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Best Of 2011

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Place to Drink in Flip-Flops

Flip-flops are the quintessential shoe choice for most Floridians, but when alcohol is involved, they're not the safest. Feet are stepped on, toes get stubbed, broken glass causes all sorts of debauchery... it's just not a good situation to be in. But when drinking beachside, wearing sandy sneakers isn't so ideal either. This is where the Water Taxi swoops in to save the day. The Water Taxi offers all-day transportation by sea to various shopping, dining, and beaches in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. For the tourists, these things sound delightful, but let's be honest — this city is nicknamed "Fort Liquordale" for a reason. So for the local lushes, the Water Taxi provides an excellent service, a DUI-free form of transportation where we can drink onboard between bars and not have to worry about our toes.

City Fish Market Critics' Pick
Best Seafood Restaurant
City Fish Market

All right-thinking people can agree that restaurant chains are an abomination before God, man, and Bobby Flay. Boca's City Fish Market is, yes, a chain restaurant, one of two City Fish Markets of the Atlanta-based Buckhead Life Restaurant Group and one of the firm's 14 upscale eateries in Georgia and South Florida. On the other hand, you can't argue with what's on the plate. (Actually, you can, but that makes you an idiot.) And what's on the plate at City Fish is just damned good. Whether posh oysters Rockefeller or crisp-fried calamari with a Thai-style chili sauce, a slab of meaty yellowfin tuna simply broiled with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, or Parmesan-crusted Scottish salmon served with a crispy basil-flecked potato cake that alone is worth the price of admission, the seafood here is fresh and exactingly prepared and will make you rethink the notion that this chain, at least, is an abomination.

7940 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 33434
MAP
561-487-1600
Best Indian Market
Little India

The first thing you notice is the wide, brightly lit aisles. This is an ethnic grocery with a definite Boca flair. Everything you desire is lined up in neat, clean rows: chana dal masala spices, mango pickles, beet root and ginger chutney, roti. There are snacks called "bitter gourd spicy chips" and jalapeño chakri. Everything is so abundant, you don't have to worry about finding the best assam tea or the proper spice for your shahi paneer. Peek into the refrigerated sections and you'll find blocks of plain paneer cheese and enticingly fresh okra, cilantro, Japanese eggplant, and green chilies. There's even a selection of Bollywood DVDs displayed behind the counter. Just try to leave this place empty-handed.

2800 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 33431
MAP
561-367-7980
Best Tattoo Shop
Rock-A-Billy Tattoo

Once upon a time, the tattoo industry was associated with a few things: sailors, bikers, and criminals. But oh, how the times have changed. In today's society, tattoos have become a pop-culture trend appearing on everything from clothing to even our own moms. But tattoos are more than a trend; they're a lifelong decision to decorate your body with beautiful pieces of permanent artwork. So why waste that opportunity (or the artist's time, for that matter) on being "that guy" with just another tribal armband or some Chinese letters that mean who knows what? Choosing the right shop is important, and with the ever-growing popularity of the industry, tattoo shops are popping up quicker than pain clinics. For more than a decade, Rock-A-Billy Tattoo's artists, all well-rounded in a myriad of styles, have provided the local area with original tattoos and quality work. Owner Dave Poole's stunning Asian-inspired pieces, P.L. Serrano's detailed portraits, and Steve Wittenberger's knack for traditional styling are just a few examples of the talent bursting from the hands of Rock-A-Billy's artists. So when tattoo time comes for you, take a visit to Rock-A-Billy's Lauderhill location, and don't forget to snag a look at the enormous collection of original artwork adorning the shop's walls.

4576 N. University Dr., Sunrise, 33351
MAP
954-746-7570
Best Farmers' Market
West Palm Beach Green Market

It's not California, but for South Florida, it ain't half-bad. Actually, the West Palm Beach Green Market, which in May completed its 16th season of bringing its farm to your table, is pretty goddamned good. As local palates evolved and eating fresh, local, and seasonal became more than just a cliché, the market evolved too. Though purveyors of quality artisanal foods are still outnumbered by restaurantish booths dishing everything from delicate French pastry to groaning breakfast burritos, there's plenty of fresh, flavorful "product" to satisfy any hungry locavore. Among the highlights: the just-picked produce from Loxahatchee's estimable Swank Farms, Walter Ross' three varieties of tasty heirloom tomatoes, sumptuously fresh eggs laid by happy chickens on Robert and Paula Farriss' Palm Beach Gardens ranch, and the amazing array of organic teas and spices from West Palm's own Maria and John Vitale. Also unlike California: no earthquakes.

2ND St., West Palm Beach, 33401
MAP
561-822-1515
Best Boutique
Jezebel

In Gateway Plaza, a mermaid riding a lobster catches your eye, beckoning you to come closer and explore what's behind the doors at Jezebel. Upon entering, an overwhelming feeling of joy will hit you: You've just met the best friend you've been searching for all your life. Jezebel is the one who's always there for you in all the toughest of situations, promising to never let you down. Or leave you empty-handed. Going through a tough breakup? Leave the tears at home and venture over to the shop for a little retail therapy. The ever-growing stock of locally handcrafted jewelry, collection of vintage dresses, and heavenly perfume scents will make you forget a cheating lover in a heartbeat. Forgot your sister's birthday? Hand her one of the adorably delightful cards and she'll forgive you. Moving in with a new boyfriend and worried about the bathroom situation? Worry no more; Jezebel's wide selection of delectable candles will come to the rescue. After 25 years of loyalty, maybe it's time you handed over half of that best-friend charm to Jezebel.

1980 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33304
MAP
954-761-7881
Best Consignment Shop
Déjà Vu Consignment

Consignment shops often remind people of Miss Haversham, a musky room filled with moth-chewed clothing, and dusty antiques provoking sneeze attacks. However, hidden in Pompano Beach is Déjà Vu Consignment, a delightful little shop that puts all those negative stereotypes to rest. For more than 25 years, Déjà Vu Consignment has supplied local fashion connoisseurs with eclectic styling options. Racks of well-kept dresses from yesteryear line the walls, various pairs of colorful kitten heels are sprinkled throughout, and once in a while, a quilted Chanel purse will pop up. From 1950s Bakelite jewelry to a four-headed mink stole, there's no shortage of treasures waiting to be discovered, and owner Rose Wilson is always eager to help you hunt. And if you're lucky, she'll even partake in a little bit of bargaining fun.

452 S. Cypress Rd., Pompano Beach, 33060
MAP
954-942-5700
Best Record Store
Radio-Active Records

Purchasing music at Radio-Active Records still feels good. Unlike stores that would be just as happy to sell you a flat-screen television or a Twilight paperback, this spot is where everyone — buyers and sellers alike — is all about the records. Stow a pile of choice discs behind the front counter until payday if you must, but it's likely that these rare jazz, psychedelic, or even bluegrass vinyl finds are gonna make it tough to leave empty-handed. Add the unmatched selection of new, mind-melting music in all genres and the blistering shows held on the sizable stage in the back and going home really isn't viable anymore, is it?

845 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 33304
MAP
954-762-9488
Best Gift Shop
To the Moon
C. Stiles

To the Moon's dedicated-bordering-on-psycho proprietor, Antonio Dumas, not only curates the store's Eurotreats, candies, chocolates, and greeting cards but also its many shelves full of novelty knickknacks. Need a Rolling Stones coffee mug? A talking rubber nun for your dashboard? A beer bong with a detachable penis nozzle? All of these things have passed through Dumas' little store on Wilton Drive. If all those things don't appeal to you, check out the exotic chocolate bars; Dumas sells more than 80 varieties. Swing on by: The man could sell anything, and probably will.

2205 Wilton Dr., Fort Lauderdale, 33305
MAP
954-564-2987
Best Place to Donate Clothing
Covenant House Florida

Since 1985, Covenant House Florida has provided a safe haven for homeless and runaway youth, including teen parents and their babies. The Fort Lauderdale crisis center never closes the door, offering at-risk teens food, shelter, and, most recently, on-site educational services and substance-abuse programs. Covenant House then strives to help these kids transition back into the world, including finding them work. Unfortunately, in many situations, teens arrive at the center with little to no belongings, usually just what's on their backs. So you can imagine in this struggling economy how difficult it might be for someone to find a job without the proper attire. So next time you clean out your closet, stop by Covenant House Florida, a place where donations will go to good use.

733 Breakers Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33304
MAP
954-561-5559
Best Asian Market
Sasaya Japanese Market

The Japanese Market is a great one-stop shop for people adept at cooking Asian food — but it's an especially excellent find for the culinarily challenged among us. A sushi bar in the back serves affordable nigiri, sashimi, and rolls that are too tasty and beautiful for their styrofoam plates. Then again, it's a humble joint, and that's part of the draw — you eat seated on dingy wooden stools that match the raw wood countertops overlooking the parking lot of the Gateway Shopping Center. The salad roll is a perfect weekday dinner — lettuce, tomato, avocado, and carrot wrapped traditionally and served with ginger dressing. Order a few pieces of nigiri to round it out. The market also has the traditional fixins — noodles, sake, and snacks in all varieties — even Kikkoman instant miso soup, actually quite delicious.

1956 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33304
MAP
954-761-8010
Best New Trend

The gourmet frozen yogurt craze spread from Los Angeles to New York like a bad rash throughout the past few years, but it almost completely skipped South Florida — until recently. Within the past year, the self-serve frozen yogurt trend has grown to cupcake proportions — and it's not as though our climate doesn't warrant the late-blooming craze. Cream, on Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach, added self-serve to its offerings, and Orange Leaf opened on Atlantic Avenue. Yogurtland popped up in Coral Springs, and Yogurt Ur Way became a Las Olas fixture in a matter of weeks. Perhaps the trend sprang from the recession (you pay only for what you intend to finish), or maybe it's a product of body-conscious culture (you add only as much topping as you want). But whatever cultural phenomenon made the trend viral, it's a welcome epidemic.

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Best Place to Drink in Flip-Flops: Water Taxi

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