Best Painted Dishes 1999 | Daynart | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Dayna Wolfe first visited the Bahamas as a teenager. Since then she's traveled to the island nation every year, even living there for two years as a painter. She is so inspired by the sun-dappled flora and architecture that their colors explode from her trays, mugs, plates, vases, and tiles. In fact the interior of her store, in the heart of the funky Design District, is so boldly painted that the place practically vibrates. The walls are "cornflower yellow" and the columns are "coral-shrimp pink." Wolfe also sells paintings and a coloring book, both done in her trademark naive style. Her pottery is exceptionally fun. She imports unenhanced stuff from Italy and Portugal, then paints, fires, and glazes it in her shop. Coffee cups, bowls, and platters ranging in price from $20 to $200 are decorated with mango-orange, lizard-green, and Bimini-blue images of fish and fruit markets. Wolfe describes her work as "very primitive, very decorative, and very happy." Indeed that's why she paints. "Everybody should be happy."

Parents have found myriad ways to garb their wee 'uns. Some cute them up with silly costumes, some make them clothing clones in miniature replicas of mommy- and daddy-wear, some even go the designer route to prepare their offspring for lives of conspicuous consumption. But in our view, there's something to be said for simple, good taste. Not too formal, but nice and proper. La Ideal offers a sprawling selection of wardrobe fillers, all of them tasteful, some of them downright classic. Along with the ready-for-school designer lines (Buster Brown, Oshkosh), the store carries togs from Brazil, Colombia, Spain, and other parts of the world. This is the place for communion dresses and christening gowns, kimonos, Italian socks, and just about anything for tykes, from newborn to age fourteen. Along with the junior apparel, La Ideal displays an array of rug-rat shoes, sporting goods, strollers, and furniture. The outlet is roomy and bright, the service expeditious and polite. (Another La Ideal on Flagler Street offers adult clothes and sporting goods, but the Hialeah store specializes in kid stuff.)

Winning this category for the second straight year is a pricey boutique that has allowed many a mom-to-be to leave the house feeling sexy even after gaining twenty pounds. So what if dresses go for about $150 and suits sell for $250? Just think of it as a two-for-one deal. They stock an especially good collection of eveningwear. "I really do love the clothes here," one bulging acquaintance says. Then she gives this shop the ultimate endorsement. "Actually I'd wear them even if I weren't pregnant."

Forget the chain stores. This is the place to buy everything for that special kidlet. Need a stroller? They have dozens. A crib? You can get the lace-covered kind, the traveling sort, or an old-fashioned one. Lavin's is even better if you speak Spanish; its name is taken from a prerevolutionary baby store in Havana and the help habla Español. As a bonus there's enough technology to satisfy even the most geeklike dad. Try the gizmo to help stop bed-wetting. When the baby pees, a light goes on. The cost: $39.99. Or there's First Sounds, which lets you listen in on the womb. Also for $39.99. The best of the best is the Little Havana store, which has a bizarre, covered parking lot and a quirky design. But you can also try the larger shop in the Falls. Either way, infantile fun awaits.
Dr. Ferran certainly is not a wild-eyed new-age kook. He's a pedigreed vet, having directed the Miami Beach Animal Hospital for nine years and run his own practice for a decade. So if he wants to insert sharp needles into your doggy, let him. This guy is a certified acupuncturist for both humans and animals. Clinical studies and 8000-year-old manuscripts support the approach of opening channels and redirecting chi with needles, for the four-legged as well as biped. Acupuncture works particularly well in relieving pain. "Sometimes we overmedicate animals," he says. "In conventional practice we treat what the animal was brought in for. But my interest is in treating the entire body.... Conventional approaches have their place, and acupuncture has its place. I use both. Acupuncture won't save the world, but it has helped in remarkable ways."
If one man's trash is another's treasure, then Flamingo Plaza is where the late Mel Fisher should have spent his time. There's more junk here than there is sand in the ocean. This L-shaped stripmall has thrift stores and junk shops selling stuff you never dreamed you needed or knew you wanted. One quick stop at a place called Red White & Blue yielded a miniature gumball machine; plaster molds for casting concrete statuary; a red bra-and-panties set with matching plumage; a contraption designed to decorate a mailbox with silk flowers; a three-foot-high purple toucan; and a Scooby-Doo lunchbox. At the neighboring Community Thrift Store we found enough furniture to outfit a dormitory, plus pinball machines, exercise bikes, old stoves, air conditioners, fridges, and even a waterbed. Save More, Inc., a few doors down, stocks new and used items including party supplies, tools, a life-size plastic yard tortoise, clothes, and toys. The scene is completed by a 99-cent store, a discount outlet for baby items, a beauty-supply store, and a Winn-Dixie. No need to bother with a detritus-seeking metal detector; the goods at these joints have been sorted, coded, and labeled to make the pickings easy.
To many in the agricultural set, the essence of growing the best fruit, vegetables, and flowers is perfect soil that is rich in nutrients and well aerated. But a better way might be no soil at all. Hydroponics, feeding plants via a flow of water filled with nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and a number of trace minerals, is well established in Europe and Asia. The cultivation technique even works indoors with high-intensity lights that replicate the sun's rays. All of the lights, trays, fertilizers, supplements, testing equipment, growing mediums, irrigation systems, and information you need can be found at Gold Coast's two stores. The service is professional and subdued. The stores are clean and well organized. The only negative is that the prices are a bit, um, pricey. But note that commercially grown tomatoes go for about a dollar per pound. Hydroponically grown tomatoes (blemish-free and consistent in taste, texture, size, and shape) go for triple that. A sample system set up in the window of the Bird Road outlet boasts bushy growth, brightening the dreary stripmall where it is located. Indeed considering the proliferation of stripmalls, freeways, sidewalks, and basketball courts, soilless gardening may someday be the only method available.
Those in the know, such as professional landscapers, and those who know almost nothing, such as the new homeowner do-it-yourselfer, will both do well to visit Linda Hunter's five-acre spread down in the land of nurseries (mostly wholesalers), mango orchards, and the place with the big "mice, rats, and rabbits for sale" signs. After Hurricane Andrew destroyed her family's litchi tree grove, Hunter and her former partner (a Jordanian-trained agriculturist named Burhan Imran, who now runs his own tree farm) germinated the idea of a boutique nursery. A lifelong plant lover who spent fifteen years living in a Coconut Grove house whose yard she recalls as "a rain forest," Hunter has some 200 species of plants, many natives, some shelved within her five greenhouses and one shadehouse, others lined up on tarps in full sun. No pesticides, no fertilizers, no tools: just plants, all priced to move. The variety is spectacular, with tropicals and bromeliads adding to the typical ferns and palms and ground covers. She trades plants, and has breeders bring in collectibles and rarities. That means the options vary from visit to visit, and that also means Canterbury is a fun place just to browse. Hunter says her customers are about half professionals and half do-it-yourselfers. Her operation is 100 percent delightful.
Sunshine has been in business for some twenty years, selling the games that allow the mentally gifted and socially awkward to sit around a table, roll twenty-sided dice, and imagine they're elves, wizards, barbarians, vampires, Klingons, Wookies, or other fantastic characters. Like many in the role-playing game trade, Joel ("What's your last name?" asks New Times. "Why do you ask?" he shoots back.) once sold comic books. Unlike many others in the biz, he built up a big enough clientele for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and other similar pastimes to weather the downturn in the comic biz. He now devotes his little storefront across from Tropical Park solely to gaming books, adventures, and other fantasy-related resources. His narrow, slightly dingy but well-ordered store offers titles from the familiar (AD&D) to the not-so-familiar (GURPS). If you want to sample a particular system, Joel will rent you a rulebook for about ten dollars per week. He's got two groups meeting in the store now (AD&D and Vampire: The Masquerade), but there's always room for another hardy band of adventurers at the folding table in the back -- provided an experienced gamemaster comes forward to referee. "Everybody wants to play, nobody wants to GM," he gripes. Ain't that the truth!

Both of these retailers are excellent at what they do; the bizarre thing is that they do it side by side. Richard Fishman, owner of the health food store, says: "The smell comes through the walls and our customers aren't smokers. But hey, that's part of life. We stopped worrying about it a long time ago." The even more easygoing Harold Klein, proprietor of the tobacco shop, adds: "We get along with them. They have a sign that says 'health' and I have one that says 'death.'" Excuse us while we enjoy our cigar.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®