1998 Readers Poll
1998 Critics Picks

photograph by John Anderson   John Anderson

B(r)est Advice To New Mothers

Breast feeding may seem as if it should be instinctive but any new mom will assure you it's not. Getting that babe latched on or figuring out how to work a breast pump takes a bit more than just a willing spirit; it takes a little help and a lot of practice. Donna Cordoba can't provide the practice, but she can provide the help. Her breast feeding classes make new mothers feel like Mother Superior, and make any partner feel a part of it all.

Donna Cordoba

Best (if Not Only) Pedicure By A Straight Man

With the deft touch and attentive manner that have made him indispensable to the leading ladies of Austin's political and cultural milieux, Roberto will bathe, exfoliate, and massage your feet. He will slather them with mint masque and wind them up in muslin strips. He will make them smooth as marble and fragrant as flowers, with each toenail a bright-hued petal. An excellent way to relieve stress or prepare for a birthday, wedding, or major sexual encounter.

Great Fillings Nail Salon
3027 N. Lamar

Best Collective Services For The Aging

It's not like the world doesn't already spin fast enough, but it seems to be spinning faster and faster, and orbitals seem to turn more and more frequently. As we age, does it become even more a blur? The AGE (Austin Groups for the Elderly) Building, located in the purportedly haunted ex-home of the Confederate Women's Home at the corner of Cedar & 38th, is now home to a variety of social service organizations, most of which specifically serve the needs of Austin's elderly. There's Elderhaven Adult Day Care, Family Eldercare, Eloise's House Alzheimer's program, and the SeniorNet Learning Center, a "Computer 101" of sorts specially geared to the needs of older folks catching up to technology's twisting curve. The AGE Building is also home to other nonprofits like The Nonprofit Center and Artists' Legal & Accounting Assistance (AALA). Sharing important resources, instead of reinventing the wheel earns this collection of public service entities a hat's off from us.

AGE Building
3710 Cedar

Best Dogsitter

Bart "Dog Boy" Emken's15-acre ranch is like doggie camp. You get a vacation, Rover gets to frolic on scenic trails. Exercise and loads of attention - what more could your buddy ask for? Emken also provides an affordable doggie-day care for working parents and obedience classes.

Positive Power Kennel

Best Electrician

Are you tired of hitting your head on the light fixture DIY'd by the previous owners? Maybe you don't like that little shock every time you want to turn on the porch light or ring the doorbell. Who ya gonna call? How about the O'Bannons? Exacting perfectionists in a sea of not-quites, they do a thorough, clean, professional job. They have excellent follow-through; the job will be done before they're outta there.

O'Bannon Electrical Enterprises
8203 Roan

Best Employee Benefits

We were awestruck and then envious when we heard the local Four Seasons property provided massages and other therapeutic support to its staff during the annual spring endurance marathon known as SXSW. Management wanted to be sure the chefs, waitstaff, bartenders, and bellmen had all the stamina needed to give the industry guests at the unofficial schmooze central the best possible service. Wow.

Four Seasons Hotel
98 San Jacinto

Best Film, Video, And Production Equipment

One of the contributing factors to the rapid growth of any film community is a reliable, well-maintained equipment rental house for both studio and independent filmmakers. And if you haven't noticed, Austin's love of film has been spreading around the city like wildfire, bringing about production of many major films, including Hope Floats and The Faculty. A contributor to this growth is Gear, an equipment rental warehouse with everything you need to help get your vision up on screen. Lights, cameras, dollies, film, video - you name it, they got it.

912 E. Fifth

Best Friend In Need To Ailing Animals

Domestic pets make up a significant part of Austin's animal population, but there's also a variety of other wild denizens populating our locale, including birds, opossums, raccoons, and deer. When an animal is ill or badly injured, its chance of survival and recovery can be greatly enhanced by timely human intervention. Wildlife Rescue is an all-volunteer organization whose members help fill that need.

Austin Wildlife Rescue
5401 E. MLK

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

Best Guitar Maker

Behind the green door of his workshop, in front of the hall of bad art, Jamie Kinscherff makes guitars you're kind of afraid to touch. Gleaming pieces of wood seamlessly come together, deep deep browns and mellow yellows, a long graceful neck, and precision inlay so fine you're squinting and bringing your clumsy old self in closer to inspect, a little too close probably. You try not to breathe. Because it is a work in progress, and Jamie's sort of fluttering around, nervous himself, even if he's built hundreds of guitars, could probably do it in his sleep. Not that he'd risk it, though, not with one of his babies. Here is a man, after all, who was a boy buying guitars from pawn shops to fix up, and a newcomer to the guitar business way back in 1978. Skinny, pony-tailed, Jamie Kinscherff, whose love for guitars has kept him at it all this time, who talks about money constantly because he's never had any until recently. Word of mouth via the Internet, these days, he has customers from all over the world. And he makes instruments, when you finally bring yourself to try, that sing under the hands, even yours.

Kinscherff's Guitars
102 W. Annie

Best Hassle-free Place To Take Your Aging Vehicle For Inspection

They run a homegrown, 14-year-old car inspection biz, working out of an old shed with an electric fan and a yellow lab on hand for company. There's no waiting room, just a few lawn chairs on a dirt lot under an old shade tree. These guys will go the extra mile (patch jobs, etc.) to get you back on the road in short order. They're damn friendly, too.

Alan's Vehicle Inspections
5253 N. Lamar

Best Leg & Bikini Waxing

Waxing is one of those things you don't even know you need until you suddenly find you can't live without it, and Ruby Aldridge is the woman to show you why. Formerly of the ever-fabulous Bella, now with her own brand-new place, this Colombia-born aesthetician is fast, thorough, reasonably priced ($35 for half-leg), and very sweet. She offers both waxing and sugaring as well as facials, brow and lash dying, and other body treatments. We will never shave our legs again.

Ruby Aldridge
507 Powell

Best Local Safety Net

Formerly the Caritas Clinic, the Tuesday and Thursday free evening clinic has been treating those without insurance or Medicaid for more than 30 years. Last year the clinic treated more than 5,000 patients on a budget of $150,000 using 380 volunteers. The clinic's clientele includes the unemployed and workers unable to afford health insurance.

Volunteer Healthcare Clinic
4215 Medical Parkway

Best Name For A Urologist In Austin

Don't be fooled by the name. He knows what he is doing. Need we say more?

Richard Chopp
11410 Jollyville

Best Non-committal Swing Lessons

One... two... rock step. One... two... rock step. Swing dancing is back in fashion, and we wanted to learn without committing a lot of time or money. Four on the Floor offers swing lessons at three locations with a relaxed environment that is inviting even to beginners. Don't worry about calling ahead, just show up ready for a great time.

Four on the Floor

Best Place That Really Gets Under Your Skin

This salon is a little low on atmosphere (the waxing room in particular receives low marks for being a most unwelcoming place to get your short hairs torn out by the roots), but what it lacks in decor is more than made up for in service. A native of Poland, Halina has been poring over Austin womens' skin for over 25 years, and she and her staff know their business. On your first visit, you should brace yourself for a bit of a lecture (example: "Your eyebrrrows have been rrruined by yooou!"), but take the reprimand in stride, follow their advice, and dang if you don't have some better-looking skin. Halina also offers a well-priced line of her own skin care products, but there's never any pressure to buy.

Halina European Day Spa & Salon
5359 Burnet Rd., 512/452-3500
7720 O'Connor Dr., Round Rock, 512/246-9700

Best Place To Find Good Old Electronics

You wouldn't believe what we went through looking for a transcribing machine that uses standard-size cassette. Back in our day (the pre-digital ice age-) Dictaphones and transcribers were staple journalist tools. Try telling that to these upstart, barely shaving, embryonic whippersnappers clerking at the local personal-electronics-marts. "Huh?" "Do you mean like a Karaoke machine?" "A Dict-a-Who?" were all true-life responses to our desperate pleas for assistance. Well, we knew we found analog heaven when we called Anthony from Anthony's Electronics. "Exactly what sort are you looking for? Do you have a specific brand in mind? I believe I have an actual Dictaphone brand in the back-." Sold! He also said to come back in 30 days if anything went wrong, threw in a set of nice name-brand headphones, and offered to keep an eye out should we need more. Now that's service.

Best Place To Gain No Pain

For the past nine years the compassionate professionals at Austin Pain Therapy have helped thousands of chronic pain sufferers improve the quality of their lives. Utilizing an eclectic mixture of more traditional physical therapies - your basic stretching, relearning your household or job tasks and exercise; in the water and out, as well as the less traditional choices for physical ailments, biofeedback and psychotherapy, the therapists guide you through a program tailored to your specific needs and abilities. When we started our program we thought the pictures of smiling clients lining the walls seemed a little New Age, sappy, happy. When we finished, we understood those moony grins and contributed one of our own.

Austin Pain Therapy Associates
4000 Medical Pkwy. #100

Best Place To Take A Shower Away From Home

Something about stepping into the tiled steam showers after a massage at Salon 505 says, unapologetically, "I am pampering myself, okay?" Sprigs of eucalyptus dangle from the shower head, filling the booth with heady vapors. Shower gels and shampoos redolent of herbs are perched on a shelf for the lathering. Wrap yourself in the hotel-grade, white terry robe as your redo your makeup. Sip some herbal tea. Greet the outside world again. Why is it you never remember to treat yourself this well at home?

Salon 505 The Day Spa
The Arboretum, Suite 141, 10000 Research

Best Plumber

Master plumber since 1983, Bruce David prefers service work. The guy to talk to when it comes to replacing your water-guzzling toilet with the ultra-low flush kind. Not only will he fix the leak but will explain why you should use the better connector to avoid problems in the future or why you can use what you have instead of spending extra on that part that's not really better. Plus, he's a great resource for replacing that crunched toilet tank lid. He guarantees his work for a year.

Bruce David Johnson
1904 Eva

Best Precision Cutters

Using a high-pressure water stream, these folks can custom cut through any flat material including rubber, plastic, foam, Masonite, wood, glass, stone, tile, metal - anything as long as it's flat. Watch out, Clark Kent! Pieter Tirion's in town and he does it all with water.

AquaJet, Inc.
1708-B Hydro

Best Reason To Get Up At 8am On Sunday

Just when you thought that going to church was going out of style, UBC shows up with a thoroughly modern message: Come one, come all. Refusing to back down from its acceptance of homosexuals in church leadership, UBC was booted out of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Austin Baptist Association. Far from scaring off churchgoers, however, the headline-making decisions have church attendance on the rise.

University Baptist Church
2130 Guadalupe

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Best Roving Photographer

"The Mexican photographer with an Italian name - American citizen with a Japanese camera" is how Tom Borrocio, better known as Mr. Flash, bills himself. Never mind that you can hardly eat a dinner without seeing him wandering by with his Polaroid camera, ready to snap you with your mouth open or looped on margaritas. The pics cost $6, he'll even tell you a joke. Funny how few takers there are for that part, though...

Guero's Taco Bar
1412 S. Congress

Best Salon To Dye For

When you can't get in to see your fave stylist because sheis being featured at a prestigious color convention, you know you're in the right place - even though your roots may have to wait a week. It's also a testament to how well the salon is managed that the turnover in stylists is slow, even if the employees' own hair color changes almost weekly. Still, Astarte has earned a national reputation with Elle Magazine noting it as one of the "Top Ten Salons in the Nation," a feature in the June issue of Modern Salon magazine, three master colorists on staff, and owner Tisa Bean as a Guest Artist at the International Hair Color Exchange for two years running. Killer color and daring do's - where else but Astarte?

318 Colorado

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

Best Shoe & Leather Repair Shop

This neat shoe repair shop boasts that it can repair anything leather and for a good price. The owner does all the repairs himself and has 34 years experience at his trade. He tucks all the sole stitching so as not to expose it to wear and tear - something not all shoe shops do. He claims to keep Barbara Bush's guards on their toes, if you know what we mean. Check out the 17 Spanish movies for rent on video at the South Congress store.

Costilla Shoe Repair
3000 S. Congress

Best String Instrument Shop

Whether you are looking to buy a violin, viola, cello, string bass, etc. or want to get the one you own fixed up, this is the place to go. Fair prices and great service make this shop indispensable. The McDavid brothers know these instruments inside and out and you can pick up some tips on where the good fishin' holes are too.

Austin Violins
7801 N. Lamar

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

Best Swimming Pool Cleaner

What do you want from a pool cleaner, besides a great body? You want reasonable prices, reliable service, and really quick response when the thing turns sickly green the day before the big party. With Pool Aide, you get all this plus a truly clever name and a star-studded résumé that includes cleaning the pool of the beloved bygone lesbian band Two Nice Girls.

Pool Aide

Best Thing About Owning A Mac

This place won our hearts and hard drives back in 1996, but they continue to come to our rescue with their first-class service. Owner Ken Gould provides Mac users with complete Macintosh resources. Customers like them because they understand what they're doing - and they're honest about what's best. Hey, if it's good enough for Vanessa Redgrave, Mike Judge, and Emilio Estevez when they breeze through town, it's good enough for us. Ask Ken about the time Vanessa fixed him lunch!

Mac Alliance
900 Old Koenig Ln.

Best Time & Temp Announcement

Austin is fortunate to have not one, not two, but three operating Time & Temperature dial-up phone services. While all three provide essential information in a pleasant and competent manner, we give the special wink and nod to our favorite one offered as a service by Frost Bank - one we hope they continue to sponsor for years to come. Frost's bouncy, perky announcer makes us doubletake every time. We think she sounds just like Betty White as "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ellen Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Turns out, the voice we've grown to love belongs to Florida native Jane Barbe, who has worked for over 25 years nationally as a voice-over artist and more specifically as a well-recognized "Time & Temperature Lady." Her voice is on many a Bell System recording, as well as on the National Bureau of Standards Shortwave Radio (WWV) Time Signal. Her patter on our Austin time service is the same everytime, except where the relevant data changes: She tells us that this line receives 5,000-8,000 calls daily, gives the exact time of day, and throws in the temperature for good measure. We're just waiting for the day when she slips in some lacivious Sue Ellen one-liner, like, "I know a hundred ways to turn a party into a real affair!"

Frost Bank
401 Congress

Best Upholsterer

After fire heavily damaged her shop last year, upholsterer Sabrina Stewart managed to recover from the burn-out nicely. In fact, re-covering nicely is her specialty as she makes house calls to turn that piece of crap couch of yours into something you can really sink your butt into. Her custom seam work - services also include special orders such as placemats - is seamless.

Best Way To Avoid The Post Office

Drive-thru postal services are unacknowledged gifts from heaven. This little business has been faithfully shipping off late Christmas gifts from one of our editors for five years now and only one has been late. Besides standard mail services (U.S., FedEx, and UPS), they sell boxes and packaging, make keys, offer mailbox and fax service. Riverside even has a notary public service that's quite reasonable ($5 first page, $1 thereafter) all while you sit in your car. Of course, you can go inside, but wouldn't that defeat the purpose of its convenience?

Drive-Thru Postal
1712 E. Riverside

Best Way To Feel Safe And Sound

The people here take things seriously when it comes to safety. They offer classes in personal safety, self-defense, bodyguard services, concealed handgun training, physical control & restraint, first aid, and seminars and training for special groups. Owner Sam Langford's got a great smile and knows his stuff!

Austin Security Concepts (ASC)
3116 S. Congress

Most Dependable Artist Safety Nets

Austin is a town as dedicated to public service as it is to maintaining its "Live Music Capital of the World" status. It stands to reason that our public service and entertainment communities would intersect. Artists' Accounting & Legal Assistance (AALA) offer up to 10 hours of pro bono accounting and legal services to artists for arts-related matters. They help demystify the twisted maze of legalese, assisting in things like contract negotiation, copyright, accounting, tax laws, and more. The organization also sponsors a number of helpful seminars open to the public. SIMS Foundation was formed in memory of local musician Sims Ellison, who committed suicide in June of '95, two weeks after his band Pariah officially was dropped from Geffen Records. Like many musicians, Sims felt he was on his own to deal with stress, depression, and an unfulfilled creative drive. Is it really better to burn out than to fade away? Where does one turn for help? The foundation responds to musicians, artists, and others in the music biz in trouble and assists in providing mental health care at affordable costs. Peyton Wimmer of the SIMS Foundation and Michele Polgar of AALA not only represent the many people who volunteer, support, and finance these organizations, but also reflect the absolute best this town has to offer. We are proud to reside here all the more because of them.

SIMS Foundation
P.O. Box 2152, Austin, TX 78768

Artists' Accounting & Legal Assistance (AALA)
PO Box 2577

Most Reliable Key-cutters & Locksmiths

Seems like every chain store, discount shop, and mega hardware mart has a key cutter these days. Sure, it's convenient, but have you had great luck with the keys? We haven't. Nope. In too many cases, the keys are cut by whatever clerk happens to be stuck with the shift. Sure, key cutting is not rocket science, but for every crappy key we've had return, we think it might be an art. Owen Cothron began his key and lock service out of a newspaper stand on Congress Avenue in 1948. Four shops (including two bike shops), 18 service trucks, and 50 years later, Cothron's is Central Texas' largest locksmith firm. The demand for service is high, but as they say, "Good help is hard to find." So to develop personnel, Cothron's also started the state's first locksmithing school. Now the State of Texas is coming to them to help develop guidelines for state's first venture into locksmith licensing.

8225 Burnet Rd., 512/454-9547
2119 N. Mays, Round Rock, 512/246-3979

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

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