Best Of :: Shopping & Services
You might know about yerba mate via its recent desecration as the "maté latté." But before it was served in postconsumer recycled cardboard Starbucks cups, the South American herb was more typically imbibed through a silver straw stuck into a hollowed-out gourd filled with the bitter, naturally caffeinated herb. And it still is — drinking maté is a strong cultural tradition practiced in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil. You can cultivate the habit too — this is Miami, after all — but you'll need the right equipment. The Taystee Gourmet Deli and Bakery might not seem like the first choice of an aspiring matero, but don't be fooled: The back wall boasts an impressive collection of Argentine necessities, including matés, the hollow gourds that take the shredded leaves (ranging in price from about $5 to $7), and bombillas, the little metal straws that filter the drink and bring it piping-hot to your boca. Of course, the store sells the yerba maté itself, with a few brands to choose from; a pound of the stuff, plenty to get you started, won't cost more than $3 or $4.
Kendall Adult Video opened in 1991. During the past 17 years, this shop has withstood hurricanes, protesters, and digital porn. "People don't spend money here like they used to," says the store's co-owner, Robert. "By the time you put gas in your car and pay taxes, there isn't much money left." The Farm Stores market and Tony Roma's restaurant next door have both gone out of business. So come on, Miami, we need to show our support! Why? First, Kendall Adult Video has the largest selection of VHS tapes we have ever seen. From classics including Caligula and Deep Throat to celeb vids such as A Night in Paris and the Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson romp. There's a section for each genre of porn: MILFs, she-males, 18-year-olds, homoerotic, black booty, anal-rama, monsters of cock, etc. And the place carries the entire Bangbus, Reality King, and 8th Street Latinas collections on DVD, which were all made in the Magic City. There are no "whack shacks," so sleazy dudes rarely lurk around here. There is also an overabundance of sex toys: fake human heads to stick your dick into ($70), a faux rubbery ass with artificial hair around the plastic hole ($99.99), dildos, butt plugs, blow-up dolls, and an assortment of lubes. For less than $60, you can buy a whole stack of porno mags from the sale rack. Don't forget to purchase a couple of those special ribbed glow-in-the-dark condoms. You might need them later.
With six months to go before Art Basel, you have just enough time to churn out a few primitive masterpieces and cash in on the insanity. What? You don't know how to paint? That never stopped an artiste from turning a buck before. Just wander down to the well-stocked I.D. Art, where actual (and helpful) artists will give you advice about how to gesso your canvas or wield a sgraffito tool. While you're there, ask about their workshops, so you can learn to act even more professional. The Beach outlet is small but has most of what you'd need in a rainy-day pinch. The store is housed inside ArtCenter/South Florida, so hang around for a little artistic inspiration (or wander next door to Romero Britto's space and smell the currency). By the way, if you need that special brush to finish off a painting but you're dripping in turpentine, have no fear — they deliver!
The closing credits are rolling on Jet Li's latest film, War, and you get the sudden urge to take your life from Occidental to Oriental. You realize you'll need 17 hours and a lot of yuan to get to China by air, but only a couple of minutes on I-95 and gas money to get what you desire. So you roll to Miami China City, and when the elephant statues perched in the window see you coming, they kinda smile. A walk through the double doors reveals a world of Chinese goods that will fulfill all of your needs; there's a feng shui luo pan compass to determine the path to good fortune, a calligraphy set for writing letters to newfound Hong Kong pen pals, a Japanese samurai sword for killing Bill, and a dose of horny goat tea for — well, you know. You wander the store picking up cans of litchi juice, Chinese exercise DVDs, and a cast-iron tea set, all with an authentic gong hooked onto the crook of your arm, a kimono thrown over your shoulder, and a Hello Kitty suitcase in your hand. The store is the size of a Walgreens and filled with more than 10,000 products ranging in price from 25 cents to 4,000 bucks. By the time you've walked it from end to end, you might not know what everything says or means, but you'll feel like you do.
You don't know shear stability from shock fade. You're a lug with a lug wrench, and c-clamps make you see red. In short, you just wanna turn the key and drive, dammit. That big, hot, noisy, greasy black monster under the hood that makes the wheels go 'round? It might as well be magical for all you know. And that's where G.T.O. comes in. If it's an easy fix, they'll say so. If your car simply needs new brake pads, they won't milk you for new rotors. They specialize in — as the name suggests — classic cars, but they can work on anything, including the Biscayne Park Police Department cruisers from up the street, which frequently mingle with the Mustangs, Chargers, and Volkswagens in the always bustling parking lot. G.T.O.'s hourly labor charge, $68, is about average, but it's a small price to pay to go on believing in the car fairies under the hood.
For nearly four decades, Obilio Gutierrez has held court at his quaint, three-chair establishment. It hasn't changed a lick since he first hung a shingle outside his door. The décor still boasts the same old pictures of Chevys, Fords, and yellowing classic roadsters. Holding forth on hot-button issues while nimbly snipping away, the Little Havana stalwart has groomed several generations of clients. The wait for a trim is never long, and a haircut costs a mere $8.
Not only do they stock a $2,000 Jamis with a carbon-fiber frame at this old-school cyclery, but also they'll patch your tire for $5 — plus a few bucks more for the tube. Then there's that Phat Cycles lowrider for $1,199. You'll just want to stare. Get a tuneup for $30 to $65. Your rusty clunker will hum like never before. The surfboards go for an average of $300. And if you break down in the evening, this is the place for you. They're open until 8 six days a week. But the main reason to visit is owner Darren Vinditti. The guy is a biking champion. He recently took first place in an off-road race in Gainesville — and was also a champion in the 100-kilometer race at Oleta State Park. Just stop by to bask in his glory.
This store is kinda like a one-stop-shopping center for earthly and spiritual needs. If, for instance, you are making a nice chicken soup, you can pick up some bouillon cubes for pennies at this sprawling wonder of Little Haiti. But if you are looking, say, for a candle, cologne, or aerosol spray that will summon the vodou warrior spirit Ogun, you've also come to the right place. Wood-carved saints, potted herbs for different healing remedies, incense, and even ceremonial textiles are on display and for sale. There's also a large selection of Florida honey and sacks of grains wedged between the flotsam of daily life. The store is colorful, chaotic, and a bit overwhelming — almost as if you've stepped into an emporium that captures Port-Au-Prince itself — and there's usually vodou chants or compas music in Kreyol blasting from speakers in the front of the store. So who needs the long plane flight to the island?
So your girlfriend isn't digging that Crock-Pot you got her last Christmas? Well, redeem yourself quickly by taking her on a shopping spree at Kore, a cool women's fashion boutique that won't singe your credit card. Kore is the latest clothing store to open on the Upper Eastside, joining a gaggle of other retailers that have transformed Biscayne Boulevard. Most of the inventory is from Los Angeles, with prices ranging between $20 and $100. According to a blond Amazonian beauty with fetching blue eyes named Andrea, Kore is a great place to shop when a girl is in a hurry but looking for something cute and complementary. "I like it because the clothes are trendy but not pretentious," she says while eyeing a turquoise sleeveless top. "And they get new stuff every two weeks." In addition to clothes, Kore carries a great selection of purses, shoes, and accessories to match its cute ensembles. The store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sometimes, as Freud once said, a cigar is just a cigar. So why spend big bucks on a stogy, even a really good one, if you don't have to? And you don't. Forget the shops on Ocean Drive — forget anyplace you might have actually heard of — and head to Danli's for some of the best and most reasonably priced premium cigars this side of the Florida Straits. Filiberto Marimon, the company owner for more than 30 years, has littered the shop and his private office with pictures of Honduras, where his cigars are hand-made according to traditions imported from Cuba. Marimon has the peculiar notion — in his line of work, anyway — that no one should have to pay more than a few dollars for a cigar, no matter how good it's supposed to be. With that spirit in mind, he offers his cigars in unmarked bundles — $20 gets you 20 cigars. Happy puffing!
Four-and-half years ago, Nuredin Hernandez turned bad luck into good. He lost his job as an electrician but ended up opening a comic book and collectibles store, which he bought from an old buddy. Now Hernandez spends his days playing Call of Duty on his shop's computer or Magic the Gathering with the teenage and college-age geeks who frequent Ultimate Cards & Comics, which is located in a shopping plaza one block north of the Palmetto Expressway's NW 67th Avenue exit. Hernandez is delighted to be doing something he likes. "I was into comics as a kid," he says. "And in 1987, I started collecting again." He has certainly done a phenomenal job stocking his shelves with cool action figures, comic books, and trading cards. There are hard-to-find issues of The Amazing Spider-Man drawn by Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee-illustrated editions of The Uncanny X-Men, and more than 25 rows of back issues from Dark Horse, DC, Marvel, and various independent titles. You can spend an entire afternoon just staring at the toys, which include Japanese versions of Dragon Ball Z and Transformers, and discontinued, rare lines such as Clive Barker's Tortured Souls by McFarlane Toys. There is even a Little Lulu 12-inch vinyl doll and a Return of the Jedi Battle at the Sarlacc Pit board game. Ultimate Cards & Comics is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Trendy jewelry lovers have two choices: Suck it up at retail stores and pay exorbitant prices for quote-unquote designer pieces, or learn how to DIY. We're fans of the latter. A good bead store is a fashionista's best friend. At Bead Me, you can make a necklace worthy of sale at Neiman Marcus for a fraction of a price. Nestled in a strip of stores near Allen's Drugs, Bead Me is a spacious, beautiful shop that offers Miami's largest selection of seed beads and Swarovski crystals. Swarovskis here go for 8 to 60 cents, a real bargain considering how much a pair of the crystal earrings can cost at those cute boutiques on South Beach. Strands of beads run $2.90 to $30, and for the hapless aspiring designer, classes cost $20 to $25, a worthwhile investment if you're planning to keep up with the hottest trends.