Best Women’s Clothing StoreDoubledutch3616 Falls Road, (410) 554-0055, doubledutchboutique.com
Form left the Avenue. Shine left the Avenue and then the retail world. The face of women’s clothing in Hampden has changed a lot recently. Thank god doubledutch keeps on keeping on. Four years since opening, the little store on the wrong side of Falls Road still has cute clothes at reasonable prices, not to mention all the accessories you need to make a picture-perfect outfit—even shoes.
Best Men’s Clothing StoreSouth Moon Under815 Aliceanna St., (410) 685-7820, southmoonunder.com
Most men wear a uniform: a T-shirt, maybe a button-down, a hoodie or sweater, jacket, jeans or cords, sneakers or brogues, hat. (Women, on the other hand, can own nine pairs of black trousers and/or jeans and still want cropped and cuffed skinnies for fall.) South Moon Under understands that what men want and need are the same things, and offers them from solid designers in classic cuts and fabrics that will last. To wit: soft Penguin V-neck sweaters in charcoal and navy, dark Citizen of Humanity jeans, Converse high tops, Alternative Apparel tees in colors found in nature, basic leather belts, Hugo Boss dress shirts, North Face fleeces and windbreakers, Frye wingtips and military boots, RVCA plaid shirts with snaps, and Toms slip-ons and laced sneakers.
Best TailorTiny Tailor’s shop218 W. Read St., (410) 783-0110
Lydia Armstead has been toiling away at her tiny Read Street digs since 1985, and in those 25 years she’s become a master alterationist and a mighty fine tailor. In the past, we’ve brought her ‘spensive jeans that needed hemming and dress clothes that might have otherwise become hand-me-downs. From her walk-in sized shop, she’s given worn but favored clothes new life and provided pleasant conversation. This year, the Tiny Tailor saved summer by making our baggies fit again—huarache sandals, not so much. But remember, Tiny Tailor is a serious mom ‘n’ pop, so cash only, no credit cards, and don’t even think about asking to write a check.
Best Thrift StoreDeBois Textiles, Inc.1835 Washington Blvd., (410) 837-8081, deboistextiles.com
Just across from the old Montgomery Ward building in Pigtown sits a frickin’ amazing used clothing store. We stumbled across it looking for fabric, but were drawn like drooling zombies to the huge vintage clothing section. The suede leather jacket with fringe that you pined for in high school? It’s here. So are slinky sequined sheaths, appliquéed wraparound skirts, curve-enhancing Mad Men-esque dresses, guayaberas, cowboy boots, and at least one pair of canvas lace-up rainbow-colored stiletto heels. Prices are higher than Goodwill’s, but come on, people. This is curated. (Plus if you want to paw through big vats labeled capris, there’s an area in the warehouse where everything is under $6.)
Best Portal to a Previous Era’s WardrobeCharlotte Elliott837 W. 36th St., (410) 243-0990, charlotteelliott.com
From the street, Charlotte Elliott looks like any other over-doilied antique-ish shop, but the real deals are downstairs—actually under the stairs, in an amber-lit nook turned wormhole into the antechamber of a classy lady of yore. We’re talking elbow-length satin gloves, feather and net hats still intact, His Girl Friday ensembles galore, drawers and drawers of embroidered hankies, and the shoes! Shoes worth knocking off an old lady for. Show up with an afternoon to kill and your bartering pants on. Best recent find: a vintage Diane von Furstenberg two-piece luggage set for $50.
Best Jewelry StoreBijoux10749 Falls Road, Lutherville, (410) 823-5545, bijouxjewels.com
Buying high-end jewelry—like, say, an engagement ring—is intimidating. Will the clerk laugh at your meager budget or try to convince you to go into the poor house for a shiny bauble? If you shop at the Bijoux, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “no.” Owner Renee Wilson and her staff will show you beautiful things in your price range from their estate, antique, custom and contemporary collections. They will tell you to take your time and not grouse if you try on each ring 50 times before making a decision. They also handle repairs and appraisals. Their unfailing helpfulness will make you wish you could afford to shop there much more often.
Best Women’s Shoe StorePoppy and Stella728 S. Broadway, (410) 522-1970, poppyandstella.com
If you question this small Fells Point store’s recent winning streak in this category, you’ve never been. The drool-worthy shoes in Poppy and Stella’s windows have drawn us in from all the way across Broadway. Not only is the shop full of unique but never wacky shoes, it offers a variety of price points. You may not be able to get a nearly $200 pair of designer pumps, but you’re bound to find something cute—say, cutout flats—that won’t destroy your budget.
Best Men’s Shoe StoreVan Dyke and Bacon Comfort5919 York Road, (410) 433-1100
Old-fashioned service and a well-appointed selection of high quality shoe brands delineate Van Dyke and Bacon from the mall shops or, you know, Zappos. The staff measures your foot with an old-school metal gauge to help you comfortably fit a pair from Clarks Ecco line or runners’ favorite New Balance. The store also carries Neil M Footwear in handsome leather, MBT’s physiologically sound—and slightly fug—sneaks, Danskos for the man man enough to wear a clog, sporty Sebagos, and shoes from SAS and P. W. Minor, companies focused on your feet feeling good. And considering the number of schoolkids getting their feetsies measured there the last time we stopped in, it’s the Best Little Men’s Shoe Store too.
Best Antique StoreAnother Period in Time1708 Fleet St., (410) 675-4776, anotherperiod.com
Fells Point’s Another Period in Time always seems to have our number. A still-functioning pocket watch? Yes, please. A light box advertising a Colts game at Memorial Stadium? That’s got the father in-law’s name all over it. The 15 dealers at Another Period in Time hock beautiful antique and/or kitschy housewares, furniture, tchotchkes, and whoozywhatzits. And the giant antique bargain area is often full of treasures—though you’ll have to deal with the fact that the room is always either inside-a-humidifier hot or teeth-chattering cold. Prices are reasonable and the staff is helpful without being overbearing, so it’s hardly surprising that we never leave empty-handed.
Best Place to Buy FurnitureDavid’s Used Furniture914 W. 36th St., (410) 467-8159, davidsfurniture.net
Whether you are decorating, looking to fulfill a need until you find exactly what you’re looking for, hoping to paint or reupholster, or seeking whatever furniture you had no idea you’d love, turn to David’s for reasonable prices from a quickly rotating stock. From the orange Ikea couch that opens to a bed to a curved teal wonder from the Mad Men era, David’s covers all styles and decades. It always has plenty of useful china cabinets, book shelves, dressers and chifforobes, modern buffets, and glass and metal end tables amidst pieces in oak, overstuffed arm chairs, and funky lamps. And there never ceases to be handcrafted “outsider” artifacts and a swinging bar from the ’70s—which we are installing in our basement rumpus room one of these days—for sale in the back.
Best FleaU.S. 1 Flea Market7540 Washington Blvd., (410) 799-8301, us1fleamarket.net
If you like old stuff and are, well, cheap, you know your flea market culture. Some are good for vintage clothing, some are good for antiques and collectibles, and some are good for knickknacks and doohickeys you don’t so much need but will, eventually, figure out some use for. The U.S. 1 Flea Market, open Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., is good for everything else: row after row after row of new and used tools, home appliances and electronics, video games, and CDs and DVDs, in addition to vendors hawking new footie jerseys and cleats and balls, blankets, towels, cowboy boots and hats, and everyday domestic goods. Think full-purpose shopping stop and make it overwhelmingly Latino—which means the food vendors and trucks are just brilliant.
Every year, the Waverly Farmers’ Market people and the Baltimore Farmers’ Market people get into it over this category. The pro-Waverly faction always points to that open-year-round thing. Whatever. Eight months a year, this massive market below the JFX is a wonderland of fresh-from-the-farm meats, cheeses, and produce. And no other market in town can beat it for grazing. There are always enough free samples available that we barely have room in our stomachs for the food we pay for.
Baltimore’s five public markets—Avenue, Broadway, Cross Street, Hollins, and Northeast—each have their own merits and demerits, but Cross Street is the heaviest on the former and the lightest on the latter. It couples the basic market fare—the green grocer, the fishmonger, the meat-and-poultry stall—with plenty of prepared-food offerings, other amenities (such as flowers, sweets, and cell phones), and a busy, jovial, welcoming atmosphere. Plus, it’s a genuine neighborhood gathering spot. For the life of us, we don’t understand why all of the public markets can’t be like this.
Best New MarketPatapsco Dutch Farmers Market3321 Annapolis Road, (443) 682-9738, patapscoamishmarket.com
This cavernous addition to the environs of the Patapsco Arena and Patapsco Flea market features (at last count) 15 vendors with a bewildering amount of Pennsylvania Dutch-style offerings, along with a sit-down restaurant, fully operational seafood stand (as in, not just lake trout), and a Caribbean food stand. As far as vendors, we’re talking fresh baked goods (we’ve never seen a “Long John” eclair before, yikes), candy, bulk food, dried fruit, nuts, baking staples, a salad bar, all kinds of prepared foods like barbecued chicken, beef, and pork, and an outstanding assortment of cold cuts and fresh meats. How fresh? The Esh’s meat counter offers a 20 percent discount on anything they had to freeze. Also: cheese curds.
Best Asian Grocery StoreAsia Food5224 York Road, (410) 323-8738
Although it’s been open for years, Asia Food on York Road remains somewhat of a secret in North Baltimore. This well-stocked store carries all the spices, sauces, and noodles you need for Chinese and other Asian cuisines, as well as hard-to-find foodstuffs, such as fermented black beans and glutinous rice wine. If you don’t cook, Asia Food is a good option for frozen foods, such as dumplings and steamed buns, that hit the spot when you’re lamenting the lack of a decent Chinese bakery or dim sum in the city. More recently, the store has restocked its cooking supplies—including fancy tea sets and restaurant-sized woks—and added a small but varied produce section.
Best Russian Grocery StoreInternational Food Market, inc.7004 Reisterstown Road, (410) 358-4757
Unless you’re from the former Soviet Union, or a more adventurous cook than most, you’re not likely to end up here in search of ingredients for a special meal. Instead, you’ll come here to get sausages, chocolate, Baltic sardines, pickled vegetables, or kvas, a fermented, low-alcohol malt beverage that’s consumed by everyone in the Ukraine. In case you’re feeling guilty for buying too many sausages, there’s a nice, well-stocked, inexpensive produce section. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, this store is worth a visit for the exquisite packaging of Russian and Eastern European specialty items.
Best Mexican Grocery StoreMercado “Cinco De Mayo”417 S. Highland Ave., (410) 276-0004
The Mexican restaurants in the city keep getting better, but if you want to try to cook something yourself, it’s often hard to find annatto paste, El Salvadoran white sour cream, or freshly made chorizo, let alone cactus leaves or dried corn husks for tamales. The Cinco de Mayo Mercado in Highlandtown has everything you could possibly need, including a butcher, fresh produce, and a helpful staff. The store is a bit larger and brighter than the typical small market, and colorful piñatas line the ceiling, giving it a festive atmosphere. If you get hungry, the store has its own taqueria across the street, so you can get a snack before you go home to cook.
Best Wine ShopBroadway Liquors628 S. Broadway, (410) 563-1212
Sure, Bin 604, with its highly educational monthly and seasonal cases of selected wines, is hard to beat on the wine-shop front. And local wine bars, like V-No, 13.5%, and the Chesapeake Wine Company, are quite helpful, the way they do the shopping for you by offering preferred wines on their racks. But we love an old standby like Broadway Liquors, which is no Johnny-come-lately to the wine surge that’s been taking hold in recent decades. These guys have a really good selection, with hard-to-beat pricing. Once you’ve learned what you like, go find it at Broadway, and it’ll likely be there for less.
Best Place to Buy BeerThe Wine Source3601 Elm Ave., (410) 467-7777, the-wine-source.com
Yeah, the Wine Source has a spectacular selection of vino for jugheads, but it’s also the destination for both basics and curiosities in grain beverages for those of us that prefer pilsners, porters, lagers, and lambics. Stocked with beers from all over the world and end caps filled with seasonal six- and 12-packs, TWS inspires us further with shelves of microbrews from Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, Pub Dog, Laughing Dog, and Sea Dog breweries—just to name a very few. Big and cold bottles and cans from Poland, New Hampshire, Italy, Colorado, Australia, Oregon, Japan, Belgium (natch—but only around Christmas), and many more, along with cases of Stroh’s, Schaefer Light, etc., plus sixers of all types of deliciousness fill the coolers lining the WALL OF BEER. Cheers.
Best Independent BookstoreRed Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse800 St. Paul St., (410) 230-0450, redemmas.org
We like to give worker-owned and -operated bookstore Red Emma’s our money. That it prominently features such politically engaging titles as AK Press’ We Are an Image From the Future: The Greek Revolt of December 2008 makes giving it our money easy. That its café offers great beverages and vegan snacks means we give them a tiny bit more of our money and start reading our purchase while enjoying a fresh cup of coffee. But what truly separates Red Emma’s is its local engagement, which not only includes a vibrant and varied schedule of author appearances and films at the bookstore, but also the collective-run 2640 Space for performances and the Free School. And Red Emma’s has dedicated itself to such community building since its beginning.
Best Used BookstoreThe Book Escape805 Light St. and 10 N. Calvert St., (410) 929-7653, thebookescape.com
Book Escape is the used-bookstore total package. You can grab a classic, a recent best-seller, a collector’s tome, an art book, a wacky self-help book from the ‘70s, or even a brand new book. The Federal Hill store is musty enough to please used-bookstore nerds but well-organized enough for those just trying not to pay full price. And, Book Escape opened a second location this year. An independent bookstore growing instead of going the way of the dodo is definitely something to celebrate.
Best Comic Book StoreAlliance Comics904 Light St., (410) 685-0021, alliancecomicsonline.com
Why, having been open for less than a year, is Alliance Comics is the best comic shop in the city? For starters, Alliance’s Federal Hill, less-than-two-blocks-from-the-harbor location is refreshingly easy to get to. Then there’s the knowledgeable, friendly staff; the expansive library of graphic novels and trade paperback collections (with special sections for big-name creators like Will Eisner and Brian K. Vaughan); the impressive and frequently updated $1 comics bin; and the fact that Alliance has a clearly defined kids section right in front of the store. Add to all that its sponsorship of comics-related events, such as July’s Super Art Fight show, and it’s not hard to see why we’re so blown away by Alliance’s freshman year of operation.
Best place to buy cdsThe Sound Garden1616 Thames St., (410) 563-9011, cdjoint.com
This Fells Point institution remains, as it has been for as many years as some of us have been doing this Best of thing, the preeminent one-stop shop for both the pop and the obscure as encoded on the little shiny plastic discs that were once the reigning musical format. If you’re still attached to the digital hard copy (and some are), this is still your spot. If you aren’t, but are still attached to the Sound Garden (and some are), it also stocks an equally choice and catholic selection of vinyl and DVDs and Blu-rays and video games too, which is good for all concerned.
Best Place To Buy VinylCelebrated Summer3620 Falls Road, (443) 866-9988, celebratedsummerrecords.com
Failing music industry be damned, Baltimore’s gotten to be a pretty sweet place to record-shop over the past few years: an expansion of Sound Garden, a new branch of Own Guru, JoJo South, and now Celebrated Summer, relocated from Towson to Hampden, where the emporium of everything heavy now shares space with Atomic Books. Looking for some seven-inch of obscure crust or the latest Beach House LP? Tony Pence’s long-running shop probably has you covered. And if not, maybe next week, after another couple of crates of used vinyl make their way into the Celebrated Summer bins.
Best Place to Rent MoviesVideo Americain400 W. Cold Spring Lane, (410) 243-2231; 3100 St. Paul St., (410) 889-5266; videoamericain.com
Back in the day, our old pal Jay used to make fun of people who forsook vinyl for the then-burgeoning CD. “It’s so conveeeeenient,” he used to mockingly whine. We think of him often these days, but not because vinyl appears to be dancing on the CD’s grave. Now that Netflix and downloading/streaming are devastating the brick-and-mortar video rental biz, we hear Jay’s knowing cackle in our ears as we ponder the fate of mom-and-pop Video Americain, bobbing in a sea of foundering Blockbusters. The regional chain’s two Baltimore locations still boast a pair of the best film libraries on the East Coast (even more so now), including plenty of out-of-print, region-free, and otherwise unavailable-in-red-envelope-form titles. And while Netflix went so far as to offer a million-smacker prize to anyone who could improve its film-recommendation algorithm, we find the old browsing-the-honest-to-god-shelves-and-talking-to-the-actual-flesh-and-blood-clerk method surprisingly rewarding. (What did we win?) We know, we know—online rental is so conveeeeenient.
Best Head ShopThe Other Side15 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson, (410) 337-9202
At the Other Side in Towson, smoking enthusiasts can take a brief reprieve from being a social pariah without all the snobbery of a cigar shop. Folks there rarely alienate visitors with neo-hippie speak or simply ignore them to one-up one another with tales of bootleg concert recordings. In fact, the kind people at the Other Side will look things up in the computer to answer inquiries about the merchandise or happily sell you rolling papers, posters, tapestries, or a little Nag Champa while you consider your next big purchase.
Best Bike ShopBaltimore Bicycle Works1813 Falls Road, (410) 605-0705, baltimorebicycleworks.com
Yes, Baltimore Bicycle Works again. And it’s not that new shops haven’t opened and they aren’t great: Hampden’s Twenty20 and Joe’s new Fells Point location are both excellent, welcome, and needed. Still, there’s something special about BBW (har), and it has to do with how the shop, now over a year old and currently expanding, seems like a perfectly organic, natural outgrowth of Baltimore’s tough-as-nails bike community. In other words, it’s a handful of local cyclists/mechanics that saw an opening and need, formed a collective, and opened a shop. That aside, BBW’s still perfectly located and reasonably priced, and maintains as a solid place to get both a fancy new carbon fiber something-or-other and a bargain used kick-around city bike.
Best Auto Repair ShopSisson Street Automotive2720 Sisson St., (443) 919-7770, sissonstauto.com
There’s a sign visible from I-83’s 28th Street exit that reads jeff is still here. “Jeff” refers to Jeff Millman of Sisson Street Auto, which he calls “Garage Mahal.” The small shop has some quality basics, such as simple pricing and fast service, but it’s also got a few extras. Pet lovers walking in can expect to be greeted by Millman’s helpers—two dogs and one sweet office cat—and bleeding hearts might appreciate a visit to the shop’s web site to see the nonprofits where Millman is currently involved. And for those filled with guilt and shame for driving gas-guzzlers, Millman’s shop is 100-percent green, making the perfect blend of service and science.
Best Toy StoreShananigans Toy ShopWyndhurst Village, 5004-B Lawndale Ave., (410) 532-8384, shananiganstoyshop.com
So much toy shopping these days entails a trip to a suburban big-box for a quick troll through the sad, unbought licensed figures (Prince of Persia, anyone?) and endless ranks of paramilitary plastic. Not that Roland Park’s Shananigans doesn’t sell a lot of the same mass-market toys the big boxes do, but its intimate space, homey vibe, and curatorial feel does give you the sense that someone took the time to pick each particular toy (many of them boutique items you won’t find elsewhere) just so your kid can, in turn, pick it special to take home. That’s an increasingly rare thing.
Best Adult Toy StoreSugar927 W. 36th St., (410) 467-2632, sugartheshop.com
If Hampden’s Sugar shack doesn’t get your sap flowing, maybe you should pick up a volume of erotica off their Sugar shelf. This well-appointed adult toy shop is comfortable and friendly, from the mellow music to the napping dog on the couch, and arouses all sorts of sexual inspiration. Tables of butt plugs in various shapes, sizes, and colors and an array of dildos—including flaccid, with a hand-written explanation why—are there for the holding. Vibrators, from the “massager” types to pocket rockets and that cute pink cone we’ve heard about, are fully represented. Condoms, dental dams, and silicon- and water-based lubes take “safety first” to new and fun levels. Sugar also sells cock rings, penis confetti, and DVDs, along with offering sex-positive classes and an erotica reading series.
Best Tattoo ArtistMatt TaylorSaints and Sinners Ink, 1610 Thames St., (410) 276-1300, fireawayart.com
Matt Taylor does ace work at Saints and Sinners in Fells Point, putting gorgeously shadowed and detailed figures to many a square inch of Baltimore skin (and skateboard wheel, for that matter). But something else about Taylor’s work was brought to our attention recently: For the next few months, get one of a selection of his designs—offered at a discounted price—and all of the money goes to Hope House, a charity that works to boost self-sufficiency for and provide assistance to single mothers and children in crisis. If getting a piece of art carved into your body seems like the ultimate self-indulgence, well, here’s your out.
Best AcupuncturistTom IngegnoAncient Arts Acupuncture, 715 Park Ave., (410) 842-7784, ancientartsacupuncture.com
A year ago at this time we first became aware that our lower arms were numb—all the time. As in, can’t feel the ring finger and pinky of each hand, general pins and needles sensation from the elbow down. Classic repetitive-stress whatever from being somebody who sits at a computer keyboard too much. Not wanting to submit to a regimen of wrist braces and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds made us consider alternative options, but it wasn’t until lower-back strain following the shoveling through the February blizzard left us spending an entire Saturday on the floor of the living room unable to move did we decide to check out this whole acupuncture thing. Tom Ingegno not only talked us through what he thinks is going on and how’d he treat it, he did so in casual, everyday talk. Sessions not only quickly alleviated symptoms, but became appointments to which we looked forward. Seven months on, not only is the pain totally gone from the back and sensation returning to the pinkies, but even the significant other remarks that the evenings after acupuncture are one of the only times we don’t come across as if we hate the entire world.
Best Yoga StudioCharm City YogaSeveral locations, charmcityyoga.com
Charm City Yoga provides a wide variety of choices in styles and intensity, all the way from gentle beginner and Hatha style through vigorous Ashtanga and mind-blowing sweaty-hot Vinyasa workouts, led by committed and caring instructors who don’t want you to hurt yourself if you’re a newbie. If you’re looking for a simple way to improve your posture, find relief from that office chair, or get a complete reboot of your physique and psyche, you’re going to find the style and teacher you need at one of Charm City’s locations in Federal Hill, Fells Point, Midtown, or Towson. Begin with the breath.
Best Healthcare ProviderBose Medical Group301 St. Paul Place, (410) 332-9359, mdmercy.com
It feels like the days of having one doctor are over. More often than not, people are shuttled into a practice where who you see depends on who’s around. But at Bose, we get our very own doctor: one person who sees us every time, can answer our questions, and actually learns our medical history. Hell, call your doctor at Bose and there’s a damn good chance you will actually get to speak to that doctor on the first try rather than leaving a message that will be returned by an administrator. Plus, because Bose is at Mercy Hospital, you have access to all the benefits of a big medical practice but with the personalized touch of an old-school family practice.
When a recent member of the City Paper family wound up with the sudden dental emergency—something too painful to be disclosed, even—calls around led almost uniformly to Murphy and Welzel. Some Valium, pain drugs, and intense chair time later, and said family member was feeling great. Then there was the bill, and without insurance, most anything this side of a pair of pliers and some whiskey is all but untenable. Let’s say it worked out, no financial ruin needed. The offices are cool and calm, the staff isn’t judgmental—when’s the last time you had a routine checkup?—and we might even get back into a regular dental cleaning schedule.
Best Pet Supply StoreHowl3531 Chestnut Ave., (410) 235-2469, howlbaltimore.com
There is plenty of competition in this category even without considering the chains. Hampden’s Howl has a huge selection of food and treats that are actually good for your pets—in other words, minus all the hard-to-digest fillers of grocery store brands. It also stocks toys, collars, kitty litter, and all the other supplies your beloved cat or dog needs or just really wants. And the staff is super-friendly and always ready to help. But the thing that really sets Howl apart is the prices, which are pleasantly affordable, meaning your dog can have a chew toy and a bully stick and you can still afford to buy food for yourself.
Best Animal HospitalLight Street Animal Hospital1601 Light St., (410) 547-8385
Dr. John Trujillo at Light Street Animal Hospital is the kind of vet you hope to encounter: He’s warm, competent, and no-nonsense. He’s the kind of vet who will recommend a weight-loss plan to help your chubby puppy’s bad knee rather than schedule an expensive surgery. He’s not the kind of vet who hits you over the head with a Hill’s Science Diet dog food commercial on every visit. He seems to have no agenda save the health of your dog or cat, and he understands when you tell him you’re “on a budget.” The staff at Light Street is equally warm and helpful. We’ve tried other vets around and have learned that it’s worth the ride across town to see Dr. T. and his staff. Trust us. And as a bonus, we’ve seen many a doggy friendship form in Light Street’s small but comfortable waiting room.
Best Doggie DaycareGood Doggie Day Care3500 Ash St., (410) 889-3031, gooddoggiedaycare.com
You have to be a little bit crazy to run a doggie daycare, suffering energetic pit bulls and Pomeranians running around you like so many whirling dervishes all day long. But our dogs sure are glad that JoAnne Garrett is just that kind of crazy. Good Doggie near Clipper Mill has plenty of space for dogs to run and play, including a backyard area with kiddie pools. The staff is warm and really seems to enjoy our silly slobbering beasts. There’s a webcam to watch your dog play, and Good Doggie even does crateless boarding. A half day is plenty to tire out your Fifi or Fido and costs only a little bit more than many dog-walking services charge. And nothing is more soothing at the end of a long day than a snoozing dog.
Best Pet GroomingLaundry Mutt214 E. Fort Ave., (410) 962-8057
Laundry Mutt, located in Federal Hill, is exclusively a pet grooming business, comes vet-recommended but otherwise unaffiliated, and is not out to sell you collars, catnip, or other pet accessories. Locally owned and operated, Laundry Mutt simply knows the ins and outs of making your pet (both dogs and cats) look fabulous. Priced competitively with other local groomers (and more reasonably than many), Laundry Mutt shines is in its do-it-yourself grooming stations. Clients who need to give their pet an emergency bath and can’t be squeezed in for a grooming appointment have the option of using Laundry Mutt’s facilities for a fee of $15-$25, depending on the size of the animal.
Best Hair StylistKelli WanveerStudio 1612, 1501-A Sulgrave Ave., (410) 664-3010, studio1612.com
You gotta trust someone with focus, especially when it comes to a pair of super-sharp scissors and your hair. Pretty blond Kelli Wanveer started at 1612 working in its former TIGI apprenticeship program and learning her craft straight outta high school 10 years ago. Now, equally sweet and confident, Wanveer narrows her eyes on your head while moving your pre-shampoo hair around and asking questions like “What’s your routine in the a.m.?” Once your hair is clean and wet, she keeps the small talk small while cutting, but it feels more like she’s shaping what we have into what it’s always wanted to be. Plus, she gave us cheekbones and a swagger we didn’t have 50 bucks (plus tip) ago.
Best Men’s HaircutBill the Barber at Chop Shop4321 Harford Road, (410) 426-2300, bmorechopshop.com
Bill Puller must be doing something right in his modest little space on the second floor, because there’s usually a full compliment of customers waiting to get into his well-worn—OK, slightly broken—barber’s chair (he says a new one is on the way). And though he doesn’t rush, Puller is pretty fast too, getting the trim done in about 10-15 minutes with the easy banter most of us hope for in a professional. Puller’s talk might even be a step ahead of his peers’, because he’s got an elephant’s memory for names, occupations, living arrangements, and marital statuses—so you can pick up the conversation where you left off last time.
Best Salon for People Who Don’t Like SalonsPadma Salon3401 Keswick Road, (410) 243-1717, padmasalon.com
At Padma Salon, folks are friendly without being fake, stylish without implying you are one step away from appearing homeless, and informative without overdoing the hard sell. Prices are fair-market, and they treat return clients well. With the addition of waxing and mani/pedi services, Padma is an open and relaxed atmosphere where one can reasonably indulge in an afternoon of self-care without fear of being mistaken for one of The Real Housewives of New York City. Plus they trim bangs for free (for existing clients only).
Best Place to Get a Beer and a BrazilianKiss N’ Make-Up827 W. 36th St., (410) 467-5477, kissnmakeup.netfirms.com
Before bracing yourself for the inevitable pain of getting those more sensitive regions waxed, Debbie Stoll, the fun proprietor behind Kiss N’ Make-Up, places a cold beer on the table and nudges it toward you. “Why not?” she says, instantly replacing any jitters with giggles and a smile. But we love Kiss N’ Make-Up for more than just indulging the side of us that thinks maybe beer would make a lot of things better. Stoll keeps her store packed with the best cosmetics and a full array of services for both men and women to help use them.
Best WaxerVesna StojanovicMt. Washington Skin Care and Spa, 1600 Kelly Ave., (410) 664-3400, mwspa.com
Vesna Stojanovic has been earning kudos from local glossies for years, and she definitely lives up to her hype. The woman is a waxing speed-demon. She can do a full Brazilian in half the time—and, more importantly, half the pain—lesser waxers need for a bikini wax. She even makes her very own wax mixture. Your you-know-what is in good hands.
If you have a postage stamp rowhouse backyard and the kind of black thumb that makes sorting out the greenery yourself impossible, you’re going to need a landscaper. Unfortunately, most companies won’t give you the time of day once they see the teeny patch of ground you own. Thank garden gnomes for Thomas Nelson. He specializes in urban yards and can take your rat habitat and make it an oasis. He listens to your needs—say, pet-safe plants—and your limitations—can’t keep even house plants alive—and works with them. His prices are reasonable, and he sticks to budget and timeline, which, when it comes to contractors of any sort, is pretty much the holy grail.
Best Garden ShopPoor Boy’s Garden Center and Country Gifts7721 Old Harford Road, (410) 668-7599, poorboysgardencenter.com
If you’re going to turn your little rowhouse plot into an English garden, Poor Boy’s has what you need: a big selection of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, and natural and non-natural boosters, killers, and fertilizers. The knowledgeable and friendly staff helps us figure out the best plants and arrangement for our limited space and lighting conditions, and while we’re gonna pay a little more than some places, we’re getting a ton of experience along with that plant. And we just like going there: walking around a beautifully landscaped fish pond (yes, there are supplies for that too) with a little red wagon full of plants is a laid-back and romantic way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Best Green BusinessLocal Color Flowers(410) 262-1494, locoflo.com
Ellen Frost at Local Color Flowers is serious about being green and buying local. Her event florist business only uses locally grown flowers, even if that means she can’t do business in the winter when nothing’s blooming. Buying local not only helps the local economy and farmers, it cuts down on the preservatives and fossil fuels used to ship flowers in from Latin America. All of this wouldn’t matter a lick, though, if the end product looked how good-for-you food sometimes tastes. Fortunately, Local Color’s arrangements are gorgeous, edgy but feminine, and bursting with color— not to mention actually cheaper than many other shops. Beautiful, affordable, and environmentally friendly floral arrangements smell pretty sweet to us.
Best Hardware StoreBelle Hardware240 McMechen St., (410) 728-4844, belle.doitbest.com
First of all, if they don’t have something they will order it—no muss, no fuss—and it actually shows up in a couple of days, but besides some glue, or pegboard, or some wood putty, all we really want when we go to a hardware store is a little info, a straight answer, a clue, if you will, and we receive helpful answers to our stupid questions every time we walk into Belle Hardware for the right drill to drill into whatever the hell our ceiling is made out of, or what kind of bolt we need to bolt the thing on the thing to the thing on our deck, or how exactly to attach that pegboard to the wall in our basement to hang up all the tools we would use, maybe, if we could find them, or hey, what kind of a screw is this and can I get another one—you get the picture, and so do the nice people at Belle, and they are open every day of the week, so there’s really no reason why we can’t put that pegboard up this weekend.
Best Metals To GoE-J Enterprises7280 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., Glen Burnie, (410) 625-8200, e-jenterprises.com
We know it’s not everyone’s cup of soup to be fabricating metal. But for those who do it—or want to—finding good clean material can be tough. Scrap yards have stuff, but it’s not always sized right or accessible, and it’s hard to know its quality. E-J Enterprises makes big things out of type 316 stainless and 6061 aluminum—marine-grade alloys. And the scrap all goes for cheap out the back door. They’ll even plasma- or water-jet cut it to shape. So if you’re a DIY type and find yourself in need of some square tubing, bar, or a 3/8-inch thick aluminum plate to bolt to your transom or gusset your space frame, go see E-J.
Best Place to Restock Your BunkerH&H Outdoors424 N. Eutaw St., (410) 752-2580
H&H Outdoors is no doubt a boon to campers, fishermen, and fans of Carhartt, but it’s truly indispensable if you’re gearing up for the apocalypse. Where else can you find a pith helmet, an Israeli paratrooper bag, waterproof matches, a gas mask, and a whole range of weapons, ranging from scary-looking knives to air pistols to (dummy) grenades? In the vast basement full of dusty jumbled artifacts, there are entrenching tools for burying your waste (i.e. covering your scent) and even a box of what appear to be WWII-era headphones, useful for, umm, drowning out the roar of hellfire.