Looking for smut in a clean, well-lit place? Miami Playground leads the pack of porn palaces for the second year running. This family-run, triple-X emporium near MIA rents and sells hundreds of DVDs and videotapes featuring all (legal) ages, proclivities, and sexual exploits. If you haven't seen that rare chicks-with-dicks or ultimate gang-bang video, this may be the place to find it. The playground recently expanded to include more video booths and an adjacent boutique that sells leather, lace, and latex kink wear, as well as a wide variety of sex toys.

Original maternity gear from one of Miami's brightest stars, Debbie Ohanian. When pregnant women make the trek to this store from Boca Raton and New York City in order to buy clothes, you know you have yourself a winner. By appointment only, Ohanian offers her clientele personalized service not found at any other maternity retailer. Plus she serves a killer cup of java. "I would come every week if I didn't live so far away," says Alissa Goldman, a bubbly Boca Raton resident who was making her second trek to Ohanian's private showroom. In addition to helping her customers select styles, Ohanian will recut the clothes until her clients are satisfied with the fit. Ohanian enjoys the feedback from people like Goldman. "Their comments help," she says. "It's almost like a consumer study." Ohanian has also branched out, selling her line in more than 100 retail stores around the nation, not to mention accounts in Ireland and Singapore. Average prices for Meet Me in Miami couture range from $40 to $100.

While hard-line Cubans still own the political section -- a map of Cuba from 1902-1958 (when history of the island apparently stopped); the "secret" lives of Castro and the Sandinistas; a biography of the benevolent Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet -- the rest of the store is exemplary. It has ten titles of Jorge Luis Borges side by side with translations of Perry Mason. There are also cooking, fishing, and song books, including one of Carlos Mejia Godoy, the Sandinista songwriter -- oops! Browse a little more and find self-help (Deepak Chopra), Spanish legal dictionaries, and test-rep books (mostly in English). For the gringos and gringo-wannabes, there's also an English section. If you're just beginning to learn Spanish, try the political section -- it's about a third-grade level.

Located in a nondescript strip mall for the past seventeen years, this small shop is easily overlooked -- but shouldn't be. Its interior is packed floor to ceiling with all the superhero-related collectibles one expects from comics' "golden age," right up to the current "collectors' age" (because a mint-condition Superman Action Comics #1 from the days your granddad was a kid could put your child through college). Also you'll find trading cards of sports stars and cartoon characters, action figures, eye-popping Day-Glo superhero T-shirts, and a full assortment of contemporary comics. But like all the best superheroes, this store has a secret identity. Ask nicely, and mild-mannered proprietor Glenn Lightfoot will slip into the back room and emerge minutes later as Bargain Bin Boy, savior of comic-book lovers who actually want to read the things rather than collect them. Instead of today's average $2.25 to $3.00 funny book (not so funny for roughly a fifteen-minute read), Lightfoot's bargain books are just 50 cents each. And it's good stuff, too, in good condition: lots of Batman, Superman, Spidey, Spawn, all the X-folk titles, even some graphic novels originally priced at five to ten dollars a pop.

Enrique Neufeld and crew have been repairing and restoring new and classic VWs in their Commerce Lane shop for 26 years. Neufeld, who owns "about twenty [VWs] in varying states of repair and disrepair," displays his trophies for restored bugs and buses in the cluttered, busy storefront. Drive by the shop to check out some of the classics in the parking lot, but don't be afraid to take a new VW to the Wizards. "Restoring the old cars takes care of my emotional needs," Neufeld says. "The new cars take care of my financial needs."

Size matters. You don't feel cramped inside this spacious emporium, home to an ever-changing smorgasbord of fashions from bygone and more recent eras. The pleasant staff will graciously assist your quest for something specific, be it a Far From Heaven-style cocktail number, a Pucci girdle, or a seriously shouldered Claude Montana dress. Many items are sold on consignment, so depending on your timing, you may strike a mother lode, the moment most every vintage shopper lives for.

Readers Choice: Miami Twice: The Vintage Department Store

That dazzling Renaissance-style portrait of your pet orangutan holding a bouquet of flowers is finished at last, but now you can't decide how to frame it. The Meeks family can help. For the past fifteen years (thirteen of them in Coral Gables), Steve Meeks, his wife, sons, and trusty employees have been making Miami's art look fabulous and keeping it safe from damaging forces such as excessive light, high humidity, or your garden-variety psycho wielding a knife. The Lowe Art Museum, the Wolfsonian-FIU, Miami-Dade Public Library, and the Margulies Collection are just a few of the top-drawer institutions that have benefited from Borders' fine work. You should too. The friendly folks will patiently guide you through their 10,000 frame samples, whether your budget allows the $2.50-per-foot metal border or the $250-per-foot hand-carved gilded model. If you need to acquire more art, consider taking something right off the wall. Their two-year-old, 11,000-square-foot space in Little Havana often hosts exhibitions for local groups or artists showing solo.

Laurenzo's Itialian Market
Visiting Laurenzo's is fun even if you're not looking for wine. There is no finer Italian specialty market in South Florida. Even its café can hold its own against most Italian restaurants. The wine selection, however, is something truly special. Over the years it has developed as the idiosyncratic expression of one man's taste -- very good taste. That man is wine connoisseur Matt Adler, who recently left Laurenzo's but whose able protégé Peter Montiel carries on. Adler and Laurenzo's have rightly boasted that theirs is the largest independent wine store in South Florida. By that they mean the store's buyer personally selects each and every bottle you see on the shelf; no mandates from some distant headquarters. The selections are always intriguing -- especially the vast array of Italian wineries -- but the real draw is the pricing. Laurenzo's is almost always less expensive than its competitors, including stalwarts like Crown and Sunset Corners. Frequently Laurenzo's prices are a lot lower, so low you wonder why you'd ever buy wine anywhere else.

You can get sofas, chairs, beds, tchotchkes of all kinds, and from every country. A recent scene: Hairstylist who frequents the place had her eye on one of those darkly tarnished replicas of Donatello's David, about a foot high, bronze-going-green. "That lidless, lipless decadence," she whispered mischievously. "Donatello would have gotten down on the Beach!" After some haggling with Amelia the salesgirl, the price was right, coming down from $45 to $25. "We're the best!" Amelia bragged. "You can spend hours in here. Look! Real aluminum ice-tea glasses from the Fifties in fruit colors -- creamsicle orange, Saturn red, TV yellow ... snowsled silver!"

Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market
Following a 2002 incident when a Key Biscayne resident drove into a parking lot via the exit and punctured all four tires on those mean-looking spikes they have at rental car outfits too, this flea market's general manager, Scott Miller, put up "about 500 traffic signs" so navigating the streets and parking lot "is no longer an adventure," he promises. Once you get inside, however, that's a different story. Open seven days from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the market -- eighteen years and going strong -- is teeming with more than 1000 vendors, including 70 offering farm-fresh produce, plus thirteen eateries. Shoppers and sellers come from around the world, and these days record crowds are pouring in, mostly on weekends, with an average of 85,000 hunting the sprawling grounds over two days. You can find most anything at this flea, but Miller notes, "We do not do gold-filled teeth." That was at a flea market across the county line in Broward, and supposedly those parking-lot dentists were shut down.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®