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Best Antiques/Collectibles
Uncommon Objects

The collections at this quirky SoCo joint are as eclectic as the sellers, and that's saying a lot. Constantly on the hunt for rarefied gewgaws, they keep the shop stocked to the eyeballs with the sorts of inventory that could easily become museum pieces, like Fifties Demon Rum collins glasses festooned with beschnockered baddies or that much-sought-after aloha lady hula lamp. Did we know we needed a two-foot wide doll head from the Twenties? Not until we popped inside! Whether curating the home collection or simply stopping by to ogle the knickknacks, we and our readers delight in what there is to be found.

Uncommon Objects, 1512 S. Congress, 512/442-4000,

Best Bookstore

Going on 44 years, BookPeople hasn't lost any of its coolness or literary appeal. This year alone, Central Texas' indie fave has hosted B.J. Novak, Hillary Clinton, and come October … wait for it, all you former-UT-students-soon-to-be-New-Yorkers, Lena Dunham. Squee! If those pop-lit powerhouses or BP's hired book nerds can't get your nose in a book, then we don't know what will.

BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar, 512/472-5050,

Best Clothing/Accessories
TIE: Buffalo Exchange; SoLa

Screw Maxxinistas. If your wardrobe needs an improvement, head down south to SoLa, become a "SoLanista," and get sweet kickbacks, discounts, party invites, and first dibs. Or, if designer labels sloughed off by the fashionable youths are more your thing, but cost is key, find your highbrow fix at a lowbrow price near UT at Buffalo.

Buffalo Exchange, 2904 Guadalupe, 512/480-9925,

SoLa, 2005 S. Lamar, 512/441-7370,

Best Comic Book Store
Ausin Books & Comics

No dingy, dimly-lit den of adolescent nerdery, AB&C is, in the words of Ernie Hemingway, "a clean, well-lighted place." We quote the modernist author and owner of many-a-six-toed cat because we're long past the threshold at which sequential art has been recognized as a significant literary form. From floppies and trade paperbacks to graphic novels and gag gifts, the charming and smiley staff will help you toward your own literary inspiration.

Austin Books & Comics, 5002 N. Lamar, 512/454-4197,

Best Computer Store
Apple Store

Apple's products have always been expertly engineered and designed with the consumer in mind, and it's only natural that its retail experience would be no less fastidiously planned. So sleek, so bright-white, so void of any back-inventory clutter (save for the grab-and-go accessories at the back), the instant greeting, the total focus on sharp branding, and the flawless product make the first impression of a very Apple experience to come. But that doesn't mean they're ice queens: The salespeople are friendly and attentive, but never pushy, and the folks at the Genius Bar know just how to ease the trauma of a computer SNAFU.

Apple Store, 2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/634-0520,

Apple Store, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, 512/691-4800,

Best Costume Shop
Lucy in Disguise

Assuming you aren't claustrophobic, visit Lucy in Disguise around Halloween, the equivalent of Christmas for a costume shop. People cram in, vying to get the perfect beard for their Sigmund Freud get-up, or the just-so chapeau for their Pharrell impression. We recommend it for good people-watching; see the lady in the corner flip out because all the sexy Quasimodo costumes are taken, and unless you want to share in her misery, we also recommend you do the smart thing and reserve your Bridget-Jones's-Diarrhea costume early.

Lucy in Disguise, 1506 S. Congress, 512/444-2002,

Best DVD Rental/Purchase
Vulcan Video

Hanker for Haneke? Lust for Landis or Lang? Jones for Jodorowsky? Thirst for Thorpe? Yearn for Yoji? Ache for Araki? Long for Lee? Hunger for Herzog? We could go on (okay, we won't), but instead, let's just go to Vulcan and hash it out. (For the record: We crave Campion.)

Vulcan Video, 100-A North Loop, 512/478-5325,

Vulcan Video, 4411 Russell, 512/326-2629,

Best Farmers' Market
Texas Farmers Market at Mueller

Popping up every Sunday in the Browning Hangar of the Mueller redevelopment, this market combines a lovely park environment, an ever-expanding selection of nibbles and crafts – from regular vendors as familiar as Johnson's Backyard Garden and Pure Luck to new (to us) friends like Tamale Place and Kiskadee Chocolates, and fresh music made-to-order. It's no surprise this market has it made in the shade. It's a wonderful way to have a snack, enjoy the day, and start planning menus for the week.

Mueller Farmers Market, 4550 Mueller, 512/363-5700,

Best Furnishings/Home
Room Service Vintage

This North Loop spot has been churning through mid-century goodies longer than the period had to produce them. It's worth a weekly or even daily visit to soak in color combinations once thought impossible. The Room Service style curators are a fabulous and friendly resource when we don't know our Eames from our Arne, and they're happily holding the flat-pack revolution at bay for just a bit longer.

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

Best Garden Supply Store
Natural Gardener

Spread out over eight acres, this isn’t just a garden supply store. It’s a living example of how green, organic, all-natural practices are the best solution for preserving our beloved land. Bag your own soil, shop for just the right plant, ask the experts for advice, stroll through the butterfly garden, chat with the farm animals, or take a class in the revival tent. It’s an oasis of natural beauty, and the wonderful staff – including owner and 2014 "Best of Austin" Best Environmentalist, John Dromgoole – will help you learn to care for your own plot of earth.

Natural Gardener, 8648 Old Bee Caves Rd., 512/288-6113,

Best Grocery Store

When Florence Butt opened C.C. Butt Grocery Store in Kerrville, Texas, circa 1905, we doubt she imagined a regional empire of locally beloved grocery superstores. A devout Baptist, she left the business to her son Howard (thus H-E-B), whose first Austin store was opened in 1938. Howard was a big advocate for recreational facilities, such as parks and tennis courts, especially in historically low-income areas. Of course, H-E-B has good prices, but what they really have is a stake in our communities – their Spirit of Giving, Feast of Sharing programs and the Spirit of H-E-B disaster relief trailer – and for that they get all our love.

HEB, 5808 Burnet, 512/453-8864,

HEB, 7015 Village Center Dr., 512/502-8445,

HEB, 2400 S. Congress, 512/442-2354,

13 more locations

Best Hardware Store
Breed & Co.

Breed & Co. knows that what you need after grabbing your hardware supplies (a couple of cans of spray paint, a new key, some PVC pipe, and 10 yards of rope) and a couple of new home goods (a new Chemex coffee pot, a candle for your candlescape) is a chocolate bonbon. Good, good. SRSLY: What doesn't Breed carry?

Breed & Co., 718 W. 29th, 512/474-6679,

Breed & Co., 3663 Bee Caves Rd., 512/328-3960,

Best Music Gear
Strait Music

"Where customers become friends" was the first official motto of Strait Music Company – and what the Strait family realized is that their friends care about their instruments, like, a lot. That ethos still pervades the 50-plus-year-old business, and whether you seek the big, one-time purchase (hello, Wurlitzer!), or feed a near-constant instrument habit (ukes! ukes! ukes!), the descendants of the Straits take care of you as they would their nearest and dearest.

Strait Music Co., 2428 W. Ben White, 512/476-6927,

Strait Music Co., 13945 Hwy 183 N., 512/918-3743,

Best Naughty Business
Forbidden Fruit

Whoever coined the phrase “good things come in small packages” must’ve been talking about Forbidden Fruit. This tiny shop is stockpiled with the best toys – and we’re not talking Polly Pocket ... more like Pocket Rocket. But if you’re looking for more than just a ride to the moon, mentally climax by attending a workshop or hosting a toy party. A dom in their own right, this sexy store has been on top since 1997. If you haven’t been, climb out from under that rock, and spice up your life.

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

Best Neighborhood Grocery/Convenience
Fresh Plus

Since 1927, this neighborhood favorite – since expanded to three stores – has offered a wide selection of goods, many local and all delicious. It’s a heck of a deal to find organic produce, craft beer, box mac and cheese, and toilet paper in one quick-stop spot, but it’s award-winning because of its super-friendly staff and reliable service.

Fresh Plus, 408 E. 43rd, 512/459-8922,

Fresh Plus, 1221 West Lynn, 512/477-5574,

Fresh Plus, 2917 W. Anderson, 512/419-7379,

Fresh Plus, 2401 San Gabriel, 512/524-1394,

Best New Local Business
Outlaw Moon Games & Toys

We wonder. Will the city officially establish the 5000 block of North Lamar as a cultural district … for nerds? Gamers, vintage-toy lovers, Magic the Gathering geeks, comic-book collectors, take heed: There is a new triple crown made up of Austin Books & Comics, Guzu Gallery, and fresh jewel, Outlaw Moon. This subsidiary of AB&C is an adult toy store (not those kinds of toys; you can take the kids) that stocks everything from bat caves to battle games. We're just happy there's now a place we can go to celebrate Masters of the Universe Day.

Outlaw Moon, 5000 N. Lamar #105, 512/454-6648,

Best Pet Store

Blue Buffalo cat food? They've got it. Want to adopt a puppy? No problem. Need advice about your pet? You have come to the right place. Tomlinson's has been serving local animal lovers since its doors opened in 1946, and has remained a family business through the generations. Whatever your furry friend, you can be sure you can find what you need at Tomlinson's.

Tomlinson's Feed & Pets, Inc., 908 E 49th 1/2, 512/452-1560,

Tomlinson's Feed & Pets, Inc., 5900 W. Slaughter Ste. 480, 512/276-2057,

Tomlinson's Feed & Pets, Inc., 7301 Ranch Road 620 North, Ste. 110, 512/215-9242,

5 more locations

Best Record/CD Store
Waterloo Records

With the record store chains long gone and iTunes gobbling up the markets for physical media, it takes something special to keep a brick-and-mortar music shop in business. Austin sports a number of specialty boutiques here and there, but Waterloo keeps its shelves full and tastes broad through sheer will and a love of music. A constant stream of in-store performances and a full staff of phonophiles are really what keep Waterloo going strong.

Waterloo Records, 600-A N. Lamar, 512/474-2500,

Best Shoe Selection

You know that scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, where the golden-ticket kids take their first steps into the Chocolate Room – a place where everything is edible? Yeah, it's like that. Only with pumps and wedges and boots and flats (and boots and flats and boots and flats…). And credit card debt.

Nordstrom, 2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/691-3500,

Nordstrom, 9607 Research, 512/651-6180,

Nordstrom, 5601 Brodie, Sunset Valley, 512/697-2600,

Best Thrift Store

For those Austinites ready to dig down and pop some tags, Goodwill is thrift heaven. Although this nationwide nonprofit may not strike you as the first trendy choice, it is consistent in its stock of luxe finds for hip hunters and smart shoppers alike. Whether you are looking to sport your unique style, save cash, or accomplish both, this store has it all. So go forth, Polaroid peddlers and book borrowers. Thrift away.

Goodwill, 8965 Research Blvd., 512/832-0004,

Goodwill, Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100,

Goodwill, 2800 S. Lamar, 512/442-8802,

15 more locations

Best Video Game Rental/Purchase
Game Over

Released in 1995, Nintendo's Virtual Boy was the company's first foray into virtual reality gaming. The wonky all-red visor unit never really took off, but it presaged the coming of 3-D gaming that is now industry standard. We remember playing Mario's Tennis, and the accompanying warning to play only for short periods of time so as to give your eyes some time to rest. The only place we've ever seen one of these bad boys for sale is at Game Over Videogames (we can't guarantee the reality of a Virtual Boy in stock) – Austin's retail monument to video games past and present.

Game Over Videogames, 911 W. Anderson #106, 512/454-4263,

Game Over Videogames, 110 N. I-35 Ste. 200-A, Round Rock, 512/246-6837,

Game Over Videogames, 3005 S. Lamar Ste. B-105B, 512/326-4263,

Game Over Videogames, 1504 Aquarena Springs Dr. #110, San Marcos, 512/878-4684,

Best Vintage
Room Service Vintage

This North Loop spot has been churning through midcentury goodies longer than the period had to produce them. It's worth a weekly or even daily visit to soak in color combinations once thought impossible. The Room Service style curators are a fabulous and friendly resource when we don't know our Eames from our Arne, and they're happily holding the flat-pack revolution at bay for just a bit longer.

Room Service Vintage, 1701 S. Lamar, 512/383-9898,

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

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