Best Of 2015

Ethnic Market

1. Las Américas Latin Market
6623 San Pedro Ave.
(210) 340-2747
www.lasamericaslatinmarket.com

Sure, there's typically a foreign goods section at your regular grocery store. And maybe you've even dabbled in pursuits of certain items in smaller shops, perhaps particularly when searching for something from Mexico. But what if you're trying to expand your culinary horizon deeper into Latin America? Maybe make a Caribbean stop? Or perhaps take a longer detour, say ... Spain? Well, you needn't travel much farther than near North Star Mall. Down on San Pedro Avenue is where you'll find Las Américas Latin Market. If you went by Yelp reviews alone, you'd think that without this place, Colombians in SA wouldn't know what to do. Opened in 1997, the grocery store has since expanded both in space and in services – you can buy food and get checks cashed, do money transfers, make copies and buy bus tickets to Mexico. Most visitors rave about the place, though some point out the confusing layout can make stuff hard to find. No matter how much it has grown, its purpose has remained steadfast. "It keeps giving people from different countries a taste from home, it brings them back," said manager Jonathan Jaramillo, 27, whose parents opened the market. "But it's also great for Americans who have traveled overseas and are looking for food from the places they visited."

HONORABLE MENTION:

Ali Baba International Food Market
9307 Wurzbach Rd.
(210) 691-1111
alibabasanantonio.com

Statue of Design
4347 McCullough Ave.
(210) 829-0636
statueofdesign.com

Composed of Laredo native David Garcia and a small team of freelancers versed in everything from photography to event planning, Statue of Design champions a modern aesthetic that's miles away from traditional Texas. Accentuated by textural juxtapositions and untraditional elements (think succulents, feathers and fruit), Statue of Design's custom creations have earned the company a solid local following along with some big-name clients. While locally sourced centerpieces can be had for around $250, Garcia specializes in weddings and orders flowers from around the world (Ecuador, Holland, Hawaii and beyond). Among the outfit's more dramatic hits is a sprawling arrangement of red apples and white orchids Garcia designed for Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria. This highly specialized approach to decor recently took shape at a Los Angeles wedding hosted in a"smog check center"converted into a sustainably designed event destination. Referencing the union between a scientist and a veterinarian, Garcia turned the space into a mossy woodland scene sprinkled with test tubes.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Fresh Urban Flowers
100 Taylor St.
(210) 299-3716
freshurbanflowers.com

Alamo Plants & Petals
119 W. Sunset Rd.
(210) 828-2628
alamoplantsandpetals.net

1. Element Tattoo Studio
4741 Fredericksburg Rd.
(210) 979-9877
elementtattoo.com

Element Tattoo Studio owner Jedidiah Reid prides himself in his shop's well-balanced combination of old-school and new-school tattoo philosophies. With a roster full of talented artists and a space so clean you'd think they were delivering babies there, the studio has a strong following from customers looking for quality tattoo work and not just the cheapest option in town. "The integrity of what you do and the people that follow your art is what's going to keep you in business," Reid told the San Antonio Current last month. "To do a bloodletting ritual like tattooing is a pretty wild fucking deal."

2. Dandyland Custom Tattoo
1821 Bandera Rd.
(210) 432-5747
dandylandtattoo.com

3. Golden Rose Tattoos
1128 Bandera Rd.
(210) 826-1213
goldenrosetattooparlour.com

1. Second Looks
1804 Nacogdoches Rd.
(210) 826-6121
secondlooksformen.com

With its neat, well-organized racks and designer suiting displays, it's easy to forget you're thrifting when you step inside Second Looks. Boasting a carefully cultivated collection from "the closets of Texas' best-dressed men," the shop has suited the gentlemen of San Antonio in top designer labels since 1981. Renowned for its high consignment standards, its assortment ranges from gently to never worn; something you'd never know by the price tag. For the dapper man on a budget, it's possible to snag a suit for $100. Other finds include cowboy boots ($75-$150), Ralph Lauren polo shirts ($25-$30) and Brioni suits ($600).

2. Karolina's Antiques
1709 Blanco Rd.
(210) 731-9787

3. Boysville Auxiliary Thrift Store
307 W. Olmos Dr.
(210) 826-2195
boysvillethriftstore.org

1. Bazinga Comics
2941 Thousand Oaks Dr., Suite 101
(210) 404-9174
bazingacomics.com

Gone are the days when comic-book nerds were labeled as the dateless geeks holed up in their parents' basement, sewing up their own superhero costumes and fantasizing about Vampirella. OK, so maybe a few of them are still dateless geeks, but now they're business owners, too! Over at Bazinga, shop owner Mark Clark has been going strong since opening in early 2012. "Comics have the power to make imagination come to life better than any other medium," he says on his Bazinga Facebook page.

2. Heroes & Fantasies
Multiple locations
heroesandfantasies.com

3. Dragon's Lair Comics and Fantasy
7959 Fredricksburg Rd., Suite 129
(210) 615-1229
dlair.net

1. Rainbow Gardens
Multiple locations
rainbowgardens.biz

2. Shades of Green
334 W. Sunset Rd.
(210) 824-3772
shadesofgreensa.com

3. Milberger's Landscaping & Nursery
3920 N. Loop 1604 E.
(210) 497-3760
milbergernursery.com

1. Bike World
Multiple locations
bikeworld.com

It was the news that shocked the world. Well, OK, just the biking world. Let's say at least the Texas cycling scene, which is still saying something. Talking about when San Antonio launched its now well-known B-Cycle program in 2011. It was a first for Texas — and surprising to many that SA beat Austin on this front. Bike World was the local shop given the contract — and responsibility — to make it all happen. Known for its selection and knowledgeable staff, the shop, with its three locations in the city, has become synonymous with the local biking scene. Besides sales of bikes and gear, the shop offers twice-weekly group rides.

2. Alamo Bike Shop
1016 N. Flores St.
(210) 226-2453
alamobikeshop.com

3. Bike Heaven
1931 NW Military Hwy., Suite 121
(210) 342-2453
bicycle-heaven.com

1. Nine Lives
4907 NW Loop 410, Suite 102
(210) 647-5656
ninelivesbooks.com

Tucked inside an unassuming plaza off Loop 410 lies enough used literature to last several lifetimes, though from the outside you'd never know it. Step inside Nine Lives Books, and you enter a beacon of enlightenment, complete with a life-size Yoda acting as gatekeeper to the maze of books, magazines, vinyl, CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes. The shop offers a little piece of everything, including horror and fantasy (a whole room's worth), vintage pulp novels, esoteric items, $1 or less bins and a sweet children's nook. The shop also houses a well-loved armchair and a vending machine with cold drinks and snacks for those planning to stick around.

2. Imagine Books & Records
8373 Culebra Rd., Suite 201B
(210) 236-7668
imaginebookstore.com

1. Smokerz Paradize
Multiple locations
smokerzparadize.com

2. Your Vaping Store
8015 Bandera Rd. #101
(210) 409-9101
yourvapingstore.com

3. Supreme Smoke
5807 Babcock Rd.
(210) 233-8844
instagram.com/supremesmoke

1. Game Over
Multiple locations
gameovervideogames.com

2. Propaganda Palace
2100 McCullough Ave.
(210) 400-0240