Phoenicia Specialty Foods
Don't be put off by the sign outside that reads "wholesale" -- if you've got cash, they've got the merchandise. While they specialize in Middle Eastern ingredients, they also have many Western and Eastern European specialties. Here you'll find bulk bulgur at 59 cents per pound; all kinds of dried and canned beans and lentils; many different kinds of teas, coffees and spices; a half-dozen different kinds of feta cheese starting at $1.59 per pound; fresh dates as low as $1.99 per pound; and dozens of different kinds of olives starting at $1.50 per pound. Here, you'll also find various kitchen tools and implements as well as elaborate narghiles and hookahs, the glass and brass smoking pipes that are prevalent in the Middle East, along with many different kinds of tobacco.
Fans of the movie Chicken Run may wonder if the birds at Tai Hung are hatching fantastic escape schemes along with eggs. They're everywhere, these hapless birds -- clucking inside coops, strutting on the grass, fleeing wild-eyed children. The frowsy white hens and proud orange roosters spend most of their time in their pens pecking at feed. Ducks abound, relishing the occasional rain shower. Only the quails and spectacular pheasants, crammed into small cages, seem listless. Young chickens sell for $1.39 a pound. "You taste one and you can tell the difference from a supermarket," says Cathy Van Tai, Tai Hung's owner.

Art Supply on Main
Two years ago, after 40 years at Richmond and Montrose, Ben Russell and Vikki Trammell moved Art Supply to a two-story commercial space in Midtown. Respected as nurturers of the local art scene as well as the preferred source for top-grade fine-arts supplies, the couple remodeled the upstairs of 2711 Main into 22 studios and seven loft apartments for artists, writers and musicians. As it happened, all but three of the units are leased to painters and sculptors, who have an artist-friendly place to live and work, as well as the opportunity to show and sell their creations at open houses sponsored by Russell and Trammell twice a year. (The next one is scheduled for November 25 and 26.) Meanwhile, downstairs, in a large gritty, no-frills room that smells of sawdust, Art Supply continues to buck the trend in art supply stores by catering its inventory to the serious artist only. Unlike the chain stores, Art Supply doesn't stock arts-and-crafts materials. Nor does it employ minimum-wage slaves who know nothing about art or art supplies. Art Supply is staffed by working artists who know what they're selling because, more than likely, they've used it themselves.

Note that this category is called Best Place by Buy Doughnuts, not Best Doughnuts. If we were picking the best doughnuts, we would have to give the nod to Krispy Kreme again. But our favorite place to buy doughnuts is Shipway Donuts, at Telephone Road near the South Loop, a tiny, poorly air-conditioned doughnut shop/loncheria that stands head and shoulders above Krispy Kreme as a total culinary experience. Why? Well, first of all, Shipway Donuts also sells egg-and-chorizo breakfast tacos. We don't know about you, but we like an egg taco appetizer before we dig into the doughnuts. And the egg tacos at Shipway come with homemade hot sauce on the side. (Ever seen any hot sauce at Krispy Kreme?) Second, Shipway has better horchata. Oops, we forgot, Krispy Kreme doesn't sell horchata. Last, and probably most important, on Friday and Saturday Shipway sells fresh homemade tamales. We got a dozen chicken tamales and sampled a couple after the egg-and-chorizo taco with a little of that homemade hot sauce. The tamales were spicy and melt-in-your-mouth creamy, with lots of chicken in each one. After the tacos and tamales, you might not have much room for doughnuts, but the doughnuts here are only average, so who cares?
So you want to watch a good movie on your VCR, but your mind is a blank as to what to pick? Just tell St. Clair what you're in the mood for, and he'll rattle off a half-dozen or so suggestions. If that's not enough, he'll come up with more. St. Clair never fails to help us find something unusual and entertaining, and often it's something we've never heard of before. Why does he do it? Says St. Clair, "You work eight hours, you might as well help someone." Cactus rents videos for a buck a day, so long as you're not looking for a new release. And if you happen to stroll in on a Monday, it's two for the price of one.
Stop rummaging through the local comic-book stores in town looking for that rare orange-carded TIE Fighter Pilot with the "Warning!" sticker on the box. When a store catering to obsessive SF fans (which means sci-fi, for the uninitiated [which stands for science fiction, for the very uninitiated]) is locked away in an antique market, chances are that even the most die-hard toy collectors haven't stumbled into this hidden geek heaven. Many of the major toy store chains have become so annoyed with Kenner's distribution tactics that they won't even carry the new figures anymore, so Jams Collectibles soon may be the only place around to find the newest stock, in addition to the obscure variations and priceless factory screwups. Culled mostly from John Giogaia's own private collection, even the rarest of Star Wars action figures can be found beside Spawn figurines, Hot Wheels and other collectibles, and for a reasonable price. This store is run for love alone, so you can wander in only on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., when the guys in charge are off work.
Tucked behind a service station between Montrose and the Museum District, Carriage Car Care must be the car wash of choice for the SUV-driving crowd. On a recent Saturday, no fewer than a half-dozen urban war wagons were either lined up waiting for the Carriage crew's treatment or basking in the afterglow of a soft-glove hand wash, waiting to be picked up by their owners. The finished vehicles were positively gleaming. Carriage's basic hand wash is $23 and includes a thorough going-over on the inside. The wash and wax is $49. The truly decadent will find the deluxe detailing package, at $145, a satisfying indulgence that includes the repair and painting of minor dents and dings. Carriage also will tend to larger dents, creased bumpers and cracked windshields. The crew is quick, courteous and attentive; and though it may seem like a minor amenity, the waiting room is a surprisingly pleasant place to kill a half hour while your car is being pampered.

Mister Car Wash

Like dead fish, the ties hang unhappily, wrapped in cellophane, suffocated. They look for a way out; they yearn to be bought. Every now and again, a Jerry Garcia tie -- harmless as a watercolor painting -- leaves the store. Otherwise, the ties remain. Perhaps because they're just too darn boring. Looking for some crazy paisley dangling from your neck? For an overwhelming multitude of colors and shapes traversing the ever-so-narrow canvas that is a tie? For western-themed ones with depictions of ropes and bandannas scattered in unbecoming patterns? Everyone has taste. Tie Rack just has questionable taste.
The giant Big Boy in the window beckons, "Hello, remember me?" So you open the door and cross the threshold from modern-day Montrose into a bewilderment of decades. Old gas pumps with bulbous signs stand across the room from heavy rotary-dial phones and coin-operated diner jukebox connectors. Art deco chairs, shaped roundly like the bottom half of plastic Easter eggs, pair up in front of reproductions of balloon-shaped 1950s Predicta TVs. Barber chairs, movie drive-in speakers, lamps that resemble Sputnik, and polished toasters from the '30s rotate through the showroom, all of them in working order. Flashback Fun-tiques is a store for people searching for something, anything, made with Bakelite. It's a place for people who find old appliances beautiful, and for people who admire the heft and solid feel of the good old days. But old stuff in good shape is hard to come by. Owner Bill Howard scours the country's antique shows for all things cool from the past. If something trips a memory, he wants it in his shop. Especially popular are restored soda machines. Once, a customer wanted a Pepsi machine, even though Pepsi wasn't around back then. No problem. Howard found a way to weld a Pepsi sign in place of the Coca-Cola logo. The swap appeared seamless.
That's right. Point Five no longer has a monopoly on the '50s furniture market. Jerry Gibson's new shop has all the modern classics, too: chairs by Eames and Bertoia, an Eero Saarinen table, a Paul McCobb desk, a Herman Miller sofa, a Frank Lloyd Wright rug, each accompanied by a card explaining to the uninitiated exactly what they are looking at, and how much it will cost them to take it home. Of course, not all of the pieces are particularly well pedigreed, and that's a good thing. At Metro Modern, you might find interesting work by an obscure designer that you can actually afford.

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