Best Of :: Shopping & Services
BEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT STORE Sam Ash Music 5360 NW 167th Street
11421 NW 12th Street
www.samashmusic.com Sometimes bigger is better when it comes to a great music store, as it's all about selection, a place where both newbie guitarists who don't know the difference between nylon and steel strings and dudes who have Flying Vs older than said newbies can get their hands on anything and everything required to rock out. Crobar meets New World Symphony meets Churchill's in this 46,000-square-foot space, which houses everything from orchestral instruments and sheet music to DJ gear to all the drums, guitars, basses, and amps your inner Metallica can handle. The store also holds periodical clinics -- guitarist Alan Holdsworth and bassist Jeff Berlin are on the schedule -- and yes, you are allowed to play "Stairway to Heaven" (if you must).
BEST ADULT VIDEO STORE Caliente Adult Superstore 1820 West Eighth Avenue
305-885-1100 Pleasure Emporium may be large, but Caliente is hot. At the same time, Caliente is cool enough to stock not only the Pocket Rocket but also the Pocket Kamasutra. The shop -- spacious, organized, and clean enough to consider a lingerie purchase -- is located one block north of Okeechobee Road and few blocks south of the studios of Telemundo. So there's always an extremely slim chance of running into your favorite Channel 51 on-air hunk or babe in the small but sizzling Latin racks, where titles range from the innocent (Panochitas) to the sophisticated (Latinas en Europa) to the sublime (Beautiful Brazilian Whores). Other sections run the traditional gamut, including anal, oral, all-girl, all-black, and gang-bang, to name, alas, only a few. You might even find Panochitas Gorditas 11 in the new releases display. Rentals are $5.25 a pop.
BEST ARGENTINE MARKET La Estancia Argentina 17870 Biscayne Boulevard
305-932-6477 and 4425 Ponce de Leon Boulevard (Village of Merrick Park)Coral Gables
www.laestanciaweb.com In Argentina there are three pastimes: soccer, soccer, and soccer. And all that soccer playing makes a body hungry. Which brings us to Argentina's three food groups: bread, wine, and meat. Some of the most highly regarded versions of these in the world are produced on the many estancias of that panoramic nation. Particularly in the past four years (since the country's economy collapsed in what is known as "the crisis") residents of Argentina -- as much as they appreciate their soccer, their panoramas, and their three food groups -- have grown tired of politicians' favorite pastime: stuffing their pockets with the people's money. Many decided to move to Miami. Good for them, as there's no corruption here. Ahem. Okay, then, lucky for us, because they have also decided to open up a slew of food-related businesses. Argentine markets are increasing exponentially all over town, the classiest example being La Estancia Argentina, where you can literally pick up everything you need for a true Argentine barbecue: fresh meat, cut the way you like it; house made chimichurri; fragrant breads baked on premises; and a wide selection of Argentine wines and ports. Of course they also sell fresh pastas, medialunas (tiny croissants), sweet pastries, gourmet cheeses, mate (herb tea), sandwiches, and dried goods from the homeland. With streamlined, modern décor, the place is just as good for shopping as it is for relaxing with a hot cup of café con leche. You can stop in just for the coffee and walk out empty-handed if you choose, but it's unlikely that you will.
BEST BABY STORE Genius Jones 1661 Michigan Avenue
305-534-7622 This is a children's store all grown up. Owners Daniel Kron and his wife Geane Brito, New York fashion- and design-world refugees, opened shop in 2003 specifically because they were so disappointed with what was available when shopping for their first child in 2000. "For too long in the baby business people just accepted what they were given because there were no alternatives," Kron says. So he and his wife found interesting and beautiful alternatives, such as the cardboard snap-together rocket from Brazil, big enough for kids to crawl into; vintage guayaberas and concert T-shirts, recut and miniaturized; and their signature item, the $729 Bugaboo Stroller from Holland. They stumbled upon that pricey kid-cart before it was even available in the U.S., becoming one of the first five stores to carry it. Since then it has gone on to become the celebrity stroller, used by Gwyneth Paltrow and featured on Sex and the City. Kron says he looks for inspiration when selecting gear. "I want them to show me a great design, show me a better way, show me something aesthetically stunning," he says. "We never think in terms of what we can make a lot of money on." Their approach seems to be working: They intend to open a second location at 49 NE 39th Street in the Design District, probably by June. "A lot of our success has to do with the fact that people in Miami are having more babies than in other cities," Kron adds. "People are more into their families here, it seems."
BEST BIKE SHOP Mack Cycle & Fitness 5995 Sunset Drive
www.mackcycleandfitness.com Here's the problem with selecting a "best" bike shop: These days no single retailer carries all the major manufacturers -- Cannondale, Giant, GT, Raleigh, Schwinn, Specialized, Trek -- much less even a fair sampling of the hundreds of boutique brands. Blame it on a form of commercial bullying: Competing suppliers force retailers to choose among a limited number of brands in order to get the best prices. You choose your supplier and take whatever he carries and that's pretty much it. So the criteria for "best" must include more than simply brand names. This is where Mack Cycle & Fitness comes in -- it's trustworthy, reliable, and reasonably priced. The family-owned shop has been in business more than 47 years and is abundantly staffed by a crew of knowledgeable people who are quick to lend assistance. Sometimes, perhaps, too quick. If you want to browse undisturbed, be advised to make that fact known at the outset. But there is no staff more experienced anywhere in Miami. Currently the store's main brands are Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, and Schwinn -- each of which offers numerous models.
Readers´ Choice: Fritz´s Skate, Bike and Surf
BEST BIRD SHOP Aviary Bird Shop 22707 S. Dixie Highway
www.aviarybirdshop.com Just south of Cauley Square on South Dixie Highway -- amid tire shops, liquor stores, and various building-material supply warehouses -- stands the Aviary, a not-so-tiny oasis where wings and an affinity for sunflower seeds are the only residency requirements. Day-Glo green parrots, mohawked cockatiels, and hyperactive parakeets are all treated to garden views, plenty of shade, and all the dried fruit their beaks can handle. In addition to the usual supplies, the oldest bird shop in Miami also offers boarding (in its Tweety Motel), microchipping, and, soon, an area on-premises for special flighty occasions. Go for supplies, a new feathered friend, or an afternoon of bird watching. Think of it as a miniature Parrot Jungle without the roller-skating parrots or $25 admission fee.