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.

Owner Melton Jarrett says Karate Klassic fulfills a primal desire: "Karate movies have a cult following everywhere -- it's just human nature to fantasize about doing these impossible things." The store has been around for almost a decade, although it has changed owners and moved to a Carol City strip mall. "The original owner was a big fan of these movies and he rented the videos from the flea market on 183rd Street," Jarrett says. "I think the business will keep going. Everybody loves karate movies."

Yeah, we know, it's Dania. But it has 160,000 square feet of outdoor sports equipment. Let us repeat: 160,000 square feet! More than 40 fish finders, a dozen GPS systems, eight types of kayaks, and hundreds of golf clubs. When we asked how many lures the store stocked, a nearby customer chimed in: "Too many." In our all-choice, all-the-time world, how could there be too many of anything? Bored with the lures? Take the kids to see the pike, bass, and catfish roaming the giant aquarium, or to one of the many fishing and boat shows going on around the complex. Word to the wise: If you want basketballs, baseball mitts, or football spikes, go somewhere else. But if you want to go camping in the Everglades or hunting in the Panhandle or fishing in Biscayne Bay, don't even think about going anywhere else.

Readers Choice: Sports Authority

Think science is boring? Then check out Dr. Einstein's, where you can pick up all kinds of nifty gear, from videoscopes to books on Elvis, Rubik snakes, and Hoberman toys, a weirdly charming set of building blocks inspired by Legos. The prices are affordable and there's a wide selection appealing to all ages. So when you think toys (at least Dr. Einstein's toys), don't just think kids.

Morry Marcus, one of the throng of volunteers who operate the Brandeis Book Store in the R.K. California Club Mall, estimates there are about 20,000 books in the shop, a nonprofit that benefits the Brandeis University National Women's Club (most proceeds go to the Brandeis library or Women's Club educational programs). The volunteers are generally Brandeis University alums, and eavesdropping on their constant kvetching is almost as entertaining as browsing the shelves. The best bargains are generally the 50-cent book boxes out front, but there are plenty of paperback and hardback titles -- starting around $1.50 -- worth the price tag inside. Books are helpfully arranged into more than the few generic sections (romance, fiction, nonfiction) found at many used bookstores. Depending on what sort of donations have been coming in, shoppers might find cinematic and scientific subcategories. Volunteers are also open to bargaining, although occasionally prone to the hard sell. "The people who volunteer here make the place," Marcus says. "They're a cut above." One note of caution: If you're planning a weekday visit, be forewarned that the store is open only from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

You're forgiven if you didn't realize Uncle Sam's had a used-CD section. After all, with its thumping house beats acting as a pied piper to club kids passing by on the sidewalk, the store would appear at first glance to be a one-stop shop for nightcrawlers: glow sticks, high-sugar candy, striking jewelry, and all the incense, posters, and tchotchkes needed to redecorate your crib the morning after. But in the midst of all these lifestyle accessories, Uncle Sam's hasn't forgotten about the actual music. Its used section remains the area's most diverse, with a steady stream of new releases coming in every week. Even better: listening stations to hear a CD before buying it. Admittedly the $7.99 price isn't quite the bargain it once was in this age of free Internet downloads and CD burners, but for those with neither the time nor the wherewithal to go digital -- or those still wedded to the old-fashioned method of browsing -- these are the overstuffed bins of choice to paw through.

For the third year in a row, New Concept wins kudos for its already large -- and growing -- selection of films that are not plentiful elsewhere. For one, as much space is devoted to foreign fare as new arrivals (and within the newbies is a subset of foreign flicks). Cinephiles particularly appreciate the grouping of works by distinguished directors such as Kurosawa, Fassbinder, Passolini, and the like. New Concept also stocks a hefty number of independent and gay-themed titles, many of which Miami-based film lovers are resigned to viewing on the small screen since such movies often are only shown at festivals or via limited theatrical distribution. You can also find the Hollywood hits as well as adult product appealing to various persuasions, which you ain't never gonna get at Blockbuster.

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

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."

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®