Best Of 2010

Shop Till You Drop

Shop Till You Drop

Best Shoe Store & Local Fashion Boutique

Sole Sneaker Boutique
4025 Broadway
(210) 822-7653

In addition to the hyper-color sneaks sold at Sole, proprietors Julio and Fabby Rodriguez carry street-smart clothing lines, too. For the ladies, there are super-skinny jeans by Married to the Mob, adorable tees from Tokidoki, and sweet dresses by Heavy Rotation. Guys can stock up on New Era caps and graphic shirts from LA-based Heist & Co. and cult fave Kid Robot. We recently admired our pharmacist’s neon digital watch, commenting that it looked like the upscale Nooka watches carried at Sole. “That’s where I shop!” beamed the pharmacist. “Man, those guys are cool.” The cool factor extends to the recent concert Sole organized on the grounds of the Witte Museum — a tradition they hope to continue annually — all part of their plan to bring hipper hip-hop style to the city.

We found it fitting that Kanye West’s 808 and Heartbreaks pumped throughout this store on our last upscale athletic shoe-shopping excursion. West could be Sole’s style inspiration; like the rapper, the boutique specializes in urbane urban, slick style-mixing, and a serious shoe obsession. Brands for b-boys and -girls include Adidas, PF Flyers, Puma, and Saucony. We saw neon polka-dot high tops, tassles, tooled leather, and a color range far outside our natural rainbow. No Auto-Tune-singing sneakers yet, but if they ever exist, we’ll know where to find them.

Local Fashion Boutique

2. Robertson Blvd., 18730 Stone Oak Pkwy., (210) 494-3230,

3. Julian Gold, 4109 McCullough, (210) 824-2493,

Shoe Store

2. LeeLee (Loves Shoes), 5932 Broadway, (210) 832-0066,

3. Whole Earth Provision Co., 255 E. Basse Road, (210) 829-8888,

Best Local Designer

Angelina Mata
1817 S. Presa
(210) 286-2943

We’re lucky enough to have witnessed the fashion circus Angelina Mata’s atelier becomes when she’s juggling orders for wedding attire (often including the bride, the bridesmaids, and the mother of the bride), cocktail dresses, and alterations that put a new spin on cherished treasures. Last fall, Mata blew the lid off SA’s first-ever Fashion Week, showing a darkly sophisticated collection in an industrial space. What some may not know about Mata is that she’s also an incredible hairstylist (some of her fans are still crying because she can’t find time to do hair) who apprenticed under Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher, and also makes one-of-a-kind accessories (jewelry, handbags, bowties). Pieces from her Reinvintage Collection will appear in the May issue of Austin Monthly.

2. Kathleen Sommers, 2417 N. Main, (210) 732-8437,

3. Agosto Cuellar, 919 S. Alamo, (210) 257-5132,

Best Thrift/Vintage Shop

The Jive Refried Vintage and Originals
919 S. Alamo
(210) 257-5132

Designer Agosto Cuellar stuffs his downtown spot with vintage picks from a massive warehouse he keeps full of thrifty finds. This is not the place to score the kind of deals one finds at charity thrift centers; Cuellar’s eye is too refined to let a vintage designer name slip by unnoticed. On the other hand, shoppers don’t have to wade through a sea of pit-stained T-shirts, ripped hems, and Old Navy dresses circa 2003 to find gems. Like Cuellar’s own designs, much of the clothing here is colorful, feminine, and fabulous.

2. Thrift Town San Antoni,12247 Nacogdoches, (210) 656-8696,

3. Boysville Thrift Shop, 307 W. Olmos Drive, (210) 826-2195,

Best Lingerie Shop

Shades of Love
300 W. Bitters #150
(210) 494-3006

A family-owned enterprise run by three sisters, Shades of Love is more than a lingerie store; it’s a cheerful and efficient one-stop-shopping oasis for amorous couples of whatever gender or interest. You can find sexy books, awesome toys, silly games, saucy films, good advice from a friendly and unembarrassable staff (no, really — the stellar Rosemary Benitez, in particular, knows and has seen everything, and can answer just about any question). But lingerie? Oh yes, they’ve got lingerie for every shape and style and inclination, from pretty-dainty to deliciously sleazy. Plus, you’ll be supporting a true-blue homegrown local biz, so get your fanny over there and dress it up.

2. Victoria’s Secret, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 694-5905

3. Frederick’s of Hollywood, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 877-5211,

Best Bookstore

The Twig Book Shop
200 E. Grayson St.
(210) 826-6411

Here’s one independent bookseller who’s actually upgraded their store in the age of economic recession and death-of-print paranoia. The Twig’s new digs at the Pearl Brewery trade cozy cramped aisles for airy room in an area guaranteed plenty of foot traffic every Saturday thanks to the nearby farmers market. The ever-helpful Twig staff prominently display books by local authors, and mercifully place the Twilight books on a shelf too high for most ’tweens to reach. If the book you’re looking for isn’t in the aisles, don’t give up: The Twig can order most texts within five-to-seven business days. Take that, Kindle.

2. Half Price Books, 3207 Broadway, (210) 822-4597, Also: Two additional locations,

3. Nine Lives Books, 4919 NW Loop 410, (210) 647-5656,

Best Mall

The Shops at La Cantera
15900 La Cantera Pkwy.

Say what you want about this enormous exalted temple to high-end consumerism on the far north edge of town, but we all want stuff. Nice stuff! And boy howdy, they’ve got it there, providing a pleasant and upscale venue for such brands as Brooks Brothers, Zara, Anthropologie, Tiffany & Co., Stuart Weitzman, and Lilly Pulitzer, whose shops might not otherwise find a home in San Antonio. The appealing landscaping and public outdoor space, children’s play area, and diverse food options make spending an afternoon (and some dough) at La Cantera a pleasant experience. There’s even (optional) valet service to take the stress out of parking. And you can sit at Mariposa at Neiman’s with a glass of Côtes de Provence and watch the Rattler wooden rollercoaster at Fiesta Texas. That’s pretty great, c’mon.

2. North Star Mall, 7400 San Pedro, (210) 340-6627,

3. South Park Mall, 2310 SW Military Dr., (210) 921-0534,

Best Makeup Counter

MAC, North Star Mall
900 North Star Mall
(210) 344-3450

MAC’s North Star location is truly a fine specimen of MAC’s particular genius: They sell useful and beautiful tools (can you say guilt-free all-natural hair brushes? Yes, MAC uses silky goat and Japanese hair gathered up cruelty-free! Qué milagro!), fashion-forward, intensely pigmented, high-quality, not-for-the-wallflower makeup, and the full range of the Viva Glam line, which has raised millions for PWAs. What endears the North Star location to us, though, is the wonderful staff: Beautifully maquillaged (both boys and girls), friendly, cheery, extremely skilled, non-pushy, and always ready to conduct a very precise ad-hoc eyeliner demo or dish out priceless good foundation advice (Michael Gill is our perennial fave artist there). Ignore their wisdom at your peril.

1. Bare Escentuals, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 798-0236, 

2. Sephora, La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy., (210) 694-4448,

Best Comics Shop

Collectors Authority
1534 SE Military Dr
(210) 977-8818

After talking to store owner Mario Delgado, it seems Collectors Authority might have managed to edge out the competition in this hard-fought category because of the lack of an ampersand in its name. There’s no fantasy gaming to be found at CA, just comics — boxes and boxes of boarded and bagged back issues and store-length shelves lined with new releases. Either that, or it’s the 4-feet-tall Witchblade statue that greets customers when they walk inside. A few smaller plastic action heroes sit for sale in glass cases, but even most of those are for display only. That goes double for the KISS figures on the wall, we presume, but before you accuse Delgado of straying from his mission statement by branching out into rock-’n’-roll fanboydom, check out his small collection of KISS Psycho Circus comics. We couldn’t find the issue with their blood in the ink, though.

2. Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy, 7959 Fredericksburg, (210) 615-1229,

3. Atomic Comics & Gaming , 204904 Broadway, (210) 826-3223,

Best Gaming Shop

Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy
7959 Fredericksburg
(210) 615-1229

The fact that more of you guys voted for a comic-book-and-gaming store over video-game suppliers indicates you’re more interested in games of the pretend-to-be-a-warlock variety than the murdering-pixilated-representations-of-foreign-nationals kind. And good for you. Some orc-ish fundamentalists have fretted that kids who play Dungeons & Dragons or Vampire: The Masquerade in the basement will wind up corrupted by an introduction to witchcraft, and to those worrywarts may we introduce: every other activity a group of teenagers could be doing in the basement.

Now that you’re frantic to buy your sons and daughters handfuls of 12-sided die, get thee (sorry) to Dragon’s Lair, where not only can you obtain the best and latest books, supplies, etc. for Forces of the War Machine, Shadowrun, and Legend of the Five Rings (in which it’s possible to play as a noncombatant), you can also play them, plus HeroClix, Magic: The Gathering, and good- old-fashioned Go!) right there in the store (see the website for schedules and information on reserving game rooms). That’s right, we said you could play them, too. You didn’t think these were just for kids did you?

2. Purple Cactus Comics (tie), 8180 Tezel, (210) 681-4977

2. Propaganda Palace Video Games (tie), (inside Eisenhauer Road Flea Market), 3903 Eisenhauer, (210) 653-7592,

Best Place to Buy Rare & Hard-to-find Music

Hogwild Records
1824 N. Main
(210) 733-5354

Y’all still love Hogwild, the venerable, locally owned, new-and-used record and CD store closing in on its 30th birthday. Great taste — we love the hard-rocking outfit, too. But may we please address the irony of your third-place picks for a moment? Yes, know-it-all music nerds, we know eBay is probably the best place to find that rare Japanese edition of the Talking Heads’ Fear of Music. But it’s not the easiest place to browse for music, to oggle the cutie poring over “Used Funk” EPs, or to discuss, with a real person face-to-face, your excitement over the upcoming Hacienda/Heartless Bastards show. You can do all that in an independent record store. You can probably convince the kindly clerks to order a copy of Fear of Music, too. And you should, unless you want your first and second picks to end up like the store that’s tied with eBay, which closed for business last October.

2. Flip Side Record Parlor, 840 SW Military Dr., (210) 923-7811,

3. eBay (tie) ,

3. Music Town (tie), Out of Business

Best Plant Nursery

Shades of Green (tie)
334 W. Sunset, (210) 824-3772,

Milburger’s Landscaping and Nursury (tie)
3920 N. Loop 1604 East, (210) 497-3760,

There is a reason you can’t find that quick-growing shade tree known as chinaberry at Milburger Nursery or Shades of Green. The sultanas of lantanas know the thing is verdant evil when loosed on South Texas ecosystems, choking out beneficial trees and shrubs and the innumerable pest-consuming critters that feed on them. Shades of Green has even sworn off pesticides completely, offering regular classes in organic gardening techniques to make the fritillaries frolic. And if you’re still doing the traditional lawn thing, Milburger’s boasts the largest selection of turf-grass sod in South Texas. Get growing!

2. Fanick’s Garden Center, 1025 Holmgreen, (210) 648-1303,

3. Schulz Nursery, 3700 Broadway, (210) 804-0600,

Best Bike Shop

Blue Star Bike Shop
1414 S. Alamo
(210) 858-0331

Blue Star Bike Shop sits right next door to Best Hand-Crafted Brews winner Blue Star Brewery, which gives us a freaking brilliant idea, you guys: The cops can’t cite you for a DWI if you’re riding a bike, right? So just get ripped at the brewery and then buy a … actually let me just run this by our common-sense checker before … Ouch! She just slapped me in the back of the head! WTF? Apparently that’s “like the worst idea ever,” so either limit your drink intake (you know, like you would if you’re driving a car) or content yourself with perusing Blue Star’s selection of wonderfully stylish Electra bicycles, high-quality Brooks bags and saddles, fancy-pants Cinelli Road Bicycles, and their own Blue Star line of single-speeders, none of which should be operated under the influence of anything but a love of fitness and the environment.

2. Bike World, 418 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 892-0123,

3. Performance Bikes, 16648 San Pedro, (210) 764-6672 ,

Best Flea Market

Bussey’s Flea Market
18738 I.H. 35 North, Schertz, (210) 651-6830

Whether it’s a plastic optical trompe l’oeil “painting” of Jesus opening and closing his eyes, “hand-dipped” Blue Bell ice cream, a wiiiiide array of Elvis memorabilia, a kickass $15 T-shirt of Lightnin’ Hopkins, or a corn dog, this everything-o-rama up I-35 has you covered for all your bric-a-brac, used-record, and costume-jewelry needs. Bussey’s Flea Market is like the garage sale of an entire nation, with a whole lot of knives in it sold by dudes who look like extras from Deadwood. It’s a friendly scene, though, and full of surprises: A recent Saturday trip led us into a surprisingly well-kept live-bird emporium, where we fell in love with a Lilac Crown Amazonian Parrot ($495). We might go back and get it; we’re sure it only screams at dawn. And parking is only $1!

2. Eisenhauer Road Flea Market, 3903 Eisenhauer Rd., (210) 653-7592,

3. Poteet Flea Market, 12280 Poteet Jourdanton Fwy., (210) 624-2666

Best Cigar Shop

2235 Thousand Oaks
(210) 404-2626

When you graduate past the It’s a Boy brand (RIP, Mitch Hedberg) and gas-station Swisher Sweets, C.I.G.A.R. is there to fulfill your fantasies of becoming a stogie-chomping bigshot. There’s a lot more to cigars, it turns out, than accessorizing them with the right tommy gun or ending every sentence with a menacing “see?” But here’s what you gotta do, see? Head out to C.I.G.A.R., where the knowledgeable staff will walk you through your first higher-end smokeable purchase, and initiate you into the mysteries of concepts like ring gauge, blooming, and priming, so you’ll find the cigar that suits your particular puffing needs. Once you’re hooked, C.I.G.A.R. is also the place to get the humidor you’ll need to store all those cigars you accumulate and save for special occasions. And if you get depressed lighting up on the fire escape of your efficiency apartment, grab a day pass to the Habana Club, featuring Tuscan stained floors, Italian leather furniture, and a billiard room — just the sort of place where the tough guys smoke their cigars in old movies, see?

2. Cigar Pointe, 19186 Blanco, (210) 888-2933 ,

3. Finck Cigar Co., 414 Vera Cruz, (210) 226-4191,

Best Wine Shop

Central Market
4821 Broadway
(210) 368-8600

Central Market accomplishes in five tightly stacked aisles (embedded in the always-busy dry-goods section) what many a wine shop cannot: makes it easy to find wines by region or style, and un-intimidating to ask if you’ll be just as happy with the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc as with the twice-as-expensive Cloudy Bay. (Heidi steered us to the always reliable Kim Crawford, priced in between.) We like the case and Texas-wine discounts, too, and the helpful staff picks (Heidi, again, seems most in key with the Current’s taste and pocketbook, but we keep an eye out for Enrique’s notes, too), and since we’re part of a mixed marriage, we appreciate the proximity of CM’s equally outstanding globetrotting beer section.

2. Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods, 14623 IH 35 N, Live Oak, (210) 651-1911,

3. Joe Saglimbeni’s Fine Wine, 638 W. Rhapsody Dr., (210) 349-5149,

Previous Winners