Best Fish Store
Aquariums and Stuff
Fish Aquariums and Stuff is locally owned and offers all things fishy, including saltwater and fresh selections. The store has recently expanded to include different sections for marine and freshwater. Most hobbyists are one or the other: salt or fresh, so it seems natural to keep the proper separation of types of fish and tanks. The wide variety of coral is beautiful, and the stock of healthy fish slither alluringly, tempting the looker to take them home.
One of the top rules of aquarium owners is to practice patience. Owners Bill and Judy Knight have been avid hobbyists for many years, and Bill has fielded his fair share of phone calls from panicky customers who just want someone to care. The staff on hand are quick to lend an empathetic ear to tales of triumph or woe and are able to offer helpful advice on the right lights, filters and compatibility of species. Maybe you have a fish that you bought on impulse, and it isn't working out in the tank? Slap it in a suitable container and haul it in to Fish Aquariums and Stuff. They may not offer store credit, but at least the fish will find the right tank to swim in.
3023 N. Cole Rd., 208-377-1119
Best gratuitous marketing ploy
Picture, if you want, if you must, foamy lattes served by gals in skimpy suits. It could be a job hazard: Watch out for that hot steam, honey. Given the choice to get your morning fuel from a girl in an apron or one who is wearing close to nothing, the bets are on the bikini baristas.
Hotties Mochas and More, 2943 S. Chinden Blvd., Garden City
Best place to buy baby gifts for your newly baby-ized friends
We were desperate for a baby-warming present; we had no where else to turn. Babies are scary. Cassis is not. Full of superior quality products and toys, we knew we were in the right place. Our present was the new mom's favorite gift (at least that's what we think since we see that little baby wearing our present). Being in the store almost made us want one of those babies for ourselves ... almost.
819 W. Idaho St., 208-345-5501
Best dog groomers
The two dog groomers at the Eagle location are experts at cutting dogs' nails. Trust us, some people cut them, and they are too pointy, but not these ladies.
435 S. Eagle Road, Eagle, 208-939-1231
Best Costco employee with whom to take your Photo
It's a rare occasion when a driver's license picture—or an ID card photo of any kind—not only actually resembles you but doesn't make you look 20 pounds heavier or 10 years older. Or just plain ugly. Knowing this is the likely outcome of these photos can cause a person to avoid renewing licenses or ID cards. We know someone who really wanted to get a Costco card but couldn't bear the thought of getting her picture taken. When she got to the service counter, Ryan, sensing her hesitation, jumped in next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. A big flash of light, and she now has a Costco card with a slightly out-of-focus forced-smile photo. But at least she's not alone.
Best place to get some high-class bling
Like all self-respecting fashionistas, we have big love for sparkly accessories. Gold, platinum and fancy gemstones make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And though we can't really afford to deck ourselves out in the kind of finery found wrapped around the likes of P Puff Daddy Diddy Puffenstuff (or whatever Sean Combs is calling himself these days), we love to peer through the windows of Hal Davis, our sweaty little noses leaving marks on the glass, and dream of one day actually walking in and ordering a pair of diamond studs or a chunky bracelet that costs more than a fancy house in the Foothills.
130 N. 8th St., 208-343-6151
Best place to take your broken washing machine
Wes Coe's Washer & Dryer
Being able to do your laundry when the mood strikes you is one of the joys of owning your own machines. That is until your washing machine doesn't spin anymore, or the dryer motor burns out. You can have your wet clothes on a timed dry and watch as they flop around for hours on end, yet are still a soggy mess if the dryer is not doing its job.
At the laundromat, they just put up a sign that says out of order, but when it's your own machines, it's not that easy. This is where Wes Coe's Washer and Dryer steps in. Wes knows washers and dryers. He'll fix it fast and for a fair price. He'll even make an occasional house call to come to the rescue, but stops short of fluffing and folding.
10395 Fairview Ave., 208-376-4927
Best place to get your Cadmium Red or Thalo Blue
Boise Blue Art Supply
Though it's been years since we were in school, we still love to stick our hands in a pot of paint and smear them across a sheet of butcher paper once in a while. When the urge hits us, we head over to Boise Blue Art Supply for our supplies. They carry paint, brushes, paper and canvas, of course, but they also stock pens, clay, sculpting tools, books and even fun art kits for the kids. Yeah, right. For the kids.
820 W. Jefferson St., 208-343-2564
Best Hidden Beyond Downtown Accessory Boutique
Let's just say that mother-daughter-granddaughter team (Marcia, Brandi, Lexi respectively) done good. Accessorize Mee is like one of those really great light-bulb ideas that you wish you'd thought of first because it's such a simple concept it almost hurts. Imagine an accessories store full of chic-eclectic everything (shoes, belts, handbags, jewelry, aprons, stockings ... on and on). Now imagine long hot hours roaming local artisans' markets, searching for that one locally made thing that's exactly the match to those fabulous earrings you got for your birthday. Accessorize Mee is the marriage of the two, with racks of superfab accessories made by locals. Buy Idaho.
46 Eagle River St. #110, Eagle, 208-939-0888
Best auto mechanics
Boise Foreign Car Service
We don't have to tell you that Boise Foreign Auto is the best place to take your car because, based on how busy they always are, you already know that. They've been servicing Boiseans' cars for years now. One BW employee (who does not have the best luck with cars) only recently discovered BFC's mad skills under the hood, and just in the nick of time. Having been to just about every auto repair shop in the Boise, Nampa and Caldwell areas, they just couldn't settle down. Call them commitment-phobic or difficult-to-please, but they were running low on options and almost had to lower their standards. Boise Foreign Car Service has changed their ways. It's surprising how nice it is to be in a relationship.
4709 Emerald St., 208-345-2621
Best tow truck driver
Steve at Airport Chevron
Some of us around here have not had a good year with vehicles. One BW staffer has had to call AAA so many times, AAA is thinking of putting a special tow-truck driver on retainer just for them. They probably need to trade in all three of their cars for one good one. This is where Airport Chevron comes in. The staffer and her husband love being a member of AAA, but we love Airport Chevron even more. Airport Chevron and Steve are always willing to help. Steve's pulled our little worker bee out of plenty of jams. And he listens to good music.
2828 Airport Way, 208-344-7381
Best Chain Store We'll Love
Where else can you find a Renaissance-inspired trench coat next to over-the-knee socks and a silk kimono dress? A $400 leather hobo bag next to a puffy sleeved, floral-print sheer blouse? We ask you, where?
The big brother of Urban Outfitters (already open in BoDo) announced its impending arrival earlier this year, with plans to open a 9,000-square-foot store on Idaho Street between Eighth and Ninth streets. The location known as the old Mode Building isn't good enough for the uber-hip marketing geniuses at Anthropologie. No, a simple street address isn't edgy enough for the kind of people who own hairless cats. When Anthropologie arrives at the end of the year, the block will be rechristened "Block 44." Don't get it? It's located on the 44th block of the city's grid map. Feel smarter now?
Best Little Corner of Weirdness
Wee Bit O' Scotland
Crammed into the downstairs of a wee white house is truly a wee chunk of a very boisterous culture. Favored by ex-pats and the heritage-proud, the shop gives you a wee bit o' tartan, a wee bit o' music, a wee bit o' jewelry and a wee bit o' food.
Just squeeze your way past the front counter, the kilts and the snacks, and you'll find a respectable tea selection. You might get a funny look if you're not one of the regulars, but don't take it personally, they just want to make sure you appreciate this wee corner of the city.
4501 W. Emerald St., 208-331-5675
best store within walking distance of itself
Lux Fashion Lounge and Lux Vintage
Not merely a store, but rather a fashion lounge, Lux has higher aspirations than providing an outlet to fun fashion. The establishment knows the value of recycling in all its glorious forms, and gives shoppers the opportunity to re-invent just the right look with the spectacular selection of gently used and newest of new hip clothing.
It is nothing short of bliss when the score includes designer jeans, some for less than the cost of a new DVD. They have got name brands for way less cash, as well as unique selections only a true thrifter deserves to sport. Can't find what you are looking for at Lux? Try Lux Vintage down and across the way.
785 W. Idaho St., 208-344-4589; 225 N. 5th St., 208-433-8589
Embroidered Images and Promotions
With a motto that says something like "your name, a million possibilities," they mean it. That BW sticker on your car? They did it. That book of BW matches in your purse? They did it. Last year's Best of Boise window decals you see on businesses all over town? Once again, Embroidered Images. We like to see a BW logo on everything from coffee cups to pencils to temporary tattoos, and no order has yet proved too tall for Tom Thompson and his crew.
1400 Shilo Dr., Nampa, 208-442-2858
Best Store we've Never Been in
Parrots and Stuff
When selling a wide variety of bird-related wares, a store can try to encompass all that in its name, or it can slap on a "and Stuff." This pet store seems like pure fun. If the clerks are busy tending to the birds, the phone greeting kicks in, complete with multiple bird noises in the background.
All squawking aside, a bird lover can find all types of birds at Parrots and Stuff, including macaws, parakeets and parrots. The "stuff" part of the name means premium bulk foods, toys, cages and professional grooming. Boasting "hand-fed babies," the health of the birds appears to be very important from egg to cage. If undeterred by quick-moving fluttering things and believing in the myth that it is good fortune to be pooped on by a bird, do a fly-by and find out what all "and Stuff" is about.
9925 Fairview Ave., 208-344-2801
Best Place to See Your Future
Crone's Cupboard Magick
Do you have a pressing need to hex your neighbor or are you just in dire need of some chakra therapy? There's something so completely fascinating about a shop full of crystals, dragon statues and pendants sporting symbols from every belief system from Zoroastrianism to Buddhism. The selection of pro-Wicca bumper stickers is impressive, but it's the wall of tarot cards that captured our fancy. Who knew there were so many options in divining your future! There's the vampire tarot, the King Arthur tarot, the wolf tarot, the witches tarot, the goddess tarot and even our personal favorite, Lord of the Rings Tarot. The good news is that you don't have to leave your future to twist in the metaphysical winds. There are professionals who can help. Check the store's schedule to find out which tarot card reader, palm reader or other divination specialist may be on hand to help you in a karmic emergency.
712 N. Orchard St., 208-333-0831
Best Hail to the Queen
It's a British Thing
Are you hank marvin? Fancy a cup of rosy? Things looking a bit manky in the kitchen? Well, don't get your knickers in a twist. You can pick up your Weetabix and some clotted cream in downtown Meridian.
We admit we're fascinated by this addition to Meridian: a small little shop right off Main Street in an old farming town, run by someone with a genuine English accent. Who couldn't help but be enthralled? This town is home to Dairy Days, for the love of Pete. You'd have to be daft as brush not to be at least curious. We're over the moon. It's tosh to think otherwise.
910 N. Main St., Meridian, 208-855-5080
Best Place to buy your PVC panties
Feel instantly welcomed by the staff into the safe bosom of sex-store shopping. Sure they may have you sized up right as you saunter in, but they have dealt with seasoned vets as well as curious first-timers. Catering to all different needs, it's easy to spice up reality with the help of an extensive selection of naughty bits and pieces of titillation. Along with lingerie and the standard edible undergarments, the boutique stocks toys, leather, lotions and all the novelty items imaginable to the pleasure-seeker.
5022 W. Fairview Ave., 208-433-1161
Trista at Spa to Go and lisa at DV8
No, we're not talking about our favorite South American. We're referring here to the process of removing unwanted hair from your, um, most private areas. Clearcutting someone's pubic forest—this means front to back and everything in between—requires the utmost gentleness and discretion, and Trista and Lisa are masters of the craft. Though getting a Brazilian has become trendy, there's a little more personal investment than, say, buying an iPhone. You want the person providing the service as committed to the transformation as you are.
Spa to Go, 1112 N. Cole Rd., 208-375-0240; DV8, 1025 W. Main St., 208-342-1003
Best Movin' On Up
Eyes Of The World moves to the Linen District
It's a marriage of two important ingredients in Boise's new wannabe hip neighborhood: The Linen District, that odd little district off Grove Street, and Eyes of the World, the store that has everything your world-traveling, consciousness-raising little self ever dreamed of finding, have finally come together. After rudely getting the boot from its location at the Boise Co-op property (the California landlord wanted more cash, and a different business there), it appears that Eyes of the World has landed on its feet over in the Linen District.
And so everyone (we hope) gets what they need. The Linen District gets a good local fave anchor tenant. The Eyes of the World gets a home that we hope is more permanent. And everyone who fancies the international geegaws, clothing, jewelry and other keepsakes of improbable interest they can't find anywhere else gets to keep their local shop local. Here's to a relocation that should benefit everyone.
804 W. Fort St., 208-331-1212
Best place to get your urban on
Jay's House of Style
One complaint we often hear around Boise is that it takes a long time for certain things to reach us: musical movements, culture and, especially, fashion. Maybe the people doing all the complaining are shopping in the wrong places. At Jay's House of Style in the mall, you can find everything you need for the poppinest kickinest (or whatever the young kids are saying these days) ensemble around. Owner Jay Puentes stocks brands like Famous Stars and Straps (a.k.a. FSAS), G-Unit, Sean John and Akademiks and is a super decent guy as well. If you're a parent and have no clue what to pick up for your hip-hop progeny, stop by Jay's and let them help you keep peace in the family. Maybe you think the clothes the kids are wearing these days are just too much, but remember when you begged your mom for beads and a furry coat like Janis Joplin's? Or a red leather jacket covered in buckles you Michael Jackson wannabe? Or tore the sleeves off your new sweatshirt and danced around the house singing, "Maniac?"
In the Boise Town Square Mall, 350 N. Milwaukee St., 208-378-4400
Best place to buy something for that special someone who has everything except a pork chop car air freshener
Flying M Coffeehouse
Art shows, visual exhibits plus live music all wrapped nice, tight and right in a hip, little coffee shop. The gift shop tucked into one corner offers much more than meat-themed items. Plus, it is the place to go to meet for coffee.
500 W. Idaho St., 208-345-4320
Best place to buy something for that special someone who has everything (even a pork chop car air freshener)
The dragonfly insect is characterized by large, multifaceted eyes. The retail store in downtown Boise could be categorized as the best place to go for stylish clothing, amazing handbags, hysterical kitsch, great soaps, incense and cards.
In need of a dynamite outfit or three? Browsing the endless rows of racks, shoppers will find fabulous fabrics and beautiful dresses for all occasions. The vast selection of jewelry beckons; try it on and feel fine as rain.
414 W. Main St., 208-338-9234
Best place to rent a snake
Owning an older home in Boise means regularly dealing with home improvements, not the least of which is plumbing. Whenever we find a problem that doesn't need a professional (although by the time we're done, it might), we head over to Brown Rental for our weekend worker supplies. They're friendly, prices are very reasonable, and they have everything you need, from a simple snake to some major machinery. If the pipes back up every time you drain the snake, Brown's will help you snake the drain.
Best thing about Downtown Boise becoming a grown-up
All of the new clothing stores
Back in the '80s, when it came time for back-to-school clothes shopping, many of us saved our pennies and begged our moms to drive us to Portland or Salt Lake City. Why? Because apparel shopping in Boise was geared toward young, upwardly-mobile professionals, not us teens trying to express ourselves. We ended up doing most of our shopping in thrift stores long before that was considered cool or retro. Well, we've grown up, and so has Boise. And whether we want to dress like the adults we are or let our inner children pick out our clothes, we have so many more options now we only walk around in garage sale hand-me-downs if we really want to. Sometimes, we really want to.
Best Place To Get A Hummer (Encore)
There's not just one specific auto-seeker demographic that go for them. You see the once-reserved-for-military vehicles rolling all over, being dragged behind RVs, with all types manning the wheels. They've got the big ones, little ones and brightly colored ones. If you've got no time to concern yourself with silly automotive issues like fitting into parking spaces or the price per barrel then Edmark is the place to go. Best Hummer dealership around. They'll get you a Hummer in no time flat. They're in Nampa. Now get your mind out of the gutter.
15700 Idaho Center Blvd., Nampa, 208-466-6000
Best place to do laundry and not worry about getting anything stolen
Scrubby's on Vista
Owning your own washer and dryer (or renting a place with easy access to them) is one of the best things about being a grown-up. Although you may own the giant appliances for years with nary a problem, if they do break, it can ruin your whole day, week or month. While you're saving up the few bucks to get them fixed (or the many bucks to replace them), you may find yourself becoming very familiar with your neighborhood laundromat. If your 'hood happens to be the Bench, spending Saturdays at Scrubby's on Vista isn't such a terrible thing. They have rows of washers and dryers, so there's almost always one available, they're open until 10 p.m. most nights, so you can watch Cops and still get your laundry done and there's always a friendly face behind the front desk. You can throw your whites in the washer, run next door and have a bite to eat at Panda Garden, come back and put stuff in the dryer, start another load, run to Albertsons to pick up toilet paper, come back and know that your clothes are still safely where you left them.
1609 Abbs St., 208-342-7362