Let's make this clear -- anybody can slap a "shoe store" sign on a strip mall and hawk Keds for a living, but it takes a special touch to sell honest-to-God stripper shoes, and Strut does it with panache. They have help -- Strut is connected at one end to the Fetish Factory, South Florida's premier source for high latex and rubber sex couture. But while the Fetish Factory aims to outfit nubile sex slaves from head to ankle, Strut focuses, exclusively, on their feet. You'll find nary a heel shorter than five inches in its showroom, nor materials that don't give off the musky scent of oiled leather or supple vinyl. Buckles are a must, and the more divots and hook-and-eye clasps, the better. But as scary as some of the merchandise looks, the sales staff is unfailingly helpful. Eagerly, they'll tell you the pros and cons of thigh-high lace-ups versus a more demure, pink, three-inch platform sandal. And the best part is that while the most outrageous toe-stompers can cost hundreds of dollars, most of Strut's wares are surprisingly affordable. So let Strut help you step into your inner stripper, and watch the shoes pay for themselves.
The Asian Market off Lantana Road, which is sandwiched between a hair salon and a Chinese takeout, is packed tighter than a spring roll (and yes, that's its entire name). The seven aisles are stacked to the ceiling with Asian goods ranging from Dragon Dude candy to Happy Tea. At the back of the store, freezers are jammed with different baggies full of meats, fish, and various ingredients for the Asian cuisine of your dreams. They stock some of the freshest produce, including the cheapest bean sprouts and ginger in town. But it doesn't end there: Somewhere between the mushroom-filled cans covered in Chinese writing and the bags of salty wasabe peas is an entire aisle of Chinese dishes, chopsticks, and $10 butcher knives that are sharper than razor blades. If there is anyone else in the store, it's a tight squeeze, but it's worth it. At the checkout, make sure to grab an Asian pastry and have a gander at the ten-foot-tall wall of medicinal herbs in little undecipherable boxes.
A1A is one of the only roads that you can buzz down on a 49cc scooter without feeling embarrassed. The salty ocean breeze and endless single lanes of traffic make for miles of laughs while scooting along at 25 mph. Fun times, but you don't actually want a scooter in the garage, do you? They need maintenance and polishing, they take up space, and in the end, you'll get no respect. Instead of dropping a grand on your own, go rent one from Fun Rentals without the fear of explaining to all your friends why you have a powder blue Vespa in your garage. Rent that scooter instead and it's fun and quirky to ask someone out and then zip through town laughing like trendy hipsters. The shop is right on the strip in Deerfield, and you can drop $25 for an hour or $50 for four hours and wander the beach at a speed slighter faster and less tiring than a bicycle.
Seems like tattoo parlors are appearing and disappearing so fast, before your new skin design gets a chance to scab over, the place that inked it has been replaced with a Starbucks. So it says something that Tattoo Paradise has been on the same street for more than 15 years. Owner Louie Lombi has worked with some of the greats over the years, artists like Paul Booth, Zeke Owen, and Big Joe Kaplan, and his current staff has more than 90 years of tattooing experience. The walls are covered with fairly generic flash, but it's the custom work that really inspires Louie's crew. That, and the rock 'n' roll blaring over the sound system. Heck, bring your friends while you get that new mermaid, because the waiting room has two pool tables. And relax, because Tattoo Paradise guarantees its work for life. If your colors start to fade, just drop by and get a touchup or recoloring at no charge.
Arabic-language newspapers. Bulk curry. Cans of ghee. Dates. Falafel, fava beans, and filo dough. Hibiscus drinks, hookahs, and hummus. Jordan almonds. Malt beverages. Orange blossom water. Rose syrups. Sardine tins and sesame candies. Teas from every corner of the tea-drinking world, tobaccos for the hookahs, Turkish delight, and turnips pickled pink in beet juice. Your grocery store is a library of banality compared to this place.
On the floor, a cluster of blue crabs crawl around in a plastic tub. A broken harmonium -- an old Indian pump-organ -- sits waiting to wheeze again. But to notice these details amid Bedessee's cramped aisles, crowded with customers, is far from easy, what with all the action at eye level. True to its name, this large grocery/boutique caters to expatriates from Jamaica, India, and Trinidad, which is something of a Caribbean conglomeration of those two civilizations. In other words, you can find a Bob Marley poster as well as huge wall plaques of Hindu deities. Red, gold, and green Jamaican flags unfurl over a collection of Indian DVDs and CDs straight from the subcontinent. Oddities abound: scotch bonnet pepper sauce from Guyana. Carib Shandy beer from Port-of-Spain. Cases of Guinness, brewed and bottled in Kingston. Goat's feet from... somewhere. What the hell are these? Cricket bats! Jeepers! Clarified ghee! Iron-and-Wine herbal remedy in a jar! And all the while, you're serenaded by a bouncy reggae version of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Hosannah!
On a late weekday afternoon, all is as it should be at the Smoke Café. Several patrons are perched along the black marble-topped bar, where a phalanx of elaborate stainless-steel lighters stands. A retired gentleman is regaling a visitor with tales of a near-death experience, puffing slowly throughout the narrative to build drama. A beefy young man is flirting with Kate, the cigarmaid from Pittsburgh behind the bar, whose blond hair contrasts with the deep auburn wood of the walls. Outside, a cigar store Indian keeps vigil over several tables where customers can breathe in fresh air and a fresh Presidente. The café offers free Internet access with the purchase of wine or beer. A humidor nestled in the back holds plenty of the cigars you're here for in the first place.
You have to love a business small enough that you're dealing with the owner and big enough to be overwhelmed by selection. If you're a novice smoker or buying for a friend, you won't go wrong with the helpful recommendations of owner Moe Sohail, who's been running the place for eight years. But even if you know the difference between a Churchill and a Robusto, it's nice to have Sohail's advice after passing through the door into the sizable walk-in humidor. There's also a fine selection of lighters and cutters, from the workhorse variety to the guy-who-has-everything gift items. And smoke if you've got 'em; there's a small leather-chaired lounge. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and closed on Sunday.
Wine snobbery, or at least wine appreciation, has finally trickled down to the masses: You no longer need 1,600 dusty bottles in the cellar of your baronial manse to enjoy quaffing a decent port. Getting to know good wine is supposed to be fun -- Bacchus is a party god, after all. That wicked cherub reigns supreme at Hollywood Vine, where a handsome, irreverent crowd congregates around the granite counters to sample from a chalkboard listing of 20 or so wines, conducting off-the-cuff mini-tastings before plunking down $20 or $30 a bottle (the prices per glass are about half what you'd pay at a restaurant). This retail wine shop and liquor store has the intimacy and pizzazz of an upscale neighborhood pub, done up in glossy mahogany shelving to showcase wines and spirits from around the globe, plus a handful of artisan cheeses. On Tuesdays, vintners and distributors show up for light lectures and free tastings too. Partners Luciano Armellino, who formerly worked with Kendall Jackson distributors, and Steven Krakow, who managed a retail wine store, tasted 1,600 wines before they opened their doors this year. "We just chose our favorites," Armellino says. "Good wine is good wine."
If there are two things no household should be without in these Republican, family-value-touting times we live in, it's an American flag and a full-sized reproduction of Jesus. For the latter, there's Moroneys', which is jam-packed with Christian symbols, artifacts, clothing, and jewelry. There, standing atop a display table, is the classic representation of the Messiah: long face, flowing hair, sad-yet-caring eyes, arms outstretched wide to the heavens. The fiberglass, bronze-colored statue was made in Italy and costs about $6,500 -- but you can always dicker. If the Son of Man is out of your price range, some four-foot St. Francis sculptures are both tasteful and less expensive at $700 apiece. In several poses, the saint of animals seems to be juggling four white doves above his head. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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