TO: Chuck Strouse, editor
FROM: Best of Miami research department
RE: Retiring a category

Boss, it's time to retire this category. Year after year after year, our intrepid team explores every nook of this fine city in hopes of finding a newsstand even better than Worldwide. Doesn't happen. Year after year after year, the award goes to this purveyor of all things readable and disposable. This place has all the big dailies, many small ones, and all the big mags, many so obscure they don't even have Websites; there's everything from the Nation to Taboo, from the National Review to Asian Cult Cinema, from Fishwrap to Bitch (which isn't about dogs). They even sell ice cream to enhance the browsing and reading experience. This is not good news, though. What does it say about a city that doesn't have great magazine and newspaper dealers all over the place? Not sure. Well go to Worldwide and read up on the subject. Thanks, sir. See you next year.

No, it's not a conventional bookstore, but hell, Miami is no conventional town. Chain stores dominate this field, and they're all pretty good, so if you have no patience, just go to one of them. But the street fair at this annual event spans one blissful, beautiful, blessed week every autumn -- this year it will take place November 12 to 19 -- and is a book lover's answered prayer. You can pick from pages in every imaginable category, and you can stock up on enough new publications to last until next year. Yes, the street fair coaxes every bookworm from here to Topeka to burrow out from beneath the covers, but half the fun is mingling with other people who love books as much as you do. To top it off, of course, there's the Author's Congress, where you can ask your favorite poet about just how he mastered that Cyrillic onomatopoeia. Heaven.
Okay, we're in South Florida, so there's no crackling fireplace with swirling snow outside, but dammit if this isn't the coziest, warmest, most conversation-inducing joint in town. People don't just exchange used copies of Dostoevsky or Darwin here; they trade thoughts, opinions, and ideas. And they go hunting, albeit in the shelves for things like a first-edition Jane Austen, an autographed Toni Morrison, or, say, the John Irving collection, 1982-1997. Steve Elliot and his family/staff might not have what you want in stock, but if it exists on this Earth, they will dig through tundra to find it for you. You can also bring in your used books. They don't always pay cash for them; sometimes they'll give you a ridiculously generous store credit instead. And, unlike some used bookstores, Kendall Bookshelf really doesn't carry new books, leaving that up to the suits down the street. In fact the Bookshelf folks love reading so much that they actually welcome the corporate stores with a "Woohoo! People reading!" attitude. What distinguishes this place from the Big B's -- and keeps it beloved -- is an emphasis on service and community. Staff members have a joyful and staggering knowledge of books and a near-photographic memory of customer preferences. Want a place where everybody knows your name? Skip the bar (and the corporate barista), grab some brewed java, and settle in.
Ninety-year-old Luigi De Luca has been cutting hair for 25 years in South Florida, but the Sicilian can and will address any topic thrown at him with the air of a man whose knowledge far exceeds his chosen craft. Want to know about horseracing? De Luca has more than a few tips; he's been cutting hair at Calder Race Course (and Hialeah before that) for a quarter-century. How about opera? De Luca used to perform, and by his account, could have been one of the greats. He's happy to dish about famous tenors, national politics, or anything else. When you sit in Luigi's chair, the haircut is secondary to the conversation.
Christian Garcia was a sixteen-year-old boy fresh off his exodus from Cuba when he began stitching together suits with his father in 1961. Pops had opened a modest little shop on NE Second Avenue in downtown Miami. In 1989, after inheriting his father's trade, Garcia moved the family business to the City Beautiful, where the now 61-year-old tailor weaves suits, slacks, dress shirts, tuxedos, and sport coats. Christian Garcia is a bona fide custom tailor who does not perform alterations. "We have people from all walks of life, from rabbis to politicians to prominent businessmen," Garcia says of his clientele. "We carry strictly European lines such as Italy's Loro Piana, Parisian line Dormeuil, Scabal from Brussels, England's Holland & Sherry, and another ten smaller specialty houses." Garcia, who employs a staff of six tailors, promises a sophisticated gentleman can walk away with a great two-piece suit for $3,995. The shop is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturdays. However, Garcia notes, you must make an appointment. "It usually takes about an hour-and-a-half to measure you, get to know you, your personality, your style," he says. "But if you want to come in at 8:00 in the evening, we are more than willing to accommodate you." Now that's class.
This excellent store has four locations in Miami-Dade, but this one employs the friendliest staff and is next to (first-rate Spanish restaurant) Casa Paco's excellent deli, so it wins. There are other shops specializing in guayaberas, the semiformal warm-weather shirt of choice for abuelos worldwide, but this joint combines the best selection -- long- and short-sleeve varieties come in every color and pattern, from Johnny Cash black to pinstripe -- and the best prices, beginning around $35. Guayaberas Etc. also carries high-end linen shirts and dress slacks, as well as women's clothing.
Sentir Cubano
In Spanish, sentir cubano means "to feel Cuban" -- as if living in Miami and consuming your daily dose of cortaditos were not enough. So maybe this Calle Ocho shop should be called Ser Cubano, "to be Cuban," because if you weren't already blessed by birth, this store has all the ingredients to help you become, at the very least, a wannabe Cuban. Begin with apparel: Buy yourself a guayabera, a T-shirt with the emblem of a Cuban baseball team, and an enormous belt buckle emblazoned with the Cuban flag. Then move over to the cigar aisle, stock up on a couple of stogies, and grab a lovely taxidermied rooster for good measure. The music section is stocked with old-timey favorites like Beny Moré, Celia Cruz, and Barbarita Diaz, perfect to dance to while you make a café con leche with your new coffeemaker and a medianoche with your new sandwich press. (The place has cookbooks in English and Spanish if you need some help.) Don't forget to pick up a set of traditional double-nine dominoes, domino stands, and a domino table (there are cubilete and Spanish playing cards too); when you're not using the table for games, you can display a few antique yearbooks from pre-Castro high schools, purchased from Sentir Cubano's huge collection. Buy a framed display of old-fashioned currency to hang on the wall, plaster your car with stickers, and put some Fidel Castro toilet paper in the bathroom. If that isn't enough, check out owners Miguel and Maria Vazquez's first store, online at www.cubanfoodmarket.com.
Miami needs more guns. Simply put, the police are overburdened and understaffed, and it's clearly time for private citizens to take matters into their own hands. No one's calling for armed insurrection yet, just more "deterrence." Imagine the message you could have sent to that bitch in the SUV who almost ran you off the road without looking up from her Blackberry if you'd been wielding a .357 instead of your middle finger! With that in mind, it's worth noting that Ace's has won this award before, and for good reason. This is simply, beyond question, the Glock-totinest, cap-bustinest, armor-piercinest heater haven in Miami. The victorious smell of Cordite hangs in the air as soon as you enter Ace's, and you can hear the shots coming from the indoor range (rent a gun for $20 and pay $9 per hour for target practice); it's a reveille for all of those who are bad-ass enough to heed the literal call to arms. Ace's carries everything from purse-size pistols to massive Magnums. And the ambience is perfect: from the poster of kittens frolicking with handguns hanging over the gun safe, to the folks just in from the range comparing paper targets, to the happy chatter ("Now this round will go through two, maybe three people before stopping...."), Ace's is the place to get your gat and go forth -- for Justice!
"There used to be dive shops all over the place," says Judy Miller. "Now we're the only one in the area." As the owners of Divers Den Miami, Judy and her husband Jim have been running this one-stop shop for undersea fun since 1977. Experienced divers can rent or buy any equipment they need in this place, which is neatly tucked away in the Shops of Kendall strip mall. Uzzi gear? Check. Mares goggles? There are many pairs, ranging from $60 to $79. A Currents snorkel vest for $49.95? Snap it all up here. And wannabe divers can obtain scuba certification through the store, which staffs two instructors (one of whom is also a trainer of dive instructors, and a University of Miami professor). Dive training sessions are scheduled first in area pools and then with charter groups in the shallow reefs of the northern Florida Keys, and the review course costs just $150. But the best reason to stop by Divers Den is for friendly conversation with the Millers and to meet the store mascot, a galloping galoot of a chocolate lab named DuPont, who plops his furry paws atop the counter as though he's ready to ring up your purchase.
Ohh yeah! Feeeel the burnnnn! Ahh! Ahh! Oh I can barely lift my arm 'cause I did so many! I did over a thousand! Now look at my guns! Look at that cannonball bicep! Don't you just want to squeeze it? Oh yeah! Look, I can even flex my eyelid muscle! And I work this perfect buff bod at MPower's new location! It's a gleaming monolith to fitness! It's Globo Gym XXX-Large! An annual $469 membership gets you unlimited aerobic and yoga classes, supervised childcare, and free parking. For an additional $30 a month, you receive unlimited spinning classes. MPower also offers short-term plans such as an $80 one-month membership or $270 for six months. And for those of you who aren't complete without your faux tan, MPower offers the latest skin-baking technology. Tanning packages range from $12 to $160.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®