The obvious criterion for stores in this category is pornography. Lots of it. The latest foothold in Pleasure Emporium's burgeoning empire (two South Beach stores and another near Miami International Airport) makes the grade with more than 4500 titles, ranging from Spanish (Latina Debutante) to bondage (Tie Me, Spank Me, Eat Me), that line the concrete walls, which are painted dark green. For those who can't take it home, sixteen private viewing rooms featuring 100 channels of films are available. There's even a small wastebasket in each one. But what distinguishes this 24-hour-per-day porn peddler from the competition is controversy. Start with its location near downtown, in plain view of top city officials at the Miami Riverside Center. And don't forget company president Renee Feingold, the wife of former Miami Beach City Attorney Laurence Feingold. Larry, by the way, is Pleasure Emporium's attorney.
Lion Video Foreign Films
It's a tossup between the Beach's New Concept Video and Lion when it comes to selection: Both stand as cinematic oases in a desert of unadventurous Blockbusters. Browse the aisles of either store and you'll find a solid array of new and classic independent pictures, oodles of gay and lesbian titles, a host of wonderfully oddball documentaries, and plenty of mainstream faves (should you discover your date has yet to experience the sublime joys of The Bad News Bears). Still the nod has to go to Lion, which imports videos from Europe for foreign-film-starved Miami audiences. Thus while you will find the heavyweight directorial champs of yesteryear, such as Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer, you'll also be able to snag offerings from the current stars of international cinema, including hard-to-find works from Iran's Abbas Kiarostami or France's Leos Carax, whose head-spinning The Lovers on the Bridge languished overseas without an American distributor for nine years; for a good chunk of that time, the video at least was reassuringly nestled inside Lion.
Chilies -- fresh, dried, smoked, chopped up in salsa. They are the very heart of Mexican cuisine. And they are in abundance at Mexico Market. In fact this store comes as close to the real Mexico as any commercial establishment in South Florida. Here are things you'd have to search hours or even days for in Miami, things like tortilla presses, nopales, tomatillos, huitlacoche, chayote, achote, pan dulce, and of course, delicious manteca. Candies and chocolates hechos en Mexico, too. Tripe for menudo? Beef tongue for tacos? The meat department is big and accommodating. There are plenty of non-food-related necessities, such as toys and piñatas. And don't forget to honor your favorite saint or orisha with a statuette (among other altar necessities) and a vela from the market's glorious panoply of religious candles (honored in previous Best of Miami issues).
With his hands Daniel Tong transforms hemp, nylon, and cotton into knotted masterpieces. He weaves black, green, yellow, and red ropes to create Rastafarian icons on wall mats, floor mats, and room partitions. Tong, a member of the Nyabinghi order of Rastafarianism, began experimenting with macramé work as a teenager. He expresses his faith with each twist. A magnificent seven-foot-long wall mat titled The Glory of the King took him more than a year to complete. Tong says his first viewing of the completed work was a religious experience. Miami Rastafarians wear Tong's belts and religious regalia on holy days. He also makes planters and baskets, which take him only a day to complete. Prices range from $35 for the simplest pieces to $1000 for the most complex.
All that glitters is not gold; sometimes it is marcasite with Austrian crystals. Heck, it was good enough for Granny to wear to the theater. And now granny's 21-year-old great-granddaughter wants to don the stuff for a night at the clubs. Before the young hussy steps out the door, she should visit Chrisalyn. The rings, necklaces, and bracelets in the display cases glimmer beside other inexpensive gems: amber, rainbow moonstone, rutilated quartz, lapis, onyx, labradorite, and more. And for the six-foot great-grandson with a stylish sense of fashion, there's that long-coveted billfish tie clip and cuff links with five rows of fake diamonds. Most items cost between $18 and $80. Some rings and beaded necklaces go for five bucks a piece.
This one-of-a-kind children's beauty salon is equipped with Snoopy hair dryers and even a wooden ship where toddlers and kids can play at being pirates while they wait for a trim. Moms can get makeovers and manicures without worrying: Stylists attend to junior's every need. The only conventional barbers' chairs here are used by grownups. Kids sit in fantastic cars, jeeps, horses, and dune buggies while their manes are sheared. Your child's imagination will kick into overdrive as the stylist quickly snips. Tears are unlikely, but if your kid freaks out at the sight of falling locks, don't despair. At Kids' Only there are plenty of gumball machines. When the ride has ended, some children are even presented with My First Haircut certificates. A lock of hair is sometimes attached.
So you're leaving town for a while and the age-old question of what to do with Fido is again rearing its ugly, scruffy head. You could try to con your best buddy into walking and feeding the mutt, but that almost torpedoed your friendship last time. Besides, when you returned, your floppy-eared companion seemed thin and attention starved. Fortunately there is a kennel that is trustworthy and probably will treat the pooch better than you do. Because El Saba started out as a dog breeding outfit, its facilities are a sight nicer than your average doggie-overnight joint. The pups are housed in seventeen-foot-long runs equipped with sliding doors that lead to air-conditioned sleeping quarters. Each run also includes a ceiling fan. Although hounds are locked up every night, during the day they are allowed to frolic in two ample back yards. The runs and feeding bowls are cleaned with bleach every day. The proprietors also know every vet in the area. (House rules require that dogs be vaccinated against kennel cough and canine tracheobronchitis before they arrive.) Daily prices are proportionate to the dog's weight; they range from $10 for those up to 45 pounds to $20 for visitors that tip the scales at 117 pounds plus. But be forewarned; there is only room for 38 dogs. Major holidays and summertime are booked months in advance. And if you're a cat person, don't despair. They take felines, too.
Pregnancy is wonderful when there's an entire warehouse full of clothes to fit your moods, which, by the way, rise and fall like a yo-yo. At this manufacturer's outlet you'll find everything from the slinky and sensual to the obviously pregnant. Racks of cool eveningwear stand near stacks of Peter Pan collar shirts in floral prints and pastels. There are even work clothes and office suits for expectant women who run on more than a biological clock. Saleswomen can help build your wardrobe. But the best part is the prices. The most expensive blazers cost $40, twill shorts are $11.99, dresses go for $24.99, and shirts start at $10.99. Just think, with the money you save you can indulge whatever weird craving is consuming you.
The in-line skater brings home a new set of wheels. They are too big. This bothers him. He returns to Universal, where he purchased the wheels a day earlier. Returns are no problem, he's told, even though he'd opened the packages. "Where do you skate?" he is asked. A nearby rink, he replies. "Oh, really? I used to skate out there. These wheels are too hard for that surface. You'd be better off with something softer, such as these," the clerk says, holding out a new package of wheels. Not only is the clerk's selection the proper size and better for the intended purpose, it also costs a lot less money. The clerk wraps up the new wheels, signs a form, then reaches into the register for a twenty-dollar refund. The customer is bothered no more. In fact he is delighted. Service like this is rare, he thinks to himself. Service like this is why Universal wins the Best Skate Shop award year after year. Universal is the best, hands down.
The wet T-shirt contests? Gone. The spring-breakers toppling into the pool with brewskis in their hands? History. In fact the pool has gone the way of South Beach crackhouses and disappeared completely. Resurrecting Fort Lauderdalian bacchanalia never really worked for Miami, where the action is a more sophisticated version of sleazy. So rather than continue the bikini-contest beach life and big-fake-boobs volleyball games that made it infamous, Penrod's has shifted gears. It now caters to South Beach regulars, families, and happy-hour drunks who would rather gather with friends than frequent trendy hotel bars. The sand here comes right up to the back door of the restaurant and is planted with tepees, hammocks, and beach chairs. Grab yourself a piña colada from the 'tender at the tiki hut, enjoy a fruit salad at an intimate table for two next to a cabana, and enjoy the peace and quiet. No one will kick you out, demand that you purchase another drink, or ask the make of your watch -- if you're wearing one, that is, since time has a way of slipping away in this hidden sanctuary.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®