2006 Readers Poll
2006 Critics Picks
Best "Little" Bookstore

It's worth it to visit 12th Street Books just for the smell: that dank, comforting scent of knowledge and history. Founded in 1991 by Mike Hale, this "little" bookstore just west of the Capitol is remindful of East Coast and European bookstores of lore – more a museum of escapism than a place of commerce. 12th Street sells used, rare, and out-of-print books, like first editions of William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses and Other Stories for $900 and Mars and Its Canals by Percival Lowell for $800. Both are books most of us have never read, yet, after holding that heavy, beautiful, hard-bound copy in our hands, decide we probably should.

12th Street Books
827 W. 12th

Best Local Homegrown Web-Based Business You've Never Heard Of

If a present-day Alice in Wonderland caterpillar were shopping for his pipe of choice, he'd probably crawl on to In less than 10 years, the company has grown from the depths of a dorm room into a commercial success, with two warehouses in Southeast Austin and a factory in Jordan, offering more than 100 styles and combinations of hookahs. Started by brothers and then students Ronnie and Sami Romman, Hookah & Shisha Central premiered the online selling of hookahs. The brothers also created an original brand of flavored tobacco – our favorite is a combination of peach, mango, and mint. Accessories range from charcoals and replacement hoses to battery-powered glow balls that light up when the water bubbles. Feeling adventurous? Try their new arrival – the Sultan, a 7-foot hookah with lighted glass panels.

Hookah & Shisha Central
7303 Burleson, Ste. 101

Best New Block Party

The buzz is electric. Miss Eva's out tending to the bright white outdoor tents erected alongside the Victory Grill just for the occasion. The regular happy-hourers at Longbranch and diners at Dandelion are sticking around a little longer to see what's happening. And the bar at Ms. B's is spilling the smoothest (albeit muddled) mojitos and mint juleps and even smoother jazz. It's three week's after First Thursday, and it's time to head east, when the DiverseArts and the 11th Street East End corridor opens its heart and entertainment district for a night out on the town. There's spoken word, arts and crafts, feasts from all over the Eastside, fun for the whole family, and of course, music, music, music.

DiverseArts Little Gallery
1601 E. Fifth #106

Best Place to Get Your Toy/Trash On

Finally! An answer to the eternal question, "Where can I get a matching pair of Daft Punk action figures sporting matching Coco Chanel leathergear?" John and April Gomi's new location (sagely situated across the promenade from Jo's Downtown) is part street-couture clubland depot, part Krylon-bomber HQ, and 100% wicked cool fun. John travels the world to find you – yes, you! – the coolest of the cool, and nine times out of 10, he succeeds. Even Frank Kozik's beloved "Smorkin' Labbit" is repped amongst the oodles of pop-culture detritus! Excelcior, bitch!

Best Place to Refry Beantown

On top of being one of the best overall thrifts in Austin, Thrift Town receives a large portion of its stock from Massachusetts; so, supplies for sports-minded nor’easters are as plentiful here as burnt-orange Ts are at other, more picked-over shops. Whether it's BoSox, Celtics, Patriots, BC, BU, Harvard, or Tufts, you're sure to find a jumbo selection of Beantown beanies and a bunker full of savings. Cheers!

Thrift Town
5726 Menchaca #240

Best Pretty Princess Clothes for Your Pretty Princess Munchkins

Wee magical clothes for the kiddo with unique, impeccable style. When playing dress-up is a matter of daily life for your little fashionista, accept nothing less than the flowery, impish, imaginative designs of Emily Clay. Sold exclusively at the Stash and Secret Oktober, both on South First.

Emily Clay Clothing Designs
2002-A Guadalupe Street #251

Best Recycled Goods

Everything that’s old is new again at Re-. It’s a tiny little building on Krebs between South Congress and South First, but it offers a world of reinvigorated, recycled, refurbished goods. Based upon the premise that newer doesn’t necessarily mean better, Re- stocks gently used toys, über-hip home furnishings, and vintage styles at thrifty prices. Vote with your dollars. Choose used.

102 Krebs

Best Reuse of a Post Office

It was a sad day for the Bouldin neighborhood when the South Austin post office was moved to new facilities on South Congress. Fortunately, the city bought the old building, but it will be at least 2008 before it becomes a branch library. In the meantime, the Friends of the Austin Public Library are using the space as a used bookstore to raise funds for library projects. The store sells retired library and donated books, CDs, videos, and tapes for $1 and $2, and it also has a section of individually priced collectible books.

Monster Book Store
1800 S. Fifth

Best Scents That Make Sense

So.A.P. self-identifies as "strong enough for a dirty hippie, yet weak enough for a dirty CEO." With an assortment of scents for everyone in between, this dye-free, petroleum-free, dolphin-free, rainforest-wood-free bar is slipping and sliding on heinies from Northwest Hills to the studios on the Eastside. Be sure to pick up a bar of Orange Patchouli at the So.A.P. booth on First Thursdays - it's "a mix of two things that for some reason just go so well together that you'd think they were meant to be that way. People who don't usually like patchouli or orange somehow end up liking this blend".

South Austin People

Best Way for Turning Asian

Anchored by MT Supermarket and complemented by restaurants and shops offering travel, jewelry, cell phones, herbs, fashion, music, hair and beauty, insurance, banking, and the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Chinatown Center offers convenience and variety for Austin's growing Asian community and folks seeking more than your garden variety of options. Vegetarians and seafood cooks will find lots of choices of foods in the supermarket; diners will revel in Chinese barbecue, Vietnamese sandwiches, bubble tea, and ice cream. The grand opening of the center brings Austin the Asian shopping choices that had up until recently meant a trip east … to Houston.

Chinatown Center
10901 N. Lamar

Best Way to Keep it Green if You Have to Drive

Got a diesel car or truck? Want to give Bush & Co. one less reason to forcefully bogart Iraq's oil? Check out Austin Biofuels. This local startup has been slinging biodiesel – a clean, renewable fuel you can pump straight into any diesel vehicle – since 2003, when they were making the stuff out back from restaurant grease. Today they've almost singlehandedly made Austin the city with the most public biodiesel pumps in the country. ABF's three visionary founders – whose side gigs include soap-making, beer-brewing, and mechanical engineering – realized that there were lots of big biodiesel plants in the works, but nowhere for people to buy the fuel. Today, with the help of Austin-based Triple S Petroleum, which operates the Signature Austin convenience stores, there are 19 pumps dispensing B20 (20% biodiesel 80% petroleum) in Austin, in addition to ABF's four B99 and B100 pumps.

Austin Biofuels

Best When Cutting the Cheese on a First Date Is OK

First dates are hard. You're trying to impress, but you're also working out that new hottie's likes and dislikes. So why not come off all clean-living and healthy-eating, and find out whether they're more inclined to nibble salad or scarf a steak all at the same time? Suggest a jaunt down to the Saturday Farmers' Market, and find out how he or she (or…?) likes their locally and independently produced fresh fruit, seasonal honey, organic meat, hand-picked veggies, and homemade bread. You could even pick up some fresh-cut flowers, if things are going that way. Plus, even if the date turns out to be a bust, at least you've got your groceries.

SFC Farmers' Market
SFC Farmers' Market Downtown, Fourth & Guadalupe, 512/236-0074
SFC Farmers' Market at the Triangle, 4600 Guadalupe, 512/236-0074
SFC Farmers' Market at Sunset Valley, 3200 Jones, 512/236-0074

Bestest Punkest Rockest Toy Store

Gaijins beware! Where else can you find the most devastatingly fashionable footware, killer couture, and punk/post-punk/pre-punk junk as well as more Japanese kaiju eiga, Gojira gear, and tin toys than you'll ever have room in your crib for? (Hello Godzilla! Goodbye nursery!) Nowhere but here, Austin's first, best, and rightfully legendary home of all things wonderous, amazing, and Tokyo-stomping. And if you ask owner Jim "Hawaiian Prince" Hughes nicely, he may even show you his awe-inspiring, full-back inkwork, depicting a certain Big Green Saurian on a rampage o' love. Go otaku, go!

Atomic City
1700 San Antonio

Coolest Clothing Store for Men and Women

Just having celebrated its first birthday this summer, Estilo is hardly suffering from infantilism. In fact, it has easily established itself as one of Austin chicest, hippest, and most interesting stores in that short time. Carrying lines such as Ted Baker, Vivienne Westwood, Nicole Miller, and Kapadia, owners Stephanie Coultress and Cami Cobb are the stars behind the operation, turning the idea from a big dream to a big reality. With its 25-foot runway and generous support given to many local nonprofits, Estilo has quickly become Fashion Central for the 2nd Street District and Austin's most fashionable men and women.

234 W. Second

Coolest Drive-Through

What's the matter, yuppie? Find yourself on the Eastside without fast access to some locally handmade, natural body products? Fresh outta Stella and need to make a good impression, quickshape? Well, fret not, you tasteful scourge of Austin. You needn't aim your fully restored '57 Merc station wagon with the wood panelling over the Congress Bridge to get your fix: The 6th Street Cool Store's got you covered. And hey, if you're feeling a li'l slummy, there's still plenty o' 40s, Resurrect hangover cure, and pretzel rods at the counter – like Festivus – for the rest of us. And you needn't even park the Merc.

6th Street Cool Store
1900 E. Sixth

Coolest Furniture Warehouse

Like 99% of aspiring musicians, Alex Navarro needed a job and found one selling furniture for a discount warehouse. That was nearly 20 years ago and today, he's traded throwing money at the TV screen for being "The Furniture Dude." Yet it's not just elaborate,luxury furnishings that have made him a success at his new North Lamar location, he specializes in affordable Mexican Rustic furniture too, meaning you get rid of that college dorm look once and for all.

Alex Mubleria Furniture
6801 N. Lamar

Critics: Services
2006 Intro

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