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2012 Readers Poll
2012 Critics Picks
Best Antiques/Collectibles

This SoCo institution is an overwhelming experience for even the most over-the-top lover of antiques and oddities. The fine freakazoids at Uncommon invite you to carefully peruse everything from furniture to jewelry and knickity-knacks. Whether your budget allows for an overhaul in home redecoration, or you're just adding a book from centuries past to your library, ain't no matter! Like Proust's famous madeleine, there's a time-travel experience waiting here for everyone.

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

Best Clothing

Nothing to wear to that party tonight? Our readers recommend Strut; it's a one-stop shop for clothing, shoes, handbags, and jewelery. The objets de couture are affordable, the staff affable, and both are right on trend. After only one visit, you'll be looking cute from tip to tail, tempted to go back for more.

Various locations

Best Comic Book Store

Let your frea – we mean, geek flag fly. People come from all over Texas for this comic shop, lovingly referred to as "ABC." It's the selection: indie comics, first editions, figurines, manga, trade paperbacks, and graphic novels. ABC has issues – new issues as well as boxes of back issue comics to flip through. The store is 6,000 square feet and well-organized, staffed by Comic-Conners who know their stuff and are patient with the n00bs. A larger-than-life-sized Hulk plays guardian to the collectibles section of the store. Don't. Make. Hulk. Angry.

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

Best Computer Store

Stay geek for cheap with this five-time "BOA" winner. Since opening its doors in 1997, Discount Electronics has expanded into three locations in Austin and Round Rock, and has been recognized as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Here at Discount Electronics, one nerd's used computer is another nerd's cornucopia of affordable replacement parts.

Discount Electronics
1011 W. Anderson, 512/983-9989
9711 Menchaca Rd., 512/458-8612
1001 S. I-35, Round Rock, 512/637-7051
www.discountelectronics.com

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Drugstore/Pharmacy

Maybe we're hypochondriacs, but we find ourselves browsing the shelves of Peoples Rx on a weekly basis. We just feel better with all those antioxidants around. The well-informed staff always takes the time to give thorough and personalized advice. They even serve chicken noodle soup on Thursdays. It's like calling home to bubbe without all the guilt.

Various locations

Best DVD Rental/Purchase

You know how it’s this thing nowadays to talk about how library books smell, like it’s all romantic to say something like “Ahhh, I just luuuuurrrvvve the smell of library books, it reminds me of the library on Nantucket that I used to visit as a child.” Well, we say it’s high time DVDs got their due. In fact, why don’t you head down to Vulcan Video right now, stand in the aisles, and take a big whiff. That’s not just plastic and galvanized space metal (or whatever DVDs are made of) that you smell; that’s the smell of movie magic, baby. Movie magic!

Bret Brookshire

Best Gardening Store

For those who can't get enough of their own great outdoors, The Great Outdoors is a gardener's Mecca. Convenient location, excellent and knowledgeable service, and an array of gardening goodies that will make your head spin – this place has it all. And if they don't, they can get it for you: pottery, statuary, seeds, tools, water features, wind chimes, compost, soil, fertilizer, plus, of course, plants – perennials, annuals, herbs, natives, trees, shrubs, flowers, gift plants, palms, and more. Exhausting, isn't it? Fortunately the grounds boast a great cafe to rest your weary feet and eyes – so you can go back and buy more.

The Great Outdoors
2730 S. Congress
512/448-2992
www.gonursery.com

Best Home Furnishings

Vintage shops are meant to be explored and re-visited, and Room Service marks the epitome of this ethos, with a constantly coop-flying inventory. There are way too many fresh midcentury modern, granny chic, and retro Fifties items to take in all at once. So plan on a few visits. Avoid the big box stores altogether, and ask the knowledgeable Mad Men (and Women) at the front for their design advice. We hear tell some of them are even midcentury vintage themselves.

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

Best Jewelery/Accessories

Adored by Austinites and Hollywood stars alike, Kendra Scott's jewelry is bold and elegant, featuring colorful natural gemstones and unique designs. Though she now has stores in Beverly Hills (fancy!) and Dallas (we already said fancy …), Austin is proud to claim this successful designer as its own. For the record, we suggest preparing for the carnage of one of Ms. Scott's store sample sale days by donning some eye black, knee pads, and a cup.

Kendra Scott
1701 S. Congress
512/792-4581
www.kendrascott.com

Best Local Bookstore

The store owes its name to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. The Bradz imagines a future where books are burned and the "book people" keep the stories alive by memorizing and retelling them. In a world of instant downloads – safety first: you can't read a tablet in the bathtub – Austin's BookPeople is an oasis of the printed page. Not only is it a successful independent bookstore, it's the heart of Austin's creatives, young and old. The children's section is so inviting, you might find yourself sitting on an undersized chair re-reading your favorite childhood tale. Stay long enough, and you'll see critically acclaimed authors host signings and discussions. So, raise one for Ray, join the BookPeople, and keep books alive.

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

Best Local Hardware Store

Looking for a hummingbird feeder, a drill, or an espresso machine? A "BOA" winner since 1990, this classy yet down-to-earth hardware store still has it all, great service included. The newly engaged hubby can find the perfect place setting while the bride-to-be decides on a grill or hand-drill. Go in for a replacement air filter and you're bound to come out with an über-cool kitchen gadget, too. Just don't miss the chocolate counter. Is it clear yet? We can't help ourselves!

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

Best Music Gear

Brass, woodwind, or string, Strait is the stomping ground of students and working musicians alike. It's also the go-to shop for instrument rentals and music books. Their guitar repairs are top-notch and timely, for those accidental musical emergencies. They have a wide range of instruments and a knowledgeable staff. Come tickle their ivories, and scratch that rock-star itch.

Strait Music Co.
2428 W. Ben White, 512/476-6927
13945 Hwy. 183 N., 512/918-3743
www.straitmusic.com

John Anderson

Best Naughty Business

Tonight your fetish fantasies become reality. You will head to Forbidden Fruit. You will buy some kinky gear. You will be waiting at home, at the door, naked, except for every last thing you bought, even if the dog has to help you with that ball gag. You will do as you're told, or you will be punished. And if you can't find anything that tickles your fancy or your trashy, well, then, you're just boring, because at Forbidden Fruit there are a million shades of grey … not to mention gay. Yay!

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

Best New Local Business

It's easy to forget that In.gredients is a grocery store. We're so used to seeing representations of food so spritzed and prepped, dressed and resined, that we sometimes lose the sense that we've come to fortify our bodies, hearts, and souls. When confronted with humble bins of foodstuffs – farm-fresh produce, varieties of granola, cocoa-dusted almonds, quinoa – as well as local favorites – Miles of Chocolate, Eastside Pie pizza slices, and pineapple/basil paletas from Mom & Pops – it's a little jarring (Mason pun intended). If we feel "Grrrrreat!" it's not due to the ubiquitous presence of some cartoon corporate mascot; it's because we feel good about filling our jugs with Austin-brewed beer and local honey. And when they threw in a free sprig of basil on our last visit, well, that made us happier than a decoder ring. Therein lies the prize.

John Anderson

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Pet Store

Sure, with seven locations, Tomlinson's is a chain. But they've never gotten too big for their britches. Each location still feels like a country store. Maybe it's because they deliver a level of service that big boxes can't offer. Maybe it's because they partner with local rescue groups and hold vet clinics on-site. Whatever it is, it's working.

Various locations

Best Record/CD Store

With three decades under the big red UK subway rip logo (Waterloo opened April 1, 1982, no foolin'), this Austin Record store transcends landmark and fits snugly in to that realm of Austin icon right up against bat guano and Leslie's thong. We hold a special place in our hearts for them, as together we've been in this town for about the same stretch of orbits. Our readers dig them muchly, too, as this is Waterloo's 23rd year for showing up in these polls. You already know they have the most informative webpage trumpeting new releases, the easiest to access listening stations, a friendly and family-like staff, and a mind-boggling schedule of big-name get-there-early (so you can park and see) or local and beloved in-store performances (Dana Falconberry, The Departed, and Ronnie Fauss, this week alone). Austin loves her record stores, but as far as this category goes? She's met her Waterloo.

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

photo by John Anderson

Best Shoe Selection

For those of us who view shoes as religion, the Nordstrom shoe department is a tent revival. We're glad to testify about the heavenly service and earthly prices, but it's the congregation of brands that really gets us down on our knees. We're shouting ha-lay-loos to those Jason Wu's. Can we get a witness?

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 Small Record/CD Store

Audiophiles, enter. A treasure trove of vintage, collectible, classic, reissued, and newly released vinyl awaits inside this cozy store. There's also an embarrassment of CD, DVD, and other media riches, to boot. And the staff? Large and in charge! The smart, savvy crew doles out doses of music recommendations, tickets to local shows, and the occasional life-coaching session. In-store events (Golden Boys! Agent Ribbons! Perfume Genius!) are not to be missed. So get off the Internet, and fire up the turntable. It just sounds better at ear's end.

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

Best Thrift Store

Goodwill shoppers appreciate the organization's community service just as much as the bargains and hidden treasures to be found within the store. The auctions hold a special place in our hearts; where else can you get an Anne Geddes print and a Wurlitzer organ for a song? Spend an afternoon picking through the vast selection of clothing, housewares, and knick-knacks and you'll find your bliss. Or still-working Reebok Pumps. You know, whatever.

Various locations

Best Video Game Rental/Purchase

While most technology fetishists wait in endless lines for any new, fad gadget, the people at Game Over see the infinite lives in old video games. Your old pals Kirby, Link, Sonic, and all the others live happily ever after on the shelves where you can visit them any time you like.

Various locations

Best Vintage

Vintage shops are meant to be explored and re-visited, and Room Service marks the epitome of this ethos, with a constantly coop-flying inventory. There are way too many fresh midcentury modern, granny chic, and retro Fifties items to take in all at once. So plan on a few visits. Avoid the big box stores altogether, and ask the knowledgeable Mad Men (and Women) at the front for their design advice. We hear tell some of them are midcentury vintage themselves.

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

 
Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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