Have you been searching for a gem-hunter's kit? A solar-powered model biplane? An ant factory, a hand-held metal detector, or ingredients to brew your own root beer? You have? Then breathe easy. Dr. Einstein has blown into town. Or rather his namesake, this toy store, has arrived. With a terrific selection of scientific, ecological, and mathematical games and experiments, Dr. Einstein's ranks as a good idea that borders on genius. Of course the shop's location in Miami's hookerville is a little weird, but it beats all those other mall-rat-infested stores and toy shops in the area. And there's more to attract you to this place than just the educational fun a kid can have assembling his own robot. You won't find Tickle Me Elmos or Furbies, or even Teletubbies. Take that, Tinky Winky.
PK Oriental Market
When Norman Wong left Hong Kong twelve years ago, he moved to Miami "because," as he says, "somebody's got to live there." He founded PK in 1994 and has worked hard to build the market's reputation as one of the most reliable sources of East Asian foods in South Florida. The store has a down-home, middle-America feel, with no trace of the religious paraphernalia, sexy videos, or raggedy clutter that tends to show up in smaller, mom-and-pop specialty stores. Instead you'll find well-scrubbed aisles, a sweet smelling fish market, and a dandy supply of the goodies that a wok-wielding cook will need to stir some of the multitudinous styles of Asian grub at home: hot chili oil, live blue eels, Florida farm-grown Chinese vegetables, ya pears flown in fresh from China, and -- our favorite -- the best brands of frozen dumplings imported all the way from Brooklyn.
Imagine a delightful forest of hundreds of varieties of tropical and subtropical trees. There are old-growth hardwoods, including a 600-year-old bald cypress, its snarled trunk dappled with green moss. Nearby are rare Florida native species like lysiloma, also known as wild tamarind, and lignum vitae, nicknamed iron wood for its strength. Color is added by flowering bougainvillea and the white petals of Suriname cherry. Now imagine this forest in miniature, and you have Miami Tropical Bonsai. More than 10,000 trees, many of them from Asia, spread out over five acres in this family-run grove. Classes on bonsai styling and care are offered for experts and novices. Tree prices range from an affordable $15 to thousands of dollars. A small manmade pond with a waterfall at the entrance underscores that the art of bonsai is the patient cultivation of beauty in nature.
Can't tell your compas from your rara? Wondering what the difference is between the groups T-Vice and Top Vice? Are you dying to explore the world of Haitian music but don't have the foggiest clue where to jump in? Proceed to Boujoly, which boasts a wonderful selection of Haitian CDs (as well as the latest flyers announcing all those local shows that never seem to make it into the above-ground media) as well as a staff that's more than happy to help introduce neophytes to the pleasures of the island nation's sumptuous rhythms. Don't be afraid to ask for their personal recommendations. Just allow the employees to argue with one another over their faves. Tabou Combo's 1969 debut was a unanimous pick in the classic category when New Times visited. But the merits of current top dog Sweet Mickey were still being hotly debated as we headed for our car, gleefully cradling a stack of purchases.
The reek of aging paper and incense that assails you upon entry is a tip-off this is no Magic: The Gathering-come-lately comics-and-collectibles joint. In fact A&M has been slaking the thinking nerd's thirst for all kinds of four-color pulp fiction since before Chris Claremont drew the X-Men. It took owners Jorge Perez and Richard Cortina years to accumulate the hillocks of trading cards, graphic novels, paperbacks, and model Millennium Falcons that teeter precariously on top of the rows of DC and Marvel back issues. Still, there is an order to the chaos. Although you may have to move aside a stack of She-Hulk action figures and a half-empty bottle of orange Fruitopia to get there, you eventually will locate that copy of Animal Man No. 26 -- the last Grant Morrison-penned issue. Whether you're into the gritty Spawn, the lyrical Sandman, the magical realist Love and Rockets, the campy Betty & Veronica, or the vampy Betty Pages, you'll find it here -- or the accommodating owners will order it for you.
Two wandering academics, Mary from Britain and Martin from the States, met and married in Kosovo in 1976. Within a year they decided to move to South Florida and set up an orchid ranch. Just another typical South Florida story. Today the sight of thousands of orchids in one of the couple's several shady sheds is an overwhelming life experience; nothing can truly prepare an observer for the sensual onslaught of the speckled tangelo, the fire of Motes flamboyant, or the emotion created by dozens of other compelling breeds and hues. After more than twenty years in business, Mary and Martin primarily sell their own line of orchids, which has been cited by experts for fragrance, color, and frequency of bloom. The farm is open to the public one day per month and by appointment.
Much like the fabled jazz label from which it takes its name, Blue Note Records remains an easy reference point when seeking quality sound. Sure, other shops around town may dig a tad deeper into their chosen niches, but as a one-stop destination for all the music that truly matters, Blue Note reigns supreme. Indeed it's a testament to owner Bob Perry and his quest for inventorial breadth that Blue Note is three separate stores. The front room is devoted largely to R&B in all its historical permutations, from mint vinyl copies of Funkadelic's 1970 tweaked-out masterpiece Maggot Brain to the latest bass-flavor hip-hop CD from Juvenile. Mosey past a respectable blues section through a doorway into a second room, and you're in a guitar freak's paradise. Even better is the attendant staff, equally versed in the fine points of Eric Clapton-ology and Sonic Youth's postpunk squall. Finally there's the backroom, devoted to jazz in all its myriad forms, from Forties bebop to Sixties free jazz to contemporary honkers and blowers. True, you could probably hit the Internet and order many of these releases online, but what music fan would pass on the sheer joy of losing oneself amid all these great records?
A rose by any other name? Easy enough. Call Karla, Karla Dascal to be specific, the innovative designer behind aromatic floral arrangements such as Jungle Love, Jungle Passion, Papayas, Grapes, and Manzanas. Dascal might be better known in some circles as florist to the stars, because she has delivered blooms to Madonna, Steven Tyler, and Sylvester Stallone, to name a few. Dascal has even been quoted as saying, "Basically all of my clients are famous in one way or another." But we less-than-famous folks also can appreciate the blossoms she imports and puts together. Her petal-filled vases are almost decadent; they look and smell so good. When it began in 1993, Roses by Karla wasn't open to the public. It still isn't a store in the normal sense, though walk-ins are welcome. And Dascal is as selective as ever about whom she graces with her art. Dascal has a Website, so give her a shot; log on and tell her why you deserve roses.
One begins to hear the birds at this South Miami-Dade wonder from the parking lot long before glimpsing a single brightly colored feather. Shielded by tall wooden fences and dense foliage is an exotic avian world full of amazing hues and wild calls. Among dozens of cages spread out over the immense shaded patio are white cockatoos with yellow spiked crowns, and deep-red macaws. Inside the store are even more birds and a nursery for hatchlings. There are yellow nape amazons, chattering lorries, lovebirds, finches, canaries, parakeets, and cockatiels, among others. Prices stretch from seven dollars to several thousand. And of course, because this is Miami-Dade County, one can find parrots that speak both English and Spanish. Best of all for conspicuous consumers, amid the feathered assemblage are dozens of accessories, including an enormous selection of bird toys, seed, and an astounding assortment of cages and perches.
Someone obviously forgot to explain to Eutopia's owners that Lincoln Road -- once the repository of charming funkiness and strolling artistes -- has been transformed into a generic strip mall. How else to explain the existence of this recently opened bookshop brimming with out-of-print treasures just steps from the Gap, Pottery Barn, and Banana Republic? Eutopia has a fiction section full of honest-to-gosh literature rather than the romance paperbacks that clog several other used bookstores around town. There's also a Florida nook, where you can snag hard-to-find copies of T.D. Allman's Miami, City of the Future, John Rothschild's hysterical local chronicle Up for Grabs, and even (now here's the perfect gift for the friend who already has everything) several bound volumes of congressional testimony about Fifties FBI investigations into commie subversion in the Magic City. While this last batch of tomes is unintentionally hilarious, with J. Edgar Hoover seeing red inside every retirement home, it's also precisely the kind of historical curio that makes browsing the shelves at Eutopia such a joy.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®