Best Place to Pretend You're Martha Stewart on a Budget 2002 | Garden Ridge | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Best Place to Pretend You're Martha Stewart on a Budget

Garden Ridge

With the holidays quickly approaching (by which we mean our birthday), you might wanna stop by the Ridge--the self-proclaimed "home décor and craft marketplace," which just sends a tingle up the spines of men everywhere--to load up on immortal wreaths and other flowers made of silk and synthetic material. From pottery to potpourri, from party goods to pictures and posters (for frames and, yes, you sad souls without family photos to fill them), from candles to curtains, this chain store has generous amounts of decently priced crap to make any dorm room or any mansion feel like Martha Stewart went hog-wild while blindfolded. And we mean that as a compliment: When we're not tricking up our house with the latest Todd Oldham trinket from Target, we're at Garden Ridge, wondering how we spent $124 on candles that smell like roses and feet.

Even drunk, we would never ever belt out a rendition of Tom Jones' "Delilah" in public. (What we do in the privacy of our own shower is none of your business.) But it's nice to know that if we wanted to (and to be honest, we sorta do), we could thrill--or induce vomiting among--the lovely birds in an audience. All we would need is a stop at this Valley View mall shop, which sells and rents karaoke machines, mixing boards and microphones, along with the largest selection of karaoke-ready songs in Texas--somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 titles. They even provide DJs and setups for parties, wedding receptions and, we suppose, really rockin' wakes. If you think that karaoke died sometime about the era of the first Bush administration, check out the store's Web site at to see the huge variety of equipment available. Someone, somewhere is into this, so there may yet be hope for our lounge-act dreams.

Rumor has it our couch came from the set of Good Morning, Texas, and, yeah, it took awhile to get those Sams stains out; someone really should Scotchguard that dude. But, nonetheless, it was one hell of a bargain--something like $300, when it would have cost us $1,000, more or less (more, likely). And we picked it, and the rest of our house's furnishings, up at the Gabberts outlet on Furniture Row near LBJ Freeway and Midway Road. This place is a mecca for high-quality merch at low, low prices--leather couches at pennies on the dollar (OK, quarters on the dollar, but whatever), recliners so cheap you can rest a little easier, armoires you can afford without knocking over an armored car. Some of this stuff deserves to be dirt cheap--some looks as though it came from the Bradys' house in 1971--but even then, better retro "kitsch" than au courant broke, we say. Nice selection of rugs, too, as well as other stuff with which to stuff your house. Or apartment. Or trailer home. Or underpass.

We're scared of many things, such as mosquitoes (West Nile!), snakes (poison!) and monkeys (the Marburg monkey virus, which for some reason we fear more than its well-known sister virus, Ebola!). We're also queasy about the sun and its link to skin cancer, which is why we are pasty and have no luck with the ladies. That's why we plan to visit Planet Tan and do what our good friend did: get misted. For the person who needs to be caramelized, Planet Tan can apply the UV-free Mist-On Tan product. It gives you a sweet golden-brown tone for up to a week, which is all the time we need to find a soul mate. The procedure is complete in less time than it takes to disrobe, so if you've got a big event coming up, or if you just need to even out your own tan, stop by a day or two before you need to wear that revealing outfit and do what we light-fearing folk do: Buy yourself some good looks.

You won't find batteries, phone cards and store-brand toothbrushes lining the counters of Restoration Hardware. The stuff you will find isn't that necessary, but it is cuter and much more expensive. Around the cash registers are tubs and hangers full of gadgets, widgets and other unneeded items you'll decide to take home while waiting to check out, such as magnets made from milk jar lids and old dice and key-chain magnifying glasses and compasses.

The grocer carries all sorts of imported fresh and canned goods suited to the discerning cook of all sorts of Middle Eastern fare. That's right, all sorta good stuff for all sorta people. Which, admit it, is shocking. Not only is the bread the freshest, softest, tastiest Middle Eastern breadlike stuff you're likely to find (chain grocery store pita pocket bread need not apply), but the loaves are full size, just like they are in Lebanon. The store sells ingredients for old standards like hummus and rare spices suited to more exotic Middle Eastern dishes, Middle Eastern candy, chewing gum and even really good pickles imported from Lebanon. We would take the time to learn the names of these items, but we're too busy scarfing.

This store in the Lakewood shopping area has everything one needs to get vintage looks for a multitude of eras. There are plates like June Cleaver would have used to serve fresh-baked cookies to Wally and the Beav, lace-up go-go boots like Laverne and Shirley might have tried and sofas like Richie Cunningham and the gang would have sat on while getting chick advice from The Fonz. Then there's the actual TV memorabilia such as metal lunch boxes bearing the cartoon or photograph likenesses of small-screen stars and items such as models of The Monkees' souped-up convertible. In addition, glass cases hold smaller and more valuable items such as Beatlemania buttons and mint-condition toys. Then there's the stuff TV never showed: vintage "adult" novelties.

Men shop for shoes the opposite of women: the most shoes possible from the fewest possible stores. To get it all done in one stop go straight to Nordstrom at the Galleria. The sandal selection alone is daunting--including Mephisto and Ecco--but the Oxfords go on forever: Nordstrom's store brand, Tommy Bahama, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Cole Haan, Allen-Edmonds and many more. This is it, this is everything.

Best Place to Make Your Spider-Man-Crazy Wife's Spidey Sense Tingle

Zeus Toys and Comics

Say you're, oh, 28 years old, and you still love you some comic books. Your wife? She's never read them, but she likes Barbie dolls. That's how you get her into Zeus Comics, where even the straightest man will be fairly dazzled by the selection of Barbies at the back of the store. That's how we did it, at least. Once there, she discovered the greatness (and, well, geekiness) that is the comic book, and now she wants to go more than we do. Especially since her favorite character, Spider-Man, is all over the place and Zeus is all over it, with more Spidey-related items than a Stan Lee garage sale. That's just for a start: They have everything you want, and plenty of things you didn't know you needed. You're gonna need an entire afternoon. While you're there, ask the staff the name of the cop character in McDonaldland. No, not Mayor McCheese. And get back to us, because it's been killing us.

What with the competition of, peddling books out of retail outlets is becoming a risky business. That explains the arrival of pricey coffee drinks, greeting cards and various doodads that most bookstores now hawk. But for those literary types who still enjoy perusing the aisles in person, Borders offers the widest selection of books in town. That's it. End of story.

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