Everybody knows that the best way to find a mechanic is to ask someone for referrals. And who better to ask than other mechanics? After he had the timing belt in his Lexus fixed by the guys at Elder Automotive, a local airplane mechanic said, "They're good, and they're fair." What else do ya want in a mechanic?!? Bonus: If you're the penny-pinching, wrench-turning type, "They'll even wait if you want to go get a part from the junkyard, because it's cheaper than buying a new part through them."

Kids, pull up a chair and listen a spell. Paw wants to tell you a story about his favorite beer. 'Course, you can't find it nowadays. But back when your Grandpappy was alive, the finest beer you could drink was called Watney's Red Barrel. Damn if that wasn't just the swellest brew ever, a perfect balance of slightly sweet maltiness and just a li'l bitter bite from them hops. Oh, don't even get me started on Killian's Red. That swill ain't fit to wash your hubcaps with. Luckily for your old Paw, Fort Lauderdale brewmaster Adam Fine has whipped together a red ale recipe that does Watney's one better. Which is like doin' Killian's... whut? Six better? That's 'cause I'm talking about good old Number Seven, the smooth, eminently quaffable red ale that should be the flagship beer of Fine's Fresh Beer Inc. It's so damn tasty, and it takes me back to a simpler time. The billiard-ball tap is a nice touch too. Look for the stuff on tap at clubs like the Poor House and Alligator Alley but not in the refrigerator section of your neighborhood grocery store.

You know that saying, "Everywhere you go, there you are"? Well, it should be updated thusly: "Everywhere you go, there's a Starbucks Coffee store." You can't avoid them -- the damn things are everywhere. Next to your home. Next to your work. And, unfortunately, next to other Starbucks stores. This, hopefully, explains Starbucks' immense popularity with the roaming caffeine hound. Because it's certainly not quality that drives people en masse to the bloated coffee chain, unless puke-flavored java's the new thing these days. So, in hopes that supporting a growing David to slay the out-of-control Goliath is not too quixotic a goal, we recommend Greenberry's Coffee & Tea. New to the state, Greenberry's recently opened its first Florida location in Wellington and plans to open a location in Coral Springs this year as well. Unlike that other coffee store, Greenberry's selection of more than 25 coffee types is pleasing to the taste buds. Regular coffee comes in three sizes: tall (12 ounces, $1.40), grande (16 ounces, $1.60), and supreme (20 ounces, $1.70). For tea time, there are 18 loose-leaf teas to choose from. If you're in need of a quick caffeine fix, espresso is $1.45 for a single shot and $1.70 for a double shot. Or if you'd rather play it cool, Greenberry's has frozen drinks (java shakes, $2.65 to $3.40) and fruit smoothies (banana berry, mango apricot, raspberry, and wild berry, $2.90 to $3.65). Wireless Internet access is free. Now what was the name of that other place?

When you graduate from Dungeons & Dragons and Everquest and Heroclix and the other role-playing games favored by 30-year-old virgins, when it's time to put hair on your chest in place of pimples, then hit the old-school board games. Yes, lad, you may know your Stratego from your Axis & Allies, but when was the last time you busted out a round of Quo Vadis? -- "the game of Politics and Intrigue in Ancient Rome"? Got jiggy with 1856: Railroading in Upper Canada or took on Risk 2210 A.D.? The war games here are so specific, they deal with the last four days of Waterloo, for instance, or the Soviet liberation of Kiev in 1943, or helicopter warfare in the 1980s. If you want to cool your heels, sailor, check out Regatta, the game of championship yacht racing. Take your pick. Just remember: Chicks can dig games just as long as the dice don't have more than six sides.

Local head shops have been hit pretty hard in recent months. The Department of Homeland Security has way too much free time on its hands and has been harassing stores that sell what they consider to be "drug paraphernalia." Unfortunately for the proprietors of these establishments, the department has not come out and said exactly what is illegal, making any merchandise that you can use to smoke into a potential business liability. A number of shops have closed, and those that remain open have pretty much cleared their shelves of everything but a meager selection of rolling papers, incense, and gifts. That's why we were overjoyed to discover that Grateful J's still has everything that the short-term memory of a pothead can remember needing. From bowls in Pyrex, metal, corncob, and wood to multihosed hookahs and futuristic vaporizers, J's carries everything you need for your next hit of the kind bud. A VW van's weight in Grateful Dead merchandise is inside, but our favorite spot is the Boca Raton store's showcase of handcrafted art glass -- goblets, paperweights, and pendants. If you look one shelf lower, you'll see a collection of handmade glass sex toys for use after that late-night hash spliff, when you and your honey are feeling nice and relaxed.
This ain't no reptile tourist trap. No faux alligator baubles to be found here, friends. You'll know this is authentic gator land the moment you step into this shop, which is hidden away in a cluster of drab warehouse cubbyholes just off I-95 and Pembroke Road. The piquant aroma of gator hides in various states of processing fills the nostrils, and craftsmen are hand-making purses, boots, and, well, whatever other notions of scaly stylin' you might desire. Opened in the late '80s by Massachusetts native and part-time marine biologist Brian Wood, the shop also offers meat, from fast-food cheap to caviar costly. For the highfalutin, there's the alligator tenderloins for $10.95 a pound. For the lunchbox set, try the $2.75-a-pound legs, or, hell, buy a whole carcass for $2 a pound and barbecue that baby up. If you prefer to be one step removed from the whole gator-factory experience, order online.

Remember back in college when you had to choose a foreign language? And, being the young Einstein you were, you chose whatever seemed the coolest, regardless of whether you'd actually ever speak the language. Fortunately, you can make up for your youthful shortsightedness at Clematis Street News Stand. Short of actually traveling abroad, what better way to check out a foreign country than to read its periodicals? Test your memory reading France's LeFigaro and Le Monde, Spain's El País, or Italy's Corriere della Sera, and several other foreign-language papers. Or peruse those of other English-speaking nations, like England's tabloid the Daily Mirror or the Irish Times. There are plenty of papers from the States as well, from the Left Coast (San Francisco Chronicle) to the Big Apple (New York Post, New York Times). But what good is reading the paper without a good meal on the side? Well, you're in luck: Clematis Street News Stand serves breakfast, lunch, and an assortment of desserts to boot. There's even a gift shop (though somewhat for tourists) offering fine wines, cigars, and various souvenirs and greeting cards. You could spend hours dining, shopping, and catching up on news from across the Atlantic. And you should too -- it'll help make up for all that money you blew in college.

In Fort Lauderdale, you used to have either your bus tour or your boat tour. Now you can go amphibian on this city's ass. It's called Lauderducks, and it opened at BeachPlace this past December. The silly name comes from a very serious vehicle, called a DUKW. These babies are basically large trucks with watertight hulls that were built back in 1940 for use in World War II. A few smart people decided to buy some DUKWs from the government, renovate them, then charge the populace to ride and boat in them. The DUKW is a terribly awkward-looking thing, and that's one of the wonderful aspects of the tour: It's as much an oddity as anything you'll see while you're on it. People stare and wave as you ride by and make obnoxious noises with these little yellow quacker things the tour operators give you. The 80-minute ride -- which costs $21 per adult and $13 for children -- rolls up the shopping district of Las Olas, into Fort Lauderdale, where you learn about our wonderful history (like the fact that the Broward County Governmental Center used to be a department store). Then they drive you right into the New River, where you float by what the city calls Millionaire's Row, where half of the mansions seem to be owned by the Huizengas. Then it's on to the Intracoastal Waterway, where you gawk at more boats than you thought could fit on the ocean. In short, it's a ride into the heart of Fort Lauderdale -- and it's a hell of a tour. Quack, quack.

The full name of this club for curs is Camp Canine Country Club and Day Spa for Dogs and Cats. I'll let the owners describe the place from their website, which calls it "not just an ordinary kennel, but an elite resort for dogs and cats offering very unique Daycare, as well as Grooming, Boarding, Training and an exclusive Pet Boutique -- for the most spoiled pets!" That's right, folks, we've entered the realm of pecuniary emulation for dogs. You don't just worry about keeping up with the Joneses nowadays but their damn furball too. But let's face it: There are a lot of single folk out there who can't be at home with their mutts during working hours. If you've got the money -- $15 for the first day and $22 a day after that -- why not let Spot play at Camp Canine? And rest assured that the folks at the sprawling, 9,200-square-foot facility in downtown Fort Lauderdale are professional, and they know what they are doing. Fido can roam about in the camp's air-conditioned play area or go to the secure yard outside. He can play on jungle gyms, have a nap time or a manicure, or watch "rainy day doggy movies." It's downright decadent, like Caligula for dogs. Discounted multiday passes are available. Fortunately, if all the debauchery gets to be too much for your pooch, the facility also has counselors on-site to handle your pet's psychological problems, like depression and separation anxiety. Unfortunately, they don't offer the same services to the animals' owners.

Synodontis petricola is a dwarf catfish commonly found in Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. It rarely exceeds three and a half inches in length. But S. petricola, better-known as the pygmy catfish, has one hell of a Napoleon complex: Put this graceful creature in an aquarium with some of his larger, more aggressive catfish brethren and watch him quickly gain respect as he scavenges the bottom of your aquarium. S. petricola ($34.99) is merely one of the unique underwater oddities you can find at Benny's Tropical Fish in Pembroke Pines. This family-owned store, founded by Benny Manna, is a turnkey outfit for all your fish and home aquarium needs. In fact, Benny's fish, many of which are bred in captivity, have gained such a following that Manna ships everything from Blue Dolphin ($5.99) to Albino Cobalt Zebra ($4.99) to customers nationwide. Readers' Choice: Petsmart

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