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.

If soccer is your thing, Soccer Locker has you covered like no other store, which is why it has won this honor three times previously. Knowledgeable sales staff will hook you up, whether you're a casual player, in a league, or just want to sport your favorite team's colors. The selection of national team and club jerseys from several continents is impressive. Soccer Locker also sells accoutrements such as scarves, pennants, key chains, and car stickers, representing the melding populations of South Florida.

Far from being discreet, Megaplexxx, with its huge XXX sign fronting I-95, is proud to announce its presence. Its inventory of sex toys is huge as well. For the men there is an impressive array of vaginas, from the strawberry-flavored pocket model to the industrial-strength Futurotic Sucking and Vibrating Vagina and Ass. Prices range from $15 to $50. For those gentlemen wishing to enhance their package, Adult Video stocks a wide variety of penis pumps, including our favorite, the Legendary XXX John Holmes Pump. Near the magazine rack, filled with fetish titles, is a wall and a counter loaded with paddles, whips, complete bondage kits, choke balls, and every kind of lubricant known to man. Megaplexxx is open from noon until 2:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and from noon until 4:00 a.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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."

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.

Guitar Center
This place carries more than just guitars. You can find musical instruments of all types, plus electronic gear like synthesizers, samplers, mixing boards, and DJ equipment. The guitar selection is huge, acoustic and electric, featuring brand names like Gibson, Fender, Korg, and Roland. What makes Guitar Center unique, though, isn't so much what they sell but who's selling. The sales staff are all experts, mostly musicians themselves, so you won't enter looking for something that sounds like raaa and leave with a piece that goes clang. While some music stores are paranoid about their inventory, Guitar Center allows you to touch everything. In fact it commonly attracts lots of folks who just want to fiddle around. Many resemble Wayne's World types who, like Wayne and Garth, obsess over instruments they can't afford. But most customers here can take home their dream Stratocaster because GC guarantees the lowest prices in town. On the other hand, who puts a price on dreams?

Sick of driving in a dirty car? At the venerable Leo's you can get your vehicle sprayed, scrubbed, and dried by a team of specialists for as little as ten dollars. Throw down an extra five bucks and they'll vacuum the inside too. You can also spend quite a bit more for a detailing that will make your wheels look brand-new. Be sure to set aside a half-hour or so for a straight wash as the folks here like to take their time and do a thorough job, which they've been doing at this location for years. The resulting gleam that will flicker off your car, an amazing effect that was nearly impossible when it was covered in dirt and bird doo, will be well worth the wait. And the wait is made quite pleasant by the adjacent presence of Andiamo, winner of last year's Best Gourmet Pizza.

Readers Choice: Busy Bee

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®