Shopping & Services

  • BEST ART SUPPLIES

    Wet Paint

    Once upon a time, artists didn't have supply stores to feed their jones for a tube of cerulean-blue oil paint, or for a No. 8 flat-bristle sable brush, or for 300-pound cold-press aquarelle paper. Back then, burgeoning Rembrandts and Vermeers had to grind their own pigment, press the linseed, mix in the egg yolks, pluck the sable, stretch the canvas,… More >>
  • BEST BABY GOODS STORE

    Babies R Us

    Normally, it's our inclination to avoid the disorienting experience of shopping in megastores. The unnaturally bright lighting, the echoing aisles in spaces the size of an airplane hangar, the inexplicable siren call of that bargain-priced, industrial-size box of Cheerios. But we have to admit to casting aside our consumer discomfort for the sake of convenience. Why make the trip from… More >>
  • BEST BARGAIN VINYL

    Root Cellar Records

    Buying vinyl just ain't what it used to be. New domestic LPs will run around $10, imports $20 or more. And well-educated collectors have been combing the stacks for so many years, it's hard to find dirt-cheap treasures among the trash. Still, there are goodies to be had in the basement of Root Cellar Records. You won't find super-rare collectibles… More >>
  • BEST BED AND BREAKFAST

    Covington Inn

    A couple of factors motivate our decision to award a B&B nearer the metro than, say, the quaint-inn capital of Lanesboro. For starters, this is the "Best of the Twin Cities" issue, yes? And while the intimate delights of most any comfy B&B are abundantly clear (a friend jokes that they're the middle-class rendition of hourly motels), they needn't be… More >>
  • BEST BIKE SHOP

    Penn Cycle

    Looking for a lightweight, sturdy, streamlined work of art that you can attach to the back of your SUV, transport out into the country a ways, and take out for a luxurious afternoon ride around the lakes? Or perhaps you're looking for something with fat tires and a padded seat, so that you can take the sucker off road and… More >>
  • BEST BODY PIERCING

    Saint Sabrinas

    Of the current forms of self-adornment, few are more shudder-inducing than body piercing, simply because of the nature of the beast. Putting a piece. Of metal. Through. The. Flesh. That said, the piercers at Saint Sabrina's Parlor in Purgatory are needle-wielding masters. The parlor's devil-may-care exterior is deceptive. The well-lighted salon is an aggressively antiseptic place; an autoclave machine, ultrasonic… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (NEW)

    We won't lie and say we've never curled up in the overstuffed furniture at our local Barnes & Noble and happily whiled away precious hours in relative tranquillity, reading short stories and paging through gorgeous photo books we had no intention of purchasing. But we could never quite reach the comfort level that one immediately feels upon walking in the… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (USED)

    Midway Books

    You know you're in a great used bookstore when you go in looking for, say, a dictionary, and come out a few hours later with a book on quantum mechanics, a Norwegian thesaurus, the collected letters of Edith Wharton, a guide to Minnesota's wildflowers, and some classic Spider-Man comics. Midway Books is designed for just this kind of adventurous browsing.… More >>
  • BEST BOUTIQUE

    Local Motion Clothing

    Even as you're bustling down the busiest thoroughfare in Minneapolis, the store window catches your eye with its splashes of color, from chartreuse to crimson. Once inside, you'll be overwhelmed by the racks of pretty dresses and hand-knit sweaters, patterned shirts, and funky jewelry. For such a tiny shop, the selection is tremendous, from gossamer gowns fit for a wedding… More >>
  • BEST CAR WASH

    Paradise Car Wash

    Just like a new haircut can make you feel ten pounds lighter, a good car wash can make you believe your car really isn't a piece of junk. No one knows this better than the friendly folks at Paradise Car Wash. For less than the price of most haircuts (a full-service wash costs $11.99), their skilled sudsters will have your… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (CLASSICAL)

    Cheapo

    Not long ago, an opera fan from a rural town happened to charge a Minneapolitan with finding a CD set of Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers), a somewhat obscure opera composed by Georges Bizet. Time was in short supply: The opera, like an organ transplant, was needed immediately. Understanding this dire situation, our Minneapolitan gofer quickly dashed to… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (NEW)

    Electric Fetus

    We know you don't really need to be told for the umpteenth year in a row that the Electric Fetus is the best damn music store on the planet. They have an astounding selection, sub-Best Buy pricing, a staff that's low-key enough to let you browse for hours but be instantly available if you should need their encyclopedic knowledge of… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (USED)

    Cheapo

    If you're not careful, this place will suck you in like a toilet does a toddler's bottom. One could spend hours upon hours scouring the spacious store's new and used stock, which encompasses nearly every established genre of music (club, rap, jazz/blues, soundtracks, unconventional). An avid supporter of the local music scene, Cheapo Discs' Lake Street location not only allows… More >>
  • BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKSTORE

    Red Balloon

    A good children's bookstore should be like a good children's book: It should appeal to a child's sensibilities while not turning off the adults. Red Balloon walks this delicate balance, attracting children with its colorful, kid-level displays but never dumbing down the reading process. Along with the inevitable Potter mélange you can find timeless classics by authors such as A.A.… More >>
  • BEST CLOTHING STORE
    (VINTAGE)

    "Vintage" is a slippery term, like "organic" food or "total coverage" insurance. Some stores have stretched the category to encompass retro. (Fools! It's not the same thing!) Others allow for impostors, such as club wear and raggedy hand-me-downs from yesteryear. Sacrilege. You'll find no such perversion of the "vintage" label here. Besides the Corner Store's Levi's jeans and motorcycle jackets,… More >>
  • BEST COMIC-BOOK SHOP

    Big Brain Comics

    Phooey to punk music, independent film, and all that other nonsense. Comic books are the great American counterculture. No other medium can nurse us through adolescence (with Richie Rich and the Archie gang), lead us into our teen years (with superhero fantasies such as the X-Men), then drag us into adulthood (with reprints of classic underground comix such as Jimmy… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (AUDIOPHILE)

    Audio Perfection

    This endearingly unpretentious haven for high-end knob-twiddlers proves that "audiophile" needn't mean "for snobs only." On the afternoon we visited, one of several listening rooms was populated by two young men in college sweatshirts lingering before a cranked CD of Schubert's Death and the Maiden. While it's highly doubtful they could afford the top-of-the-line Wilson Audio speakers that go for… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (PROLETARIAN)

    Best Buy

    Call us philistines--even blasphemers--of the digital age, but some of us are not struck by beatific visions upon finding a camcorder with "XGA-pro digipure-i.Link enhanced-progressive scan-180,000 pixel CCD." If we can manage the "record" button, we'll take it. And that's why that giant yellow tag in the sky, with the logo illuminated in one-stop-shop neon, beckons us from interstates and… More >>
  • BEST FLORIST

    Roger Beck Florist

    Beck has been somewhat nomadic over the years. Once upon a time you could find his shop in the Conservatory, a downtown Minneapolis retail space that has since been returned to the earth. Then he had a spot on LaSalle Avenue next to the Van Dusen mansion, but frankly, parking was a problem. Beck's latest location on South Lyndale is… More >>
  • BEST GARDEN CENTER

    Linder's Greenhouse and Garden Center

    If summer just ain't summer till you've grown your own Black Beauty eggplants, Jenny Lind melons, moonbeam coreopsis, and butterfly blue scabiosa, then Linder's is the place for you. Whether you're a green thumb who nurses seedlings in your basement or a novice who just likes to take home a marigold or two, you'll find a wide selection at this… More >>
  • BEST HARDWARE STORE

    Seven Corners

    We were tempted to give Seven Corners "Best Day Trip." A person could kill an entire afternoon in this super-size emporium, crammed floor to ceiling with every power tool, plumbing fixture, and lighting accessory known to man: leaning towers of WD-40, nail bins three feet deep, a whole wall of gleaming snow shovels. The selection of hammers alone would overwhelm… More >>
  • BEST HEMP STORE

    Third Stone

    Sativa's Closet at Calhoun Square can try to satisfy the masses, but Third Stone is a timeless icon in the world of hemp shops. The store doesn't carry much in the way of the latest hemp-wax lip balms or hemp-seed foodstuffs, but the mellow vibe more than makes up for it. Owner Tari Sullivan opened in Lyn-Lake nearly six years… More >>
  • BEST HOTEL

    Saint Paul Hotel

    St. Paul is a city of old-world traditions and old money. The elegance of the metro area's finest hotel--opened in 1910, restored in 1979-- amply reflects both. Just walking through the warm, opulent lobby is enough to convince you that you're in New York or Paris, not a small Midwestern river city once known as Pig's Eye. First, settle into… More >>
  • BEST LAUNDROMAT

    Vend-A-Wash

    A small sign above the pressers at Vend-A -Wash warns against using the hot irons to affix decals, and the jukebox features hits by Billy Joel and George Thorogood. But it's more than the untouched-by-time ambiance of Minnesota's largest laundromat that attracts everyone from neighborhood moms to Turf Club headliners, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Washers big… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER

    Vector Internet Services

    Call most ISPs for tech support and some impatient know-it-all will tell you to "shut down and restart." And if that doesn't solve the problem, they will sigh, "Call back." Of course, when you do the line is busy, or it just rings and rings while you picture the helpful operator pointing at the phone and laughing. Vector Internet Services,… More >>
  • BEST MALL

    Mall of America

    We looked for a better mall, we really did. We looked for an excuse to give the award to anyone but the Sprawl of America, the much-maligned Bloomington behemoth. We'd rather write about some little strip mall with a good thrift store, but if we're calling the category Best Mall, we must be honest. This is it. Today's teenagers have… More >>
  • BEST MUSIC STORE (CORPORATE BEHEMOTH)

    Guitar Center

    Even if the cool, corporate climate is an affront to your rock 'n' roll sensibilities, the selection at Edina's Guitar Center is far and away the best in town. Besides a staggering collection of standards--guitars, drums, and keyboards--the superstore also has the area's best selection of computer software for home recording. The prices run in the mid-range (you'll have to… More >>
  • BEST MUSIC STORE (LOCAL YOKEL)

    Encore Music

    Most music stores have a creepy vibe, usually darkened by the bitterness of the bald guy behind the counter whose keyboard gig with Whitney Houston in 1985 didn't quite pan out. Not so at Encore music, a locally owned business that has thrived through ups and downs since the 1960s. Chad Speck bought the store from his late boss's wife… More >>
  • BEST PAWNSHOP

    Hy's Pawn and Jewelry

    Hy's is the Dayton's of pawnshops. Despite its classic pawnshop location (across the street from the Salvation Army's Harbor Light shelter), the place is almost quaint: There're no cracked windows, burned-out neon signs, or graffiti-clad walls. In the past year the store has doubled in size. Snappy blue awnings have been installed, the exterior has been redone in stucco, and… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BUY VINYL

    Let It Be Records

    It's 11:00 a.m. Do you know where your beloved musician is? Before resorting to the face-on-the-milk-carton approach, first swing by the music collector's mecca that is Minneapolis's Let It Be Records--he or she is probably digging through the bins. At the state's largest independently owned record store, one can expect to be assisted by staff who live and breathe their… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO RENT FOREIGN FILMS

    Intercontinental Video

    Videotapes of foreign films are too erratically distributed (and cost-prohibitive) in this country for any one rental outlet to be definitive: World-cinema junkies know well to keep membership cards from several stores in their pocket at all times. And belonging to the Chicago-based mail-order rental club Facets (www.facets.org) never hurt one's comprehensive video globetrotting either. But when the Twin Cities… More >>
  • BEST RETAIL FLASHBACK TO THE 1970s

    Mayday Bookstore

    The name is the first clue. Then there's the sign painted on the wall outside: "Alternative Books, Magazines, Ideas, Info." And finally there's the door, painted bright red. When you walk down the stairs to this tiny, musty basement shop, you're walking into another era: not the Disco Seventies; the Radical Seventies. For a quarter-century, Mayday Bookstore has been the… More >>
  • BEST SPORTING GOODS STORE

    Play It Again Sports

    Play It Again Sports offers a vast variety of new and used sporting goods--everything from Hacky Sacks to trampolines, jump ropes to treadmills. Low prices make it an ideal source for equipment, especially if you're just starting out in a sport, or if your soccer-goalie son seems to outgrow his cleats every week. Don't want to break in a catcher's… More >>
  • BEST TATTOO PARLOR

    Electric Dragonland

    For Shahn Anderson, it's personal. Anderson, owner of Electric Dragonland, not only manages the shop's overall business plan; he also oversees such minutiae as mixing ink pigments and building the tattoo needles. This time-consuming approach might prevent Electric Dragonland from expanding into a franchise, but it ensures unique, high-quality work. Anderson has an international client list, a three-to-four-month wait for… More >>
  • BEST THRIFT STORE

    ARC'S Value Village Thrift Store

    Yes, we know it's something our parents would say. But it's true: "They just don't make things like they used to." Go to a regular retail store and you'll pay a hefty sum for a picture frame made of, we shudder at the thought, plastic. Not so at Arc's thrift store (proceeds benefit the nonprofit Arc Hennepin-Carver), where an eight-by-ten-inch… More >>
  • BEST TOBACCONIST

    Minnesota Cigar Company

    This strip-mall cigar emporium offers all the standard smoking accessories. You can get $1,000 humidors and $100 cigarette lighters; pipes, pipe cleaners, and pipe tobacco; and every conceivable kind of cigar--providing they're legal, of course. There's a comfy leather couch and a widescreen TV in the backroom for those who wish to smoke their stogy with other aficionados. And, for… More >>
  • BEST TOY STORE

    Sister Fun

    If you need another digital gadget or computer game, shop somewhere else. Sister Fun has toys for all ages from a simpler place and time. For starters there's the all-metal model locomotive engine ($9), a nice throwback to the Fifties. We're also fond of such made-in-China items as the Elephant on Turning Drum ($11). The prices at Sister Fun recall… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING
    (DOWNSCALE)

    DAV

    As any veteran bargain hunter will tell you, a well-stocked thrift store is one of the luxurious side effects of fat economic times. But the prices at DAV are beyond reasonable. You can pick up a nifty pair of slacks, a shirt, or long underwear for as little as 95 cents. And for the truly bargain obsessed, there's a half-off-everything… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING
    (UPSCALE)

    For normal mortals--i.e., those of us whose social lives do not require the thrice-weekly attendance of society luncheons and black-tie galas--the following statement rings true: The fancier the garment, the fewer times you're likely to wear it. This is why this women's designer consignment store is such a godsend. Looking for an Armani suit? A Chanel blouse? A Jean Paul… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE (CHEAPER THAN DIRT)

    Goodwill

    It's lunchtime on a sunny winter day, and guess where all the suits are rubbing elbows? Goodwill. That's right, no power lunches here--just a little gentle pushing around a bin of slightly worn designer shoes, marked $2.99 a pair. In one corner of the parking lot a heavyset man is forced to put his briefcase in the snow so he… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE
    (VINTAGE)

    Theatre Antiques

    Plenty of places offer an array of furniture that will make your house look like your grandmother's. Theatre Antiques isn't one of them. Sure, they have a few mission-style rocking chairs and a doily or two, but most of the store's fare is for those who want to surround themselves with stuff they saw on TV shows like The Courtship… More >>
  • BEST VIDEO RENTAL

    Discount Video

    An old champ retains the title here, but in a split decision as close as the one that favored Apollo Creed over the Italian Stallion in the first Rocky. (And you know what happened in Rocky II.) Given the punch that DVDs can pack, not to mention the new format's sizable cheering section, the challenger to Discount's championship belt is… More >>
  • BEST YARN SHOP

    Depth of Field Yarn

    Whatever your skill level, we recommend this cozy shop for all your knitting needs. They have everything from warm Icelandic wool and willowy hand-painted mohair to delicate bamboo knitting needles and funky reading glasses complete with that beaded, little-old-lady chain. You can always find someone to help you with that sleeve that somehow got too long, or the sock that… More >>
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