Crown Wine & Spirits Miami Lakes
BEST LIQUOR STORE Crown Wine and Spirits Various locations in Miami-Dade County

786-621-9463

www.crownwineandspirits.com If you've ever dreamed of indulging in a Nicolas-Cage-in-Leaving-Las-Vegas-style liquor shopping spree, there is no place better for it than Crown. Patron Silver Tequila? They've got it. Jagermeister? Uh huh. Whaler's Pineapple Rum? That too. Johnny Walker Blue? Oh my, yes. Plus all the fancy chasers, key lime cookies, imported chocolates, pâté, cheese, and other gourmet treats a discriminating party thrower could want. With their inspiring collection of exotic beers and a wine aisle straight out of a sommelier's dream, Crown is nirvana for the unabashed lush.

Readers´ Choice: ABC Fine Wine & Spirits

BEST GUN SHOP Ace's Indoor Shooting Range and Pro Gun Shop 2105 NW 102nd Place

West Miami-Dade

305-717-3277 Want to try out a Browning 9mm and a Strum-Ruger .357 to see which feels more deadly in your sweaty palm? Feeling belittled but unable to cover the full purchase price on a sweet new Desert Eagle .50-caliber equalizer? Blast away to your heart's content at Ace's indoor range, where you can take the weapon of your choice for a test drive before making that long-term commitment. Ace's selection of new firearms (handguns especially) is better than at most gun shops, with less reliance on used weapons. The sales staff is professional and accustomed to dealing with amateurs. It's also number one with bullets.

BEST MALL North Miami and Aventura strip-mall tour Biscayne Boulevard from 135th Street to 206th Street You've schlepped through many a shopping mall. And let's face it, they're all pretty much the same. Take a break from the mall-rat race to appreciate the booming development along Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami and Aventura. Here's your itinerary:

1. Keystone Plaza at 135th Street for Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Ben & Jerry's, Chicken Kitchen, or Einstein Bros., because you'll need the fuel.

2. On My Own clothing boutique at 180th Street for unique (albeit pricey) finds, like colorful embroidered tunics from India.

3. Pier 1 Imports at 186th Street for decorating inspiration. (It's hip and affordable.)

4. Loehmann's at 187th Street for top-of-the-line designer duds at rock-bottom prices. Barnes & Noble for a snack and for posing as an intellectual.

5. Bed Bath & Beyond at 192nd Street for bathroom accessories (because, admit it, your bath towels are downright ratty!). DSW Shoe Warehouse for inexpensive shoes and Old Navy for casual basics.

6. Circuit City at 206th Street for your partner, who's been so patient. The Birkenstock shop, Michael's craft store, and Marshall's, for yourself. (Prowl the discount racks and explore the improved home furnishings and accessories section in the back.)

7. And finally: the bar at Chili's at 199th Street for an El Niño Margarita, because a stiff drink is the only proper way to end a day of consumer frenzy.

See? Urban sprawl ain't so bad after all.

BEST TOY STORE Animated Toys 479 Biltmore Way

Coral Gables

www.animatedtoystore.com

305-444-9383 This is the toy store for comic-book freaks, a place stocked with collectible action figures (don't call them "dolls") of your favorite heroes and villains, including Superman, the Green Lantern, Shazam!, Spider-man, the Punisher, and Dr. Doom. There's plenty for fans of the Star Wars franchise, and even NBA, WWE, and MLB figures. Others will love the plush items and Care Bears, Bratz, and Hamtaro figures. Jannette Diaz opened the store this past December because her husband's hobby had taken over their garage. Trying to find a present for your favorite collector? Visit Animated to find great gifts for those who have everything ... except that Spawn Classic Comic Book Cover figure.

Yesterday & Today Records
Falyn Freyman
BEST RECORD/CD STORE Yesterday and Today Records 9274 Bird Road

West Miami-Dade

305-554-1020

www.vintagerecords.com All that's left of what once was a cool-music empire is a small store across the street from Bird Bowl. Specializing in sounds of a certain vintage, the latest in a two-decade series of Y&T outlets is still paradise for the psych/garage crowd. There's plenty in original vinyl, heavyweight re-issues, and import-only CDs. For everyone else, there awaits a generous sampling of jazz, blues, country, soundtracks, and a decent selection of Latin stuff. As fans of specific sounds tend to do, one must quibble about trivia. Like, if Johnny Rivers gets his own divider in the bins, shouldn't Johnny Rotten? Bloody 'ell he should. Prices are fair for the collectibles and there are even some golden nuggets priced as low as 99 cents.

Readers´ Choice: Sweat Records

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.

Lily's Records
BEST PLACE TO BUY LATIN MUSIC Lily's Records Various locations in Miami-Dade County

305-856-0536

www.realpagessites.com/lilirecords When you get that itch for a little Johnny Ventura or Thalia you must know where to go. Since 1976 Lily's has had the largest supply of merengue, salsa, cumbia, and various international CDs in Miami. If they don't have exactly what you're looking for, they'll order it. But more than likely patrons will be able to find the hip-shaking jams they couldn't find anywhere else. With five locations, Lily's makes it convenient for customers and musicians alike to immerse themselves in a virtual library of flavorful jams. The stores also offer musical instruments like bongos, claves, güiros, guitars, and maracas to permit any listening experience to evolve into an interactive musical session. What's more, the shop provides complete production services and serves as a CD manufacturer.

BEST USED BOOKSTORE Eutopia 1627 Jefferson Avenue

Miami Beach

305-532-8680 Upon its 2000 opening, Eutopia was a tentative outpost for the Beach's bibliophiles, who -- previously accustomed to hitting the highway to root through the bounty at the Kendall Bookshelf or Fort Lauderdale's Robert Hittel Bookseller -- curiously poked their heads inside this shop's doorway. Five years on, Eutopia is thriving, and proof that Lincoln Road's quirky heart still beats in the shadow of the Gap and Victoria's Secret. Bargains abound here: A recent browse turned up a three-dollar mint hardcover copy of short-story master Donald Barthelme's collected works, as well as a spate of forgotten novels from arch WASP pundit William F. Buckley, Jr. But it's with Floridiana that this store really shines, the shelves full of odd little treasures ranging from a rare first edition of Charles Willeford's crime classic Miami Blues to back issues of the Fifties Beach glossy mag Panorama, a precursor to Ocean Drive and a reminder of this burg's colorful history -- a history found in abundance at Eutopia.

Richard Lyons Nursery
BEST PLANT NURSERY Richard Lyons' Nursery 20200 SW 134th Avenue

South Miami-Dade

305-251-6293

www.rarefloweringtrees.com This place is an utterly charming antidote to the mega-nurseries that never surprise. Mr. Lyons is a Miami-based real estate attorney who loves plants and has run a nursery on his South Dade property since 1961. He grows and sells the standards (including orchids), but he also specializes in exotic flowering trees and vines such as brownea ($150 for a small tree), bombax ceiba ($35 for a small tree), and jade vine ($45 to $150). This is also a fun place to simply walk around -- there is a distinctly intimate feel, with foliage of all types sprouting from every available space around Lyons's garage and house, air plants tagged for sale growing in the crooks of trees in his front yard, friendly cats prowling about, and bathtubs full of water plants here and there. The one drawback: Lyons's place is tucked away in a very rural part of the county, and is consequently difficult to find. Drivers should not try to take Eureka Drive to 134th Avenue -- the two streets don't intersect. Instead, take Quail Roost Drive to 134th Avenue.

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 Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®