IKEA Restaurant
The whining. The nagging. The incessant need for coddling. Sometimes your spouse just drives you bonkers — the kind of insanity that only strolling through a labyrinth of home goods can cure. Of course, you still have the tykes to contend with. It is tedious mornings like these that demand freedom — and honey, that's why IKEA's Small Land exists. Geared toward children who are potty-trained but haven't yet gotten too big to cuddle (height requirements are between 37 and 54 inches small), the pseudo-forest allows you the opportunity to deposit your child in exchange for a pager, much like the kind you receive waiting in line at Chili's. That soon-to-be-blinking beacon of freedom guarantees you one hour of free child care, so make the most of it. While your lil' one is being slipped through various tiny doors — an identification door, a shoe removal door, and, finally, one that plops him into a playland of Lysol-ized surfaces — you're high-tailing it to the café for a 99-cent breakfast and the morning paper. Let the calming wave of grownup conversations wash over you, purifying the experience, while you take a decadent amount of time adjusting the sugar quantity in your coffee. You don't have to worry about your child's safety. He's now joined a legion of IKEA youth in coloring exercises, Disney movies, and exploration of the off-smelling ball pit. Sure, when he grows up, it might take years of therapy to associate these things with his fears of abandonment, but right now, that's not really your problem. You've served your time and earned your hour. Sip your coffee until that pager buzzes.
Habitat for Humanity Re-Store

Recycle, reuse, reupholster is your mantra, especially since you became a homeowner. Rather than making another frantic excursion to the Home Depot, try exploring Habitat for Humanity Re-Store's labyrinth of nesting supplies. It is there, in that glorious warehouse of potential, that you'll find oddly shaped doors, avocado-colored sinks, and pile upon pile of tile — all waiting patiently for the right fixer-upper to discover their inner beauty.

With a bit of creativity and many coats of paint, you'll triumphantly solve home-repair dilemmas on a pitiable budget, with merchandise marked down 80 percent from retail stores. Consider it your way to get ahead in the housing race: When the housing market levels back out, you'll want yours to be ready to sell first — avoiding that apocalyptic traffic jam of (former) Floridians gunning it to North Carolina.

Petland

Among the things universally found irresistible: bacon sandwiches, a free pass of wacky tobaccy, and cute-ass puppies. We're talking the teacup kind that you find at Petland — those little balls of fur that just about fit between your index finger and thumb. They're so precious that you just might fork down the thousand bucks for one without thinking about what you're supporting. According to the Humane Society of the United States, Petland's pups come straight from Midwest puppy mills. They get there, the Humane Society says, via pet brokers who ship them en masse to Petland stores, where they may live for months in solitary cages before some schlep comes along to buy one. Look away from their cuteness, friend, because your purchase just might support an industry that rivals Dick Cheney in evilness.

You are a cubicle soldier, bravely battling work's demons for five long days each week. By Friday, you've slain the dangerous busywork dragon down to a mound of ash while retaining a jovial demeanor, and your energy is depleted. This is the day you receive your grand reward: The pies have arrived. The most delectable treats in Broward aren't found in Las Olas' rows of swanky eateries. They are ordered through the charming website of Miami's own self-taught pastry diva, Alex Van Clief. Her fruit-filled empire, Purple Pie Co., started through the basic properties of supply and demand. She would bake pies and bring them to dinner parties, but soon everyone wanted one... or three. Before long, a business grew. Once you consume her adorably packaged and deliciously crafted edibles, you quickly understand the phenomenon. Her crusts are doughy and crispy and laced with cinnamon, sugar, and other necessary comfort spices. And her seasonal varieties of fillings — pecan, blueberry, and apple — are untouchably delicious. Alex makes each pie with a renegade crafter's twist; she'll add alphabet dough messages on the top upon request. So birthday greetings, inside jokes, or just a triumphant "hang in there" can all be yours for the cost of a pie, which ranges from $15 to $20. Having a gals' night? Get a six-pack of individual pies baked in teeny-tiny Mason jars, topped with purple-and-white checkered fabric. The 20 bucks spent is well worth the reward. Order them early in the week (48 hours' notice is required) and then snag them at Pink Ghost each Friday. After five grueling days of being shackled to the office vending machine, you'll finally indulge in the brass ring of desserts. You've earned it, Little Soldier.

In the somewhat unlikely cutesy locale of downtown Delray, this small but sharply curated store has become the go-to spot for kids from northern Broward and Palm Beach counties. The name of the game here, really, is rock — and specifically, all those gloriously messy offshoots that derive from punk. Looking for a split 12-inch by a couple of obscure hardcore bands? If it's not in the healthily stocked, neatly organized vinyl bins here, the helpful folks at Backbone can likely track it down for you. Probably the best thing about this place, though, is its recent expansion to include an all-ages venue adjoining the store. It's bare-bones, sure, but features an active rotation of local bands as well as the occasional big-name traveling act like Shai Hulud. And thank goodness, because kids don't have too many fun, safe places to hang out in the area and drink a cheap Red Bull. Thanks, Backbone!

This Broward County institution announced its closure suddenly this past winter through an email notification about a clearance sale, and the cries of horror were nearly audible. Nearly every Gen-X and Y music geek in the tricounty area had made a pilgrimage at some point to the store, which was South Florida's original temple to independent culture. It had all the classic record-store fixin's, including dusty vinyl, locally produced CDs, and perhaps overly knowledgeable employees. Through its nearly 30 years in existence, Uncle Sam's remained dedicated to hosting kick-ass in-store performances, even operating a separate, adjoining Loft at Uncle Sam's venue for a few years earlier this decade. Blame iTunes, blame PirateBay, blame the big, bad economy in general — either way, a piece of local music history is gone. RIP. But all is not lost — at least the Miami Beach location remains open.

Vespa of Fort Lauderdale

You can't recall exactly how the romance started, but the flirtation began at the intersection of Federal Highway and NE 26th Street. Every day, you drove by and there she was, resting outside the Vespa shop, beckoning. Her dragon-red paint job teased you with its gleam. You knew you needed to take her home, but you were conflicted: A girl like that must come with strings attached. Fortunately for you, her baggage was minimal and the negotiation was quick, painless, and, hell, even fun. Now the two of you are inseparable; your only regret being that it took you so long to have met. This is all due to Vespa of Fort Lauderdale's staff. Knowing that love triumphs all, they stand back while you peruse the glittering collection of Italy's finest. When deal time hits, there's no need to bring muscle. Here, prices are prices. No greasy dudes twisting toothpicks and saying crap like, "What do I have to do to get you on this model and driving home today?" When you do purchase that sweet, sweet Vespa, you'll drive away knowing that your love affair is starting with a clean slate. No secrets. No lies. No red flags. Enjoy it, Romeo. And take good care of her. She's the whole package.

Iron Forge Press

South Florida's underground music scene is constantly going through reinvention. Bands form, flourish, and extend their tentacles beyond the peninsula's watery tips, then vanish. It's evolution with a backbeat, and nobody documents the phenomenon with more aesthetic prowess than local silk screeners Iron Forge Press. The Forge is owned and operated by dudes with esteemed local musical lineages and dozens of years of combined design skills. Before they expanded to silk screen, our region had little to brag about in counterculture visual arts, a cornerstone of any city worth its musical spit. Now these designs have expanded to include a boutique fashion collection of archival rock photography, private clothing lines for professional athletes, and hoard-worthy poster art for touring rock acts like Kanye West, Captured! By Robots, and High on Fire. But even with such growth, Iron Forge puts locals first, letting its artistic thumbprint increase our region's rock 'n' roll street cred. As true designers' designers, these typography dorks get wild-eyed when discussing their mountains of available fonts. Their excitement only increases when topics switch to paper grades, textiles, and ink types. Bring up phosphorescence and they squirm with glee. And really, that's what their success comes down to: They aren't simply accomplished artists. They are driven by a passion to express music and art's interconnections. A force so strong that they are constantly creating, fine-tuning, and toiling as their eyelids grow heavy and their fingers collect sedimentary layers of ink. Iron Forge Press, we salute you.

OK, so this is the kind of tattoo shop where you hang out — and the staff wants you to. Owner Holden Ritchison, a big Santa Claus of a man, started this new shop just a few doors down from the Culture Room. With an open-plan space that looks more like a den, Formula Ink has the best abandoned boyfriend/girlfriend section ever — a huge couch, a huge TV, and a selection of DVDs and magazines. Formula Ink is home to some of the best-kept-secret artists in town. Ritchison excels at huge-scale, deftly shaded, jaw-dropping traditional Asian work. What's more, his prices are shockingly fair for custom sitdowns. Ask him for a quote, but you'll be more than happy to hand over the cash for an experience that will leave you smiling.

Despite the unassuming, narrow exterior of its original downtown Fort Lauderdale location, Colorfast packs a mammoth-sized artistic punch. The waiting area is bright and clean but no-nonsense. Although the staff is friendly, Colorfast is not necessarily where you come to waste time and mess around. It's where you go to get some seriously sick work done. Like any earnest tattoo shop, the place specializes in custom work (unlike more money-grubbing shops, though, they never charge to draw up a design). While someone here can deftly handle all styles, these artists truly excel at the bold and bright. See owner Vince for large-scale, flawless Asian and traditional work in prismatic colors that pop. Scott's your other go-to guy for standout neo-traditional designs as well as elegant script. Or see B.J. for more of that but with a twisted sense of humor. In a visually offensive ink world of cheesy flash, tribal and Asian eyesores, and sob stories on reality TV, these guys are fighting the good fight for the classic artistry of tattooing.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of