Shopping
1995 Readers Poll
1995 Critics Picks
Best Backyard

This is our new favorite place to ogle beautifully crafted, pricey outdoor furniture and statuary. In the spring, the exquisite flowering sweet pea vines covering the whole fence make us fantasize about sunny suburban lawns and the income required to landscape them.

Gardens
1818 W. 35th
512/451-5490

Best Bolt Store

You need a bolt? These folks have hundreds of varieties and thousands of sizes to choose from. And we're not just talking lags, carriage, and hex head. Plop down on the barstools in front of the counter and order your plow bolts or left-handed nuts with the assurance that even your most obscure bolt needs will be met. And why stick with stainless steel when many of these handy fasteners come in brass, plastic, and non-ferrous metals like titanium? If you can appreciate the beauty in a perfectly machined thread, this is the place for you.

Best Bookstore Hangout

As if the welcoming attitude of the staff weren't enough to persuade us that this is one store where it's cool just to while away the hours, the numerous places to sit in Book People's spacious new incarnation is a clarion call for lovers of all things literary to drop a load and just hang. There are benches, wingbacks, and recliners galore (in which we've noted more than one patron reading with eyes shut). There's even an area just for meditation. We know why these book people are so forgiving of lingerers: The longer one stays, the harder it is to leave without a book.

BookPeople
603 N. Lamar
512/472-5050
www.bookpeople.com

Best Flap Joint

It's the middle of the night and the toilet is running again... that old flapper. Trek down to this plumber's hangout for the best selection of toilet flappers. They also have lots of other plumbing parts you may not find at the dis-count home store. Open seven days a week.

Best Gateway To The Twilight Zone

In the last year, this little bookshop of horrors and space cases has quietly emerged as a premier location for SF, cult, mystery, thrillers - and name authors taking time to make an appearance. In addition to a sometimes macabre sense of humor (they issued a phony announcement that [dead] author Phillip K. Dick was going to appear; it was dated April 1), they've brought in writers like C.J. Cherryh and SubGenius Church founder Ivan Stang. Then there are the titles...

Adventures in Crime & Space
609-A W. Sixth
512/473-2665

Best Inexpensive Used Furniture

Whether you're hunting hardwood furniture or a period piece (we're thinking Seventies), you'll want to stop by Hur's. Open a scant five hours a day, they offer the unusual, the beautiful, and the bizarre - all unbelievably cheap! (So cheap we hesitate to recommend lest all our lusted-after treasures are sold before we can purchase them.) The friendly proprietress will happily negotiate the price of most items. We guarantee many return trips to acquire just-one-more groovy thing you can't live without.

Best Late-Night Piñataria

Behind the large, colorful sign lies a small, mysterious building packed with both strange and traditional (current cartoon/pop culture icons) papier mâché creations. Sure, they have stated opening and closing hours; however, every time we've called, an extremely friendly gentleman assures us that he can wait for us - what time could we be there? If you don't see the piñata creation you'd like to bash the crap out of - just ask. Perhaps they will produce one from the warehouse for you. If you've never taken a big stick to a little piñata, you don't know what you're missing.

Piñata Party Palace
2023 E. Cesar Chavez
512/322-9150

Best Little Shop Of Tiles

Ever wonder what was in that building on Fifth Street - the one with the cool sunflower tile mosaic on the west wall? Answer: Tiles and plenty of 'em. Resident artiste Elena Eldelberg gets all fired up over creating made-to-order and one-of-a-kind tile designs and murals for all y'all who are tired of duck stencils.

Four Corners Tile Designs
916-A W. Third
512/320-0705

Best Natural Pet Care

Connie Moore really is a local treasure. Her informative newsletter and encyclopedic knowledge of culinary, medicinal, and cosmetic herbs are invaluable resources for everyone who happens into this quaint stone shop in South Austin. Check out the current issue of her newsletter for the straight dope about PROGRAM before you give it to your pets, and then get a copy of her book Natural Insect Repellents for Pets, People & Plants, currently in its third printing. The Herb Bar carries all the products you'll need, including repellent powders and oils.

The Herb Bar
200 W. Mary
512/444-6251
www.theherbbar.com

Best Old-fashioned Feed Store

When Buck Moore opened in an old grocery building 23 years ago, Lamar was known as the Dallas Highway. A drive-in theater sat on the corner of Lamar and Koenig Lane, the Stallion Drive-in across the street sold the best chicken-fried steaks in town, and the Buck Moore Feed Store served mostly farmers and ranchers. Now the store serves mainly urban pets, but it still offers top-quality pet and farm feed and supplies with friendly service. This is the best place in town to get bag balm for your udders, tail and mane shampoo, or a new catnip toy; they also sell garden seeds - packaged or in bulk - old-fashioned ceramic pots, and jewelry. Still family owned and operated, it usually has one of the three generations of Moores behind the counter.

Best Overall Selection

We couldn't decide between the striped, full-length dungarees or the trendy, canvas overall shorts, so we left with a snappy engineer's hat instead. Their stunning selection of sunglasses, none over 10 bucks, features rhinestones or purple lenses or scalloped fans shooting from the temple. And the gimme caps are embroidered with symbols and logos just cryptic enough to make them true conversation pieces. In between all these treasures are stacks and stacks of work pants, surgical scrubs, miniskirts, Fifties-ish T-shirts, and, of course, overalls.

Work Clothes & More
1613 West Ben White
512/444-6016

Best Place To Buy Mexican Comic Books

Want to brush up on your Spanish and experience a little Mexican pop culture at the same time? Pick up a pocket-sized Mexican novela at Maldonado's, where titles like Fuego en La Carne (Fire in the Flesh) and La Puerta Cerrada (The Closed Door) are sure to spark more interest than a textbook or language tape. The comics come in on Thursdays and they go fast, so drop by at the end of the week for the best selection.

Maldonado's Record and Video Shop
2207 E. Seventh
512/478-0020

Best Place To Rent Adult Videos

Of all the adult movie rental places we've been, this is the store with the most normal atmosphere. Folks just like us - out for a little forbidden fun - browse through the well-organized titles. Careful not to glance at each other's selections (a strange politeness in this oddly intimate place), we move silently through the maze of shelves holding titles both hideous and hilarious. Upon check out, the clerk will retrieve Back Door Bambi with the same innocent smile reserved for Disney's Bambi were it being pulled off the shelf. Open all night.

Videoasis
2101 W. Ben White Blvd
512/462-9393

Best Relocation / Transformation Of A Food Store

Last year, South Austinites were miffed that Whole Foods, Brodie Oaks, was moving north of the river. But this year the neighborhood is rejoicing the relocation of Sun Harvest from the Southwood Shopping Center to WF's vacated spot. Offering expanded selections of organic produce and meats and housing a deli, bakery, an Amy's Ice Cream dispensary, and in-store massage on the premises, they're filling the shoes of the previous incarnation quite nicely.

Sun Harvest
2917 W. Anderson, 512/444-6313
4006 S. Lamar, 512/444-3079
www.wildoats.com

Best Reopening

Ah, Europa, Europa! After yielding its central Drag location to the ultrahip, corporate Urban Outfitters, Europa - one of the few known bookstores in the universe to combine the hepness and attitude of a used book boutique with the spaciousness and selection of a big chain store - has finally resurfaced. Nestled between the Magic Wok and Mojo's Daily Grind near 28th Street, they may not have the space anymore, but they've still got the attitude - and they've even brought the cats.

Best Retreat In Oak Hill

Don't let the cautionary yellow color of the storefront put you off. Inside Hill Country Herbs you'll find a solid selection of medicinal and culinary plants and extracts, along with products for the body, home, and pets. (Good buys on beeswax candles.) Grab a cup of Red Zinger or espresso and sip it on the shaded patio out back. It's surprisingly peaceful considering its location right on Hwy290, the road of perpetual construction.

Best Retro Kitchen Equipment

We love to browse all the fascinating departments at Callahan's, but our current favorite has to be their housewares department under the direction of Leora Wilson. If you're looking for canning equipment, pressure cookers, White Mountain manual or electric ice cream freezers, or one of those contraptions to scrape the kernels off the corn cob, Leora has it and she'll be glad to tell you how to use it. Then, at the check-out area, you can choose from their selection of dinner bells to call your crew to eat.

Best Rum Selection

We wouldn't call ourselves rummies, but rum is our especial favorite fermented beverage. Hill's Super Liquor is where we head when we need to slake our thirst. We gaze in rapt wonderment (really) at the vast array of light, dark, and golden rums. Should we require more information, the incredibly knowledgeable sales staff can give us the complete scoop. Alas, Haitian rum is currently verboten, but when it's back Reuben's/Hill's will have it, and there we'll head tra-la-la to seize and drink it.

Best Selection Of First Family Paper Dolls

At least 20 presidential families are represented in this extensive collection. Take home Dick, Pat, and Tricia Nixon and dress them in their elegant selection of togs. Or FDR and Eleanor; Jimmy, Rosalyn, and Amy; the rather lackluster Trumans.... Clotheshorses Ronnie and Nancy rate a book apiece. (Their children are mysteriously absent.) This is also the place to pick up books about presidential dogs, packets of wildflowers, and historic campaign memorabilia.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
2313 Red River
512/721-0200
www.lbjlib.utexas.edu

Best Selection Of Mexican Imports

There is stiff competition in this category because our hearts belong to Tesoros, El Interior, and Eclectic. But we've recently fallen in love with the new, eye-catching building on South Lamar filled with well-chosen folk art, jewelry, glassware, gifts, santos, and retablos from Mexico.

Mara
1623 S. Lamar
512/462-2979

Best Spot For Comics By Austin Artists

Austin boasts a veritable Justice Leagueful of fine shops devoted to four-color heroics and black-and-white drama: Big State, Dragon's Lair, Funny Papers, etc. But for a surreal spin with Sam Hurt's Eyebeam or a java jolt of Shannon Wheeler's Too Much Coffee Man, we head to Austin Books. Local artists have their own big rack, and we can be sure to find what's being drawn here, from the bigger imprints such as Adhesive and Discovery to the many mini-comics put out by most anyone with a pen. And the genial staff makes us feel like Austin's comics fans are as valuable as its artists.

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar
512/454-4197
www.austinbooks.com

Best Tread Trade-in

If your sneakers just aren't going that extra mile, jog down to Run-Tex for a replacement. They have a huge selection of running shoes at prices comparable to the big sporting good stores, and a staff who knows their specialty inside and out. Leave your old shoes behind and you'll get $10 off the new pair; Run-Tex donates your trade-ins to the homeless.

RunTex
422 W. Riverside, 512/472-3254
2201 Lake Austin Blvd., 512/477-9464
www.runtex.com

Best Urban Music Selection

What was once a small, but chock-full, record collector's hideaway in the old Delwood Plaza has exploded into a contender for the local retail market. The store grew along with the strip mall's expansion and seems to have found its funky niche in keeping a supply to meet the demand for urban, rap, hip-hop, and dance music. They haven't forgotten their roots, however, and maintain a healthy stock of used vinyl and CDs.

Best Used Cookbook Selection

On a daily basis, you can't beat these folks with their large selection of used cookbooks and back issues of all the major food magazines. Considering the astronomical retail price of cookbooks these days, it pays to check the shelves regularly if there is a title you just can't live without.

Half-Price Books
3110 Guadalupe
512/451-4463
www.halfpricebooks.com/

 
Critics: Services
1995 Intro

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