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Best Asian Market Experience
MT Supermarket

Who hasn't been in need of cow tongue, a few duck hearts, or even pig uterus for an evening meal? Now, finally, MT Supermarket is the one-stop shop for all of the above. Boasting 55,000 square feet of truly authentic Asian cuisine, this megamart may be the crown jewel of the new Chinatown Austin. A wide swath of Asian culture is represented here – Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, Korean, Filipino – offering fresh fish, authentic noodles, and samples of what some consider the most exquisite teas in the world. By checkout, MT Supermarket provides more than just groceries: It offers education in both food and culture – and maybe even the possibility of finally making that pig uterus recipe you've been sitting on.

MT Supermarket, 10901 N. Lamar, 512/454-4804,

Best Big Boozy Expansion
Twin Liquors at Hancock Center

When Old Navy and its sales racks moved out of the Hancock Center, it was enough to make the Chronicle offices turn to drink. Now Twin Liquors is moving from its much smaller current home in the mall and turning the 15,000-square-foot Old Navy site into a medley of liquor store and palate education emporium. At least we’ll know we’ll be sipping on the good stuff.

Twin Liquors, 1000 E. 41st, 512/451-7400,

Twin Liquors, 519 E. Seventh, 512/476-9982,

Twin Liquors, 8030 Mesa, 512/346-1861,

6 more locations

Best Books to Change the World

MonkeyWrench Books has a brain-watering selection of materials – from Howard Zinn's lesser-known narratives of history to the Rhizome Collective's how-to for urban permaculture – including everything anyone needs in order to bone up on politics, social theory, and alternative lifestyles. The volunteers who run this nonprofit DIY info shop are committed to educating, motivating, and uniting the public. Whether you are interested in joining the revolution or just learning about one, this is a great place to start. In addition to books and zines, MonkeyWrench hosts film screenings, book talks, activist lectures, and gatherings.

MonkeyWrench Books, 110 E. North Loop, 512/407-6925,

Best Clothes for the College Budget

With the newest location subtly located in the not-so-subtle Triangle, SoLa's clothing, jewelry, and sunglasses draw the many young, beautiful women from around Austin with senses of artistic urban chic – and for reasonable prices (or at least reasonable enough that it won't stand out on daddy and mommy's credit-card bill). The original location on South Lamar carries more candles, cool knickknacks, and in-store charm, but the clothes – and, parents take note, prices – are the same on each side of town.

SoLa, 2005 S. Lamar, 512/441-7370,

Best Combination of Crafts and Double Dutch
Stitch Fashion Show & Guerrilla Craft Bazaar

Originally the brainchild of Austin designers Jesse Kelly Landes, Tina Sparkles, Karly Hand, and Jennifer Perkins, last year’s fifth annual Stitch fest – complete with a full bar and a cafe outfitted with sewing machines for the compulsively creative – brought arts and crafts to a whole new deliriously frenetic level that left us inspired long thereafter. Ninety-plus vendors from around the country showed up, including folks from, as well as Project Runway’s Bradley Baumkirchner and Cleveland-based theatre/dance/jump-roping troupe Double Dutch Will Take You Higher. It sure took us higher. Crafts + alcohol + jump ropes = DIY heaven.

Guerilla Craft Fair,

Best Day to Buy Dickies
Tuesdays at Today's Style

Every day's a good day to buy Dickies, you say? Well, you may want to rethink that once you learn that Today's Style hosts its 15% Off Everything (except stuff already on sale) Sale on Tuesdays. Don't let the modest size of its two convenient locations fool you – their inventories are huge. With their rainbow of Dickies flavas, kicks, urban wear, and cheap alterations, Today's Style gives life to the day before Hump Day and a reason to make that paycheck last past the weekend.

Today's Style, 1915 E. Riverside, 512/447-0000,

Today's Style, 4631 Airport #104, 512/300-2772,

Best Designer Bags
Ballistic Sweater Girl

photo by Celesta Danger

When we found ourselves in need of unique baby gifts earlier this year, craft designer extraordinaire Wendy Irwin whipped out signature, one-of-a-kind diaper bags that really hit the spot. Unfortunately, she no longer makes the roomy baby bags, but we were happy to be introduced to her line of purses, wallets, and reusable grocery totes. Irwin’s use of durable retro upholstery fabrics and clever adornments renders each bag a personal and functional work of art – the kind of thing your baby, or even your baby daddy, will carry with pride.

Ballistic Sweater Girl, 512/217-3141,

Best Eastside Wine Fix
Bread Basket

Don't let the facade of "convenience store" fool you. Tucked inside this Eastside secret is an astonishingly good collection of wines. No place in a 3-mile radius can boast a better selection of fermented grapes at better-than-expected convenience-store prices. It’s also stocked with a surprisingly varied collection of organic varieties and local growers.

Bread Basket, 2150 E. Seventh St., 512/480-9514

Best Little Greenhouse in Austin
Barton Springs Nursery

Widely known for carrying one of the largest collections of native plants in Central Texas, Barton Springs Nursery is a homegrown favorite. And it's no wonder: Seeds, shrubs, pottery, herbs, grasses, roses, and gardening gifts - they stock all this along with the advice and direction to start every aspiring organic gardener on the right track.

Barton Springs Nursery, 3601 Bee Caves Rd., 512/328-6655,

Best Locally Designed Cosmetics
Rae Cosmetics

Whether trying to achieve the sublimely exotic or sun-kissed freshness, Rochelle Rae's palette of colors offers a stunning range of cosmetics, custom-made for the Austin climate. From foundations and concealers to eye and lip colors, Rae says it's "a mineral make-up line created to take the heat, like the women who wear it." Judging from her devoted following of acolytes, she's right on the money.

Rae Cosmetics Studio, 1206 W. 38th #3102, 512/320-8732,

Best Metallurgy
Encore Records & Video

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Lubbock son Charles Lokey started a video store in Garland in 1984, expanded it to include music at Austin's Arboretum in 1988, and 20 years later continues both on Anderson Lane with Austin's best selection of heavy metal discs, stickers, and Ts. Full-service video rental and music one-stop never takes a back seat to the sprawling emporium's sweet in-store stage or the new website, but if Dangerous Toys/Broken Teeth frontman Jason McMaster endorses Encore by working there, you know it's old-school, hardcore, and heavy.

Encore Records, Video & Apparel, 809 E Sixth, 512/476-6666,

Best Mother-Daughter Design Team
Buddha Hill & Chia

photo by Bret Brookshire

We were devoted fans of Kathryn Davis’ cute custom aprons fashioned from retro-print cottons and hand-embroidered antique pillow cases long before we discovered the delightful creations of her equally talented daughter, Chia Guillory. Nimble fingers and an eye for both form and function certainly run in the family. Now Kathryn’s darling aprons and Chia’s adorable and practical sun hats are our handmade gifts of choice for all the women and girls of our acquaintance.

Chia, 512/457-9456,

Buddha Hill, 512/461-1399

Best Naughty Guilty Pleasure
Shopping at the Bazaar

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Just a skip off of I-35 is the coy, stylish boutique known as the Bazaar, where women have guiltlessly dropped dough to feel sexy and accessorized. Right next door is the Bazaar costume annex, which not only carries every type of disguise (Santa suits, wigs, facial hair, tiaras, etc.) but also great cover for any demure lady, secret exotic dancer, or regular Josephine (or Joe, for that matter) shopping for her naughty bits.

The Bazaar, 1605 E. Riverside, 512/448-1079

Bazaar Back Stage, 1609 E. Riverside, 512/448-1079

Best Place to Dig for Vintage Treasures
Out of the Past

Step inside Out of the Past, and take a deep breath – don't you dare call it a room full of junk. Every square inch of the store is piled high with vintage treasures, and many require intricate excavation to be discovered. From old plates to stuffed E.T. dolls to wacky paintings, classic toys, records, and retro furniture, Out of the Past has enough inventory to satisfy even the hard-to-please vintage connoisseur.

Out of the Past, 5341 Burnet Rd., 512/371-3550,

Best Place to Find Your Perfect Fit
Hem Jeans

Let's face it: Austin is a denim-wearing town. Don't try to change it. (Seriously, don't; you'll only embarrass yourself – too often by revealing yourself a transplant.) Jeans are comfortable and practical and, damn, they can look hot, too. That is, of course, if you have a pair that fit right for your body. Under the kindly scrutinizing eye of Hem's Allison Ryan, there is no doubt you'll walk out of the 12th Street store with at least one pair of jeans that not only make your butt and waist look good but that, more importantly, make you feel confident and are as comfortable as your favorite flip-flops. What could be more Austin?

Hem Jeans, 908-B W. 12th, 512/478-5326,

Best Place to Shop European in Your Own Town
Pat Monroe Antiques

photo by John Carrico

For Austinites who like a little Old World blended into their own world, this place is a firecracker. You'll find an 18th century French sword among intricate tapestries, exquisitely carved wooden tables, and daintily painted serving trays. Such variety is surprising, but it's no accident: Owner Pat Monroe scours France to find these treasures, so every item is hand-picked.

Pat Monroe Antiques, 1009 W. Sixth, 512/789-4775,

Best Place to Stock Up on Fairy Castles

photo by Celesta Danger

Elena Bailey, owner of Happiness, warned us the first time we stopped by her garden shop, "Once you get your first succulent, you'll be an addict." Well, check us into rehab, then: After buying our first Fairy Castle, a small cactus appropriately named for its charming appearance, we've been back for more every week or so, never tiring of browsing the expansive and gorgeous outdoor store. Bailey generously dishes out plant-care advice, making it easy for green-thumb wannabes to get started on creating their own Happiness.

Happiness, 2213-B S. First, 512/440-8600,

Best Reinvention of a Convenience Store
Hyde Park Market

The sign still reads Sunrise Super Stop, but Hyde Park Market, Deli & Organic Grocery is a serious upgrade from your everyday gas-and-sip establishment. In addition to supercheap gas, Boar's Head meats, Mediterranean eats, and frozen Amy's pizza, this convenience store proudly claims to stock "8,162" options for your wine, beer, and tobacco pleasuring. And did we mention this family-owned business has just about the smilingest staff in town? This new Hyde Park mainstay isn't just convenient – it's kind of warm and cuddly, too.

The Flag Store, 4429 Duval St., 512/420-0222,

Best Subterraneans
Brave New Books

Is it any coincidence that this bastion of constitutionalists is as far as possible from big government breeding ground the LBJ School and still next to the UT campus? Proudly subversive, literally and spiritually underground, this is the one-stop literary shop for every conspiracy-loving (and dreading) reader. After all, what other bookstore has a "Ron Paul’s Recommended Reading" section?

Brave New Books, 1904-B Guadalupe (downstairs), 512/480-2503,

Best Synergistic Block Revival
BookWoman & Ruta Maya

First BookWoman moved up North Lamar. The strip was drab but had potential. Now Ruta Maya's headed to the block in 2009. Bringing old-skool dykes and feminist grrrls into contact with world-class world musicians, Rasta families, and the varied folx who populate Ruta Maya can only increase world peace. No one is free until everyone is free, so let's dance and read great books together!

BookWoman, 5501 N. Lamar Ste. 105-A, 512/472-2785,

Ruta Maya CLOSED, 3601 S. Congress Ste. D-200, 512/707-9637,

Best Vintage Shopping (South of Ben White)
Goodbye Hello

If the spike in housing has forced you into the boonies, fret not. Head out on Manchaca Road past William Cannon and Slaughter Lane to Goodbye Hello Consignment and Resale, the coolest consignment shop in South South Austin. The emphasis in clothing is closer to classy than kitschy but all high quality. The furniture rarely stays around long enough to gather dust, and when owner Victoria Bounds puts on a sale, the stock flies out of the store.

Goodbye Hello Consignment and Resale, 10030 Manchaca, 512/554-1862

Most Daliesque Redneck Wear

Leave it to Lubbock-damaged punk rock stalwart Jimmy Bradshaw (Squat Thrust, Passed Out Flyers) to find a way we can cherish his talents long after our hearing is done for – namely by creating (what else?) really twisted Western wear. At first glance, ZZZThreadZ shirts look like standard-issue embroidered vintage – until you notice that one baseball dude decapitating another baseball dude with a line drive. Other lunacies include fleshless cowboys, drunk armadillos, and “bad eagle bring back my baby.” Look for him on South Congress weekends, buy a bundle, and be prepared for questions (“Is that a Sasquatch on your shirt? Is it wearing a watch?"), as well as incredulous compliments.

ZZZThreadz, South Congress,

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