even when Garces finally gets cooking in Vegas. (114 & 118 S. 20th St., Philadelphia, Village Whiskey: 215-665-1088,, Tinto: 215-665-9150,
— Joe Langdon

Chicago's Oriental Museum

The Oriental Institute Museum
It’s like: (The Luxor + Mob Museum) x Indiana Jones

Big history, small space: One of the country’s premier collections of artifacts from the near East (including Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia and Syria) is housed in a small, historic building on the campus of the University of Chicago. Fifteen minutes south of downtown via commuter train or bus (skip the El), the Oriental is a dusty and (refreshingly) non-interactive gem. The OI is unsung even among Chicagoans, so there’s a good chance crowds will be small. The museum is free — but suggested donation is $7. (1155 East 58th St., Chicago, 773-702-9514, — T.W.

C.C. Club
It’s like: (Double Down - live music) + (Crown & Anchor - Euro kitsch)

Within the last couple years, Minneapolis’s metrosexual legions got progressively smellier, tattooier and hairier. And all those traits got stuffed into a pair of work pants and pedaled down to the C.C. Club, the premier locals dive in the limbo between hip Uptown and the dirty cusp of Downtown. The red vinyl booths are mostly missing their stuffing, you’ll probably stick to the floors (which you can’t see in the dim light anyway), and the door guy looks like he got kicked off a Viking longship for roughhousing. But still, even the scariest of the bunch are just there to relax, and it’s the best place to go to escape the party bus-clobbered meat-marketification of the once proudly mohawk-infested neighborhood. Plus, they have Surly, the best microbrew in Minnesota, on tap. (2600 South Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis, 612-874-7226) — Max Plenke

The Flying Star
It’s like: The Liberace Museum + Denny’s – rhinestones

There are much better restaurants in Albuquerque and Santa Fe than the Flying Star, but none with a better slogan: “When you’ve got an itch for made from scratch.” For one thing, the food is really good, and pretty cheap. A breakfast burrito the size of a human infant runs you less than 10 bucks. For another thing, Flying Star epitomizes the down-home weirdness that makes Albuquerque one of the last great bastions of independent joints (one location features ’80s toys as décor). A little corny with my coffee? Why yes, thank you. And keep it coming. (Multiple locations in Albuquerque) — Heidi Kyser

El Chapultapec
It’s like: Black Door + Los Antojos x Ornette Coleman

Denver’s not a city that comes to mind when you think of grit — but that’s only because you haven’t been to the tiny, shacky, utterly magnificent El Chapultapec jazz club. Across the street from mighty Coors Field, on the outside, the Pec looks like a nondescript Mexican taqueria. Inside it’s standing room only for some of the best no-nonsense jazz in the country. No pretense here: The joint’s a lovely dive, the Mexican menu is basic, the pool tables in the side room are coin-operated, and the patrons know good music when they hear it. (1962 Market St., Denver, 303-295-9126) — T.W.

HMS Bounty
It’s like: (Dino’s + Champagne’s + Crown & Anchor)2

You thought all of the neighborhood bars in L.A. were gone. Lucky for you, the H.M.S. Bounty is ready to wrap you in its cozy embrace. Here, the walls are adorned with images of the seafaring life, and when you sidle up to the bar, you’d expect the regulars to launch into nostalgic tales of the vessels they worked and the catches that got away. Hipsters, wannabe actors and regular joes make their way in to kvetch with the friendly bar staff, knock back some brews and partake of the best comfort food around. (3357 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-385-7275, — Jennifer Prosser

Seattle's Elliott Bay Book CompanySEATTLE
Elliott Bay Book Company
It’s like: (Amber Unicorn + Ikea) x indie cred

If you value Pablo Neruda as much as graphic comics, swing through the creaking doors of this legendary Seattle bookstore. Grab a read, then exit into the edgy neighborhood of Capitol Hill — a mad fray of gay bars, Ethiopian food, indie film festivals and fancy-schmancy cupcake stores. Grab a palm-sized cookie from Oddfellows next door, or turn the corner to scan Everyday’s CD collection and sample balsamic strawberry ice cream at Molly Moon’s. Then plug your laptop into any local coffee shop, and let the IV caffeine drip begin. (1521 10th Ave., Seattle, 206-624-6600, — Irene Noguchi

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