Sam Moon Trading Company

Shopping at Sam Moon Trading Co. on a Saturday afternoon is kinda like walking down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras--minus the naked breasts and 32-ounce hurricanes, of course. But this place is just that crowded. It's a shopping mob. And like Mardi Gras, Sam Moon is almost too much to take in at once. From the moment you walk through the door, you're shoulder to shoulder with an army of women with glassed-over eyes and arms filled with goodies. There's also the occasional husband hidden away in one of the store's corners, holding a basket and looking just a little bewildered. But if you like cheap, funky jewelry (which we do) and gaudy sequined purses (which we do), then fighting these crowds is worth it. Sam Moon's selection of adornments for the ears, neck, wrists and toes is beyond compare. Just remember: Move fast and don't be afraid to use your elbows.

This eclectic Deep Ellum shop has nothing you need but just about anything you might want. From postcards and handbags to picture frames and decorated hairbrushes, Mark & Larry's has it all--which makes it an excellent place to find a gift for that person who has everything. They also offer the best selection of greeting cards in town. No matter the occasion, this place has a card for it. Some are sweet and sentimental, but some are crass and downright cruel. And those are the ones we like. Just be sure to keep an eye on the parking meter. It's easy to while away an entire afternoon thumbing through every card in the rack. Or is that just us?

Best Place to Go If You've Got the Sewing Bug

The Fabric Affair

It's one of those dying arts that's now making a strong comeback. Women are getting back into the kind of sewing that Grandma did, says owner Judy Mack. Not only is she an authorized Pfaff dealer, but she offers a variety of fabrics, supplies, notions, books, patterns and--perhaps most important--instruction classes. Instructors will teach you everything from beginning quilting to installing zippers without tears, tatting and digitizing. There are even classes for the kids and teen-agers. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Not only does Nice-born co-owner Yasmine Bohsali serve up the best baguettes and chocolate croissants this side of the Mediterranean, but his shop has become a social gathering spot for French transplants and Americans who speak the language. "Many of our French customers," Bohsali says, "tell us our place reminds them of home because we're authentic." L'Alliance Française, the local chapter of French expatriates, had them cater the group's recent Bastille Day celebration. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Frequently a readers' pick as the best music store in Dallas, what this chain does best is provide good prices on most of its offerings--and it provides huge offerings. Even somewhat obscure artists from the era when Tower Records carried actual records can be found (on digitally remastered CDs, of course). The store also has tapes, DVDs, posters, magazines and other stuff to keep you occupied for hours. When record-company execs start bitching that online and digital music will destroy their industry, just head to Tower on a Saturday and see people go through the beautiful ritual of touching, reading and purchasing music. Well, it's beautiful to the people who own the store, at least.

CD World must have a stack of these awards by now. But we'll gladly hand it over to someone new...just as soon as we can walk out of the store empty-handed or without at least three new stamps on our frequent shopper card. It's the place to go for cheap prices on all the new, popular stuff (The Vines, The Hives, anyone else worshiped by MTV and the staff of Rolling Stone) and for the no-one-likes-it-but-me records. It's also the only reliable source for used local music, with an inventory that includes entire catalogs by bands such as Bedhead, Baboon and Slobberbone, plus the new releases by bands such as The Deathray Davies and Macavity. The new and used CDs are even shelved together, allowing you to comparison shop as you comb the racks.

That learning can be fun is a good idea in theory, but it doesn't hold up when juxtaposed against a compulsory public school education. And there is something about the concept of an educational toy that seems less playful than a toy ought to be. But Learning Express does its best to dispel these notions, offering a wide array of toys that promote knowledge and still offer kids a rollicking good time. Whether it's the Math Shark or the Geosafari Laptop or a Wrist Rox Bracelet Kit, there is something for every age, gender and interest at Learning Express. Friendly, knowledgeable service cuts against its chain-store origins and that overwhelming feeling you get from a Toys R Us. If you are late for a birthday party and need something fast, not only can you find it here, but Learning Express will gift wrap it as well. That's why the place is a boon to those of us who are poorly organized and might not have been, if we would have only played with more educational toys in the first place.

While the rest of the world seems to love soccer almost to the point of obsession, we doubt that many people in Dallas would be able to identify the name Pelé or tell you when to catch the next World Cup. (And if we valued our status as Texans, we wouldn't dare say that we stayed up till wee hours to watch World Cup games but fell asleep during the Super Bowl.) So, for all you soccer subversives out there, Soccer Corner is a "football" mecca. They have all sorts of equipment for actual players--balls, clothing, protective gear--plus T-shirts and hats for those of us who couldn't make a goal if our life depended on it. If nothing else, being a soccer fan will add a little European flair to your life--especially if you buy the "Soccer Players Do It For 90 Minutes" bumper sticker.

Veggie Garden

Even the chain grocery stores are stocking Boca burgers, Gardenburgers and other fake meat now. But those who want the good stuff--the filet mignon and caviar of the vegetarian world, if you will--can find the largest selection at the Veggie Garden restaurant stacked in freezer cases at the back of the dining room by the buffet. There's Tuno (the fake tuna that tastes like the real deal when mixed with Veganaise, the fake mayo, for Tuno salad sandwiches) and little chicken wings made from soy, with small wooden rods serving as bones. Trust us; they taste much better than they sound. These same fake meats are used in Veggie Garden's all-vegan buffet and menu dishes. Its sister restaurant, Suma's Veggie Cafe, has a small grocery section in its dining room as well.

Of the five Dallas locations and three in Denton County, this Lower Greenville store is the flagship, offering the entire gamut of the hard stuff as well as 1,500 brands of wine, ranging from the best produced by Texas wineries to imports from all over the world. If it's beer you're stopping in for, reserve some time to look over the 100 or more brands, ranging from domestic to imported to microbrew labels. Bottom line is that wine is the specialty of the house, proven by the fact that Goody purchasing director Dick Rick Jr. annually travels throughout Europe, South America and Australia to buy the best of the best.

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