2010 Readers Poll
2010 Critics Picks
Best Antiques/Collectibles

Walking into Uncommon Objects can be a sensory overload, like wandering around the garage of a wealthy, eccentric, functional hoarder. Therein lies the South Congress antiques store's charm. There is some order within the ephemera, and its vintage wares and eye candy appeal to those who are odd at heart or more art-minded. Whether you're looking for takeaway knick-knacks or larger collectibles, there's a shelf for it.

Uncommon Objects
1602 Fortview

Best Car Dealership

What is it about Hondas? Of all the car dealerships in Austin, you chose two Honda dealers as being the best. Both Howdy Honda and First Texas Honda have satisfied thousands of customers and offer new cars, used cars, sales, leasing, and expert service. Retaining their resale value better than most cars, Hondas are surprisingly popular here in the pickup truck state.

Howdy Honda
5519 E. Ben White

First Texas Honda
1301 W. Koenig

Best Clothing

What's in a name? Spend an hour in one of Strut's adorable dresses, in those supercute shoes, or those darling dangly earrings, and "strut" is exactly how you'll move through the world.

Various locations

Best Comic-Book Store

This is where the hippest of the geeks and the geekiest of the hip go to get their print-issue superhero fix, because 1) it's got the biggest, newest stock of those wonderwares and their graphic alternatives (and all the ephemera surrounding them); 2) it's like walking into a living museum of the brighter side of comic-book culture; and 3) the staff are the kind of sharp, knowledgeable, and friendly people you'd want to hang with at some awesome music gig's afterparty. Now with 20% more Skrull!

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar

Best Computer Store

You don't have to be a computer nerd to dork out at Discount Electronics. There's just something about the place that makes you want to really get to know your motherboard. But, of course, inspiration can only get you so far, and when your motherboard's really giving you the silent treatment, the computer whisperers at Discount Electronics are the most trustworthy technicians around for diagnosing the problem and fixing it up – or selling you a more agreeable, refurbished computer at a hefty discount.

Discount Electronics
4005 W. Parmer, 512/983-9989
1001 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/637-7051

Best Convenience Store

If you prefer cloves to Marlboros and organic brews to Budweiser, Whip In is the convenience store for you. While perusing the carefully curated selection, you might also enjoy live music, delicious Tex-Indian dishes, and suggestions from the ever-friendly, überknowledgeable staff. But don't fear judgment: You can pick up Marlboros and Bud here, too.

Whip In
1950 S. I-35

Jana Birchum

Best Drugstore/Pharmacy

Whether it's a refill on a simple script or a careful explanation of the sometimes confounding option of compounding medications, the acute and comely apothecaries at our local drugstore (by and for the peoples, y'all!) practice the second word in that delicate field they master: health care. And they walk it like they talk it, backing up their nutritionists with a healthy deli, their naturopaths with an impressive selection of supplements and organic remedies, and of course their white-coated wonders with the latest and greatest chemistry – USP-grade and FDA-approved, thank you very much.

Various locations

Best DVD Rental/Purchase

This year marks two solid decades of Vulcan Video being recognized as one of the "Best of Austin." After earning your recognition for 20 years, we don't think there's anything we can tell you about Vulcan's general badassery that you don't already know. Go there tonight, thank the clerks, and ask them about what's playing behind the counter.

Best Furnishings/Home

Despite the website tout that Four Hands is the "Leading Importer of Lifestyle Furnishings," folks here in Austin aren't always wild about imports of any kind, and usually, the only lifestyle they care about is their own. So Four Hands is a particularly impressive success story, having won the hearts and homes of hundreds of Austinites with award-winning home furnishings and decor from around the globe. Again. So before you try your hand at home decorating, go see why Four Hands is better than one.

Four Hands
2090 Woodward

Best Gardening Store

John Dromgoole's Natural Gardener is a Hill Country oasis for the green-minded. With acres of organically grown plants, vegetables, herbs, and more (goats and chickens and donkeys, oh my!), it's got every corner of your garden covered. Got a brown thumb, you say? Couldn't even keep a cactus alive? Don't fret, the NG's staff have tips and tricks up their sleeves year-round.

The Natural Gardener
8648 Old Bee Caves Rd.

Best Green Business

From your regular organic, green home-and-garden shopping needs to a last-minute mad dash to find that environmentally friendly wood finish, Eco-Wise is the place. The friendly staff are knowledgeable, and though the shop may prove humble in size, there's an extensive spillover online, including everything you need to know about biodiesel.

Best Liquor Store

A Spec's employee's suggestion to leave New Amsterdam Straight Gin in the freezer, allowing for a thick, icy smoothness, was one of the best pieces of advice ever afforded to this novice drinker. Whether searching for imported beer, fine liquor, or wine, that's exactly the type of customer that will feel totally comfortable at Twin Liquors and Spec's, both of which are as well-known for their insights as their selections and prices – the sort of stuff that impresses sophisticates as well.

Twin Liquors, various locations; Spec's, various locations

Best Local Bookstore

All you tech heads can go bang your digital drum elsewhere: We’ll be curled up with a good book at BookPeople, where the printed page is still king. This essential Austin spot has everything you require in a big bookstore – a vast and eclectic selection, book clubs to satisfy every niche, and an unnervingly knowledgeable staff – but it’s BookPeople’s cozy, independent spirit that keeps us coming back for more.

603 N. Lamar

Best Local Hardware Store

Home improvements are the name of the game here, whether your needs are actual nuts and bolts or fine china and garden supplies. Breed & Co.'s eclectic mix has pleased generations.

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

Jana Birchum

John Anderson

Best Music Gear

Some would say that the selection of musical goods of all kinds is what is most impressive about this retail music giant, but we think more impressive are the dozens of musicians (both professional and amateur) you can find futzing, tooling, and riffing around the store. Smoke on the waaaaaater!

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

Best Naughty Business

Lube runs out faster than you'd think. You need a large bottle with a pump. And as a consumer browsing either the Fifth Street or North Loop romance emporium, you don't want to feel like you've been pumped. You need some TLC with a shot of Austin cool, tattooed and pierced maybe but never rough. Forbidden Fruit's after-hours adult education runs equally Barry White – discreet but graphic, intimate, curious, expressive. Everything sex should be.

Jana Birchum

Best New Local Business

The readers have spoken. And, as is typical of Austinites, you've chosen two radically different businesses to tie for Best New Local Business. Ministering to the body and soul, both Live Oak Pharmacy and Stag have distinct views on what the community wants and needs. And due to their extraordinary efforts, inventories, and great tastes, both have won your hearts and votes. So whether the matter is as serious as your health or as lighthearted as looking for the perfect fall ensemble, both of these businesses can be as good for you as you are for them.

Live Oak Pharmacy
1611 W. Fifth

1423 S. Congress

Best Pet Store

What else can be said about this Readers Poll favorite, in business for 55 years? We could talk about the great selection of superpremium dog and cat foods (dude, they'll even give you samples to take home to your beloved-but-persnickety eater), the emphasis on natural and pesticide-free pest control products, the toys and outfits and treats and cute food dishes, but it seems as though Chronicle readers already know. Here's to you, Bark ’n Purr. Woof, meow!

Bark n Purr Pet Center
4604 Burnet Rd.

photo by John Anderson

Best Record/CD Store

The Austin music scene has changed a lot in the last 28 years, but Waterloo Records has been peddling the best (and, thank goodness, some of the worst) of it all since 1982. One of our perennial winners, Waterloo has consistently impressed Austin with its large selection of CDs and vinyl records from national and local bands, as well as essential audiophile accessories from USB turntables to inner sleeves.

Waterloo Records
600-A N. Lamar

Best Shoe Selection

There's a very good reason Nordstrom takes the prize again and again in this category. The variety of selection is truly vast, and Nordstrom's service is legendary. Men, women, children – from sporty to haute couture and every in-season must-have betwixt the two, we suspect Nordstrom's foot patrol has many miles yet to reign.

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

Best Small Record/CD Store

With iTunes and illegal downloading having laid to waste many retail outlets, it's left to the niche store to carry on the torch for the beloved mom-and-pop record shops that had served as community centers for music lovers for decades. Proprietors Blake Carlisle and Dan Plunkett incorporate equal parts friendliness and musical knowledge (especially when it comes to experimental, indie pop, jazz, psych, punk, B-movies, etc.) that will guarantee music lovers leave with a bag full of wax worthy of their hard-earned ducats.

End of an Ear
4304 Clawson

Best Thrift Store

Need some inexpensive kitchenware to supplement that student budget? A nearly new sofa that makes the whole room come together? An armful of overlooked bestsellers, with a rare bargain find meant only for you? With 10 Austin retail locations and a host of related CenTex facilities, you're never far from a Goodwill store, where you do much more than just buy. Wrote one satisfied customer about the exchange: "I use Goodwill both ways: to donate items that still have useful life in them and to shop there. I find great treasures at my neighborhood Goodwill." You're bringing treasure as well – not only gently used goods but also the means to build, as its mission says, "a world where every person has access to meaningful work." Where there's a Goodwill, there's a way!

Various locations

Best Video-Game Rental/Purchase

Who could have guessed five years ago that the little temple to retro gaming would survive, let alone expand to three stores (not counting the new online-purchase option)? Not content to do your nostalgic controller jockeying alone? The annual Classic Game Fest gets gamers out of the house and into Game Over's parking lot for pixilated partying.

Various locations

Best Vintage

It's like the attic of your supercool grandmother's mansion, packed to the gills with clothes, furniture, art, textiles, jewelery, and flatware from eras gone by. Wading through this sardine can of a store is half the fun.

Room Service Vintage
117 E. North Loop

Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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