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2008 Readers Poll
2008 Critics Picks

Bret Brookshire

Best New Local Business

Yarn never had it so hip. When the Knitting Nest set up shop in South Austin, its bright, colorful new digs were welcomed by local crafters and newbies alike. It offers classes and personal instruction, a knitting lounge, and a friendly, personable staff. Carrying the largest supply of Cascade Yarns in the Southwest United States, employing world-class knitters, and sporting – let's face it – one of the cutest Westies in all of Austin as its mascot, this place has set itself up to be one of our faves for years to come.

The Knitting Nest
8708 S. Congress #570
512/291-8866
www.theknittingnestaustin.com

Best Clothing

Strut owner Javier Hernandez is a real Austin success story. A retail clerk as of just a few years ago, he is now owner of four Strut stores (three in Austin and one in San Marcos) noted for their trendy yet affordable selections of women's clothing, shoes, and accessories. Legions of ladies swear by Strut, and as it continues to branch out, we may be watching an empire in the making.

Strut
3500 Guadalupe, 512/374-1667
3100 S. Congress, 512/707-1523
2200 S. Lamar, 512/326-2303
www.shopstrut.com

Seabrook Jones

Best Fashion Accessories

Bat those eyelashes, girl. Toss that hair. You're shopping at Flirt, basking in its third year as a "BOA" winner. This popular UT-area favorite presents signature lines such as Necessary Objects handbags, Lucca, LA Made, and Matt & Nat, among others. Their 30%-off happy hour every third Thursday and a newly expanded goddess shopping space is sure to keep fans up on the latest trends.

Flirt
2405 Nueces Ste. H
512/472-4440
www.flirtinaustin.com

Best Shoe Selection

Ever since its debut in Austin, Nordstrom's fabled shoe department has delighted customers with the most desirable lines of shoes on the market. But what's a shoe store without attentive service? You'll never find out at Nordstrom - the staff's expertise in fit and knowledge of styles is just as legendary as the selection of shoes … for men, women, and children.

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

Best Thrift Store

It's not just about getting great prices on used goods and color-coordinated selections of gently worn clothes (though that certainly is part of its charm); it's also about retraining and rehabilitating those less fortunate than ourselves. Everyone wins when you shop at Goodwill!

Goodwill
2800 S. Lamar, 512/442-8802
Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
836 Airport, 512/389-3277
Goodwill Computerworks, 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7502
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
www.austingoodwill.org

Best Naughty Business

Where most places would say that sex sells, here, sex excels. With costumes to dress up or smack down, toys for the most intimate of playthings, props, accessories, tasty edibles, and world-class service and advice, this is the holy grail for seekers of that delicious forbidden fruit. Its workshops syllabi run the gamut from stripping to pole dancing to BSDM, making for the best boudoir extra credit of any class ever.

Forbidden Fruit
108 E. North Loop, 512/453-8090
www.forbiddenfruit.com

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Antiques/Collectibles

Nothing common here - just an extraordinary time capsule of extraordinary finds: clothing from bygone eras, architectural elements, estate jewelry, 19th century books, and just about anything you can (or can't) imagine. Uncommon Objects is not your mom's thrift store; it's a labyrinthine journey through time, with hundreds of items begging you to take them home.

Uncommon Objects
1602 Fortview
512/442-4000
www.uncommonobjects.com

Best Vintage

The gang at Room Service knows what you want – from the quirky to the sublime – long before you do. It could be the exact Knoll coffee table you've dreamed of; an original, official acid-washed Dirty Dancing jacket (still with tags!) that you missed out on the first time; that stunning Marimekko in the window; or a perfect copy of Dynamite like the ones from the Scholastic Book Club before Mom threw away all your Shaun Cassidy. Whatever the treasure, Room Service is a great place when you're looking for something specific … or when you're shopping for something you didn't know you needed.

Room Service Vintage
107 E. North Loop, 512/451-1057
www.roomservicevintage.com

Best Furnishings/Home

Swedish design, modern utility, economical bonanzas, and gorgeous little meatballs - ever since that happy blue-and-yellow box opened its doors to us two years ago, our apartments, dorm rooms, houses, and homes have been better for it. Chairs, bookshelves, linens, closets, lamps, rugs, kitchenware – all with the added touch of European sensibility and chic splashes of bold color – make welcome additions to our home decor.

IKEA
1 IKEA Way
Round Rock
512/828-4532
www.ikea-usa.com

Best Local Hardware Store

The success of this local treasure in a big-box world, opened in 1970 by Truman and Ann Breed, may be its butch/femme appeal. Go to one side of the store for door hinges and bulldog hooks, then meet your companion on the other side to approve selections of Jay Strongwater and crystal stemware. Tip: Try browsing the nursery while munching on fine, dark chocolate.

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

Best Gardening Store

Chemicals schmemicals – that's what these guys say. You don't need to use gross toxins to keep insects off your plants. Do it the organic way. They'll show you how. Their grounds are amazing, everything you could ever want to discover: vegetable gardens, an herb garden, an orchard/vineyard, a butterfly garden, xeriscape, and even a labyrinth and a tepee for the more adventurous. You can even pet a jackass. Now, this is organic living.

The Natural Gardener
8648 Old Bee Caves Rd.
512/288-6113
www.tngaustin.com

Best Pet Store

One trip to this pet palace, and you begin to remember what retail used to be like. Established in Austin more than a half-century ago, Bark 'n Purr offers exceptional customer service for both you and little Muffin, along with a complete line of pet-care products, accessories, and pet food. Austin loves local: Who need the big, national outlets to tell us how it's done? Bark 'n Purr doesn't. Just ask little Muffin (or Brutus or Tinkle or whatever).

Bark n Purr Pet Center
4604 Burnet Rd.
512/452-3883
www.barknpurr.com

John Carrico

Best Car Dealership

Howdy Honda wants nothing more than to make you happy and to make you feel welcome – its name says so. Whether you prefer an upfront car salesman or one who does the five-hours-long dance with you or one who will know when to just back off, they're happy to accommodate. Fill out an online financing form, and they'll call you to offer a hand to hold as you go down the car-buying path.

Howdy Honda
5519 E. Ben White
512/443-4300
www.howdyhonda.com

Best Green Business

Austin loves green, and Austin loves Eco-Wise, because it colors us that way. From building supplies and housewares to personal-care items, baby clothes, and pet care, Eco-Wise has it all for smart shoppers who really care about themselves, their children, their homes, and the future of the planet we call home. Eco-Wise: made in Austin (and we wouldn't have it any other way!).

Eco-Wise
110 W. Elizabeth
512/326-4474
www.ecowise.com

John Carrico

Best Convenience Store

One visit to Whip In, and you'll be in love. If the impressive selection of beer, wine, snacks, and cigars isn't enough to make you swoon, speaking with any one of the knowledgeable, friendly employees will have you down on one knee, ready to propose.

Whip In
1950 S. I-35
512/442-5337
www.whipin.com

Best Drugstore/Pharmacy

If you moved here because you like it weird but you're still standing in line like a robot in those big chains, please step over to People's. The good folks at this independent pharmacy live by that Tom Edison quote: "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease." The friendly team of pharmacists and health counselors includes nutritionists, naturopaths, and homeopaths. How's that for a local cure?

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
www.peoplesrx.com

Best Liquor Store

Like H-E-B with beer goggles on, Spec's rocks its many bright, white aisles with so many choices in every department of alcohol consumption, you could slur your words just lookin' at 'em. The larger-than-life selection includes liquors from every color of the rainbow, beers, wines, and killer keg services. Spec's brings it up a notch with its amazing deli and fantastic wine tastings going on throughout the week.

Spec's
5775 Airport, 512/366-8300
4970 Hwy. 290 W., 512/366-8260
10515 MoPac N., 512/342-6893
201 University Oaks #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
www.specsonline.com

Best Local Bookstore

Doesn't it say something when an author announces a signing in Austin and the automatic presumption is it'll be at BookPeople? Two stories of literature, proving that the downfalls of both the independent bookstore and the printed word have been exaggerated.

BookPeople
603 N. Lamar
512/472-5050
www.bookpeople.com

Best Comic-Book Store

In a year when comic-book movies were bigger than ever but local comic-book stores closed like old issues, Austin Books thrived by doing what it does best: carrying a huge selection of not just the big name titles but the indie, the obscure, the limited run, and the rarely seen.

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar
512/454-4197
www.austinbooks.com

Best Fantasy/Gaming Store

Fantasy gaming isn't just about level-seven elf mages, cloaking spells, and summoning … things. It's about participating in a socially constructed narrative. That's why Dragon's Lair isn't just a store, it's a community — a community preparing an assault on Overlord Zarkknon's crystal redoubt deep within the Blood Realm of Dimension XII.

Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy
2438 W. Anderson Ste. 1-B
512/454-2399
www.dlair.net

Best Computer Store

Step into the bright, white light of the Apple Store; smile at fellow Mac buddies; and check out the latest version of the iPod. We love the clean, simple designs that mimic Apple's user-friendly details. And whenever your iWhatever or gWhatever gets sick, you can count on the Genius Bar to serve up a fix.

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

Best Music Gear

You know how you and your buds broke it down to "Pour Some Sugar on Me" with the cutlery and the glassware at Magnolia the other night (much to the chagrin of your server)? It's high time you guys started that monster rock group. Pile into your tour bus, and stock it up with all the essentials – drums, guitars, keys, basses, synthesizers – to get the groupies lining up. (Sorry, no hair extensions sold here.)

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

photo by John Anderson

Best Record/CD Store

With record stores all over the country dropping like flies, Waterloo Records is the mirage in our vinyl and polycarbonate desert. We love how the bins aren't separated by genre but color coded by stickers, making the selections easy to peruse. And we can count on getting turned on to great music in the listening stations and live at the in-stores. Staffed by local musicians (Bill Jeffery, DJ Mel, etc.) among other knowledgeable music nerds, Waterloo leaves our ears enriched, informed, and happy.

Waterloo Records
600-A N. Lamar
512/474-2500
www.waterloorecords.com

Best Small Record/CD Store

From Ratatat to Rat at Rat R. From rare Prince to Bonnie "Prince" Billy. From Shearwater to Bongwater … oh, hell, we could do this all day. But for the best in a human-scaled record store, lend an ear to our readers. This win says a lot in a town that has experienced a small record-store renaissance within the last few years. Yeah, yeah, back to the fun stuff: From King Kong to King Kahn. From the Box Tops to Voxtrot …

End of an Ear
4304 Clawson
512/462-6008
www.endofanear.com

Todd V. Wolfson

Best DVD Rental/Purchase

Vulcan Video manages to effortlessly kick the collective asses of all the national chains, largely due to its outstanding staff. Friendly and helpful in spite of their penetrating depth of cinematic erudition, they can guide you skillfully through Vulcan's comprehensive inventory. They will also let you bring your dog in and may even pet him.

Vulcan Video
100-A North Loop, 512/478-5325
4411 Russell, 512/326-2629
www.vulcanvideo.com

 
Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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