Best Botanica 2009 | Brave Guede Botanica | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Brave Guede has everything from voodoo dolls and the pins to prick them to herbal flu and impotence remedies, but the highlight of this mystical one-stop in the heart of Little Haiti is the vast behind-the-counter collection of oils. Tiny $5 vials of seemingly innocuous liquid are labeled "Quick Money" or "Destroy Everything," and resident priestess Marie warns that those stated powers are not to be scoffed at. Rub some of the former on your hands before a trip to an Indian casino — and the latter before dinner at the in-laws' house. There are bath gels too; with names like "Jinx Remover" and "Success Bath," these potions will make your body a temple impenetrable to evil spirits.

There's no shortage of plant nurseries in our subtropical clime, but something besides its excellent selection and reasonable prices puts Miami Beach's Log Cabin Nursery at the top of its category. The pleasant one-block complex features an open-air garden ringing the center cabin. It's also a nonprofit organization that trains and employs the developmentally disabled. An on-site "coach" helps adults through the everyday rigors and hurdles of independent living, from finding an apartment to keeping up with monthly bills and shopping for oneself. So while the plant you buy might not appreciate your purchase — you really think you're going to remember to water that azalea? — the people who sell it to you do.

Unlike skinny jeans and nerd glasses, going green is a trend everyone can rock. We don't need to mention that each ounce of environmentally friendly living is like giving Mother Earth a great big hug — but we do hear she likes hugs. A store that's participating in some major PDA and selling goods to help you do the same is Imagine Gifts. This Midtown Miami shop is a haven for organic, recycled, all-natural, and eco-friendly items from wrapping paper to jewelry. The bright, candy-colored gem of a store supports companies that are either locally owned, charitable, or pay fair-trade wages, so your overspending will always be guilt-free.

Peddle your late abuela's sterling flatware set or live by candlelight until the end of the month? To us, that decision is an easy one. With South Florida's economy about as vibrant as Kimbo Slice's fighting career, sentimentality has become an unaffordable luxury. Pawn shops are paying less for merchandise these days, but well-equipped ones such as the heavily bulletproofed Cash Inn of 79th Street — located in North Miami's unofficial Consignment District, a mile-radius area cluttered with nearly a dozen pawn shops — will still buy anything you bring in, stockpiling for a better economy. And if you're a consumer (a mythical creature at this point), now is the best time to do some vulture-shopping at Cash Inn. Buy a Cartier watch, a big-screen plasma TV set, and one of those riding lawn mowers. Then wager the thousands you won from the blackjack tables at Seminole Hard Rock. Trust us: It's a better investment than the stock market.

T.I. had to learn the hard way, but trust us when we tell you not to purchase your weaponry off the street. Sure, it'd be hard for a multiplatinum artist to fly under the radar when doing some illegal ish, but even Tom, Dick, and Harry can't be promised a smooth getaway. So where do you go to replenish your arsenal? Sunshine Air Guns and Collectibles has all of your rat-tat-tat needs covered. The shop specializes in new and vintage air guns of every design — whether you're in the mood for a Hunter Pro ($259.99) or a Baby Desert Eagle ($42), S A&C has what you need. Since 2001, owner Jorge A. Chavez has acquainted the Magic City with exotic weaponry, and some of the items in the store are from his own collection. "I started out in this business because I used to go to gun shows and people would always ask me if I was selling my pieces," Chavez explains. "Now, in addition to those, we also sell vintage guns that are very hard to find." This guy is a pro, so he can surely help you pick out a lil' NightStalker that won't knock you off of your feet with its recoil.

Give Good Works / India Amos

A brief dissertation on the ethics of consumerism during the current depression: Proposition #1: Reject high-volume manufacturing. An object's quality generally lies in inverse proportion to its availability. While this is not necessarily true of simple items (ketchup, pencils, lubricants), it becomes more and more true as the object's construction increases in difficulty (hamburgers, computers, battery-powered sex toys). Proposition #2: High volume necessitates low wages, which in turn leads to overseas production and executive compensation structure based strictly on growth in profit margins, which in turn leads to vanity license plates, niche prostitution, and a general increase in douchebag behavior across all segments of the population. Proposition #3: Douchebag-like behavior leads to corporate malfeasance. White-collar crime and nondiscretionary spending on the triumvirate of skin exfoliation, béarnaise sauce, and Asian-style massage have a one-to-one relationship. Proposition #4: Proliferation of thrift stores curbs douchebaggyness. Based on a philosophy of reuse and inherent worth, thrift has at its essence an ontological resistance to douchebags. The growth of one necessarily means the reduction of the other. Proposition #5: Give Good Works is an excellent location for thrift shopping, owing to its commitment to high turnover of product, its 501(c)(3) status, and its friendly and helpful staff. Conclusion: Supporting Give Good Works reduces the number of accidental deaths due to battery-powered sex toy malfunction.

This sprawling, 900-vendor emporium, easily spotted from the Gratigny Expressway for its industrial-yellow mosque-like domes, is a place where empires of dust, disarray, and copyright infringement are bought and sold for the price of a few wrinkled bills. Come with $40 and leave with an artificial-wood-and-leather steering wheel cover, an unlicensed Dwyane Wade jersey, a cockfighting hat, six tropical fish, a parrot, and $1.50 left over. It's the only place in South Florida where you might go for an oil change and leave with a used refrigerator. A word of advice: Spring for the dollar parking if you're female or shopping with one. The free lot requires a trudge through the mechanics' alley on the flea market's outskirts, which doubles as an "¡Oye, mami!" gauntlet.

The past decade has been nasty to brick-and-mortar record stores. Almost every week, there has been news of yet another great music shop closing up. That's why it's so refreshing to know Miami Beach's Uncle Sam's is still thriving. In business since 1984, the place remains the sweet spot for local and international DJs and music producers. The selection covers everything on the dance charts — hip-hop, house, and techno. Even better, the staff takes special orders for any of your vinyl needs. With a recently added and well-stocked used vinyl section (prices range from $5 to $10 dollars), Uncle Sam's remains the essential place for dance vinyl crate-digging.

Big-box music stores are all right, but sometimes it pays to venture into the unknown, and for musicians, the right place to set out to is North Miami's Sim Music. This neighborhood institution has three floors of new and used merchandise; from DJ equipment to amps and guitars, this place has the coolest selection of new gear. With a couple of hours to spend, you might find a used Technics SL for $300 as well as brand-new guitars and amps under the $200 mark. The staff is not only well informed but also friendly, meaning you'll get plenty of knowledge on that new purchase.

For a town that has produced a substantial stable of top-shelf writers, it's surprising there are so few bookstores in the Magic City to pay them homage. There's a Barnes & Noble here and there, but as far as independent, funky, uniquely Miami booksellers, we have only a handful of options. That said, Books & Books does what any locally owned bookstore should do, and it does it well. No, the selection doesn't stack up to those of national chains, but the shop does an excellent job of showcasing lesser-known works, and what's more, it has fostered a community of readers through its book clubs and author lecture series. There are three locations in Miami-Dade, but this year we're celebrating the new and improved Lincoln Road spot. Forced out of his storefront location by rising rents, owner Mitchell Kaplan made the best of it and actually increased the size of his café and the amount of space he can give to books when he moved to a new location (a courtyard behind his former spot). The restaurant is one of the best inexpensive places to eat on Lincoln Road, and the bookstore is pretty much the only place in Miami Beach where you can find a decent read.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®