Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Confession: We don't really know much about liquor. We just know we like it. So if you've got a good dinner going on, or a certain drink you'd like to attempt to make, plan on making a trip to Hi-Time. No snooty clerks here—only a friendly, knowledgeable staff await. The sheer size of the place is impressive, with a huge walk-in refrigerator filled with all sorts of delicious beers with funny names you've never heard of, plus aisles and aisles of liquor and wine you have and haven't heard of in your life. A decent cheese, cracker and spread selection is also available, and Hi-Time even hosts private tastings. It's the kind of place you walk into for a bottle of Maker's and walk out with more booze than you'll ever know what to do with. Oh, wait, yes, you will: You'll drink it!
Opened in 1998, Games 4 U was one of the first places in South Orange County to buy and sell pre-owned video games. Now specializing in selling, buying and trading new, used and vintage video games and systems, Games 4 U holds the new distinction of being the place to go for anxious gamers who just can't wait to get their hands on what's new. This year, Wii enthusiasts purchased Super Smash Bros. Brawl four days earlier at Games 4 U than at the local GameStop, Target, or any other major game retailer. While there are no guarantees as to which games may be released early here, the avid fan should know to ask here first.
The walls and floors in this huge vintage showroom are lined with everything you ever saw on The Wonder Years and more. This isn't a cluttered, vintage clothing-only destination. Out of Vogue is where you go when you're looking for Dansk cheese boards (those wooden beauties!), an Evelyn Ackerman tapestry, a functioning TV that reminds you of your grandma, or a rotary dial "Ericophone." It's where fashion, décor and kitchenware blissfully collide to create a time warp like no other. Even if you don't go home with anything, this place is amazing for its sheer volume of vintage museum-quality art, electronics, furniture and, of course, dresses.
If your house craves the warm, rich aesthetics of Mexico, or if it just needs a pop of color and something really cool and unique to hang on the wall, two-story boutique Cantera is there to help. From floor to ceiling, everywhere you look is an explosion of sugar skulls, Frida Kahlo portraits, elaborate mirrors, decorative crosses and candy-colored handmade jewelry. This abode of creativity and originality is also the place to pick up amazing margarita glasses and barware.
Used furniture and clothing can be hip as long as previous owners haven't completely destroyed them and they aren't being sold by a sleazy dude with a comb-over. A good rule of thumb seems to be: If it's in good shape and it's more than 10 years old, label it "vintage" because the term "used" is so very last decade.
Well, nobody around the Greater Long Orange Beach County Area slangs vintage quite like the hipster employees at the Vintage Collective on Fourth Street (a.k.a. retro row) in Long Beach. Their shop is a 4,000-square-foot warehouse of midcentury modern and Eames-era furniture, clothing and appliances. Much like a department store of the '60s would have looked, except this one smells of age (in a good way!). The items are a bit overpriced but not unreasonable—and you'll be surrounded by hipness. The vintage kind, not the used kind.
There are only two reasons to wake up before 8 a.m. on a Sunday: church or bargain hunting. If your aspirations lean toward the latter, try heading to the mecca of all flea markets. It's held on the third Sunday of every month and hosts more than 800 dealers hawking about half a million antiques across a sprawling 20 acres. What makes the Antique and Collectible Market tops is that it mostly deals in furniture, trinkets and books rather than stands upon stands of used clothing. Yawn. If we wanted used clothes, we'd head to the Salvation Army.
Who says no one reads anymore? Don't tell that to Jim Kendrick, who last year opened a newspaper stand in a downtown Santa Ana nook that's literally the space below stairs—there are people fatter than the width of Rags. But this little retail space outperforms the much-larger Barnes & Noble and Borders offerings by focusing on the eclectic: obscure art magazines to please the dwellers of Santa Ana's Artists' Village, Spanish-language tabloids to please the city's Latino-super-majority, gossip glossies, sports and political mags, and quite the porno selection. Rags also carries Ritter Sport, those amazing chocolate bars found locally only at Trader Joe's and German shops, along with other junk food and cigarettes to fuel a night of partying at the next-door Crosby. But best of all, Jim gets the latest issue of Simpsons Comics and its various spin-offs monthly.
Now that Anaheim's legendary Book Baron is closed and Acres of Books in Long Beach is in the death throes of its months-long closing sale, the mantle of the county's best used bookstore falls upon the Bookman empire. The mothership still occupies three units in an Orange strip mall, still devotes a special section to communism, and still has almost all of its massive inventory online and on the bookshelves. A little bit more ramshackle is the smaller Huntington Beach location, which strangely devotes the front of the store to bad local art and whose book selection skews toward the more obscure (old Mickey Mouse comic-book collections, Orange County history pamphlets and a bunch of presidential biographies). However, its website—while better-looking than the original's—doesn't always tell you all the books in the boxes and piles. And it allows you to trade in books for full store credit, unlike those half-only bastards in Orange. Then again, it's the latter place where you can buy a complete, eight-volume, 1840 edition of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for only $97!
Perched on a hill near Fashion Island in Corona del Mar, this isn't just a nursery where you can buy plants and flowers. No exaggeration, it's a 7-acre landscaped park, a place to take a date on a pleasing stroll. It's also a high-end shop where, at Christmastime, you can find the best handmade tree ornaments in Southern California. Of course, each one might cost $75 or $100, but at least the Joneses will be jealous. Don't let the prices wreck your mood, though. This place serves as a fine backdrop for special occasions. On a bench near the palm-tree section, we recently overheard a young man propose to his girlfriend. She said yes; they kissed, hugged and resumed staring fondly at the flowers.
This chain with seven Orange County stores traces its roots back to 1884, when Austrian immigrants Christian and Frank Ganahl moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles and opened the first—and what would become the oldest—lumberyard in California. The business has been passed down to family members ever since; in 1976, the company allowed employees—cashiers, salespeople, mill workers—to become part owners if they desired. Ganahl has a solid reputation among contractors and common folks when it comes to customer service and the variety of lumber and hardware-store items stocked. But each store has something unique, too. All that's missing in Lake Forest are lumberjacks and a river filled with felled timber for it to be a full-blown mill. Displayed in front of the Anaheim store is a huge band saw that was built in 1900 and for 52 years cut Douglas fir at a mill on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. And the Costa Mesa outlet's specialty-item buyer obviously has an eye for the unusual; there are products you'd be hard-pressed to find just about anywhere, let alone your national-chain hardware mega-store. Need a ceramic pug or Yorkie? How about a plastic cardinal to affix to Old Glory? Or a creature of mysterious origin inexplicably decked out in Ye Olde England garb? (My money's on it being the spawn of a jackrabbit and chupacabra.) Costa Mesa's Ganahl is the perfect one-stop spot for a replacement rake, Bing Crosby-style hat and foofy Mother's Day gift.
Your oil light (among others) has flashed for weeks, yet you fear patronizing any mechanic because of too many KNBC-TV Channel 4 exposés. Throw those fears away when visiting South Coast Auto Clinic, where affable owner Sal (like all good auto mechanics, he goes by only his first name 'cause it says it there on his blue work shirt) and his merry band of grease monkeys tell it like it is. We know of one case in which a friend asked Sal for a second opinion regarding an expensive procedure, and Sal said it was necessary but not for a good year—and promised a discount then. Water and soda are on the house, and they provide a free ride within a 5-mile radius. Now, if they could only install some Wi-Fi . . .
Remember the days when you used to buy your gas based on which multinational was least evil? Neither do we. Forget that Arco is owned by British Petroleum and head toward Garden Grove. Not only is this station frequently ranked by websites that follow gas prices as selling the cheapest fuel in Orange County, but it's also next to Los Cotijas, a tiny shack that sells some of the finest fish tacos in Southern California. While your car fills up with $60 worth, run next door and order some tacos to go—to ease the pain. And if you tire of tacos, Tacos Los Amigos next door to that sells the softest barbacoa de borrego (lamb barbecue) outside of Deliverance territory.