Barnes & Noble Preston Royal

Hmm. Tough call. You got your blond woods and Southwestern-looking pastels at Borders. You got your darker woods and warmer feel at Barnes & Noble. And you got pretty much the same damn books, magazines and CDs at any location of the massive chains. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, we say. So instead of picking just one, this year we're giving the prize to a 'hood, Preston Hollow, where a fairly new Barnes & Noble sits catty-corner to a redecorated Borders at Royal Lane and Preston Road. Nothing like a little cutthroat corporate competition between the homogenized purveyors of cultural commodities, we say. Any day now we expect to see highly literate gang tags sprouting up on walls, sprayed there by the competing staffs. Maybe a little Jets and Sharks action between khaki-wearing booksellers too. The best part is, if one store happens to be out of the latest title you crave, it's only a short drive—for God's sake, don't walk—between them, and there's a Starbucks right smack in the middle.

Their name says it. There's nothing like these big, soft, chewy cookies, delivered in elegant gift boxes topped with a Tiffany-blue ribbon. The 2-year-old online-order company was started by mother-daughter team Lynn Berman (who still bakes the goods) and Sara Berman Popek. When Sara had twins, Mom brought more than 1,000 homemade cookies to the hospital, earning fans among the staff and other new mommies. A big hit as client gifts, the company bakes hundreds of dozens daily in Mom's North Dallas home oven, all with no preservatives and no corn syrup. Orders are shipped within 24 hours with a reasonable delivery fee depending on destination. Our fave is the oatmeal, a lacy confection that begs for posh tea. Why send just a card? Order a box of these babies next time you need a quick gift. And get one for yourself. It'll be our secret.

Good Records

Good is the obvious, if unsurprising, choice as Dallas' tops in CD purchasing. The selection is employee-tested, buyer-approved, and the help is top-notch. Want to know what an album sounds like? Ask the help; they'll tell you. Maybe even play it over the store's PA too. Can't find something you want? They'll order it for you—maybe even burn you a copy if they have it stored on the computer behind the register. And best of all, there are the in-store performances that offer the best of the local scene and the indie-est of the acts that come through the region. Why? Because Good Records can, that's why. And the fact that its stage is probably the best on Lowest Greenville, well, that helps too.

Divorce generally brings out the worst in people. So it takes a steady, confident hand to steer the parting parties through what might be the treacherous waters of divorce. As a mediator, Donna Harris has one job: To work the parties and their lawyers toward an out-of-court settlement. Harris is a funny, self-deprecating, larger-than-life Texas gal-friend who serves doughnut holes to jittery clients, makes balloon animals for the kids and knows how to gently nudge divorcing couples toward an agreement that in the long run will save them money. In one day she can settle a case that could go on for months in trial. Her tireless energy is a big piece of her success. She won't quit and won't let the couple quit until they can go no more.

Don't know how Pipe Dream does it. The head shop—which, yes, offers a fine collection of pipes and other tobacco-smoking products too—doesn't stock the widest selection of cigarettes in town, but man, is their selection inexpensive. We're talking a good dollar under market value, sometimes more. And for brand-name smokes, no less. When you're choking down a pack every day—or even every other day—those extra dollars add up. Consider it your backup health insurance plan; you'll need every one of those precious greenbacks when you're paying for your emphysema treatments down the line.

NorthPark Center

In recent months, and certainly since the 2006 expansion of Ray Nasher's white-brick mall, we've discovered there is no such thing as a quick trip to NorthPark. A pit stop in, oh, the Apple store or the Gap turns into a long morning that morphs into an entire day, as suddenly the kiddo discovers the computer in the Dallas Public Library's Bookmarks or the outside garden, which allows for an extended game of tag-and-tackle; then, maybe, the urge to see a movie sets in, but not before grabbing a cup of coffee at the nearby Starbucks; then, of course, there's lunch to be had, either in the food court or Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom or one of the other high-end eateries scattered about the mall; then, a respite in the Bose dark, cool theater-room, where one can digest in surround sound. Then, for the ladies, the day spa—as common in NorthPark as a cop these days. Or, for the men, a shave in the Art of Shaving antique barber's chair, followed by a trip to the day spa, because, really, fella, don't you deserve it? The list of activities is limitless; so too the possibilities of killing a day.

Fry's Electronics

We so wanted to give you the name of some little, unknown gem of a computer store, some super-secret place that only the bearded guys in jumpsuits who wear white socks with sandals know about. No such luck. Turns out the unsurprising secret to good hardware and software deals—besides shopping online—is volume, volume, volume, so the big chain store guy wins again. But not just any Fry's location, since the secret to shopping at a computer megalomart is finding one where you can actually get waited on, since most seem to be staffed by leprechauns—if you can catch a sales rep, pot o' service for you! That doesn't seem to be the case at Fry's ginormous Irving location. Not only have we actually been approached repeatedly by living, breathing sales reps—none of them wearing green top hats or smoking pipes—they've even understood us as we stood among their well-stocked aisles of hard drives, motherboards and networking gear and explained that we're "looking for this, um, doohickey that connects to this whatchacallit that we need to set up our WiFi" and then found us just the right part. Customer service—it's magically delicious.

Avalon Salon

Named a "star stylist" in a recent Allure magazine, Jason Hull believes in curly hair. Rather than iron it, burn it or cut it all off, Hull cuts curly hair in ways that enhance the natural waves and coils. He's also good at teaching clients the secrets of air-drying and product application. At last, a hair stylist who's a friend to frizz, which puts him on the cutting edge.

Eyebrow threading (or epilation) began in the Middle East as a hair-removal method passed down from generation to generation, producing nearly perfect arches quickly and painlessly. (If you've ever seen a Bollywood movie, you know what we're talking about.) The procedure finally made its way to our shores, and now everyone's pretty much heard of it and probably heard how great it is, but no one's sure where to get it done. For the best arch for your buck, put yourself in the trusted hands of David Sance. He can be found a few days a week at the Perry Henderson salon on Oak Lawn and will give you the best-looking eyebrows in the Western Hemisphere. The process takes about five minutes and is more cost-effective, less painful, easier on your skin and more accurate than waxing.

Jane Fonda, Cicely Tyson, Paula Abdul, Rihanna, Michelle Williams—lovely ladies with lashes out to here. They have Ja'Maal Buster to thank for that. He's the eyelash guru who's an in-demand expert at custom tailoring false lashes and applying them with the skill of a fine artist. From Dallas to Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, Buster has built a clientele of celebrities and others who count on him to make eyelashes that no one can tell aren't the real thing. He calls it "art for the eyes." If you're headed for a red carpet or just want a few extra lashes for heavy flirting, Buster's the guy to keep your eye on.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of