Readers’ choice: Boardroom Salon for Men, 2861 W 7th St, 817-882-8806
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Barber Shop, 3529 Lovell Av, 817-731-5252
Critics’ choice: Competition Music, 3136 E Lancaster Av, 817-535-2040
With more battle-worn axes than the set of Game of Thrones, Competition Music has become the go-to destination for novice musicians and professionals alike. The store overflows with used amps, basses, drums, gear, and P.A. systems. The venerable business may run afoul of corporate chain trends, but what the space lacks in storefront veneer it makes up for with top notch customer service.
Readers’ choice: Doc’s Records and Vintage, 8522 Camp Bowie West, 817-732-5455
Critic’s choice: Dreamy Life Records & Music, 1310 W Allen Av, 817-733-5463
Tucked away in one of the back rooms of the Fairmount Community Library, Dreamy Life is a little (literally, the room is small) slice of heaven for record hounds no matter if they are searching for new local releases or used records, CDs, or tapes. Manned by the musos who run the Dreamy Life record label, the store is one of the hippest places to hang out in all of Fort Worth. Stop by on a Friday evening for happy hour, featuring live music, free beer, and discounts galore.
Readers’ choice: Game Over Videogames, 5258 S Hulen St, 817-263-4263
Critic’s choice: Toy Works, 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-737-8697
Few retail establishments can fill children of all ages with such whimsy and joy as a toy store. For 33 years, Toy Works has been doing just that. You won’t find aisle after aisle packed with Star Wars action figures. Instead, the place is packed with gadgets aimed at educating youngsters. Don’t worry, though. Among the train sets, books, and puzzles, you’ll also come across a handheld video game or five.
Readers’ choice: Favor, Favordelivery.com
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Couriers, 209 W 2nd St, 817-500-4173
Let’s face it, “ain’t nobody got the time” –– much less the motivation –– to deliver goods or documents across town him- or herself. If you need a courier service that is seemingly magical, Fort Worth Couriers is your best bet. These folks don’t deliver babies, but they will deliver just about anything else, ensuring that it arrives at its intended destination promptly and fully intact. It’s easy. Order a pickup online, hand over the goods, and just sit back and relax.
Readers’ choice: Fade to Black Tattoo Company, 209 S Jennings Av, 817-878-4349
Critic’s choice: Tattoo Ranch, 108 W Exchange Av, 817-626-7400
Smack-dab in the Stockyards and surrounded by neon, Tattoo Ranch’s experienced artists can do anything. From a portrait of Donald Trump (not recommended) to an intricate tribal piece, these folks have the kind of skill that goes beyond dealing with drunken cowboys at 1 in the morning on a Saturday night. Bold ,full-color illustrations? Photorealism? Tattoo Ranch can do it all.
Readers’ choice: Half Price Books, 5417 S Hulen St (with other locations in Tarrant County), 817-294-1166
Critic’s choice: The Last Word Bookstore, 615 S Jennings Av, 817-862-9859
Thank God. An independent bookstore. And on the Near Southside! Explore this funky 2,700-square-foot space of books, locally made art, t-shirts, and handmade greeting cards that say things like, “F*ck off, you f*#cking f*^ck.” Owner Paul Combs is quite the character and tour guide. Ask him to see the bathroom — yes, bathroom — before your arms get too full of words. Then check out the store’s event calendar and put poetry nights on your to-do list. There’s plenty of parking here, too, and witty remarks on all things literature and life.
Readers’ choice: The Velvet Box, 2917 Morton St (with other locations in Tarrant County), 817-744-7841
Critic’s choice: The Velvet Box
This perennial winner seems like an easy pick. Sure, the locally owned Velvet Box has the requisite his’n’hers sex toys (google “Fifi” when you get a minute, guys), lubes, lingerie in all sizes and shapes, and other paraphernalia. But the Box offers more, including a board-certified sexuality educator who provides a spectrum of educational classes in which questions from the philosophical to the prurient are given equal consideration. From “Booty Basics” and classes on oral sex to “Illness and Intimacy,” “Sex Over 50,” and couples classes, there’s something for almost everyone. The store is exceptionally female-friendly, non-threatening, and tidy –– and that’s why we keep going back.
Readers’ choice: Fusion, 2205 Berry St, 817-921-5500
Critic’s choice: Smokin’ Dragon, 10621 S Fwy, 817-551-5578
Smokin’ Dragon is kind of overwhelming based solely on the sheer amount of stuff they have. There is the crazy huge selection of smoking and vaping accessories –– just when you think you’ve seen it all, you see a piece shaped like a lounging Garfield. There’s also a dizzying array of decorative items.
Readers’ choice: Pop’s Safari Cigars and Fine Wines, 2929 Morton St, 817-334-0559
Critic’s choice: Silver Leaf Cigar Lounge, 426 Commerce St, 817-887-9535
A relatively recent addition, the Silver Leaf folks are watching their popularity grow along with their humidor selections. As the only cigar-specific lounge in the city of Fort Worth with a full bar, the Leaf is a pleasure for sipping a single-malt scotch while perusing the walk-in, cedar-lined humidor. Expected brands like Davidoff, Padrón, Oliva, and Arturo Fuente are available, along with other handmade premium options from major labels. The staff is attentive without being intrusive, and a licensed tobacconist is always on hand to answer even your most esoteric questions.
Readers’ choice: Plato’s Closet, 4625 Donnelly Av, 817-731-9449
Critic’s choice: We’re All About the Dress, 6242 Rufe Snow Dr, NRH, 817-412-0727
We’re all about the love for this nonprofit that has been providing free prom dresses to low-income teenagers since 2008. Shop founder Janie Tillery-Wood began offering free wedding dresses to military personnel of all branches after her retired U.S. Navy SEAL brother died in 2013. This year, Tillery-Wood added police officers, firefighters, and EMT workers to her clientele.
Readers’ choice: Lead Heads, 1029 N Saginaw Blvd, 682-224-5531
Critic’s choice: Original Fort Worth Gun Show, 3401 Burnett Tandy Dr, 817-732-1194
Will Rogers Memorial Center keeps drawing hundreds of firearm vendors to the Original Fort Worth Gun Show, which has been offering a staggering selection of handguns and rifles to gun enthusiasts since 1972. Held about every six weeks, the Original is where new and used firearms can be bought, sold, or traded, along with ammunition, scopes, and reloading equipment. The prices aren’t super-low, but the selection is vast, making the trip worth the $9 admission and city parking fees. And if you don’t want Uncle Sam all up in your grill, you can buy a gun from vendors who aren’t licensed dealers, meaning you don’t have to endure a background check or waiting period. Remember: It’s not irresponsible unless you do something stupid.
Readers’ choice: Perfect Touch Day Spa, 3023 Bledsoe St, Ste 103, 817-870-3610
Critic’s choice: Maureen Hucey at Angie’s Bikkles Caribbean Restaurant, 1704 Galveston Av, 817-433-5757
It’s always nice to feel welcome at a restaurant, but it’s especially great to feel appreciated and taken care of when you’re visiting a place whose cuisine might be intimidating. Walk into this Hospital District hole in the wall, and owner/chef/server Hucey will make you feel right at home. She simply oozes charisma and sincerity and will happily navigate the uninitiated through her authentic Caribbean menu.
Readers’ choice: Montgomery Street Antique Mall, 2601 Montgomery St, 817-735-9685
Critic’s choice: JunkerVal.com Antiques & Vintage, 3458 Bluebonnet Cir, 817-266-6403
Val Arnett’s cozy boutique nestled in Bluebonnet Circle is packed with cool vintage knick-knacks, collectibles, and clothes. It’s like being shot in the face with a confetti gun of conversation-starting figurines, light fixtures, and interesting works of art. Val and her trusty Australian kelpie, Beckett the Wonder Dog, both add to the charm and quirk of this TCU-area gem.
Readers’ choice: Bicycles, Inc, 5125 Granbury Rd, 817-292-2911
Critic’s choice: Bicycles, Inc.
Flashy, new bike shops may try to compete, but Bicycles, Inc. keeps pedaling (and peddling) faster. The Fort Worth location brings cycling to the masses by offering new products, price-match guarantees, and high-quality maintenance. The best of the best cyclists willingly sit on waitlists for service because they trust their equipment only to Beth Bock, the store manager, and her team of mechanics and builders, who happen to be nice dudes, not mansplainers. In an ongoing effort to resist the increasing doucheyness of competitive cycling in these parts, Bicycles, Inc. sponsors a team of premier riders, volunteers as SAG support on group rides, and supports local clubs, like the Bicycle Betties and MBBC Racing.
Readers’ choice: Lawrence’s, 4601 W Freeway #224, 817-731-2772
Critic’s choice: Lil’ Shop on the Vine, 603 S Main St, Grapevine, 682-518-0296
Customers are greeted by Lily, a green brontosaurus sporting a saddle for free rides. Children and child-like customers usually oblige. Past Lily, shoppers can find an assortment of artisan goods and foods that are uniquely Texan in taste and thought. Habanera Pralines from Lamme’s Candy and Pecan Pie-In-A-Jar from San Saba River Pecan Co. are often in stock, along with a glorious number of glazes, sauces, and spreads from Fredericksburg Farms. Non-food gifts abound, such as artisan soaps, jewelry, and Texas-proud tank tops.
Readers’ choice: Levi Mahon, Christian Brothers, 7333 Oakmont Blvd, 817-489-9110
Critic’s choice: Rick’s Automotive Service, 241 NE Wilshire Blvd, Burleson, 817-295-0680
Rick’s is the first building on the right when you’re traveling south on I-35 and get off at Wilshire, just at the Tarrant-Johnson County line. He’s a bit ornery, a bit blustery, not the cheapest mechanic in town, and a bit slow now that he got rid of his assistant mechanics and does all the work himself. Oh, but what work he does. He’s got at least two old Ford Rangers up to 300,000 and 248,000 miles and still running well. Wouldn’t bring a Ferrari there, but he knows the hell out of most any domestic car and won’t find extra stuff that needs doing just to pad on the bucks.
Readers’ choice: Spec’s, 4720 Bryant Irvin Rd, 817-423-8400
Critic’s choice: Two Bucks, 4702 S Fwy (Felix St), 817-924-3202
When the liquor store giant Spec’s bought Vern’s Two Bucks a few years ago, we were afraid the change in ownership would result in a drop in service quality. And while there was a bit of turmoil for several months as most of the old workers left and the new ones were learning how Two Bucks’ clients liked to be treated, things finally settled down. Two Bucks, while no longer in the hands of the son of a bootlegger, remains an outstanding place for booze. And more: great selection, informed employees, party equipment rental, and staffers at the registers who always have a minute for a pleasant bit of conversation.
Readers’ choice: Vixen Vapors, 4608 Bryant Irvin Rd (with other locations in Tarrant County), 817-740-3130
Critic’s choice: Ohmies, 928 Melbourne Rd, Hurst, 817-595-9421
Most people would not walk into Ohmies, a sparse store in a strip mall, and immediately think, “Wow! Best vape shop ever.” But that first impression begins to change once you check out Ohmies’ hardware and the countless flavors that are available in a bevy of blends (percentage of propylene glycol to vegetable glycerin) and a variety of nicotine levels. All that, plus tons of E-juice, always fresh. Staff knowledge is key here. They make this joint special whether you’re a newbie or old vape hand.
Readers’ choice: There’s No Place Like Home, 855 Foch St, 817-244-3371
Critic’s choice: Nayfa’s Furniture, 7936 Camp Bowie West, 817-953-6155
There’s something cool about the smell of fresh wood, and you get that at Nayfa’s because not only is the furniture here made from solid wood, it’s unfinished. Since we love finishing furniture, that’s a plus. You can rub your stains in to get just the color you want or paint that bookcase to match the couch. If you don’t like finishing furniture, Nayfa’s will do it for you. And if you happen to need something in a different size than what they’re offering, they’ll build you a custom piece. Nothing shabby about having a couple of really nice things in your house.
Readers’ choice only: Brian Wilson, The Texas Law Hawk, 916 W Belknap St, 817-454-5965
Readers’ choice only: Camp Fire Camp El Tesoro, 7710 Fall Creek Hwy, Granbury, 817-831-2111
Readers’ choice only: Stephanie Fox, Associate, Williams Trew, 2821 S Hulen St, 817-739-7678
Readers’ choice only: Jamie Inman, 4305 S Hulen St, 817-927-4600
Readers’ choice only: Camp Fire Child Development Center, 2700 Meacham Blvd, 817-831-5050
Readers’ choice only: Perfect Touch Spa, 3023 Bledsoe St, Ste 103, 817-870-3610
Readers’ choice only: Archie’s Gardenland, 6700 Z Boaz Pl, 817-737-6614
Readers’ choice: 3H Hardware Inc., 2217 8th Av, 817-926-8443
Critic’s choice: Jabo’s Westcliff Ace Hardware, 3548 S Hills Av, 817-926-1789
Whether you’re a manly man or womanly woman, sooner or later you’re going to need a hardware store. Yeah, you can buy a hammer at Walmart, but you won’t find a selection of hammers with half a dozen head styles or a dozen sizes unless you go to Jabo’s. From tools for outdoor work and plumbing to specialty equipment, this family-owned and operated business has what you need.
Readers’ choice: Sovereign Jewelry Company, 207 S Jennings St,
Critic’s choice: Sovereign Jewelry Company
Want something for yourself or your beloved that you can’t find anywhere else? Sovereign’s Brandon Smith will craft you a custom engagement ring, repair your wedding band, or make you a ring with the Bones Brigade logo. If you want elegant, sophisticated, and eye-catching jewelry –– or the kind of rings that look cool on fingers that wrap around a chopper’s throttle –– Sovereign is your one-stop shop.
Readers’ choice: Index Skateboard Supply, 2956 Crockett St, 817-887-9779
Critic’s choice: Rhythm Skate Shop, Lone Star Pkwy, GP, 972-262-4479
Rhythm outgrew its original location in Watauga and moved to Grand Prairie’s Alliance Skate Park (as well as opening sister stores in Washington and California) because it’s the best place for gear, and being at the park makes awesome sense.
Gym or Health Club
Readers’ choice: Inursha Fitness, 525 Bailey Av, 817-332-7554
Critic’s choice: MetroFlex Gym, 5501 Thelin St, Ste 125, 817-891-6261
MetroFlex may be as huge as Ahnold’s pecs, but the staffers at this 35,000-square-foot facility are so friendly (and knowledgeable), intimidation gets intimidated into scurrying away. Offering a little bit of everything, from boxing to every kind of martial art (Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, karate, shoot fighting), MetroFlex also has a ton (and tons) of free weights and powerlifting equipment, plus a cardio room outfitted with treadmills, step machines, and bikes. There are never any contracts or signup fees. Dues range from $21.65 (for 13-to-17-year-olds) to $75.78 for a family of four or more.
In addition to always reaching deeper to finish that last rep, the good folks at MetroFlex also reach out, helping feed and clothe the homeless in and around East Lancaster Avenue and offering youth boxing and MMA to at-risk youth.
Readers’ choice: Michelle Chappell, ZeeBa Salon & Day Spa, 501 Carroll St, Ste 638, 817-870-9800
Critic’s choice: Goldwaves Salon, 5137 El Campo Av, 817-731-8888
Don’t let the name fool you. Goldwaves welcomes the opportunity to cut, color, and style all manner of tresses. Founder Judy Rice and her stylists at the down-to-earth Camp Bowie veteran salon (the first Goldwaves opened in 1988 just three blocks from the current spot) can handle any challenge — trust me, we’ve tested them. Want to try those feminine pink highlights all the starlets are wearing these days? Ready to finally take the plunge on that pixie cut? They’ll put your mind at ease with a glass of wine, plunk you down in a salon chair in their quaint renovated bungalow, and you will know your head is in good hands.