BEST BOOKSTORE Books & Books 265 Aragon Avenue

Coral Gables

305-442-4408

www.booksandbooks.com It's not just about the books anymore. If a bookstore -- any bookstore -- doesn't have the title you're looking for, it can be ordered for you. And if that's too much hassle, most bookstores also have Websites through which you can order virtually any title still in print. In fact some bookstores exist only in Website form. No, these days it's about other amenities, and on that score Mitchell Kaplan's Books & Books flagship store in the Gables is way out in front of the pack. The store's charming indoor-outdoor café is now really a restaurant, and a good one too, which also happens to have a decent list of affordable wines. Intelligently curated art exhibits rotate on a regular basis. Musical performances by uncommon artists, many from foreign lands, are a treat in the courtyard. And of course the Gables store is the premier place in all of South Florida for authors to read -- Best Reading Series in this very issue. Oh, and the staff is knowledgeable and helpful, just in case you actually want to buy a book.

Readers´ Choice: Books & Books

BEST BOTANICA Halouba Botaneca 101 NE 54th Street

Miami

305-751-7485 Bedevilment is the natural state of man, but this does not mean one is helpless. There are remedies for trouble with money, love, health, the law. At Halouba, these cures run the gamut from the mundane to the esoteric. Need legal help? Burn an "Alleged Court Case" candle. Pining for a lover? That's as easy to deal with as splashing a bit of perfume behind the ears, or spraying an aerosol designed to attract a sweet honey. For those who are more than occasional dabblers, there are decorated libation bottles for favorite spirits, plaster statues, vodou flags, tin plates and bowls for offerings of food or incense, and herbal concoctions for healing baths. Hidden in the back is a vodou temple where Papa Paul holds court during ceremonies and the occasional card reading.

BEST COMIC-BOOK SHOP Outland Station 12540 SW 120th Street

Kendall

305-252-1176

and

Outland Station Annex

Shops at Sunset Place

5701 Sunset Drive

South Miami

305-668-3515

www.outlandstation.com For more than ten years Outland Station was situated in a brick-and-stone storefront on Red Road, two blocks east of South Dixie Highway. Dusty cardboard boxes overflowed with almost every comic book produced by D.C., Marvel, Dark Horse, and those Image guys, whose independent imprint gave birth to Spawn, the Savage Dragon, and The Maxx, antiheroes on quests for redemption. Over the years Outland's owners added action figures and memorabilia to their stock, becoming one of the few comic-book stores to offer customers advance orders for collectibles based on forthcoming releases. Earlier this year Outland relocated its fantasy realm to West Kendall, doubling its space. (The recently opened Annex is located near the old Outland spot.) Outland Station's venerable line of products remains intact. Displays reveal that this place still stays a step ahead, with items keyed to movies like Sin City and Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Twelve-inch dolls of sadistic movie slashers Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface stand on one of the counters. Hard-to-find Batman figures designed by Jim Lee and Kia Asamiya hang on one wall. If you can't find what you're looking for, simply ask Eric or Frank, Outland's congenial apprentices, to take a special order. Both Outland locations also host trading-card competitions Friday nights and weekends.

BEST DISCOUNT MEN'S CLOTHIER Marshall's on Thursdays around 2:00 p.m. Various locations in Miami-Dade County Here's a little secret. Those $90 jeans on sale at Express? With a little patience and some ingenuity you can get them for twelve bucks. Around 2:00 p.m. Thursdays, Marshall's puts out the week's delivery. Aside from the usual crap, price-busters can find the overstock jeans and shirts that other suckers pay a pretty penny to wear. Rookies beware: This isn't news to serious shopaholics. Finding the right size is a matter of speed. You have to dig, but if you don't mind being like the lady in the commercials obsessively repeating "open, open, open," you will enjoy serious bargains.

BEST DIVE SHOP Austin's Diving Center 10525 S. Dixie Highway

Miami

305-665-0636 Austin's has several things going for it. The first is longevity. The store opened in 1968 and has remained in essentially the same spot the entire time (the first shop was right next door). The staff is also long-serving. The two managers, Dennis Dasinger and Doug Austin (his name is just coincidentally the same as the store's), have been working at Austin's fifteen and eighteen years respectively. They are in it for the long haul and that means you should trust them on mask and fin selection, what spear gun is best for what types of fish, and whether the new regulators are worth all that money. "I'd rather see you come back year after year, rather than sell you something expensive that you don't need," Dasinger says. Austin's also has an extensive inventory. "Our philosophy is if we don't have it, we can't sell it."

Readers´ Choice: Underwater Unlimited

BEST FLEA MARKET Flea Market USA 3015 NW 79th Street

Miami

305-836-3677 Located in the heart of Liberty City, Flea Market USA is the bargain mecca for people who earn money through the underground economy or want to look ghetto fabulous. Inside several makeshift barbershops and unisex salons men and boys sit patiently in swivel chairs as stylists weave their long, unruly Afros into intricate cornrows. Young women dressed in shorts and tube tops and donned in gold bling get their nails painted. Dozens of booths sell marked-down name-brand sneakers, clothes, car and home electronics, and jewelry. Tough-looking guys and girls line up at tattoo parlors for ink. Flea Market USA is also one of the few places in Miami-Dade where dope dealers can buy the specialty materials for making crack. Some might find this place exotic, but for us it's essential.

BEST FLORIST Ruben's Flowers 3248 Bird Avenue

Coconut Grove Ruben's flower stand was last year's winner in this category; it deserves the honor again. In the face of construction, invading millionaires, increased non-flower-buying traffic, annoying self-righteous neighborhood activists, and an ambulance which arrived not to transport a patient but to crash into Ruben's display of Easter baskets, the gentlemen of Ruben's Flowers remain unfazed and constant. The flowers themselves -- from as far away as Ecuador and Holland and as close as South Miami-Dade's Glaser Farms -- are inexpensive and uniformly fresh and beautiful, but it is the Ruben's duo who are dewy. Hiring homeless people to do small chores for food, cash, and shelter from the sun or rain for a few hours, watching neighborhood children get off the bus and walk home from school (and keeping a vigilant eye on neighborhood houses) and beginning each day with a lusty chorus of day-ohs, Ruben's Flowers is a strictly cash, old-school business. To their extra added credit this year, they have remained neutral in the heated Home Depot debate, allowing naysayers to hang signs in their yard and pro-Depot militants to deposit heaps of the same signs collected from various Grove locations in their trash.

Readers´ Choice: Pistils & Petals

BEST FURNITURE STORE FOR CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS

Details at Home

BEST FURNITURE STORE FOR CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS Details at Home 1711 Alton Road

Miami Beach

305-531-1325 In 1988, when Perry Tortorelli and Rick Raphael opened their home furniture and design store, South Beach was not quite the glamorous destination it is today. The first incarnation of their store reflected the vibe of the era. "It was on Twelfth Street, near the Marlin, and it was only 500 square feet. I was actually sewing sundresses in the back," Tortorelli laughs. "We were selling incense, director's chairs, handmade clothes, and the cheapest stuff, because the Beach was really bad back then." The little business thrived mainly because of the design savvy of the owners, but thanks in part lie with their celebrity connections. Raphael was Gloria Estefan's traveling hairstylist in the heyday of the Miami Sound Machine, and Tortorelli made his name in advertising and the fashion industry. As South Beach became bigger and hotter, these business pioneers shifted gears. In 1994 the store moved to Lincoln Road and Tortorelli began interior designing for famous people. One of his first jobs was for retired MTV founder Les Garland. Other customers: Rosie O'Donnell, Lenny Kravitz, and shoe designer Donald Pliner (a beloved regular). Tortorelli: "Gianni Versace used to buy Rococo mirrors like they were going out of style. Gloria and Emilio love anything related to Cuban nostalgia. And recently Iggy Pop came in. The guy is such a rebel, it's unbelievable. He bought this really beautiful Italian cowhide dining suite. He just sauntered in, no shirt, cowboy hat, big ol' Bentley convertible outside, and said, öI want that.'" When the Dalai Lama came to Miami, Tortorelli designed his personal spaces. "He wanted coral, and he bought an amazing bronze statue of a horse running," Tortorelli says. At Details' 7000-square-foot space on Alton Road, high rollers can plunk down credit cards for high-end furniture, like a 1948 Eames La Chaise ($6200). But plebeians can also pick up chic (but affordable) items like scented candles, soaps, or a Burmese hand fan ($18). Part gift shop, part furniture store, Details has something for just about everyone.

BEST GAY GIFT SHOP Lambda Passages 7545 Biscayne Boulevard

Miami

305-754-6900 The problem with finding a good gay gift shop in Miami is that most of them have packed up and moved north to Broward. There are gay-owned shops lacking a worthwhile selection of gay merchandise, and straight-owned gay sex-toy shops, but not much in between. John Drew has owned and operated Lambda Passages Bookstore (named "Best Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Bookstore" in 1994) since 1983, and he still has the best selection of books, DVDs, and sexy greeting cards sans some raunchy display of cock rings, anal beads, and such. If you're looking for the naughty bits, there are plenty of tacky shops on the Beach, but if it's literature and friendly service you desire, Mr. Drew will be happy to oblige.

BEST GUITAR STORE MusicTech 4045 SW 96th Avenue

West Miami-Dade

305-554-8818 After a long life as Ed's Guitars, this little shop just off Bird Road has grown accustomed to its much-deserved hosannas. Though not stocked with hundreds of high-end guitars and amplifiers like the giant instrument depots, MusicTech offers a friendly atmosphere, inexpensive repairs, and truly helpful staffers who are willing to tell you if you need to go to Guitar Center to get what you need. Owner Mitch Kopp is always restocking the store with new and used guitars and amps, so you never know when a gem will pop up. Plus, the place is something of a musicians' consortium, with local rock, jazz, and folk artists hanging out and talking music. Kopp also offers guitar lessons and an occasional free show.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®