Known both on its signage and among Spanish-language readers simply as La Universal, this pale, rounded-corner building that seems etched out of a block of mighty stone contains something more resembling a library than a bookstore. But Carlos didn't care about the gritty architecture or sweet comfort outside and inside this multifaceted operation (publishing and distributing are part of the Salvat family's decades-old book biz). After real estate school (he lost interest shortly before his final test), after "punch-out" work finalizing new houses led him to decline to become a contractor -- then Carlos went to a school for translation. Having come from Cuba at age eight, gifted with a poet-crushing knack for twisting the English language into art, Carlos ran into trouble because the class itself wasn't enough. He wanted to study the subject on his own, but a key book could not be found. Not until he went to the old gray building on the corner. "Of course they had it," he says. "Would I tell you it was the best bookstore if they wrote me off like a dime debt done gone a decade by?" No, he wouldn't.

Toys "R" Us this R not. But somehow this B way more fun than stores 100 times as big. Also, A to Z Toys seems like it has more toys even though it's only the size of your average Dunkin' Donuts. That's impossible? Nuh, uh. Because stuff iz piled up to the ceiling. Anyway, A to Z has about everything, from the Mighty Beanz to the Mercedes Benz (seats one two-year-old). Even metal detectors. And that's just the M's. There R walls of dolls and piles of trucks. Take three steps, turn around, and C racks with remote-control Seahawk boats, spy goggles, undercover girl motion trackers, a ministage with puppets on sticks, and, for the musical tot, little accordions and guitars. The store R open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Toys "R" Us this R not. But somehow this B way more fun than stores 100 times as big. Also, A to Z Toys seems like it has more toys even though it's only the size of your average Dunkin' Donuts. That's impossible? Nuh, uh. Because stuff iz piled up to the ceiling. Anyway, A to Z has about everything, from the Mighty Beanz to the Mercedes Benz (seats one two-year-old). Even metal detectors. And that's just the M's. There R walls of dolls and piles of trucks. Take three steps, turn around, and C racks with remote-control Seahawk boats, spy goggles, undercover girl motion trackers, a ministage with puppets on sticks, and, for the musical tot, little accordions and guitars. The store R open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The racks, boxes, bags, and fabric sacks stacked to the doors and ceilings are your shoes that need to be picked up from their refurbishment with new heels, toe guards, or polish. This Gables fixture gets the work done so quickly and inexpensively that it's hard to believe a retail transaction can go so smoothly -- hence the accumulation of goods that stunned clients can't believe are ready to go. This place will get your Joan & Davids back on the Miracle Mile stroll fast, cheap, and with Claus von Bulow-like faux Euro courtliness.

The racks, boxes, bags, and fabric sacks stacked to the doors and ceilings are your shoes that need to be picked up from their refurbishment with new heels, toe guards, or polish. This Gables fixture gets the work done so quickly and inexpensively that it's hard to believe a retail transaction can go so smoothly -- hence the accumulation of goods that stunned clients can't believe are ready to go. This place will get your Joan & Davids back on the Miracle Mile stroll fast, cheap, and with Claus von Bulow-like faux Euro courtliness.

Washington Avenue has its share of DJ shops, but there's only one where you'll find the latest from Bpitch, Schematic, and Chocolate Industries. Forget the cheesy trance and tribal tracks; Osiel sells the kind of acclaimed, low-selling music championed by critics and New Times. There's also a growing back catalog of albums and twelve-inch singles by artists such as David Bowie and Run-DMC, along with a small selection of CDs. Credit Osiel "Ozzy" Rojas, former owner of a distribution company, Safe, that specialized in weird electronic sounds, who is also the namesake for this IDM fan's oasis.

Washington Avenue has its share of DJ shops, but there's only one where you'll find the latest from Bpitch, Schematic, and Chocolate Industries. Forget the cheesy trance and tribal tracks; Osiel sells the kind of acclaimed, low-selling music championed by critics and New Times. There's also a growing back catalog of albums and twelve-inch singles by artists such as David Bowie and Run-DMC, along with a small selection of CDs. Credit Osiel "Ozzy" Rojas, former owner of a distribution company, Safe, that specialized in weird electronic sounds, who is also the namesake for this IDM fan's oasis.

Do you know what the worst part about buying anal beads is? No, it's not trying them on. It's the walk to the register. Just when you find the right size, color, and shape, inevitably someone you recognize comes in, and any hope of making it to the counter with your new goodies is as dead as the batteries in your vibrator. For overcoming this challenge, we were giving mad props to the Pleasure Emporium, which came up with a delivery service (every day 5:00 p.m.-midnight) for bashful buyers. Customers could call or place orders online for same-day delivery. Sadly, as of press time this service had been "temporarily suspended until further notice." Let's hope "temporarily" means just that. After all, how else will all the little freaks out there be able to buy, from the comfort of their own homes, dildos, beads, leather goods, nipple clamps, costumes, or whatever else they may need to get their rocks off? In the meantime, try sneaking into the store at 4:30 a.m.; some locations are open 24 hours.

Pleasure Emporium
Do you know what the worst part about buying anal beads is? No, it's not trying them on. It's the walk to the register. Just when you find the right size, color, and shape, inevitably someone you recognize comes in, and any hope of making it to the counter with your new goodies is as dead as the batteries in your vibrator. For overcoming this challenge, we were giving mad props to the Pleasure Emporium, which came up with a delivery service (every day 5:00 p.m.-midnight) for bashful buyers. Customers could call or place orders online for same-day delivery. Sadly, as of press time this service had been "temporarily suspended until further notice." Let's hope "temporarily" means just that. After all, how else will all the little freaks out there be able to buy, from the comfort of their own homes, dildos, beads, leather goods, nipple clamps, costumes, or whatever else they may need to get their rocks off? In the meantime, try sneaking into the store at 4:30 a.m.; some locations are open 24 hours.

Grocery list: Grass Jelly Drink, soursop juice, dried whole head-on anchovies, dried headless sardines, fruit of wolfberry, salted duck eggs and fish eggs, salted mackerel (the kind from Thailand), jar of pigs' blood, quail (Golden Jumbo brand), goat meat, frozen shark fin, foxglove root, dodder seed, schisandra fruit, and a bunch of cong bong bu shen war or other fresh produce (herbs, leafy vegetables, tubers). Also a money tree and one of those nice tea sets and a few exotic teas for when the Johnsons come over Saturday. Oh, and a sculpture: dragon, dancing fish, a fat or skinny Buddha. Get one of those beige fruits that look like the offspring of a pineapple and a football, durian monthong it's called. Shumai dumplings, peanut balls, red bean balls (the paste is fine), giant bag of rice, mung, some single green peas for garnish. Oh, let's do the shrimp on sugar cane skewers. Some of that vegan "ham" from Taiwan. Brrrinnng. "Honey? What type of dumplings: chicken and cabbage? Pork and leek? Sure. And grab some noodles from the aisle stocked fully and solely by pasta products? Right, Sun Shun Fuk. Seaweed, squid, haw cakes -- goes without saying. Bye." You know, it's the Year of the Monkey, so let's go to town: whole fresh water chestnuts, banana flowers, yam cakes. "Honey? Yeah. Listen, about the fish: live tilapia, rex sole, or golden pompano?" Duck. Hmmm. Gizzards, legs, wings, or feet? Seahorses, dried roundscad (Galunggong), pickled young-tamarind rind, sadao flower, lotus rootlet, rhizome strips. Great. Got something from San Fran, Taiwan, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, and, uh, oh yeah, China. Damn, forgot dessert. Chibikko makes those great thumbnail-size vanilla wafers.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®