Shopping & Services

  • Excel Auto Care

    Best Mechanic

    Excel Auto Care

    Family-owned auto shops are still the way to go in a world of EZ Lube drive-thrus and the Walmart-ification of car work. Adolfo Lopez runs Excel Auto Care in Lake Forest, and his crew can get you in and out pretty quickly, whether you need a new muffler or work on your catalytic converter. His guys—Sergio, Hector and Alex—know their… More >>
  • Best Volkswagen Repair Shop

    Al's VW Repair

    Pound for pound, there are probably more vintage Volkswagens—split-window Kombis and Squarebacks, sleek Kharmann Gias and boxy Things, and Bugs upon Bugs upon Bugs—in Orange County than anywhere in the United States, driven by surf bums and weekend warriors alike. But the damn things break down similar to a subprime loan, so a good mechanic is a must. And while… More >>
  • Best Source for Rare Sneakers


    For sneakerheads, finding a rare pair of kicks is akin to stumbling upon the Hope Diamond. And in OC, there's no greater treasure chest than Attic, a streetwear shop on steroids across from Knott's Berry Farm. Inside the industrial-warehouse-like space, limited-edition and vintage sneakers are displayed on a mechanical conveyor belt for fanboys to salivate over. Gems have ranged from… More >>
  • Best Store to Buy a Car Stereo

    Bristol Sound

    Hipster or hippie, gangster or gamine, everyone wants a hoppin' sound system for their transportation, be it a lowrider, Lexus or Vespa. Bristol Sound, off—you guessed it!—Bristol Street in Santa Ana, can service all of those vehicles, transforming even the lowliest, oldest car into a movable concert. It sells all the great stereo systems; offers more speakers than there are… More >>
  • Best Barber Shop

    Circle City Barbers

    Believe it or not, traditional barber shops have become their own scene in the past few years, with true-school cutters leading a pack of poseurs that has opened shop with all the trinkets of the trend, from rockabilly memorabilia to beer on tap. That's fine, save for the sad fact that the stench of pretension has crept into many of… More >>
  • Best Smoke Shop

    Old Towne Havana

    Because Americans continue to puss out to the Nanny State, public places for smokers to enjoy a puff or two are growing rarer by the day. So head to Old Towne Havana in Orange, where cigar aficionados can still enjoy a smoke without getting the stink-eye. It stocks hundreds of varieties, from $5 cigars to $40 lung darts, as well… More >>
  • Best Place to Play Pool

    Mulligans Sports Bar and Grill

    Remember those places called "pool halls," in the days before higher-end establishments opened and became places to be seen, rather than places to, you know, actually shoot pool? Mulligans Sports Bar and Grill in San Clemente is a throwback to those times, when one could slap down some quarters, drink American beer that didn't have a stupid name on the… More >>
  • Best Liquor Store

    Rod's Liquors

    Old Towne Orange has gotten a little uppity in the past decade or so. Thankfully, Rod's Liquors is holding down the old-school fort, with its semi-circle driveway for convenient parking and a down-to-earth staff that puts up with all manner of bullshit, from drunken homeless people to drunken Chapman girls to hipster dicks who frequent the nearby pubs. With a… More >>
  • Best Trend

    Corporations Embracing Marriage Equality

    This year, Starbucks came out in support of a bill to legalize gay marriage in Washington state. JCPenney put out a Father's Day ad featuring a gay couple playing with its children. Oreo showed its true colors by posting an image of a rainbow cookie on its Facebook page in celebration of LGBT Pride Month. And Facebook added status icons… More >>
  • Best Place to Score Space-Saving Household Items for Your Tiny-Ass Apartment


    If there's one thing that can zap your zen faster than a violin class for preschoolers, it's clutter. The quandary of too much stuff is only magnified when you dwell in a tiny-ass apartment or dorm room. Luckily, the Japanese have perfected space optimization. (That and making really awesome game shows.) Daiso, a pink-walled discount superstore in Irvine's Heritage Plaza,… More >>
  • Best Manicure/Pedicure

    Oh My Nails!

    Plop down on a comfortable seat, take full advantage of the remote-controlled massage chair you're in, revel in a spa manicure and pedicure, and don't feel guilty because this salon's prices are reasonable and well-worth it. Forgot to bring your own nail polish? Don't fret; there's a wide palette of colors to choose from. The staff is friendly, with everyone… More >>
  • Best Laser Hair Removal

    Laser Away

    Underneath the multimillion-dollar media frenzy of a wedding ceremony that ended up in a divorce seconds later, surely Kim Kardashian can make good decisions, right? Well, she did when she went to Laser Away to undergo hair-removal treatment. Bravo, Kim! Laser Away's professionalism, flexibility, care and stunning results have earned it the title of best shop to rid your body/face… More >>
  • Best Shop for Brides-to-Be

    Mariposa Boutique

    The hunt for the perfect wedding dress usually boils down to three words—expensive, tedious, stressful. Not the case at Mariposa Boutique, an Anaheim bridal shop stuffed with designer gowns, bridesmaids' dresses, wedding jewelry, shoes and veils. Unlike its competitors, the staff at Mariposa isn't a pushy bunch trying to convince you the dress you like will be gone if you… More >>
  • Best Place for Hippie New Moms

    Belly Sprout

    If there's anything that can set off a bout of morning sickness, it's stepping into the dizzying maze that is Babies 'R' Us, where you're forced to choose among 15 types of butt wipes, all available in bulk. Luckily, there's a refuge. Belly Sprout, a bright, airy boutique nestled in downtown Santa Ana, is where new mamas and mamas-to-be can… More >>
  • Best Used-Book Store


    What more can be said of a store that has won this category so many times we've lost count? There's a reason Bookman wins again and again, and it's not because a friend once scored a complete set of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from the 1880s for $90. Sure, it was all beat-up, but still.… More >>
  • Best Saved Bookstore

    Libreria Martinez de Chapman University

    The place needs little introduction to these parts, but here's a brief recap for the hell of it: run by barber-turned-MacArthur Genius Grant winner Reuben Martinez, host to almost every major Latino author of the past 25 years, and one of the last remaining independent bookstores in Orange County, period. But due to the ravages of the book industry, Libreria… More >>
  • Orange County Label Co.

    Best Place to Get Labels Made

    Orange County Label Co.

    In this DIY age, with everyone turning to Etsy or craft fairs to earn a few more bucks, vendors can no longer depend on going to Staples and feeding paper with label stickers one by one into a printer. Enter Orange County Label Co. Not only does it do the job cheaply, well and fast, but it does it with… More >>
  • Best Used-Camera Store

    The Used Camera Store

    The instant gratification that comes with owning a digital camera is great. But for hardcore fans of the process, digital doesn't compare to the joy of painstakingly crafting an image with vintage tools. Film requires patience, but the results can be more rewarding. The Used Camera Store in Costa Mesa features an impressive inventory of old-timey gear, plus some nifty… More >>
  • Best Hardware Store

    Harbor Freight Tools

    Whenever a business advertises its opening year, it's usually a good sign. Harbor Freight Tools has been selling to your granddaddy since 1977. The company began as a mail-order catalog and has since grown into a significant hardware retailer, with stores all over the U.S. Yet it's not this charming attainment of the good ol' American dream that makes Harbor… More >>
  • St. James Tattooery

    Best Tattoo Parlor

    St. James Tattooery

    (This is a play on an intro to the Twilight Zone because this tattoo parlor's logo and décor are inspired by the legendary show. The owner has a giant Rod Serling tattoo on his arm—as well as a couple of scenes from the show. And . . . action!) There is a local tattooery beyond that which is known to… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Pierced

    Monkeys to Go

    Deciding to allow someone to stick you with a 16-gauge needle shouldn't be taken lightly. Whenever possible, go with a pro. The fine folks at Monkeys to Go know what they're doing. Whether you're a hipster showing more steel than flesh, or a teenage girl getting her first belly-button ring, the friendly staff here will handle you with knowledge and… More >>
  • Best Place for Jewelry If You're Obsessed With Your Name


    The requests are splashed all over its Facebook page: "Do you have C?" "OMG, I need M!" "I want one for my BFF Lily!" It may be a tad narcissistic, but girls everywhere are obsessed with wearing their names. (We still blame Sex and the City.) The best place for totally cute, non-tacky, personalized jewelry is Laurenly, a clothing boutique… More >>
  • Best Salon

    Salon Boucle

    It's very hard to find customer service in salons these days because people judge you simply by your appearance—but that's not the case at this gem. Not only are the staff members people you want to chat with and the selection of haircuts, colors and styles as varied as Anaheim's demographics, but the location is roomy, nicely ventilated and situated… More >>
  • Best Bike Shop

    Epic Ride Shop

    Max Vu was already pulling sick tricks (which you can watch on YouTube) at the local skate park at 6, an age at which many kids are still riding bikes with cartoon characters on the seat. Problem is, such bikes aren't built with the durability or performance for a youngster of Max's talent. So Max's dad, Phu—who owns Epic Ride… More >>
  • Best Video Game Store


    The folks at Gameplay can be quiet, sometimes awkward. But they are knowledgeable and sincere, just like the stereotypical gamers they are. Cutting the music from the PA system is the artificial drone of racing-kart engines supplied by the store's still-operational Nintendo 64. Side-by-side with near-retail-priced new releases and the traditional used DVDs are cases of Gameplay's older wares and… More >>
  • Best Way to Get a Pet

    Orange County Animal Care Shelter

    It's a no-brainer: Little dog. Big eyes. Abandoned by its owner. Looking for a home. You have a home. You have a heart. It's a no-brainer.… More >>
  • Best Mall

    Westminster Mall

    Type "Westminster Mall" and "ghetto" into Google, and hits come back describing the enclosed, two-level place as such—but "ghetto" like The Wire, not the ghetto fabulousness of Sly Stone, Gil-Scott Heron or Oscar Gamble and the greatest 'fro e-vah. Westminster Mall has a Fanzz and an eBuy-Gold and a Charley's Steakery and an As Seen on TV and a LoveD… More >>
  • Best Record Store

    Burger Records

    Three years ago, the idea of opening a record store in our shitty economy, let alone a store that only sold vinyl and cassettes, seemed like a bankruptcy waiting to happen. But even record-industry skeptics can take heart that Burger Records' scrappy DIY ethos translated into a bona fide force in the local music scene. Sure, the Fullerton store—and subsequent… More >>
  • Best Costume Shop

    Wicked Chamber

    True story: About 15 years ago, for a Human Sexuality class at Orange Coast College during summer school, a Reubenesque woman who would've been a homesteading mail-order Swedish bride in a previous era came in to talk about bondage and costume play. She shocked the student body that day with her frank talk about role-playing, corsets, nipple clamps and other… More >>
  • Best Surf Shop

    The Frog House Surf Shop

    Walking into the Frog House, you're met with an olfactory assault of wax, wetsuit and fiberglass while tripping over a leash as some towhead grom is putting fins on in the middle of the aisle. It looks as though a surf-obsessed fifth-grader decorated (or defaced )the shop with pictures of surfing and odd combos of broken fins, taxidermied sharks, a… More >>
  • Best Collective

    The American Collective

    As with a lot of storefront dispensaries in Orange County, the American Collective (voted 2011's Best Dispensary-Central OC) found itself on the wrong side of the Obama administration's crackdown on California's medical marijuana earlier this year. On Jan. 17, the DEA raided a trio of Costa Mesa cannabis collectives, including this one, and arrested several people, none of whom ended… More >>
  • Best Marijuana Dispensary

    Dispensary Store - CLOSED

    Two words sum up why Santa Ana's Dispensary Store is Orange County's best cannabis club: vending machine. The machine itself was created locally in Aliso Viejo, by the pot-friendly geniuses at Dispense Labs, but to use it, you have to join the Dispensary Store, which, for the time being at least, is as easy and instantaneous as getting a $20… More >>
  • Best Nursery

    Laguna Hills Nursery

    The Matsuoka family is legendary in South County for not only a thumb so green it's emerald, as well as for its inspiring story—Gary is a second-generation grower whose father, George, was one of many patriotic Japanese-Americans who served in World War—but also for its commitment to excellence. The Great Recession robbed the Matsuokas of their Lake Forest nursery after… More >>
  • Best Vintage Store

    Elsewhere Vintage

    As Old Towne Orange has slowly transformed into a dining and hipster mecca, the area's legendary vintage shops have slowly closed, one by one, so why on Earth would Elsewhere Vintage open up in that environment? It has only been around a couple of years, but it has stayed viable, even necessary, with a carefully curated collection specializing in the… More >>
  • Best Antique Shop

    Country Roads Antiques & Gardens

    Country Roads is in the traditional style of the old-school Old Towne Orange antique shops—sprawling, haphazard, with the average customer long past Leisure World's minimum age limit. But it's in this sprawl you find treasure after treasure, from the small (rare figurines from the Civil War era) to the humongous (tables, armoirs, ironworks—about the only things not here are cars).… More >>
  • Best Thrift Shop

    Segundo Angel Thrift Store

    This tiny shop is about the size of a front lawn—this description isn't a simile, but rather the literal truth, as the building it occupies was once the front lawn of the crumbling house that now stands behind it. Its ethos is very much of the yard-sale mentality, with rock-bottom prices and incredible finds among a sea of so-so items.… More >>
  • Best Spa

    Imperial Health Spa

    Korean women. Scrubbing every inch of you as though you're a block of wood needing a whittling. While you're naked. While they're in a bra and panties. And the only happy ending offered is the glow on your skin after subjecting yourself to scrub-downs and massages that could revive the dead. With steam rooms of every temperature for you to… More >>
  • Best Health-Food Store

    The Water Brewery

    You know a place is serious about health benefits when it boasts its alkaline water on tap as "triple vortexed and double resonance vortexed," but the Water Brewery isn't a quackery store. In a county dominated by Mother's Market and Whole Foods, this Costa Mesa spot has asserted itself with a small but vibrant collection of health products, from toothpastes… More >>
  • Best Comic-Book Store

    Trinity Comics

    This Fountain Valley shop not only stocks the newest comics and has a massive backlog of the old, not only hosts people who want to play games of all die and boards, and not only does it with a smile and great recommendations, but it also has a lively, frequently updated blog on which it discusses and reviews the latest… More >>
  • Best Full-Service Photo Lab

    Fullerton Photographics

    Whether you're Ansel Adams wanting to display your work in a gallery, or just a hobbyist trying to put a family photo on a piece of canvas, Fullerton Photographics has an arsenal of options for every species of shutterbug. Gabrielle Mullinax took over the business from longtime owner Chris Beard in the late 1990s and brought it into the digital… More >>