By Christie Chisholm and Laura Marrich
If there's one thing we humans were made for, it's consumption. The eco-minded among us like to pretend this isn't true, because it makes us feel inherently guilty for living. Well, get over it! You're here, you're human, so unless you're Don Schrader, whip out your pocketbook, because you'll probably need it to survive in our little society. But this doesn't mean that you have to spend your money like a hog-wild lunatic, or that you have to do it in the dark. In the following pages you will find plenty of recommendations from your kindly neighbors, who took the time to let you know about the best places in our quirky city to shop, be it something as necessary as a comfortable place to clean your clothes, or as utterly self-indulgent as the best place to get your legs waxed. Whether you're a live-by-the-land kind of girl, or a self-conscious lad with a hole in his pocket, here are the Burque favorites, so when you do choose to spend your cash, you do it well.
By Christie Chisholm
Best Store to Ruin Your Credit Rating In
Have you checked out this eye-popping new place in Nob Hill? Abode is packed full of hip furniture in styles you definitely won't find anywhere else in Albuquerque. The store also features lots of knick knacks that you'll really, really want but might not actually need—things like designer bedding, fancy candles, and flavored cocktail and rimming sugars. Very cool stuff.
Second place went to Elsa Ross for its spectacular selection of high fashion for women. Third went to Hey Jhonny for its unbelievable array of Asian knick knacks. Fourth went to Objects of Desire.
The adult emporium at Castle got quite a few votes. (Those inflatable sheep are expensive, but we've found them to be extremely durable.)
Best Store for New Books
It's big. It's bad. And it's totally independent. The Northeast Heights literary fixture gets the prize this year for being the best place to shop for new books in all of Albuquerque. The wine bar and café probably help, too.
Second place went to the equally big, bad and independent Bound To Be Read, which also has a comfortable café. Bookworks, the little bookstore that could, gets third place. Bibles Plus got one vote. Another vote went to, “OK, so I'm a bad person and the local places are too far ...”
You're going to hell, buddy.
Best Used Bookstore
Page One Too
Page One Too, the massive used bookstore across the street from Page One proper, won this category by a landslide. Certainly in terms of the pure mass of books on its shelves, Page One Too is tough competition. Title Wave also has a pretty meaty catalog of used books on display. It got second place. Third went to Birdsong, a used bookstore located just west of UNM that seems to get better every year. Nob Hill's old reliable, The Book Stop, came in close behind in fourth. Several voters pointed out that the sale held by the Main Library Downtown is one of the best places in Albuquerque to pick up cheap used books.
Best Children's Bookstore
Bound To Be Read
To our mind, this one seems indisputable. Have you been to the children's section at Bound To Be Read? It's like a little world unto itself. We can't imagine a better place in town to convince youngsters of the joys of reading.
Second place went to Page One. Third went to Bookworks. Birdsong and Title Wave both got several well-deserved votes as well.
A couple scroogy bastards decided to share their words of wisdom on this subject. “I'd just take the little shits to the library,” said one crabby jerk. Another suggested that “children shouldn't be allowed in public until they reach the age of 40.” Here's hoping neither of you make the mistake of breeding.
Best Local Bookstore
The best all-round local bookstore goes to Page One this year in a total landslide. Whether you're shopping for magazines, calendars, knick knacks, software or good old ordinary tried and true books, Alibi readers think Page One is the place to go. Second place went to Bound To Be Read. Third went to Bookworks. Fourth went to Bird Song. Title Wave got plenty of votes, too, as did the Book Stop in Nob Hill.
Best Place to Buy New Music
Natural Sound has been an institution in this city for years. It ain't the biggest store in our little village, but its employees know more about the music they peddle than most DJs. It's a great browsing store, and it's got a fantastic selection of CDs by local bands, too.
Second went to Charley's, another staple of musical life in Burque. Third went to Flipside.
Best Place to Buy Used Music
Natural Sound comes out ahead in this category as well—not too surprising considering how much the store has to recommend itself. Best of all, consider the trio of stereos at the back of the store, where you can listen to a stack of used CDs so you'll know before you whip out your wallet that what you're buying is what you actually want.
Second place went to the the Northeast Heights' Charley's. Third went to Mecca. Flipside and Krazy Kat got plenty of votes. Page One Too got a bunch of votes as well.
Best Vinyl Selection
Old school, boy-ee. If you've still got a turntable, you know there's no sweeter musical experience on Earth than can be found when the diamond tip of a needle digs into those vinyl grooves. Most Alibi readers went with Mecca once again, although Charley's was in a close second.
Krazy Kat got third. There were lots of votes for L.A. Underground and Flipside as well.
Best Local Music Selection
As mentioned above, Natural Sound might well be the best place in town to pick up CDs from local music stars. If you see 'em on stage at the Launchpad or the Atomic, there's always a possibility you'll find their discs at Natural Sound.
Second place went to Hastings, for some reason we don't quite understand. Third place went to Mecca.
Best Video Store
According to this year's voters, Alphaville has a broader selection of hard-to-find vids than any other store in town. Looking for some obscure long-lost silent masterpiece from the 1890s, or an equally obscure documentary about the early days of punk? Well, y'ain't gonna find it at Blockbuster, but there's a damn good chance you'll find it here.
Burning Paradise, the relative newcomer located just west of Downtown, gets a well-deserved second place this year. Hollywood Video gets third.
Best Video Store for Foreign Flicks
Yeah, Alphaville, of course. Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, the Nob Hill store won this category by a landslide. Looking for some obscure Portuguese horror flick from the '70s? Well, good luck finding it at a corporate chain rental joint. Of course, if you're looking for 200 copies of Spider Man 2 all in one convenient location, then you know where to go.
Burning Paradise got second. Hastings, the bastion of foreign cinematic achievement, got third.
Best Selection of Rental DVDs
The big BP takes home the gold in this category. If you've never been to this place, you've got to check it out. It's funky, hip and a great place to pick up difficult-to-find DVDs.
Good old trusty Alphaville got second. So far, all of this makes sense, right? But then Netflix got third. Netflix? Hey, people, what part of “Best of Burque” don't you understand? Why I oughta ...
Best Thrift Store
Some things never go out of style. There are very few places in town quite as nifty as Buffalo Exchange. According to this year's voters, they've got more sweet used crap on their racks than any other store. If you want any old pair of jeans, just by 'em new at Mervyns. If you want to strut some stylish denim that's worn just so in all the right places, then get thee to the Exchange.
Second place goes to Thrifttown, which is so freakin' huge you can fit the whole damn city in there at the same time and still have room to salsa. Third went to Saver's.
Lots of voters were eager to point out that a great place to pick up cool used stuff is the Assistance League of Albuquerque Bargain Box. Several also mentioned old standards like Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
Best Vintage/Antique Clothing Store
Yep, not surprising considering all the fine Buffalo Exchange qualities we pointed out above. Want some great one-of-a-kind duds? This year's voters point you in the direction of the Buffalo Exchange.
The funky costume and vintage store Off Broadway got enough votes to place second. Sparky's Trading Post got third.
Best Jewelry Store
Ooh Aah Jewelry
Fans of this store don't just say the name. They act it out as if they're softcore porn stars on an after-midnight Cinemax flick. “Ooh! Aah! Baby!” Yes, most voters believe that if you want to send your mate into an orgasmic fit, don't worry about what you're doing under the sheets. Just head over to Ooh Aah Jewelry and fork out for a piece of cool jewelry. That's better than good sex any day of the week, and it lasts one hell of a lot longer, too.
Matí got second this year. IMEC in Nob Hill scored third.
Best Place to Buy New Mexico Souvenirs
Nothing says “enchantment” like a sassy coyote T-shirt bought at the airport minutes before boarding an outbound plane. Not to be outdone, Bernalillo's Jackalope offers tourists a selection of terra cotta strawberry pots so enormous that they require an additional plane ticket to get home. For those intrepid travelers who insist on the “authentic experience,” you recommend the Flea Market at Expo New Mexico, where you can shop for fruit, illegal switchblades and frightening religious art all in one convenient location. Tchotchkies also abound at random gas stations and your neighborhood Walgreens.
Best Men's Clothing Store
The Duke City has a sizable population of gothic guys, punk rockers and hot rod hooligans, so it's no surprise that Free Radicals got the most votes in this category. The fact that the place is swarming with gorgeous, punky-colored women probably doesn't hurt either. The close proximity to UNM and a stronghold of modestly priced Levi 501 jeans put the Lobo Men's Shop in at a solid second place. Hipster dudes love Sparky's Trading Co., whose collection of designer threads from the likes of Paul Frank, Ben Sherman, Diesel and Von Dutch nabbed an oh-so-comfortable third place. Props to national stores Dillards, Men's Wearhouse and Men's Express for being cheap and man-friendly.
Best Women's Clothing Store
Vive la boutique! For the first time ever, local specialty clothes shops have snatched up the top three spaces in this category with enough zeal to rival Betsy Johnson at a sample sale. Working girls with a naughty streak love the freaky, affordable fashions at Free Radicals. Girly-girls go to Elsa Ross for fashion-forward jeans, flirty tops and hot gossip. Jack Flash and Ruby Shoesday recently regrouped to form an Uber-Ruby Shoesday, where glamour girls go for Manolo Blahniks and other haute stuff. Department stores like Dillards and Foley's get a superlative nod from our female fashionistas.
Best Shoe Store
Shoes on a Shoestring
“That's a wife question,” penned one respondent. Well, mister, ask any pedo-phile to explain the secret of a great shoe and she'll tell you: a great sale! And at Shoes on a Shoestring they've got it down to a science, dropping the price on each pair like clockwork every month. Downtown's Ruby Shoesday pairs some of the most luxurious footwear in town with more than a few surprising bargains. And, of course, the huge selection at Dillards is topped only by the knowledgeable salespeople who are always willing to take us to the boots that fit our budget. That way, we walk away with enough of our paychecks intact for incidental living expenses. You know, like food and rent.
Best Computer Store
This year you cast off the shackles of mega-corporate consumerism and put your money where the mom 'n' pops are. Well, sort of. Baillos was popular among Burqueños who love to play with electronics they don't yet own, especially when it comes to Mac computers. When you want to drive a hard bargain on hard drives, you head straight for Sandia Computers. PC Magic Pro came in at a close third, thanks to their huge inventory and super-knowledgeable staff. Enough of you voted for CompUSA, Best Buy and Circuit City to merit a slightly honorable mention.
Best Comic Book Store
One forlorn nerd openly wept over the loss of 21st Century Collectibles, while another jaded dweeb wondered, “Who cares? They just keep making movies out of them anyway. ...” No matter, because Astrozombies took first place again this year! They've got the coolest name, the creepiest action figures, and, of course, an ass-load of uncommon comic books and zines. And, as an added bonus, Nob Hill record shop Damaged Goods recently relocated into the Astrozombies space, so now you can snoop out a copy of Ghost World and buy the soundtrack. What's so noble about Noble Collectibles? Nowhere else in the city can you round out your Yu-Gi-Oh! deck, trade in a Red Sox rookie card for the latest Too Much Coffee Man comic, buy a new Xbox game and slurp down bubble tea all at the same time. And that's a fact. A legion of rabid fans voted for Addicted to Comics & Hobbies, proving that, yes, you really can become addicted to comics and hobbies. There was an exact three-way tie for fourth place between Comic Stop, Comic Warehouse and Lobo Anime & Comics. We hope that they'll work it out in a furious all-night LAN party.
Best Furniture Store
American Home Furnishings
Legend has it that American Home Furnishings is haunted. We don't know how or why, but that was the word on our school playgrounds, and that's the story we're sticking to. Maybe it's “haunted” with quality home décor, or perhaps its “ghostly” bargain prices have “possessed” you to shop there time and time again. That's the spooky thing about American Home Furnishings: We'll never really know for sure. When you're in the mood for contemporary Scandinavian, you hit up TEMA on Montgomery. Think of their unique combination of Nordic design and southwestern sensibilities as “New MexIKEAn.” Newcomer Abode has made a home in Nob Hill, and a business with fabulous furniture, home accents, and yummy body products. Runners up Nob Hill Furniture and Objects of Desire got lots of love from you homebodies, too.
Best Antique Store
The perfect day calls for three simple ingredients: A lazy weekend morning, a good New Mexican breakfast and some quality antiquing. And the folks at Morningside Antiques have got you covered for one perfect-ass day. Located minutes from some of our favorite breakfast spots and open every day of the week, few places make rooting through other people's old stuff feel quite so glorious. Head a few blocks east and you'll come across the multi-storied Classic Century Square, home to dozens of dealers with a diverse assortment of collectibles and cool old junk. Hike up the double helix staircase to Luka's Funky Stuff, and you'll swear you died and went to mid-century modern heaven. Antique Specialty Mall, Gertrude Zachary's Secret Antiques, Treasure Hunt Thrift Store and Two Serious Ladies each got exactly the same number of votes, tying them up for fourth place.
If actions speak louder than words, then a bouquet of flowers sings show tunes with big, brassy harmonies. When it's time to say it with flowers, you also trust Melba's to leave a lasting impression. The rest of you arranged yourselves around Tiger Lily, Manning Florists and A Bouquet Boutique, where a petal's worth a thousand words.
Best Plant Nursery
Rowland's won by a landslide this year, assuring that they will continue to thrive in the sunshine of Albuquerque's adoration. Plants of the Southwest shot up a notch to second place by pruning away water-hungry lawns in favor of native landscapes. And plant lovers across the city gave a big green thumbs up to Osuna Nursery's hands-on approach to gardening.
Best Eclectic Gift Store
When you need some gift-buying inspiration you head straight for Beeps. Their huge selection of nick nacks make finding presents a snap for any occasion, be it bris, birthday or bridal shower. Nearby Hey Jhonny (yeah, that's how they spell it) has enough chic stuff to brighten any Scrooge's day. And for a truly unique experience, you go to Blue Portal, an Old Town shop that specializes in handicrafts made by senior citizen artists. Swing back up to Nob Hill for some globally conscious giving at Peacecraft, and then make one last stop at Papers for—what else?—gift wrapping and cards.
Best Place to Buy Gifts for Geeks
Responses ran the gamut from smut havens (“these people need some fun in their lives”) to Banana Republic (for “much-needed wardrobe assistance”). Thankfully, the majority of you rallied for the wacky toys and games at Beeps, books and software from Page One, and two-way communicator pens from International Spy Shop. You can also get your geek on at electronics Meccas Best Buy and CompUSA, or at the slightly subdued Brookstone in Coronado Mall.
Best Place to Buy Gifts for Weird Girls
Well, a girl's got to get her penis shaped macaroni somewhere. More than a few females on the fringe shop for makeup, clothes and car magazines at Free Radicals, while Martha's Body Bueno and Castle Superstore are in a dead heat for your girl's favorite place to buy warming personal lubricant and X-rated birthday cards. (What's so weird about that?) You said that ladies like to go off the beaten path with Buffalo Exchange's funky recycled fashions, or dip a curious toe into the mall-friendly alternative lifestyles of Hot Topic.
Best Toy Store
Out of the Blue
Nothing brings out the kid in you like a trip to Out of the Blue. This “little shop that could” earned your votes with two convenient locations (one in the Heights and one in the Valley), national brand toys, science kits, juggling supplies and more. Second place goes to Larry's Custom Cycles, a toy store for very big kids or the very young at heart. And when you're in Nob Hill, you always stop in at Beeps for a few ironic gizmos. You also mentioned that Astrozombies, Playnix Toys and Castle Superstore have cool stuff to play with. And, yeah, we miss Pick Up Your Toys, too.
Best Place to Buy New Musical Instruments/Gear
Grandma's Music & Sound
Whether you're out for a bitchin' new bass amp or a shiny set of cymbals, the guys over at Grandma's Music & Sound are some of the nicest tone junkies you'll ever encounter. Marc's Guitar Center appeals to both university students and professors, uniting the generations with a little peace, love and pentatonic understanding. Third place winners Baum's Music has been delighting area musicians for nearly 60 years, and with the support of local consumers like you, they'll be around for 60 more.
Best Place to Buy Used Musical Instruments/Gear
Music Go Round
Maybe it's the friendly service, the enthusiasm at helping beginners pick out their first trumpet, or just the plain ol' great selection of instruments that have already gotten a few years of lovin', but the folks at Music Go Round must be doing something right, because our readers adore them. Hats also go off to Grandma's and Baum's Music, who came in second and third, respectively.
When the sink or washing machine just won't do for those fancy threads of yours, you need a drycleaner, and preferably one you can trust. (There's nothing worse than getting your down comforter back in a clumpy, coagulated mess.) Comet Cleaners has proven their stuff, as has Route 66 Cleaners (second) and The Cleanery (third). Some poor soul also felt obliged to let us know that such topics were “wife stuff.” Tsk, tsk, tsk.
There's nothing quite as tedious as waiting around for your laundry to dry, especially when you have to sit around other weary folks waiting for their laundry to dry. So you might as well do it in style. Harold's seems to be the place where the primo crop of Albuquerqueans (Alibi readers, of course) goes to suds up their duds, so you're bound to run into someone you know. Congratulations to Harold's for winning this category for six years in a row. Honestly, no one else even came close. “Wife stuff” partially redeemed himself here by mentioning that he does his own laundry, yet still claims that it's “wife stuff.” OK.
Best Ethnic Supermarket
Really, is this even a contest? Talin took this one with over 85 percent of the votes. Not to mention that they've won this category for as far back as we can remember. And now that they've upgraded to their five-star digs, there's just no better place to go to find ... well, anything other than cheeseburgers. Café Istanbul and 99B came in with the silver and bronze separated only by one vote.
Best Tattoo Parlor
Star Tattoo and Body Piercing
You need your skin. You really, really need it. And you need to take care of it. So if you decide to add something pretty, or trippy, or some otherwise fantastic piece of art to your already awesome bod, don't just hop over to the first guy you see with a needle. Do your research. But if you're reading this, you're lucky, because now others have done your research for you. Star Tattoo has garnered hundreds of loyal fans, and has won this category four years in a row. Custom Tattoo, Sach's and Route 66 also have very faithful fan bases.
Best Piercing Parlor
Evolve or perish, or something like that. If your body is going through its own metamorphosis, remember to do it right, and put your flesh in the hands of someone who'll mutate it fashionably, respectfully, and, most importantly, safely. Folks trust Evolution, as well as Star Tattoo and Body Piercing and Sach's.
Delana Veirs at Mar y Sol
Albuquerque loves Delana. We've loved her for six years. And, lord knows, you need to love your hairdresser. We'll always remember the one that gave us the best haircut of our lives, and we'll also remember the worst. (You know, the one who inspired you to buy a brand new collection of hats.) Greg at Laru Ni Hati, who won second, also has a loyal following as well as Deborah Morales at Fusion, who won third. A couple folks wanted to let us know that they do pretty well on their own hair. Good for you. Save the 40 bucks and spend it on a nice pair of scissors (and maybe just one more hat). There's also apparently a very hot girl over at Supercuts with a mighty pleased admirer.
Best Hair Salon
Laru Ni Hati
Dun-da-da-da! This is a monumental moment. Laru Ni Hati, who has lingered in second and third place for years, has finally broken through to the top. Maybe it's the champagne, it's definitely the truffles, but our stylish readers love this place. Mark Pardo fell into second place this year, and Mar y Sol came in third.
Betty's Bath and Day Spa
If you're in the mood to treat yourself right, Betty's serves it up like no other. Not to mention that the owner, Elissa Breitbard, helped to found the Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance, so going there to get your brows waxed and your body wrapped is really one of the best things you can do to keep your money local. Other winners are Labella Salon in second, Chez D'OR in third, and Indulgences in fourth. (Note that all winners are from Albuquerque, and that a certain wavy Santa Fe establishment is conspicuously absent—way to go Burque!)
Best Place for an Extreme Makeover
Unless Mark Pardo recently hired a wacky plastic surgeon, this really isn't an extreme makeover, now is it? Runnersup were Chez D'OR and Laru Ni Hati, so it looks like people were trying to find an excuse to gush over their favorite salons yet again. Some people got the gist, and listed places like Hermosa Plastic Surgery and Lovelace Cosmetic Surgery (specifically, Dr. Morehouse from Lovelace). Others got confused in this category and thought that we meant places that needed extreme makeovers, which is perhaps what we should have meant, because these were the best answers. Notables include the Albuquerque Westside Animal Shelter, the Pulse's Ladies Room, “where the drag queen's live,” and the Alibi Classified Office. A spiritually minded reader responded with “hiking in the Sandias.”
Best Massage Therapist
Jason Jones, Jinlen Silva and Paul Barlow
Burque really loves a good rub-down. And no one rubs you quite as right as these three folks. If you want your muscles kneaded like some fine, French dough—I don't know why French, but doesn't anything French just sound sexier?—plunk yourself down in front of one them, or one of the other thousand masseuses that garnered points in our survey. One local cheapo said, “Anyone who does it for free.”
Best New Car Dealer
We may love that new car smell, but we don't always love the new car dealer, especially the ones selling title guarantees. Plenty of people were willing to attest to their good service. Garcia and Melloy also racked up some points. The regular cynics also poked out their heads this year, with entries like “a mute one,” “um, one with no car salesman?” and “hah hah hah ...”
Best Used Car Dealer
Cross Country Auto Sales
This is the only place that gained any significant points this year—so congrats to Cross Country. One reason for this may be that half of Albuquerque seems to buy their used cars from family members.
Best Alternative Health Care Practitioner
Finally, the world is waking up and realizing that there's more to health than prescription drugs and the occasional colonoscopy. Albuquerque is a hotbed for alternative health, so there's no excuse to not do some exploring and tap into your natural side. Jinlen seems to have that special touch, as does Dr. Linda Li O.M.D., who came in second.
Best Local Event at Which to Spend Your Money
Holy mackerel, there are a lot of cool things to do in Albuquerque. From jamming out at the Alibi's Fall and Spring Crawls (second place by only one point) to going to the State Fair (third) and the Bernalillo Wine Festival (fourth), it seems that year-round there's something inherently New Mexican just around the corner. Other cool ways to spend your time include Isotopes games, the Fiery Foods Festival, the Greek Festival, the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Show, Summerfest, Nob Hill Shop and Strolls, New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair, Nutcracker on the Rocks, Weems Artfest, the Albuquerque Folk Festival, and, according to one political junkie, Eric Griego's Fundraiser.
Best Item You Can Make Out of a Copy of Weekly Alibi
Toilet Paper and Liner for Animal Cages
Come on, guys, you can't get a little more original than toilet paper? Who wants to rub their bum with a wad of crinkly, inky, escort ads? Ick, no thanks. Other folks kindly suggested using it to start fires, while one sarcastic fellow said “newspaper pile!” Favorites include “dress,” “pooper scooper,” “pope hat,” “party hat for my dog,” “piñatas,” and “paper maché Día de Los Muertos mask.”
Your Best Anything We Forgot
Best Esthetician—Janelle Townsley at Fusion
Best Skateboard Shop—Silver Board Skateshop
Best Local Newspaper—Weekly Alibi
Best Actor—Daniel T. Cornish
Best Teacher—Mr. Ian Stamper, seventh grade science, Mountain View Middle School
Best Improv—Gorilla Tango Comedy Theatre
Best Place to Get Harassed if You're Homeless—Downtown
Best Place to Observe the Utter Idiocy of Socialists—Alibi office
Monthly Meeting of the Mind (& Brain) at Church of the Good Shepherd, UCC
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