2005 Readers Poll
2005 Critics Picks

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Antiques/Collectibles/Vintage

Technically, serendipitous discoveries aren’t something you can plan on making. That is unless you head to Uncommon Objects, where you might just find the exact thing you didn’t know you were looking for. Though the store won’t win any awards for organization, exploring its many nooks makes the shopping experience an adventure. One-of-a-kind curios are plentiful: secondhand custom belt buckles, vintage paper dolls, out-of-print books, cruiser bikes, outdated maps and scientific charts, Thirties gowns, Fifties hardware … and more. Don't dare call it a junk shop, though, as every item is handpicked for its uniqueness and beauty. Remember: Each thingamajig you buy here was once someone else’s beloved thingamajig.

Uncommon Objects
1602 Fortview

Best Clothing

To which George are they referring? The Curious one? The one of the Jungle? Well, if you're trying to civilize any man, taking him on a quick hunt to this boutique's oft-overlooked men's side for the wide range of European, American, and Japanese high-end fashion should probably be your first stop. As for the women's side, up-and-coming designer offerings could just make her the most brightly colored bird in Austin's jungle.

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

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Comic Books

There are some amazing comic book stores in Austin. Dragon’s Lair has an unbeatable selection of gaming, and Funny Papers has some incredibly quirky choices. But Austin Books isn’t a comic book store; it’s a comic book Mecca. The staff recommendations are more insightful than a wizard's, and the back issues are as impressive as the unearthed Library of Alexandria. Most likely, if you’re into the zines, you’re already one of the converted.

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar

Best Computer Store

Emerge from your Luddian Dark Ages into this beeping and blinking wonderland of memory chips, PDAs, hard drives, notebooks, and more. If you get lost and hungry, head for the generously stocked cafe for a sandwich and a latte. They also offer a new ISP dial-up service with free Web mail for $9.88 a month. Don't forget to check the Apple aisle for what may be the best selection in town.

Fry's Electronics
12707 MoPac N.

Best Convenience Store

Easily accessible from I-35, this South Austin jewel is already well-known for boasting the largest selection of beer in all of town. Patrons already familiar with this family-owned institution know that's not all. On top of a ginormous wine galley they stock party supplies to accompany the above vices, from a variety of cigars, hard-to-find local delicacies, incense, ice cream, lotto lotto lotto, and, fittingly - whip-its.

Whip In
1950 S. I-35

Best Drugstore/Pharmacy

Yet another way that Austin is kept not only weird but healthy, Peoples Rx is beloved locally for their in-store nutritionists, naturopaths, and homeopathic specialists as well as pharmacists. Their monthly e-mail newsletters and weekly seminars genuinely encourage good health and information without hard sell from the pharmaceutical industry. Favorites in town for more than 25 years, three of their four locations even offer fabulous deli menus.

4018 N. Lamar, 459-9090, and three other Austin locations

Best Fashion Accessories

Like a crow drawn to a glinting coke can caught in a ray of sunlight, so are the multitudes of Austinites to Emeralds' glittering variety of fashion accessories. Browsing the amazing rows of shimmering earrings, bejeweled and giant sunglasses, and various other delights will leave you squealing with school-girl ecstasy. Emeralds also boasts an assortment of the cutest matching jewelry sets, buttons, and pins. The store seems intentionally designed to equip all women with the sassiest of purses and shoes and an array of the prissiest and most darling things to go with them. From soaps and hand towels to coffeetable books and candle holders, Emeralds has the most charming accessories for every part of your life.

Best Furnishings/Home

So you’re throwing a bash. You’ve got your B-sides all set on the Stack-o-Matic, you’ve perfected the highball and the mint julep, but were you really planning on entertaining your guests amid creepy, futuristic furniture? Hightail it on down to Room Service, where you can pick up genuine vintage furniture, bar accoutrements, and perhaps even nifty Fifties garb. You want to be a drape, not a square … right?

Room Service Vintage
117 E. North Loop, 512/451-1057

Best Gardening Store

The horticulturally challenged will find this South Congress oasis as inviting and inspiring as the green-thumbed do. A turn into the gates and down the hill, and suddenly you're seemingly miles away from the bustle of the Avenue. Glorious foliage and friendly help provide outdoor inspiration and good-ol' Texas know-how all year round. Christmas tree purchases are tops here, too.

The Great Outdoors
2730 S. Congress

Best Gas Prices

With their value-added offers to loyal customers (or, in the case of Costco, members), HEB and the big C have taken on petrol stalwarts (and runners-up) Diamond Shamrock and last year's winner, Race Trac. And with average gas prices tickling the $3-per-gallon underbelly, you'd better believe our readers know where to find a good deal.

HEB, 9414 N Lamar, 835-5400; and five other Austin locations; Costco, 10401 Research Blvd., 634-2253,

Best Independent Bookstore

Several sources have named Austin "No. 1" in book purchases per capita. We can’t help but think that part of that honor has to do with BookPeople, the best independent bookseller in Texas and, according to Publishers Weekly, the country. The store carries an incredible range, from graphic novels to literary criticism, and their frequent readings feature unabashedly badass authors.

603 N. Lamar

Best Independent Hardware Store

In business since 1971, this place is a shopper's paradise. Offering everything from screwdrivers to Godiva chocolates to Jay Strongwater frames as well as a well-stocked plant nursery in between, Breeds is a place you don't want to enter without a budget. Don't get us wrong: Their prices are reasonable, competitive, even. Their selection, however, will have you lusting after two of everything. Speaking of two: List your bridal registry here, and get the crystal and cookware you really want.

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

Best Liquor Store

For some, the name may suggest a double entendre fit for an AC/DC lyric, but the only thing that'll leave you chuckling more is the armful of alcohol you'll carry out of this Austin landmark. With a number of convenient locations, the Twin will have you doubling up on your liquor supply in no time. Each store is staffed with friendly and knowledgeable employees able to help you make a well-informed purchase ... or two. So when you're restocking your "boozies, boozies," head over to the place where you can buy it all in twosies, twosies . Twin Liquors has more than two of every kind of any kind of legal intoxicant one might wish to imbibe.

1000 E. 41st, 451-7400; and many other locations around Austin

Best Music Gear

This well-stocked mega-music shop in Northcross Mall has all the gear and knowledgeable customer service a hungry musician could ask for. You've got to have the right gear to make the right sounds, and the staff at Guitar Center wants to help you make the music in your head come out of your amp.

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

Best Naughty Business

Austin's favorite G-string Garden of Eden, Forbidden Fruit has remained the apple of our fair city's fetishly inclined eye by not only carrying the very best in diverse adult shopping but by providing it in a direct, discreet, informative, and easily understood fashion. There are no stupid questions here, and while you will not be chastised or paddled for your dirty, dirty thoughts, they can give you the skinny on just how to let your partner dole out the spankings with a nicely crafted leather whip. Two locations for 2 million sensations.

Best New Boutique

The hippest coeds on the block know that the hottest clothes at the coolest prices are at Flirt. Being trendy can be very expensive, and Flirt understands that not everything has to be "investment clothing." They offer an ever-changing selection of tops, jeans, dresses, and skirts combined with the shoes, bags, jackets, and jewelry. All you'll want to do is Flirt like crazy.

2405 Nueces Ste. H

Todd V. Wolfson

Todd V. Wolfson

Best New Car Dealership

In the market for a utility vehicle that is actually fuel efficient? Perhaps you've got your eye on a new gas/electric hybrid? Or maybe even a supersporty coupe? Look no further than Texas-friendly Howdy Honda. Since 1985, the folks at Howdy have been putting Austinites in the driver's seat – and in the process have earned the title of No. 1 dealer in Central Texas, volume leader in Honda sales, and consistenly boasts one of the highest customer-satisfaction ratings around. Howwwdee!

Howdy Honda
5519 E. Ben White

Best Pet Store

This beloved locally owned pet store in North Central Austin celebrates its 50th birthday this year! Their neat trick is not to roll over and play dead in the face of super pet markets but to specialize in personal service, specialty products such as natural flea control, and a select, well-stocked inventory. Our little darling chihuahuas sport matching he/she rhinestone collars from their dazzling array. It's a totally Austin breed of pet store, where some of us even bought our black leather studded collars back in our punk rock days.

Bark n Purr Pet Center
4604 Burnet Rd.

Best Shoe Selection

At first glance, Nordstrom's sprawling shoe department overwhelms, but in a matter of seconds, you'll be flitting from pair to pair with boundless joy and scholarly intent. More than just a shoe store, Nordstrom catalogs seasonal shoe history with fantastic sales to mark the end of eras and display pedestals to showcase the year's newest and best. Even if you don't end up purchasing that hot pair of shoes, no matter how potentially crippling they could be, you can still parade around the store in them for a few minutes. And that's half the fun.

2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/691-3500
9607 Research, 512/651-6180
5601 Brodie, Sunset Valley, 512/697-2600

Best Thrift Store

In a town bursting at the seems with thrift stores and secondhand shops, the fine folks at Goodwill hold a special place in our readers' hearts. Whether shopping for Halloween or that upcoming job interview, Goodwill has got the threads you need at a price that is practically criminal.

Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
2800 S. Lamar, 512/442-8802
836 Airport, 512/389-3277
Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
13096 Hwy. 183 #104, 512/258-5898
8965 Research Blvd., 512/832-0004
5555 N. Lamar, 512/451-2306
9801 Brodie, 512/280-8037
701 Newman, 512/478-6711
7100-C W. US Hwy 290, 512/288-7700
3910 Far West, 512/795-6387
6505 Burleson, 512/681-3301
7727 Burnet, 512/374-0260
1819-B S. Pleasant Valley, 512/389-0547
1700 W. Parmer #101, 512/719-4119
9111 S. First, 512/280-2204
1420 Wells Branch Pkwy. #300, 512/251-2777
2814 Bee Caves Rd. Ste.2814-B, 512/329-8771

Best Used Car Dealership

Jim Ernst and his staff know what they are doing, winning this year for "Best Auto Service/Repair" as well. For years now loyal customers get the best of both worlds, a great price on a fabulous new-to-you used car (specializing in small imports) and an in-house repair shop to boot. What more could you ask for?

Auto Depot
909 Prairie Trail

Best Used Records/CDs

For some American locales, iTunes or Napster might be the best option to find new or obscure music for a reasonable price. For Austin, that just ain't the case. Waterloo and Cheapo, two local music pillars, continue to offer the widest range of music-you-want and music-you-don't-yet-know-you-want. There's no finer joy than scouring the used bins at both of these stores and finding a Kinks album you never knew existed. Or Django Reinhardt or the Pixies.

Waterloo Records
600-A N. Lamar

Cheapo Discs
914 N. Lamar

Todd V. Wolfson

Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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