2003 Readers Poll
2003 Critics Picks
Best "Soft T-shirt" Selection

First, to define the “soft T-shirt”: a short-sleeved shirt bearing hip, nonspecific insignia (i.e., old rec-team jerseys, colorful ones bought in tourist way stations, those recalling hair-band tours ...) whose 99% cotton fabric has been reduced to a sheetlike thickness, with a feeling reminiscent of pure silk. Like stalactites, these "soft T-shirts" must be formed over time, from years of fabric polishing against skin, from countless washes, from wadded, trampled abuse. Ultimately they are sold to various vintage-clothing stores, most notably Buffalo Exchange on the Drag, which stocks four whole racks of "soft T-shirts" in a rich panoply of colors and styles. Their vintage-wardrobe experts arbitrarily price these shirts from $6 to an exorbitant $20 ... yet with something that only gets better with age, this is a bargain.

Buffalo Exchange
2904 Guadalupe

Best Colorful Collection of Cotton

Walking into the Quilt Store makes us feel as though we’ve stepped onto a rainbow. Boasting more than 300 bolts of fabric, this place is a quilter’s paradise. Even if you’re not a quilter, it’s still fun to peruse the rows and rows of colorful cotton fabric where you’ll find everything from calico to floral prints to cool batik. Inspired by all the fabric? Well, they have classes, too.

The Quilt Store Inc.
2700 W. Anderson #301

Best Community Thrift

St. Vincent's makes us want to sing opera, rip velvet, run down the street in an antimacassar and a crepe-paper tutu. Here's a thrift store you can visit every darn day (and some do … cough, ahem) and not grow weary of the ambience – it's a split-level paradise of infinite merchandise, staffed by the Ladies of Charity.

St. Vincent de Paul Store
1327 S. Congress

Best Cool Vintage Wear

An aura of the new hip eminates from this funky vintage store. Recently relocated to a larger location on the main part of the Drag, it is a paradise of old T-shirts, busted bluejeans, retro tops, and other unique treasures from the past. So whether you're looking for that hard to find Purple Rain or original Star Wars T, or just want to fit in better with the crowd at the Spider House, Denim Edge is the place to shop.

2354 Guadalupe

Best Costumes and Accessories

They have it all ... anything you want to be. Lucy In Disguise, a staple on the SoCo strip for years, is jam-packed with costume ideas for renting as well as purchase. From head to toe to fingertips, you can deck yourself out as Cleopatra, Dracula, a cheerleader, or an alien, or you can assemble your own look from the wigs and jewelry to the thousands of accessories available. With knowledgeable and friendly help, Lucy's is the place.

Lucy in Disguise
1506 S. Congress

Best Gifts for Teachers, Writers, and Other Communicators

From the banks of the ancient Nile, the stalk of the cyprus papyrus plant provided a light, durable, and, most importantly, transportable surface for visual and written communication: the precursor to modern paper. From Central Park in central Austin, reams of AstroBrite pale in comparison to the wild and woolly array of cardstocks and handmade papers available at this local hub for postmodern parchment. Additionally, Paper Place offers custom printing services (thermography, letterpress, engraving, etc.) and a dizzying stock of cool writers' wares (not to mention, the Best Teacher Gifts Ever), like journals, frames, photo albums, fancy pens, and paper by the slice. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, they even carry papyrus.

Paper Place
4001 N. Lamar

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Home Accessories

With a rich background in the buying of fine home goods and housewares from Europe and beyond, owners Richard and Heidi Adams have assembled an ever-changing collection of furniture and home accessories to covet. The combination of antique and reproduction, as well as their own designs in sumptuous fabrics and clean lines makes Central Homegoods an Austin shopping destination. Just off of West Sixth, for gift shopping, Central Homegoods is exceptional – the nicest gifts being the ones you'll buy for yourself.

Central Homegoods
512 Rio Grande

Best Jewelers to the Stars

What do Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lopez, Uma Thurman, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Liv Tyler, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Natasha Richardson, Meryl Streep, Cher, Vanessa Redgrave, Britney Spears, Sandra Bullock, and Laura Bush all have in common? They've all decked themselves in jewels from David Nakard Armstrong and Anthony Camargo, better known as the jewelry designers Anthony Nak. The combination of gorgeous gemstones and stunningly original design make every piece of Anthony Nak jewelry easily identifiable and breathtakingly desirable ... but the best part is that they're based right here in Austin, of course.

Anthony Nak
800 Brazos

Best Leather

Can’t find a cool leather belt with your name on it? No problem. Head over to Tandy Leather Co., and they’ll fix you right up. They have all the supplies to make belts, wallets, moccasins, and more: Let your imagination run wild. Whether you’re looking for a kit to make said items or just a nice piece of suede to construct a superfly shirt, they’ve got you covered. It is the place for leather after all.

Tandy Leather Co.
5318 Cameron

Best New Bookstore

When Elana and Julianne, the team behind South Austin's Escapist Bookstore, had the chance to meet author Michael Chabon (whose book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay inspired the local booktique's name), they presented him with a camisole and panties emblazoned with the Escapist's logo: a superwoman breaking through chains. This hero is supercharged with the power of fiery and volatile mixtures: sexiness and intelligence, high brow and low. The Escapist loves to bask in the glow of such hot intersections. They sell not only books, but "deconstructed" fashion; they also host parties, plays, multimedia art installations, and events like Book Punk, where music and literature merge in such seemingly unwieldy combinations as Neal Pollack and the Yuppie Pricks. The Escapist bridges the gap between hip, edgy, independent, DIY culture, and the written word.

Escapist Bookstore
2209 S. First Ste. D

Todd V. Wolfson

Best New Place to Keep Austin Austin

Moxie and the Compound is Ye Old House of New Funky. Owner and designer Kayci "Wickedly Hilariously and Supremely Talented" Wheatly has opened a spectacular shop featuring the splendid artistry of at least a few dozen local designers and artists. From wearable art like groovy Clash T-shirts to mosaic lazy Susans and gorgeous journals, the place is full of brightness not only in the line of fab stuff but in the people who serve it up. With a special area for kids to hang out, parents feel welcome, not scowled upon for bringing the family. And there's a stylin', spacious performance barn out back that plays stage to such excellent events as's Screaming in the Freezer.

Moxie and the Compound
909 W. Mary

Best New Sports Store

Tyler's specializes in surf- and swimwear, a wide selection of athletic clothing and equipment, a variety of retro sporting shoes, and one of the largest selections of Reefs in Texas. They also carry tennis rackets, skateboards, lacrosse sticks, and any kind of ball you might need. In addition to all of this, Tyler's is an Oakley premium dealer, and the store location in West Lake will string your tennis rackets. This local business has it all, even if you're just looking for a nice pair of Tiddies.

701 Capital of TX Hwy. S.

Best Old-School Thrift Store

Expect no real order, no attempt at hipness, no affectation when you enter the world of the Assistance League thrift store. This place is a throwback to when thrift stores were well-kept secrets and not everyone had caught on to the cool fashions and great furnishings and excellent accouterments to be found secondhand. You'll have to dig around and check back regularly, but, hey, that's what dedicated thrifties do anyway, right? The staff is 100% volunteer (kicking in 34,000 hours per year), and about 95% of the profits go to help six philanthropic projects including the Children's Hospital, domestic-abuse survivors, low-income kids who need school clothes and supplies, and foster children transitioning to life on their own. Plus, they have unbelievably great prices.

Assistance League of Austin
4901 Burnet Rd.

Best Permanent Garage Sale

The furniture and architectural salvage items are slung all over the property under the open sky, elements be damned. And the glassware and pottery is ... wherever you stumble across it. Oh, except a lot of the bric-a-brac is inside the house, in the kitchen. Inside, too, is where most of the clothing, linens, and suchlike are heaped and hung about the other rooms – except when you find them outside, right where someone has dropped them ... OK, it only got rained on a little. Welcome to Austin Found, where searching for those secondhand treasures has never been more fun for those who abhor organization. Even those who crave a little more order gotta respect the proprietor's sign: "This is my house. I'll keep it the way I want it."

Austin Found
2050 S. Lamar

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Pickin's on the Edge of Town

From the outside, you'd almost expect Mr. Haney from Green Acres to appear, shilling his many dog-eared wares. Inside, however, Log Cabin Antiques is more like grandma's attic – before the good-for-nuthin' family picked over the old dear's stuff. Log Cabin is the perfect place to start your Saturday thrift/vintage/antique jaunts out to the Hill Country.

Log Cabin Antiques
9600 Hwy. 290 W.

Best Place to Get Your Freaky Stylee On, Baby

John Gomi has what you need, if what you need is the fiercest import and NYC-certified hipster-cool outfits on the planet (and trust us, you need it). Fashionistas and groove-trawlers come from far and wide to hang, bang, and develop new slang at Gomi's new SoCo locale, where loitering with intent is strictly encouraged. Local artists bedeck the walls, and wicked sartorial excursions occur like a Takashi Murakami clockwork. Scratch the Kitti.

1313 S. Congress

Best Selection of MikWright Products

Nestled in a shopping center on Anderson Lane is an ample selection of the unique line of MikWright products. With a slogan like “greetings that provoke” this line is worth checking out. Retro photos and catchy lines like, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, I want to hear it,” are what it’s all about. While the MikWright cards might be available at other snazzy locations around town, Zinger offers the most complete array of this national line of fun products. They carry a good chunk of the line including cards, beverage napkins, note pads, and coffee mugs. Whose day wouldn’t be a little brighter with some sass from MikWright?

Zinger Hardware & General Merchant
2438 W. Anderson

Best Shoe Shopping

The clothing, in the front of the house, is hip and chic. But if like us, you haven't worn any of the sizes Fetish carries since you were in junior high, march to the back of the store to the shoe department, hon. There you will find your bliss. One friend of ours proclaims the footwear temptations awaiting her there "evil." Fetish seems to understand this famous struggle with the female shoe budget and has a generous frequent-buyer program, charmingly dubbed the "Imelda Club."

1112-E N. Lamar

Best Yarn Fix for the Addicted Knitter

Yarnies of all skill levels would do well to pop over to this SoCo haven in order to do justice to their addiction – er, hobby. This heaven on Earth for the practitioner of the textile arts offers up a wide selection of imports from elegant Italian silks to scratchy Japanese wools, as well as cute novelty bits and fluffy cashmere skeins you’ll want to fondle until you notice the staff giving you the stink eye.

Hill Country Weavers
1701 S. Congress

Best-Kept Secret Hidden Guitar Shop

You remember those underground genius guys on The X-Files? Well the guys at Guitar Rez (as it is known) are to the stringed axe what those guys were to paranormal phenomena. They are dedicated, have been there for 25 years, and are pretty well hidden in the back of a parking lot behind a steak house. Recently, Guitar Rez-resident Dave was observed taking his time showing a new young guitarist how to put on a new D string. His reverence – for guitar and customer – were refreshing in a town where it's just as easy to find yourself waited on by some impatient guitar snob. They have tons of new and used equipment, too.

Guitar Resurrection
3004 Guadalupe #8

Critics: Services
2003 Intro

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