Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2008


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  • + West Phoenix
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La Vida

People & Places

Shopping & Services

Readers' Choice


Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Free Car Show
Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show

The law of entropy says that energy dissipates if not contained. But humans like to localize their energies, and thankfully so because some of us have some pretty sweet cars. There's no better place to see a hundred or so collector cars than the free Scottsdale Pavilion car show, every Saturday night. The Pavilions Car Show is a weekly gathering of gearheads from across the Valley; the show's Web site says it's the "the largest consistently run car show in the United States."

The cars start rumbling in around 4 p.m. every Saturday, but it takes a couple of hours to fill the parking lot near Best Buy and McDonald's on the north side of Indian Bend Road (just off Loop 101).

By 6 or 7 p.m., the parking lot is usually stocked with hundreds of cars, from vintage classics to modern-day imports with coffee-can exhaust tips. Clusters of make/model and year form naturally.

You'll find rows of 1950s Chevy Bel Aires, followed by 1960s Camaros, and, across the way, vintage Mustangs and '32 Fords. You'll also find a few rows of newer rice-burners, including tricked-out Toyota Supras and Acura NSXs, as well as the usual wanna-be Honda Civics and Volkswagen Jettas with crappy fiberglass ground effects.

If you work up an appetite or just want a milkshake, that McDonald's is a few paces away, and a 5 & Diner is across the street.

9175 E. Indian Bend, Scottsdale, 85250
Best Place to Buy Carnival Chalkware
Historic District Antique Mall

We tried to resist our newest obsession, vintage carnival chalkware, but we failed. It certainly didn't help that while we were out looking for end tables, we stumbled on a treasure trove of this cool stuff, which used to be handed out as prizes at carnival dime pitches in the '30s and '40s. Our shelves were already stacked with tiny chalk Pinocchios and big, scary-eyed kewpies covered in chalk's trademark hyper-colorful, randomly spray-painted way, when we tripped into Historic District Antique Mall, which has the best selection of vintage chalkware we've seen anywhere, hands down.

We spied a pair of sleepy cherub bookends; a super-rare (and really gigantic — is there such a thing as "too big" when you're talking chalkware?) Porky Pig; and not one, but three, majorettes, which were popular figurines in chalkware during the '30s. We ended up buying a chalkware lamp shaped like a fawn and a pair of really ugly schooners, simply because they were so cheap and because we'd never seen chalkware that depicted a boat before. Looking for a new obsession? You, too, can become infatuated with the joys of vintage chalk — and if you do, we recommend nursing your chalkware jones at Historic District Antique Mall.

Best Soda Selection
Pop the Soda Shop

Looking for that ultra-spicy ginger beer that they serve at your favorite indie restaurant? Come to Pop the Soda Shop. Not only do they have the elusive drink you've been searching for (as well every conceivable kind of ginger ale, ginger soda, and ginger beer out there), they have more varieties of "alternative, imported, and gourmet" sodas and non-alcoholic beverages than we ever thought possible. It's just plain fun to stroll the aisles of this specialty shop, where there's everything from cane sugar cola and exotic energy drinks to old-fashioned sarsaparilla, birch beer, and root beer. For the sugar-conscious crowd, check out the fancy bottled water, tea, and diet sodas of every flavor. Chocolate soda? Check. Moxie? Check. Purple Love Potion #69? Check. (Seriously, they really do carry an "arousing carbonated drink" with such an entertaining name.) It's hard to stump the folks at Pop the Soda Shop. But why would you want to, when discovering wacky new sodas is this fun?

1649 N. 74th St., Scottsdale, 85257
Best Souvenirs
Francine Sumner Jewelry

Francine Sumner didn't mean to become a successful jewelry designer. She just didn't want to fork over a lot of money for that cute "mommy jewelry" she wanted, namely the hand-stamped silver discs with kid names that every mom worth her station wagon is wearing around town these days.

Sumner learned how to make her own, then started selling it at local stores like MADE art boutique and About Face.

And then she got into Twilight — Stephenie Meyer's vampire novel series for young aduts — and started making jewelry based on the characters created by Meyer, herself a local mom. The Twilight jewelry, like the books, has flown off the shelves. You can find it on her Web site or at Changing Hands bookstore. We love the "good vampire" and "bad vampire" necklaces, as well as the "Go Ask Alice" motif. And the "bite me" charms are, well, to die for.

Best New Coffee House
Toshi's Roast

Ten years ago, if a restaurant were to charge $5 for coffee, it would have been laughed out of business. That's why Toshi's Roast in Surprise nabbed our vote this year — because if a cuppa Joe is going to cost as much as a decent burger, than it had damn well better be imported from South America and roasted in-house using a $15,000 machine. Owners Randy Miller, a former California juvie probation officer, and his wife, Marie, were clever enough to create a niche market for themselves, offering Asian-themed blended drinks like the popular Black Dragon Mocha, plus a selection of Japanese teas. The result is an upscale and trendy coffee house that brews a solid cup of coffee, whether it's the cheapskate's Americano or a fancy latte that's actually worth the five bucks.

17058 W. Bell Rd., Surprise, 85374
Best Neighborhood Coffee House, Downtown Phoenix

In our often-sheltered, middle-class world, nothing's worse than waiting in line for a cup of coffee. And though there are plenty of mainstream and mom-and-pop shops in town serving caffeinated goodness, there always seems to be a queue moving at a snail's pace. Grrr. That's until Conspire began serving coffee out of its off-the-radar house in the Evans-Churchill district. The indie biz, formerly known as C.O.L.A.B., is an artist-run store that sells all sorts of handmade fashion, visual art, and coffee with (yes!) zero to little wait. (At least, before 'Best of' hits the streets.) We're so happy every day knowing that we'll get our morning fix when we need it.

901 N. 5th St., Phoenix, 85004

Best Free Car Show: Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show


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