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2016 Critics Picks
Best Everything but the Kitchen Sink

We may never compete on Iron Chef, but we sure like pretending. Luckily, we have Métier owners Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher (you know them as the pair behind Lenoir) to outfit our personal Kitchen Stadium. From Togiharu knives to Tilit chef jackets and vintage cast iron, the charming space has everything we need to impress the judges – even if we are still using Pinterest for all our recipes.

1805 S. First
512/276-2605
www.metieraustin.com

Best Feminist Subscription Box

Who doesn't want to receive a surprise in the mail every month – especially if it's a goodie box that includes everything from feminist pins, patches, or stickers, to "herstory" postcards offering a mini lesson on a female historical figure, to fair-trade snacks? Curated by entrepreneur and blogger Katie Kronbergs, each box celebrates the power of self-care. And with 10% of proceeds going to a rotating charity helping women and girls, it's proof that treating yourself and doing good can sometimes happen at the same time.

www.aroadofyourown.com

John Anderson

Best Force of Nature

We don't mean to call you basic (although don't think we don't see that pumpkin spice latte), but that sad clump of sedum you have growing in a terra cotta pot doesn't exactly give us home design #goals. It's time to raise your plant game, son. Perch a tillandsia in a minimalist blackbird, hang a jade plant from a baby-blue hexagon, or take a class on how to make your own living wall. Articulture has tons of accents to instantaneously and affordably upgrade your most humdrum rooms. Now let's talk about that IKEA couch.

6405 Manchaca Rd.
512/762-5228
www.articulturedesigns.com

Best Gift Box

This tiny Eastside shop is full of beautifully made objects that will impress even your most demanding aunt. Showcasing artisans from around the world and our own backyard, and Japanese design without any Sanrio Surprises, the space is all about details, like the grain of bird's-eye maple on a spreader or the seed head of a dandelion permanently captured in a paperweight. If you are lucky enough to receive something that caught owner Nina Gordon's eye, take heart that the giver didn't decide to keep it for themselves.

1111 E. 11th #100
512/520-9664
www.takeheartshop.com

Best Goody Two-Shoes

Remember when David Bowie and Mick Jagger broke into a warehouse yard to dance in the street? We can't help but think they would have looked a little less awkward if they were wearing the proper shoes. If we were around, we would have suggested Austin-made Suavs – classic, lightweight, flexible slip-ons that go with everything from sweeping dusters to voluminous pleated pants. As it turns out, it does matter what you wear.

www.suavshoes.com

Best Help for Your Garden

In September, Tillery Street Plant Co. began to offer free Saturday classes on prepping and planting fall gardens. Later in the season, they'll offer complimentary and comprehensive instruction on harvesting and protecting your garden from the freeze. If you missed your chance to plant edible vegetation this season, the passionate folks at this homegrown nursery will certainly be helping the public prep their green spaces for spring bounties – and are always on hand to offer advice year-round. Drop in, wander the beautiful gardens, and photosynthesize.

801 Tillery
512/567-1090
www.tillerystreetplantcompany.com

Best Jewelry for City Witches

If your style leans more Morticia than Melania, simulated sparkle just won't do. Instead of throwing some banal bauble on top of your black velvet maxi, layer a few pieces molded in silver or gold from bat skulls, cat jaws, or hawk talons. Sure, some folks may think you're creepy and you're kooky, but you'll still be casting a spell on the rest of us.

www.viachristachains.com

Best No-Fuss Bath Time

Gettting your kids to eat their broccoli is difficult, but maybe you can get them to put it on their heads. Little Roseberry operates under the philosophy that what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in them. "Mom cosmetologist" Brizy Tait created the skin and hair care line when she couldn't find the right gentle and natural products for her son. Dinnertime may still cause some tantrums, but now bath time couldn't be easier.

www.littleroseberry.com

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Personal Art Objects

Sometimes – like Ariel says – we want more ... than luridly anatomical jellies and glittery dolphin vibes. Q Toys can't help but stand out with their well-curated strap-ons and sculptural dildos. You probably won't frame it, or arrange it into a tablescape, but you'll definitely think twice before tucking it behind your bed.

6800 Burnet Rd.
512/772-1614
www.shop.qtoysaustin.com

Best Place to Get Your Goth On

It’s been a dead dreadful year for daring dark rock – RIP David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister – but Austin’s only women-owned goth/punk/horror boutique can salve the savage beast within via their terrifyingly huge selection of clothing, footwear, badges, patches, stickers, and oh!, Bela Lugosi’s not dead corsetry. Owners Cassandra Davis and Mary Milton know the sweet smell of the cemetery all too well, and they’ll help you be a better, badder, deader person, too. Hey, can I get some spiderwebs with that?

2101 S. First
512/445-9919
www.secret-oktober.com

Best Place to Sell Your Records

Bad taste is a consequence of being human. We've all had copies of an Aaron Carter (or some similarly coiffed twink) record under our bed at some point or another, but when we come to our senses it can be painfully embarrassing to cash in on our past mistakes. Unlike some other record stores that give you shit for going through a Savage Garden phase, End of an Ear delights in both the good and the bad. We can't promise you they'll buy your records, but they won't shame you for them either.

4304 Clawson
512/462-6008
www.endofanear.com

Best Roll of the Dice

For four years, Whose Turn Is It? Games has sold tabletop, card, and miniature games. Now expanded, the store still boasts a solid collection of retail games, with more space dedicated to actual gaming. Their big draws are Magic the Gathering and miniature tournaments (think Warhammer 40K and X-Wing), but they’ve also got shelves of European-style tabletop releases available to try out for free. On most days you’ll still find owner and game enthusiast Patrick Hanschen minding the store, ready to give expert advice.

2708 S. Lamar
512/294-2740
www.whoseturnisitgames.com

Best Secondhand Tchotchkes

If you want something eclectic for your home, it's a well-known fact that you go to a thrift store. Of course, in a city more impressed with the hairpin legs of your boomerang table than your Hepplewhite, there are few places left undiscovered. But walk past the furniture and light fixtures of ReStore, and you'll find shelves brimming with secondhand tchotchkes, kitchenware, office accessories, accent decor, and more. This is where you can buy an old-school cereal bowl featuring Kellogg's Corny the Rooster. Or snag an Austin-themed tea kettle-shaped cast-iron trivet. And the money you drop goes to a good cause – Austin Habitat for Humanity's programs that benefit low-income families.

500 W. Ben White
512/478-2165
www.austinhabitat.org

Best Souvenir Mug

We've always been of the mind that, when buying a souvenir, you should steer clear of anything that screams, "tourist" – you know, like those generic keychains and shot glasses you can find at any airport newsstand. That's why a mug from Star Seeds Cafe is the perfect alternative for people back home (or your kitchen in South Austin). Sure, the mug's pretty simple with Star Seeds' retro-looking logo on one side and its slogan on the other. But the late-night joint is an Austin institution. It's where you get cheap eats and cheap beer at 11pm before heading back to your room at the Days Inn next door. And what's a better story to tell – that you grabbed any old mug from some Sixth Street shop or that you bought this at the place where you ate a chicken-fried steak the size of your head?

3101 N. I-35
512/478-7107
www.starseedscafe.com

Jana Birchum

Best Vessel for Your Succulent

It's an Austin habit to place our succulents in anything from plastic dinosaurs to old soup cans. But we like our spaces to be extra, so not any container will do. Lindsey Wohlgemuth's mugs and bowls are meant to hold things like chamomile tea and sage granita, but we are shipping them hard with a clump of pencil cactus.

www.foxwares.com

Best Way to Prepare for Festival Season – Men's Edition

When you are considering what to wear for Austin's endless stream of festivals, don't take a cue from the dudebros who still think Make America Great Again caps are funny. Instead consider the collection of goods assembled by Weathered Coalition owners Tyler Guinn and Ben Woods. Not yet a year old, the Domain Northside shop offers basics like Western shirts and tapered denim, along with accessories like limited-edition hats proudly proclaiming you are from the ATX. They may be nodding their heads to LCD Soundsystem, but they'll definitely be looking at you.

11601 Rock Rose Ave.
512/852-9869
www.weatheredcoalition.com

Devaki Knowles

Devaki Knowles

Best Way to Prepare for Festival Season – Women's Edition

We know you washed those shorts at least half a dozen times to get a perfect fringe on your cutoffs, and we bet you spent at least a couple of Saturdays researching just what culture to appropriate, but can we give you some style advice? Get thee to Golden Bones. Buy an easy crop top and a zip sequined skirt, and just sit back while your mug lands on every street-style blog.

3210 Esperanza Crossing #110
512/904-9550
www.goldenbonesatx.com

Best Way to Share Your Good News

You can buy a pretty-enough Hallmark card to tell someone "thank you," or announce your wedding with a flat rectangle of card stock. But your feels should be expressed with feeling, and off-the-rack greetings just don't do the trick. Bonne Nouvelle Design ensures your announcements, invitations, and any other non-digital communication are worthy of a stamp by showcasing the gorgeous work of local illustrators and calligraphers. Something to write home about indeed.

www.bonnenouvelledesign.com

Tightest Tights

Everybody knows that sitting is the new smoking. But spending eight hours on your feet is no walk in the park, either. Just ask Austin entrepreneur Alex Reyes, recently named by People en Español readers one of its annual 25 Most Powerful Women. Reyes drew on her experience as a hairstylist and salon owner to launch with her designer brother Tomas the Tramps Fashion Compression Hosiery line. With products in eye-popping pink and cheetah jacquard, the Tramps team helps working women keep the blood flowing – and look darn good doing it.

7005 Shoal Creek Blvd.
888/302-9292
info@trampshosiery.com
www.trampshosiery.com

 
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