2014 Readers Poll
2014 Critics Picks

Sandy Carson

Best Affordable Shoe Shine

You'd think they'd be everywhere, what with cowboy boots and dusty, drought-driven days, but as flip-flops and sneakers remain de rigueur in Austin, the noble shoe shine is getting harder and harder to find. Check in with Jessica at Kervin's old-school barbershop in the Delwood shopping plaza (the home of Austin's Fiesta Mart on 38th 1/2) the next time the mud or the scuff get to be too much. She offers quick, thorough, and affordable shoe shines 8:30am-3pm, Tuesdays-Fridays. She goes over your shoes so many times you'll lose count, first with a scrub, then with a number of leather-hydrating waxes and polishes. The grand finale is a fierce buff that brings even the most broken hide to a shine.

Kervin's Delwood Barber Shop
3909 N. I-35, E-4

Best Box to Think Inside of

Got a big move coming up? Weighing the cost of buying new boxes (and breaking a tree’s heart) against the sleep you’ll lose collecting free ones from the grocery store at 2am? Here's a third option: EcoBox sells used boxes in standard sizes – already sorted and broken down for easy toting – along with handy supplies like biodegradable packing peanuts and Bio-Bubble wrap. No, their boxes aren’t free like the ones you could scrounge from a back-alley Dumpster, but they’re cheap in bulk and have no weird stains. Your new neighbors will be so impressed.

115 Sundance Pkwy, Ste 300, Round Rock, 512/218-9888
10615 Metric, 512/836-7644
5400 Brodie, 512/899-0009

Best BYOB Nail Salon

It doesn’t particularly matter if you have an appointment or not, be prepared for a wait at Great Nails & Spa. Yes, there may be a staggering amount of people crammed in a teeny, tiny space, but it’s worth it; there’s a reason the salon has amassed a loyal following of well-manicured regulars. A staggering attention to detail, a great selection of colors, and a massage chair and shin slough that will leave you sore – Great Nails lives up to its name. Don’t forget to bring your own booze. Hell, bring a cooler.

Great Nails & Spa
2911-B S. First

Best Champagne of Studios

Everything is a passion project for Chris "Frenchie" Smith, as long as the music rocks. The producer, and guitarist of Sixteen Deluxe and Young Heart Attack fame, gets spirited at every session that enters his Bubble, whether icon (Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister) or unknown (Purple). The Hyde Park recording studio, which Smith operates with partner Alex Lyon, is full of exquisite gear, swings analog or digital, boasts a recently expanded mastering studio, and houses a pretty legendary Ms. Pac-Man machine.

The Bubble

Sandy Carson

Best Country Getaway for Dogs

Having to board one's dog can be traumatic – for those of us who are (some would say overly) devoted to our canine friends, if not necessarily for the dogs. But Mother Rock Star Dogs makes us we feel like we're just dropping them off at superfun dog camp – one with extremely attentive and experienced counselors. Located on 1.3 shade-covered acres just east of ABIA, MRS is a family business. The owners and family live on the premises and are all dog-lovers and experienced handlers; they observe canine visitors' behavior to create optimum play groups and give detailed reports when dogs and their humans reunite – happy customers all around.

Mother Rock Star Dogs

Best Grand Slam Studio

When he’s not touring with Shearwater or moonlighting with Stillwater, Okla., rock troupe Other Lives, drummer Danny Reisch is at home in his East Austin home-turned-studio recording one of what seems like thousands of local bands trying to take their first step into the limelight. Reisch’s producer credits of late don’t just include such Austin luminaries as Crooks, Dana Falconberry, Marmalakes, and Mike & the Moonpies. He’s also lent his crisp production to such nationally known acts as Okkervil River, Delta Spirit, and White Denim.

Best Interior Designer on the DL

Of course he has a website extolling his signature clean interiors, with their contemporary look melded with a deep reverence for history, but it's what's not on the website that astounds. A true Southern gentleman from Lafayette, La., Ashby himself wouldn't tell you who his best clients are – so breathtaking are the names. It's that discreet. Or at least as discreet as you can be when you have your work featured in the books Great Houses of Texas and Modern Cabin, as well as in a number of publications, including Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Traditional Home, and Western Interiors & Design. Ashby has been keeping Austin, and much of Texas, beautiful since 1998.

Mark Ashby Design
1011 W. 11th

Best Makeover the Size of Your Entire House

Doesn't seem physically possible how quickly and perfectly these skilled pigmentistas can cover the interiors and exteriors of your once-shabby residence, how swiftly they improve the walls and ceilings, how smoothly they deal with corners and crevices and that odd little niche the builder must've meant to house some alien artifact – but it is possible: We've seen the team at work, and been amazed. It's like we're watching some Cirque du Soleil of painting right in our own home.

ProTect Painters
9600 Escarpment, Ste. 745-70, 512/651-2585
300 Bee Caves Rd., Ste. 650-160, 512/651-9419
100 E. Whitestone, Ste. 148-283, Cedar Park, 512/652-0095

Best Person to Turn Your World Blue … or Green … or Pale Cerise with a Touch of Mauve

Sure, everyone’s got computerized color-matching systems these days, but the truth is, selecting and mixing the right paint can sometimes still be more art than science. And no one in Austin practices that art better than Breed’s resident “Good Old Austin Hippy,” as his tie-dye business cards proclaim. The service at Breed is always great, of course, but if you have a really particular need – just the right shade of teal, or aqua, but with a little more green, like this purse, but not so glossy, and can it cover in one coat? – call ahead and make sure Jimmy’s working that day.

Breed & Co.
718 W. 29th

Best Place to Unbind

Most of us have had a standard massage or two, wherein a therapist gently kneads your bod while soft sitar music plays. Yeah, this isn't that. You get the relaxing room and music, but Melinda Thoms practices something called trigger-point massage – and it's serious therapeutic business. She can explain the science, though we can't; all we know is we went in convinced we needed knee surgery and were quickly convinced of her healing skills instead. Thoms goes deep into layers of your most bound-up places and – along with her stretches and other tips – sets them free.

Big Red Hibiscus

John Anderson

Best Point A to B

Everybody needs a flexible friend, and the buses swinging along Capital Metro’s swanky new MetroRapid routes fit the bill. Sure, there’ve been gripes about the schedule. And yes, even a top-end transit option like the 801 Lamar route (and its new baby sibling, the 803 running up Burnet) can’t magically hop over Austin’s abysmal traffic. But with more leg room, bigger windows, WiFi, and the joy of a bus whose back and front go this way and that to distract you on your trip, maybe the bendy bus will wiggle its way into the hearts of the most committed commuter.

Capital Metro
2910 E. Fifth

Best Power-Up Providers

Like a virtual USO, since 2010 this Austin- and DC-based nonprofit has shipped video game care packages to America's armed forces. Starting with some Guitar Hero bundles shipped to Afghanistan, the valiant leaders have since raised over $1 million to keep U.S. soldiers on the front line entertained. And it's not just American forces under fire, but the allied troops serving alongside them, and uniformed personnel currently in hospitals as well.

Operation Supply Drop
1064 Bluff Woods

Best Reason to Buy a Headdress

Want a little something to spice up your special party outfit? Maybe a little something for your head? (Stop it right now – it's not that kind of party.) Let the multitalented Jennifer Ayers supply you with just the right thing, from a pearl-studded hair clip, to jeweled hair sticks, to a full-on peacock-feathered Mohawk headdress trimmed with beaded fringe and gold chain mail. Thinking more Marie Antoinette? King Tut? An alien warrior? Jen's already way ahead of you, with a full stock of headpieces to browse or inspire you to order a custom piece. Check out her costuming, too. Better yet? Everything involved has been repurposed and reused.

Ayers Design

Best Rehab

Are you a member of a wildlife species indigenous to Central Texas? Are you sick, injured, orphaned, or otherwise in need of help? Call Wildlife Rescue now. Since 1977, this nonprofit has been dedicated to providing direct assistance to the public concerning questions, problems, and conflicts with native wild animals. Helping the down-and-out among birds, opossums, raccoons, deer, and others. Timely human intervention can be the critical difference between a happy animal and a dead one. On the off-chance that you're a sympathetic human, Wildlife Rescue is an all-volunteer organization that is always accepting new hands to help with rehabilitation, care, fundraising, and education. Even if you can't tell a rabbit's ass from its mouth, there are plenty of jobs you can help out with. The cages are always dirty.

Wildlife Rescue
5401 E. MLK

Sandy Carson

Best Tree in the Florist

One of the last of the old-timers on Barton Springs Road, this Forties-era florist business looks like the type of curious, quaint cottage you might stumble upon in a forest. And it's painted deep green to match. The star attraction here, at least from the outside, is the enormous tree growing inside the teeny, tiny courtyard, its branches spreading out wide in every direction. It's an inviting little shop and greenhouse you'll want to visit before the winds of change blow across this section of the roadway. Just look for the giant tree cropping out from the florist.

McPhail's Florist & Greenhouse
605 Barton Springs Rd.

Best Way to DIY Without Getting Lonely

Do you sometimes find yourself decoupaging pictures of sad-eyed puppies? Or embroidering Smiths lyrics on all your pillows? You definitely need Craft. The walk-in crafts studio lets you create in a communal atmosphere. Plus they have all the supplies you'll need to recreate that masterpiece from Pinterest. We recommend renting some time for a date night. Nothing is sexier than a little glitter on the nose.

4704 E. Cesar Chavez

Devaki Knowles

John Anderson

Best Way to Get Carted Off

Get carted away from the mystical land of East Sixth Street to explore the far reaches of Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, and Williamson counties in a roaring chariot of ecofriendliness. The Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) gets you here, there, and everywhere in its coverage area on the cheap and with the ease and convenience of a personal driver. So, stop being a meter-feeder and treat yourself. Hand sanitizer not included.

Capital Area Rural Transportation System
2010 E. Sixth

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