2014 Readers Poll
2014 Critics Picks
Best Antiques/Collectibles

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
1602 Fortview

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.

603 N. Lamar

Best Clothing/Accessories

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

2005 S. Lamar

Best Comic Book Store

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

Devaki Knowles

Best Computer 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
11410 Century Oaks Terrace, 512/691-4800

Best Costume Shop

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

Best DVD Rental/Purchase

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.)

Best Farmers' Market

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
2006 Philomena

Jana Birchum

Best Furnishings/Home

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
117 E. North Loop

Best Garden Supply Store

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.

The Natural Gardener
8648 Old Bee Caves Rd.

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.

5808 Burnet, 512/453-8864
7015 Village Center Dr., 512/502-8445
2400 S. Congress, 512/442-2354
2701 E. Seventh, 512/478-7328
10710 Research #200, 512/794-8221
6900 Brodie, 512/891-8900
11521 FM 620 N., 512/249-0558
2508 E. Riverside, 512/448-3544
201 FM 685 N., Pflugerville, 512/251-0002
1080 E. 290, Elgin, 512/285-4168
500 Canyon Ridge Dr., 512/973-8143
7112 Ed Bluestein #125, 512/926-1491
9414 N Lamar, 512/835-5400
600 W. William Cannon, 512/447-5544
6001 W. Parmer, 512/249-0400
5800 W. Slaughter, 512/301-9770

Best Hardware Store

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
3663 Bee Caves Rd., 512/328-3960

Best Music Gear

"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.
3201 Bee Caves Rd., Suite 140
13945 Hwy. 183 N., 512/918-3743

Best Naughty Business

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

Best Neighborhood Grocery/Convenience

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
1221 West Lynn, 512/477-5574
2917 W. Anderson, 512/419-7379
2401 San Gabriel, 512/524-1394

Best New Local Business

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

Devaki Knowles

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
908 E. 49½, 512/452-7021
5900 W. Slaughter #480, 512/276-2057
7301 RR 620 N. #110, 512/215-9242
2303 RR 620 S. #180, 512/344-9111
4211 S. Lamar Ste. A-23, 512/445-4549
200 University Blvd. #330, Round Rock, 512/863-7100
3300 Bee Caves Rd. #490, 512/306-1121
5716-B Burnet Rd., 512/531-9311
916-B W. 12th, 512/514-1881
11521 FM 620 N. #940, 512/284-9988
4815 W. Braker #500, 512/531-9220
3563 Far West #114, 512/291-7910
3421 N. Lakeline #210, Leander, 512/986-7482
2800 E. Whitestone Blvd. #235, Cedar Park, 512/260-8566
164 Belterra Village Way Ste. Y-400, Dripping Springs, 737/484-0107

Best Record/CD Store

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

Todd V. Wolfson

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.

2901 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/691-3500
9607 Research, 512/651-6180
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.

8965 Research Blvd., 512/832-0004
Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
2800 S. Lamar, 512/442-8802
836 Airport, 512/389-3277
Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
13096 Hwy. 183 #104, 512/258-5898
5555 N. Lamar, 512/451-2306
9801 Brodie, 512/280-8037
701 Newman, 512/478-6711
7100-C W. US Hwy 290, 512/288-7700
3910 Far West, 512/795-6387
6505 Burleson, 512/681-3301
7727 Burnet, 512/374-0260
1819-B S. Pleasant Valley, 512/389-0547
1700 W. Parmer #101, 512/719-4119
9111 S. First, 512/280-2204
1420 Wells Branch Pkwy. #300, 512/251-2777
2814 Bee Caves Rd. Ste.2814-B, 512/329-8771

Best Video Game Rental/Purchase

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
110 N. I-35 Ste. 200-A, Round Rock, 512/246-6837
3005 S. Lamar Ste. B-105B, 512/326-4263
1504 Aquarena Springs Dr. #110, San Marcos, 512/878-4684

Best 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
117 E. North Loop, 512/451-1057

Readers: Services
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

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