Best of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of 2007

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Place to Game

Sub Zero Gaming Center is a mix of Internet café and video arcade, with a twist of home gaming. It's got all the comforts of gaming at home (a snack bar, comfy chairs, individual glass desks, and headsets) without the solitude. The Greenacres joint has 17 computers equipped with 19-inch LCD gaming monitors and a half-dozen console stations, all connected via a high-speed network. (What better way to savor the looks of frustration and despair on your fellow players' faces as you blast them into oblivion?) And there are a lot of games to choose from. Whether it's first-person fare like Counterstrike, Xbox-fueled warfare with Gears of War, or Hobbit-esque excursions in the World of Warcraft, Sub Zero has your fix and probably a new gaming addiction you haven't found yet. Players can become members for a one-time fee of $20, which gives them access to reduced rates and a host of other goodies, like free play time and entry into special tournaments and events. But the best membership bonus is this: Sub Zero packs in nearly 200 hard-core members a week, so you'll always have someone to play with.

3963 Jog Rd., Lake Worth, 33467
MAP
561-439-2111
Personal Best

For years, Amanda Magnetta-Ottati helped her husband Tate run Tate's Comics, but it wasn't until the couple decided to expand the popular comic book store this year that she quit her steady gig in advertising. Magnetta-Ottati now runs an eclectic hideaway, Bear and Bird, in the store's loft space. Call it an alternative art gallery. "Something that's been sorely lacking in Broward County," she says, "is a space for emerging artists that are focused in pop culture." Her space is a kind of "curated boutique," she says, staying intentionally vague about the edgy work she prefers. "Basically, it's all filled with stuff that I think is neat." The Bear and Bird's first art show "For the Love of Munny" – a collection of peculiarly compelling art toys with personalized designs -- drew a crowd of 1500.

New Times: What kind of spy gadgets could I buy at the Bear and Bird?

Magnetta-Ottati: Ooh! We have these cool cameras called Lomos. One of the styles takes sequential shots that capture pictures at fractions of a second's difference. That's a great spy tool.

What exotic destination would you like to travel to?

Japan! I've always wanted to go. Just because I know that my head will explode from all the cool stuff. I think that I'm drawn to it in part by the awesome pull of their shopping and bizarre characters and signage! I know my husband Tate would really enjoy seeing a sumo match and eating uni!

How would you prepare for the Bond experience?

I'd love a super-fabulous bag of spy disguises. It would be interesting to blend in to any situation and learn as an insider. I can't wait to try out my bald cap and beard disguise. I actually have a dynamic duo of attack dogs. Both are adorable, scruffy mutts from the Humane Society. They are always there to remind me to take time out of my all too busy life for a good belly scratching!

Best Computer Repair Store
Take a Byte

Yes, that's a huge glass case filled with toothpicks mounted on the east wall of the Take a Byte showroom in downtown Hollywood. To answer your next question, there are exactly 1 million of them. As to the questions of why someone collected them and who that someone is, let's all agree not to ask, OK? You may not want to know. Besides, you came here because you have an ailing or outdated computer. Fact is, most of us don't know what hardware we need, nor what's compatible with our machine, and even if we did, we don't trust ourselves to install it without breaking the thing. There's a better way. Drop off the laptop at Take a Byte and let Mike get his mitts on it. By the same day, he'll list all the hardware you need to modernize your computer. He can order that hardware at wholesale prices, then install it for you. And as a complimentary gift, he'll cure your system of all those viruses and spyware that slow it down. You get an old computer that runs like a brand-new model — at a fraction of the price. Just don't ask about the toothpicks.

2209 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 33020
MAP
954-927-5766
Best Pawn Shop
Casino Pawn & Jewelry

You can hock Granddaddy's watch in any old shop, but rare are the pawn shops where a fellow can pawn in bulk. Like his helicopter. Or his bulldozer. They buy it all at Casino Pawn & Jewelry, located across Stirling Road from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino — a short stroll for the inveterate gamblers among us. Buyers can find a whole fleet of four-wheelers, choose from among a tool section that rivals the Home Depot, or pick up a slew of musical instruments — the detritus of so much misspent ambition. Prices are competitive with eBay, and the manager, Mark, claims his shop pays the highest price for goods in an area strewn with pawn shops.

4217 N. State Road 7, Hollywood, 33021
MAP
954-962-9494
Best Health Food Store
Simply Natural

Any health-food store can sell stuff that claims to be good for you. But go to the counter at Simply Natural and you're liable to find Richard or Shahrooz, the husband-and-wife owners who have been known to offer free meditation classes, free guest lecturers, and even free samples of vegan foods. They can draw upon their vast expertise on all matters health to recommend an herbal remedy or nutrition supplement for whatever ails you. Or they can set you up with one of the many practitioners who rotate through the shop's back office: an acupuncturist, masseuse, reflexologist, iridologist, or CardioVision analyst. Plus, it's a short walk next door to the Simply Natural Café, which boasts the area's cheapest and most truly organic menu around. The meat is grass-fed and hormone-free, and even the beer and wine are organic.

8271 Sunset Strip, Plantation, 33322
MAP
954-742-8344
Best Stencils

So there's this guy, Books. He won't say his real name. He does some graffiti, but he can't talk about that either because, you know, it's illegal. He and his business partner, Dr. Black (don't ask him his real name either), have taken stencil to an artistic level. Remember stencils from grade school? These ain't them. Books and Black have made intricate stencils and engravings carved with a CO2 laser onto metal, wood, and even mirrors. They've been hired to create business cards, poker tables, and wedding invites. They'll even engrave the windshield of your tricked-out ride. While they're both very mysterious about what they do, they're open about one thing: MasterCard is accepted.

203 Southwest Seventh Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33312
MAP
Best Toy Store

Babies are stupid. Many of them can't even talk. So they're in no position to complain if all their toys serve some ulterior parental motive, like education. Rather than letting the TV set play babysitter, pop in Brainy Baby, the DVD that teaches junior how to access his right brain (for creativity) and then his left (for logic). As the kid grows up, a parent can continue heading to downtown Hollywood for raids on the Kids-n-Science merchandise. A talking microscope, for instance, beats any talking doll. And if the kid insists on a doll, buy him or her the "Human Undercover Body," a science kit that promises a "human skeleton and organs inside!" (It's never too early to start med school.) Eventually, the little runt will go through a phase where he's fascinated with gore and destruction. Don't fight it; feed it with the "Horrible Science" series of toys. There's "Explosive Experiments" for the kid who would build his own fireworks and volcanoes and "Bloody Bones & Body Bits" for the youngster who would practice heart surgery on a life-like plastic model — which is far better than practicing it on the neighbor's cat.

2000 Harrison St., Hollywood, 33020
MAP
954-927-4700
Best Gift Shop
Sticks and Stones

So you need to buy some turquoise jewelry created by local craftsmen, pick up a chunk of petrified dinosaur dung, and relieve that pesky itch via a holistic earwax-removal candle, but you don't have time to run all over town. Lucky for you, the Hollywood Beach Resort has just the one-stop shopping mecca you seek. Walk into the giant building's main entrance and past the Farfr¨mp¨ken T-shirts (yes, they still sell them), beyond the kiosk specializing in incense and used watches, and up to the sandwich-board sign that reads "Sticks and Stones — The most unusual gift shop in a hotel anywhere!" Single animal teeth stand up next to neatly inscribed labels — "seal tusk," "bison tooth — 7800 years old!" — making a menagerie of dentin solders. The shop's soulful-eyed bohemian owners (and nondenominational preachers) can also up-sell you with a funeral, wedding, or commitment ceremony either on the beach outside or in the tiny wedding chapel they have fashioned out of bamboo and tapestries in the corner of the shop. The John Lennon Wedding Chapel holds enough instruments to outfit an entire band and has a hand-painted sign hanging from its ceiling: "All you need is love." Whether you're looking to spend a little (bunny pelts are only $6) or a little more (the 400-million-year-old dinosaur dung rings in at bargain price of $31), Sticks and Stones has the perfect nonregistry wedding gift for any occasion.

101 N. Ocean Dr., Hollywood, 33019
MAP
954-927-6402
Best Signature Gift

Thanks to the enterprising folks over at Rose Vine Winery, you can now do in a Federal Highway shopping plaza what it took Robert Mondavi acres and acres of expensive Napa Valley real estate to do: make your own wine. First, a winemaking specialist lets you sample a range of flavors and explains concepts like fermentation, clarification, and aeration. Do you want to make a fine Merlot? A peach Chardonnay? Something more akin to Boone's Farm? Once you've decided, mix different varieties of grape juice concentrates, which makes the potion more oaky or as sweet as you please. Add yeast (yeast + sugars = alcohol), take the temperature, and leave the mixture at the shop for about 45 days. (A winemaker will monitor it.) When you come back, you bottle your wine using high-tech electric bottling equipment, design your own labels, and stick corks in each of the 24 bottles your batch has produced. It costs $249 — just over $10 a bottle!

230 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach, 33441
MAP
954-480-8977
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1000 Linton Blvd., Delray Beach, 33444
MAP
561-330-8090
Best Housewares
Jezebel

Over the past 20 years, this boutique has evolved from humble roots: It started as the Stock Exchange in Wilton Manors, a tiny closet of a shop jam-packed full of vintage textile treasures. Now (and for the past 16 or so years), it calls the Gateway Plaza home and has expanded its inventory to include every adorable shiny trinket you could possibly desire for your nest. From dishes cartooned with pictures of bad girls with even worse tattoos to atomic-print diner-style napkin holders, Jezebel turns your low-rent hellhole of a kitchen into a charming '50s diner. Need to add a little joy to that dank, windowless bedroom? Browse through sunshine-yellow blankets or snag any number of hanging paper lanterns. Sniff your way through tables of sweet and savory candles or take home feng-shui friendly room diffusers. Finally, scrub your whole pad down with aromatherapy cleaning products, sit back, and relax. Your digs will look, feel, and smell so good.

1980 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33304
MAP
954-761-7881
Best Leather

We all know that the softest, most sublime, and supple leather comes from Italy. Whether it's shoes, a jacket, skirt, pants, or even chaps, the Italians can make even the most loyal vegans want to wear it. And at Minimalista Furniture in the Gateway Shopping Plaza — where Sunrise Boulevard and Federal Highway converge/diverge — you'll want to strip off whatever you're wearing right there in front of the salespeople and the giant windows facing that busy intersection just to get as close as possible to the leather. Most everything in the elegantly and purposefully sparse showroom is featured in white and black — in true minimalist fashion. The prices aren't minimal, however. When you spend upward of $4,000 for that upscale leather sofa, can you really afford that extra end table?

1900 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33304
MAP
954-761-8880
Best Mechanic

He could have said it was the flux capacitor, and sadly, I wouldn't have known the difference. So you can imagine my surprise when the vehicle that I had nervously abandoned only 15 minutes earlier was already prepped for surgery, diagnosed, and broken down into words that even I understood. Nick said the "scary gasoline smell" that needed to be checked out was legitimately "A Scary Gasoline Smell" and that its cause was a laceration in my fuel line (then the term death trap was tossed around lightly). Instantly, cartoon dollar signs replaced my pupils, I clutched a nearby window ledge for support, my knuckles went white, and I asked the question that every owner of a wounded vehicle must ask: "Soooo, how much?" His response floored me even further, "How's $13.50 for parts and labor? Oh, and we can have it ready in about 20 minutes. Oh, and hey! Congratulations on quitting smoking — it must feel good knowing that you would have exploded if you hadn't!" Was I really getting my car fixed for less than the cost of an oil change and in about the same amount of time — as well as receiving moral support on a major life decision? Yes! But that's because I brought my plush whip to Rothe's. The Rothe family, Nick, and the rest of the crew at this busy little shop approach auto repair with an uncommon Zen-based flair: They not only see the inner beauty in every hoop-ride but they feel it deserves to live (and occasionally die) with dignity. So if your beater just quit beating or you're not emotionally ready to pull the plug on your '87 Pinto or hell — you're just scared of slick-talking grease monkeys, take it to the wrench-wielders who will give it to you straight. Take it to Rothe's.

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Best Place to Game: Sub Zero Games

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