2011 Readers Poll
2011 Critics Picks

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Antiques/Collectibles

This imagination-stoking SoCo favorite houses the peculiar and beautiful wares of 24 separate antiques purveyors. Their titular Objects are arranged into surprisingly lovely milieus, and the resulting effect is of wandering through the living rooms of artists, eccentrics, and oddballs. Now, if only there were an afternoon tea service ….

Uncommon Objects
1602 Fortview

Best Car Dealership

It's true that in these hard economic times, people are looking for a good car value for their hard-earned bucks, but it is also obvious that Howdy Honda is more than a standard depot for efficient cars at affordable prices. Its long-standing reputation for quality and personal, no-pressure service brings back memories of a long-lost, sticky-as-heck 1980s radio jingle and has kept readers bestowing the locally owned stalwart with "Best of Austin" awards for seven years running.

Howdy Honda
5519 E. Ben White

Best Clothing

Clothes, shoes, accessories: Were that all, it would be more than enough to suffice for the everyday fashionista. But Strut takes it to a new level with its unique gotta-have-it stylings, making certain the "perfect little something" is perfectly easy to find. Four Austin locations means you're three times closer to getting your fashion fix.

Various locations

Best Comic-Book Store

Turn the page; wash your hands. Turn the page; wash your hands. That may be extreme, but the staff at this comic-book heaven have approached that level of reverence, and it's this dedication that keeps Austin Books & Comics your fanboy/fangirl favorite year after year.

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar

Best Computer Store

A tie for Best Computer Store is a bit like apples and oranges when you're dealing with Macs vs. PCs. But the readers have spoken. If you have a Mac, fixing it up couldn't be more convenient than swinging by the store, grabbing a ticket, and entertaining yourself with new gadgets while waiting for service. The eagerly hip sales help seems so young to know so much more than we do that it's humiliating … but in a good way, because they get the Mac products repaired or replaced quickly. Discount Electronics only handles Dell, but Dells are pretty big business here in Austin, so it's terrific to have a store dedicated to maintaining them.

Apple Store
2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S.

Discount Electronics
4005 W. Parmer

Best Convenience Store

Since 1986, the mighty Whip In has been a cut above your average convenience store. A walk into this eclectic, family-owned and -operated shop gives the sense of being invited into the Topiwala home, complete with a cozy cafe serving up exotic takes on typical Tex-Mex fare. Its worldly selections of beer, smokes, and produce, paired with a chill, take-your-time atmosphere, ensure convenience doesn't come at the cost of comfort. Whip In good.

Whip In
1950 S. I-35

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Drugstore/Pharmacy

Peoples Rx embraces the charms of yesterday's neighborhood drugstore and pairs them with the knowledge and technology of today. Picking up a prescription? Need it compounded? Looking for alternative health care advice? Meds for your four-legged companion? How about lunch? All this is served up in an environment where you're never ever a number.

Various locations

Best DVD Rental/Purchase

When the night is still, as we slumber in our beds, old VHS tapes come out and take to the streets, crawling to the windows of these hallowed DVD juggernauts and staring longingly into their packed aisles with an envy unmatched by the greenest of monsters. No envy's needed, though; both centers of rentable cinema boast incredible catalogs of VHS gems. Sometimes we're rendered slack-jawed because there are just too many choices. Choices are hard.

I Luv Video
4803 Airport

Best Furnishings/Home

On the surface, this year's champs represent two poles of the home-decorating world: Room Service for off-beat, quirky, and vintage tastes, and West Elm for newly manufactured comfort. The color stories are unique, from the citrons, mauves, and medium browns of Room Service to the whites, silvers, and dark chocolates of West Elm. A room incorporating both is not the concoction of some Janus-faced interior decorator, but rather the foundations of good design. Natch!

West Elm
1011 W. Fifth

Room Service Vintage
117 E. North Loop

Best Gardening Store

This sprawling organic wonderland located on the western edge of town may be all-natural, but don't try to tell us there isn't some magic involved, too. Every time we wander the gorgeous grounds – taking in the goats, the fresh greens just begging to be planted – we feel a little like the Natural Gardener put a spell on us. We hope we never wake.

The Natural Gardener
8648 Old Bee Caves Rd.

Best Green Business

Is there anything green that Austin doesn't love? OK, maybe mold. But that never need be a problem if you use materials from locally owned House+Earth, Austin's green building material store. What separates House+Earth from Austin's other building material retailers is its commitment to human health and the environment. Find everything from cabinetry, flooring, countertops, paints, and sealants to natural clay plasters, LED lighting, nontoxic cleaners, and unique, artisan-crafted products. Plenty of friendly and knowledgeable staff can guide you through your project. Green is good.

House + Earth
1214 W. Sixth #120

Best Jewelry/Accessories

Talk about "local girl hits it big!" With her South Congress flagship store, a new store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and a soon-to-open store in Dallas, jewelry designer extraordinaire Kendra Scott is riding the crest of national attention. From Paris Hilton to Queen Latifah, celebs are snapping up Kendra's statement jewelry. Her spare and chic stores feature hundreds of her easily identifiable signature looks, plus a DIY "color bar" with stones and settings to design your own shockingly affordable jewels. This noted philanthropist also enjoys an ever-increasing, loyal following.

Kendra Scott
1701 S. Congress

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Liquor Store

Oh, Spec's! Oh, Twin Liquors! Just shake hands and embrace the fact that Austin loves you both so much it can't chose an absolute favorite. Both companies strive to offer the best in party favors for the good times. These faves pride themselves on wooing their regulars. Austin-born Twin Liquors is great for the why-not-buy-two pit stop on the drive home, and Houston-hatched Spec's will help you acquire the extra perks for a great cocktail soiree, from fine cheeses to smart glassware. Both happily boost our need for liquid confidence while hooking us up with discounts on large purchases and featured products.

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

Best Local Bookstore

Our favorite books often become tangible reminders of where we've been – grains of sand in the pages, a scribbled note in the margins, an old picture used as a place marker. It's the same physical realness that we love about shopping at BookPeople: the conversations with sales people, flirtations with bestsellers, and hopeful leaps of faith into new printed worlds.

603 N. Lamar

Best Local Hardware Store

Unless you were born Bob Vila, hardware stores probably make you feel dumb. Breed & Co. will not make you feel dumb. In fact, the knowledgeable folks there will make you feel rather brilliant, helping to empower the inner builder (or fence-fixer or wall-painter or whatever) you always suspected was in there somewhere, maybe buried beneath your crippling fear of power tools. Now power tools shudder with respect for you. Thanks, Breed & Co.

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

Best Music Gear

Strait up now baby, we're gonna love you forever. With your indie feel and snazzy deals like the restring for $12 plus the cost of strings, musicians know where it's at. And if you're a size queen, Guitar Center turns things up to 11 with its vast inventory of auditory delights. For those of you who supply us with the tools to rock, we salute you.

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

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Naughty Business

The missionary position can be quite continental, but Forbidden Fruit is a girl's best friend. Adam, Eve, and Steve know when they need a little more spice in their life, they can always turn to our trusty neighborhood kink shop – now exclusively on North Loop – to fulfill their needs with a rubber helping hand, a wink, and a smile.

Forbidden Fruit
108 E. North Loop

Best New Local Business

Two very different color palettes; two ends of North Loop. A nice lady known as Puppett stocks Green House's retooled fashion for bod and home. One step inside and you're in the nostril of a unicorn who's snorted one too many rainbows. The "green" herein suggests the A-Z of "re"s (-cycle, -purpose, -use, etc.) as well as greenhouse as incubator; it hosts so many art shows and backyard to-dos. Around the beloved curve of North Loop looniness to the west resides a sophisticated store in black. "Eighties goth?" you ask. Close. Here at Blackbird, it's closer to the 1880s, when Poe was God and no one had heard of the Cure yet. The lovingly curated displays scream vintage and antique, but don't get too lost in the mise-en-scène. Blackbird touts hot, new, old-fashioned couture in modern, Texas-friendly fabrics, as well as sizzlingly hot new jewelry by local designers.

Green House
701 E. 53rd

Blackbird   Todd V. Wolfson

Best Pet Store

The gang at locally owned Bark 'n Purr love our furry friends inside and out, offering the best quality pet products at the best price. To make the experience even easier, it has online shopping and free delivery in Austin. Repeat customers have come to expect quality products such as Orijen, Holistic Select, and Flint River Ranch. We're spoiled by the serious, doting attention for our pets' well-being, with staff consultants who can guide us through everything from raw diets to natural flea control. At Bark ’n Purr, health is the alpha dog.

Bark n Purr Pet Center
4604 Burnet Rd.

Best Record/CD Store

Whether you're looking for new adventures in lo-fi or songs in the key of Gaga, Austin's beloved Waterloo Records is your one-stop shop for everything music that Kris Krosses your mind. And if you can't tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule, don't fret; the scoff-free staff will be happy to help you figure it out. Hip-hop hooray!

Waterloo Records
600-A N. Lamar

photo by John Anderson

Best Shoe Selection

We all have a little shoe whore in us. When the heel devil creeps up on our shoulder, enticing us with some retail therapy, Nordstrom's foot-fetish beacon shines like a bright, holy light. Fear not: The price range is down-to-earth, but the selection out of this world. Jessica Simpson. Toms. Fendi. Steve Madden. Nine West. Burberry. From crazy shapes and colors to simple, cozy Uggs, you can definitely find a satisfying pair for the ol' hoofs at our readers' favorite hot (foot) spot.

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

We've heard enough talk of the end of the record store to fill the Library of Congress, but what proprietors Blake Carlisle and Dan Plunkett are more concerned about is the end of your ear. They have enough knowledge, Mo'Wax, and Wax Trax to get past your earwax, so relax, don't do it when you want to download.

End of an Ear
4304 Clawson

Best Thrift Store

Yarrrrr matey, welcome to the good ship Goodwill! Ahoy, scurvy scalawag, are ye searchin' for treasure? Look ho! Thar be a pair o' sea-farin' booties! And thar! A net to catch ye a sea beastie, and a loverly pair o' knickers for your ill-temper'd wench! And if ye be hornswoggled or mutinied, the good ship will get ye back on ye landlubbin' feet. Shiver me timbers!

Various locations

Best Video Game Rental/Purchase

Aside from being the name of a hooker we know in New Orleans, Game Over is a local chain way into vintage and classic video games. At this "crazy experiment in video game nostalgia," you can buy, sell, or trade games, accessories, and collectibles, or unleash your inner teenager at the free retro game tournaments. Now with an online store as well as locations in San Antonio, Round Rock, Sunset Valley, and North Austin.

Various locations

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Vintage

Within these Technicolor walls and strategically placed partitions, there is a very far-out time machine set to a unique era in which only the very best designs of bygone days have survived. Anyone can be a member of Generation Room Service, where groovy poly blends mix into soft denim dreams, art-deco furniture meets funky orange shag, and, somewhere in the stack of gently worn magazines, your dream girl is on the cover of Playboy. For 30 years, Room Service Vintage has provided Austin's characters the means to affordably fashion our everyday costumes and to create the bold and eccentric stages for our lives.

Room Service Vintage
117 E. North Loop

Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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