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  • BEST BABY GOODS STORE

    Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care

    Natural parents have found allies in the proprietors of Peapods. Inside this earthy little storefront, kids and the grownups who love them will find an endless supply of creative, imaginative, and earth-friendly delights. Wooden animals, rag dolls, finger puppets, and organic child- and baby-care products have been gathered from artisans as far away as Germany, and as nearby as the… More >>
  • BEST BED AND BREAKFAST

    Elephant Walk

    This comfy and indulgent B&B is only a quick half-hour from the Twin Cities, yet once you're inside, you feel transported to somewhere else entirely. Owner Rita Graybill and her late husband Jon filled their four-suite Victorian with countless antiquities collected during his two decades of military and diplomatic service, creating a mix of international styles that's highly eclectic but… More >>
  • BEST BIKE SHOP

    Freewheel Bike Shop

    Freewheel Bike is deceptively small. From the outside, this West Bank bicycle emporium looks like a modest concrete bunker. But step inside and the array of merchandise is mind-boggling. As you circle the worker-owned store you'll keep noticing new merchandise--dangling from the ceiling, hanging perilously from racks, and stuffed into every inch of space. There are bikes here to fit… More >>
  • BEST BODY PIERCING

    "Don't be shy," the Parlor's futuristic Web site beckons provocatively. "Come into the store if for no other reason than to gawk at the very friendly, yet slightly odd bunch of folks we've assembled." While that may sound like a rather rude reason to visit this ultra-trendy body-modification and clothing shop, it is indubitably worth a single visit, regardless of… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (NEW)

    Ruminator

    We searched all over town--the big chains, the specialty shops, the small independents--and we're right back to our perpetual winner. This store has such a strong selection and helpful staff that no one else can compete. Whether you're looking for literary classics, new nonfiction, a semi-obscure poetry tome, or a glossy, general-interest photo book, Ruminator is your best bet. The… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (USED)

    Rag & Bone Books

    Tastes in used bookstores are as idiosyncratic as what each of us likes to read. Among more than a half-dozen fine options, our choice is Rag & Bone, which has a collection that is deep yet not overwhelming. More than half of the titles here are out of print ("collectibles"), but the store's buyers have the smarts and connections to… More >>
  • BEST BOUTIQUE

    Che Bella - CLOSED

    Entering a boutique should make you feel like a fairy princess; Che Bella feels no less magical. This St. Paul studio presents beautiful, custom-made, one-of-a-kind bridal veils, headpieces, and tiaras fit for both formal and funky occasions. The sparsely decorated showroom is filled with beautiful possibilities, sparking the imagination and soothing the cluttered mind. Rows and rows of lace and… More >>
  • BEST CAR WASH

    The outside of your car is a giant salt lick. The inside features root beer that exploded from a frozen bottle in February and Chalupa wrappers that have been under the backseat since December. One April day you notice a row of cars glistening at the edge of T & Y's parking lot on the north side of the Warehouse… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (CLASSICAL)

    Cheapo

    If you're a classical-music snob with the moxie to weather the metronome-like clicking of used-CD shoppers rifling through bins and bins of last Wednesday's arrivals, then heaven might look a lot like Cheapo. The store is physically divided, much like pre-Reagan Berlin, between the east side--which is full of commoners lapping up pop and rock--and the west side, Applause, which… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (NEW)

    Electric Fetus

    Long before High Fidelity, music-store clerks had generated a bad rep, sometimes justified, sometimes not. The Fetus maintains a high-quality staff (many members of which play a major role in keeping the local music scene wobbling along) and consistently restocks its wide-ranging shelves (which feature the most expansive jazz, rap, and rock selection anywhere in the state). Not only can… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (USED)

    Cheapo

    Used CD stores create a kind of vibrant economy that's marginally subversive but by no means underground. For instance: PR dude sends lame Staind CD to snooty music writer. Next, rent-strapped music writer cashes in disc for a buck or so. Eventually, some lucky Staind fan cheats her idols' corporate overlords out of a few bucks. But from this rather… More >>
  • BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKSTORE

    Wild Rumpus

    In 1992 the Mall of America opened in Bloomington. That same year, in another Twin Cities corner, a different kind of retail revolution began when this Linden Hills shop welcomed children into an unusually stimulating environment filled not just with books, but with free-roaming animals. Though the Mall of America has offered to build a customized space if Wild Rumpus… More >>
  • BEST CLOTHING STORE (VINTAGE)

    Ragstock

    As yuppie as it's become to purchase "vintage wear" these days, let's face it: You're buying clothing once worn by another individual. While Via's and Lula's (of Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively) are fun places to window-shop for that one flirty sundress to wear out on a long-awaited date, they don't cater to those who are looking to extensively increase… More >>
  • BEST COMIC-BOOK SHOP

    Big Brain Comics

    You want cheap treasure-hunting, go to Midway Books in St. Paul. You want a vast library of pricey collectibles, hit the Nostalgia Zone in Minneapolis. For Japanese sci-fi, your heaven is Dreamhaven Books in Uptown. But for an easily navigated, up-to-the-minute selection of mainstream and small-press comic books, no one beats Big Brain. The store has the latest post-Comics Code… More >>
  • BEST DRY CLEANER

    Peter Pan

    Who among us hasn't dutifully retrieved dry cleaning from a hole-in-the-wall shop, only to be confronted by stains and smells that raise doubts about whether the garments were actually cleaned at all? It's enough to make you swear off silk suits forever. But if you're not ready to give up your dry-clean-only favorites, help is at hand. Just head to… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (AUDIOPHILE)

    Audio Perfection

    We came to Audio Perfection with a dream: a dream of returning to vinyl-record use after a dozen or more years, with the help of upscale equipment that would make the most of this old, warm, and arguably still-superior technology. Owner Mark Balkowitsch heard our dream--in stereo--and began to speak softly and without pressure about the "elegant simplicity" of the… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (PROLETARIAN)

    Best Buy

    It makes sense these days that the predominant method of shopping for electronics would itself be electronic. And the more frugal and forward-thinking prole knob-twiddlers among us are quite correct to peruse the Net to find their fetish object: It's cheaper, generally speaking, and you don't have to leave your other beloved electronics at home unattended. But when you simply… More >>
  • BEST FLORIST

    Anthony Shane

    Oh, how hard it is to wean ourselves from applauding the exotic, artistic creations of longtime local fave Roger Beck. But this year, we're going to have to depart from what's become tradition. It's not that Beck's backslid; no, his arrangements are still as astonishing and ethereal as ever. Our change of heart is based on several fruitful encounters with… More >>
  • BEST GARDEN CENTER

    Mother Earth Gardens

    The Cities and suburbs are scattered with greenhouses so jam-packed with lawn ornaments and holiday knickknacks that they might as well be listed under "toys" in the yellow pages--and there's nothing wrong with that. But the smaller neighborhood garden centers often have better service and better doodads. Located in a large lot across the street from the Riverview Theatre, Mother… More >>
  • BEST HARDWARE STORE

    Seven Corners Hardware

    Okay, so you have a sudden and unexpected reconstruction project at home. Your toilet has quit on you, and it's pretty crucial that you get the damn thing up and working again (for obvious reasons). So what to do? Do you head on over to one of the mega-mart hardware conglomerates that are so common in that strip-mall region ringing… More >>
  • BEST HEAD SHOP

    Norm Coleman's vision of a West Seventh Street revitalized by the arrival of professional hockey probably didn't include this smoke emporium. But as the area around Xcel Energy Center has filled in with bars and restaurants catering to the pre- and post-game crowds, Maharaja's has soldiered on (along with its next-door neighbor Fantasy Gifts, specializing in lingerie and sex toys),… More >>
  • BEST HOTEL

    St. Paul Hotel

    If you're going to pay to sleep in strange surroundings, you might as well put up the dough for the best. The Saint Paul Hotel has served as a surrogate home for presidents from Taft to Clinton and foreign dignitaries from Gorbachev to Thatcher. It's not difficult to see why. Overlooking Rice Park, the century-old hotel is a nearly bucolic… More >>
  • BEST MALL

    HarMar Mall

    The name itself--sounding like some kind of punch line to a corny joke--is legendary, helped in no small part by the emergence of local musician/mysterian Har Mar Superstar. Then there is the edifice, an old relic from 1961, in dire need of a face-lift but somehow never getting one. But Har Mar never concedes to its upscale competitors. It's working-class,… More >>
  • BEST MUSIC STORE (CORPORATE BEHEMOTH)

    Guitar Center

    The best part about these big suburban stores is that you can play around with the equipment. Sure, the clerks will bristle if you take a stab at Eddie Van Halen's guitar-geek masterpiece, "Eruption." But who cares? It's not like you'll run into your next-door neighbor or potential prom date at this place--go nuts. The giant floor is packed with… More >>
  • BEST MUSIC STORE (LOCAL)

    Willie's American Guitars

    The used musical equipment trade is what keeps local indie stores viable competitors for the big chain stores. That, and having knowledgeable, if smug, scenesters for employees instead of the super-annoying dudes. By these standards, Twin Town in south Minneapolis tails at a very close second in this category, for its helpful staff and reasonable price tags. Still, the selection… More >>
  • BEST PAWNSHOP

    Hy's

    Loan office. What is it about that phrase that seems so damn funny when used in conjunction with a pawnshop? Perhaps it's just the contrast. The staid and drab connotation of the words loan office versus the been-on-a-bender/behind-on-the-rent connotation of pawn. Hy's, fittingly enough, has the vibe of both. A downtown-Minneapolis institution since the roaring Twenties, it sits across the… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BUY A BIT OF WAR HISTORY

    Battlefield Military Antiques And Book Store

    Set back from Highway 7 near the border of St. Louis Park, this eye-catching red-white-and-blue store is brimming with military history--and it's always looking to purchase more war relics from veterans or collectors. Upon entering, you're immediately engulfed in a sea of army green, from racks of uniforms to stacks of canteens. (The 25-year-old shop also rents out uniforms and… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BUY VINYL

    Let It Be Records

    According to local DJ/promoter/store employee Jack Trash, on any given day at Let It Be, you'll find "Joe Smith looking for Doors records, a clubber or raver looking for the newest Armand van Helden record, and an old vinyl junkie sleuthing for something obscure. We have the craziest mix of people looking for the craziest mix of music," he laughs.… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO RENT DVDS

    Video Universe

    "Worth the drive," claims the ad. And it is, particularly if you like to rent DVDs, and not just the blockbusters like Pearl Harbor. Located in an unassuming Robbinsdale strip mall about 10 or 12 minutes from downtown Minneapolis (just take 394 West to 100 North and make a right on County Road 81), Video Universe got in early on… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO RENT FOREIGN FILMS

    Intercontinental Video

    When choosing a place to rent foreign films on video, there are really only three criteria to consider: sélection, selección, and selezióne. (Or four or five, if you know Chinese or Japanese. Or six if you know German.) That's because any Blockbuster will be apt to carry multiple copies of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Life Is Beautiful. But if… More >>
  • BEST SPORTING-GOODS STORE

    Joe's Sporting Goods

    The Olympics--snappy as they are these days with all those weird California sports like half-pipe and freestyle skiing, and the goateed and ready-for-the-fashion-mag made-for-TV stars--remind us that we prefer our sports without all the glitz and glam and whatnot. We happen to like the old "thrill of victory, agony of defeat" ABC's Wide World of Sports days when there weren't… More >>
  • BEST TATTOO PARLOR

    Ink Lab

    The Ink Lab's work is so professionally executed that you might even get Granny to approve. Nothing but single-use, autoclave-sterilized needles are employed here, and all work areas are thoroughly cleaned with an anti-viral disinfectant. Sure, both of those practices seem fairly standard. But looking elsewhere, you'd be hard-pressed to find an owner/artist like Dave Dettloff, who has an MFA… More >>
  • BEST THRIFT STORE

    Disabled American Veterans' thrift store

    Get there while you can. If all goes as diagrammed by the urban planning pooh-bahs down at St. Paul City Hall, the Disabled American Veterans' thrift store will soon go the way of such municipal institutions as the Payne Reliever strip club and the Ace Box Bar. In its place will be a "Pan Asian Urban Village." While we're not… More >>
  • BEST TOBACCONIST

    Golden Leaf Tobacco

    There are so many variations on the tobacco lover's habit that sometimes it can be difficult to settle on a preferred method for getting a fix. Even today's range of common tobacco products--from mass-packaged cigarettes to hand-rolled cigars to leafy loose tobacco for hand-carved pipes--are really just the tip of the cigar (so to speak). After all, civilizations past have… More >>
  • BEST TOY STORE

    Phoenix Games

    True toy and game people are unrepentant geeks, proud of the depths of their obsessions and quirks. And Phoenix Games makes no apologies in catering to the whims of their fun-freak customers. Consider this haphazard list of items seen on a recent Tuesday-afternoon sojourn to the drab corner store, where ageless denizens of the game underground sat at large green… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING (DOWNSCALE)

    While so many thrift stores are hit-or-miss, Value Village defies the norm with an ever-changing assortment of clothing that's both interesting and (a near anomaly, considering the category) reliable. If you are on a tight budget and need a basic black sweater, there will be several in your size to choose from. Ditto for jeans and slacks for both men… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING (KIDS)

    Better Than Ever Boutique

    When it comes to selecting used kids' clothes that will satisfy Mom's and Dad's yupscale tastes and resist Junior's punishing ways, the powers behind this blink-and-you-miss-it storefront in south Minneapolis are possessed of a flawless eye. Sure, the designer tyke labels are well represented on these tidily organized racks. But you can get a Baby Gap blanket sleeper anywhere. What… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING (UPSCALE)

    Fashion Avenue

    "You really don't have any white dress shirts, do you?" asks the young man browsing through this large, sunny shop. "No," replies a salesman. "We get them, but they go right away." After a few minutes, the young man approaches him. "Can I ask your expert opinion?" he begins, seeking the salesman's impressions of a dark sport coat and blue… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE (DIRT CHEAP)

    If you don't want to take this category quite as literally as we did this time around, previous year's winners are still great bets (the Salvation Army on North Fourth Street has a particularly large selection). But why pay fifteen bucks for a halfway decent couch when you can get one just as good for free? Around the change of… More >>
  • BEST USED FURNITURE (VINTAGE)

    Theatre Antiques

    There's only one place in town where you can get a life-size Barbara Eden-like replica of a genie holding an upright lamp. Of course, you might not need a life-size Barbara Eden-like replica of a genie holding an upright lamp. But as soon as you step into Theater Antiques, you suddenly feel as if that item were exactly what you've… More >>
  • BEST VIDEO RENTAL

    Nicollet Village Video

    You'd expect any video store that keeps Clerks in the "classics" section to have an agreeably flip service ethic and a working knowledge of movie arcana. But Nicollet Village Video somehow surpasses fiction in its almost surreal commitment to Kevin Smith aesthetics. One typical evening finds employee and ex-Magnolias frontman John Freeman puffing a cigarette behind the counter, ashing into… More >>
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