Best of Miami®

Best Of 2007


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Shopping & Services


Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Slice of the Caribbean
The Strip Mall on SW 160th Street

If you ask the friendly man at Caribbean Delite for the name of this strip mall, he responds with a quizzical look and a lengthy silence. It's like he's been asked to solve an algebra equation. "I don't know. I just think of it as the Caribbean strip mall," he eventually says. "Maç What's the name of this strip mallç" he shrieks to the lady in the kitchen, who is elbow deep in curry and busily preparing box lunches of roti, Trinidad's most popular food. Ma gives no answer. "Check the sign out there; it must have a name for the mall," he declares with conviction. According to that sign, this is the Little Caesar's strip mall. There's a branch of the affordable pizzeria in the far right corner, but it's rarely as busy as the other establishments. This place is a mecca for Caribbean cuisine and culture. Sweet (typically vintage) reggae music from Jamaican music epicenter Aquarius Records booms from speakers mounted outside. The barbershop ensures no short supply of handsome men lounging about while waiting for a trim. And there are three spectacular Caribbean restaurants here: Sango Jamaican and Chinese Cuisine serves up some of the best jerk in Miami; Caribbean Delite offers the softest, most succulent roti this side of Port of Spain; and Marie's Patties is world-famous for good reason. If you're heading down south for some island deliciousness, take South Dixie Highway until you pass BrandsMart USA; then turn right on SW 160th Street. Take an immediate right into the parking lot of the peach-color strip mall, and listen for the bass-heavy music. And bring cash — for some strange reason, none of these quality Caribbean eateries accepts plastic.

9480-9491 Southwest 160th St., Palmetto Bay, 33157
Best Vintage Store
Salvation Army Family Store

We know a seasoned vintage shopaholic who lovingly calls this place "Chez Armé." She proudly boasts about all of the amazing finds she's procured from here. It wasn't until she showed us photos of an incredible four-poster bed that seemed to be hewn from tree trunks that we began paying attention. When it comes to buying furniture, you can't do better.The store is a clean, well-lit place with the usual thrift store finds in abundance — dishes, sweaters, winter jackets, and worn children's toys. To one side you'll find dining room furniture, bedroom sets, and men's clothing. A handsome ornate chest of drawers, side tables, and an armoire are a bargain at $350. Textured wall units and a dining table come for $800. A two-piece butter-yellow leather living room set is $150. There's bland furniture and random what-were-they-thinking items, like a pair of children's loft-style beds outfitted with wooden slides for that speedy (not to mention dangerous) disembarkation. Stop by early (it opens at 9:00 a.m.) if you want to find a specific furniture item that isn't on display: "We got a whole warehouse back there," says approachable clerk Clarence Williams. Every second Saturday of the month, the lot down the street hosts the Salvation Army auto auction. So quite literally you can walk in here with nothing and leave with a suite of furniture and a new car for less than a grand.

90 NW 23rd St., Miami, 33127
Best Way to Discard Your Junk

All of us have a bunch of stuff hanging around our homes that we don't want, don't need, or don't use. Why not streamline your life by getting rid of some of that junkç Freecycle, a national online trading post with a board here in Miami, is the perfect way to turn your trash into someone else's treasure. Here's how it works: You register on the Website and then offer your stuff in a posting. If someone wants it, you arrange a (safe) meeting time and place to make the exchange. Best of all, it's free.

Best Secondhand Store
Rag Trade Happy Clothing Co.

Don't want to spend $300 on a BCBG dressç If you're lucky, you can find one at Rag Trade for $30. You can also earn a little cash on the clothes you haven't worn for four years, the ones lying wrinkled and unused in a cobwebby corner of your closet. If you would rather barter for something in the shop, that's fine too. Like any secondhand shop, Rag Trade carries a rotating stock of wares that ranges in style from vintage to contemporary. There's also a section devoted to new clothes by local designers and by London-based Religion (not to be confused with the brand of jeans). Feel good about shopping here: Rag Trade is pro-conservation, and even the price tags are recycled.

4600 NE 2nd Ave., Miami, 33137
Best Yarn Store
Elegant Stitches

Maybe South Florida doesn't seem like the best place to pick up knitting as a hobby — after all, summer is upon us. But there are always babies to crochet blankets for, relatives up north who need hats and scarves, and the three cold days next winter. Elegant Stitches carries more than 700 different yarns and offers knitting and crochet classes for $45. The shop also has patterns, books, kits, and needles. For the truly dedicated, the store organizes a November knitting cruise on Royal Caribbean.

8841 SW 132nd St., Palmetto Bay, 33176
Best Store for Crafty Chicks
Gem and Bead Gallery

Light catches your eye from all directions in the Gem and Bead Gallery. Everywhere you look, there are glistening gemstones of all varieties — amethyst, rose quartz, and glass beads that look almost exactly like them. Coral branches, turquoise chunks, and amber circles; jade beads and freshwater pearls. You can buy anything, from a $1000 sapphire to adorn that perfect solitaire, to $1 glass beads for a hippie love necklace. The Gem and Bead Gallery is a direct importer of gemstone beads, colored crystals, horn beads, Swarovski crystals, and pearls. The store attracts customers who are practiced jewelers, as well as first-time bead stringers. To that end, they offer hands-on Monday and Saturday classes that range from $30 to $35. From beading to pearl knotting, you can learn how to do it and then successfully make it here. Few things are cooler than being able to chirp, "Thanks, I made them myself," when you're inevitably complimented on your amazing new earrings.

38 NE 1st St., Miami, 33132

Best Slice of the Caribbean: The Strip Mall on SW 160th Street


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