2022 Readers Poll
2022 Critics Picks

photo by Zeke Barbaro

Best New Record Store for Dog People

Open for a year in April, Love Wheel has been a welcome addition to the Burnet neighborhood that houses beloved neighbor Lala’s. A musician’s record store run by longtime Austin rocker Mike Nicolai and his wife, Nancy, Love Wheel buys and sells quality vinyl for all types and hosts the occasional in-store performance. But one thing that sets it apart is its mascot, Joe the tripaw, who greets shoppers and offers his adorable likeness to the store’s social media pages and must-have merch.

Love Wheel Records
2105 Justin #116

Best Gaymer Rugs

Your gamer cave’s got it all – but wait! Where’s your cool, gayass rug? All the other Twitch streamers are gonna roast you in the chat if you don’t get one of Chronic the Hedgehog’s bright and bold gaymer rugs hanging in your background. Plenty of great options in the form of a Majora’s Mask mask, a Tamagotchi, a Game Boy Advance (with a built-in mirror!), and even a thirst-quenching Baja Blast. Bonus: Following “rug daddi” Ollie on Instagram also puts their rug-making TikToks on your feed. Time for you to rise up, gamer, and get a rug to match your gayme boy style.

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Most Expressive Handmade Gems

The expressive, playful designs of local jeweler Tabitha Hamilton, aka the Native Dream, potentially present a match for everyone on your gift list. Their handmade wares range from dainty pendants displaying astrologically aligned stones like lapis and amethyst, to chunky, freshwater pearls mixed with on-trend colorful, childhood-inspired beads. Extra points for excellent descriptions like “tender-yet-hardcore-with-a-touch-of-kink” for a minimalist stainless steel necklace. Shop the inspiring designs of Native Dream on Instagram, their website, or one of their frequent appearances at Austin markets.

Best Place to Build an Ethical and Sustainable Closet

Woman-owned and -operated, Lovecraft offers clothes, accessories, and home goods that are ethically made and sourced from independent designers. While on the pricier side, the shop shows a deep devotion to lasting and quality materials, all while supporting emerging artists and makers. Replete with whimsical patterns and unconventional designs, Lovecraft’s offerings provide opportunities to express bold, eye-catching, and artistic personal style in a way that demonstrates support for important cultural issues and the environment alike.

1107 E. 11th

photo by David Brendan Hall

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Best Guitar Case to Throw Off a Roof

If you'd like to slap your guitar in a case, throw it off a building, light it on fire, run it over in your Ford Bronco, and then pull it out to play a sweet tune, Calton Cases is the manufacturer for you. The Austin company builds the "hardest working case in showbiz," custom from (mainly) fiberglass, shock-absorbing foam, and velvet. Calton Case artists include Jackson Browne, Shakey Graves, and Olivia Rodrigo. We can only hope that Olivia has put a $10,000 Gibson in her gorgeously glittery custom case, strung it up, and pounded it with a Louisville Slugger, piñata-style. This puppy's not breaking.

Calton Cases
3412 E. Fourth

Best Cosmic Branding

As an entity, Hippie Scum perhaps provides its own best introduction as “cosmic cowboy bootleg.” Overseen by Austin DJ and aesthetic precisionist Derek Daniel Brown, the cassette label preserves lost underground with Texas-centric compilations and rare live recordings from the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Neil Young. The bonus-track-sweetened novelties sell out quick – as do the Lone Star-loving, limited-run tees. Leon Bridges himself recently donned a Seventies-heavy design bearing the outlet’s “Here’s another one from Texas” slogan. Last year brought the outlet’s first original music releases, from Austin’s Cactus Lee and New York’s ZZZwalk (of course covering Kinky Friedman).

Hippie Scum

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Best Place to Find That Grimoire You've Been Looking For

This place touts itself as "an esoteric purveyor whose aim is to revitalize witchcraft for the next generation," and that pretty much nails what co-founders Eric Labrado and Alexis Arredondo are doing in their arcanely appointed shop Downtown. A fine array of books and the diverse paraphernalia required for magickal conjuring and divination are displayed along two walls that terminate at the check-out counter, where you'll find the proprietors glad to guide you on your journey toward a greater understanding of our world's mythic shadow side.

City Alchemist
1105 E. Sixth #2

Sunniest Stationery Shop

Complete with large windows and a rainbow selection of gel pens, the Paper + Craft Pantry radiates sunshine. This Springdale General stationery shop offers all resources needed to organize your week – ballpoint pens, calendars, and even a selection of candles perfect for winding down with your diary – plus art supplies galore to fire up your creative side. For birthday shopping, the Pantry is an essential visit, offering walls lined with a wide selection of homemade cards that generate donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Black Mamas ATX.

The Paper + Craft Pantry
1023 Springdale Ste. 6-A

photo by Kimberley Jones

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Best Menagerie of Delights

Who knew Austin needed another vintage shop? Chiai Matsumoto, that's who. Joining the legion of Burnet Road staples, this friendly little store specializes in vintage and modern housewares and clothing: fabulous pantsuits, jackets, tees, vintage leather chairs, wild lamps, tiny ceramic mushrooms, vintage kokeshi, and squiggle candles, to name just a few of Okasan’s offerings. Infused with warmth, the space also plays host to frequent pop-ups from artists including Sophie Gori and Peelander-Yellow, tasty treats from the experts at Asahi Imports, “super Asian cocktails” from Daijoubo, and sweets galore. If you’re an Austin expat missing the funky fresh vibes, no worries: Okasan ships worldwide.

Okasan Vintage
6001 Burnet Rd.

Best Vegan Muenster Cheese

For those of us dairy-averse, whether for biological or moral reasons, finding an alternative cheese source is a herculean task – in that it’s so maddeningly difficult that you go crazy and destroy your house. But put down that club and lion’s pelt, friend! Peace Cheese, a vegan, queer-owned biz, will soothe the savage dairyless soul with the melt-friendly delights of their faux Muenster. All of Peace Cheese’s vegan fromages are made to melt, slice, and shred, plus they pack powerful flavor and come in cute molds like moons, flowers, and, of course, the state of Texas.

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Best Not-So-Secret Society

Ever wanted to join a shadowy association, but can't master the secret handshakes? Can't get over the urge to be part of a some order of the possum or whatever, but can't drive a tiny car? Look, what you really want is the cool headwear, and the Order of the Fancy Hat gives you that. As organized by the oddities experts at SoCo's Curia Arcanum, each of their bespoke fezzes immediately makes you a card-carrying member. No conspiracies required.

Curia Arcanum's House of Curiosities
5924 S. Congress #23

Best First Step to Running the Table

With over 40 years in the biz, these folks have been holding down the local billiards supply fort for generations of aficionados. Whether you need a regulation-size pool table for your excessively priced home, a new all-black breakaway cue, or some spiffy shuffleboard gear, this family-owned, North Austin staple has you covered. Honestly, you could probably improve your pool game just by hanging out with these industry experts … and that's something an anonymous mega corp. like Amazon can't deliver.

Austin Billiards
9514 Anderson Mill

Best Tiny Bookshop

You walk through the slight aisles of South Austin's Reverie Books, perhaps clutching a Captain Quackenbush cold brew in one hand and a copy of Transgender Warriors by Leslie Feinberg in the other. In a bigger space, your fellow patrons would be miles away, but in the confines of Reverie’s cozy store space, other bibliophiles’ conversations about how good House of Leaves was or if they finished Beloved for class yet are near enough to be a brief real-time podcast. It’s quaint; it’s comforting; it’s the perfect tiny bookstore of your literary dreams.

Reverie Books
5330-D Menchaca Rd.

Best Place to Shop for Comics With Your Friend From College

Being an adult is hard. You have responsibilities. A job. Maybe a couple of kids. It's hard to make new friends, because everyone else is just as occupied by the business of adulting as you are. But once a week, you go to Austin Books & Comics – a truly special place that has somehow been in business now a staggering 45 years – to get the latest issues of your favorite comics. And sometimes your old college roommate meets you there and you catch up while browsing the used comics and contemplating a serious splurge on a mint-condition Spider-Man No. 1 or on a vintage action figure. And in those moments, you're both kids again.

Austin Books & Comics
5002 N. Lamar

photo by John Anderson

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