Best Of » Neighborhood/Community, Shopping & Services, Health & Wellness, Cannabis

Best of Goods and Services: Making us look good


Best Seafood Emporium
Par Avion
4510 Oro Blanco Drive, 597-4545

If you can't stand at a harbor's edge and watch fishing boats heading shoreward with dinner, the next best thing is a trip to Par Avion, formerly Sebastiani's Gourmet World. There the fish is flown in, almost still flapping, from San Francisco, Hawaii and Boston. Swimming our way in recent weeks: albacore tuna, ahi, swordfish, mako, marlin, moonfish, monkfish, king salmon, Atlantic salmon, walleye, Chilean sea bass, red snapper, grouper, halibut, bluefish, cod, and mahimahi. And I haven't even mentioned the variety of shellfish -- oyster aficionados will swoon, as will fans of clams (cherrystone, Ipswich, littlenecks), cockles, mussels, abalone, lobster and crab. If you're unsure of what to select and how to prepare it, the helpful folks at Par Avion will walk you through every step. You need never eat meat again. (NH)

Best Drive-up Convenience
Char's Shipping Shoppe
330 E. Costilla St., 578-8654

I love this woman. Not only does she have a drive-up window to ease the painful task of mailing packages, she provides everything you could possibly need from tape to tags, and she's got a great sense of humor. And once you've become an established customer, she keeps a database of your usual destinations. Mom's house in Galveston this time or your daughter in San Francisco? The mail form is filled out in a jiffy without that hand-cramping triplicate-copy-with-an-inadequate ballpoint-pen experience. Think Christmas. Think shipping. Think easy, quick, convenient. Think Char's. (KCE)

Best Attitude in the Face of Adversity
Los Robles Nursery
918 W. Costilla, 636-3258

In her fall 2000 newsletter, Los Robles owner Christina Mulberger described her tough decision to file for Chapter 11 protection as follows: ...Like Chrysler, United and the Imperial Hotel. Never what was desired, taken as the most bitter pill to keep this most delightful reality alive. A blessing in a beast's costume, and I don't mean the two attorneys [or] the CPA; they are great guys (and rich too!). Do you know anyone else who would face the music of bankruptcy with a salsa band in the greenhouse on summer evenings, extra attention to the luscious delights offered in the caf, a tip of her wine glass (If we can't make you happy with our plants, deals, advice, lunch or quirkiness, we have a liquor license!), and a good joke? Mulberger and her creation, Los Robles, are true originals. As she advises, go there to blow your bucks -- you'll be promoting a rare local business that gets an A-plus for attitude. (KCE)

Best Place for 60s Vinyl
Earth Pig Music
1953 W. Uintah St., 575-9847

If you prefer Jefferson Airplane to Eminem, Big Brother and the Holding Company to 'N Sync, The Doors to Korn, or Quicksilver Messenger Service to Limp Bizkit, then Colorado Springs is an abysmal wasteland for collector vinyl. Your best bet by far is Earth Pig Music. Owner Terry Atherton is a Vietnam vet who loves the blues best, but remains a big fan of Minnesota '60s psych legends C.A. Quintet and The Litter. His bins contain a fair-to-middlin' collection of used '60s vinyl, with an occasional rare find -- e.g. a live recording of one of Kesey's "acid tests," Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica" or the hard-to-find second Ultimate Spinach album (for $3.50!) -- popping up in his collector's section. Atherton sold primo bootleg psych CDs until someone from a similar local establishment snitched to "the authorities" and got him busted. (BC)

Best Evolving Business
Hillside Gardens
1006 S. Institute St., 520-9463

Imagine a hillside, a wooded multi-acre lot in the middle of town, but with sweeping views of the entire Front Range, overlooking the center of downtown. No traffic sounds, just the gurgling tumble of water down a stony slope into a pond of koi fish. Planted all around are benches, surrounded by rose gardens, herb gardens, a Xeriscape garden, a perennial garden. In the center, nestled in the trees, is a tiny wooden shed with a south-facing wall of glass windows -- a potter's shed with stone floors and delicate crystal chandeliers overhead. You've entered Hillside Gardens, the brainchild of master renovator Larry Ash, his wife Liz and daughters Erica and Lara. Formerly the grounds of a commercial dairy, the land has been cleared of industrial debris, and one of the nicest inner city sites imaginable has been turned into an urban oasis. A greenhouse and coffeehouse, an on-site florist and a blacksmith's shop are in the plans, and next summer Ash hopes this will be the place for a wedding. Whether you're in the market for bedding plants, or just seeking a quiet respite from the turmoil of the city, Hillside Gardens should be added to your list of soothing destinations. (KCE)

Best Deli
Readers' Poll Winner

Broadway Delicatessen and Restaurant
24 S. Tejon St., 633-5420
Finally! the space on Tejon Street has a tenant that brings it the life it deserves. As soon as it opened, Broadway Deli was crowded with people ordering bagels and blintzes, "fancy schmancy" omelettes, and skyscrapers -- terrifically huge sandwiches with names like "42nd Street" and "Brooklyn Bum." They serve every kind of meat under the sun, and a selection of fresh fish flown in from New York. The only thing this place lacks is a couple of chunky Italian mobsters lurking in the corner, but since this is Colorado, we'll have to settle for the downtown elite instead. (KS)

Best Deal on New Releases

Long's Drugs
Five locations in Colorado Springs

Hidden at the Long's Drugs store on W. Colorado Avenue is a spectacular secret that puts that other video store next door to shame -- Long's carries all the new releases too, and they only make you pay $1.99 to rent them. And the selection is more than just the big Hollywood hits; they've got the arty, the indie, the foreign, the quaint. The staff is helpful, and all you have to do to rent is prove you are who you say you are with a photo ID. (KS)

Best Place to Get Your Emissions Tested
Sports Car City
1501 S. Tejon St., 633-7045

Does your vehicle cough and wheeze in the wake of an arduous mile-and-a-half, 30 m.p.h. trip to the grocery store and back? Do you have to downshift to second, or even first, on hills that barely stretch farther than you can throw a rock left-handed? If so, you probably sweat bullets each time you have to renew your emissions sticker. Keep your beloved (or despised) beater on the road one year longer by taking it for emissions testing to Bill at Sports Car City. He'll adjust, tinker, ponder and tweak until -- if it's in the realm of earthly possibility -- he gets your exhaust readings below the magic numbers. He's gotten a pulse out of many a vehicle pronounced DOA by lesser mortals. (BC)

Best Florist
Readers' Poll Winner

225 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0707
Previous Best Of Awards:'94 '95 '96 '97 '98 '99

Once upon a cold and crappy day, not so very long ago, the city was dark and monochromatic. And there was an odor to the air, not unlike diesel fumes and fried food. The people were bored, and sadness was plentiful.

But then an oasis came, a place of exotic shapes and colors that washed over the brain like so many rainbows. Wise and gentle souls welcomed the public with arms full of flora, and vessels of the finest crystal and well-crafted stone. Heavenly scents, fine and sweet, wafted in the breeze, bringing with them rejuvenation. And the people rejoiced and were relaxed, and happiness once again reigned throughout the land. Thank you, Gentry's, for brightening our dreary lives. (KS)

Best Place to Keep Your Aging Hippie Van Running
Alkim Bug Shop
2018 Sheldon Ave., 633-3786

Alkim Bug Shop, the Westside establishment of Al Leopizei and Kim Powell (just off the intersection of W. Colorado Avenue and 21st Street) is perpetually crammed with VWs of every size, shape, make, age, color (or lack thereof) and stage of decay. There are bugs, hatchbacks, vans and minibuses. The partners have a loyal clientele of VW drivers from all over town. Al will never gouge you; he'll work with you if you're on a cliff-edge budget, and he knows where to find used parts one-third the cost of outrageously expensive new ones. He's been known to keep deathbed cases trucking for years longer than normal expectations would dictate. He requires payment in cash, though. (BC)

Best Seletion for Metric Tool

Hugh M. Woods
5855 N. Academy Blvd., 599-5400
2425 E. Platte Place, 635-8974
625 N. Murray Blvd., 591-6700

If you're one of those industrious types who needs to dissect your car into its three million parts and spread them all over the driveway, grunting and groaning until you agonizingly replace every questionable piece, then you've got to make Hugh M. Woods part of your foreign vehicle repair strategy. You see, my personal trainer in all things mechanical related to me this story: He was looking for pan-head M8-by-11/4 screws to fasten the throttle body to the throat body of his '85 Toyota truck. You still with me? He ended up traversing the city for what seemed like hours, stopping at four different parts stores, until, finally, a little birdie at a competitor whispered to him that he really needed to go to Hugh M. Woods. It was a fairy-tale ending to what otherwise would have been a gruesome story. (TP)

Best Gas Prices
Western Gas and Convenience
Corner of Beacon and Fillmore streets, 1.5 blocks east of I-25

It's almost too good to be true -- consistently 5 to 10 cents less than the average price for unleaded. I also have it on excellent authority from a forum of mechanical gurus that it's good gas, and will internally combust without any messy side effects. Don't tell OPEC; they would cry if they knew. (KS)

Best Used Book Store
Gateways Bookstore
119 E. Bijou St., 635-4514

Previous Best Of Awards:
'94 '95 '96 '97 '98 '99

Like Topsy, this place grows and grows and grows. The fiction section now occupies most of the left-hand addition to the center of the store and sports a fabulous bargain table. The volume is huge and the prices are minimal at this amazing used book despository. Practically every time I've looked for a title elsewhere and have not been able to find it, a trip to Gateways delivers. But beware -- there's no way to walk away from this place with just the book you thought you were looking for. The selection and the bargains are too great. Be sure to wander all the way to the back and make sure you've explored every nook and cranny. (KCE)

Best Free Ride
Springs Transit

Try Transit Week

It wasn't like trying bungee jumping. Or tightrope walking. Or sky diving. In fact, I didn't even break a sweat. When my feeble Jetta failed to turn over one day, I just grabbed my bag and headed two blocks east. Within minutes, good old Springs Transit rescued me from my perch -- and wouldn't even accept my meager thanks in the form of a buck and a quarter. No, I had stumbled across the last day of Try Transit Week (Sept. 11-15), and the ride was on the house. Heck, I even got to sit and think for a minute or two, thankful not to be just another poor sot embroiled in traffic madness. For the first time in ages, I couldn't care less about my fickle car: I've got Springs Transit in the palm of my hand. (TP)

Best Clothing Bargains
ARC Thrift Stores
3077 S. Academy Blvd., 392-5263
402 Austin Bluffs Parkway, 522-1203
1830 W. Uintah St., 473-0502

If you haven't been, then you don't know what you're missing. At least once (and sometimes twice) every month, the ARC stores have a 99-cent sale, where every article of clothing (except current colored tags) is only 99 cents. Suits, jeans, coats, bathing suits, fur coats, dress-up clothes, evening gowns, sweaters, blouses, skirts, button-down shirts, jumpers, baby buntings, pajamas, even underwear, it's all yours for just 99 cents per piece. An added bonus: The fitting rooms are a decent size and the locks actually function, the stores are clean and well-lit, and the staff is friendly. All three stores feature the sale on the same day, so fill your gas tank, stash the kids with a friend and plan for a full day of high-impact, low-cost shopping. Last time we went we found a pair of never worn Kenneth Coles in just the right size. Call any location to get the date of the next sale. (MBP)

Best Toy Store
Readers' Poll Winner

Little Richard's
324 N. Tejon St., 578-5848

Previous Best Of Awards: '95 '96 '97 '98 '99

Thank Yahweh in Heaven above for Little Richard's, and big Richard, who has turned his bookstore/pizza joint into a complex designed to fight stupidity from every angle. Little Richard's offers a wonderful alternative to the millions of things surrounding children, sucking their brain cells and turning them into mindless automatons with charge cards and caffeine addictions. Nary a violent, unrealistic (read: Barbie) or brain-numbing toy can be found within its confines. Instead, there are supplies to set your kids' creative juices flowing, games to teach them about history and biology without boring them to tears, wacky odds and ends that delight and enliven, and the most superbly amazing gift you could ever give a kid -- books, and books, and stacks and stacks of books. Why even consider shopping anywhere else? (KS)

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