Asia World Market
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.
Mustang Barber Shop
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.
Home Depot
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.
Borders Books & Music West Village
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'.
Everything But Water @ NorthPark Center
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.
Good Records
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.
Apple Store
There are plenty of computer stores in town. Say you're an I.T. geek and you like to build your computers from scratch. Then Fry's is the place for you. But if you're like the rest of us, you want your computers simple, like plug it in and hit the button simple. And, if possible, you want your computers cool. Unless you've been living on another planet, you know that Apple pretty much has the lock-down on both simple and cool when it comes to computers. And there is no cooler place to buy a computer, or an iPhone that just dropped in price by $200 (yes!), than the Apple Store on Knox Street. Frosted glass doors, hardwood shelving, a black-clad staff that looks straight out of Banana Republic. Plus, the service is excellent, and the gadgets are so very cool. Calling the technicians "geniuses," however? Not so cool.
Reventé Upscale Resale
Stores filled with faded jeans and worn T's are fine, but sometimes you need a quick stop-and-shop to score something you could actually wear to some snazzy function. Reventé is moderately sized and well-organized, which limits the swoon factor. And it's full of well-maintained clothes ranging from shirts and pants that fit into the business casual category to suits and skirts and hot little dresses you could wear on a night out. The salespeople are accommodating and know the merch. No digging through piles of thrift store threads. This boutique is an old-fashioned dress shop (with accessories too) full of gently worn outfits to fit any budget.

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