In the world of tattoos it seems like there are two kinds of shops. There's the low-calorie, squeaky-clean place that specializes in Tweety Bird tattoos and belly-button piercing, and then there's the kind where if you're not well on your way to full yakuza regalia and your tongue is still in one piece, you're clearly not cool enough to breathe the same air. Holdfast Tattoo on Greenville is that rare breed that inhabits the middle ground. These guys are old school, don't get us wrong. There's no shortage of full-sleeve tattoos in here, just without the accompanying chip on the shoulder--or as manager and artist Jeff Brown puts it, "We're trying to abolish cool." An admirable effort, but doomed to failure as long as walls are still plastered with the brilliant "flash" art demonstrating the considerable talents of Jeff and fellow artists Caleb, Jorge and Bobby. Call it the mark of quality.

Readers' Pick
Tigger's Tattoos 2602 Main St. 214-655-2639
How could we pass up an opportunity to recognize someone known as the "Creatrice of Exquisite Soft Toys"? Gilmer, Texas, native and Southern Methodist University grad Phebe Phillips has designed and created the Phebe Phillips Company animals since 1983. Available at Neiman Marcus and on her website, these upscale plush babies (some price out at $175) come in the bunny, cat, dog and bear varieties. The cool thing is, the Dallas resident also designs a more affordable line of dressable characters and costumes called "Tweakie P." for folks who can't drop upward of $35 on a Phebe Phillips stuffed critter. Priscilla the Bunny, Coco the Black and White Cat, Bailey the Honey Bear and Colette the Pink Poodle are available at Michael's craft stores, along with their snazzy accessories. After meeting the gracious and spunky Phillips, we realized that this woman deservingly has the coolest job on the planet. That inner child of hers can play dress-up as long as it wants to...with Bunny Pudge and Kitty Prima and Little Silly Pup and...
Our neighbor thinks we bake all the time. On Sundays, he thinks we have a thorough house-cleaning regimen. It's doubtful he knows we have cats, not to mention a brimming litter box. Our neighbor can thank Gary Stone, owner and creator of the Dallas-based online store Make Scents candles for the aromatic front we put up. The hand-poured candles come in more than 600 scents--some classic, some pretty unusual. We love White Tea, Rosemary, Pet Odor Eliminator and Sugar Cookie. Then again, we have to admit that while they might not be common candle scents, Dirt, Tide Type (like the detergent), Ben Gay Type and Bourbon & Coke win us over with nostalgia. Lick Me All Over, MD 20/20 (don't pretend you don't know), Super Chiffon, Butt Naked and Puppies' Breath deserve honorable mention as titles alone.

Best Video Store in the World, So Stop Asking

Premiere Video

Premiere Video
If you've been here once, you know what we're talking about. If you've never been, well, sucker, you're probably still renting from Blockbuster Video (the ones still open, anyway) or using NetFlix (seriously, why?) or trying to get your rabbit ears adjusted on your black-and-white Philco. This is a serious place for serious cinephiles--a haven for import fetishists, a refuge for indie lovers and a crack house for anyone who just wants to watch a good movie or BBC Britcom or wacky documentary about Hunter S. Thompson or anything oddball and/or brilliant and/or hard to find. They have everything here among the 20,000 videos and DVDs in stock, even movies not yet in theaters, thanks to Sam Wade and Heather Hankamer's ability to find Euro versions of forthcoming American art-house releases. Man, we saw The Warrior months before it was in U.S. cinemas, which might mean something if people actually saw it in U.S. theaters, but still. If this place were in Los Angeles or Seattle or some other town much cooler than Dallas, you'd never be able to get in.

Readers' Pick
Movie Trading Co. Multiple locations
Some music stores are content to overwhelm with their massive selection, but in the Internet age, racks and racks of CDs aren't a big deal when Amazon.com's warehouse is a click away. Five listening stations dedicated to the new Mariah Carey album? Oh, you have overpriced DVD box sets in stock, too? Yawn. These days, the best stores understand what music fans want from a retail outlet in an iTunes world, and Good Records does all the right things to earn its title as the premier bricks-and-mortar music stop in town. The best independent and underground albums of all genres are always front and center, as are the clerks--you can't walk through the store without having a great conversation about music with C.J., Rubberman and the rest of the gang. Stop by every week or so for in-store concerts from some of the most exciting local and national acts coming through town. Sign up for Good's e-mail list for show times and you'll also get a massive, detailed list of recommended new releases every week. The bigger stores just can't keep up with that kind of dedication.

Readers' Pick
Tower Records 3707 Lemmon Ave. 214-252-0200
Every nerd at the Dallas Observer (and, man, for a hipster rag, this place is crawling with them) counts himself blessed to live in a town raging with toy, game and comic book stores. Most local comic shops deserve--and usually earn--Best Of awards for their various strengths, and even if Keith's Comics' best trait is a niche category, we'd commit a crime for not lauding the store's offbeat comic collection. It's easy to miss on a casual walkthrough. The store's front is full of kiddie toys and mainstream comic books. But in the chained-off half of the store, many steps past the violent and sexually suggestive material, sits a good-sized pocket of the best, weirdest comic books in town. The material is painstakingly organized by publisher, author and style, which means jumping from '30s funnies collections to studies on African-American cartoon characters to Daniel Clowes books to gay and lesbian stories is made a whole lot easier than it should be for a comic book newbie.
Under what other roof in town would you find contemporary rocker Bryan Adams, Texas picker Jerry Horn and Queer Eye guru Kyan Douglas? All were special event guests at Dallas' newest Borders bookstore. Surrounded by the ultra-hip venues of the West Village, this store tried to do a story time for children but had to call it off because there weren't enough kids in the neighborhood. No kids! A book-lover's dream come true. Maybe in the future they'll consider an R-rated story time for 20-somethings. Bring your own blankies.

Readers' Pick
Barnes & Noble Multiple locations
Paperbacks Plus
OK, nobody really beats Half Price Books for selection, location, price, service--if that's the kind of stuff you care about. But don't you ever want to go into a place that just feels like an old ex-hippie East Dallas bookworm hang-out? Paperbacks Plus has been at or near its La Vista Court location for pretty close to 30 years, and it still offers the same intimate ambience--handmade signs, faint aroma of yellowed paper, poetry readings upstairs, sections like "Drugs, Alcohol, Recovery" and "Peace Studies." There's a wonderful hideaway cubbyhole at the back of the kids' room, and if you're not an egg-head, they've got used Harlequin Romances like you won't believe. It's a used bookstore in the tradition of used bookstores.

Readers' Pick
Half Price Books Multiple locations
Tight bunches of bright, sturdy, long-lasting flowers packed in fine glass or pottery vases--the hallmark of the Cebolla arrangement is its dramatic brilliance, and it won't droop before your dinner guests arrive. Cebolla (pronounced se-BOY-yah) also does elegant hatbands, head wreaths and chokers, if you're in an especially "horti" mood. Owners Luit and Jaime Huizenga can create door wreaths and other decorations for occasions festive or somber, at prices ranging from $15 to many thousands (if you've got that much green to spend on posies). And Cebolla sells a full line of gifts, from art glass to candles. It's a great place to turn your money into elegant compost.

Readers' Pick
Dr Delphinium Designs 5806 W. Lovers Lane 214-522-9911 400 NorthPark Center 214-346-9525
You think you're organic? You have no idea what organic is till you come here. Do you wear earth-friendly clothes? Sleep on organic bedding? Use hemp hair care products, aluminum-free deodorant, recycled toilet paper, culture preservation tablecloths, an all-natural oven, buckwheat pillowcases, natural rubber mattresses? Do you have a green baby? Are your sisal baskets from a women's cooperative in Kenya? We rest our case. All the products here reflect the philosophy of owners Michael Johnson and Kate Macauley, who stock consumer products that are biodegradable, recycled, organic, or produced by "socially aware" manufacturers. They offer information about local environmental resources as well. They even have registries for weddings (organic cotton sheets and recycled glassware) and pregnant moms, like "Bummis," cloth diaper covers for that new little environmentalist on the way.

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