Only a real runner can help a runner find the right running shoe. Duncan Cragg, a Dallasite by way of South Africa, is not only a runner extraordinaire, he's an expert on kinesiology and stride and all of that high-tech study-of-movement blah-blah. He'll tell you which styles and brands of shoes you'd need depending on what distances and speeds you're running, then have you put them on and take a jog around the in-store track. He'll analyze your gait and pronation and produce the perfect shoe to further your fleet-footed dreams. Ready, set, go!
Nordstrom at NorthPark
Almost everybody has feet—and if you don't we're sad for you—but there's only one place to go to dress them up for both men and women, and that's Nordstrom. More than $500 to spend on footwear? Come on over and sit next to us, Richie Rich, and we'll tell you all about the Santoni and Ferragamo men's loafers that would look just peachy on you. But don't worry, they have comfortable, stylish pairs for less than $100 or so. Need a pair of strappy, tiger-print pumps? Well, they may not have your size, fella, but for women there are enough brands and styles, in prices ranging from less than $100 to more than you even want to think about, to waste an entire weekend afternoon. Don't let the cheesy piano player fool you: Nordstrom may look intimidating if your idea of fancy shoes is spelled p-a-y-l-e-s-s, but if you look carefully and shop the sales, you can walk out with happy feet wrapped in a pair of super-comfy ECCOs that will last four times as long as those cheap honkers, and that's a bargain.
Elm Street Tattoo
Over the years, Elm Street Tattoo has earned random bits of publicity—on TV, blogs and in rags like this one. But it's not that they needed any, really. Good word of mouth is the biggest prop anyone can give a tattoo shop, and they get plenty from thousands of blissfully inked customers. The shop is home to celebrated Big D tat gun-slinger Oliver Peck (winner of the 2001 Guinness World Record Challenge for most tattoos in 24 hours, mind you), along with skin-prickers Dean Williams, Adam Stewart and Mark Galvan. Peck and company offer tattoos ranging from traditional sailor themes to Dia de los Muertos designs, pin-up art and complex original designs. The crew offers fine detail, topnotch healing advice and a super-clean environment in which to undergo the needle.
Dolly Python
Hey, one man's trash is another's treasure and pleasure—or so we tell ourselves when that hoarding obsession kicks in at Dolly Python. Old toys such as 1950s Erector Sets in the original boxes or Lincoln Logs! Wooden Fisher-Price Little People! Retro tapestry and leather suitcases! Vintage shoes and old books! It's a perfect storm of nostalgia and avarice—or old crap, if you're not the sentimental kind. Among our favorites are the not-quite-perfect paintings of people we don't know, items we truly covet and will, when we have a place larger than a one-bedroom apartment, display in places of honor.
One day there are live football players posing in the shop's windows. On another, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Carly Patterson practically flies through the doors. We know, combining games and gladiolas is about as transcendent as Slice evolving into Sierra Mist. But it sure beats buying roses by the bushel at Sam's. This florist boasts unique arrangements, custom silk designs, wide delivery areas, those popular Wik candles, handmade jewelry and paintings from local artists that say "boutique" more than "strip mall." Their loyalty to local athletes is shown in their promotions. To tie into last year's Allen High School homecoming, shop owner Kim Lee hired team members to pose for a few hours wearing exotic mums in her display window. As for Ms. Patterson, the tumbler apparently craves petals like medals, and she gets her posies here.
Accents Fashion Accessories
If you're looking for a gift for your girlfriend and have no idea what she wants—or for that matter, what any woman wants—Accents is your store. Located in the West Village, the surprisingly affordable boutique sells an array of stylish jewelry that looks artsy but not too artsy, kind of like Scarlett Johansson. The necklaces, which start as low as $19, are striking, including handmade varieties with stones of different colors and shapes. Perhaps best of all, the salespeople can tell you what's in without sounding condescending, which in the boundaries of the haughty West Village ranks as the greatest coup of all.
Pitaya
One of Uptown's pitfalls is that it's easy to feel like a poorly dressed pauper amid the shiny happy people and high-priced merchandise. The great thing about Pitaya is that it looks just as nice as the surrounding stores but doesn't share their inflated prices. There are funky purses, necklaces and earrings and a decent selection of stylish basics that won't have you walking out with nauseating, nail-biting, after-purchase guilt. And while most of the tanks, skirts and T's are in bold, basic colors, there are also some uniquely patterned dresses that remind us of the world's favorite hip discount warehouse: H&M. Hmmm, with Pitaya so nearby, there's no excuse not to spend on trends.
We've been fans of the funky chic duds in Armhole for a long while. When they moved from Lakewood to Uptown we worried, "Oh, no! No more neighborhood friendly!" But we were mistaken. Since the shift in May 2006, the shop has developed an even better, laid-back, customer-friendly vibe. The boutique's casual seduction of our paycheck is sweetened by siblings Ryan and Matt Abbott's ability to remember our names and recommend must-haves, but the solid gold draw for us lies at the T-shirt bar. Armhole offers the fab-fitting American Apparel and Alternative Apparel tees, plus they're always getting new decals to select from. Choose from hair band logos or cursing cartoons, from Dia de los Muertos and glam graphics. They have it all to heat-press while you wait (custom designs are also available for pick up in a few days)...and many in sizes for doggy tees too. Bonus: Hip 'rents will dig the decals perfectly sized for the shop's selection of onesies and infant tees.
Garland Road Thrift
Smelly, cavernous and always too hot or too cold, depending on what'll make you most uncomfortable for the season, Garland Road Thrift is everything a real thrift store ought to be: Kind of a dump and full of great finds. Garland Road Thrift is where tony Lakewood folk and fed-up packrat grandmas get rid of their excess goodies. The prices are clutch-the-pearls low. We found a barely used alligator handbag for $10 and a mink stole for $20. Go through the racks for gems like a strapless velvet cocktail dress or pin-striped blazer. And do not miss the wall-to-wall housewares section, perfect for anyone seeking to complete their beer stein, gold-plated animal statue or hand-painted teacup collections. If it floats your boat or came over from the Old Country in one, it's probably for sale at Garland Road Thrift.
Throughout this Best of Dallas issue you'll no doubt find a dozen or so entries for NorthPark Center retailers, and why not, as the recent addition has turned the swell into the swellegant. But our kiddo has but two great loves in the new wing: Teavana, because he inexplicably loves him a hot MattéVana, and Puzzle Zoo, the California-based toy store with four locations, ours being the sole spot outside of the Golden State, lucky us. The place seems small, but it's packed with everything imaginable for the kid or the kid within: hundreds of Star Wars action figures and toys (some of which came from old Target and Wal-Mart racks, upping their rare factor), educational doodads for those more inclined toward the learnin', up-to-the-second movie tie-ins, PixelBlocks and puzzles, remote-controlled extravaganzas and penny-ante whatchamacallits your parents played with when they were kids. And the rich geek can walk back to the glass cases lining the back walls to gaze at the really expensive toys. Speaking of, how much is Dr. McCoy's tricorder again? Oh, that much.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of