The Café at Books & Books
Courtesy of the Café at Books & Books

The hardest part about working from home is being stuck in the same residential box day in and day out. Sometimes you need to break free, but it's difficult to find the right spot to muscle through the day's to-dos. Coffee shops are full of overcaffeinated blabbers screaming into their cell phones, and restaurants do their best to hustle you away from your table to keep customers rolling in. At the newest outlet of the Café at Books & Books, situated amid the inspiring architecture of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, none of those concerns applies. It's a restaurant, true, but it's also a bookstore. Thinking, working, creating, and meeting like-minded individuals is encouraged and celebrated here. You can sit inside and enjoy the A/C, or head to the back patio for a table, some of which even have electrical sockets right next to them — score! If you get hungry, there's a great menu of food, teas, and coffees to keep you going through the hours. Need a break? Peruse the captivating literature selections, relax in a comfy chair, and waste a few hours in the latest Murakami. The good folks at Books & Books simply want you to enjoy the space, and that's something any laptop lackey can appreciate.

The only thing radder than Team Iguana Sports' logo — a totally gnarly, ripped green lizard dude shredding on a board — is the selection of mountain and road bikes priced to hit the road around $700 and up. This shop on the northern edge of Miami Beach is jam-packed with custom-painted skateboard decks and neon accessories, pro-quality bike shoes and helmets, and racks and racks full of cycles. Whether you're looking for a bike to get you to Publix and back or you're plotting a course through the French Alps, Team Iguana has you covered. The biggest attraction of all, though, is the shop's owner: Ron is the definition of cycling passion, an idiosyncratic big-talker who loves nothing more than telling tales from the road and getting you ready for your own bike adventures.

Readers' choice: Mack Cycle & Fitness

It takes a certain amount of confidence to dub your car wash simply "The Car Wash." Not Miami Car Wash. Not Shiny Wheels. Not Old Joe's Soapy Auto Emporium. Just The Car Wash. It implies you might as well be the only car wash in town, the only car wash people will ever need. For a decade, The Car Wash has been just that to its legions of customers. The lines of cars regularly seen under its familiar purple canopy attest to that. A conveyor glides vehicles through a touchless automatic wash, which features windows so you can keep an eye on your ride, and then efficient employees detail them outside by hand. Guests, meanwhile, can wait inside a clean, air-conditioned café adorned with the artwork of Stephen Gamson while enjoying coffee, juices, snacks, and free Wi-Fi. The best part is that this wash won't break the bank. Basic service starts at just $10, and specialty options such as leather cleaning and seat shampooing are available at affordable prices.

You're on your way to a friend's house for a little get-together. You're bumping tunes and feeling good, but you gotta stop at the gas station right quick. You've got three-quarters of a tank in your ride, and your friend riding shotgun is all, "What's the deal, bro?" Clearly, your friend has never been to Coral Gate Mobil before. It's cool. Tell your friend to take a deep breath as you walk through the doors and into the most exciting gas-station shopping experience of your life. Need beer for the party? Why not impress the guests with something from this one-stopper's extensive selection of craft and local brews, maybe Oberon or Terrapin, Santo or Cuvée des Trolls. Did your host ask you to pick up some noms? Tear your head away from the fine wines and order something from the in-house organic deli offering scrumptious and nutritious sandwiches for $7.99. Screw it — you might as well pick up a fresh, cold-pressed juice ($8.99) while you're at it, or a smoothie, or some boxed water, or some quinoa snacks. Um, dude, is this still a gas station? It must be. There's a groovy car wash outside, and people are pumping gas. Who would have ever guessed all of this was in here?

Readers' choice: Europa Car Wash & Cafe Chevron

On a scale of fun things to do, looking for a used car falls somewhere between undergoing anesthetic-free root-canal surgery and eating raw sand. The salesmen are sharks looking to rip you off at every turn, and the cars are gussied-up lemons waiting to explode on the Dolphin Expressway. But this is Miami, and you need a ride. Thank the car gods for Esserman International Volkswagen. Whether you're looking for a fresh new VW or a pre-owned model, Esserman is set apart by its quality sales associates, who treat customers like real people, not potential sacks of money. They put away their gimmicks and make their smiles look genuine. There's no "let me get my manager" routine here, but rather a group of people who let the quality of German engineering do most of the work for them, and they work with customers for the best possible deal on a future car, from used Toyotas and Chevys for $10,000 or less to shiny new Jettas for around $18,000.

Readers' choice: The Collection

Tony Saladrigas is the kind of guy every car owner wishes he knew. Just west of downtown, the 55-year-old Cuban American runs a Meineke garage, which he bought 12 years ago. If your brakes are squeaky or don't work correctly, he'll fix 'em — and take half off the cost of the brake shoes and pads when you print out the coupon. He can repair almost any problem with any car — except maybe a Lamborghini — or refer you to the right alternative. And he can do it fast. For a regular oil change, Tony or one of his three co-workers will have you out in just 15 or 20 minutes. The cost is only $29.95. Most comforting of all, he's a mechanic you can trust. And that's about as easy to find in Miami as a needle in a snowbank. The shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; Saturday hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The rides are killer, but this is a limo company: You already knew it'd be rocking some sweet wheels. What makes Majestic Limousines a cut above the rest are the men and women who pilot those rides. Their kind, professional, and in-the-know demeanor makes these drivers perfect for handling grade-A celebrity clients (like Madonna, who they say they picked up during her last visit to the Magic City) or just you and your friends when a special event arises. Based in the breathtaking Biltmore Hotel, Majestic Limousines is ready and willing to escort you around town and even point out a few landmarks. Need a car for a wedding? Corporate or business event? Heading in or out of the airport? Just want to show off that big promotion or milestone birthday? Call for a free quote or check one of the special offers online. Cars are available in as little as one to two hours, and payments can be made conveniently online. Rides are made hourly or as directed in everything from a Lincoln Town Car to a Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac sedan, Suburban, or, of course, plenty of stretch limos. You can even go all out with a Hummer limo, but at that point, maybe just get the minibus. Hummers start at $175 per person per hour, and regular stretch limos come in at $95 per person per hour.

Amid the constant construction, the traffic chaos, and the fast-paced power lunchers stands one of Miami's littlest pet shops — StarDog — where the benefits are anything but small. Established in 2011, StarDog is a family-owned dog specialty store packed with high-quality organic and all-natural foods (they've got cats covered too). Though plenty of Miami stores cater to organic food preferences, StarDog matches them in selection and beats them in both price and service. The shop carries dry, canned, raw, and freeze-dried food and treats from brands like Acana, Orijen, Earthborn, Stella & Chewy's, and others at decent prices. A 16-pound bag of Stella & Chewy's freeze-dried duck dinner patties costs $28.50 — a full eight bucks cheaper than the nearest competitor we could find. Adding to StarDog's cost-effective appeal is free same-day delivery to Brickell, downtown, midtown, and Coconut Grove — available on all orders placed before 8 p.m. Shoppers also have access to trusted supplements, dental care items, grooming products, and flea and tick controllers. The store is stocked with dog outfits and toys as well (as any Miami shop should be), but more important, StarDog has a friendly, knowledgeable staff — including its hands-on owner — ready to answer questions and help you make the best choices for your pet.

It's not often you run into someone with a Southern accent in Miami, which is ironic considering geographically we're about as Southern as it gets without sailing into Key West. But Dr. Steve Woodby isn't your average resident of the 305. He's all about common sense, charming colloquialisms, and a refreshing restraint with the prescription pad. Growing up on an East Tennessee farm, he decided at the tender age of 6 to become a vet. Fast-forward to now, and he's been healing dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and other critters in South Florida for more than three decades. He's reasonable, realistic, and totally honest, which are key factors when dealing with your beloved fur kids. Unlike other vets, he won't overprescribe, overbill, or overreact, and that's a combo you're not likely to find elsewhere.

Cage-free ain't just for chickens. If your vacation is plagued by pet-abandonment guilt, there's an Old West-style oasis where Fido can feel at home on the range. Dog Dude Ranch removes the typical isolation that comes with boarding, beginning with a doggie meet-and-greet to determine which group is best for your pooch based on size, age, and temperament. Once dogs are grouped, they get to go hog-wild on more than two acres of private, fully fenced land in Miami-Dade's horse country. At the ranch, mutts enjoy hours of socializing, exercise, and play with their fellow canines, all without fear of too much Miami heat and sun. Shaded spaces are abundant, plus mist sprayers and wading pools provide a cool, wet diversion. Plus, whether it's playtime or naptime, dedicated "rangers" keep an eye on all the animal friends, which include chickens, horses, cats, and even a potbellied pig. When your bud is dog-tired from all the fun, he has the option to sleep with others or alone in the climate-controlled stables, where classical music keeps everyone relaxed. Dog Dude Ranch is open seven days a week, even on holidays, and offers a pet shuttle service for pick-up and drop-off weekdays at Bayfront Park. Boarding, including daycare, costs $40 per 24 hours or $50 if you'd like your dog to have a private room. Several add-on options are also offered — 30-minute one-on-one personal playtime ($15), 30-minute long-hair coat brushing ($10), and a flea/tick bath (if seen on arrival, $15), though a departure bath ($15) is mandatory. Your dog will most likely be crazily happy and covered in mud, after all. As for grub, you can get Dog Dude Ranch food for $2 per meal, or you can stick with your dog's own food served per your instructions. Medical services are also available if needed, and the ranch welcomes everyone, from tiny teacups to seniors and pups with special needs. If you're still unsure about enrolling your best friend in this doggie summer camp, you can bring him in for a free meet-and-greet sniff session and even a free day of daycare by signing up online.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®