2007 Readers Poll
2007 Critics Picks
Best Antiques/Collectibles/Vintage

Seven times now the keen-eyed vintage dealers at Room Service have been recognized by our readers, emphasizing their great taste and range of midcentury to post-century pop-culty artifacts. The NoLo store already has legions of fans, and with the recently added SoLa location, all of Austin can enjoy the treasures within. Yes. We said, "NoLo."

Room Service Vintage
117 E. North Loop

Best Comic Book Store

In the year that Captain America died, Austin Books helped keep comics alive and thriving. And in their 30th year, they've continued their stock policy proving that comics aren't just superheroes, chibi manga, and the odd zombie. With racks of contemporary, political, and personal graphic novels right by the door that emphasize the literary over the crash!zoom!socko! school of writing, they've worked to create a market for a medium that can be intellectually daring, and not just filled with tales of derring-do. But don't worry cape and cowl fanatics, they've also got derring-do for days!

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar

Best Computer Store

The Apple Store is more than a great display of geek-chic gadgetry; its friendly staff is there to help you become the master of your Mac. Whether you go to the Genius Bar for hands-on technical support or for one-on-one training with your own personal computer whisperer – there's help to meet any schedule on any budget.

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

Best Convenience Store

With such a vast selection of beers and wines and gourmet snackalicious goodness, it's no wonder why Whip In continues to win over our readers. Keeping Austin weird, fed, hydrated, and happy for 21 years, this is truly one place seared deep in our collective hearts. If only there were a Whip In in every neighborhood!

Whip In
1950 S. I-35

Best Drugstore/Pharmacy

Edging out some local faves, the big chain takes your praises for the second time. With more than 40 locations in and around Austin (some 24-hour pharmacies), Walgreens takes care of prescription needs and a thousand other things, from lawn chairs to hairspray to Easter candy.

Various locations

Best Fantasy/Gaming Store

More than just comics & fantasy retail outlets, Dragon's Lair Comics and Ninja Pirate are gaming community centers. They offer lock-ins, tournaments, and movie nights, as well as everything from troll-blood kits to stock for your role-playing-game survival. Pretty evenly matched, both get primo experience points for great comic selections and knowledgeable staff. And all gamers know it's about the XP!

Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy
2438 W. Anderson Ste. B-1

Ninja Pirate
100 12th #105

Ninja Pirate (top) and Dragon's Lair   J.P. Bleibtreu

Best Fashion Accessories

Girly, femme fatale, and sophisticated, all in one hip room. With the best-fitting jeans you've worn in your life, plus the cutest purses, earrings, shoes, and doodads, be sure to swing by the last Thursday of every month (7-9pm) for the ultimate in shopping: chair massages, wine, a DJ, munchies, and discounts. Now that's shopping.

2405 Nueces Ste. H

Best Furnishings - Home

IKEA, the behemoth Scandinavian retailer, and Four Hands, the exotic import and manufacturing house with corporate headquarters in Austin, have won the hearts of our readers; each makes its first appearances in this poll, beating out some time-honored favorites. IKEA pleases the pocketbook with the simple-design approach of its exclusive lines, and Four Hands embraces quality and innovation from across the globe: If it were a radio station, its format would be world beat.

1 IKEA Way
Round Rock

Four Hands
2090 Woodward

Four Hands (top) and IKEA   J.P. Bleibtreu

Best Gardening Store

Gurus of the great green earth, Natural Gardener's staff don't fear getting their hands dirty to show you the garden path to enlightenment. From lovely ladybugs to pesky grubs, this is the place to learn how to get it done sans toxins. Rich with soil tips and blooming with annuals, perennials, and everything in between, Austin loves organic!

The Natural Gardener
8648 Old Bee Caves Rd.

Best Gas Prices

Apparently everything is better in bulk. Costco, your go-to shop not only for a lifetime supply of ketchup, also your place to shop for gas. These big-bargain gurus have managed to keep prices low on filling your gas tank as well as your pantry.

10401 Research, 512/634-2250
4301 W. William Cannon #100, 512/382-3011

Best Green Business

And you thought green living meant turning off the air conditioner and crunching an odd organic carrot. How about organic cotton socks? Reusable gift-wrap sacks? Praying mantis eggs for gardeners who really hate insecticides? And, of course, biodiesel, from this greening influence on Austin shopping habits.

Best Liquor Store

Baileys in the morning, Rose Regale as an afternoon treat, and unfiltered sake bombing all night long; the lady had a very demanding palate. When we first set out to sate her lady's desires, our trek took us to three different liquor outlets. No go. Then we decided to give in and check out the recent Houston-transplant mega-mart Spec's. Oh, wow. Not only did we fill our shopping list, but we added a few gourmet-deli delicacies to boot – pâté, olives, chutney, cigars, imported chocolate … whooooo, what an affair. And the lady? Well there are plenty in line waiting to cover her tab, but we, on the other hand, will always have Spec's – and its 12 under $12 wine specials, oh yes.

5775 Airport, 512/366-8300
4970 Hwy. 290 W., 512/366-8260
10515-K MoPac N., 512/342-6893
201 University Oaks Blvd. #600, Round Rock, 512/341-9066
9900 S. I-35, 512/280-7400
13015 Shops Pkwy., Bee Cave, 512/263-9981
739 Hwy. 71 W., Bastrop, 512/308-0250
3550 S. General Bruce Dr., Temple, 254/771-1518
10601 RR 620 N., 512/506-8316
12611 Hymeadow, 512/506-8401
166 Hargraves Ste. B-400, 512/432-0186
1013 W. University Ave. #200, Georgetown, 512/868-6696
13530 Ronald Reagan Blvd. #100, Cedar Park, 512/986-7681
1100 Hwy. 290 W., Elgin, 512/285-2741

Best Local Bookstore

What do Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Edwards, John Kerry, and Mr. Kotter have in common? When they come to town to do a signing, there’s only one place to go. The biggest independent bookstore in Texas has been bringing in the big names and great books for 37 years. Plus, we love that old barber’s chair on the second floor.

603 N. Lamar

Best Local Hardware Store

The majority of times this ballot has been presented, the majority of voters have said that Breed was the best. They must be doing something right, huh? The big-box stores don't even come close to this local favorite. Go ahead. Call the big boys to see if they carry Bio Zapp or have diatomaceous earth in stock. Ha. Besides, have you ever tried to find Waterford and Wedgwood at Home Depot?

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

Best New-Car Dealership

Unlike the usual polished mausoleum where the salesmen lurch toward you like the living dead, the friendly folks at Howdy are alive and well, indeed. Dedicated to finding you the right car at the right price, they pledge to treat their customers like they would their own parents. Maybe that's why you'll be driving away in that financed hybrid in a New York second.

Howdy Honda
5519 E. Ben White

Best Pet Store

Another winner in the battle against the big-box stores, Bark 'n Purr's multiple wins in this category show Austin's penchant for local, friendly, and knowledgeable service. For more than 50 years, this North Central establishment has been taking care of our pets' needs, and we, in turn, honor them for doing so.

Bark n Purr Pet Center
4604 Burnet Rd.

Best Shoe Selection

Nordstrom has won Best Shoe Selection ever since it opened. Frankly, with their reputation, they could have won a "Best of Austin" before they ever opened here. They've got it all, from Amalfi to Onitsuka Tiger to Western Chief. At Nordstrom, it's not about whim, as in, "I want those shoes," so much as it's about desideratum: "Omigod, I need those shoes."

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

Best Used-Car Dealership

With discount outlets popping up as retail outposts everywhere, it's fitting that there’re used-car "supermarkets" among the bargains. The country’s largest used-car retailer gives you a written offer for your car whether you buy from them or not. If you do, you'll choose from an inventory subjected to a 125-point inspection, backed by a five-day, money-back guarantee. Maybe that's why Chronicle readers have chosen CarMax two years running.

CarMax Auto Superstore
13300 N. I-35, 512/873-2315
4400 S. I-35, 512/651-7160

J.P. Bleibtreu

Best Clothing

Girly, femme fatale, and sophisticated, all in one hip room. With the best-fitting jeans you've worn in your life, plus the cutest purses, earrings, shoes, and doodads, be sure to swing by the last Thursday of every month (7-9pm) for the ultimate in shopping: chair massages, wine, a DJ, munchies, and discounts. Now that's shopping.

2405 Nueces Ste. H

Best New Boutique

Owner Julie Copp continues to provide high-style on the Drag. The former Garden Room buyer focuses her vast experience on a younger market, carrying lines like Ella Moss, Frankie B. jeans, Voom, Chip & Pepper, Anna Sui, and C.C. Skye. With an in-store jeans guru to assure perfect fit, C. Jane is already a hit with shoppers, as evidenced by your votes.

C. Jane
2346 Guadalupe

J.P. Bleibtreu

Best Naughty Business

With all the spice and kinkiness desired for a hoochie-coochie masterpiece, Forbidden Fruit specializes in toys, accessories, and pretty much anything to do with the "s" word. (No, not "soufflé,” silly.) They stand tall in their Tush Teasers and proudly proliferate with workshops like pole-dancing aerobics and Fellatio 101. This, along with a superchill staff, is why they are yet again Austin's naughtiest.

Forbidden Fruit
108 E. North Loop

Best Music Gear

Locals, we love you, but Guitar Center has done it again. In this chain of musical instruments, every link in the band – drummer, guitarist, and bass player – may explore separate rooms to hook up with his or her dream rig. Whether you’re looking for something to pluck, plink, or smash, Guitar Center's in-house road crew can find the perfect amp, keyboard, or drumstick.

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

Best Used Records/CDs

It's reassuring to know that the byte of streaming and MP3s has not completely wiped out the tangible economics of CDs, DVDs, and LPs. Cheapo Discs' community of music enthusiasts, case in point, believes wholeheartedly that one man's attic trash is another man's rare collectible. With bins and bins of music jewels to be discovered as well as in-store performances, a trip to this place beats the socks off watching your torrents progress.

Cheapo Discs
914 N. Lamar

Best Record/CD Store

Remember in Empire Records when Warren whines at the record-store workers, "You think you're so cool just because you work in a record store." The Waterloo staff are those cool kids you're jealous of, who work in the coolest record store and know the obscurest bands. It's Waterloo, the quintessential Austin slack lair, where hours are lost in CD stacks, tight jeans win bonus points, and the best live music is right there. It's Waterloo. And you love it.

Waterloo Records
600-A N. Lamar

photo by John Anderson

Best Thrift Store

At nearly every street corner, traffic light, and neighborhood shopping center in Austin, there seems to be a Goodwill. And that's great news for our ridiculously cheap shopping pleasures (especially around this time of year, near Halloween). Yes, their goodies are über cheap. But Goodwill is really about all of the jobs created, just to keep all that schtuff (aka donations) organized and ready to put on the racks. It's about always having a place to do community service. Ask the judge, he'll tell ya. Most importantly, it's about not letting that their-trash-but-now-my-cutesy-treasure philosophy go unfulfilled.

Various locations

Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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