Best of Miami®

Best Of 2001

Neighborhoods

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  • + Out of Town
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  • + Unknown
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  • + Wilton Manors
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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Record/CD Store

When critics examine the infrastructure of a city's musical "scene," they usually focus on clubs, recording studios, even radio stations. Too often record stores -- the places where folks actually get their hands on a physical slice of all that musical activity -- are ignored. Blue Note Records, however, has never flown under the radar. It has had a lock on this category for eons. Regardless of the offbeat sounds lauded by New Times scribes -- far-out Chicago jazz, underground NYC rock, Bay Area hip-hop, Nigerian Afro-beat, Cuban son, even Miami bass -- you could usually find it amid Blue Note's bulging stacks. And thanks to the knowledgeable staff, chances are you'd also end up leaving with a lot more than you originally set out for: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion fans might be gently led over to a vintage Robert Nighthawk album; D'Angelo devotees might get hep to Bobby Womack. And in a city known for its Balkanization and short historical attention span, that's no small feat. Long-time shoppers therefore were a bit alarmed to see this winning formula tinkered with recently: An economic crunch forced Blue Note's entire jazz section -- once honored with its own (apparently now too expensive to rent) room -- to be carted off to a separate annex. It's nearby but definitely not receiving the stocking attention it once did. Moreover the days of one-stop shopping, not to mention aesthetic cross- pollination ("Hey, if you dig that Tortoise record, how 'bout a little Sun Ra?"), are no more. Fortunately the rest of Blue Note remains unchanged, as do the odds that something funky is going to be playing on the stereo when you step through the front door. Here's hoping it stays that way.

Best Baseball Store

Folks in South Miami-Dade take their baseball seriously, and so does Hitter's House. The store features four batting cages where a practicing slugger can get twenty pitches for just $1.25. Special hourly team rates are another indication that Hitter's House understands that the nation's favorite pastime is not just another sport. Autographed photos and baseball cards are available for collectors. Hard-core playing enthusiasts can find just about every piece of baseball gear available, from mitts to mouthpieces.

Best Bike Shop

This bike shop has been around since 1944; the oldest bike it carries -- a rare Packard found nowhere else in Florida, so they say -- dates to 1902. Yes, Broken Spoke specializes in antique bikes. For instance there's the toddler bike, circa 1920, that belonged to one of the Rickenbacker children. Chris Marshall, Broken Spoke's owner, says he purchased it from a former caretaker of the Rickenbacker home. Iggy Pop rented two Schwinn Sting Rays from Marshall for a music video. At the end of production, the aging punk rocker fell in love with the bikes, bought them, and had them transported to Europe. Marshall's bikes have even starred in Hollywood blockbusters such as There's Something About Mary. His peddled prizes have been featured in national magazines. Double Trouble, an ice-blue six-wheeler, wins the local low-rider shows every time, Marshall says. But Broken Spoke's most impressive bike hangs from the shop's ceiling. It's called Silver Bullet, and at first glance it almost looks like a Harley. How's that for a bike shop?

Best Blades

These people will sharpen everything from chain saws to steak knives. And when they are done, owner Dennis Hollinger promises you will be able to shave a hair on either edge. At $1.50 per knife, this kind of kitchen convenience is a bargain. Open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the Tool Shed also features an excellent selection of knives for sale, both of the culinary and pocket variety.

Best Bookstore

Mitchell Kaplan has lotsa books. Books and books. He has books on photography, architecture, film, and music. Books of poetry and works of literature. Books by great authors. Books by obscure writers. Books on Cuba. Books on boxing. Books carried by no other bookstore in town. Kaplan has so many books, he moved to a new Coral Gables location this year, across the street from his old one. Much bigger. More room for his books. If you can't make it to Coral Gables, drop by the Lincoln Road store. It, too, is filled with books. Books and books and books.

Best Botánica

Tucked in a tree-lined corner of Allapattah, this stucco garage painted with frescoes of San Lazaro and Santa Barbara is the real deal. Pigeons, doves, and roosters coo in cages in the back, ready to give it up for the orishas. Antlers hang overhead, and the shelves are stuffed with boxes of twigs, roots, and herbs. Everything you'd ever need to please your santo is here, as well as a plethora of potions, charms, and trinkets. If you don't know what you're doing, the friendly staff is happy to advise you. While you can find many an oddity, the hours are not one of them: Open 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Best Record/CD Store: Blue Note Records

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