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  • BEST 12-STEP PROGRAM FOR PLANT KILLERS

    They're the Betty Fords of high-profile plant destroyers, the ICU nurses of wilting foliage, the Anne Sullivans of green thumbism. Got a bad habit of ruining houseplants, garden flowers, or vegetables? Never cared about growing anything besides a marijuana plant that withered away your freshman year? Join the line of plant neophytes at Garden City. The shop--in the long, skinny,… More >>
  • BEST ADULT VIDEO STORE

    Honey, this ain't San Francisco: You can't just saunter into any old adult video store and ask the clerks for some Nina Hartley film, or the instructional anal video Bend Over Boyfriend, and expect them to know what you're talking about. In this town, progressivism and funky sex are supposed to sit firmly on opposite sides of a clear Plexiglas… More >>
  • BEST BABY GOODS STORE (NEW)

    As one new mom recently explained to a mom-to-be, "They've just got all those things you didn't know you needed until you saw them." And it's true. There are more unusual--and unusually irresistible--items crammed into this converted Grand Avenue Victorian than can be found at the average superstore. Chances are you won't be able to tear yourself away from the… More >>
  • BEST BABY GOODS STORE (USED)

    So you're expecting. Or maybe your little bundle of joy has just checked in. In either case, you may be figuring out that nobody warned you, back when you were blithely tossing away your birth control devices, how much stuff a single human baby requires. Or--more likely to send you roaring back to the rearmost aisle at Walgreen's--how much said… More >>
  • BEST BAIT SHOP

    Wedged between Supermercado Las Americas and the Hickory Hut, Hayes Tackle Plus seems, at first blush, a touch out of place on this battered stretch of East Lake Street. But the little bait shop has been an important neighborhood institution since its founding back in the '50s. Among other things, Tackle Plus has afforded generations of carless anglers an invaluable… More >>
  • BEST BARBER SHOP

    "I had a two-chair operation, until the ponytail deprived me of the one man I had," says Bryce Menard, the 77-year-old proprietor of one of South Minneapolis's oldest and smallest barber shops. There's precious little fanciness in Menard's one-seater, though it possesses the definitive elements of the classic barber shop: the candy-stripe pole, the ever-playing radio (generally tuned to the… More >>
  • BEST BIKE SHOP

    These days, the word hippie is about as fashionable an adjective as, say, socialist or Midwestern, but that's not going to stop us from declaring Freewheel Bicycle the best damn hippie bike shop in town. Not hippie as in retrograde fashions and patchouli oil, but as in building a business on a lifestyle-centric social cause that would be embarrassing at… More >>
  • BEST BODY PIERCING

    There are a number of fine parlors in town where you can be pierced by a pro, but the Bionic Laboratory stands out among them for its relatively serene atmosphere, helpful staff, and wide variety of body jewelry. You'll notice the difference immediately upon entering: This place doesn't look or feel like a torture chamber. Owner/piercer Jamie Ross says her… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (NEW)

    To sidestep the You've Got Mail, independent-versus-chain morality quagmire, City Pages turned to the scientific method. A single day's calls to the Twin Cities' top general bookstores (and one online merchant) checked the availability of a current bestseller (Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation); the 1989 debut by a local novelist (Thomas King's Medicine River); a baby shower standby (Anne Lamott's… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (USED)

    There are two arenas of culture in which the Twin Cities bests New York without dispute: terrible performance art, and great used bookstores. Lien's, on Ninth Street off the Nicollet Mall, has for decades provided a clean, well-lighted place to look for nice and/or rare volumes in a kindly atmosphere. Down the block, James and Laurie Booksellers also boasts a… More >>
  • BEST BRIDAL VEILS

    At most bridal salons the main event is the dress. Your veil is considered an accessory, like your shoes and your jewelry, and so the bride-to-be usually gets led over to a rack of 20 or so assorted prefab headpieces and hurried to choose one then and there. Veils are the raison d'être for Che Bella's Jen Bresee and Jennifer… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (NEW)

    The record store clerk is that most daunting of public servants, scowling petulantly at your humble intrusion, sneering at your poor taste in recorded commodities. Yet the knowledgeable staff at the Fetus (a cross-section of local musicians, pundits, DJs, and sundry scenemakers) has the wherewithal to answer as stupid a question as you can offer up, without laughing in your… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (USED)

    Where would those of us whose need to consume, own, and collect exceeds our ability to earn, save, or budget be if not for the desperate addicts and promo-laden music journalists who stock Cheapo's bins? The old Best Buy location into which Cheapo recently relocated retains a slightly off-putting utilitarian vibe--the new store hasn't grown into its mammoth proportions just… More >>
  • BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKSTORE

    Once upon a time, in a land called Linden Hills, there was a children's bookstore named Wild Rumpus. It had a kid-sized door for kids and a grown-up-sized door for grown-ups, and books, books, books, as far as the eye could see. Book lovers young and old would come from miles around, even if a chain store was closer, because… More >>
  • BEST CIGAR SHOP/TOBACCONIST

    For those who sell smokes, it's been an ugly year. First the state slapped suppliers with a precedent-setting lawsuit, then the cigar craze peaked, giving way to martini bars, '50s music, and swing dancing. To top it off, another wave of health "experts" conspired to rain on the fun. Still, the folks at Lewis Pipe & Tobacco, a downtown staple… More >>
  • BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP

    There's nothing wrong with Dreamhaven. They sell comic books and zines and sundry erotica and they do it well. But Big Brain Comics, just off Nicollet Mall, makes the comics world appealingly habitable for humans. To start, the store feels incredibly spacious, with its 20-foot ceilings and handsome wood floors. Retail is a matter of creating a pleasing product environment;… More >>
  • BEST COMPUTER REPAIR SERVICE

    It is 3:00 in the morning. Your eyes are red-rimmed. Your hands are jittery from too much java (or too much Java, as the case may be). Deadline: 9:00 a.m. Suddenly, a message of alphanumeric technobabble informs you that your system has crashed. Who to call? Chances are your computer manufacturer's so-called support hotline will politely inform you to call… More >>
  • BEST DOLLAR STORE

    Although the inventory changes from week to week, this branch is more consistently stocked with practical items than its toy-filled cousins. Big Dollar always has lots of candles, dishrags, baking tins, picnic supplies, kitchen accessories, Tupperware look-alikes, toiletries, art materials, and cleaning agents. Sure, you'll get the sweetest deals on knockoffs like Fabulous (instead of Fantastik), but you can also… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (AUDIOPHILE)

    On the night we visited, Frank Sinatra's "Embraceable You" was booming out of a PS Audio CD player and a Pass Labs amp wired to B&W speakers with eel-sized MIT cabling--and we were damn near given to wonder whether ol' Blue Eyes had come back from the dead. Many other such close encounters of the recorded kind can be had… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (PROLETARIAN)

    The biggest development in prole-level electronics during the last year is the new affordability of the DVD player and its sibling tool, the Dolby Digital amp. Thus, our choice for last year's best-budget A/V outlet--the warehouse warhorse Best Buy--retains the title because of its ties to the more reliable manufacturers of low-priced home theater toys: Yamaha, Aiwa, Pioneer, and Nakamichi.… More >>
  • BEST FLORIST

    Six stops into our rounds of Twin Cities flower shops, the suspicion hit us that some false advertising was afoot. If you happen to be in search of plastic swags, metallic balloons, or pseudo-Victorian cherubim, there are dozens of so-called florists who'll suit your needs. And the fake silk flowers! You could stuff a mall with them. Here in our… More >>
  • BEST FLORIST (WEDDING DIVISION)

    All right, the Cities are chock full of excellent florists, and most people in the bridal industry seem unwilling to narrow "the best" below a list of four or five. But flip through any issue of Minnesota Bride and pick out the most striking bouquets; we'll bet they were designed by Wisteria's owner, Russell Toscano. The buoyant Toscano thinks in… More >>
  • BEST FOREIGN FILMS RENTALS

    Subtitled "Videos from Around the World" on the painted mural that adorns its outside wall, this truly international tape outlet is also a local treasure. We nearly flipped when we found Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Puppetmaster during a recent visit, and the many other ultrararities here include something for everyone from just about everywhere: Spain, Poland, Yugoslavia, France, Israel, Sweden, Russia,… More >>
  • BEST GUITAR SHOP

    So you just gotta have a super rare 1963 Custom Telecaster? Well, too bad. The fellas over at Willie's unloaded that gem a few months ago (for $20,000, according to one store employee). But no worry, the Twin Cities' finest guitar shop has plenty of other vintage axes to choose from, with enough variety to satisfy even the most esoteric… More >>
  • BEST GUN SHOP

    After working for 30 years as a chemical engineer at 3M, arms enthusiast Bill Penney drew up plans for a state-of-the-art gun shop to be built just a few minutes away from downtown Minneapolis. His blueprints included an impenetrable security system, roomy aisles, high ceilings, ample counter space for display, underground parking, and a range featuring 22 shooting lanes. Since… More >>
  • BEST HARDWARE STORE

    There, writ large in mottled paint on the side of a semitrailer laid to rest in the back parking lot, Seven Corners Ace Hardware sings its own praises: "The only thing we don't have is floor space." Couldn't say it much better ourselves, except to detail what's taking up room inside. For starters, the first floor's bragging list includes Minnesota's… More >>
  • BEST HOBBY SHOP

    Can't find that metal die cast, 1:18 scale model of a 1947 black Cadillac ragtop convertible you've been looking for? It's here at the Hub Hobby Center, along with everything else the hard-core hobbyist needs. The expansive Richfield store features aisle upon aisle of goodies for model citizens and anyone who's seriously--or just casually--into radio-controlled cars, boats, and planes. You'll… More >>
  • BEST JUNKYARD

    Owner Steve Lang likes to say that he operates the smallest junkyard in the country. If there's a smaller one, the 25-year veteran of the grease and rust biz hasn't heard about it. But don't be deceived by size; there are more than 25,000 transmissions, carburetors, heater cores, and other automotive detritus crammed into his one-third acre lot, centrally located… More >>
  • BEST LATE LIQUOR RUN

    Throughout a big chunk of the metro area, off-sale liquor stores close at the Victorian hour of 8:00 p.m. on weekdays. Get serious: How are we to survive after another round in the urban pressure-cooker without a late-night stiff one to wind us down? A Minnesota state statute, 340A.504, specifies an 8:00 p.m. closing time for booze shops, unless--and here's… More >>
  • BEST LAUNDROMAT

    There are Spin Cycle franchises in this city with more modern conveniences--you know, TVs, computerized vending machines, Internet hookups, cloning in the back room. Vend-a-Wash doesn't have all that, but its advantages are legion nonetheless: It's got the best hours around--24/7/365; the standard laundromat amenities--soap and change machines, folding tables, a sink for hand-washing; prices you can't beat (washers run… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER

    Unlike a certain local technology company which shall remain nameless, Bitstream Underground is short on hype but long on substance. In 1994, with only a Mac and two 14.4 modems, owner Michael Koppelman launched Bitstream Underground as a BBS for Twin Cities musicians and artists. What was once a basement empire has grown into a full-fledged business, with everything from… More >>
  • BEST MEDICAL ADVICE & MISO

    The most virulent and mean-spirited strain of the common cold invariably strikes as the weekend approaches, when doctors are out on the golf course and clinics are closed. And so, a sniffling sneezing coughing mess, we like to drag ourselves in to United Noodles late on a Friday afternoon, to find help near the rice and tea section (across from… More >>
  • BEST MUSIC STORE

    Mom-and-pop musical instrument retailers had good reason to be nervous when this Florida-based chain moved into Minnesota earlier this year. After all, MARS founder and CEO Mark Begelman presided over the spectacular growth of Office Depot in the mid-'90s, one of the defining successes of the burgeoning superstore movement. Loath though we are to admit it, the superstore concept is… More >>
  • BEST NURSERY

    There are gardeners, and then there are plantspeople. The former include, to judge from the statistics, most of us--folks who've jumped on a national outdoor-hobby bandwagon in the past decade or so. We're the planters of marigolds, the clippers of spirea, the nurturers of Colorado blue spruce; we might experiment with a variegated maple, a tufted hairgrass, but that's about… More >>
  • BEST OF EVERYTHING

    At 92, "Tiger" Jack Rosenbloom is one of St. Paul's great living entrepreneurs--if only for his dogged refusal to change with the times. Operating out of a squat, cramped eight-by-ten-foot shack in the hardscrabble neighborhood just off the Dale Street exit from I-94, Rosenbloom sells a quirky mélange of merchandise: chips, pop, charcoal, candy, and hickory chips. The shop is… More >>
  • BEST OUTFITTER

    Founded 25 years ago by identical twins and Edina residents Ted and Bud Burger, this giant outdoors retailer offers just about all the high-end fishing, hunting, and camping paraphernalia imaginable--a veritable Saks Fifth Avenue for the camo crowd. Say, for instance, you wanna spend a night out on a frozen lake in mid-January. Burger Brothers can meet your needs lickety-split… More >>
  • BEST PAPER STORE

    Downtown Minneapolis's impressive Paper Depot might have an edge as far as prices go, but for customer service Paper Source wins by a ream. Manager Joni Wheeler (who seems to always be on hand) will know you by name after your third visit to the store. The staff (who all seem to really, really, really love paper) are eager to… More >>
  • BEST PAWNSHOP

    One doesn't usually think of pawnshops as clean, well-lighted places, but at Pawn America, they are. The locally based chain is working not just to succeed in business, but to remake the pawnshop as a secondhand superstore where you can buy goods almost-as-good-as-new for a fraction of the retail cost. Inside you'll find stacks of VCRs, TVs, CD and tape… More >>
  • BEST PET FOOD, LOCALLY MADE

    Just because you're addicted to additives (c'mon, we know you turned right to the Best French Fries category) doesn't mean your pet has to get fat on fake food flavored with meat meal, bone meal, or bone by-products. Ward Johnson, owner of Sojourner Farms, has developed and is marketing all-natural dog and cat foods that will give your best friend… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BUY VINYL (NEW AND USED)

    Yep, a double winner. You might be nostalgic for the dropping-the-needle ritual, you might be a DJ, or you might just be looking for cheap music. In any case, you've decided that records rule. But where to go? If you want a sealed copy of Sham 69's classic punk record Tell Us the Truth, go to Roadrunner Records. If you… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR NAILS DONE

    Tame hearts might settle for the subtle French manicure, but why bother? You might as well stay home with a clear-polish-and-cuticle kit watching Ally McBeal and wondering why the phone never rings. This shop is for grown-up girls who won't settle for nails that whisper. These nails are for sophisticated ladies who want their hands to testify. We witnessed one… More >>
  • BEST RESOURCE FOR NEW HOMEOWNERS

    Not only will these fine folks sell you a century-old door at a plebeian cost (unlike most local "salvage" centers), they'll teach you how to hang it. Or how to install windows. Or insulation. Or lay tile. Or refinish floors. All those improvements you thought were minor, simple repairs when you bought your early American barn but can't fathom surviving… More >>
  • BEST SIGN THAT SERVICE CAN BE WORTH THE MONEY

    Okay, so it's a big national department store chain. But examples of how Nordstrom has improved our lives are legion. Consider the plight of the City Pages staffer whose father absolutely had to have a size ten pair of Teva sandals for Christmas. What with a 40-below wind-chill whipping through the megamall's cavernous parking ramps, nary a retailer was offering… More >>
  • BEST SPORTING GOODS STORE

    Since moving into the Twin Cities' market three years ago, this Plainfield, Indiana-based retailer has introduced the superstore model to the sporting goods business on a scale unrivaled by local competitors. With a vast inventory that runs the gamut from lacrosse sticks to free weights to backboards to boxing gloves to duck boats to skateboards, there's little in the way… More >>
  • BEST TATTOO PARLOR

    With an M.F.A. and a needle in hand, Ink Lab owner David Dettloff began making skin art about six years ago in Madison, Wisconsin. He opened his shop in Uptown after moving to Minneapolis during the "modern primitive" trend's peak in the mid-'90s, and the Ink Lab has since become renowned throughout the Cities for both tattoos and piercings. Drop… More >>
  • BEST TENNIS SUPPLY

    You could follow the pack to the newest superstore to buy the latest, lightest titanium racket, but they're not going to let you take a few home for a test drive. They're not going to cut a deal on the synthetic strings or the state-of-the-art sneakers. Heck, they won't even throw in a can of balls. Worse, they're not going… More >>
  • BEST THRIFT STORE

    In a faraway and distant land located somewhere on the Minneapolis-Columbia Heights border sits the Unique Thrift Store. Time loses all meaning when you pass through the doors of this kindly lit establishment and breathe in the musty, dusty air: It's as if you've fainted and awakened in your crazy grandmother's treasure-filled attic. With its constantly rotating stock of clothes… More >>
  • BEST TOY STORE

    If you're raising one of the painters, architects, chemists, or poets of tomorrow, you shouldn't miss the fun and educational stuff at this perennial parental favorite. For the prepubescent Picasso, there's a dazzling array of art supplies (the raw but promising pink-and-green self-portraits that occasionally hang about the premises are entries in a store-sponsored art contest). For the aspiring engineer,… More >>
  • BEST USED APPLIANCES

    Morgan Wolfe, general manager for this publicly held company's Twin Cities stores (there are outlets in Bloomington, Fridley, and St. Paul as well), says a semi rolls into the parking lot on Excelsior almost daily: "We don't know what's going to be on it, so every time we open the trailer it's like Christmas." Since Appliance$mart deals in product that's… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE (CHEAPER THAN DIRT)

    An occasional find lurks among the overpriced items on the main floor, but bargains abound in the basement. If you must have something to sit on and can't afford to be picky, you won't walk out empty-handed. Couches usually number around 50, and an equal herd of stuffed chairs can be found nearby (with this selection, you might even be… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE (VINTAGE)

    For more than a decade, Antiques Minnesota has been the vintage furniture emporium of choice for hard-core I've-been-looking-for-this-bedroom-set-all-my-life! shoppers. The weekday hours here pretty much preclude casual perusing by the first-shift working class (10:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Tuesday), but the sheer volume of merchandise, with some 90 dealers plying their wares, makes the lunchtime trip… More >>
  • BEST USED INSTRUMENTS

    Of this national chain's 12 Minnesota locations, its Uptown Minneapolis haunt stands out in the hearts of wanna-be rockers due to its unique emphasis on guitars, keyboards, and drums. Music Go Round, owned by the same folks behind Computer Renaissance, offers a 15 percent consignment on select items, a twentysomething staff of enthusiastic noodlers ("We all play and we're all… More >>
  • BEST VIDEO RENTAL

    The best video store in the Twin Cities doesn't earn the distinction through user-friendliness: Discount's defiantly unalphabetized holdings (including 12,500 titles at last check) are arranged in such subgeneric categories as "Gang Action" (e.g., Mean Streets), "Epic Action" (The Crow), "Crime Action" (Pulp Fiction), and "Spy Action" (Mission: Impossible)--which maybe make sense but hardly help the nonbrowser to find what… More >>
  • BEST VINTAGE CLOTHING STORE

    Anyone who shops vintage with any frequency knows that some stores are stocked for Twiggies with waists the size of a Bic pen. Not Lula. And some stores stink like a damp attic or sour dry-cleaning vat. Not Lula, where all of the clothes are laundered and steamed before they go up on the racks. Best of all, the duds--mostly… More >>
  • BEST WEDDING INVITATIONS

    Wedding invitations in boxes, baby announcements in tubes, thank-you notes like little books, and Christmas cards bordered with pine needles. Artists Rory Sparks and Kirstie Zahansky's goal is to design your cards so that people will know instantly they're from you--mainly by interviewing you at length to discern your wishes and personality. From there, they use handmade paper, seals, stamps,… More >>
  • BEST WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER

    Here's a fun game: Let anyone in the wedding business ask who your photographer is, tell her it's Hilary Bullock, and watch her eyes pop out and listen as she crows, "Oh...Hilary. She's the best!" No small part of her reputation comes from her presence; with an easy warmth she turns stiff and nervous portrait subjects into seasoned models. At… More >>
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