2004 Readers Poll
2004 Critics Picks
Best Artist-Budget-Friendly Art Supply

The phrase "starving artist" sometimes seems a contradiction in terms, because an artist cannot create without supplies, and art supplies usually cost the equivalent of a first-born son. Asel Art Supply offers students a 10% discount on everything, and, thankfully, Asel's definition of "student" is quite liberal (on a lucky day, being a student of life is sufficient). Plus, they have shelves and shelves of quality products, a knowledgeable, friendly staff, and best of all, for those hurrying to get home to their art, a parking lot in the perpetually unparkable campus area. Despite Austin's unfortunate dearth of small art stores, Asel aptly fills the void, with large selections of Windsor and Newton products (amongst other brands), colorful, many-sized, and textured papers, recycled sketch books, brushes, and pencils, and if they don't have whatever it is you need in the store, they'll happily and promptly get it there for you.

Asel Art Supply
218 W. MLK

Best Bibliophilic Robin Hoods

Over in Swanksville (aka West Lake), the folks run a very lovely library, a place that – never mind the Joneses – doesn't care what kind of car you drive or how big (or not) your income is. In a Robin Hood-esque fashion (though without breaking any laws) the fine folks on the second floor of the Westbank Library take from the book-wealthy (who donate their cast-offs – often perfect-condition hardbacks) and offer them up at next to nothing for bibliophiles on a budget. It's a win-win, read-read situation for all!

Westbank Community Library
1309 Westbank Dr.

Best Convenience Store That's Convenient for Wine

Our shopping expectations at gas station convenience stores are justifiably low. Along with the quarts of oil and bags of chips, we expect cold water, soda pop, and cheap beer. And if we're foolish enough to go in search of wine we expect to peruse a selection that features such vintages as MD 20/20 and Thunderbird. Which is why the astonishing wine department at this sparkling store is such a surprise. The thoughtful and knowledgeable selection and fantastic bargains compare with some of the finer wine markets in town. Which makes it a truly convenient stop on your way to your next dinner or date. NAME EXAMPLES~~~~!!!!!

Lake Austin Chevron
2402 Lake Austin Blvd.

Best Diet Hardware

Sure, we all know what we're supposed to be putting on our plates at the front end of our diets: lots of protein, vegetables, etc. And more importantly what we're supposed to forgo: bread, pasta, rice, etc. And every eatery from Wendy's to Ruth's Chris is making sure there menus are high protein friendly. But what about the last stop of our weight loss meals? Who's there to help in the end? Why the Atkins Friendly Toilet and Low Carb Sinks available at Deutchman Plumbing! No one else has had the foresight to offer dieting help where it's needed most: the back end. OMG. I just Read this PLEASE EXPLAIN FURTHER. funny

Deutchman Plumbing Supply
2901 S. First

Best Eye for Unusual Imports

Just off of South Congress, this charming import emporium goes far beyond the realm of the usual with its enticing selection of jewelry, clothing, accessories, and home decor. Especially notable is their selection of guayabera shirts for men – a common style, perhaps, but these are unlike others you may have seen. Their women's clothing is also equally notable, with handmade and hand-dyed skirts, blouses, and wraps in gorgeous colors. Friendly and knowledgeable service makes this shop one of Austin's best.

Best Gifts and Home Decor

At their new home on the SoFi Strip (South 1st), Napa Home positively blooms with charm and good service. The bright, sunny interior is the perfect backdrop for their delicious selection of gifts and home decor – exquisite, unusual pieces in high style, expertly selected by owners Julia Elam and Randy Phillips. From luxurious bed linens and wonderful kitchenware to dining and living room accoutrements, this fragrant little jewel box of a shop is a gift in itself.

Best Horse Casita

We were sad to see Terra Toys and Dragonsnaps vacate their South Congress premises. They not only took their charming wares and togs with them, but their signature dragon sculpture and mural, too. Fortunately, the wall has not been condemned to drab anonymity; the new tenants, Mi Casa Gallery, commissioned a lovely mural that keeps the spirit of South Congress alive. The mural depicts a horsey hacienda with a chestnut mare, lovely señorita, barrel-tile roof, and wrought iron balcony. Mi Casa tiene un fresco bueno de caballo!

Mi Casa Gallery
1700 S. Congress

Best Kickass Trophies

Searching for the perfect gift for that kickass person in your life? Tired of giving out plants and soap and candles and gift cards from the same-old same-old retailers? Then head on over to Longhorn Trophies and order up a kickass trophy. For under 20 bucks, you can surprise your favorite people with a shiny reward: a trophy featuring a karate figure kicking a horse's ass. Need we say more?

Longhorn Trophies Inc.
4912 Burnet Rd.

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Locally Made Yoga Togs


Todd V. Wolfson

Best Mom & Pop Drum Shop

Since the demise of the Wal-Mart of music stores (Mars), you have no excuse not to head down South Lamar to Tommy's for all your drumming needs. And I mean all your needs. From getting your heads tuned to finding that impossible-to-find piece of hardware, these guys have got you covered and offer the kind of customer service your grandpa tells you doesn't exist anymore.

Tommy's Drum Shop
1100 S. Eighth

Best Offer Your Inner Corleone Can't Refuse

Even the least crafty of you can pinpoint why your favorite off-the-rack outfit falls short of perfection. That’s your inner craft mafioso crying out for this "family" of Web sites helmed by local do-it-yourselfers. They personalize clothing and accessories to suit their own whims and yours, whether you desire a kimono-cloth guitar strap or a skirt that changes with your moods. And if you covet pretty things but lack the funds to buy them, and its copious links to other crafters will inspire you to make your own. So click away, guilt-free, and liberate the artsy-craftsy godfather within.

Austin Craft Mafia

Best Place To Buy Local

a website that matches goods and services to locally-owned providers THIS ONE WILL NOT GET WRITTEN BY JEFF TONN. ASSIGN TO NEW WRITER?

Best Plumbing Supply House

One of the most frustrating pitfalls of do-it-yourselfdom is not being able to find that last, seemingly insignificant part needed to fix a leaky faucet. Josco Plumbing Supply stocks the arcane bits and pieces of plummery that the big-box stores don't bother with, and they'll even give you tips on installation. You can save yourself a lot of time and anxiety by starting out here.

719 W. Powell Ln., 832-0013

Best Reason to Wake Up Early on a Saturday Morning

There's no better way to start your weekend than a nice stroll around the Downtown Farmers' Market, where you're sure to find Larry and Pat Ross hawking their surprisingly beautiful and hearty plants. But come early – the Blooming Idiots pack it up early before the Texas sun starts to wither their wares. Whether it's a Dutchman's-pipe or a potato plant, the flora these two incubate in their back-yard greenhouse is sure to impress even the haughtiest member of your local garden club. And for those of us who know diddly-squat when it comes to these sorts of things, fear not; these plant professors are more than willing to impart their vast knowledge and offer helpful hints to even the blackest of thumbs.

SFC Farmers' Market Downtown
Fourth & Guadalupe

Blooming Idiots

Best Reincarnated Soul of Sound Exchange

Less than two years ago, a wander into the Drag's beloved Sound Exchange always promised the revelation of some obscure wax necessity. Cruel memories of rummaging through reasonably priced records are but a tease. Fortunately, since the opening of a little record store over on North Loop called Sound on Sound, things have been looking up. While the store's collection is still in its infancy, the spirit of vinyl lives on in this quirky little alcove. Proprietor Jason Costanza stocks most of the releases offered by distributors like Earmark, Hardcore Holocaust, and Ebullition, and also offers a wide variety of used records. Carrying on in the glorious tradition of the Sound Exchange's "equal in the eyes of the collector" policy, Sound on Sound allows Russian presses of Black Sabbath's Ozzy-era catalog to hobnob with fan-club editions of out-of-print psych masterpieces in the vein of Roky's Elevators. Jazz classics rub elbows with "gone-metal" Discharge embarrassments, in the spirit of true diversity. If the Sound Exchange took you that much closer to nirvana, have faith! Your experience with its reincarnate counterpart might just prove to be a religious experience.

Sound on Sound
106 E. North Loop

Todd V. Wolfson

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Rogaine Competition

Ever wanted to see what you would look like with Cher's hairdo? Well then, Pat Painter's is the place to go. The walls of Pat's shop are lined with wigs galore. And you can put them right on your head. They specialize in the needs of chemotherapy patients and your average follically challenged folk. But, whether you are looking to hire a stand-in for an entire head of hair or to simply thicken the herd, Pat Painter's promises to make it a memorable experience. From the ceremonial head shaving, to the midpoint mohawk, to the rows of potential do's – bring a camera, because you are sure to have a good time.

Pat Painter's Hair Pieces & New Man Hair Salon
6007 Burnet Rd.

Best Sunglasses

Yes, their clothes are charming and stylish. Yes, their handbags and jewelry are cool ... but it's the sunglasses that are to die for. Christian Dior, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana – the selection is not huge, but the effect is. Owner Amy Weaver has the eye, as they say, and thoroughly understands that true fabulousness begins with fabulous sunglasses. Once you've crossed over, you'll never cross back.

Davenport Village

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Treasure Trove

Tesoros – treasures – what a perfect name for this magical little import shop. The fanciful display windows lure you in, but the explosion of colorful knickknacks and exotic gifts from around the world can keep you there for hours. Shopping for a unique gift? They have everything: handmade folk art, crafts, jewelry, clothing, bamboo curtains, colorful hanging lamps, Luche Libre wrestling masks, and even model planes made out of soda cans. It’s a wonderful place to find hidden jewels from around the globe without ever leaving Austin.

Tesoros Trading Co.
1500 S. Congress

Best Way to Enjoy Vinyl

Sometimes you find top-notch quality where you least expect it. Up a bumpy dirt road, at the top of a hill in Dripping Springs sits the best place to get refurbished stereo equipment in the Austin area. William Green runs Circle Stereo out of his home, where he refurbishes all the equipment he sells. Whether your taste is for classical concertos or raging hardcore punk, whether you are the audiophile who swears vinyl sounds better or the teenager looking through mom and dad’s old records, a turntable is an essential component, and Circle Stereo is the place to get one.

Circle Stereo
500 Springlake Dr.
Dripping Springs

Best Women's Accessories

They've always been noted for their shoes, including the collection designed by owners James Rowley and Gustavo LaGrave, but this West Lake Hills boutique has embraced all parts of the body now, from the feet up. Under the supervision of Lainey Diaz, the accessories area has become a hot draw. Silken scarves, fetching handbags, and baubles to dangle from your throat, wrists, and fingers – Vën is a vision of exciting accessories to decorate yourself and your life.

Vën Shoe Salon
Davenport Village

Most Surprising Mix of Genres

Musicmania is infamous for taking its place as the record store for the rap/hip-hop set – kind of like what Thirty Three Degrees was for experimental music listianados, but less nerdy. They have the entire gamut of rap music, movies (including porno flicks) with black actors and actresses, and the only place in town we know to get tracks by DJ Screw. Yet to the right, there is an entire wall of oddities: 45s and LPs you would expect to see at a vinyl specialty store. Mister Rogers, Kenny Loggins, and Beethoven crowd the space with weirdo artists Reversible Chords and Richard Hell. Don't enter expecting a ton of old-school hip-hop records, though; Musicmania specializes in the new when it comes to their musical mainstay.

3909 N. I-35

Critics: Services
2004 Intro

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