Actually a Seattle-based store with a New York location, this place is a mecca of carnal commerce. The babes who own this adult toyland, Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning, have pioneered a new concept: very woman-friendly service and products: "We want a trip to Toys in Babeland to feel like a vacation from all the negative messages our culture gives us about sexuality and gender.... Sex toys are toys, after all! They buzz, they twist, and they flutter. They make us laugh, they make us hot, and they make us think." A definite turn-on for Miami women seeking silicone sexual healing minus the leers and unwanted attention they might encounter at a male-dominated establishment. Not only does the female-staffed Babeland have a full-service Website that includes sex tips, news, a color catalogue, and even a gift registry, it also has a toll-free number so you can place an order day or night (Pacific time) without even leaving your bed (or someone else's). And you can use the eight to ten days you'll probably wait for delivery to get creative. (For an erotic emergency, try second- or next-day delivery.)
The Age of Aquarius is alive and well at the Main Street Café. Tofu, soy burgers, a salad bar, and hummus are all on the lengthy menu that accentuates the vegetarian. Fruit and vegetable juices are on tap to wash down this healthy fare. Sun lovers can sit at tables outside. But if inside is your thing, man, the walls are decorated with the work of local artists. Christmas lights also help bring the joint, uh, place, a comfortable, artsy feel. A small makeshift stage is used for music (including blues, open-mike, and folk) Thursday through Saturday. And if you're not on a health kick, the place offers roast beef, a decent beer selection, and coffee galore. The adjoining store cements the Main Street Café's flower-power ethic. Here you can find crystals, pottery, used compact discs, records, dashiki clothing, incense, and guitar strings. For those who want positive vibes with a modern twist, there are three Internet-ready computers, which rent for five dollars per hour.
Located next door to Tobacco Road and run by long-time Road denizen, music promoter, and eccentric-man-about-town Mark Weiser, Brickell News is the most ecumenical array around, short of a flea market. And this stuff is all new. Well, a lot of it is. It's as if Weiser's brain exploded all over the shop. "People come in all the time and ask what kind of store this is," says Lou Shackleford, a friend who helps mind the place. "I say, 'Look around; whatever you see is what it is.' Try and put it into words, I wish you luck." Says Weiser: "It's just stuff I like." Oh well, labels are so confining. Among the stock are incense, instruments, CDs, and teas. There's English mustard, Louisiana hot sauce, and African art. There also are used books, sarongs, earrings, and bongs. There are photos, including a framed and autographed shot of I Dream of Jeannie stars Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden. There are carved masks, candlesticks, kimonos, wind chimes, hammocks, and a green iguana named Mia, who is not for sale. Monday through Thursday the store is open noon to midnight. On Friday the hours are noon to 1:30 a.m.
"No musical prejudices" reads a handwritten sign, the first clue about the forbidden fruit that lies within Esperanto. While live Cuban music too often falls victim to local political heat and a knee-jerk emotional backlash, you can still hear it on CD, thanks to this outpost of cultural tolerance on Lincoln Road. From vintage Fifties descarga to the latest timba outfits from Havana, Esperanto features a sometimes daunting array of Cuban sounds. Fortunately the store also has a knowledgeable staff that's more than happy to school those just sampling the pleasures of son. Of course Cuban tunes are only part of the musical spectrum, which extends to Brazil (including plenty of hard-to-find tropicalismo classics from Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso), Puerto Rico, Colombia, and virtually anywhere else in the world people are getting funky. Free in-store appearances by touring artists are another draw. But the clearest explanation for Esperanto's appeal came recently while watching manager Carlos Suarez set up a host of microphones for a set by Buena Vista Social Club laúd player Barbarito Torres, only to burst into his own heartfelt karaoke take on one of that group's songs.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®