2004 Readers Poll
2004 Critics Picks
Best Antiques/Collectibles/Vintage

Visiting Uncommon Objects is like going to your eccentric activist grandmother’s house, if she decided to slap price tags on all her possessions and drag out the fantastic vintage clothing she sported in her youth. This store seems to never end, with room after room of every collectible, attire, classic signage, and international treasure you could imagine. If you leave the store without purchasing anything, you’re a stronger person than most, or you haven’t looked hard enough. Reasonable prices and a helpful, knowledgeable staff add to the truly enlightening shopping experience.

Uncommon Objects
1602 Fortview

Best Furnishings/Home Decor

Whether you're looking for a Texas-shaped ashtray or a green-and-orange-striped velour chair, it would be prudent to first hit Room Service, Austin's full-service station for housewares and home decor alike. The variety of eclectic items that litter the store is guaranteed to have you mumbling, "I have got to have this" over a velvet and gold chandelier. Tables, chairs, cutlery, hot pink couches: Room Service redefines nuevo-tacky (erase all images of Aunt Gladys in purple stirrup pants) and turns shopping into high art.

Best Independent Hardware Store

This family-owned business has been serving the Austin community for more than 30 years. With its gourmet kitchen shop, cooking classes, and stellar gardening department, Breed & Co. offers a lot more for your home than just hammers and tape measures.

Breed & Co.
718 W. 29th, 512/474-6679
3663 Bee Caves Rd., 512/328-3960

Best Gardening Store

The staff boasts that the Great Outdoors is not just a plant store but an authentic Austin “destination,” and they’re right about this veritable Eden. Stroll around under the magnificent oak trees, stop for a cup of coffee or a leisurely lunch, select a plant to satisfy your sensibilities, breathe deep the refreshing air, listen to the fountains trickle, and you’re sure to feel at ease – at least for the duration of your visit.

The Great Outdoors Garden Adventures
2730 S. Congress

Best Pet Store

This homegrown pet heaven has been around since 1955, offering organic, holistic, and specialty foods (even frozen goodies for your furry friend!), pet supplies, toys, and grooming services for felines and canines – not to mention ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs. And, of course, your pets are welcome to shop right along with you.

Bark n Purr Pet Center
4604 Burnet Rd.

Best Gas Prices

RaceTrac gets the checkered flag in this new category. This summer, our American gas habit came home to roost as we were hit by some of the highest prices seen in a long time. And with eight fueling stations around Austin, the 'Trac makes it easy to get your fix. RaceTrac has consistently offered some of the area's lowest-priced gas, often by significant margins of five to eight cents per gallon. For the most part, these pumps are located on the southernmost and northernmost ends of town. We hope that means that more and more suburbanites are weighing in on our polls, and not that downtowners have to drive that far to save a buck or two!

Various locations, including 2601 W. Braker

Best Convenience Store

Tucked away in Hyde Park’s wee commercial district is Pronto Food Mart. This tiny little jewel racks up the votes with a great beer and wine selection, surely. Not only is it in a great hideaway location, but even the employees are well known (who's that sassy Roller Derby queen?). The service here is friendly and familiar, so much so that you might be recognized and even greeted by name. And we hate divulging this little tidbit: Pronto also boasts some super low gas prices. But be prepared to wait. With only four pumps, there’s frequently a line.

Pronto Food Mart
4301 Duval St.

Best Drug Store/Pharmacy

Why do people love People's so? Who couldn't love a place that offers cholesterol and osteoporosis screenings, in addition to a fine deli that serves healthy, fast breakfast and lunch items. Especially notable are their grass-fed, hormone-free meat products. Also try their tasty smoothies. Aside from their array of local products, natural foods, and alternative medicines, the People’s Pharmacy also provides the personal attention to safely administer the prescription drugs you need.

Peoples Rx
4018 N. Lamar, 512/459-0845
3801 S. Lamar, 512/444-8866
13860 Hwy. 183 N. Ste. C, 512/219-9499
4201 Westbank, 512/327-8868

Best Liquor Store

There's nothing within legal boundaries that could be done to make Grape Vine Market a better liqour store. It's an 18,000-square-foot alcohol fortress that boasts Austin's biggest beer selection and around 1,500 liquors. Should nuclear winter come, who wouldn't want to celebrate new Earth with around 4,000 wines as well as appetizers and lunches prepared by Grapevine's very own chef? Less of a liquor store and more of a citadel of spirits, Grapevine Market is your safest bet for variety and quality.

Best Comic Books

Whether you call them graphic novels or funny books, whether you geek off the X-Men or Eightball or Betty and Veronica, Austin Books can satisfy your sequential storytelling needs. Last year's expansion doubled the space, transforming the mild-mannered shop into a superstore of U.S. mainstream comics and indie books, manga, European albums, trade paperback collections, back issues, statues, and action figures, sold by a staff with knowledge and friendliness far beyond those of mortal bookstore employees.

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar

Best Independent Bookstore

Once again, the son of Grok affirms its special place in the hearts and literate minds of Austinites. In an era of ever-widening corporate jaws, BookPeople manages not only to survive but to thrive. Around for 30 years, this independent store has moved a number of times, growing to fit its current three-story location on Lamar and offering the convenience of a chain store in breadth of selection. But that's where the similarity ends: For three decades, BookPeople has remained fiercely independent.

603 N. Lamar

Best Computer Store

A veritable Toys 'R' Us for tech geeks, Fry's is the destination for all things Mac, PC, and in between. An adept staff assists buyers with all their needs, be it a memory uprgrade on the old desktop or installing a new AirPort card on the iBook. Coupled with outrageous specials on everything from CD-Rs to software, Fry's is unstoppable. Now, if we could only find that rebate coupon.

Fry's Electronics
12707 MoPac N.

Best Shoe Selection

No outfit can be completed without an amazing pair of shoes, and Fetish has been capping fashionable local ladies’ feet for years. Thankfully, we finally have a Nordstrom as well, which provides a wide selection of both men’s and women’s shoes for all seasons. The minute you enter either of these establishments, you will have attentive staffers begging to find you the perfect pair. Both stores feature designer labels; no one said this category was “most affordable shoe selection.” Thank goodness for good sales.

2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S.

1112-E N. Lamar

Best Fashion Accessories

Whether for a birthday gift or simple self-indulgence, Emeralds offers adornments for every occasion. Their shoe selection is truly one-of-a-kind, and they arrange their purses throughout the store to guide clients in the creation of fabulous ensembles. Like the name implies, they have jewelry to satisfy even the most daring. While greeting cards may not be considered fashion, per se, you will certainly earn high style marks for any card you give from Emerald's stellar selection.

Best Clothing

Celebrating 25 years of keeping the rough edges off the Austin style scene, By George owners Matthew and Katy Culmo have not only cultivated, but are, an Austin institution. BG's multiple "Best of Austin" awards are a testament to Austin's continuing love affair with beautiful clothes. By George, they've got it!

524 N. Lamar, 512/472-5951
1400 S. Congress, 512/441-8600

Best Naughty Business

With a staff so erudite in the ways of the carnal, Forbidden Fruit will make anyone (yes people, anyone) feel like he or she belongs in a world of leather, fuzzy restraints, and imaginative bedroom adventures. FF has three locations, with different items in each one to adequately indulge even the most outlandish fantasies. They keep extended hours, too, so no one goes to sleep unsatisfied.

Various locations, including 108 E. North Loop, 453-8090

Best Rock Star Clothes

They landed on South Congress about a year ago. And just like when that house in The Wizard of Oz fell on the Wicked Witch of the East, nothing has been the same since. FactoryPeople has brought a bright, hard edge to SoCo and to our entire fashion scene, not to mention a bevy of celebs, like Laura Dern and Meg Ryan. Inspired by the feel of Andy Warhol's Factory, this pop-culture cathedral combines the old and the new, and doubles as an event space, complete with elegant vaulted spaces, roof garden, and on-site DJ. By offering sharp and unusual men's and women's clothing, shoes, accessories, music. and gifts, owners Le and Thomas Popov have a firm grasp on another of Andy Warhol's principles – making money.

1325 S. Congress

Best Music Gear

If your momma don't dance and your daddy don't rock & roll, then they've obviously never been to Guitar Center. With its vast amount of equipment on display, Guitar Center is like an in-store that never ends. Just don't count on any free beer or talent. From keyboards to turntables and accessories for everything in between, this musical warehouse will set you well on your way to rock & roll stardom.

Guitar Center
2525 W. Anderson #200, 512/419-1717
5300 MoPac S. #103, 512/891-0297

photo by John Anderson

Best Used Records/CDs

Lamar Street neighbors Cheapo and Waterloo have got what you need, cost-conscious consumer. Both shops feature Austin's finest selection of previously played popular performances from punk to polka. From Cheapo's enormous inventory to Waterloo's keenly knowledgeable staff, your ears will be thanking you for the gifts you have bestowed upon them.

Waterloo Records
600-A N. Lamar

Cheapo Discs
914 N. Lamar

Best Thrift Store

With Lord-knows-how-many locations in the Austin area, Goodwill is your destination for all things thrifty. Whether searching for that blissfully vague irony T-shirt, a costume on the cheap, or furnishings for the home, Goodwill is always awash in a steady stream of new-to-you goodness.

Various locations, including 836 Airport, 389-3277; main office: 300 N. Lamar, 637-7100

Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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