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Best Place to Browse for a Jazz and Blues Lover
Record High
If there were ever a local record store to evoke images of John Cusack and friends talking about unrequited love and the key to a successful mixtape à la High Fidelity, it would be Record High. This tiny shop in a largely industrial stretch of South Phoenix has a little bit of everything but specializes in the music of yesteryear’s rebel set – not classic rock or punk but jazz and blues, from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago to Harlem. If you want an education on the foundations of today’s popular music, Record High is the place to do it. It’s also a great place to look for first pressings and special editions. 4242 E. University Dr., Phoenix, 602-292-5761,


Best Store for an Audiophile
Arizona Hi-Fi
Most among the Valley’s vinyl-inclined are familiar with Stinkweeds – the quintessential record store in terms of bearded employees and indie-alternative tracks freshly put to wax. But anyone who’s serious about their stereo would be remiss to pass over neighboring Arizona Hi-Fi. It specializes in higher end, analog audio equipment – turntables, tube amps and audio cables with prices that’ll make the most devoted vinyl heads blush. But when the person behind the counter lets you spin your favorite record on the store’s demo setup in the back, the whole twisted, expensive, impractical hobby makes sense. 10 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-264-4434,


Best New Boutique
Phoenix General
There is good shopping in metro Phoenix. But many of those stores – in Paradise Valley, the Biltmore, Old Town or North Scottsdale – are geared more toward moneyed relatives visiting from out of town than Phoenicians themselves. Phoenix General, though not cheap (prices range from $7.50 for incense to $395 for the overalls pictured here), may change that. Owners Kenny Barrett and Joshua Hahn, formerly of the now-defunct GROWop Boutique in Downtown, offer hip clothes, accessories, fragrances and home goods designed for desert dwellers from all over the city. 5538 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-237-6922,


Best Piñata Shop
Mundo Piñata
From a 2-foot-tall Mickey Mouse to a life-sized ballerina in full arabesque, José David Chavarria Jiménez can make just about anything out of recycled cardboard and papier-mâché. A licensed artist in Chihuahua, Mexico, before immigrating to South Phoenix in 2006, Chavarria garnered a lot of attention during the tempestuous 2016 presidential election by filling a lot of custom Donald Trump-look-alike piñatas. These days, he caters to a largely gringo clientele, filling upward of 50 custom orders a week through Facebook message and text. Send him a photo of anything and he can probably make it – so far, PM staffers have ordered a flamingo, a saguaro and a giant Baileys Irish Cream bottle. They’re a hit at parties. 32nd Street and McDowell Road, Phoenix, 602-518-1452,


Best Home Design Store
For the People
For the People masters its mission statement of “pairing local artisans with world-renowned makers” for a hodgepodge of (Mid-Century) modern art, décor, housewares, furniture, books and accessories that feels so clean and cool you’ll swear you’re in a rad boutique in New York or Amsterdam, sans the pretension. 5102 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-954-4009,


Best Plant Shop
The Bosque
Downtown Phoenix’s only plant shop is also the Valley’s coolest. Michael Lanier’s shop combines the trappings of a hipster boutique (succulents, modern pottery and local goods) with an obsessively curated stock informed by his botanical geekdom. He’s a millennial Seymour Krelborn. 214 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 480-695-9320,


Best Auto Mechanics
Precision Imports
Yeah, we know – everybody has a “guy who does great work.” But we have two guys: Al and Frank, the longtime owner-operators of this north-central Phoenix auto garage where the oil pans of a million Honda Accords seem to whisper in unison  as you walk through the door. Honest, knowledgable and imbued with that all-important knack for locating rebuilt alternators at bargain-basement prices, the duo has never steered us wrong through 20 years and three used, pseudo-upscale Japanese imports. FYI: They also do Germans and domestics, but cars of the Rising Sun are what they know best. 6344 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-274-7892


Best Boutique Pet
Bennie the Boxer of The Bosque and The Pueblo
Owner Michael Lanier’s mild-mannered pup is cute enough to give even the Project Runway-famous Swatch of New York City’s Mood Fabrics a run for his biscuits. Find Bennie and give him some pats amongst the fiddle leaf fig trees, snake plants and succulents at either of Lanier’s trendy urban plant boutiques. 214 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 480-695-9320,


Best Body Mechanics
Sanctuary Spa
First, a disclaimer: This onsite luxury spa at the luxurious Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort nestled in the luxurious foothills of Paradise Valley is not the premier facility in the Valley. Carved, we imagine, out of the locker room complex at the old John Gardiner Tennis Ranch, it’s a bit cramped in places. However, the place is staffed impeccably, with the most consistently skilled therapists and massage-ists we’ve encountered in our self-indulgent rounds of the Valley resort scene. So there’s the rub. 5700 E. McDonald Dr., Scottsdale, 480-948-2100,


Best Hippie/Witchy Products
Sage & Salt
Is a co-worker with bad vibes getting you down? Are you plagued with nightmares about your ex? Sage & Salt has a cure for you, dear Muggle. Its line of magical products aims to banish the bad and attract the good – spray Smokeless Smudge with white sage and palo santo to protect yourself from workplace harm, sprinkle Witches Salt in your bedroom to guard against nightmares and get lucky with Lust Dust spread under your bed.



Best Way to Feel Less Guilty About Buying Pop Culture Crap
Box Lunch Gifts
Sure, you’re a grown-ass man or woman, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want a Dr. Strange vinyl figure or a Daria T-shirt or a Dr. Who Tardis wall light. The vanishing American adult, and all that. Buy this stuff at the Glendale or Chandler locations of the Chicago-based chain, and a percentage of the take goes to Feeding America. Do good by staying adolescent! 7700 W. Arrowhead Towne Center, Glendale, 623-979-7817; 3111 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler, 480-857-0400,


Best Costumer
Easley’s Fun Shop
From Donald Trump masks to lederhosen to, er, vaguely S&M-ish riding crops, this midtown costume shop has been helping Phoenicians slip into character for almost 70 years. Just like Alice. 509 W. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 602-271-9146,


Best Place to Accessorize like a Rock Star
Night Rider
From gothic fleur de lis cufflinks to mini-sword pendants, this edgy Scottsdale silversmithery – led by owner-designers Nick Ballantyne, Thad Ballantyne and George Ganem – is perfect for folks whose jewelry preferences reside slightly left of cameos and pearls. Scottsdale Fashion Square, 7014 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-719-7219,


Best Place for Pet Therapy
La Gattara Cat Café
When cat memes just aren’t enough, the Valley’s first kitty café lets guests pet, cuddle and dine with adoptable cats. The café’s onsite shelter provides patrons with one, two or 10 fuzzy dining companions to watch you guzzle down wine and desserts. The café also hosts rotating art shows, movie nights, painting classes and yoga classes – all feline-themed, naturally. And, no, you can’t BYOC. 1301 E. University Dr., Tempe, 480-659-0150,


Best Pet Foster Care
Lost Our Home
Lost Our Home Pet Rescue was founded as a grassroots effort at the height of the Great Recession in 2008, when many displaced Valley residents gave their pets to shelters or, worse, abandoned them in foreclosed houses. In addition to providing free pet food and supplies to struggling pet owners, the nonprofit also offers temporary foster care for pets and rehoming options. Since opening, Lost Our Home has helped place more than 3,800 pets in new adoptive homes and reunited more than 650 with their families. 2323 S. Hardy Dr., Tempe, 602-445-7387,


Best Gifts for Your Gal Pal
Davanzo Boutique
The name of this little gem, nestled in a strip mall across from Deer Valley Airpark, is Italian for “more than enough,” which is just what you’ll discover when searching for the ideal gift for your bestie. Wine glass charms and bottle stoppers, sports fan-wear and sassy graphic tees made in-house so you can choose your style, size and color, are among our personal faves. You can bling out your bridesmaids without busting the budget, and they can return the favor with scads of cool bridal shower swag. 625 W. Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, 623-234-3548,


Best Independent Press
Cardboard House
In an age when even Amazon is embracing brick and mortar shops, perhaps the tide is turning for tactile literature. Cardboard House is doing its part by publishing original works and translations in English and Spanish. Some books are available in art book hardcovers, which are made in community workshops using recycled goods and have hand-sewn bindings – true works of art. Take that, mass consumption.


Best Mid-Century Redo
Uptown Plaza
Built in the mid-century glory days of 1955, Uptown Plaza has recently been revitalized thanks to a much-needed facelift and the wooing of big-name tenants like Shake Shack and West Elm. The Del Webb-designed plaza at Central and Camelback has been reborn as a bustling hub for downtowners seeking glitzy grub and groceries at AJ’s Fine Foods), high-end retailers and service providers. (Well, minus the Applebee’s.) Be prepared to fight for a parking spot. 100 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,


Best Workshops
Strawberry Hedgehog
If your DIY streak has progressed beyond Pinterest, Strawberry Hedgehog is the place for you. Owner Tracy Perkins and a cadre of her expert friends host workshops throughout the year in her Phoenix soap shop and vegan boutique. Past classes have included Get Fizzy With It (homemade bath bombs), Kitchen Witchin’ (cooking with herbs and making your own bitters), Flower Crowns, Natural Perfumery and Herbal Remedies 101. Workshops start at $30 per person. 1501 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, 928-637-6270,


Worst of the Valley
Sorry, but some of this stuff is so boneheaded, we had to go negative.

Worst Political Soundbite
Whoa Nelly! This is a competitive category in 2017. We’ll go with Scottsdale state legislator John Allen’s comment that “many” Arizona schoolteachers take second jobs because “they want to pay for a boat” or other luxury item, and not because they make less than soda jerks. Call him John Allen-Antoinette.  

Worst New Restaurant
Full disclosure: We have not actually eaten at Uberrito, the first Arizona outpost of a Texas burrito chain. The point is, what is Texas doing meddling in our burrito scene? We’re the burrito masters. Does Phoenix try to knock the brisket out of their mouths?

Worst Radio Commercials
We have no reason to believe that Goettl Air Conditioning does anything but the finest work on HVACs. But those radio spots? Surreally bad. If we have to hear owner Ken Goodrich tell another story about his dad’s flashlight, we’re seriously gonna flip out. To his credit, Goodrich made light of the campaign’s unpopularity in subsequent ads. Respect.