Best Shopping District to Maintain its Character: Virginia-Highland Highland Ave.
Step onto the sidewalk at the corner of North Highland and St. Charles avenues. Start walking north. Don’t stop for half a mile, until you cross Virginia Avenue. Now, how does that walk differ from almost any you could take in the city of Atlanta? Here’s how: Nearly all the shops you just passed are independently owned. 20th Century Antiques. Back to Square One. Bill Hallman Boutique. The Cat’s Meow. Dakota J’s. The Fickle Manor. Foxgloves & Ivy. Highland Gifts for Men. Highland Hardware. La Raine’s Boutique. Metropolitan Deluxe. Mitzi & Romano. Mooncake Clothing Co. Neighbors have fought for decades to keep the chains away from VIRGINIA-HIGHLAND. The result is one of the most vibrant, distinctive, high-quality shopping districts metro Atlanta has ever known.
Best Big Box Shopping Center to Attract Local Businesses: Edgewood Retail District Moreland Ave. at Caroline St.
Big boxes usually do their best to eclipse the little guy. But at Reynoldstown’s EDGEWOOD RETAIL DISTRICT, there are living, breathing independent retailers operating in the shadows of Lowe’s, Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond. Area, the sister store to East Atlanta’s Trader’s, sells well-made and fashionable furniture for reasonable prices, while Stanton Home Furnishings deals in more traditional choices. Beauty Fetish houses a salon and some spa services. Butterfly Life, a gym run by two women that serves women only. Sole Shoes & Accessories carries high-end footwear. And locally owned restaurants Ru San’s and (soon-to-open) Figo dish up fresh sushi and homemade pasta, respectively. Take that, Applebee’s.
Best Place to Find Unique Formalwear for Any Occasion: Stefan's 1160 Euclid Ave
Little Five Points’ STEFAN’S stocks the best selection of period pieces in town. And though you’re sure to find a fabulous Western button-down or a great pair of retro frames, it’s the fancy frocks and suits that will lure you back. Whether it’s a Gatsby-era garden party, a ’60s-styled psychedelic soiree, or a ’70s-themed get-down, Stefan’s has an outfit for both you and your date. The boutique’s garments are in mint condition and carefully arranged by color and size. Staff members are both friendly and knowledgeable, and even seem a bit deflated when they must part with one of the shop’s coveted pieces. Such was the case during the recent purchase of a 1940s patterned silk dress — a steal at $100.
Best Independent Boutique with Hard-to-Find Labels: Veruca Boutique 814 Juniper St.
From porch parties to “mystery designer” Sunday sales, Midtown’s cozy VERUCA BOUTIQUE knows how to show off its stuff. And much of that stuff is homegrown or hard to find. The store sells purses and jewelry by six Atlanta designers and carries the ultra-feminine yet ultra-modern designs of Laurie Loo (aka former Atlantan Laurel Wells). It also stocks garments by dozens of other designers, such as reconstructed and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces by Super Lucky Cat and luscious silk dresses and blouses by Alice & Trixie. Veruca’s not just for the ladies, either. Men’s designers include the new-to-the-U.S. Spanish brand Lois and retro-themed BC Ethic.
Best Place to Shop for Local Designers: Beehive Co-op 1831-A Peachtree Road
Petra Geiger had grown weary of lugging her handmade handbags to neighborhood festivals and seasonal markets. So she came up with a clever alternative. Rather than peddle her wares at a location that exists only for a few days, why not establish a permanent venue for the most talented of Atlanta’s artisans? Modeling her concept on the individual booths that comprise the typical antique mall, Geiger opened BEEHIVE CO-OP in 2004. The store stocks distinctive and high-quality clothing, accessories and housewares — all from the workshops of Atlanta designers. Competition can be fierce among those seeking inclusion in the sleek Buckhead space, which is more reminiscent of an art gallery than an antique mart. And shopping at Beehive is a pleasant — and conscientious — alternative to trolling the mall. Buying locally has never been so easy.
Best Store for Fighting Bad Juju: Rondo's Temple Sales 171 Mitchell St.
RONDO’S TEMPLE SALES is the sort of store you might expect to find under an L-train track in the Bowery circa 1940. Inside the dingy, little storefront is a time-warp array of folklore remedies, voodoo candles and spell-casting powders — all with irresistible old-school packaging. Where else could you find a “jinx-removing, drive away evil mojo bag”? How about “shut your mouth” spray to silence liars, gossips and trash-talkers? Or a “triple-strength gamblers kit” to help you win at video poker? And has the USDA actually approved sales of “monkey hand” charms, even if they do help with gambling, luck and protection? Your guess is as good as ours.
Best Caterer that Caters to Those Without Trust Funds: Tuohy's 455 Plasamour Dr Ne
Twenty years ago, a little catering outfit called TUOHY’S filled baskets for Chastain Park picnickers and dished up meals for modestly sized private parties. Today, Tuohy’s is set up to handle events with 2,000 or more guests, but the company hasn’t lost its appreciation for the little guy, nor has it compromised the intimate service that’s evocative of its former, smaller scale. The expansive list of menu items — think pancetta crisps with goat cheese and pear, cumin-roasted potatoes with caviar, and pan-seared pork tenderloin with rhubarb compote — is inspired and elegant. And with a full-dinner buffet starting at $22.50 per guest, Tuohy’s prices impress, too.
Best Farmer’s Market: Morningside Farmer's Market 1393 N. Highland Ave.
There is something immensely comforting about buying your food from the person who grew it. And so, while there is an abundance of fine shopping establishments in Atlanta with “farmer’s market” in their names, our vote goes to the MORNINGSIDE FARMER’S MARKET, where on Saturdays from 8-11:30 a.m., you can buy organic produce straight from the source. Not only will you be supporting small farms and a way of life that has been important in Georgia for hundreds of years, you’ll be bringing home the freshest, most delicious produce available in the city. Don’t miss out on the chef demonstrations every Saturday morning at 9:30.
Best Wine Shop: Ansley Wine Merchants 1544 Piedmont Road.
The crusty, placard-bearing poodle sprawled on the sidewalk out front says it best: “Buy at Ansley Wine.” If that isn’t convincing enough, check out ANSLEY WINE MERCHANTS’ ridiculously useful system for rating its inventory. The wittier the staff’s personalized signs, the more enticing a wine becomes. Take, for instance, a $40 bottle of Feraud Brunel Gigondas that bears the warning, “Wimps beware! This wine can KILL you!” Or perhaps you might be lured by the 2004 La Begude Chardonnay, emphatically described as the “Best Thing Out of France Since the Chunnel.” In Ansley’s creaky, cramped and otherwise characterless strip-mall space, wines are grouped by grape and region, aside from the addictive “El Cheapo But El Goodo Section.” Listen to the poodle.
Best Simulation of Daigon Alley: 11:11 Teahouse 753 Edgewood Ave.
Looking for the ingredients to fill an assignment from Professor Snape’s potions class? Well, how about the makings for a nice pot of tea instead? Inman Park’s funky 11:11 TEAHOUSE sells loose ingredients for creating the perfect — or strangest — tea imaginable. The shop’s wire wracks are filled with multigallon jars holding such oddly named contents as Butcher’s Broom, Devil’s Claw, Mugwort, and Cascara Sagrada (eerily reminiscent of the deadly “Avada Kedavra” curse). The contents range in appearance from sprigs of Christmas trees to purple fish food to miniature golden rosebuds to giant mushroom caps. There’s also a more standard selection of blends, including ones tailor-made for fever or fatigue. If you’re a student of Hogwarts, that could come in handy.
Best Cooking Class: Viking Cooking School 1745 Peachtree Road.
Billed as “the most enjoyable school on Earth” — where even the homework is fun — VIKING COOKING SCHOOL hosts nearly 70 classes per month. The choices run the gamut, from the frightening-sounding “Teen Knife Skills” to the slightly more tame “Vegetarian Cocktail Party.” There are plenty of regional options, too, such as “Salute to the Greek Isles,” “Korean Classics,” and “Date Night in Rio de Janeiro.” Guest chefs, such as Rafih Benjelloun of Imperial Fez, sometimes host courses, which last three hours and typically range from $80 to $90. Take note: It’s best to book in advance. Popular classes can sell out a month ahead of time.
Best Reason to Barbecue: Big Green Egg 3417 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker.
Once, when we arrived at a friend’s barbecue, we were disappointed to learn we’d be eating pizza. Then, out on the back deck, we spied this big, green, egg-shaped thing. “What’s that?” we asked. “That’s my BIG GREEN EGG,” our friend said. “I’m cooking the pizza in it.” Cooking pizza in a grill? One taste, though, and we were hooked. It turns out the egg — based on the ancient Chinese cooker called a “kamado” — was invented in Tucker, now the worldwide headquarters of the Big Green Egg. The ceramic egg, which starts at $359, can act as a grill or smoker. Our favorite part of the cookout? When our host pulled out the apple pie; he had cooked it — you guessed it — in the egg.
Best Place to Get a Grill (And We Don’t Mean the Kind for Cooking): Eddie's Gold Teeth 82 Peachtree St.
If you want to take a pilgrimage to the mecca of gold teeth, pack light, because it’s right here in A-Town. Eddie Plein, owner of EDDIE’S GOLD TEETH, has been in the grill game since gold teeth were just for pirates. Now he’s earned a nationwide reputation that’s as awe-inspiring as his list of clientele. Plein has put bling in the mouths of just about every rapper you’ve ever heard of, from Petey Pablo to Bow Wow, and last year his work was immortalized on film — check out Ludacris’ fronts in Hustle & Flow. There are plenty of imitators out there, but Plein is Atlanta’s original innovator.
Best Place to Play Dress Up with Vintage Accessories: Frock of Ages 1653 McLendon Ave.
Remember the fun of piling on your grandmother’s costume jewelry, placing a pillbox hat atop your head, and engaging in tea-party dialogue with your favorite stuffed animal? You can relive those childhood memories at vintage boutique FROCK OF AGES. The Candler Park store is stocked with accessories from eras past. Brightly colored plastic bangles sit atop the jewelry counter, while velvet boxes stocked with ’50s and ’60s clip-on earrings, jeweled brooches and rhinestone necklaces fill the shelves below. Hats adorned with feathers and ribbons from the ’20s through the ’60s line the walls, and thin, dainty gloves hang from carousels. The experience fills you with such nostalgia you’ll want to go home, dig up your raggedy teddy bear, and pull out the china.
Best Place to Buy Affordable Art and Homegrown Crafts: Young Blood Gallery & Boutique 629 Glenwood Ave.
On the first Saturday of the month, a diverse group of hipsters descends on Grant Park’s YOUNG BLOOD GALLERY & BOUTIQUE, turning the parking lot into a scene that’s more evocative of a house party than an art show. Inside, patrons drink cheap beer and wine while perusing work that — gasp! — many of them can afford. From painted skateboards to stuffed and stitched oddities to (somewhat) traditional paintings, much of Young Blood’s offerings are priced under $500. And it’s quality, cutting-edge stuff. Most of the shows feature emerging artists, many of them local, or cool collectives, such as Art Dorks and Golden Blizzard. And on the first Tuesday of the month, Young Blood hosts Kraftwork, where independent clothing and jewelry designers peddle their fashionable wares.
Best Old-School Barber Shop: The Trim Shop 817 W. Peachtree St.
Eli Sotto is the quintessential survivor. Sotto opened THE TRIM SHOP on Peachtree Street in 1953, only to learn last year that his beloved barbershop would be razed for a condo development. But Sotto wasn’t deterred. His abilities to survive the harshest of odds had been tested during the Holocaust, when he and his family were held in Nazi concentration camps. Sotto lucked into several near-misses with the execution chamber. (Seven of his relatives weren’t as fortunate.) So after learning that his longtime business was threatened for extinction, Sotto refused to give up. He appealed to the building’s developers, and earlier this year, the Novare Group granted his wish — almost. The firm moved Sotto from his longtime digs to a new space in another of their buildings, the historic Biltmore Hotel. The Trim Shop’s second incarnation retains many hints of the original, including Sotto’s red, white and blue barber’s pole. Most importantly, the 84-year-old barber is still behind the chair.
Best Hair Salon: Rockit Salon 1604-A DeKalb Ave.
At Candler Park’s appropriately named ROCKIT SALON, stylists like to name-drop the list of rock-star hair they’ve done, from the mops of Tommy Lee and Shawn Mullins to bands such as Sevendust and the B-52’s. Thus, the salon’s promise to make you “look like a rock star” is based on actual experience. Rockit’s decor is more nightclub than day spa, with hot pink and turquoise walls and a tiger-print couch. But the prices are reasonable, even for non-celebs (with haircuts starting at $35), and the pretension level is kept in check. One patron described how the staff cheerfully transformed her “boring ol’ mom” look to a “sexy rockin’ hot mom!” As Dana Walker and her crew like to say, “Think of us as your rockin’, urban Steel Magnolias without the big hair!”
Best Pluck Job: Aric C. Cosmetics 3209 Paces Ferry Place.
Eschewing the trendier threading technique or more convenient wax job, makeup artist Aric Castleberry at ARIC C. COSMETICS arms himself with a pair of tweezers before descending on your brows. It’s not that Castleberry is a Luddite when it comes to crafting the perfect arch. It’s just that he believes his Revlon tweezers are more precise than other methods. Not only does the master brow-shaper give a clean, natural arch for $25, he gushes on and on — in his flamboyant Southern drawl — about one day transforming us into smoky-eyed, pouffy-haired vixens. It’s enough to convince ourselves that the tears running down our cheeks are from laughing and not wincing in pain. Genius.
Best Place to Indulge Your Feet: Judith of Budapest Skincare Salon 526 E. Paces Ferry Road.
A pedicure can sometimes resemble the service at a fast-food drive-thru: quick and careless. But JUDITH OF BUDAPEST SKINCARE SALON is to the average pedicure what the slow-food movement is to McDonald’s. For $35, your feet are soaked in a hot stone bath, exfoliated with a mint scrub, generously massaged with cucumber cream, and meticulously painted to perfection. All this, while you enjoy a fresh bowl of complimentary berries and leaf through mindless fashion magazines. We can think of no better way to spend an hour.
Best Spa for a Splurge: Blue Medspa 190 10th St.
The architecture and interior design of Midtown’s BLUE MEDSPA are so modern that they blur the line between beautiful and clinical — and that’s the point. The 6,000-square-foot, $1.3 million renovated space, which Conde Nast described in May as one of the top 55 spas in the world, offers traditional beauty services as well as innovative, FDA-approved medical treatments. Lipodissolve, a nonsurgical alternative to liposuction, is a fat-melting injection. Tri-Active is a laser procedure that instantly eradicates cellulite. And Thermage is a noninvasive face-lift that’s the only skin-tightening procedure of its kind available in the United States — the effects of which can last three to five years. As if Atlanta didn’t have enough beautiful women as it is.
Best Health Club: Carl E. Sanders YMCA 1160 Moores Mill Road.
Let’s be honest: Our “best” health club may not be your “best” health club. It depends on your commute, your schedule and your preferred mode of self-torture. It may even depend on whether you’re more interested in improving your body or in examining the improvements of others. All things being equal, the CARL E. SANDERS YMCA offers the best bang for the buck. It’s easily accessible, right at an uncrowded exit off I-75. It’s also large enough to have plenty of classes and circuit-training machines. There’s a basketball gym and tennis courts. And the pools — oh, the pools! — indoor, outdoor and whirl. The works. The fees are lower than those of comparable for-profit clubs. Plus, the Y’s a nonprofit group that does good things for the community. And if you join, you get to go to other metro Y’s, as well as many in other parts of the country.
Best Way to Get in Shape While Indulging Your Inner Agoraphobia: Your Mobile Gym
For those of you with an unhealthy fear of being caught wearing spandex in public, YOUR MOBILE GYM is your antidote. Former Gold’s Gym personal trainer Lauren Loper rides around in a supped-up school bus equipped with everything from weights to stability balls to a stationery bike. And for $65 a session, she’ll guide you through a customized workout — that’s a deal, considering she meets you on your own turf. Loper, whose motto is “Personal Training for Women, By a Woman,” often revs up her bus at 5 a.m. and takes clients as late as 9 p.m. Maybe with Loper’s help, your new, rockin’ bod will inspire you to leave the house — even in spandex.
Best Yoga Deal: Yoga Samadhi 27 Waddell St., Suite A
Are you looking for the peace of mind (and well-toned arms) that are the mark of a true yoga devotee? At the same time, does the idea of spending upward of $140 per month for a three-day-a-week workout cause you to crash back to earth? Then check out YOGA SAMADHI’s unlimited monthly yoga deal. For $84, you can attend as many classes as will fit into your schedule. And with eight highly skilled instructors leading 24 classes per week — 13 of them starting after 6 p.m. during the week — the lofty Inman Park studio is more than accommodating.
Best Thing for Your Body, Mind and Spirit: Kashi Atlanta 1681 McLendon Ave.
It goes without saying that Kashi Atlanta’s 10-DAY YOGA DETOX isn’t, um, a cakewalk. No sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol and a three-day juice fast could lead many to believe it’s more of an exercise in masochism. But the mutual support and gentle guidance provided at this friendly spiritual community in Candler Park makes the carefully constructed rejuvenation program more like a fun and rewarding quest. The detox, which is based on Ayudervic health principles, includes a rigorous schedule of unusual potions, breathing exercises and yoga classes. It’ll leave you with less weight, more energy and a new sense of balance. And, compared to fancy spa retreats, it’s a deal at $200.
Best Yoga Instructor to Bring Your Ashtanga Practice to the Next Level: Todd Roderick 742 Ponce de Leon Place
When you find yourself in a back bend with your legs pressed firmly together and only the bottom of your feet and crown of your head touching the ground, odds are you’re a disciple of TODD RODERICK. Fortunately for the rest of us, Roderick also helps ease beginners into the practice. After studying for more than a year at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India, Roderick has been teaching for nearly a decade. He currently leads a couple of evening classes at Buckhead’s Balance Yoga, as well as a few weekend ones at Midtown’s new yoga and pilates megaplex, Urban Body Studios. But Roderick’s weekday morning classes at UBS are the true test of yogic dedication. His Mysore series, held from 6-9 a.m., Monday-Wednesday, is a wake-up call for enlightenment.
Best Doctors to Give You Perfect Perky C Cups: Paces Plastic Surgery and Recovery Center 3200 Downwood Circle, Suite 640.
Looking at the list of doctors at PACES PLASTIC SURGERY AND RECOVERY CENTER, you’ll find the chief of the division of plastic surgery at Emory University and the director of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Two of Paces’ seven surgeons have been voted by their peers onto the prestigious “Best Doctors in America” list. A panel of physicians also have named two Paces surgeons as “America’s Top Doctors.” In addition to the accolades, the MDs at Paces are known for producing quite a rack. What’s more, the facility boasts five-star suites, so you and your new twins can recover in style.
Best Tattoo Artist: Phil Colvin 755 Ponce de Leon Ave.
In-the-know first-timers and the already heavily inked venture to Poncey-Highland to get drawn on by Liberty Tattoo’s PHIL COLVIN. Colvin specializes in highly realistic, photograph-quality reproductions. In fact, he can bring just about any image to life, be it a photo or an idea trapped in a customer’s head. The 16-year veteran also happens to be low on ego, making him particularly easy to do work with. But it’s Colvin’s jaw-dropping portfolio that’s the real draw. Art nouveau nymphs, Klimt-esque nudes, fuzzy-bunny kittens, flaming skulls and ’50s pinups — he’s mastered them all.
Best Consignment Shopping: Finders Keepers 84 N. Avondale Road
If you don’t like the cost listed on the price tag at FINDERS KEEPERS, check out the date. For every 30 days that have passed, you can knock off 10 percent. The back room of the 4,000-square-foot furniture store (the clothing store is a half-mile farther down the road), is devoted to those bargain items that have reached the half-price mark, at which point the discount ends. Finder’s is loaded with furniture for any room from many eras, with plenty of different styles, too, from Asian dressers to Art Deco armoires to shabby-chic yard furniture. The clothing store has a similar set up, with an equally varied inventory.
Best Antique Store: Big Shanty Antique Market 1720 Roberts Road
There are plenty of highfalutin antique stores around Atlanta where rich folks can drop a mess of cash on old European gewgaws. Then, there are places like the BIG SHANTY ANTIQUE MARKET in Kennesaw, where the rest of us can browse for hours and pick up a few knickknacks without breaking the bank — or having to sift through mounds of flea-market junk. Big Shanty isn’t a fancy place, but it’s clean, well-lit and air-conditioned. And there are more than 100 vendors’ booths stocked with vintage clothes, ’50s kitchenware, Coke kitsch, old tools, books, furniture, bar signs and other eye-catching non-essentials.
Best Shopping District for Home Decor: The Westside 1092 Huff Road
Once the province of professional decorators and antique-hunters, THE WESTSIDE has exploded as a destination for new homeowners. Trolling the Huff Road corridor and environs, you’ll find teak patio furniture, used restaurant appliances, lampshades, Mexican glassware and rugs. Just a sampling: Asiabyanka carries bedroom sets made entirely of Thai wood carvings; Forsyth Fabrics has acres of upholstery, leopard-print fabric and tassels; and Northside Material Brokers has an entire warehouse crammed with salvaged cabinets, doors and lighting fixtures for renovators.
Best Resource for Home Improvement on the Cheap: Hopeworks 5366 Grady St., Douglasville.
If you want to spruce up your home and avoid that pesky guilty conscience, there’s no better place to do it than HOPEWORKS. Through the combined efforts of Parisian and Joe Craven Pottery, Hopeworks stocks tons of unique items for your home and garden, all at discounted prices. And the best part is, the money from your purchase will go toward the Hope Project, a nonprofit that provides support for underprivileged women and their families.
Best Hardware Store: Oakdale Ace Hardware 4359 W. Atlanta Road, Smyrna.
It doesn’t sell garden furniture, gas grills or school supplies. But OAKDALE ACE HARDWARE does have an entire (small) room filled floor-to-ceiling with pipe fittings. That’s because Oakdale is that most endangered of species: the old-fashioned hardware store specializing in, you guessed it, hardware — as in hammers, post-diggers and machine bolts. The big-box guys don’t even cut glass to order anymore, but this store does, in addition to performing such other bygone services as blade-sharpening and lock repair. We can’t think of too many other places where you can still buy a cast-iron well pulley, a kerosene lamp and log tongs for clearing out your back forty.
Best Confounding Signage: DJ Beauty Supply: Wigs, Beepers 3441 Memorial Drive.
Heading toward Decatur on Memorial Drive, you begin to notice a growing number of faded, ’70s-style signs. There’s the sweet and childish “Puddin’s Little World,” followed by the swirling, red “Decatur Old Schools Tires.” Some signs are missing letters. Others are little more than makeshift banners masking the previous tenant’s name. Then, as if to say “shame on you” to its more unkempt neighbors, a collection of big, blazing red and yellow letters proudly spell out DJ BEAUTY SUPPLY: WIGS, BEEPERS. We suppose that if you’re going to erect a marquis so wide and grand, you might as well get straight to the point. What is the connection between wigs and beepers, you ask? That’s kind of like questioning the chicken and waffles combo. If you don’t get it, you probably never will.
Best Bookstore: Outwrite Bookstore 991 Piedmont Ave.
Sure, OUTWRITE BOOKSTORE & COFFEEHOUSE has steaming lattes, scones and smart people wearing glasses. But Barnes & Noble it ain’t. In fact, if Barnes & Noble were a couple, this is where they would have browsed for books. What makes this place stand out from the mainstream (if you haven’t figured it out by now) is its focus on gay lit. To breeders, the phrase “gay literature” may conjure images of half-naked guys on risqué magazine covers, but Outwrite is much more than that. The shelves are stocked with works of fact and fiction from authors like Christopher Rice (son of vampire-loving Anne) and humorist David Sedaris. A large selection of books about growing up homosexual and readings by national authors bring in a pretty young crowd, and if you’re looking to meet someone intelligent, you’ll have better luck here than in one of the surrounding bars.
Best Bookstore for Libros en Español: La Libereria Discolandia 4166 Buford Highway, Suite 1010
Housed within the walls of Discolandia record store in Plaza Fiesta, this corner bookstore (it’s literally in a corner) is a rare find. Although major bookstore chains carry one or two stands of titles in Spanish, LA LIBERERÍA DISCOLANDIA is solely dedicated to selling books en Español. All 12 metro Atlanta Discolandia record stores carry books, but the Plaza Fiesta location is by far the largest. You’ll find everything from best-selling fiction to tomes on the occult. It’s also the site of Atlanta’s annual Feria del Libro, an event that has drawn renowned Latino scribes such as Telemundo host and former Univision news anchor Maria Antonieta Collins, and a more recent convert to the publishing world, Gloria Estefan.
Best Place to Buy Urban Music: Earwax Records 565 Spring St. NW
Located on a congested Spring Street corner, 14-year-old EARWAX RECORDS carries rap, hip-hop, jazz, R&B and neo-soul CDs that you won’t find first anywhere else (think early or exclusive releases by the Roots, DJ Clever or Jamad). The store also carries some of the most hard-to-find mix tapes around. It’s the only place in Atlanta to carry all of the Aphilliates’ mixes, including those by Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne and T.I. And the mix tapes are reasonably priced, at $10 apiece or three for $25. Earwax Records caters to DJs and urban music fans alike. Look out for the new Earwax 24 store coming soon via the Internet, which will carry music from all genres.
Best Place to Buy Vinyl: Wax 'N Facts 432 Moreland Ave.
The iPod might have killed the CD, but there’s still plenty of love for a good ol’ record store. WAX ‘N FACTS embodies the never-say-die vibe of Little Five Points — which is appropriate, seeing as how the store turned 30 this year and is still as cool as ever. Its bins — once filled with new Jimi Hendrix, Glenn Miller and Rolling Stones albums for $2 — are now stuffed with popular records alongside obscure ones (reprints of the Dolemite soundtrack, for instance, or the Last Poets’ This Is Madness) for $10 to $20. Whether you’re a seasoned DJ, a vinyl aficionado or just a casual browser, Wax ’N Facts will have what you’re looking for, unless, of course, you’re a confused shopper searching for candles.
Best Resource for Cyclists: SOPO Bicycle CO-OP 465-C Flat Shoals Ave.
It may sound crazy, but the volunteer mechanics at SOPO BICYCLE CO-OP just want to keep you rolling. They’ll let you use a repair stand and the tools you need to fix your bike for a small donation and give you repair tips. They’ll even swap tune-ups for spare parts. That’s because this little back-alley joint in East Atlanta is not a for-profit bike shop, but rather a DIY haven for the ditch-your-car generation. A 501(c)3 charity, Sopo also hosts bike-safety seminars for local kids and doles out donated bikes. It’s all part of their nefarious plan to turn Atlanta into a two-wheeled city.
Best Dog Trainer: Kate Jackson 228 Weeks St., Decatur
Atlanta has its own dog whisperer, and her name is KATE JACKSON. Jackson understands dogs — anxious ones, aggressive ones, destructive ones — and she knows how to communicate with both beast and owner. Listen to Jackson, and your canine’s bad behavior will disappear. Jackson leads group classes at her Jabula Dog Academy, offers private in-home lessons, and — for the most serious cases — runs a two-week training camp. Consider the case of training-camp graduate Sierra, a golden retriever who busted out of metal crates, ripped linoleum tiles off the sub-floor, and chewed apart a couch: “I thought the only solution was to give her away,” Sierra’s owner wrote Jackson. “Your training methods have redefined my relationship with my dog, and my house.”
Best Doggie Daycare: Wag-A-Lot 1456 Northside Drive
Feeling like a member of a pack is crucial to a dog. Weekends at the dog park serve that end, but what about dog owners who work during the week and don’t always have enough time for the daily exercise a four-legged friend needs? Enter WAG-A-LOT. Wag-a-Lot opened in 1999 as a dog daycare facility serving two paying guests. Today, Wag-a-Lot has three 13,000-square-foot locations in Decatur, west Midtown and Reynoldstown, each of which offers indoor/outdoor playrooms with bridges, wading pools and Web cams. The dogs get to socialize all day, and the staff supervises your dog’s behavior with as much care as you do, if not more. The best part: Your dog will be so worn out that you might not have to walk him the day after, either.
Best Car Wash: Auto Glo Hand Car Wash 2214 Cheshire Bridge Road
The difference between AUTO GLO HAND CAR WASH and some other car washes in town is that at Auto Glo, it’s all hands all the time. That means no automated scrubbers touch your car. Auto Glo workers carefully wipe away the muck with double-sided wool cloths and dry your car with microfiber towels to protect the paint. A basic wash starts at $10, and a wash and interior vacuuming costs $20. Add a wax for $20 and a full detail, complete with UV protective dash care, at $150. And, while you wait, you can enjoy Auto Glo’s massage chair and free Wi-Fi.
Best Place to Pimp Your Ride: MB1 Motoring 1090 Howell Mill Road
In a city where old-school Chevy’s ride supreme, a top-notch customizing shop is the first stop on the way to stunnin’. Whether you’re trying to ride fly on 24s or be a true playa with carbon interior, MB1 MOTORING has got you covered. From rims and wood grain to flat screens and racing gear, MB1 provides the hottest car accessories out there. It’s not cheap (up to $10,000 for a full candy paint and graphics job), but then again, why bother if you ain’t ballin’? Plus, it’s right next to Compound, so you can sup-up your whip and then go impress the car groupies at the club.
A tax-averse suburban county is clamoring to build a publicly funded stadium, a professional baseball team is fleeing a resurgent city, and the mayor seems cool with demolishing a 16-year-old former Olympic complex. Welcome to Bizarroville.