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  • BEST 'DALE

    Unidale Mall

    You can have your stinking Ridgedale, Rosedale, Brookdale, and all those other shopping palaces that so arbitrarily affix "dale" to their names. The Unidale Mall comes by its moniker honestly: It sits at the corner of St. Paul's University and Dale Avenues. At some 70,000 square feet, Unidale can hardly compete with its glitzy suburban counterparts in volume or variety.… More >>
  • BEST ARCHITECTURAL SALVAGE

    Their business card reads "Architectural Elements and Other Cool Stuff," and that's just what you get--everything from claw-foot tubs and old lamps to antique music stands and candlesticks. They've got doors, and they've got doorknobs. Stained-glass windows. Furniture. Pianos, even. All in a low-key, unintimidating setting. The place has been open a little more than a year, reports co-owner Scott… More >>
  • BEST ART SUPPLIES

    Wet Paint's

    Some might be drawn to bargain-basement deals at chain stores, but let's face it, these are the same people who buy all their shoes at Foot Locker. For the rest of us, there's Wet Paint. Why spend the slight amount of extra money and brave the no-elbow-room narrow aisles of this filled-to-bursting corner art shop? Because nowhere else in the… More >>
  • BEST BABY GOODS STORE

    Burlington Coat Factory

    Tucked away in an odd loft way in back, the baby goods department of this discount store has a lot of the same stuff as those upscale boutiques, but at a fraction of the cost. Nursery furniture, strollers, highchairs, gliders, bath seats--egads, the list is endless. Everything's first-quality, not discontinued or out of date, and it's all selected by a… More >>
  • BEST BARBER SHOP

    Boike

    Is it less than manly to spend more than $15 on a haircut? The answer to that question is a qualified yes. For while it is indeed inappropriate for folks with a Y chromosome to drop a double sawbuck for a haircut and not get change, men who go to only one barber get their hair cut all the time.… More >>
  • BEST BED & BREAKFAST

    Mrs B's Historic Lanesboro Inn

    Regardless of whether B&Bs represent the middle-class rendition of hourly motels, they're an institution in this state, and especially in sleepy Lanesboro, where no fewer than ten quaint inns compete for the attentions of romance-seeking travelers. Of those ten, none is more genuinely comfy and historically sound than Mrs. B's, an old favorite whose business methods have been updated hardly… More >>
  • BEST BIKE SHOP

    Freewheel Bike shop

    Sure, you could scour the classifieds, glide from garage sale to estate sale, or wait for the snow to fall and the prices to drop at the nearest chain. But if you're seriously looking for a new ride, take a spin over to Freewheel. The laid-back, worker-owned store on Minneapolis's West Bank has competitive prices on a dozen major brands.… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (NEW)

    Ruminator

    Gawd, how we hate that name. But as any Gertrude Stein aficionado knows, a rose is a rose is a rose. So forgive proprietor David Unowsky the shameless commercial move of selling the moniker Hungry Mind into the bondage of e-commerce, and be grateful this place continues to exist. As we all know, if the Borders/Barnes & Noble/Amazon.com triumvirate had… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (USED)

    Magers & Quinn Booksellers

    A used bookstore's charm is directly correlative to the amount of time you can dissipate in finding the book you've entered with the intent of purchasing. We've whittled away more hours than we care to calculate among the stacks of this perennial Twin Cities favorite. Still, we've noticed that we almost always emerge carrying whatever it was we were looking… More >>
  • BEST BUMPER STICKERS

    Northern Sun

    Perversely, as undemonstrative as we Twin Citians are, there's something about this place that breeds the impulse to express our politically correct selves on our automobiles. When you see a vehicle belonging to such a bumper-sticker aficionado, you can be pretty sure he or she stocked up at Northern Sun. Prices are quite reasonable ($1.75 per; cheaper if you buy… More >>
  • BEST CAR WASH

    Jiffy

    This is decidedly not the place for the person who thinks of his car as an extension of himself. You know, the guy who spends all day Sunday polishing each piece of plastic with a special plastic-detailing rag. The rest of us go to Jiffy and get on with our lives. For $11, the good folks at this car wash… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (CLASSICAL)

    Cheapo

    As more and more music buyers are turning to the Internet to save money or track down obscure titles, it seems that the selection in most retail outlets is getting thinner, especially when it comes to genres outside the Top 40. You might not that think that a store in Uptown--the Twin Cities' nexus of alternative-leaning rock--would be a natural… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (NEW)

    Electric Fetus

    The reputation of this local retail landmark (and multiple Best-of winner) precedes it. Yes, staffers at the Fetus still know everything--or, at the very least, a hell of a lot more than you know--about records. (And if they don't, they'll fess up.) Yes, the shop still stocks a blindingly eclectic and infinitely tasteful selection of CDs, vinyl, cassettes, and videos.… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (USED)

    This, the newest jewel in the Cheapo crown, gets the nod over the other branches by virtue of its varied catalog. Which, of course, comes courtesy of its proximity to an enormous college campus. Oh, to be young again, to have the energy for romance, hard partying, and cutting class to buy CDs with someone else's money! God only knows… More >>
  • BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKSTORE

    wild rumpus books

    How much fun can a child possibly have in a bookstore? We guarantee that a visit to this Linden Hills shop will result in a joyful noise. Kids enter Alice-in-Wonderland style through a child-size purple door, behind which awaits a wacky menagerie--including a dovecote, caged songbirds, napping cats, and one plucky chicken. There's a haunted house (go there to find… More >>
  • BEST COOKING CLASSES

    Kitchen Window

    The salespeople at Kitchen Window were so excited last winter when this cooking school opened one floor up from the retail store that they would occasionally give customers impromptu tours of the facility. The airy, state-of-the-art 1,200-square-foot classroom is stunning indeed, decorated in blond woods and neoindustrial stainless steel, with a 32-foot island that seats 20 people, and a sound… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (AUDIOPHILE)

    Having topped our high-end knob-twiddling category for six years straight, this longtime audiophile fave (est. 1951) continues to distinguish itself through its smart and friendly salespeople and its highly discerning manner of maintaining an upscale inventory. Brands of choice include Pass Labs, VTL, B&W, Lexicon, and Proton--none to be found at the corporate warehouses. If you come in seeking the… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (PROLETARIAN)

    Best Buy

    The overripe neon interior of this warehouse warhorse bespeaks base consumerism at its most vulgar. Best Buy wants to corner the market on everything: not just TVs and VCRs and computers and phones and CDs and DVDs, but furniture, fridges, vacuum cleaners, and, um, books. All the better if you can duck in and out quickly, perhaps after scouring the… More >>
  • BEST EYEGLASSES SHOP

    Downtown Eyes

    They'll never let you out of this nondescript downtown Minneapolis emporium wearing an ill-fitting or unbecoming pair of shades. The staff simply won't permit it. Located on Ninth Street since 1991 and owned by optometrist-in-residence Dr. Robert Toomey, Downtown Eyes carries all the hot brands but none of the attitude. Specs designed by Calvin Klein, Armani, DKNY, BCBG, and Lafont… More >>
  • BEST FABRIC STORE

    Dell's

    "They have the best buttons." In cloth-loving circles, its like a mantra. To some, this may seem like no big deal. But no one wants to take the time to make something by hand only to spoil it by attaching any old buttons. Still, Dell's not merely about buttons. Whether you're planning to sew your own wedding dress or reupholster… More >>
  • BEST FLEA MARKET

    Medina's

    Beginning the first Sunday in May, the Medina's parking lot is jammed with treasure hunters, junk dealers, and regular folks who just like to rifle through other people's stuff. There's a little bit of everything here: antique furniture, vintage bicycles, handmade birdhouses, all kinds of toys, kitchenware, books and records, tools, musical instruments (it's not too difficult to coax a… More >>
  • BEST FLORIST

    Few shops, florists' or otherwise, are as instantly enticing as this one. First you glimpse the little storefront just south of Excelsior Boulevard, decorated with aluminum pails filled with lanky pussy willow stems. Then you walk inside and are immediately embraced by a rushing floral scent, caressed by the moist air and lush greenery. It's very nearly overwhelming: refrigerators filled… More >>
  • BEST GARDEN CENTER

    Frilly coleus. Freaky lilies. Heavy-duty hoses. Tons of mulch, manure, and meals. Bamboo plant stakes. Papyrus. Sundials. Cedar trellises. Herbs (santolina, curry, basil, lavender, thyme) up the wazoo. Ferns. Purple waterproof gloves. Pond liners. Fountain pumps. Northern Lights azaleas. A weather-wizened vinehouse. Watering wands. Bulbs. Silver hummingbird feeders. Gold-twigged dogwoods. A surplus of seed packs. A plethora of pines. Clay… More >>
  • BEST HARDWARE STORE

    Settergren's Hardware

    These days hardware stores come in two shapes. On one side are the home-improvement superstores where you can buy pretty much anything you need, assuming you're able to find it. Every foray into one of these is an adventure in the retail wilderness; you might wander in on Tuesday looking for a set of screwdrivers and emerge--slightly dazed and much… More >>
  • BEST HEAD SHOP

    Know-Name Records

    Head shops don't want to be called head shops anymore. "Smoke shop" is the term currently preferred--at least according to the fellow working the counter at the venerable south Minneapolis head shop Know-Name Records. A warning sign posted near the dizzying array of paraphernalia says it all: "These items are intended for herbal smoking mixtures, tobacco or snuff. Any reference… More >>
  • BEST HOBBY SHOP

    Scale Model Supplies

    The Hub Hobby Center in Little Canada is a little more well-rounded: There are kites and crystal radio sets to entertain spouses and children who don't know HO scale from a hole in the ground, and nice carpeting. But if you want to look through more models than a hundred people can build in a lifetime, go to Scale Model… More >>
  • BEST HOTEL

    Hyatt Whitney

    The most crucial test of a hotel comes the moment you walk through the front entrance. In the space of that instant, a discerning guest will be able to tell whether this is a place that is going to take care of him. The Hyatt Whitney passes this test with ease. Attentive bell captains hold open the doors, ushering visitors… More >>
  • BEST JUNKYARD

    John's Auto

    Looking for seat belts to replace the bungee cords that hold the doors closed on your beloved '84 Corolla? Get thee to John's. This place has been around for more than 50 years. And we ain't talking about one of those old-geezer-and-a-couple-of-mangy-dogs operations. Six thousand scrapped cars come through John's lot each year. After each one is drained of fluids,… More >>
  • BEST KENNEL

    Silver Dog Bed & Biscuit

    At $23.95 a day (meals included) it's not cheap, but then, like Silver Dog says, "If your pets are your kids, we're the place to go." With a staff of almost 30 overseeing 140 beds, each dog is guaranteed plenty of individual attention. Small pooches stay in carpeted penthouses, while a St. Bernard merits its own suite. Nearly all the… More >>
  • BEST KITCHEN SUPPLY STORE

    target

    Of course we all wish we could afford to collect our cookware at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul or Kitchen Window in Uptown's Calhoun Square--and they're both fine establishments--but for wannabe chefs on a budget, Target is almost as great a shopping experience. No, you're not going to find Le Creuset pots or $800 espresso makers. What you… More >>
  • BEST LINGERIE

    Frederick's of Hollywood

    Real women (of all genders) buy and wear Jockey for Her French-cut briefs and JC Penney store-brand bras. Unfortunately, those garments don't provide the zip of that cancan-dancer-holding-a-slumber-party look that's elemental to our culture. In the Twin Cities, of course, clothes for mommies to play dress-up in only tend to show up in stores without battery-operated appliances around traditional holidays… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER

    Bitstream

    Preserving and promoting local ties has always been a no-brainer for Bitstream. While ominous Internet entities like AOL and MSN devise multimillion-dollar marketing schemes to create a half-baked (and sometimes eerily Orwellian) sense of community, BU is content to be a good geek neighbor, attracting rather than recruiting users by growing at its own sane, remarkably patient rate. New offerings… More >>
  • BEST MALL KIOSK

    Varie-Tee's

    The naysayers among us can bray endlessly and effortlessly about the Mall of America. It is an easy target, with its legions of glassy-eyed consumers roaming about on ruinous spending sprees. But the critics overlook one fact: The mall is a fundamentally funny place, full of amusing people and quirky establishments that, if nothing else, aptly reflect the spirit of… More >>
  • BEST MANICURE

    A good manicure is a quick, delightfully simple way to get a little pampering--and who doesn't deserve that? To achieve it, you want to go someplace where you'll feel...well, pampered. And this is the place. The nail room, off to one side of this lovely full-service salon, is a quiet little alcove. Even though it looks out directly onto busy… More >>
  • BEST MOTEL

    Lakeland Inn

    Insidiously but steadily, the classic mom-and-pop roadside motel has been vanishing from the national landscape. Like other bits of disappearing Americana (drive-in theaters, outhouses, and rooftop TV antennas, to name a few), not all the old motels have folded. But the big chains--with their economies of scale and brand-name recognition--have depleted the ranks. In the Twin Cities, some of the… More >>
  • BEST MUSIC STORE

    Torp's

    Signs posted throughout the store remind the serious musician that he is pledged the "lowest possible price" and the "highest customer service." Since 1951 Torp's has gone to great lengths to uphold these promises. On our first, unsuspecting visit, the helpful salesman backs this up with an example. "See this receiver?" He points to a cardboard box on the counter.… More >>
  • BEST PAWNSHOP

    American Pawn

    Apparently no one at American Pawn has heard that the trend in pawnshops is to turn up the lights, fill the floor with tidy shelves, and pipe in Muzak just like at the mall. Still, this downtown St. Paul establishment has a more eclectic selection of merchandise than any of those 1,000-watt joints with the neon signs. In addition to… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BUY VINYL

    Fifth Element hip-hop record store

    Go to Cheapo for pan-genre rack combing, or Oar Folkjokeopus for the best weekly used new-wave finds, or the Root Cellar for a vast selection of oddities and rarities (love the magazine collection in the cellar). But for the new Funkmaster Flex double record, or DMX's "What's My Name" 12-inch, or the entire Rusty Pelicans catalog, head straight to Uptown's… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EDUCATE YOUR DOG

    Twin Cities Obedience Training Club

    Lesson 1: On planet Earth, more than 5 million dogs are euthanized every year. Visit your local shelter and you'll know in an instant why. Lesson 2: The dogs that tend to get abandoned and then put to death meet their fate not because they're bad animals but because they don't fit well enough into the human world. They bark… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO GET A SHIATSU MASSAGE

    he Minnesota Center for Shiatsu

    We very nearly kept this one to ourselves. A form of Japanese bodywork that incorporates principles of Chinese medicine, shiatsu is applied through the clothes using the fingers and palms. While similar to a regular massage, shiatsu tends to rely on pressure points, like acupuncture. Shiatsu practitioners believe that besides providing relaxation, the massage can treat a wide range of… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO RENT FOREIGN FILMS

    Intercontinental

    Not much has changed at Intercontinental since it took this category last year: The West Bank store is still an unsightly mess, to the extent that it's amazing when the staff can actually find what you're trying to rent (and, alas, sometimes they can't). But even amid the chaos of tapes and boxes stacked floor to ceiling on both sides… More >>
  • BEST QUICKIE DIVORCE

    L & M Legal Services

    There are times when technology complicates life (cf. Palm Pilots), and then there are times when it makes life wonderfully easy. With L&M, for instance, it's nearly possible to get divorced without ever leaving home. The company is a local paralegal service that has been processing "amicable" divorces for more than a decade, giving couples willing to be adults about… More >>
  • BEST SHOE REPAIR

    Shoes fall apart. And when they do, we usually just throw them out. But what about those Birkenstocks you've had for years? Are you supposed to part ways now just because the soles have worn through to the cork? Not if Eddie has anything to say about it. While Eddie will fix any shoe--within a maximum of three… More >>
  • BEST SHOE STORE (MEN'S)

    Dayton's

    A good men's shoe department is like a good used-car lot: all the latest models and a range of options (from something just to get a man around town to transportation with a bit more kick), in every conceivable color. Dayton's has the concept wired. The shoes spread out in every direction, as in a parking lot. The salesmen stand… More >>
  • BEST SHOE STORE (WOMEN'S)

    Nordstrom

    Something about the layout of this spacious, uncluttered expanse of pumps, boots, and sandals seems to guide your eye to that perfect pair. Once you've homed in, a salesperson veritably materializes at your side, attentive but not pushy. (You may even get the poetic kind: "What does this mean," we asked, "'relaxed fit' sneakers?" "It means," whispered our clerk, "they're… More >>
  • BEST SPORTING GOODS STORE

    Sport Mart

    Ever since Tiger Woods stormed the scene, even the neighborhood drugstore carries golf balls, bags, and clubs. Baseball gloves, basketballs, Rollerblades--they can be found in abundance at dozens of supply shops, right next to that requisite rack of Vikings jerseys. But SportMart is, to appropriate an expression, in another league. This superstore is so generously stocked, so spacious, that there's… More >>
  • BEST TAILOR

    One cannot understate the importance of having clothes that fit--not just off-the-rack fit, but the kind of fit that gently hugs each curve (ladies) or crisply broadens each shoulder (gentlemen) in the most flattering way. Thank goodness for this tiny Lyn-Lake shop. Proprietor Irina Boiarskaia is ready to put her skilled, tender hands to work on anything from the simple… More >>
  • BEST TARGET

    Target

    Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of the feeling we get when viewing natural beauty on a large scale (oceans, mountains, and the like), the profound sense that we are in some way connected to something greater and more powerful than our pitiful little selves. Something eerily similar can be said of a stroll down the wide, well-scrubbed aisles of Shoreview Greatland,… More >>
  • BEST TATTOO PARLOR

    Acme

    Those brave enough to permanently decorate their bodies by way of repeated jabs of a sharp implement often experience inner conflict. The id envisions going through the rite of passage in a hole in the wall on the wrong side of town, surrounded by rowdy sailors and the cheap floozies whose names now grace the sailors' buttocks, swilling tequila straight… More >>
  • BEST THRIFT STORE

    Unique Thrift Store

    Like a college athlete who signs with an agent while still in school, a thrift store that harbors an automatic teller on its premises loses its eligibility; sure, it may still be a great player, but the presence of said electronic money changer signals an irredeemable loss of secondhand innocence that screams, "We kick it like the big boys." What's… More >>
  • BEST TOBACCONIST

    Golden Leaf

    When the Golden Leaf opened 17 years ago, there were just a half-dozen or so cigar shops scattered about the Twin Cities. How things have changed. By the peak of the Nineties cigar craze, some 60 specialty stores had popped up in the metro, with many offering smokes at steeply discounted prices. Despite that boom--and the competition from online tobacco… More >>
  • BEST TOY STORE

    Creative Kidstuff

    Rare indeed is a store with its own philosophy. But then, Creative Kidstuff, which Cynthia Gerdes founded in her Linden Hills neighborhood 18 years ago as an alternative to violent and faddish toy outlets, has always been a cut above. Now, as then, Gerdes refuses to stock chintzy or cheaply made toys, favoring instead playthings that inspire, educate, and entertain.… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING STORE (DOWNSCALE)

    There must be an acre of pants at this Richfield store operated by the Association for Retarded Citizens. And while there aren't too many chichi labels scattered among the dozens of men's, women's, and children's racks here, there are bound to be hundreds of choices in every size. Everything's clean and in decent shape, and priced to move: Jeans sell… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING STORE (KIDS)

    If you can get it for three bucks, what does it matter if Junior is busting through the snaps on the crotch of that adorable onesie in less than six weeks? Gymboree, Baby Gap, Old Navy, Little Me--all those adult-priced labels that taunt proud new parents from store windows can be had guilt-free at this southwest Minneapolis consignment shop. There… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING STORE (UPSCALE)

    Everyday People

    White leather jacket? Check. Black granny dress? Got it. Polyester? No prob. It's true, vintage fashion never goes out of style, whether you're a cash-strapped coed, an art-school wannabe, or just someone who can't resist anything that looks like it came from Katharine Hepburn's closet. But just like the fashionista who can tell couture from prêt-à-porter from a mile away,… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE (CHEAPER THAN DIRT)

    Salvation Army's

    Those of us who are constitutionally incapable of squandering $1,500 on a couch or dinette set ought to be grateful for the boom economy. Why? Because it wouldn't be so bloody easy to furnish a pad on the cheap if not for all the big spenders and germ phobics casting aside perfectly functional pieces. As it stands, the metro… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE (VINTAGE)

    Theatre Antiques

    Five years ago, when an Uptown institution called Cobblestone Antiques lost its lease, Richard Hickenbotham and five other dealers who'd had booths there set about looking for a new space. In short order they settled on a long-vacant movie theater near the corner of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue. It proved to be a wise move. Cobblestone, once widely regarded… More >>
  • BEST VIDEO RENTAL

    Honestly, we wish there was a bit more competition for this title, but on the basis of the three most important criteria for a video store--selection, selection, and selection--the venerable Discount continues to beat other tape rental outlets by the stretch of a T-180. Atoning for the defiantly unalphabetized holdings in the store itself, the user-friendly Web site not only… More >>
  • BEST YARN SHOP

    Depth of Field

    Plenty of Twin Cities shops stock beautiful, high-quality yarn. But only a few offer the easy conversation and camaraderie that has been part of knitting circles since the olden days. At Depth of Field, the large wooden table near the front desk is the de facto gathering place. Sometimes silence reigns, broken only by the click of needles. But veteran… More >>
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