Best Of 2017

OUR PICK: No. 9 Florals, 4347 McCullough Ave., (210) 232-4471,

While Laredo native David Garcia’s distinctive floral operation Statue of Design has already found its niche in San Antonio by creating both traditional and wildly original arrangements and full-on environments for photo shoots, special events, weddings and clients in the know, his new venture No. 9 Florals is still flying somewhat under the radar in a stylishly refurbished outpost in Olmos Park. Blink and you’ll miss it, but the compact entryway opens into a quietly dazzling, industrial-chic space where Garcia and his staff help customers design personalized bouquets (based on budget and taste) artfully arranged in a curated assortment of vases that are worth keeping around and reusing. Although also stocked with unique gifts and accessories (including candles, jewelry and home accents sourced from New Orleans and beyond), No. 9’s second-most popular product is probably chocolate. When On Main Off Main closed its doors early this year, Garcia took over the beloved novelty shop’s chocolate counter, which he’s reinforced with niche products like floral-flavored popcorn and locally crafted caramels.

OUR PICK: Cheever Books, 3613 Broadway, (210) 824-2665

When it comes to shopping for quality used and vintage books (which, let’s be honest, is almost always more fun than shopping for new ones), Cheever Books is hands-down the place to go. Here, you can spend hours searching through the store’s bookshelves, which are always packed with one-of-a-kind and rare finds. Whether you’re stopping in for a specific title or are just there to browse, this local gem pleases both tourists and locals alike, which makes it our top spot for book-buying in San Antonio. Plus, it has that great, old book smell we absolutely love.

OUR PICK: Tim’s Oriental and Seafood Market, 7015 Bandera Road, Suite 8, (210) 523-1688

Freshly roasted Peking duck, Meiji chips and a good Sencha tea are hard to find in San Antonio — unless you make a trip to Tim’s. The market — run by Tim and Cathy Lim since 1986 — celebrates the ingredients, produce and meats found throughout Asia, Europe and even Africa. You’ll find nori and mochi from Japan, oodles of noodles from Korea and China, and endless frozen steamed bun options. Customers return each Wednesday for “Market Day”, when the store receives shipments of fresh produce and seafood, and Friday for fresh, traditionally prepared Asian breads. It’s easy to get lost in the aisles of lychee drinks, hot sauce and pork belly, but at this market, you can also buy the wok you need to cook it. The only real mistake you can make at Tim’s? Entering the store hungry.

Our Pick: Rainbow Gardens, Multiple locations,

Thanks to Rainbow Gardens, you don’t need to have a green thumb to become an excellent gardener. With two locations in San Antonio, the garden center is a one-stop shop for both expert gardeners and those just getting their feet wet. Whether you’re browsing through the hundreds of flowers, shrubs and trees available or just stopping in for something specific, Rainbow Gardens never disappoints (plus their nursery makes for a beautiful spot for selfies). Along with your new plants, you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks from the pros, gardening classes and seminars at Rainbow Gardens. This year also marks the nursery’s 30th anniversary, so you know they must be doing something right.

Our Pick: Element Tattoo, 4741 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 979-9877,

After surviving a fire in 2009, Element Tattoo rebuilt and grew into a powerhouse studio that employs about a dozen of the Alamo City’s best artists – heavy-hitters like Sweet Lorraine, Kelly Edwards and Justin Martinez. Element is the brainchild of Jedidiah Reed (or Jedi, as people usually call him), who learned how to tattoo in Corpus Christi under Texas tattoo legend Bruce Edwards. While Element houses artists for virtually every style or design (from big, traditional Americana-themed pieces to portraits), Jedi has turned the place into South Texas’ go-to spot for huge, traditional Japanese-inspired sleeves, back pieces and body suits. And lucky enough for all of us, Jedi and his stable of skin-art masters happily take walk-ins.

Our Pick: Texas Thrift, 7500 I-35 N., 210-654-7222,

Thrifting ain’t easy. Those who have been at it for some time know there are tricks to the trade of bin-diving for that special something. And in our experience, Texas Thrift has proven to have the most consistently stacked collection of goods, and with four locations to choose from (Ingram, Commerce St., Windsor Park, SE Military), the local thrift chain might just boast the largest and widest variety of pre-owned and vintage clothing, furniture, and accessories in the city. Each space averages about 25,000 square feet – so unless you’re looking for something specific, casual treasure hunting can easily consume an entire afternoon or weekend. Pro tip: stay hydrated and bring a friend – or, that is, bring a friend with different tastes than you so they don’t try to jack your gems.

OUR PICK: Trader’s Village, 9333 SW Loop 410, (210) 623-8383,

Trader’s Village isn’t your average flea market. Described as “a swap meet, treasure hunt, shopping complex, county fair, and festival attraction all rolled into one,” this 100-acre, 1,000-vendor jumbo marketplace can easily fill an entire day. Try on some cowboy boots, hop on a carousel, eat a turkey leg, shoot up 80 feet to take in the view on the “Star Dancer” ride — hell, you can even buy a new fridge while you’re at it. The sprawling property is also home to a range of different festivals and events, including pow wows, “Ragin’ Cajun” music festivals, chili cookoffs and amateur boxing games. With free entry and only $4 to park, Trader’s Village can be an affordable way to spend a weekend — or a great spot to spend away your paycheck on a new set of hubcaps or endless carnival rides. The choice is yours.

OUR PICK: Pig Liquors, 519 S. Presa St., (210) 226-6465,

Those who remember the days when Pig Liquors was tucked into a colorful little house down on South Presa might get a blast of déjà vu upon entering its welcoming new digs. After a successful run in a commercial strip on South St. Mary’s, the homegrown venture Anet Alaniz started five years ago recently made a short but significant hop into a former law office behind El Mirador. On a recent visit, Alaniz was still in the process of making the 1,600-square-foot space her own, but most of the vital pieces were in place — including booze and beer in the front, wine and bubbly in the back and the pig-nose-wearing mannequin Cha Cha La Borracha standing guard over it all. While it might not be the most sensible spot to shop for an epic rager, Pig Liquors speaks loud and clear to San Anto through both its thoughtful selection — from old-school standards like Veuve Clicquot to small-batch products out of Austin-based Texas Saké Company — and creative bells and whistles like artist-made T-shirts, handcrafted cards and whimsical aprons. A bonus allowed by its new location: Pig Liquors now has the ability to host tastings on its homey front porch.

Our Pick: Robot Monster Guitars, 517 E. Woodlawn Ave., (210) 320-1710,

Have you ever walked into a bar, cafe or boutique and felt immediately sized up and judged by the shop person? Well, that most likely won’t be your experience at Robot Monster Guitars. Located at the end of St. Mary’s in our only sort-of “music district” here in SA, the guys at Robot Monster Guitars are friendly bunch who are dedicated to helping you find the music gear you need without making you feel dumb – something that’s sadly rare in the business. Whether you’re looking for vintage guitar pedals, instrument accessories or a pretty cool selection of vinyl, toys and other rock and roll collectibles, Robot Monster Guitars is our go-to shop.

OUR PICK: Fiesta on Main, 2025 N. Main Ave., (210) 591-8144,

Founded as an outlet for Mexican artisans to sell their wares, family-owned favorite Fiesta on Main has long been a go-to for party supplies and decor for almost any imaginable occasion. During Fiesta itself, the distinctly San Antonio operation bustles with shoppers stocking up on cascarones, garlands, flower crowns, papel picado and confetti by the bagful. Often dangling from the trees out front or perched on the porch, piñatas abound — with giant turkeys for Thanksgiving, witches and black cats for Halloween and, last year at least, both Trump and Clinton squaring off for election season. For birthday parties and everyday fanfare, classic donkeys, layer cakes, guitars, maracas, superheroes and satellites come in various sizes — including wallet-friendly minis perfect for tabletop arrangements or party favors. While there’s an abundance of equally deserving mom-and-pop shops out there, Fiesta on Main’s always a reliable source that makes for a truly colorful shopping experience.