Readers’ choice: Leddy’s Boots, 2455 N Main St, FW
Critic’s choice: Ponder Boot Co., 2358 N Main St, FW
Country singer Tanya Tucker and Broadway star Bette Midler have both ordered custom boots from one of the few places around that designs, makes, and repairs boots on site. One singer ordered tall boots made completely of alligator; the other ordered red-and-white, short-top, vintage-looking Dale Evans-style boots. So who ordered what? Surprisingly, southern gal Tucker nabbed the gaudy ‘gator, while The Divine Miss M preferred the retro cowgirl look. Ronald Reagan bought three pairs of Ponder alligator boots for his slender but presidential feet. Some bootmakers brag about how customers gladly wait a year or more for their boots, but Ponder Boot owner Georgia Linam shoots for two months or less. How? “We actually do the work here and don’t send it off,” she said. And if those custom eel or ostrich boots aren’t enough, you can order matching belts, briefcases, saddles, even tennis shoes. Linam has made ostrich golf shoes for Payne Stewart and an ostrich golf bag for Tiger Woods. By the way, whose foot do you think was bigger – Tucker’s or Midler’s? Answer: Not the Bronx honker. “Bette Midler was so cute,” Linam said. “She came here and brought in this one little vintage boot she had found and said, ‘Can you make this for me in a size 6?'” Linam asked to see her bare feet, but Midler hesitated – it was a cold winter day, and, besides, the longtime Stockyards boot shop can be a tad dusty. Linam explained that a custom fit required sketching outlines of her feet. Turns out, Midler is closer to a size 4 but prefers her boots larger so she can wear thick socks. Celebrities, of course, are a small percentage of Linam’s clientele – her bread and butter is tending to local cowboys and cowgirls with a taste for sturdy footwear and the various folks out there with mismatched or otherwise special feet who aren’t comfy in factory-mades. If Linam had her way, nobody would bother with mass-produced boots. “Today’s factory boot is make of paper, plastic, cork, cardboard, and rubber,” she said.
Readers’ choice: Red Carpet, 5829 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW
Readers’ choice: Classic Auto, 2713 W 5th St, FW
Critic’s choice: Flagship Car Wash & Lube Center, 3124 Collinsworth St, FW
Typically you don’t wait long to get your car washed here, and even the short wait is as painless as can be – Flagship provides an air-conditioned waiting room with a TV, computers with internet service for quick web browsing, arcade games, candy, ice cream, car accessories, sunglasses, and so on. A mere $20 will get you a damn good wash and vacuum, while extra bucks buy an intricate detail job that’ll make your baby shine like she did on the showroom floor.
Readers’ choice: Perfect Touch Spa, 3023 Bledsoe St, Ste 103, FW
Critic’s choice: The Bull Ring, 112 E Exchange Av, FW
Stockyards merchants cater to tourists, so good customer service ain’t hard to come by there, podner. But A.C. “Ace” Cook goes the extra mile at The Bull Ring ice cream shop, whose walls are covered with one of the state’s best private collections of early Texas art. Show the slightest interest in the art, and Cook will come around the counter and give you a tour that will blow your mind and probably turn you into an avid art enthusiast. And, unlike with regular museum tours, you can listen to Willie Nelson CDs, drink beer, and maybe indulge in a little butter pecan while viewing the paintings.
Hair SalonReaders’ choice: Magnolia Avenue Salon, 711 W Magnolia Av, FW
Critic’s choice: Lux Machine, 4816 Camp Bowie Blvd, Ste B, FW
If you want to look good, enjoy friendly service, and not be rushed or crowded, Lux Machine is the place to go. Quietly situated off Camp Bowie, the small yet upscale salon offers everything a larger salon can without the crowds, higher prices, or nauseating pop music playing over the loudspeakers. The cozy atmosphere makes you feel as though you’re getting the staff’s full attention, while their polite attitude is the opposite of condescension from high-fashionistas. You’ll look good when you leave and, thanks to advice from friendly stylists, know how to keep the ‘do looking righteous until you can get back there again.
Readers’ choice: Randy Adams, 6467 E Lancaster Av, FW
Critic’s choice: Salty Dog Tattoo Shop, 2903 W Berry St, FW
While the smell of green soap, the buzz of the needle, and raw, wincing pain are experiences that make all tattoos intrinsically similar, the same cannot be said for every tattoo shop. The things that make a barbershop great also apply to tattoo parlors: top-notch skill, snappy conversation, and piquant camaraderie, all of which Salty Dog has in spades. Whether it’s old-school flash off the wall or that giant custom piece you’ve been saving up for, Troll, Justin, Chris, Bear, or Myles will help you realize your body-modding vision with some of the best and most innovative skin art to come out of the Metroplex, served up with wit as sharp as their needles and stories as colorful as your brand-new half-sleeve.
Readers’ choice: Jennifer O’Malley, Perfect Touch Spa
Critic’s choice: Peggy Taylor, Madman Massage, 682-554-9131
A massage from Peggy Taylor works out the kinks in your karma as well as those in your body. Make an appointment and show up at her Eastside home, and you get the full-body experience: dim lights, music, soothing scents, and some world-class work on those knotted muscles and tension-twisted body parts, from her strong, skilled hands. She may have to wake you when it’s over.
Readers’ choice: McCart Thrift, 5203 McCart Av, FW
Critic’s choice: Berry Good Buys, 1701 W Berry St, FW
Returning for another win is this excellent little shop just east of 8th Avenue. We love it for so many reasons. There’s fast turnover: You won’t see the same thing over and over. There are wondrous antiques mixed in with the usual clothing. (We pounced on the red laquer Chinese chest at $100, gazed longingly but passed on the fully accessorized steamer trunk at $175.) Books are cheap and well-arranged; some of the furniture is vintage deluxe, some isn’t. Daily specials enhance the bargains. Other recent scores were a brand-new (tags attached) silk cardigan at a mere $3 and black slacks from Talbot’s for a dollar. One dollar! And if you’re looking for evening finery, this is the place. Check the “better clothes” area for gala gowns. And proceeds benefit SafeHaven of Tarrant County.
Critic’s choice: Spiral Diner & Bakery, 1314 W Magnolia Av, FW
Amy McNutt has brought us great food through her vegan restaurant – even steak-eaters can find a good substitute at the Spiral. But the mission of the eatery is also to help the whole planet, not just to save the cows and chickens. lly paper products used are unbleached or recycled; cleaning products are biodegradable. McNutt also donates a portion of profits to environmental causes. For the Spiral Diner, being green is more than just eating a salad instead of a cut of beef.
Readers’ choice: Guitar Center, 5250 S Hulen St, FW
Critic’s choice: Lamb’s Music, 8533 Camp Bowie Blvd W, FW
Yeah, yeah, we know that most local, independent music shops aren’t going to carry that corny, pointy B.C. Rich axe you saw Kerry King sling last summer. You know what? They shouldn’t, because local shops have taste. And none is as tasteful as Steve Lamb’s. His selection isn’t huge (in fact, it’s pretty much one wall), but it’s vintage and lovingly cared for. And while Guitar Center has the latest Fender re-releases, guess where GC sends you when your ’62 Jaguar Reissue’s pickups crap out? To Steve, a master luthier who probably played the real thing when it was new. Nestled in an out-of-the-way strip mall on Highway 80, Lamb’s Music is the destination for repairs, customizations, or that ’72 fretless P-Bass you’ve always wanted.
Readers’ choice: Designs for Children,4804 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW
Critic’s choice: Toy Works, 6100 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW
Any store can stock its shelves with action figures and race cars, but it takes a special place to offer games and toys that encourage creativity. Toy Works has that and more. There are board games old and new, puzzles of the flat and three-dimensional kind, and challenging model kits. Some of the toys will get the minds of toddlers spinning, while updates to classics like Brio railroad sets will start adult minds turning the memory wheels back to their own childhoods. Stuffed animals, puppets, and good old plastic dinosaurs are there, too. The only thing that’s really missing are some Legos, but the nice, small, mom and pop atmosphere and lack of movie tie-in toys more than make up for that.
Critic’s choice: Pipe Dream, 1308 S Cooper St, Arlington
Pipe Dream doesn’t like the head shop moniker. After all, the long-lived Arlington store sells cologne and perfume, exotic board games, sexy lingerie, graphic t-shirts, cigars, and a variety of other novelty gift-type stuff. But their bread and butter is still the normal head shop fare. You can buy tobacco pipes shaped like unicorns, scales for weighing your smoke of choice, and trippy ceramic mushrooms. And as one employee put it: “If we don’t have it, we’ll order it.”
Critic’s choice: Index Skateboard Supply, 725 Airport Fwy, Ste 201, Hurst
You could hit the mall and grab the latest signature deck from your favorite MTV jackass, but if you’re a skater – and alleged anti-establishmentista – why be corporate? Get your stick at Index in the Mid-Cities. Shoes, decks, wheels – you name it, Index has it. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and won’t make you feel like a kook if you don’t know bearings from Bertslides.
Readers’ choice: Panther City, 1306 W Magnolia Av, FW
Critic’s choice: Bicycle Center of Fort Worth, 5434 River Oaks Blvd, FW
With more Worthians riding their bikes these days, more folks are also finding out about this shop, with possibly the best line of merchandise in town. The proprietors have high-end touring and mountain bikes and do a great job with annual tune-ups to keep those gears shifting smoothly. But the shop also specializes in working on older models. So if you have an old Schwinn, they will search out the parts to bring the bike up to code. And for those of you who want more than two wheels, skateboards are for sale as well.
Gym or Health Club
Readers’ choice: Downtown YMCA, 512 Lamar St, FW Critic’s choice: 24 Hour Fitness’ Hulen Super Sport, 5100 Overton Ridge Blvd, FW
A gym with consistently empty benches and machines is overrated. Yeah, it’s OK sometimes, especially if you’re doing a circuit or super-sets, but a high-energy atmosphere tends to be more helpful. For one thing, other people in motion can keep you moving, and, for another, they can distract you from the televisions mounted all around. (Plus, a little eye candy never hurt anyone’s motivation.) During peak hours, Hulen Super Sport gracefully navigates the sticky terrain between cheesy and serious. But the place also has long hours, perfect for when you’d rather pump iron peacefully. Alone time includes Friday nights around 10 and Sunday mornings at 7.
Place To Buy:Books
Readers’ choice: Barnes & Noble, 401 Commerce St, FW
Critic’s choice: Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth, 2462 Mansfield Hwy, FW
If you want to pay $25 or so for a bestseller, go prowl the aisles of the chains. But if you’re willing to forgo the coffee and the easy chairs, browse the shelves at Goodwill. Surprisingly, a whole lot of folks seem to read (or at least buy) those high-priced books and then bundle them off to Goodwill with hardly a tear or a coffee stain on the cover. They may be the best bargain in town: Hardbacks – bestsellers or bombs, first editions or tenth printing – go for $2. Paperbacks are as low as 50 cents, kids’ books a quarter to a buck. And there are always some delightful surprises. Last visit, we found near-pristine first editions from John le Carré, John Grisham, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Liss. Well-known and obscure writers find new life on the shelves of this mother of all recyclers. Heavy readers can snuggle up with a stack of books without a shred of guilt – hell, you can’t even see a bad movie for two bucks anymore.
Readers’ choice: CD Warehouse, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Recycled Books, Records and CDs, 200 N Locust St, Denton
Nobody in the Metroplex beats Recycled when it comes to used CDs. The store offers a great selection, reasonable prices (most CDs are about $7.77, though it’s a bit more for imports or double discs), and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Everyone from indie rockers to classical fans to teenyboppers can find what they want. The jazz section is particularly impressive, especially compared to other used CD stores in the area. And there’s no better place to find local favorites like Fish Boy, Centro-matic, and Record Hop. Records cost even less than the CDs – about $5, up to $20 for rarities. And you won’t see any scratches, because the staff is meticulous about the condition of every album. The shop also offers a plethora of books and movies at prices that won’t leave you broke.
New and Used DVDs
Readers’ choice: Movie Trading Co., 4604 SW Loop 820, FW
Critic’s choice: Movie Trading Co.
Even though it’s owned by Blockbuster, this place makes it worthwhile to suck it up and succumb to the Big Box video chain’s hydra-headed hold on rental and retail. The selection runs the gamut, from newly released blockbusters and Oscar winners to classics, foreign films, and forgotten B movies. And though the video game section isn’t as robust as the one in a gaming-only store, you can still find good games for cheap, from current to last-gen, along with a lot of older games for your collection. Of course, the best thing about Movie Trading Co. is still that you can rent anything on the shelves; if you then decide to buy it, the rental price gets deducted.
Place to Shop for the Person You Usually Buy Gift Cards For
Critic’s choice: Central Market, 4651 West Fwy, FW
So you’ve gotta get something for that friend/spouse/relative who hates sports, doesn’t read, cares little about music, and hasn’t seen a movie since Ghostbusters II. This person usually gets a Target gift card, which is probably used to buy toothpaste, Q-Tips, and Castrol 10-30. We suggest that for such un-shoppable gift recipients, you hit Central Market and indulge that not-so-close friend in a host of imagined epicurean predilections. Pretend he’s a beer snob and pick him up a custom six-pack of hard-to-find microbrews. For the snack queen, lose yourself in Central Market’s voluminous selection of gourmet chips. After all, everyone has to eat and drink. And if the recipient doesn’t end up eating or drinking your present, you can always invite yourself over.
20th Century Relics
Critic’s choice: West Meadowbrook neighborhood
This little-known ‘hood is full of 20th-century gems in the form of charming 1950s ranch-style homes only a few minutes from downtown. Not only can you get a three- or four-bedroom home on a decent-sized lot for around $100,000, but some houses have beautiful views of downtown (when Midlothian’s coal- and hazardous-material-burning plants aren’t blowing this way, of course). The Tandy Hills Nature Area borders it on one side, and, though no place in town these days is safe from the gas drillers, this part of town has some very vocal advocates working to make sure its beauties last well into the 21st century.
Readers’ choice: Montgomery Street Antique Mall, 2601 Montgomery St, FW
Critic’s choice: Montgomery Street Antique Mall
Full, huge, and truly earning the “mall” moniker, this place has enough stuff to keep any shopper busy for hours. Navigating the aisles makes you feel as if you’ve raided the homes of a thousand grandparents; each little booth area is neatly organized, many with a particular specialty. Rows of glass cases hold statues, miniatures, and models – and probably a few of those mugs you tossed out after Aunt Minnie’s estate sale. As for toys, there are the requisite terrifying porcelain dolls, but also things like marionettes, old cowboy toys, even a few Star Wars things (sorry fanboys, nothing from the original 77 lineup though). And books that Half Price would kill for – there’s probably a copy of the Necronomicon in there somewhere. Considering the size and labyrinthine structure of the place, there might be a minotaur in there as well.
Sorry folks. In a (rare) bow to reality, we’ve retired this category. Someone say a few words over its grave. You know – “Oh, for the days of $1.39.” Or: “Remember ‘road trips’? Naah, you’re too young.”
Readers’ choice: Artful Hand, 3408 W 7th St, FW
Critic’s choice: Montgomery Street Antique Mall
If a flapper’s long strand of glass beads from the 1920s, costume jewelry from the ’40s, turquoise rings from the ’60s, heavy gold pendants and delicate cameos from Queen Victoria’s day, or a very old and rare silver necklace that might have once adorned the neck of a wealthy Bedouin bride turn you on, this long-established antique mall at the edge of the Cultural District is worth prowling. There are cases upon cases of nothing but jewelry of every imaginable – and imaginative – kind, as well as smaller displays at many of the gazillion booths. Prices range from $9 to who knows – $500 or more. (The Bedouin necklace will set you back $410 – not many Bedouins still roaming the Middle East making their once-prized silver adornments.)
Critic’s Choice: Elk Castle Shooting Sports, 8240 West Fwy, FW
Troubled by pesky burglars, four-legged varmints, or perhaps paranoia about the gummint coming to get you? Try the Elk Castle, established by Cash America founder Jack Daugherty. In its appropriately castle-like building atop a hill, it offers everything from .22s to big-game rifles, .38 revolvers to “home-protection” shotguns. The interior décor is like the trophy room from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, but not in the crazy redneck hunter way. Everything about the store is professional, from the expert on-site gunsmiths to camouflage accessories and gun safes.
Readers’ choice: Christal’s, 7600 Jacksboro Hwy, FW
Critic’s choice: Vespa Fort Worth, 1111 University Dr, FW
Why buy a vibrator when you can have a stylish scooter between your legs instead? Vespa Fort Worth offers a wide range of options, from various makes of scooters to full-fledged motorcycles by Ridley. Whether you want to ride leisurely through the neighborhood topping out at 38 mph or to speed down the highway, Vespa has what you’re looking for. They run on gas, not batteries, and they’ll certainly last a lot longer than those other adult toys.
Readers’ choice: Gamestop, 5427 S Hulen St, Ste B, FW
Critic’s choice: Gamestop,4800 S Hulen St, FW
When it comes to video games these days, its basically either Best Buy or Gamestop. And while Gamestop has assimilated almost every other video game store around, it’s still the best place to go. It’s tough to pick a location, but the one in Hulen Mall is probably the best. In such a high-traffic area, the store personnel are always on their toes, keeping it stocked full of the big new releases for console and PC (and even a few for Mac!) as well as forgotten gems from two generations ago. Add playable demos, knowledgeable staff, and the ability to put down payments on upcoming games, and you’ve got a good game emporium. If only they’d stop trying to sell you strategy guides and used games at ridiculously high prices.
Readers’ choice: Pop’s Safari Cigars, Fine Wine, and Bistro, 2929 Morton St, Ste A, FWCritic’s choice: Pop’s SafariWinner and still champion. Walking into Pop’s Safari is like stepping into a Victorian era gentlemen’s club – without the wild mustaches. The dead animal skins on the wall and leather couches have provided an atmosphere for men and (sometimes) women to gather and tell lies to each other for nearly 10 years. The walls are lined with humidors full of cigars, and a walk-in humidor features more options, ranging wide in price and reputation. For wine snobs, owner Perry Tong and his staff have put together a list that could rival the phone book in size and weight; they also have a decent beer selection. The food at Pop’s matches the “manly” theme, with a menu of gigantic hamburgers and all kinds of steaks.
Kitchen and Tableware
Readers’ choice: Williams-Sonoma, 1620 S University Dr, Ste 203, FW
Critic’s choice: Williams-Sonoma
Feeling more like a gorgeous painting of a kitchen than a sterile store, Williams-Sonoma is a toy store for chefs. It’s full of different shapes, colors, and brands of cookware, much of it top-of-the-line, as well as lots of things to cook, cook with, cook on – and cookbooks. The store also has enough spices, herbs, and additives to season the food from several busy restaurants. The staff is smart, knowledgeable, and not overbearing; free samples of unusual foods are another bonus. The only downside? The arm-and-a-leg prices. But if cooking (or eating) well and with style is important to you – well, you won’t find this stuff at Wal-Mart.
Future Garage Sale Items
Critic’s choice: Omaha’s Army Navy Military Surplus,2413 White Settlement Rd, FW
We don’t know why you’d need a Cold-War era, East German Army chef’s hat, but we do know where it’ll end up: on a table in your driveway attached to a fluorescent pink sticker that reads “$1” in hastily scribbled ballpoint ink. And at Omaha’s, there’s plenty more where that came from. Featuring a wide variety of G.I. Joe gear from around the globe, Omaha’s is guaranteed to fill your garage sale tables with junk that Saturday browsers can’t live without. Need a 100-lb. practice bomb? Neither do we, but somebody does, and Omaha’s is where you’ll find it. Taggin’ and hagglin’ is up to you.
Critic’s choice: Jacksboro Highway
So you’re in a band, and you’re about to buy your first van. The obvious stop is Carmax, where you’ll get something that’s shiny, new, and (probably) reliable. But where’s the fun in that? Rock bands need a little danger, just for street cred, and so do their vans. What you want is something unpredictable and cobbled together, with a bit of Bondo and a lot of personality. In other words, your touring vessel should be more Millennium Falcon than Achille Lauro. Lucky for you, there are about a half-dozen small-scale car lots lining Jacksboro Highway between University Drive and Sansom Park, full of an odd assortment of “gently used” conversion vans, cargo vans, and Stone-Age RVs. Affordable, negotiable, and se-habla-Español-able, these lots will net you a road warrior guaranteed to flavor your tour stories with surprises, from sketchy groupies to inopportune breakdowns. And that’s a good thing.
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Harley Davidson, 3025 W Loop 820
Critic’s choice: Perry’s Motorcycles and Sidecars, 816 S Sylvania, FW
Perry’s may be the last of a dying breed. Owner Perry Bushong specializes in old BMW Airheads and restoration work on older bikes. He mostly sells used BMWs, such as a restored 1953 R25/3 and a 1986 R80 Hybrid-Hotrod. However, Bushong’s attention to the classics doesn’t end on the retail lot; his space also features a motorcycle museum, with dozens of bikes and sidecars on display. Perry’s is not for weekend warriors who have seen Easy Rider a few too many times, but rather for hardcore motorcycle enthusiasts who bleed oil and can take apart a carburetor in their sleep.
Readers’ choice: West 7th Street Barber Shop, 3218 W 7th St, FW
Critic’s choice: Main Street Barber Shop, 120 S Main St, Grapevine
With its antique barber chairs, walls of mirrors, and bright floor, Main Street Barber Shop may look like an old-school joint, and in many ways it is: For a dude, there may be no better yet still masculine way to spoil himself than by getting a shave here. (The ladies get pedicures and manicures – why can’t dudes get shaves?) But Main Street is decidedly contemporary in the sizes, shapes, colors, sexes, and creeds of the folks you’ll find inside. Young, old, white, black, male, female – you name the flavor, they’re at Main Street, a clear testament to the quality of service.