Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Let's just say that at the normally lazy hour of 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, Lauderdale Diver was packed. More important than the number of customers were their identities: yacht captains organizing trips for elite clients. Dive instructors from other operations, here to get equipment repaired. One divemaster whose job was to don a chain mail suit, put bait on the end of a spearfish, and head to the ocean floor to feed sharks hors d'oeuvres as though they were shish kebabs. What all this told us is that Lauderdale Diver is pretty much the go-to shop for industry professionals. Because of its demanding clientele, you might be left wondering whether shopping here is going to make your bank account take a dive. Not so. A regular open-water dive course, complete with classroom instruction and training dives, costs a mid-range $395. (Pricier places charge as much as $550; cheapie $199 beginner courses may contain hidden costs and add-ons.) For the advanced, Lauderdale Diver offers a slew of specialty courses: night diving, rescue diving, and digital underwater photography, just to name a few. For the less advanced — heck, for those who could care less about scuba — the store has an immaculately clean and organized boutique area where ladies can pick up adorable resort-style dresses for an affordable $29, and dudes can peruse the sexy selection of titanium knives (these are rumored to add a testosterone jolt when clipped to your belt — no goofy-looking wetsuit required). If you don't believe us, just ask PADI: the omnipotent and all-knowing dive organization gave the shop a five-star rating.
When you need porn, you need it now. And we understand that. So forget that Something Sexy for Him & Her has a great selection of erotica — teen, bi, gay, lesbian, vintage VHS, and everything from midget gang-bangs to Japanese animation. Forget that the prices are affordable (check out their two-for-one sales), the place is well-lit, and the staff lets you peruse the porn in relative peace. Forget that they also sell kinky shoes, slinky outfits, hulking dildos, and other accessories to enhance your porn experience. (Speaking of experience, check out Something Sexy's instructional video selection: For ladies who'd rather give than receive, try the "Backdoor My Boyfriend" how-to, available on VHS and DVD.) Shouldn't the best adult video store be the one that's open when most others aren't — say, late Sunday night on an important Christian holiday in the latter part of March? That's Something Sexy. Sure, they've got 20-hour porn box sets, vibrators, and sexy outfits, but so does any other good porn shop. Something Sexy, though, is also there with the merch at odd hours, ready and willing on those late, lonely Sunday nights, when only a glistening movie-box blond can give you what you need.
Ethnic grocery stores typically offer an aesthetic worth soaking in even if you don't purchase a thing. When it comes to local Caribbean grocery stores, Bedessee East-West Indian Foods is the perfect example. They've got two aisles devoted to curries alone, and lots of foods found throughout the Caribbean. They also have a wide selection of chutneys, pepper sauces, and seasonings that you can't find in a typical supermarket, plus numerous Caribbean beers from Lion Stout to Carib, and plenty of island juices and sodas priced 50 cents to a dollar cheaper than other places around town. Items here are affordable; a family could tackle all of their grocery needs at Bedessee without a problem. What makes the market really stand out is the way the East-West Indian part of their name plays a role: You can get Bollywood films here and statues of Vishnu, plus full cricket sets. The place is half grocery store, half botanica; you can also purchase candles to ward off evil spirits, oils, and machetes. And they've got an African section with Nigerian yam flour, palm oil, fufu, sweet potatoes, and more. The produce section is respectable, with breadfruit, callaloo, plantains, and aloe among customer favorites. They've also got a meat section stocked with goat, oxtail, chicken, and dried fish. It's rare to find all these items in one place whether you're stateside or in the islands, which is why Bedessee is a Caribbean market worth exploring.
If you've always wanted to be a racecar driver but lacked, say, the kingly fortune required to build, fine-tune, and maintain a monster automobile, it's OK. Moroso Motorsports has made it easy for those of us whose last name is not Earnhardt or Petty to quench our need for speed. For just 20 beans, you can pull up in your trusty Hyundai and have your way with the quarter-mile drag strip. When the official motions to you, pull up at the starting line ("Do a burnout if you like," say Moroso staff), and look at the "Christmas tree," the signal that progresses from red to yellow to green. At green, hit the pedal. At the end of the strip, pull over to the timing booth to receive a little slip with specs like your top speed. It all seems to go by lickety-split, so just pull back into the queue do it all over again. Test & Tune goes down every Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 11 p.m.
When you walk into Florida Cigar Company, the first thing you'll notice is the immense collection of cigars from all over the world. It's one of the largest selections in Broward County. Finger through boxes with all the top names — Don Carlos, Dupont, CAO, Prometheus — and think of the generations of skill rolled into each of these magnificent smokes. Soon you'll find a few you can't leave without. Next, make your way to the bar, where you'll find a friendly 'tender with just the drink to match your cigar, from a stock of top-shelf libations. The crowd is eclectic but mellow here, and the plasmas are always tuned to sports. Ease into a plush leather seat and light that baby up. The stresses of life seem to slip away with each creamy pull, expelled in thick puffs of the good life.
What do you look for in a comic book shop? A good selection of new books as well as an extensive catalogue of back issues, for one. But what else? Good prices don't hurt, especially if you're looking to round out that collection of Wolverine originals. You'd also want a knowledgeable staff — guys and gals who live the life, who can tell you about the latest issue of Jack of Fables or why you need to get some Y: The Last Man up in that mug. And since you're into comics, you probably want a place to game, too — a joint that will not only let you throw down on some Hordes or Warhammer 40K table-top action, but whose employees will bust out their pieces and play alongside you. Basically you've just described your ideal comic shop: War & Pieces. It's the kind of place where you'll not only get a huge selection of monthly issues and graphic novels, but they'll actually let you make a list of favorites, then bag and board them and hold them aside in your own personal box till you pick them up. For that service they'll charge you nothing, and reward you with a 10 percent discount on all comics in the store to boot, provided you pick up at least five copies a month. Now that's customer service. Add to that an extensive list of nightly gaming sessions, artists workshops, and miniatures leagues all taking place inside the hand-painted gaming dungeon, and you've got the ultimate comic destination.
The first Saturday of each month, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida hosts the fiercest flea market around. Vendors show up at the crack of dawn to spread their wares across the center's immense parking lot and inside its cavernous gymnasium. Shoppers can drop by between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. The goods on sale range from racy books and DVDs to funky ashtrays and handmade soap. Some merchandise is served up with attitude, some without. You might find kitschy, elegant, or collectible china and flatware. Or vintage cigarette cases and lamps. Almost everything is of high quality. Thanks to the kind volunteers at Grateful Paws, there are even dogs and cats on display who need temporary or permanent homes. Something is sure to catch your wandering eye at the Bizarre Bazaar... Just don't expect bargain basement prices. These folks know the value of their goods.
Bright, cheerful, and with old-fashioned music playing unobtrusively in the background, To the Moon is like a throwback to a 1950s candy store: A sweet shopkeeper and shelves packed with everything from chocolate-covered strawberries to imported Dutch licorice. But eventually you're going to have to turn from the candy selection and see... cock puppets. While the sugary selection alone can command attention for hours, you won't want to miss the wall-to-wall collection of nostalgic and naughty knickknacks — cock puppets are just the beginning. If you have an hour or five to kill, the place is open seven days a week and is the perfect spot to uncover Wizard of Oz items, after-pussy mints, blood capsules, mermaid ornaments, a wall full of greeting cards, and more gay pride paraphernalia than you can shake a dick at (where else could you find a gift bag that lisps "You look fabulous!" when opened?). To the Moon is the quintessential Wilton Manors stop to find gifts for grandma (an "I Love Jesus" shot glass), the drag queen next door (a tiara with flashing lights), and everyone in between (because who wouldn't love penis-shaped pasta?).
It's nice to patronize an independent gym, provided it has the essentials — a convenient location, parking, decent equipment, clean locker rooms, reasonable rates, and effective air conditioning. Sadly these are rare, and lacking them becomes an excuse to ditch your exercise regimen. If you're serious about working out, you may have to swallow your indie pride and sign up with a chain like L.A. Fitness. Behold: a Costco-sized gym with a Costco-sized parking lot! The equipment's brand new, and there's so much of it — two floors! — that you don't have to share your bench with guys who wear short shorts and leave sweat puddles. And the Federal Highway location in Oakland Park is ideal for many who want to exercise on the way to or from work.
All powerful women have mastered the art of multi-tasking. Since Broward and Palm Beach counties have some of the most vivacious, accomplished ladies in the country, it only makes sense that they congregate at the same salon. Let men have their poker nights and golf trips; any businesswoman worth her portfolio knows that more gets accomplished in the chair at the Elite Group than just extensions and highlights. Deals are made, cards are exchanged, heads are massaged — and it all happens under the detail-tuned eye of owner Nina Hallick, who has served Fort Lauderdale's best heads for close to eight years. She's got the recipe down pat: By cultivating an assemblage of SoFla's best talent, with each hair wizard specializing, there's a set of hands to match every personality. For those trying to get in touch with their inner glamourpusses, try one of stylist Rudy Rodriguez's voluptuous 'do's. For the professional who eschews cookie-cutter cuts, try colorist and stylist Sofia Navarro-Santiago. Refined power players seeking their softer sides should also consider Hallick's own chair.
The stickers on the pipes at Peace Pipe in Oakland Park say "For tobacco use only." You'll smile when you see them. While you're there, get some papers, a contraption that looks like a book but covertly stores herbal substances, a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, clove cigarettes, or a nifty lighter that says "I stole this lighter." Then, for dessert, get a guaranteed detoxifying goop, in case someone remembers a reason they shouldn't be partaking in the party. If a certain someone remembers a certain test a certain parole officer might be administering soon, pick up a bowl of hookah tobacco. And if you burned one before you came (tobacco, that is — you know, always tobacco), you could splurge on a Pink Floyd poster, a lava lamp, and incense. And when you finally pick that new special friend from the wide assortment of glass pieces (don't forget a soft case for seven bucks), leave the tobacco sticker on for a while. You'll smile every time you see it.
Scarborough's Health Foods is a lot like grandma's house. It's small, organized, and full of vitamin bottles. The cashier is a sweet, elderly lady who dispenses health advice as she bags up your purchases. It's possible to get stuck there for hours, not because grandma is guilt-tripping you but because the place is packed with enough home remedies and organic stuff to give your inner hippie an orgasm. The shop carries grains, nuts, vegan foods, honey, organic beauty products, and vitamins that assist in everything from muscle building — with natural protein, of course — to preventing urinary tract infections. Perhaps most noteworthy is the extensive selection of good old-fashioned tea — the shelves are stocked with more bags of delicious flavor than what got dumped at the Boston Tea Party; you can purportedly treat the flu, common cold, or general anxiety just by sipping a steaming mug of their herbal magic.