The coolest-looking Publix is probably the one on West Avenue in South Beach. It's designed by architect Carlos Zapata and is a gleaming glass testimony to SoBe chic. The Publix in the Plaza del Paraiso strip mall is on the opposite end of the city, and makes a statement about Kendall. It's a generic, sprawling branch that might not look cool, but you can get anything you need here. And do we mean anything. This Publix combines features from some of the supermarket chain's rivals. The plant and flower section is extensive and also offers clay chimeras, ceramic pots, and decorative garden accessories. The bakery is stocked with a dazzling array of breads, pies, pastries, cakes, and frozen desserts. The wine department curves inside itself like a maze in a lush's dream, with departments organized by country of origin. Hard-to-find bottles can be had here, like Fetzer Gewurztraminer, which costs $14. This branch of Publix is beginning to venture into Wild Oats territory by offering a slowly expanding section of natural and organic meats, including pork, steak, chicken, and buffalo. It also boasts the largest Greenwise section of any Publix in the area -- fully stocked with vegetarian frozen foods, specialty pastas, and rice infused with flaxseed oil. The very same R.W. Knudsen and Lakewood organic juices that go for a pretty penny at Whole Foods sell for $3.75 here. The beer department is a must-visit. The selection rivals that of many liquor stores and offers a stunning variety of local and imported beers, ciders, and colorful girlie drinks.
Every single thing in this place is organic. Much of it is local, and all of it is available for delivery. Delicious Organics is a three-year-old company owned by a young, beautiful, community-minded couple -- Jack and Annie Malka -- who believe in creating a market for all things environmentally friendly. (Seriously. They even sell recycled aluminum foil.) Creating that market means catering to convenience, so they offer online shopping and a weekly delivery service. They cull the best local, regional, and national produce and products; print your order; pack it for you; and deliver it in a cooler for a flat $9.95 fee -- whether you live in Boca Raton or Marathon Key. But if you want to pick up your own grass-fed brisket ($6.99 per pound), kosher cow's milk feta ($3.49 for eight ounces), or radishlike green kohlrabi ($2.39 for two), stop in Mondays or Fridays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. If you don't have time to choose your produce online, or if you simply want to save money, try the weekly co-op boxes: Forty bucks gets you one filled with four to ten different fruits and seven to fifteen different vegetables to meet your budgetary and nutritional needs. Nutrition and convenience? Bring on that raw, grass-fed, Amish farm milk.
This is the mother of all dollar stores. We're talking twelve aisles of everything from crayons to cassava melons. Load up the cart with pet food, toiletries, home-improvement stuff such as caulking guns, and kitchen stuff such as pepper grinders and stainless-steel meat cleavers. A four-pack of CD-Rs, a pound of Kosher matzos, a ratchet screwdriver with six head attachments, a three-pound bag of onions, a Florida guidebook -- everything's 99 cents. Most of the merchandise comes from large-scale closeouts or going-out-of-business sales, making the 99-cent price point possible, according to store manager Alex Gurdian. "It's crazy. That's why you see that many people," Gurdian says of the 1200 customers who stream through on an average day. The store is open 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. all week.
Miami Jewish Health Systems Thrift Store
Just as you'll never find a Forever 21 in the Bal Harbour Shops, you'll never score good, cheap thrift in the Design District. For that you'll have to venture to not-so-fashionable Liberty City. Douglas Gardens Thrift Shop is a sprawling warehouse of anything and everything you never knew you needed. Beaded evening gowns, retro dining room tables, campy cookie jars. Toasters go for as low as five bucks. Glasses for the kitchen cost a mere 50 cents. Then there are bedroom sets with sticker prices up to $2500. It's the Wal-Mart of thrift stores -- without all the lawsuits and stuff (instead proceeds go to the Douglas Gardens Jewish Home for the Aged). Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
In your attempt to hightail it to the Aventura Mall to get your Gap on, you may have unknowingly driven right past a true fashion treasure along Biscayne Boulevard. You won't find capris in C. Madeleine's -- unless they're from the Fifties, and they most certainly won't be khaki. A veteran on the vintage scene, owner Madeleine Kirsh pays exquisite detail to the items that go into her 10,000-square-foot boutique, which she opened four years ago. Its inventory arranged by decade, Madeleine's offers everything from Civil War military jackets (you gotta ask, because this kind of stuff is holed up in a back-room vault) to gowns admired by celeb fans such as Naomi Campbell. Although you may run into a few bargains, be prepared to pay for history -- this is, after all, a vintage store (not thrift) -- and it wouldn't be unusual to stumble upon a $60,000 mink coat. But then again, do you really need another pair of Old Navy gaucho pants?
The bottom line is this: Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see. The duality is this: Customers might be desperate survivors willing to part with a treasured item for chump change, fully aware they'll never get it back. Or they might be regular folk who need a loan and are in a situation that requires them to pay usurious interest. The other duality is that pawnbrokers can be viewed as businesspeople who serve a need, or as slimejerks who exploit human weakness. Also, pawn-shoppers might find reasonable bargains or get hustled with substandard merchandise. But Quick Cash seems willing to help the desperate and serve the loanee. It displays a selection of apparent bargains and offers a clean and well-kept joint. There's all the standard gear: jewelry, guns, computers, guitars, DVDs, VHS tapes, videogames, TVs, stereo components, car stereos, mowers, power tools of all types. You can get a Tec-9 for $300 or a big ol' Glock .40 for $479; decent-looking (and fully tested) electronics generally go for well under $200. You'll also find a few oddities: a jai-alai cesta, a diving suit, a welder's tank. The clerks tend to be friendly, even jovial, which may salve the desperate and encourage buyers. They seem willing and eager to offer loans, conscientious about what they sell and for how much, and nice. Believe it or not.
Botanica La Caridad may seem an unlikely sanctuary. It's tucked inside a nondescript warehouse, surrounded by big-rig parking lots and underwear wholesalers. But it has become a favorite refuge for the downtrodden, the unlucky, and the demoralized. Ailing? Why not make an offering to La Caridad's life-size effigy of Babalu-Aye. A grizzled figure in a burlap cape, he heals the sick and guards the gate between life and death. Or perhaps you're haunted by pesky spirits. Try dousing yourself with one of the fragrant potions, like Agua Florida and Espanto Muerto, that line La Caridad's shelves. The shop also offers solutions to money troubles, legal woes, drug addiction, and family quarrels. "Basically whatever your problem, we can help," explains Jesœs Suarez, a spry 43-year-old Santer’a priest, whose family has owned La Caridad for more than two decades. Most days he performs rituals and doles out spiritual advice from the shop's modest back-room sanctuary. Meanwhile his parents, Enriqueta and Demonstenes, attend to customers on the sales floor, which is stocked with an unrivaled variety of Afro-Caribbean spiritual wares. Among them are fresh herbs, delicate ceramics, colorful candles, traditional clothing, fragrant oils, and elaborate garlands of multihue beads. La Caridad also carries some less-common (and more-intriguing) goods. Take for instance the plastic tubs filled with deer legs and horsetails. It's difficult to understand the import of such items without delving into the rich mythology of Santer’a -- and parsing the tastes and foibles of its deities. But the affable Suarez clan is eager to help even the most suave of tenderfoots learn about the oft-misunderstood faith. "This is a beautiful religion," says Jesœs. "We teach people to move beyond the hesitance and fear so they can experience its power."
USA Flea Market
On Saturday at 5:00 p.m. this indoor market becomes the epicenter of Liberty City, the area's downtown social and economic heart. It's where you can get your hair done, a tattoo, and an airbrushed T-shirt, and watch a bootleg DVD (no need to drop $10 to see 16 Blocks) -- all before you even think about shopping for threads -- which is an event all its own. But really, a trip to Flea Market USA is not only about what's on the to-buy list, but also about witnessing true community.
Those who live on South Beach know what a hassle it is not to have a Target, a Whole Foods Market, or a PetSmart nearby. If we're going to leave our big-box-lacking island oasis for the sprawling retail jungles of the mainland, it had better be worth the drive. With the right tunes blasting from our sunroofs, the trek to Aventura Commons is an enjoyable little road trip. We wish the Target was a super one, but we're happy to have a Target next to a Whole Foods next to a PetSmart. There's also a Best Buy, a great liquor store -- Cellar's Wine & Spirits -- and The Original Pancake House. Ample free parking is always a delight to Beach-dwellers, and the people of Aventura are so darn friendly you will really feel like you've gone out of town for the day.
Flower Megastore
Mostly they travel by plane from farms in Colombia. Those that aren't destroyed by U.S. Customs are trucked into refrigerated warehouses for distribution to retailers. They are then sold at floral shops and by petal peddlers at intersections or roadside kiosks. Each time they change hands, flowers lose a bit of freshness while increasing in price. This versatile showroom, office, and warehouse allows the public to cut out the middlemen and buy directly from a wholesaler. Open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., this joint provides the highest-quality blooms: tulips from Holland or North Carolina (about $3 per stem), roses (a bundle of 25 for $10), carnations ($2 or so each), and tons of other colorful and sweetly aromatic blossoms priced to go. (Ask and they'll create a custom arrangement as well.) From large-scale florists to corner purveyors, this sweet-smelling depot serves everyone seeking the finest blooms.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®