2004 Readers Poll
2004 Critics Picks
Best Amp & Guitar Repair

Good, reasonable, and ... uh ... maybe not exactly cheerful, but do you want your shit fixed or not? Chances are owner Walter Hutcherson has been repairing guitars longer than you've been playing them, so if on occasion he seems a little gruff, it's because he's seen a thousand other ignorant punks just like you walk through his door and request the impossible. Trust him. If it’s possible, he’ll get it done. Ditto for Jon Bessent, the amp repair guy and designer of the famous Austone fuzz stompboxes played by people like Billy Gibbons, Boomer Norman, and Paul English. Jon won’t be winning Mr. Congeniality anytime soon either, but you’re not paying him to blow smoke up your ass. If you’re a volume junkie, Ken, the relatively affable guy in the back, does speaker re-coning, which pretty much makes Musical Exchange a triple threat for Austin guitar slingers. Just, for God’s sake, don’t bring them a solid state.

Musical Exchange
123 E. North Loop

Best Child Care

Serving preschoolers from 18 months on up, JCC's Early Childhood Program is more than a day care. It’s a structured environment where kids can do stuff from learning to speak to creating their first artwork. They offer different periods throughout the day, like science, art, and reading time. With small classes, the kids make good friends, and the teachers have the time and energy to be creative and attentive. It’s a great place; the kids love it.

Dell Jewish Community Center
7300 Hart

Best Free-Range Free Ranging

As many a classic rocker will be happy to relate, the road can be a cold, hard, unappetizing place – especially if you attempt to maintain a healthy, perhaps even fringe-y, regimen thereon. Luckily for all you globetrotting freaks, there’s With an eye toward the organic and the sustainable, this operated-locally, thinking-globally site lists hundreds of businesses worldwide that offer chemical-free food, lodging, and other goods and sundries, as well as a smattering of articles, reviews, a hot list, and even an online sommelier, in a digitally pleasing setting. Printed guides and a completely free format are in the works.

Best Head Massage

Oh, yeah. Strong hands working aromatherapeutic oils through tired, frizzy hair. Working those pressure points and relaxing the temples. Exhaustion becomes relaxation, and heaven’s gates open. Kelly Behrends, owner and sole proprietor of Platypus Hair Salon, knows a thing or two about a killer head massage. He sliced shears for five years at Avant before striking out on his own. Now, in the quaint Cafe Mundi strip off East Fifth, the man has attained hero status. And his cuts rival Hollywood hands down. Good hands, nice smells, and a keen fashion sense? Kelly Behrends: the model of the perfect man.

Platypus Hair Salon
2604 Guadalupe

Best Honest, Cheap Car Repair

Limited budgets leave little room for unexpected, extra expenses – like car repairs. But when that dreadful feeling occurs, when your engine begins to sing a new noise or nothing happens when you turn the key, Unlimited Auto Repair is the place to turn. These three guys will look at your car in a timely manner, give you a no-bull answer as to what is wrong, and if the problem is something inconsequential, they will not tell you that you need an $1,800 valve job. They will simply fix the problem for a reasonable fee. (True personal story: One time, we had a repair situation that turned out to be so simple, and their response so honest and efficient, the "price" was a six-pack of beer!) Plus, these guys really, truly love cars. Anyone that can say "she's really a beauty" about a '96 tan Honda Accord deserves to be both celebrated and supported.

Unlimited Auto Repair
4500 Duval St.

Best Laundry Curb Service

Like Sonic, but without the corn dogs, Home Steam Laundry sends attendants out to your car window to deliver a smile along with that order. The friendly crew of longtimers gets to know regulars over time, as automobiles act as distinct calling cards. Attentive service and affordable prices on their long list of dry cleaning and laundry services keep them competitive, and their convenient location at Manor and the Cherrywood/Chestnut divide keeps them hopping. The only thing missing is the tater tots – unless, of course, that's what you wiped on your favorite Fiorucci and that's why you're at the dry cleaners in the first place ...

Home Steam Laundry & Cleaners
2301 Manor Rd.

Best New Bar in Town

Check out the extremely cool new service for Mac users at the Apple Store in the Barton Creek Square Mall. You make an appointment with a "Genius" and sit at the bar. The genius then helps you troubleshoot your Mac problems. Even though it's situated in a mall setting, the vibe is a vacuum of happy calm – like a Jetson-era mental health spa. There are plenty of Apple toys to play with, or you may bring your laptop and plug it in and use their wi-fi to surf the Web while you await your turn. Extra kudos to manager Jonathan and Genius Alex for exhibiting more patience than Job with certain customers with broken computers who act like crackheads denied a fix or at least like 2-year-olds who haven't had their naps.

Apple Store
2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/634-0520
11410 Century Oaks Terrace, 512/691-4800

Best Place to Get a Little Scratch for a Trip to Mexico

During the Great Depression thousands of young men and women hopped trains, mostly looking for work: early summer hay to harvest in California; corn and wheat in the Midwest; in the early fall hops, berries, and fruit in the Pacific-Northwest; and Texas cotton to pick in the winter. Today they do the same thing, sort of. Though in smaller numbers, train-hopping hobos still exist; however, trends in pharmaceutical research, not crop cycles, determine their migratory patterns. The expansion westward has turned inward: instead of hoes breaking ground, needles piercing skin. Instead of picking strawberries and apples, popping Dioxin and anti-coagulates. A friend of mine described PPD as "a sleep-away summer camp with needles." Free pool, endless hours of television, and no one to tell you to shave and get a job. If you want to travel up the East Coast, pick up some pocket change at PPD locations in Blue Bell, Pa., Richmond, Va.; and West 57th St., New York, N.Y.

PPD Development
706-A Ben White Blvd.

Best Place to Look for a Job

Looking for a job is a pain. The WorkSource Career Center makes it a little less painful for those lacking the necessary resources to fully launch an effective job hunt. The center provides access to free phones, computers, and a large database for job searching. They offer classes on interviewing as well as résumé workshops geared toward those out of practice selling themselves on paper. WorkSource staff members are friendly and empathetic, and they do their best to aid in networking. The center also offers a child care center to help parents juggle the demands of family and career, as well as a youth career center to help teens and young adults obtain first-time, temporary, or part-time jobs, as well as internships.

Various locations, including 6505 Airport Blvd., Ste. 101-A, 454-WORK

Best Place to Pamper Your Hands and Feet

"And I love the row of pedicure chairs – I feel like a queen on her throne when I'm there!" a neighborhood salon owner raved about the facilities at this wonderful new nail care salon just below the river on South Congress. And she was right! This clean and sanitary place restores your confidence and gives expert nail care, manicures, acrylic nails, and oooooh yes! Those pedicures! Is there anything more heavenly than pampering your feet? (We also see more men in this salon than any other.)

River Spa & Nails
313-A S. Congress

Best Place to Work out and Avoid Jocks

Walking into Body Business, we were amazed at the plethora of, well, normal people who were working out on the machines. Gone were the teenagers with rock hard abs and the burly men who made that "Uggggghhhhhhhh!" noise with every repetition. Also, there seemed to be a lot more ... girls. Body business was founded in 1984 by Susan Cooper and continues to have a 60% female clientele. Swimming, resistance training, yoga, spinning, aerobics, personal training, massage, sauna are all built into membership, but it is the gym's sense of community that made us really take notice. Members take cruises together, gossip in between repetitions, and in general just have fun together. At a gym? Yeah, we know. It was a little hard for us to believe too. 2700 West Anderson Ln Suite 802 (Across from the Alamo Draft House) 512-459-9424 Davenport Village at Westlake Drive and 360 (Next to Maudie's) 512-306-0557 Membership office now open Club opens Dec. 2004

Body Business
2700 W. Anderson #802

Best Real-Deal, Gimmick-Free Screenwriting Seminar From L.A.

We'd been sitting in a standard-issue downtown Austin hotel meeting room, taking notes fast and furious like stenographers, for two nine-hour weekend (!) days, as L.A. screenwriting guru John Truby showed film clips and mapped out the 22 essential building blocks for creating story structure, revealing the key to shaping heroes and antiheroes that audiences will care about. When it was over, rather than bolt for the door, we actually stared at our watches in disbelief that 18 hours could have passed so quickly. Way different than the usual You, Too, Can Make Millions Writing the Great Hollywood Script session, Truby's seminars are scholarly and seriously literary. We couldn't wait to get home, review our notes, and get to work.

For scheduling information, call Barbara Holden at 328-5321

Best Reel-to-Reel Repairman Who Makes House Calls

Having seen a neighbor's reel-to-reel tape machine in elementary school, young David Huff fell in love with the aesthetic and sound of these machines, simpler than today’s digital systems. Now, 40 years later, David has the disctinction of being one of the last purveyors of what might be a dying art. Much like those who continue to use slide rules or an abacus, David unflaggingly takes apart and fixes those machines that people such as Jim Eno from Spoon and Eric Johnson still love to use. Although he has a degree in EE (geek speak for electrical engineering), his knowledge of this medium comes from working with it and exploring fantastic, old manuals: There were no help numbers in India in the days that these babies were built.

2019 Ford, 462-0513

Best Rentals

Spontaneity may be an essential part of rock & roll, but the equipment required is often too ungainly to schlep around town without a guarantee of usefulness. Inevitably, you find yourself sitting on a back porch, looking out at a yard that would make the perfect location for an impromptu show. There might be folks hip enough to keep Marshall stacks in their vans "just in case," but the mortal among us are bound to find ourselves stuck without equipment. In these emergencies, look no further than Rock N Roll Rentals, which has everything you need to be the rock star you secretly are. The no-frills store rents PAs, amps, mixers, digital recording equipment, and instruments for prices that won't deplete your day-job wages. Let us not forget the beauty of a monthly Stratocaster rental: less than the cost of a set of strings. Now if only you could rent a cult following ...

Rock N Roll Rentals
1420 W. Oltorf

Best Rim Job

Nestled next to the train tracks off East Fifth, a little wooden shop quivers in the shadows of the impending lofts that are a part of the yuppification, rather, revitalization , of the Eastside. The East Side Pedal Pushers have been quietly fixing the hard-ridden wheels and steadily pumped derailers of Austin's Eastsiders for about a year and a half now, steadily building a dedicated clientele who wouldn't dream of taking their business elsewhere. It is the quiet dedication of Lee Gresham, the sole proprietor (after the amicable departure of business partner Heather Baade), that offers all doubters/haters/moneymakers proof that the true vitality of the Eastside has always been the residents themselves.

East Side Pedal Pushers
1100 E. Sixth

Best Survivor of the Brave, New, Meat-Free World

Since inheriting West Austin's Tarrytown shopping center several years ago, rabid animal-rights activist Jeanne Daniels has waged a crusade to cleanse the strip mall of any selling of meat or animal by-products. Neighborhood favorites – the Grocery, Formosa, Texas French Bread, and 50-year-old family restaurant Holiday House – were all out faster than you could say "Heeeeeeere piggy, piggy!" due to the meat=murder clause. However, there have been a few survivors of Daniels’ purge, most notably the Austin Shoe Hospital’s Tarrytown branch. As a part of the deal, this particular Shoe Hospital no longer carries leather products ... an interesting business plan for a service that revolves around leather products.

Various locations, including 3106 Windsor, 477-6515

Best Use of Turkey Poop

As they like to say of themselves, "We make the dirt that makes the daisies dance!" This is not inflated self-congratulation. These folks really know how to blend their dirt, aiming for good loft (i.e., dirt fluffiness). Try one of their turkey-poop-enhanced Thunder Blends if you want to make your neighbors very, very jealous of your gardening skills.

Geo Growers
12002-B Hwy. 290 W.

Best Used Saabs and Service

Time and again we've purchased used Saab's from Doc's -- always a great price and willing to deal. In addition, Doc's is a certified Saab specialist, able to pinpoint any troubles with a quick and sure hand. Coupled with their speedy repair service, Doc's ensures safe and stylish driving at a very reasonable cost.

Doc's Bar & Grill
1123 S. Congress, 512/448-9181
Doc's Backyard, 5207 Brodie #100, Sunset Valley, 512/892-5200

Best View From the Stirrups

Ladies, we all know the routine in the gynecologist's office, and there's nothing more boring than looking at those laminate charts of the body's organs while on your back. Dr. Robert Cowan seeks to elevate the experience with his theme examining rooms. Now, some of you might enjoy the UT room with its burnt orange sentiments, but we love the Elvis room, with images of the King tastefully decorating the walls and rocking away. Nothing like having those limpid blue eyes on you while in the stirrups!

1301 W 38th, 451-8211

Best Way to Get Your Dog Clean

Most dog owners, unless they own a freakishly well-behaved show dog, know two schools of DIY dog-bathing. There is the disastrous bathtub method (which inevitably gets everything in a 50-foot radius soaked, including you, and requires you to sacrifice all your good towels). Then, there is the traumatic backyard hose-down, which makes you feel like an evil prison guard as your ward cowers and whimpers (then, when it's over, sprints off for a roll in the grass and dirt, just for spite). Fortunately, the good folks at Dirty Dog provide a third option: a DIY doggy salon, where they provide the shampoos, conditioners, brushes, towels, tubs, aprons, dryers, and clippers, and you provide the elbow grease. OK, so your dog still looks at you like you've just explained spaying and neutering to them for the first time, but at least they get a ride in the car, a fun romp with fellow bathers, and a doggy biscuit at the end. And your good towels will live to see another tomorrow.

Dirty Dog
8108 Mesa, 512/342-8399
2710 S. Lamar, 512/443-0013
3016 Guadalupe, 512/453-3647
1901 W. William Cannon, 512/383-0444

Best Way to Stay Cool

It was mid-June and the AC died at home. Not broke, died. We did our homework, consulted the city's Web site, and gathered three bids to compare, because Mom always said three bids should give a good range, right? Well, bid No. 4, from QLS, offered four options, two at nearly $1,000 less than the previous three. Guess who got the business? QLS' friendly response, prompt service, and fast installation won them not just a customer but trust and loyalty.

Quality Living Services
1903 Northridge

Best, Cheapest, and Fastest Bikini Waxing

One of the many benefits of Austin’s abnormally long and intense summers is the ability to swim long after our northern neighbors have packed their swimsuits away for the winter. Alas, for many women, swimming means hair removal. UT Nails makes the hair removal experience less painful, less tedious, and less expensive than what has become the expected standard. Their wax specialist takes walk-ins and charges a mere $20 for a speedy, safe, and satisfying job. That means more time in the water and more money for Advil ... we did say less painful.

UT Nails
3909 N. I-35

Friendliest Paint Store

No dig at the "big-box" home centers intended, but they can't match Republic Paint. Looking for just "that" color for the bathroom? They'll find it. Aren't sure how to prepare your oil-painted surfaces for a new coat of latex paint? They got you covered. Want only low-odor coatings? No problem. They have tools, gadgets, and decorative paints, too. Whether you're a do-it-yourselfer or a contractor, all customers are treated with equal importance. Republic Paint sells Benjamin Moore, a paint with such smooth performance that the extra couple bucks per gallon is totally worth it. Republic's South Congress location also sells Pratt & Lambert, a brand especially loved by decorators for its exciting palette of colors.

Republic Paint & Decorating
3201 Bee Caves Rd.

Most Honest Punk Rock Mechanic

Paternal advice for years consisted of, "Just take it to the dealer." Fret not, those of you lacking deep pockets and motor finesse. Mike Yost will fix what ails you ... and only what ails you. No brake checks or oil changes or wiper substitutions unless you ask for it. You say, "Fix my taillight," and he says, "Okay." When was the last time you went to a mechanic who didn’t try to squeeze every last cent out of your wallet? "I think we might need our timing belt changed," we said. "Nah. It’s fine." Huh?

Yost Automotive
5415 N. Lamar, 512/374-9678
6517 N. Lamar, 512/452-9678

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