Blockbuster video stores are perfect for, well, blockbuster movies. But if your taste in film is a bit more adventurous, the rental destination of choice is New Concept Video, where the inviting aisles are filled with enough variety to satisfy any couch potato. Quality new releases certainly abound, but it's in the catalogue that this place really shines. Looking for an offbeat indie cult fave like Ross McElwee's Sherman's March? It's here. How about a French New Wave classic like Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin-Feminin? New Concept's got that one, too. There's also a nice selection of adult films -- both straight and gay -- arrayed behind a tasteful velvet curtain. At least, ahem, that's what a close friend tells us.
"Everybody wants to transfer here," DJ Merlyn says about the attitude of his colleagues at other Spec's toward the chain's South Beach location. It's not hard to see why. Because just about everybody behind the counters is a DJ, the electronica stock is deep, informed, and up-to-the-minute. Stop by on a Wednesday, when the week's new releases arrive, and you'll find a steady stream of club aficionados snapping up the latest drum and bass twelve inchers from London, dishing gossip on the dance scene, and trading info on where they get their records pressed. The turntable-challenged should also take note: This Spec's also has a nice selection of electronica on CD.

Bob Perry's Blue Note Records has held this award for ages, and deservedly so. His store is simply the best one-stop location for almost all the music that truly matters. In the front room you can work your way through the latest hip-hop, reggae, Latin, folk, blues, world sounds, and vintage soul. Move into the second room and it's a rocker's paradise for both postpunkers and die-hard Sixties enthusiasts. A $3.99 vinyl copy of the Meat Puppets' Up On the Sun stares up from beneath the entire Bob Dylan back catalogue while the latest noise seven-inch singles vie for space with Eric Clapton and Beach Boys box sets. Finally stroll into the backroom and you'll find jazz heaven: an informed stock of both the traditional and the avant-garde, from Louis Armstrong to Albert Ayler. Add reasonable prices, free parking, a staff with encyclopedic knowledge, and you have a great place to lose yourself for an afternoon.
Bob Marley is just the tip of the iceberg at this outpost for Jah. Stacks of reggae vinyl abound in this shop, and though the emphasis is on dancehall and the more modern sounds out of Jamaica, there's still plenty of vintage roots on display. A recent shopping stop turned up rare, early-Seventies Tappa Zukie and Mighty Diamonds albums, as well as not one, not two, but an entire stack of still-sealed copies of Culture's 1977 dread classic Two Sevens Clash. Irie indeed.

You want to feel like a captain of industry? Make an appointment to have Jackie Charles (pronounced in one quick burst as Jackiecharles) meet you at work. Nothing provides that old-fashioned sense of entitlement like having the barber come to you. No breezing through ten-year-old Playboy magazines while you wait at the barbershop. You call, set a time, and Charles shows up. Although he's only 26 years old, this Haitian-American part-time actor has been trimming locks for about a decade. At age sixteen he started attending cosmetology night classes after high school football practices. (He did so illicitly, without paying.) Since then he's shorn rap stars Puff Daddy and Luther Campbell as well as boxer Lennox Lewis. For a real kick use a cell phone to make a business call while the scissors snip. Yeah, you're a regular Bill Gates. Charles charges $10 to $20 depending on the style and whether there is more than one customer. He'll do any style of hair.

Disco's current revival as source material for a new generation of retro-chic DJs is hardly news at Yesterday & Today. House, Hi-NRG, or whatever your moniker of choice may be for the sound's current incarnation, it's all one continuous cacophony inside this cheery and loudly thumping record shop. The proof is in the impressive array of vintage disco and late-Seventies' funk albums prominently displayed next to this month's club faves-of-the-moment. Looking for that elusive Sylvester album? How about an old Eddie Kendricks slow burner? A snaky foot-stomper from the Jimmy Castor Bunch? It's all here and affordably priced. Bell-bottoms and platform shoes may have been traded in for an Adidas ensemble, but the beat goes on.
So you don't know tango from timba or a bolero from a bachata? And you think cumbia is the name of that chicken dish you ate at some Honduran restaurant last week. Don't worry. Ignorance is welcome at Esperanto Music, where you can explore a new world of Latin sound without feeling like an ugly American. Manager Carlos Suarez is pleased to give you a primer on Latin styles as he guides you through the store's more than 5000 titles. Among this musical menagerie: Cuban dance music from every era; Argentine rock; Brazilian jazz; Mexican love ballads; and much more. Offering the latest releases as well as classics, rarities, and reissues, Esperanto is an aficionado's wonderland. Even if you have a tin ear when it comes to Latin music, don't worry. Esperanto speaks your language.

Best Reason Not To Go To Cocowalk

Newly installed fifteen-minute parking meters. As inconceivable as it may seem, visiting "the heart and beat of the Grove," as CocoWalk managers bill their mall, is now more of a hassle than ever.
South Florida certainly suffers no shortage of malls. A half-dozen major shopping centers compete for patrons and several more are coming soon. The Falls is best because it combines many of its rivals' positive attributes. Macy's and Bloomingdale's provide solid anchors. All the boutique chain stores, from Ann Taylor to Aveda to Crate & Barrel, add value. And it's a breeze to park at The Falls. Speaking of breeze, much of this megalopolis of capitalism is beautifully constructed, with outdoor gardens, fountains, and big courtyards.

Believe it or not, the Ice Age cometh to South Florida. In fact it already cameth. Several years ago professional hockey teams started drifting toward the tropics from places like Minnesota. Then skaters scratched the ice on indoor rinks in Homestead, North Miami-Dade, and elsewhere. Now a new recreational ice-skating mecca is planned for Kendall. So if you want to be on the cutting edge, you might consider visiting this warehouse of a store just west of South Dixie Highway. It has the latest gear. Besides the fad for frost, global warming is all the rage. So you may prefer to glide on wheels in the sunshine. Universal stocks items tailored to roller hockey, aggressive skating (like sliding down a stairway handrail and pirouetting into a spread eagle, followed by a flip), and off-road blading. Finally the store carries equipment for the on-again fad of skateboarding. Need a lesson? The staff can point you in the right direction.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®