These high-ceilinged, oolitic limestone and exposed-wood ballrooms (built in 1937) are a steal on Sundays and weekdays, when the Woman's Club rents for $650 (including chairs and tables) and the adjacent, slightly larger, Junior Woman's Club goes for $750. Fridays and Saturdays cost a bit more, but you still won't find a better deal this close to all the Gables tony shops and restaurants. The Woman's Club, a registered historic site, is also a short drive from the airport and nearby hotels.

Over the years Uncle Sam's has developed a controversial reputation among local DJs who argue that they must travel to out-of-town shops to find the best vinyl. True, Uncle Sam's could use less main-floor stuff and more deep house, underground hip-hop, and breakbeat. But the store is best seen as a jack-of-all-trades, a place for the casual consumer to pick up a good CD, record, magazine, or even a bong (discreetly referred to as a water pipe). It carries the latest tracks on Yoshitoshi, Wave, and other top labels, as well as current rap hits by Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and others. Plus what other DJ store in the nation can boast of staying open seven days a week -- and keeping its doors open until well after midnight at that?

BEST PLACE TO BUY BRAZILIAN BIKINIS AT A BARGAIN

Brazilian Fashion

Ever since the girl from Ipanema wore one, inspiring Antonio Carlos Jobim to compose the international hit song, the skimpy two-piece from Brazil has endured as the sexiest swimwear fashion statement there is. A variety of minimalist styles have emerged over the years -- from the tiny tanga, which consists of about an ounce of fabric, to the triangular halter and the boomerang. Each summer the new styles seem to turn more revealing. By offering maximum exposure, the Brazilian bikini has blurred the line as to what should constitute nude sunbathing. But though more skin means less fabric, in most bathing-suit boutiques, particularly those in South Beach, the Brazilian label also translates into muito dinheiro. Not at Brazilian Fashion. Quality, affordability (bikinis go for $28), and an array of styles and colors to choose from make this Brazilian-owned store stand out on the retail runway.

Still clamoring for that bump-and-grind classic salsa from the Seventies? You know: Fania All-Stars, Cheo Feliciano, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barreto, and Celia Cruz. Lily's has more than one record from these guys. You'll also find boleros, rock, poetry, and if you're lucky, the patrons will be watching a home video from their latest trip to Cuba.

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.

Palm Hammock Orchid Estate spreads out like a secret jungle, hidden in a mostly residential neighborhood just south of Snapper Creek Elementary School. The gravel parking lot behind an unassuming gateway is the last stop before entering the huge nursery's world of eerie calmness. The whispered burbling of waterfalls and koi ponds conspires with soft music and waving foliage to make the nursery a sort of meditative sanctuary in the middle of the Miami suburbs. Tim Anderson, who presides with wife Anne over the nursery he started 30 years ago, says the plant selection at Palm Hammock is eclectic. "I only grow what I like," he explains. "We started off growing cactus and succulents. Now we have the results of 30 years of collecting." Anderson describes the nursery as an artistic and spiritual endeavor, supported by his "money-making business," landscape architecture. Religious statues -- Buddhist and Hindu figures sitting alongside St. Francis -- and bird baths, benches, and fountains are scattered among the thousands of orchids, ferns, African violets, water lilies, tropical bonsai, and other flora that fill the estate's six greenhouses and grounds.

The pink hibiscus of heated tropical fantasies, a spiky Louisiana iris with yellow burning at the core of its alabaster flower, luscious bougainvillea, sexy bromeliads. Okay, the profusion of greenery for sale at this sprawling complex, which fills the block between 81st and 82nd streets, isn't much different from that of other run-of-the-mill South Florida nurseries. Log Cabin is unique less for its considerable selection than for its community function. Even serial plant killers can feel good about spending money here on yet another bid at nurturing. Open daily until 5:00 p.m. (10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Sundays), this nonprofit organization was founded in 1983 to help the developmentally disabled become independent and employable. More than 40 adults attend the program, arriving at 9:00 a.m. to water, fertilize, weed, and help customers. In the afternoon participants study conundrums such as counting change, cleaning, and cooking. Log Cabin graduates also get a hand finding employment. Approximately fifteen alumni currently are working for the Miami Beach parks department and at the nursery, as well as at service-industry jobs in places like McDonald's and Publix. And come December, if you're in the market for a Christmas tree, Log Cabin sells those, too.

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."

Driving into CocoWalk's garage is not unlike driving into the ninth circle of hell, especially on weekends, when college students, teens, and South American shoppers jockey for limited spaces that go for ten dollars a pop. Worse still is navigating through the garage's cramped driving lanes, which are well-suited for someone piloting a teeny Toyota Echo but not the hulking SUVs that seem to be the vehicle of choice for CocoWalk shopping aficionados.

Yes, Blue Note is a pretty darn good music store. Ample evidence of that can be found in past editions of Best of Miami. But it's time to retire its number. In order to do that, however, something just as good or better will have to come along. So consider this a protest award: It's ridiculous that in an area the size of Miami-Dade County, with so many music-buying souls who have diverse tastes and expendable cash, Blue Note for years has been the only game in town. What else is there? Chain stores have anemic selections and painfully inept staff. Virgin has a slightly better stockpile but its prices are way too high. With any luck, some aspiring entrepreneur will read this, recognize that Miami badly needs more music, and next year the award for Best Record/CD Store will have a different name attached to it.

Readers Choice: Specs Music

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®