Here is a real find for political-science junkies interested in Latin America. Tucked into a strip mall across from Tropical Park, this Colombian-owned store specializes in a collection of books that concentrates on social upheaval throughout the Americas. Since 1989 its owners, Eduardo and Norma Duran, have imported the latest and most important Latin literature directly from South American publishing houses. Their collection includes titles not normally found in Miami's Latin bookstores. For example, Eduardo says he's proud to carry books and journals written from every side of the conflict in his home country. As a result the shop has become a haunt for academics and curious readers of all nationalities. While the book collection also includes translations of self-help, science-fiction, metaphysics, and best-sellers, the place does live up to its name: magazines and newspapers. The Durans offer hard-to-find copies of Central and South American papers like Argentina's El Clarín and Colombia's El Tiempo and El Espectador. Libreria's popularity among Westchester Latinos could be indicative of Miami's shifting populations: Ever-increasing numbers of Colombianos, Peruanos, Argentinos, and Chilenos are walking through the door.
The word "records" is a bit of a misnomer these days, given that Blue Note owner Bob Perry has transferred the bulk of his store's vinyl to a separate jazz annex a few blocks away. But despite that additional schlep now required for those still, ahem, possessing needles and in need of a twelve-inch fix, Blue Note remains the best one-stop shop in Miami for folks whose tastes run deeper than the narrow offerings served up on the radio. Indeed it's that very focus on the offbeat, the forgotten classic, and the current avant-garde that keeps hip-hop fans, indie rockers, gospel lovers, Philly soul aficionados, and Latin boogaloo freaks alike all poring through Blue Note's aisles. Best of all, if you can sing a verse of it -- no matter how off key -- the helpful staff here will do their best to track it down, and they'll even be courteous enough to wait until you leave before commenting on how you managed to redefine the words tone deaf. Now that's service worth saluting.
Grooveman
Other stores may have larger selections, but Grooveman is the DJ's record store. Stocked with everything relevant -- from club standards to obscure imports -- Grooveman concentrates solely on a DJ's needs, resisting the temptation to turn the shop into another South Beach tourist trap. With an inventory that spans the electronic-music spectrum, Grooveman carries just about every style of wax-cutting available: progressive house, trance, jungle, breakbeats -- no genre is absent. Even hip-hop gets a section, clearly making the point that two turntables, no matter what's spinning on them, makes a DJ. The staff is knowledgeable. Six listening stations are available. It's also a great place to spot members of the DJ elite such as co-owner George Acosta and Miami's favorite guest, house legend Danny Tenaglia.
Looking for that old Bola de Nieve bolero your abuelo used to sing? Itching for a copy of that Pablo Neruda poem set to music by Aterciopelados but you can't remember what it's called? Eager to hear the latest releases from Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, or Spain? Has collecting round discs etched with music gone beyond being your hobby to becoming an obsession? Get thee to the Museo del Disco, the Latin music superstore opened last year by long-time distributor Hinsul Lazo. With a softly carpeted showroom that houses rack upon rack of records categorized by genre, national origin, and in some cases even record label, the Museo is indeed like a museum. But don't be fooled; Lazo's experience in distribution has led him to build up a state-of-the-art search engine that can find in an instant whatever you're hankering for. And if it's not in the store, the folks at Museo will get it for you. Now, how did that old Gran Combo chorus go again?
Uncle Sam's Music
As those wise men of dance culture, the Village People, once opined, "You can't stop the music." That's definitely the motto over at Uncle Sam's, which took this award last year and deserves it again in 2002. Why? Because a never-ending supply of used CDs keeps turning over, rewarding a weekly stop whether you're seeking the latest beats from clubland, tomorrow's altrock heroes, or that elusive Neil Diamond collection. Even better are the listening stations, allowing you to actually hear that act you just read about but aren't quite ready to invest with $7.98.
This diminutive storefront looks unremarkable from the outside. You might even miss it if you're not paying attention. But on the inside, where every available square inch is taken up by clothes, jewelry, and accessories, it's pretty darn amazing. Twice As Nice is all secondhand merchandise, but much of it has barely or never been touched. These aren't thrift-store clothes. Sexy evening gowns, workout apparel, business wear, jeans and tops -- all the latest fashions in perfect condition. And all priced to sell fast. They must move the inventory quickly. Otherwise you'd never be able to get through the door.
Let us ask you something. Are you gonna buy the ten-inch Jeff Stryker molded-plastic cock from just any purveyor of the prurient, or are you going to buy it from the little neighborhood porn shop that's been helping Miami get off for more than 30 years? That's what we thought. Actually the Pussycat is one of four stores owned by Ed Sharpe -- in New York, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale. The Greenwich Village Pink Pussycat also has a storied three-decade history, with officials comparing it favorably with the seedier porn shops that once choked Times Square. Same story in Miami, with city officials raising their hackles only a few times in 30 years. As in 1998, when city inspectors tried to tell the Pink Pussycat it couldn't sell the adult novelty items it had been selling for 25 years. "What is Coconut Grove without a Pink Pussycat?" Sharpe asked at the time. "It's the flavor of the Grove. It's not adult books with peep-show machines. It's a quaint little adult toy store." The Pussycat is primarily geared toward women, featuring an array of dildos, vibrators, tickling panties, videos, and naughty chocolates. But there is something for everyone, such as novelty items like inflatable sheep and fun buttons that say things like: "Is my dick too long for this dress?" For the control-freak man in your life, the store offers a vibrator with a recorder that will capture up to ten seconds of your one and only screaming, "Who's your daddy!"

BEST PLACE TO SIP CUBAN COFFEE WHILE SELECTING A MODERATELY PRICED PINOT NOIR

Best Time Wine and Gourmet 305-443-6070

One of the best one-stop shopping concepts in town. Both Best Time locations offer a pretty extensive selection of cheap to moderately priced wines (seven to sixteen bucks) as well as a counter for Cuban coffee and sandwiches. The perfect place to grab a bottle for that unexpected dinner party and refuel for the long night ahead with a shot of high-octane espresso. Coffee and wine. Why didn't we think of that?

Remember all those times in college you told your parents you had been at the library studying when you actually had been out drinking? You weren't lying. You were just anticipating this place. Crown isn't just a liquor and wine shop; it's the ivory tower of vino, Wine U., an institute of higher fermentation. To go along with its stunning assortment of beer, wine, and liquor -- and gourmet cheeses, and fine chocolates, and premium salsas and chips and dips -- Crown has as knowledgeable a staff as you're likely to find outside the Ivy League. Sure there's Chip Cassidy, Crown's wine director (who really is a college professor, regularly lecturing on wine technology at Florida International University's School of Hospitality Management), but most everyone who works there knows the stuff. Take, for example, Fred Barger at the North Miami location. "There's a real interesting history behind Krug champagne," he recently explained while ringing up a bottle of it for a customer. "During World War II, the elder Krug [who was French] convinced the occupying German forces that the complete stock of champagne they were looking at had already been sold. Why that would keep the Germans from confiscating it, I don't know, but he printed up counterfeit receipts for all of it. Consequently there are still a couple of bottles left of Krug 1925, 1926." Pause. "Is that all today?" Drop in even if you're not short on wine. You could learn something.
Ay, Mami! When Tio took us to see the trucos, I got too scared! There's this big witch's head when you walk in the door, and it's so ugly! I told Tio I had to go back to the car but he just laughed at me. Then you go in and they have all these body parts you can put on and look really scary, and then there's these mummy sort of masks where you look like you've been buried for a long time. Then Tio throws a humongous cucaracha at me and I almost died! Except it was just plastic. They have so many things made out of plastic but they look totally real. You can put this mouth on over your mouth with rotten teeth and shriveled-up lips. Well, finally this lady showed me how I could dress up like a princess with a crown and sparkly shoes and a beautiful dress, and even a wig, so I wasn't very nervous anymore. But Tio kept scaring me and making me look at witches and monsters and yucky things like piles of caca, but they weren't real, and he told me I had to go back there every day. Mami, don't let him get me!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®