Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Consider this place Arcade Version 2.0. Instead of playing against a computer, you can play against people inside OffWorld Game Center as well as on another continent. With about two dozen computers hooked up to a high-speed Internet connection in a strip mall in Lauderhill, OffWorld specializes in multiplayer PC gaming -- from such strategy games as Ages of Empire III to first-person shooters such as Battlefield Vietnam and the U.S. government-created America's Army. This is a place every geek at heart will love. Bottles of high-caffeine BAWL Guarana are available in the refrigerator, and clever T-shirts and bumper stickers are sold at the front desk. Our favorite: "Every time someone downloads a song, God kills a kitten." Despite opening less than a year ago, OffWorld Game Center has become a serious destination for hardcore gamers. In addition to the two dozen computers, OffWorld offers console games in the front and a huge theater in the back available for console games or movies. Rates are $5 per hour or $4 per hour if you have a $40 annual membership. On Tuesdays, gaming hours are two-for-one, and on "Whoop-Ass Wednesdays," players game all night for $10.
Asa Boynton is a one-man crime fighter, dope-den destroyer, letter writer, and critic of Hollywood City Hall. In fact, Boynton's tireless hell-raising with Hollywood's Police Department and politicians earned him our nod as this year's Best Gadfly. Since moving to the Diamond of the Gold Coast from Kendall a decade ago, Boynton has made community activism his passion. But there's more to him than that. Boynton's also an entertainer, a man whose love of costumes inspired him to be what he is today: a singing telegram artist. Of course, Boynton does more than sing and dance. He dresses the part. He'll show up at corporate events, parties, and even your front door dressed in a purple gorilla suit or in his favorite costume, the Hairy Fairy. In fact, Boynton unveils his new Hairy Fairy costume with this photo. When it comes to his favorite shop in town, he's quick with an answer: Chantik Imports. Located in downtown Hollywood, Chantik specializes in furniture and arts and crafts imported from Indonesia. Boynton loves Chantik's furniture, but it's the store's masks and woodcrafts that drive him back week after week. "I just get off on carved wood and different kinds of masks," Boynton says. "Plus, I'm a Leo, and I love tribal-looking things." At Chantik, Boynton has bought everything from mirrors to masks to painted wooden fish that he uses to hang from his clown costume.
As the name suggests, CD Collector wants to unburden you of those extra discs piling up at the back of your music collection. If they're in good shape and not especially lame (e.g., Pat Boone's heavy metal album), bring 'em in for either cash or store credit. If your CDs are scratched-up or played-out, then bring cash -- you'll need some form of currency after perusing the assorted CDs, records, DVDs, T-shirts, and other music-related knickknacks you'll inevitably haul up to the register. While there are plenty of hip-hop and dance CDs to go around, the store is especially heavy on rock -- indie, punk, classic, new wave, etc. For your convenience, the more spin-worthy LPs are hung on the wall, including reissues of the Clash's self-titled album ($13.95) and Suicide's 1/2 Alive ($12.95). The thousands of used LPs in the main bin are a bit cheaper but still far above dollar-bin quality. Speaking of dollar deals, a buck is all you pay for each of the CDs stored in the back of the shop (across from the Numark DJ packages, which run $275 to $385 for dual turntable kits). A dollar also gets you one of those old-school punk, ska, and Oi! buttons you won't find at Hot Topic. Of course, after a trip to CD Collector, you've got no reason to do your music shopping at the mall.
If you're not accustomed to the scavenger-like joys of second-hand shopping, here's rule number one: The difference between a vintage store and a thrift store is like the difference between Ralph Lauren and Target. That being said, Vintage Diversity has the type of hip, retro garb you'd otherwise find only on eBay. Pick a decade, any decade (OK, maybe not the medieval period) and owner Melanie Garbo-Byrnes will find the right size and style. The prices are as varied as the fashions. Mod-styled blazers start around $46 and can run four times that. Forty bucks is the average price for men's shirts, black Members Only jackets (remember those?), and accessories like a '30s-era woman's hat (gray wool with sequins). For vintage on the cheap, show up on Saturday for the $5 sales racks -- that guayabera shirt you were eyeballing on Thursday just might be there. And if you just need something to rent for a party, that's fine; $75 covers your rental costs from head to toe. Just let Melanie know what look you're going for. Austin Powers -- no prob. Saturday Night Fever, Grease -- consider it done. Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Uh, how old are you?
Watching the wild thing doesn't get any easier than this. This spacious smut palace is just a few blocks off I-95 with easy and ample parking. Thousands of DVDs, featuring every form of bonking one could imagine, line the walls and racks, some for as little as $6. Complete Adult also rents DVDs for $4.25 for two days, with a refundable deposit. What this place has going over most of its competitors is the "preview room," where patrons can seal themselves into small cubicles and watch scenes from a selection of sex tapes that revolves weekly. At about a buck a minute, it's spendy, but it does keep your home porn stash down to a manageable level. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday till midnight.
As you walk through Las Olas Beauty, passing by shelves of skin creams and bath products, you can tell the store knows its cosmetics. But if you venture back into the massage room, you'll see that the store's concept of beauty runs more than just skin deep. The various massages available are tailored to your particular needs, whether it's working out the knots in your neck or giving your lymphatic system a good jolt. If you're a newbie who thinks all massages are the same (ever had an Oriental?), you'll probably want to start with a mini massage ($40), a 30-minute stress buster ($40), or a Swedish ($70). If you want to step things up a bit -- and don't have especially frail bones -- try the deep tissue for $80. (Mini deep tissues are available for $40.) Another $80 treat is the Shirodhara, which includes a foot and hand massage while a stream of warm oil is poured onto your forehead (the opposite of Chinese water torture). But if you're ready to go all the way, lymphatic drainage therapy (of the face or body) costs $125; it's an invigorating, detoxifying boon to your immune system. Until you learn to stop slouching, consider this your health retreat.
You love the feel of brine in your face and rod 'n' reel in your hands, pulling with all your might to land who-knows-what on that hook. But you also know that the once-plentiful fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean have been woefully overharvested, and the much sought-after billfish, like marlin and swordfish, are a deep-blue treasure too precious to decimate. With Atlantic Taxidermy, you can have it both ways: hook your prize fish, let it go, and still hang it on your den wall. Owner and operator Joe Ribera supports catch and release, so Atlantic Taxidermy creates a replica mount of the big one you let get away. All you need to bring in are the exact measurements or a photograph for the work to begin. The price runs roughly $10.50 per inch, with a $350 minimum.
Arrrgh, maties, listen up to this tale. T'were back in Aught One, and I were takin' the clipper Mary Sue Matilda 'round the Horn. A mighty gale blew in from the west, and the Mary Sue were tossed like slab meat to a hound. Lost, we were. Me crew, good 'n' true, were a-fearin' fer their lives. So I reached into me skivvies and pulled out me chart from Bluewater. I airn't afraid to say me men wept with relief, 'cause they knew that Bluewater's got the chart fer what's ailin' ya. Their 5,000-square-foot store has more than 35,000 nautical books and charts in stock. Now, I'm an ol' salt who likes paper 'tween me fingers, but Bluewater's got electronic charts to boot, and everything's also fer the buyin' over the Internet. So prepare fer the ill winds, and set yer bearings on Latitude 26-06.05 North, Longitude 80-07.66 West, where you'll find Bluewater open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If'n you show up on Sunday, laddie, yer out of luck.
Here's a tip: After you buy that new snorkeling or scuba-diving mask, take it to your bathroom. Push out a sliver of toothpaste -- paste, young ocean explorer, not gel -- and rub the paste with your finger on the mask's inside glass. Rinse the mask, then do it once more. That little process will take away any film on the glass and help prevent your mask from fogging up just as that barracuda darts by ten feet below your fins. That's just one tip you can get from the helpful staff at Divers Cove, a full-service shop on University Drive in Davie that has received a five-star rating from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Divers Cove sells everything you'll need to visit the natural paradise that exists just below the waves off the coasts of Broward and Palm Beach counties -- from buoyancy control devices on down to gloves. At Divers Cove, for roughly $30 to $80, you could be swimming off the coast of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, new mask and snorkel in hand. The PADI-certified dive center also offers weekend and evening dive classes ranging from beginners to divemasters. Prices vary depending on times and certification. Divers Cove also works with two local charter companies to offer dive trips from Hillsboro Inlet and Port Everglades.
It's a little intimidating to walk into a store past tarantulas and scorpions situated right at the front door. But, after passing the creepy crawlies, you'll be dazed by the variety of creatures on display at Underground Reptiles. Poison dart frogs of the brightest blues and yellows, green iguanas, and yellow- and brown-striped baby leopard geckos fill cages on shelves throughout the store -- and those are the most common varieties. Besides the crunchy crickets and wiggly wax worms being sold for food, there's also a back corner where the dangerous serpents are kept, venomous snakes in secured terrariums. Want an odd feeling? Peer at the black mamba from only three feet with just a thin barrier of plexiglass protecting you, then turn around to see a cute half-dollar-sized baby tortoise. It was strangely unsettling when we did it. But cold-blooded critters are sometimes joined by their mammalian kin at Underground -- hedgehogs, sugar gliders, and other rare mammals. For the showstopper, there's a python big enough to eat your dog. The store will even bring out a slew of slithering friends for your kids' birthday party. Sssseriously.
The trendy stylists at the Strand can save you from yourself. Like, when you go to get yet another round of blond highlights, they can stop you. Talk some sense into you. Have a style intervention. With a cool razor-cut or a complementary all-over color, they can take you from 2001 straight into the present. Hip, superstylish, and yet really, really nice, they will work with your hair texture and personal vision to make you look as if you just floated off the pages of a fashion magazine. It doesn't hurt that, when you enter the salon, a host will offer you a glass of wine -- even at 11 in the morning. Take a seat in one of the comfy leopard-print sofas and flip through giant stacks of magazines or check out all the fun art on the walls. You can get thermal straightening, waxing, and manicures here, and the salon bills itself as the place for hair extensions. Prices are moderate -- with men's cuts costing $30 and up; women's, $50 plus. The only Catch-22, says one client, is that "Once you're drunk from all that wine, you'll end up buying some of the really cool handmade jewelry that they sell."
Once upon a time, the only things you needed to get to the big leagues were hopes, dreams, maybe a homemade bat, raw ability, desire, and a father who forced you to switch-hit from the time you were in diapers. My, how the times they have a-changed! The five-tool player of tomorrow probably smears mink-oil paste into his palm-padded glove before donning metal cleats, polarized sunglasses, and an Under Armour T-shirt just to take some cuts in the batting cage. Or he nestles a bat weight on a Big Barrel Plasma to get his speed up before cranking up the ol' batting machine and slapping the horsehide into the outfield. All of the aforementioned are abundant at Batter's Box (the Coral Springs shop has the batting cages, $2.25 for 20 pitches at a range of speeds), which is perfect for aspiring Cabreras, Sosas, and Jeters or just looking good through the beer inning.