The small towns dotting the Tuscan countryside are renowned for many reasons: their medieval cityscapes framed by hilly terrain; the Renaissance art found in their churches; their truffles and olives; and last but not least, their wines. The vintages from Montereggiano differ from those of Montepulciano, not to mention those of San Gimignano, make no mistake. But enough geography -- what does this matter to you? Next time you're heading to a dinner party and want to pick up some good vino, no need to track down a specialty store. Walk into this Amoco on Biscayne (no, really) and walk out with a full-bodied red from San Gimignano or a chilled white from Montepulciano, bottles you often can't find in a wine store, much less a convenience store. So Tuscan is not your style? There also are good quality but affordable vintages from Chile, France, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and, of course, California. Why such fruitfulness here, you ask, on this unassuming stretch of one of Miami's less attractive boulevards? Who knows ... but who cares? Just as long as they keep stocking great wines from the best regions in the world.
Dadeland Mall
Dadeland Mall
Your granite horse fountain no longer reaches toward the heavens, but your obelisk with a capital D beckons huddling masses to spend, spend, spend. You put Kendall on the map when you first opened more than 40 years ago and set the standard for frivolous buying sprees long before ATMs and credit cards made spending convenient. You survived recessions, a gas crisis, inflation, and cocaine-cowboy shootouts in your parking lot, and still you look well. The booming economy of the Clinton years has been good to you. Your promenade, tiled in cool blues and whites, features kiosks of the finest coffees, sunglasses, and caviar. But looking to the future, your prosperity once again is challenged. As consumer confidence wanes and the bubble of the new economy bursts, competition raises its ugly head. The supersize Dolphin Mall, a tract of discount outlets that opened in March, seeks to tap into your well. Next year the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables will do the same. But you've seen other malls, full of shine and fury, come and go. You've beat out the Bakery Center and its new incarnation, Sunset Place. You thrived while the once praised Omni declined into downtown decay. Even with your double cinema gone, you make the once-hip CocoWalk look like just another mob scene with bad parking. You continue to lure and lull the people with your ever-expanding free parking lots and your own entrances and off-ramps from the Palmetto. You're going to make it, after all. You're Dadeland, the granddaddy of Miami malls.
Almost hidden in the downtown maul of electronics and shoe stores is a sportinggoods retailer that caters to South American visitors -- like everyone else downtown -- but also remains attractive to locals with an athletically active bent. A family-owned business, Miami Fantasias sells everything the weekend warrior might need, from fishing poles to Ping-Pong paddles, tennis rackets to heart monitors, and even that spear gun you might have been eyeing (nervously). Miami Fantasias excels most notably as a dive shop. New certification classes start every Monday. Dive trips on one of the store's three boats depart from Miami every day. Longevity in cutthroat downtown is one indication of the store's ability to satisfy its customers. Founded in 1978, Fantasias has grown into a thriving business, today employing more than 45 helpful, consumer-oriented employees. Jog in. Dive in. Ping-Pong paddle in. Just get in.
The modifier "costume" implies that the jewelry either is gaudy or blatantly fake. And true enough, in many cases it is one or the other. But this high-end Lincoln Road boutique, which carries everything from children's toys to silver platters, features an extensive jewelry department where neither is true. In other words you can buy jewelry with real pearls but strung on wire, so the prices are in line. Other necklaces and bracelets may be real gold but set with sparkling crystals instead of expensive precious stones. Some earrings are vintage, gleaned from estate sales; some rings look as if they could be from garage sales; watches might look old but are completely new. Several things you can count on: fashion, fashion, and more fashion. Whether the trend is illusion necklaces or chains with pendants, 24 Collection will have them. We should all be costumed so well.
Why does the miracle of new life have to leave you feeling like you won the egg-eating contest in Cool Hand Luke? Take comfort in sheathing your gravid form in snappy capri pants in any shade you like. Shirts, skirts, and dress styles in this spacious Miracle Mile shop run the gamut from fun, flowery, and slightly retro-Sixties to understated and elegant. There's an old-fashioned standing scale on which you can confirm your worst fears, and a small box of children's toys placed strategically near the dressing rooms. Plus Mimi and her crew offer helpful appraisals and advice on everything from bras to cocktail dresses.
Your best friend is getting married, and you want to do your part to make it a special and memorable occasion. How about paying for beautiful multicolor butterflies to be released at just the right moment? At Butterfly Mystique, located deep in the Redland, a dozen individually packaged butterflies that arrive by one-day FedEx can be as cheap as $75. But don't let the ease of express mail deter you from visiting the place itself. That way you won't miss the vivarium tour, where one can walk among hundreds of butterflies. The tour costs five dollars for adults and four dollars for children. To keep the critters flapping happily, a wide variety of butterfly-attracting plants are for sale as well. They also have an insect shop called the House of Bugs where scorpions, tarantulas, and ladybugs can be seen and purchased. A mobile insect exhibition even takes the creepy crawlies on the road for shows. And the back of Butterfly Mystique's yellow-and-white-striped trailer reads: "Bugs not drugs."
Next to a building painted in eye-battering yellow and green, Mr. Pocketbook's bright yellow sign lures you in: "Bags $2.99 & up." Inside, a sea of vinyl, leather, and fabric awaits -- everything from the stylish leather handbags that would set you back $60 in the mall, to more affordable knockoffs of high-end brand names like Fendi and Coach, to "el cheapo" cloth and plastic varieties that spill off tables at the flea market. The store also stocks luggage, as well as children's backpacks adorned with cartoon characters. Open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Mr. Pocketbook encourages bulk shopping, offering deep discounts (a third of retail prices) when you buy a dozen or more bags. And you can mix and match your quarry from any of the boxes and still pay wholesale for each. Those opting to buy fewer purses also can save a little, especially if they're lucky. One saleswoman notes Mr. Pocketbook's prices can fluctuate, depending on the day and "how my boss is feeling."

With more than 2000 products in stock, Chung Hing Oriental Mart boasts everything imaginable from the East. The store's owner, Chung Peng, a native of Hong Kong, even supplies local Thai, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants. The impressive inventory includes live tilapia and eels crammed together in a fish tank; hefty pork thighs hanging from steel hooks; and a range of herbal tonics such as Wuchaseng extract (dark ginseng in a honey base), Ancient Han Health-Keeping extract (the result of nearly ten years of research conducted by traditional Chinese herb experts who based their studies on ancient records from the Han Dynasty), and a bronchial comforter called Chi Ye Long. Aisles are full of products from every Eastern nation you can think of. Chung Hing offers the widest variety of Chinese noodles we've ever seen in one place. The flavoring essences from Thailand and a number of instant soups -- wakame, tofu misu, and osuimono -- are available for a quick fix. Five-pound bags of dried mushrooms are stacked against a wall near the live fish. Large glass jars of bamboo shoots; all kinds of oils for stir-fries; and green bean, sesame, and soybean powders also are for sale. Want to make sushi? At Chung Hing you can find everything you'll need.
"I swear sometimes I come here just for the scenery," says a man to his blissed-out friend as they exit the Brickell Village Publix. Anyone who's shopped at this particular grocery store on a weeknight knows what he's talking about: The aisles are clogged with more quaffed heads and tight outfits than an entire season of Sex and the City. It's not the South Beach modeling crowd dressed down in shabby chic but professional men and women bling-blinging in Hugo Boss sweaters and Louis Vuitton totes as they search for tuna and toiletries. The pressure to fit in with this upscale crowd can be intimidating. Our friend Cindy, who lives in the Roads, calls her neighborhood market the Gucci Publix. "I feel like I need to blow out my hair and put on Prada whenever I shop there," she sighs.
In his book La Ciudad Mercado, Mexican anthropologist Alejandro Morroquín proposes specific elements that define the authentic mercados of his native country. The author's Mexican markets of wooden stalls, Indian campesinos carrying heavy loads on their backs, merchants peddling medicines and magical charms, and prostitutes working the throngs of buyers is not exactly what you'll experience at Bargain Town. This flea market's Mexican roots, however, are distinct and recognizable. From live mariachi music to a wide variety of goods, you can stock up on all your household needs and personal wants in one place. Have a cold Corona and hot steaming tacos at the cantinas and even pick up a religious icon or two: We highly recommend a portrait of La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®