Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Dallas District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons runs three passport offices, but we like the one downtown. If you have to run the gantlet of passport-getting, you get to see the rebuilt George L. Allen Courts Building, which is pretty nice for a gummint building. And this downtown office is staffed by senior employees who know what they're doing and are pleasant to deal with. We suspect that might be true at the other locations too; in East Dallas at 3443 St. Francis Ave. (214-321-3183) and in North Dallas at 10056 Marsh Lane, Suite 137 (214-904-3030). But downtown, Fitzsimmons tends to run a smart shop. And given the boondoggles travelers are having with securing passports right now (don't plan that honeymoon abroad till you have the blue booklet in hand, my friends), dealing with nice, smart people paid by our tax dollars is somehow reassuring.
Dogs are like toddlers except when you go on vacation. It's not nice to leave the baby at the kennel, but if you know the right place, it's OK to leave the pooch there. And when you have multiple dogs with varying needs—a senior golden retriever that must pee every two hours, a spaniel that won't poop while on a leash and a mutt who's a four-legged shredding machine—finding a versatile kennel is a must. Toothacres, in business since 1967, has almost 400 runs in different sizes and styles, and most include both indoor and outdoor access (important for the weak-bladdered pups). There are even available "fun run" areas that include splash pools and outdoor toys. The staff is also obliging regarding feeding (they offer Science Diet and Bil-Jac foods, or you can bring your own), plus medication and treats. Prices are comparable to other area kennels, though they also offer more pricey furnished "suites" for the truly spoiled.
Washer eating socks? Dryer spewing tepid air? Ice machine stop making cubes? If a home appliance—anything from a toaster to central air-conditioning units—goes kerflooey, the folks at Adam the Answer Man are ready to help. They'll walk you through diagnosing the problem so you don't waste money on the wrong part. They'll tell you what parts you'll need and usually have them in stock. They also have consumer-friendly hours. Most appliance parts stores keep banker's hours and sell to the trade, but Adam the Answer Man is open after 5 p.m. and on Saturday. They'll even tell you what tools you need. Now if only marriage counseling were this easy.
There are other prosthetics stores in Dallas, but none have been around as long as Hedgecock, and there's a reason for that. From its beginning in 1910, the locally owned company has made its focus patients, not profits. They know what it's like to have to shop for a new foot or leg or arm. Several members of the staff have prosthetics themselves, so they understand the physical and psychological difficulties that go with losing a limb, and they will take the time to get things just right. Way to step up.
Dried squid, roasted green peas, spicy eel...right in the middle of the mind-numbing conformity of a northern Dallas suburb stands this delightful ethnic market where most everything is unexpected and exotic. The store, the size of your average Tom Thumb, is divided into sections: Korean, Chinese, Japanese. There's a butcher shop stocked with chicken feet, gizzards and pork tongues; an ice cream aisle where you can sample the mochi rolls (ice cream wrapped in rice); and a drink aisle that includes a soda with real grapes in it. Give your taste buds a trip to the Far East once in a while.
Sure, this chain store's in a mall located way up on LBJ, which means we have to pack a lunch and hire a sherpa for the long journey to sample its wares. But Steve & Barry's has Starburys, dawg (they are, in fact, the exclusive seller of the Starbury brand). If you don't know what that means, hip yourself to the revolution: In September of last year, New York Knick Stephon Marbury, who'd grown tired of watching poor inner-city kids spend way too much on expensive sneakers, decided to start his own clothing company and sell sneakers for the righteous price of $14.98. He even wears them in NBA games. And though they're not the prettiest shoes in the world—the word "fugly" comes to mind—they certainly serve their purpose, and more important, they serve it for a price we can all get behind. For example, the last time we went to Steve & Barry's, we walked out with a pair of basketball shorts, a stylish T-shirt and a fresh pair of Starbury II's (in Phoenix Suns colors, unfortunately), all for less than $40 (!). Just remember—your hang time could suffer from all the change left in your pocket.
Back when we had more hair, going into a unisex salon wasn't that big of a deal. If we were lucky, a hot woman would wash our hair—so nice—and if we were super-duper lucky she'd throw in a temple massage. Ah, but that was then and this is now. To be honest, these days adding water to what remains of our locks exposes more skin than we want to show off to any woman not solidly bound to us in marriage. Misogynistic? No way. We love women. That's why we wish to spare them the sight of our ever-enlarging scalp. Luckily for us, Mustang offers us a manly man tonsorial experience—red barber chairs, plenty of mags to catch us up on sports, a TV in the corner, a shoe-shine stand and those random bottles of smelly stuff to help stretch out what little hair we have left. If we could just get them to cover up those big windows, it'd be perfect.
The humongous garden centers are always tempting, especially for small bedding plants and other things you need bunches of. Those nice supermarket prices help a gardener stay on budget. The problem, of course, is that the big box stores don't hire many garden-savvy staffers and their greenery sometimes turns brown a bit too soon. The Home Depot on Skillman seems to be the exception. Their plants are lush and healthy, and their garden department workers know a cactus from a philodendron. You'll leave here with nice plants that still have leaves weeks, maybe even months, later.
Actually, we had hoped there would never be a "best big box" category. We had hoped these multi-acre stores one day would all disappear and yield their sprawling asphalt parking lots to clever, Frenchy little shops with leaded glass windows and geraniums on the sill. But then we found out you could buy stuff cheap in a big box. Très bien. Sam's Club is where you get your toilet tissue by the case and your frozen pizzas in wagon wheel sizes. You can also pick up discounted best-selling books and other luxuries. For parties, get that seven-layer dip in a tub and those chips in sacks as big as pillowcases. You can also get pillowcases. Save a bunch, spend a lot. It's the big box that rox.
So, are you a grazer or a hunter? Would you rather meet a best-selling author or save some money? Too tired at night to read for pleasure and want books on tape? These are the questions that make the pick for Best Bookstore a crapshoot. If you're the kind who likes to browse blindly and hope to stumble across an interesting book, and you want to save money, you have last year's Best Bookstore, Half Price Books. Truth be told, we're really the shallow sort who loves the latest best seller and freshest celeb mags, so it's really down to Borders or Barnes & Noble, and the nod goes to the Borders in West Village. Why? It's Uptown, which is next door to Downtown, where we really would like to see a new bookstore thrive. We also dig the tucked-away feel upstairs, the reasonable selection of books on CD (more please) and the fact that there are actual homes, restaurants, shops, bars and a movie theater in close walking distance. You know, sort of what we want in the heart of the city. Just sayin'.
Yes, we know. Buying a swimsuit is akin to torture for all but women born to be Victoria's Secret models. But Everything But Water, which recently acquired the Just Add Water stores, makes it less painful and even kind of fun. Because they have so many different kinds of suits, you can hold out hope of finding one that makes your legs look longer, tummy look flatter, breasts look more voluptuous and back-end look less like two watermelons in a gunnysack. Are you a bikini girl, a racerback athlete, a tankini mom, a Brazilian thong kind of babe or just an ordinary woman looking for a one-piece that flatters? Do you need one size for the bottom and another for the top? Would a little "power netting" (a girdle-type fabric) come in handy? Everything But Water has dozens of designers, and suits are in stock no matter what the season. (Ever tried to find the perfect swimsuit in January for that long-awaited cruise?) They've also got little helpers, like removable waterproof bra boosters. Just because you're not a lingerie model doesn't mean your cleavage has to hide its glory in a dumpy swimsuit.
We're almost embarrassed to call it a CD store. That's because Good Records harks back to the days of yore for which every hipster yearns (even if said hipster was born five years after those days were over): the halcyon days when independently owned record shops served as gathering spots for geeks, freaks, cool people, old hippies and all those in between who had one thing in common. They. Loved. Music. Unlike some of those old-school vinyl spots, however, Good Records is no dusty, low-ceiling basement; rather, it's a comfy, well-lit affair stocked with everything from the hard-to-find to the everybody-wants. Plus, GR hosts a stunning lineup of lauded bands, local and national, at its always packed in-stores. The store might as well be a nightclub. Add to that a staff that knows their stuff, a location right in the heart of things and clientele that doesn't just zip in looking for the latest Fergie single—hell, they'll stay there all day, just shooting the shit about everything from local music to Jimi Hendrix—and you got not just a Best of Dallas, but a best in the country.