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  • BEST ART SUPPLIES

    MCAD Art Cellar

    Really, there are only two things required of an art supply store: cheap goods and a reasonably helpful staff. While the mostly-student staff at MCAD's art supply store can be a touch on the surly side, the prices are hard to beat. The Art Cellar is of another era, a retail store with no corporate logos or cold, corporate uniformity.… More >>
  • BEST BABY GOODS STORE

    Baby Grand

    There's a whole crop of new baby goods stores for parents who refuse to accept that they have actually birthed a baby, rather than a mini-adult with its own hipster tastes. But the 20-year-old St. Paul standby, Baby Grand, will help you deal with the nitty-gritty (and the goopy and the poopy) parts of baby care--from stained onesies to leaky… More >>
  • BEST BED AND BREAKFAST

    Evelo's

    B&Bs can be a turnoff to those phobic members of society who prefer the shrink-wrapped anonymity of hotels to sharing comforts with strangers. But step over the historic threshold of Evelo's, and you might feel a luscious wave of nostalgia for the days before intelligent key cards, automated wake-up calls, and those damned minibars. A lovingly restored 1897 Victorian… More >>
  • BEST BIKE SHOP

    Behind Bars

    New York in the '20s. Prague in the early '90s. Are we fated not to recognize the good old days until they've been bought and sold, co-opted and corrupted out of existence? That wistful preamble is a way of introducing the fact that we here in the Twin Cities are living through a golden age of the neighborhood bike shop.… More >>
  • BEST BODY PIERCING

    Ink Lab

    Don't let the name deter you; the Ink Lab may be best known as a tattoo shop, but inside this immaculate storefront lurks a cadre of highly skilled (and elaborately adorned) piercing experts. Masters of speed and accuracy, the Ink Lab kids are capable of transforming even the gnarliest modification (zero-gauge septum claw, anyone?) into a surprisingly Zen-like experience. Think… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (CHAIN)

    Borders Books & Music

    There's nothing quite like the homey idiosyncrasies of mom-and-pop bookshops, but there's also nothing quite like reality, in which one often wants a book--now. Borders won't have everything you're looking for, but it offers better odds than any other Twin Cities bookseller. Unlike the various Barnes & Noble locations, the Uptown Borders is stocked with bibliophilic sensibility, even though DVDs,… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (INDEPENDENT)

    Query

    With the passing of Ruminator, there really isn't a great general-interest independent bookstore in the Twin Cities. St. Paul's Bound To Be Read is a fine store with a particularly excellent kids' section and a well-programmed reading series, but it feels more like a budding chain's prototype than a true indie. What this town still has is a number of… More >>
  • BEST BOOKSTORE (USED)

    James & Mary Laurie Booksellers

    A bastion of funkiness and culture in increasingly banal downtown Minneapolis, this cluttered bookshop is a must-visit for both serious antiquarians and casual readers on a budget. The store's street-level floor has an excellent collection of fiction from which you might take home a first edition of a favorite novel, or an illustrated version of a classic, or a reasonably… More >>
  • BEST BOUTIQUE

    Nico

    When the afternoon sun shines into the windows of this new venture, it's hard to tell whether Nico is a gift shop or an art gallery. Locally made jewelry is laid out on crisp white pedestals, while sparsely filled shelves along the back wall hold other Twin Cities originals--hand-painted plates, coffee-table books, and homemade textiles. Even the smiley-faced plush toys… More >>
  • BEST CAR WASH

    Mermaid

    Spring cleaning starts (and, if you're like us, ends) with the yearly trip to the car wash. Time to chip months of coffee splashes off the dash and vacuum pounds of sand and salt off the floor mats. Luckily the folks at Mermaid have been taking on the filthiest of Fords for ages. Free coffee and donuts are nice perks,… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (NEW)

    Electric Fetus

    This 37-year-old retail pioneer doesn't have the mom-and-pop vitality of Treehouse or Fifth Element (or its younger self), but for eclectic music lovers, the Fetus can't be beat. Here you'll find the Twin Cities' best and deepest selections of jazz and R&B--winding racks with a smart blend of recent fare and catalog essentials. The store's rock section is also extensive,… More >>
  • BEST CD STORE (USED)

    Cheapo

    Every day, hordes of disappointed music consumers, kids late with the rent, thieves, and former Smashing Pumpkins fans head into Cheapo with their trash and your treasure. The abundance of new arrivals makes Cheapo an invaluable destination for the music fan and collector. Now, it should be said that shopping for used CDs simply isn't as pleasurable as shopping for… More >>
  • BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKSTORE

    Auntie Em's

    Auntie Em's is a serene, book-filled hideaway that comes with an all-important bonus when you're trying to keep up with the kids on a lazy (hah!) weekend morning: in-house caffeine. A full-service espresso bar with juice and pastries will keep you busy while the kids browse and watch Skooter the lizard, Rosie the bird, and the rest of Auntie Em's… More >>
  • BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP

    Big Brain Comics

    There's not a comic book collector alive who doesn't think the virginal, sublimely condescending comic shop owner on The Simpsons is funny--and sure enough, there's a cardboard cutout of the character on a shelf of D.C. graphic novels at this store. But Big Brain proprietor Michael Drivas is so not that guy. Offering his frank opinion on wares to anyone… More >>
  • BEST DOG TRAINING

    Twin Cities Obedience Training Club

    In the interest of family harmony, every pooch needs to learn his Ps and Qs (especially his Ps). Manners make the dog, and at Twin Cities Obedience Training Club, trainers have been helping dog owners instill those manners since 1945. TCOTC is a nonprofit organization and was the first dog-training club in Minnesota. Nine weekly 90-minute obedience classes cost $100--money… More >>
  • BEST DVD RENTAL

    Cinema Revolution

    Their nifty new digs at the edge of the Wedge haven't curbed their enthusiasm for the platters that matter: ultra-rare DVD gems such as Antonioni's The Passenger, Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates, Lars von Trier's The Idiots, and many others you simply won't find anywhere else in the state. Serious about cinema, staffers are even prepping a reading area--stocked with… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (AUDIOPHILE)

    Stereoland

    Seems to us that those in the highest tax bracket--the ones easily able to afford the A/V gadgets from the most rarified local dealers of hi-fi perfection--have been getting all the goods the past four years. So while we do understand that audiophilia doesn't and shouldn't come cheap, we wanted this year to honor a shop that at least gave… More >>
  • BEST ELECTRONICS (PROLETARIAN)

    Target

    Our gadget-loving buds at Best Buy have dominated the penny-pincher's knob-twiddling category for years--but another homegrown corporation has shrewdly pumped up the volume. Did you know that Target stocks the all-important Monster Cable these days? Did you know they sell Napster and iTunes cards? MP3 players and iPod Minis? TiVo boxes and DVD recorders? Well, they do, and they're affordable,… More >>
  • BEST FLORIST

    Sassafras

    This local start-up, featuring two of the Twin Cities' most creative floral designers, already has created a buzz in its first few months off the ground: Sarah Lambert and Sarah Brunsvold do the funky weekly floral arrangements for upscale bistros A Rebours and Pane Vino Dolce. Their daring floral designs are done by appointment only, so you can't drop in… More >>
  • BEST GARDEN CENTER

    Mother Earth Gardens

    This neighborhood garden center in south Minneapolis is Mecca for garden gurus and novices alike. Here, the botanical-minded can find everything they need to create their very own oasis: wooden wind chimes that won't drive the neighbors batty, unique annuals that will make the same neighbors jealous, a wide assortment of clay pots that are sure to match any decor,… More >>
  • BEST GIFT STORE

    Patina Inc

    Whether you're searching for the perfect gift for a soon-to-be-married couple that has a collection of one-of-a-kind tchotchkes from around the world, or that fickle mother-in-law who grimaces at last year's pink, or the precocious kid who is bored by common toys, Patina is your one-stop shop for gifts to please them all. Here, you can pick up a lavender-scented… More >>
  • BEST GOLF STORE

    Golfsmith

    Golf is a game tailor-made for obsessives. The late, great Ben Hogan is said to have examined each of his golf balls twice for imperfections: first, in a buoyant bath of Epsom salts, and then beneath a magnifying glass. And these were his practice balls. On any given day at Golfsmith, one can find a clutch of equally thorough--if less… More >>
  • BEST HAIRCUT

    Olive Salon

    Unlike most trendy salons in the Twin Cities, Olive Salon makes clients feel at home--rather than feeling they were unceremoniously plopped into some ultra-cool wannabe New York salon run by snotty hipsters recently fired from Urban Outfitters. Located in Loring Park, this salon also is a mini art gallery, filled with colorful paintings from local artists that are perfectly complemented… More >>
  • BEST HARDWARE STORE

    Guse Hardware

    This joint is small, but it packs a punch, and it's well-stocked with every sort of nail, screw, wrench, seed, or fertilizer you can name. Sure, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Lyndale Hardware remain hardware heaven, and we could spend an entire weekend lost in their miles of aisles, browsing through the porcelain fixtures and snuggling in the hanging rugs.… More >>
  • BEST HEAD SHOP

    My Tobacco Store

    Hard against the Hilltop trailer park community sits My Tobacco Store, a friendly beacon amid the strip malls and asphalt that constitute southern Anoka County. The storefront's hand-painted sign proclaims, "Tobacco: Now and Forever." In truth, the shop appears geared toward all manner of combustibles. A broad array of cigars and cigarettes can be had at competitive prices, and when… More >>
  • BEST HOTEL

    Le Meridien

    Once upon a time, the St. Paul Winter Carnival was started to prove to outsiders that Minnesota was indeed a habitable place. That didn't exactly work, did it? Over a century later, we're still living in what is regarded as flyover territory by many, despite all our efforts to attract travelers. One thing this old cow town needed was a… More >>
  • BEST MAKEOVER

    MAC Cosmetics

    True, MAC is no mom-and-pop war-paint shop, but do you really want to look like Mom? MAC's products, developed for professional make-up artists, are renowned for their rich pigments, varied finishes, and balls-out glamour (the latter effect often literal, as adoring drag queens can attest). The Uptown shop, wedged squarely at Lake and Hennepin, is stocked with a blinding spectrum… More >>
  • BEST MALL

    Southdale Mall

    Next year the oldest mall in Minnesota--indeed, some insist the nation--turns 50. And may we just say that in our opinion, Southdale has matured quite nicely. Yes, there's the big hollow husk that used to be Mervyn's, but who shopped there anyhow? We've always preferred the rest of the mall: one of the best-stocked Marshall Field's outposts in town; a… More >>
  • BEST PAWNSHOP

    Pawn Xchang

    Pawnshops reek of desperation. Nobody puts their valuables in hock in exchange for a short-term cash infusion unless they're just a sawbuck or two away from skid row. This means that to find the "best" pawnshop you've got to zero in on the places where financial pipe dreams die. It's all about location. That's what makes Pawn Xchange so special.… More >>
  • BEST PET ADOPTION

    Animal Humane Society

    Face it: You need a new (or another) best friend. It's time to fill that space in your life that's impossible to ignore. But where do you go to find that furry or fluffy or feathery pal? The Twin Cities metro has an admirable number of quality animal shelters, including the Animal Humane Society, with locations in Golden Valley and… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BUY FANCY MEN'S CLOTHING

    Polo Ralph Lauren

    Spending a thousand bucks or more on a suit is probably a sign of extreme vanity, mixed-up priorities, and, of course, too much disposable income. Then again, people find all sorts of dubious ways to spend their money, and smart gentlemen know that it's better to show up for a date or job interview in a jalopy and killer threads… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO BUY VINYL

    Let It Be Records

    In 10 or 15 years, maybe everyone except the elderly, the impoverished, and a few assorted Luddites will have all their recorded music on computers and tiny digital boxes. Then again, folks pronounced the album dead in the early '90s, and it's still going reasonably strong. You can still get vinyl editions of many hip-hop, dance, and indie-rock albums, the… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO FIND A PET SITTER

    Professional Pet Sitters of Minnesota

    Here's what nobody tells you when you get a pet: Your friends and relatives aren't particularly interested in caring for it when you have to go out of town. So what do you do? You hire a professional. Yes, there are people who make sure you don't have to worry about Fido while you're off on vacation or business, and… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO RENT FOREIGN FILMS

    Intercontinental Video

    The connoisseur's purveyor of world cinema for the home retains its long-held title the old-fashioned way: by accumulating more and more and more titles. It still pains us to note that some of the tapes that melted in the fire here a few years back may well never be replaced, as even the savviest DVD producers haven't gotten around to… More >>
  • BEST SHOE STORE

    Heavenly Soles

    Ask any normal child about her most recent outing at JC Penney and you'll reach the same conclusion: Shoe shopping is not everyone's idea of a wake-the-neighbors, sound-the-alarm good time. But if a shoe-aholic absolutely must drag a shopaphobe anywhere, let it be Heavenly Soles. The stock at the Lake Street boutique is half shoes, beautiful shoes, half what's this… More >>
  • BEST SOCCER STORE

    Soccer Express - CLOSED

    This Twin Cities mini-chain is a soccer geek's dream. The two area locations offer a top-notch collection of merchandise for active players, neophyte coaches, and armchair enthusiasts. In terms of basic pitch accessories--cleats, shin guards, shorts, socks, balls--you won't find a better selection. There's also a wide variety of international apparel. Been searching for that Ronaldo jersey that will surely… More >>
  • BEST SPORTING GOODS STORE

    Play It Again Sports

    Baseball mitts, like frying pans, are most effective and enjoyable only after they've been thoroughly broken in. Wrapping your putter around the nearest tree, while temporarily satisfying, dents the savings account over the long haul. And if you buy your children hockey equipment, cross-country ski gear, and dozens of other sports-related accouterments brand-new, your odds of getting full-value usage out… More >>
  • BEST TATTOO PARLOR

    Uptown Tattoo

    "Bold will hold," the ink-slinger's adage goes, and the eye-popping work at Uptown holds up on every level. Located above Bob's Java Hut, this appointment-only shop (the occasional walk-in welcome) on 27th Street and Lyndale Avenue is for serious tattoo aficionados--if you're jonesing to get a blurred monarch butterfly etched on your ankle, you might want to look elsewhere. With… More >>
  • BEST THRIFT STORE

    Unique

    While not exactly unique, as there are two affiliated stores in the western suburbs, this Rice Street behemoth has the rest of the Twin Cities competition beat. Name a nondisposable item you need, Unique has it. (And even some perishables, like--why?--used lipstick.) For cheap, simple electronics, forget the pawnshop: Unique has numerous TVs--all plugged in so you can check out… More >>
  • BEST TOBACCONIST

    Golden Leaf Tobacco

    The main problem at Golden Leaf is finding enough room for all the plaques the shop wins year in, year out. Clearly, these folks are doing something right. We think it has something to do with their exhaustive selection: As always, you'll find a wide array of cigars, pipes, and loose tobacco. Can't find those wicked German smokes you discovered… More >>
  • BEST TOY STORE

    Creative Kidstuff

    At Creative Kidstuff you can walk in, grab a sweet, rosy-cheeked clerk, and say, "I need a board game for a smart ten-year-old, a rocket safe enough for a three-year-old, outdoor dollhouse furniture for the seven-year-old with everything, and a unicorn suitable for a preschool-aged boy." Twenty minutes--and a big hit on your wallet--later you'll be walking out, bright-colored bags… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING (KIDS)

    Once Upon a Child

    Here's a fact: Babies and kids outgrow the chichi clothes (the Hanna Andersson, the Zutano, the Marimekko) and the solidly made middle-brow stuff (the Baby Gap, the Carters, the OshKosh) just as quickly and inexorably as they do the stuff from Target. The difference is that parents with a stash of the former are far more likely to consign it… More >>
  • BEST USED CLOTHING (VINTAGE)

    Theater Antiques

    If half the fun of shopping is the hunt, Theater Antiques is a two-week African safari. With several dealers sharing a space that's overflowing with odd little bits of Americana, treasures hide out in the damnedest places. Looking for a pair of shoes? Scan the floor of the entire store (including the hidden feet of every gussied-up mannequin). But then,… More >>
  • BEST VIDEO RENTAL

    Hollywood Video

    Much as we'll always cherish and continue to support the Cities' independent video stores, we have to admit that it's awfully hard for them to compete with a chain-owned Uptown outfit whose parent company recently anointed it as a "flagship store." In other words, the second-largest video-rental corporation in the country (after Blockbuster) made a list of the most esoteric… More >>
  • BEST WAXING

    Faces and More

    Who would have guessed that the Twin Cities' best waxing salon is in a strip mall on the Bloomington/Richfield border? Faces and More has the same upscale products and comforting decor one finds at salons in tonier neighborhoods, but their prices are well below the Uptown and Edina norm. Waxing is a masochist's folly; after all, we're talking about molten… More >>
  • BEST WOMEN'S CLOTHING STORE

    Heartbreaker

    After overdosing on pan-ethnic hippie swag at Calhoun Square, seek refuge at Heartbreaker and revel in the unapologetic trendiness of their merchandise. Sometimes you want to wear a scarlet tunic with leg-o'-mutton sleeves, sometimes you want to wear a fitted tee emblazoned with "Diamond Dogs"-era David Bowie, sometimes you want to wear Lucite-soled stilettos that require backup medical coverage. Whatever… More >>
  • BEST YARN STORE

    The Yarnery

    There are a couple of dozen stores in the metro area where one can wander and fondle the mohairs and the super-light bulky-weight wools. A lot of these stores are come-latelies, riding the stitch-n-bitch wave of knitting popularity. But the old guard is still where it's at: The Yarnery has welcomed knitters in the same old house on Grand Avenue… More >>
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