BEST USED-CD STORE 2002 | Uncle Sam's Music | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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 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!

Warning! If you own a PC, this is not for you. But if you own an Apple, consider yourself in heaven. When your maniac Mac goes totally bozo, which scenario would you prefer: 1) While you try to explain the problem to some SuperduperSlickStore front-desk person who's basically a receptionist, your sick computer is whisked into a back room from which, weeks later, it emerges allegedly but not usually fixed, and with the repair largely unexplained. Or 2) Within minutes of the patient being carried into the store, a friendly techie has it apart in front of your anxious eyes, analyzing, explaining, and often (if parts are right there and you're desperate) repairing the problem on the spot. Normally repairs at Computer Village take only days, and involve none of the "facilitated service" megaprices the big boys often charge to just diagnose, not fix, your computer in less time than it takes your business to slip into bankruptcy. Everything is explained, including helpful hints about what to try if the patient relapses at midnight when the shop is closed. Prices are reasonable. Repairs of repairs, if necessary, are fast and free. In short you're treated like a person, not a machine. Reason enough to patronize this admittedly frumpy little shop.
Rudy Rodolfo opened his South Beach Cigar Factory five years ago, during the height of the cigar boom, at 1136 Collins Avenue in a charming storefront that looked like a walk-in mom-and-pop joint, only hip. At the time Anglo cigar bars were proliferating all over Miami, but particularly in South Beach, always Trend Central, with guys and girls in off-white, raw-silk suits puffing big, locally made, Cuban-seed Bolivars, Monte Cristos, or Cohibas, the kinds of cigars Fidel and Che, Raul and Arnold smoked back in the day. Well, the boom went bust, especially after September 11, and most Miami bars stopped smoking. But Cuba Habanos USA thrived at its other shop in Fort Lauderdale (3114 E. Sunrise Boulevard, 954-537-3386), and is about to open a new location in South Beach. Meanwhile let manager Mary Morejon recommend her specials: the Cuba 1800 Churchill for $6.58 per; the Cuba Habano at $4.50; the Monte Cristo #2 at $12, and the wonderful Romeo and Julieta #3, a 5-inch, 50-ring robusto, at $10. They're worth a ride to the factory near Miami International Airport.

Back in 1981, when Owen Lee and his wife Joan took a gamble on a business opportunity by purchasing a bicycle shop, it seemed a relatively straightforward enterprise. Inventory decisions were simple -- a limited number of manufacturers produced a limited number of models. Mountain bikes were unknown outside an elite group of enthusiasts in northern California. Since then the cycling world has been revolutionized. The number of manufacturers has exploded, and they're now producing numerous models, each available in a variety of sizes and colors. Lightweight aluminum frames have largely replaced heavy steel. Other technological advances, from shock absorbers to sophisticated shifting mechanisms, have transformed old fat-tire cruisers into sleek machines. Through it all the Lees, originally from Jamaica, have adapted and thrived. They've settled on Trek, Giant, and GT as their main brands, and stock numerous models of each. Volume purchasing allows them to lock in discounted prices. Three full-time mechanics means they can provide service seven days a week. They don't employ high-pressure salespeople and they value their customers enough to offer a 60-day in-house warranty for any problem at no cost (flat tires excepted). The Lees, who sell an average of 100 bikes each month, keep their expansive shop open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.



Pressing your nose against the windows of the ritzy furniture stores in Coral Gables has to stop. You can't afford what you stare at so longingly, and you're smudging a lot of glass. Yeah, yeah, furniture is an investment, but in this case saving pennies isn't an option. You just can't bring yourself to purchase a loveseat that rivals the cost of your rent. What to do? Stay in the Gables and saunter down the street to Spasics, where you'll find similarly stylish goods at significantly lower prices. That steel-and-glass adjustable Eileen Gray-designed side table you've lusted after for eons? A knock-off version here goes for $189, about $300 less than you'd pay for the "official" piece down the street. A black leather-and-steel tubing Le Corbusier-style chair that would command thousands elsewhere costs $895. Add to that an array of attractive and well-made bedroom and dining sets, living room furnishings, and an assortment of floor lamps (including a stainless steel torchère that seems to emit flames) hovering in the $140 range and you could be sitting, sleeping, eating, and seeing pretty sooner than you think. Those who know what they like but not how to put it together shouldn't despair. Interior design and lighting services are available.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®