We should probably just throw in the towel and call this one Best Used Bookstore of All Time on Northwest Highway East of Central and be done with it. If you purchase more than one book a year, you already know about this heavenly, musty smelling place with shelf after shelf of half-priced (or less) paperbacks and hardbacks. You know it's the biggest and best-stocked bookstore, used or new, and includes a good choice of vinyl records and cheap software. If you're like us and read two or three books a week, you also know that Half Price might not have exactly the volume you want, but will certainly offer something you didn't know you wanted. Book-wise, even the consolation prizes are gems, so there's no losing at Half Price. (Unless, perhaps, you use the men's room. Seriously, Half Price, fix that.) Consider this fact: Between reselling what we had read and careful shopping, we were able to stretch a $50 Christmas gift card through almost three months of reading this winter. That's a hint, by the way.
You can stock the Italian kitchen of your dreams from the imported pastas, wines and cheeses lining the racks at Jimmy's, but the real show's in back, under the bright industrial lighting over the meat counter. This is where Jimmy's works its magic, manned by a crew that knows and appreciates the edible animal. Take a bite of the Italian Stallion, a sandwich fat with seven kinds of meat and two cheeses, and there'll be no doubting this 50-year-old family joint's credentials as a meat-lover's paradise. How else do you explain the pig's head in the display case sculpted entirely of ground meat?
When we've already blown our budget on furniture groups, window treatments or limited-edition prints by local artists, then the first place we start our hunt for reasonably priced accents to properly round out a room is The Consignment Solution. The shop's large showroom always seems to be filled with new treasures. On its website is the boast: "We sell 85 percent of our pieces within 60 days." But, other than the fantastic deals we've found on mirrors, lamps and vases, the main reason we frequent the Lakewood spot is that it isn't nearly as cluttered as most consignment shops. They've left plenty of room between the bars, chairs, chests and desks, so that you're not falling over a couch just to get a peek at the price tag on a table lamp.
This August, Dallas mourned the passing of its oldest and most iconic health food store with the closing of Roy's Nutrition Center in Preston Royal Village, caused by the retirement of founding guru Roy Beard, who put terms like wheat germ and bean sprouts in the vocabulary of folks in these here parts. So what does that leave? Whole Foods, the mega-giant health food store whose bigness in size, number and price, seems to defy human scale. Whole Foods does have the Whole enchilada, from organic produce to grass-fed beef to vitamins and nutritional supplements. But it's in this last category that we must defer to a David facing this Goliath. Remember Sundrops on Oak Lawn? You've probably been there at some time or another over the last 35 years. Owner Mark Herrin has kept the thing going since its infancy, and along with other nutritionists and a dietician, will dispense vitamins, supplements and advice for the ills that haunt modern man and woman. Sans café for the last 10 years, there is no produce and no overabundant salad bar, just a high-quality array of substances as well as counseling from those officially versed in the complexities of nutrition. They can recommend stuff to get your diet supplemented, your bones moving and your metabolism off slow burn. Sundrops offers a "30 Minute Free Nutrition Consult" with a professional nutritionist. And in an era where personal service means do-it-yourself, the small, intimate store is a rarity and a gift.
The shop in Lakewood takes eclectic to a whole different level. Run by Forbidden Books and Video founder Jason Cohen and his antique-dealer mom Terry, this quaint repository of collectible treasures mixes antiques, folk art and delicious finds they've culled from flea markets and estate sales. We've wasted—make that invested—hours investigating what's between the walls here. You can find Mad Men-era chairs and lamps or marvel at the weirdness of the found art, tramp art and bizarre religious items (think Jesus framed in bottle caps). When you're craving a strange objet, this place is the answer to your prayers.
Our critics—i.e. people who read us regularly—often talk as though the Observer staff was composed entirely of weed-smoking, band T-shirt wearing, consignment-store-shopping hippie hipsters. In reality, that description is only true for about 85 percent of our staff. The rest of us are Pottery Barn-catalog-reading, overpriced-shoe-wearing, shiny-bauble-loving consumerists just like most of Dallas. Frankly, we don't want to pay good money for that scuffed-up, rump-sprung couch that your Uncle Fred farted into for years, even if it does resemble something from the set of Mad Men. That's one reason we furniture shop at Z Gallerie (the other reason being that we're married to a grown-up). Sure, it's a chain, but it's a chain that offers modern designs in cool, calm, tasteful colors and materials. No cheesy plaids, no ridiculously overstuffed chairs with handles sticking out the sides. Just sleek, comfortable furniture and a wide variety of accessories to dress up your grown-up home at prices that won't make you pass out—much. The hipsters may snicker, but a least we're not stealing postal crates to build bookshelves anymore.
There's no helpless feeling quite like bubble-wrapping your $3,000 SLR camera, dropping it in a mailbox and hoping for the best. With any luck, the package won't be lost, soaked through in the rain or smashed to pieces when some pill-popping long-haul driver bites it careening downhill through the Rockies. Easier, then, to drive yourself to Garland, explain what's wrong and get your camera back in one piece the next day. You'll have to lean over the counter and crane your neck for a look at the mysterious repairman in the back—the man works with machines, not people—but the staff up front will be friendly enough, chatting about their latest photo exploits or one of the antique cameras in the glass case, so it'll hardly even hurt to hand over your camera.