[the Goldies: Best of Santa Cruz 1998

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Staff Picks - Goods and Services

[whitespace] Thrifty Cuts

Best Cheap Haircut
Thrifty Cuts on Front Street

At just under $7 dollars, you get a terrific haircut and a taste of old-time barbershop nostalgia. Stepping inside the friendly confines of Thrifty Cuts, I can easily envision Floyd the Barber emerging with a smile to give Opie liberty spikes at any moment. The barbers here are so distinctively old-school that they strive for the perfect cut and succeed on a regular basis. It's pretty neat seeing the photo on the wall of the old-time flattops near the entrance--they all have a sort of Riff Raff ex-groupie look to them. Thrifty Cuts also is the only place I've tried that does a killer job trimming the back of my neck (which resembles Chewbacca on steroids). Plus, the staff is always receptive to new ideas but also isn't afraid to let you know that the Prodigy cut you were thinking of getting is--how do you Americans say it?--stupid.
Matt Koumaras


Best Punk Rock Venue
Frenchy's Cruzin Books & Video

Frenchy's is so monumental, I mention it in 37 percent of my columns (as compared to 7 percent for Camouflage and 2 percent for Bead It). This magical place right off 41st on Portola has it all--Pizza Boy videos, Racquel Darien CD-ROM, fetish magazines, Amish lesbians, etc. And I think there's even a voting booth in the back--how patriotic! Frenchy's is far more crowded at night than any local punk show, so I prefer cruising by during the afternoon--that's where Frenchy's diehards rage. I don't go to church anymore, but it's cool that I still get to see my pastor at Frenchy's every weekend. It's always fun checking out how the patrons try to act inconspicuous (they all wear a brown outfit and keep their head down) and fail to make eye contact with each other. A friend purchased a blow-up doll, the "Party Pal," as a gag gift, but it didn't really live up to its hype---this doll was pretty straight-edge. So when she dragged the Party Pal back to complain, the Frenchy's folks gave her the Fred Savage Love Doll at no additional cost--no questions asked. That's very punk rock in my book.
Matt Koumaras


Best Taste of the Islands
Island Connection in Capitola Village

This is the only taste of the Islands in Santa Cruz, to tell the truth, but the lack of competition doesn't diminish Island Connection's achievement. Should you run out of lauhala placemats, tropical print fabrics, Hawaiian CDs or koa knickknacks (or lose the indispensable Hawaiian dictionary), this tiny store can set you up with replacements from the Islands at genuine Hawaiian prices. Some of the stuff is admittedly touristy, like the lotions and jams (also found in every Longs in Hawaii right next to the cases of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts), but one item at least is all about authenticity: the 55-kilo burlap coffee sack with the word "pakalolo" emblazoned across the top, just over looming letters that spell "Kona Gold" and a picture of a field with seven-leafed plants all growing in a throng. Hmm ... is that the Hawaiian state flower?
Traci Hukill


Shopper's Corner
Best Butcher Shop, Grocery Store and Nieghborhood Market: Shopper's Corner

Most Intriguing Hiring Practices
Shopper's Corner

It's one of those things no one talks about but everybody notices--sort of like green stuff in your teeth or your skirt tucked into your underwear. The big question remains: Just where does the person who does Shopper's Corner's hiring come up with the endless supply of very attractive high school girls he or she staffs? Sure these clerks and stockers are friendly, helpful and very capable, mind you, but coming from a school of Lucky and Safeway employees clad in those ghastly polyester uniforms, Shopper's Corner employees--with their flouncy ponytails, Levi's and clunky shoes--seem like spawn from a completely different grocery-store universe.
Karen Reardanz


Best Lilith Vibe
Paradise Surf Shop

The next best thing to an all-girl break, Paradise Surf is all about chick power. There's a surf buddies board where women hang up notes telling when and where they like to surf, and a bunch of Waterwomen event pamphlets right next to it (Waterwomen contests are open to all gals, even beginners). Paradise has an impressive selection of boards, including some shaped by women--a rarity in the field--and a ripping collection of dresses and bikinis (that's sporty bikinis, not multicolored shoestrings). And Paradise's four owners are working on getting their own brand of boardshorts for real women with real hips. Of course, men are welcome, too--a rack of baggies and guys' shirts sits near the wetsuits--but they have to be OK with the cool girl-power pictures of female surfers and sassy women in the dressing rooms. Altogether, this is a great place to check out, regardless of whether or not you surf or sit down to pee.
Traci Hukill


Best Bod Attached to a Talking Head
Kim Allyn, Public Information Deputy, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department

If the truth be known, reporters would rather eat ground glass than talk to one of the ever-growing breed of PR flacks that are paid to stand between us and the powers that be. Saccharine-sweet until cornered, those spinmeisters can morph into a pitbull at a moment's notice. But. ... We make an exception for Kim Allyn, known as "The Hunk" around the County Building. Six-and-a-half feet of muscle-bound gorgeous, Sheriff Mark Tracy's point guy enters--and wins--body-building contests up the gluts, including a recent Mr. California. Not that it would matter (since we're too busy looking instead of listening), but Allyn is a pretty nice guy, too. Uh, Dominican Hospital--you taking notes?
Kelly Luker


Best Place to Come Clean
Laundraworks II

While we have to admire the chutzpah of local entrepreneurs who have made My Beautiful Launderette a reality here in Surf City, the sad fact is that washing the clothes is never going to move off the list of chores onto the party-plan list. That's why Laundraworks II, in the El Rancho Shopping center near the corner of Portola and 30th, gets a kudo. It's clean (which, ironically, is not always the case with self-service laundries) and there is always an attendant on duty to help with little laundry problems. Detergent is available from an old-fashioned dispenser at the bargain price of three loads for a quarter. There is one nod to wash-time entertainment--the TV works. For more fun, Coffeetopia is across the parking lot and the Castaways bar is next door. But, alas, there will never be a movie made about any of these scenes.
Eric Johnson


Best Place to Get in Touch With
Your Inner Warrior
Trader Joe's on a Saturday Afternoon

One of the best and most inexpensive places to liven up your kitchen pantry, Trader Joe's is the best bet for well-priced capers, sun-dried tomatoes, truffles, even wine. Unfortunately, everyone in Santa Cruz and its three neighboring counties seems to know this fact, and Saturday afternoons bear the brunt of the store's popularity. When you're not maneuvering carts through aisles custom-fitted for dwarves, you're masterminding how to knock down the old ladies and kids in your way in order to grab Joe's last jar of mango chutney. And the lines ... well, let's just say you might want to reconsider those weekend shopping trips.
Karen Reardanz


Best Tai-Chi Practitioners
Noah's Bagels servers

Very. Slow. And. Deliberate. This is the essence of the ancient, meditative exercise that allows each muscle to unfold no faster than a blooming lotus. It is also the essence of the bagel slingers at Noah's--nicknamed "Slow-ah's"--who must not be rushed at the art and the science known as toasting and buttering. Hands down, the kosher bagelry delivers the biggest, chewiest circles this side of Manhattan. But that bialy ends up costing about 90 bucks in a morning's lost wages by the time the inscrutable counterhelp has unbent its wa and served up the goods. Good food? You know it. Fast food? Not in this lifetime.
Kelly Luker


Best Store to Indulge in
Martha Stewart Fantasies
Chefworks

If this downtown Santa Cruz gourmet haven can't pull even the most down-to-earth shopper into tinges of jealousy toward America's most talked-about homemaker, nothing can. With walls covered in cast-iron, condiments and culinary implements of diet destruction, Chefworks is known to make career-obsessed folks long for endless hours in the kitchen armed only with recipes, ingredients and a small TV for international cooking shows. Even the perpetually disorganized begin filling in Martha-inspired "To Do" calendars and devout Marxists confess to repressed bourgeois tendencies after walking through these portals.
Mary Spicuzza


Best Place to Practice Martial Arts
While Shopping
Bargain Barn

Both morning and afternoon, when this bargain hunters' treasure chest prepares to open its warehouse doors, an eager crowd amasses outside. With all the passion of a German audience at a David Hasselhoff concert, these determined thrift artists edge toward the barbed-wire gates. When the bell rings and the doors swing open, the fierce swarm of shoppers rushes towards the piles of clothes, furniture and appliances with reckless abandon and seemingly little respect for the lives of humans--make that competitors. But with skillfully planned roundhouse kicks and low-blocks--used only as self-defense against attackers, of course--the fittest of the survivors can win the best bargains in town. The barn is not for the meek and, unless you're a black-belt, don't bother to go when ill or injured.
Mary Spicuzza


Best Place to Buy Gifts for People
You Want to Impress
Integrand Design

Patching things up with your estranged patrician sister? Brown-nosing the boss on his birthday? Looking to make a good impression on the in-laws? Buy her/him/them a gift at ID and worry no more. The clever buyers at this home-interiors store buy only the most tasteful merchandise, so shoppers' questionable judgment meets only superbly sophisticated choices. In fact, ID is like the Glamour Shots equivalent of gift-giving--it makes everyone look good. Whether you select a sleek-looking picture frame, an artsy candle holder, a minimalist CD rack or a Japanese lantern, the recipient of your largesse will be at least as overwhelmed by your smart taste as by the pleasing, contemporary lines of the gift itself. And, as we all know, that's what gift-giving is all about.
Traci Hukill


Best Magazine Stand
Santa Cruz Public Library, Central Branch

The beauty of cosmopolitan burgs like New York, San Francisco or Chicago is the plethora of newsstands sagging with the weight of every magazine title imaginable. Bookshop Santa Cruz tries, God knows, but the only place to go for wall-to-wall weird, cutting-edge reading material is the free magazine bin at the Central Branch Library. Pick up a Rottweiller Quarterly ("Who's the Top Bitch?") or Gleanings in Bee Culture ("4 Ways to Find Varroa Mites" and "To Bee or Not to Bee!"). For cheap entertainment, match one of those titles with the previous owner. We figure Robert Norse dropped off American Legion: for God and Country while anything titled The New Crisis has the fingerprints of just about any number of troubled district attorneys all over it. Isn't this fun?
Kelly Luker


Best Way to Cure Whatever Ails Ya
Brainwave Treatment Center

Problems with Attention Deficit Disorder? Depression? Poor circulation? Never fear, the devoted folks of the locally based Brainwave Treatment Center are here to help save all from the trouble of the day. That goes for just about any ailment, apparently, from poor memory to problems with violent tendencies. Each month, the group hosts a different workshop determined to surmount these personal hurdles and a whole heap of societal plagues. We can only hope these brain-bending cures stay in the hands of altruistic professionals. Imagine if Jesse Helms got the secret to wave-control in his clutches and began curing creative tendencies in artists, or big-business developers took to numbing the noggins of the City Council--oh, they've already done that?
Mary Spicuzza


Ugly Mug Best Tip Jar
The Ugly Mug

Gifted with an innate understanding of the link between the brain's pleasure center and generosity, the staffers at the Ugly Mug have made it their mission to entertain customers even as they nourish them, thus gently encouraging the good people to loosen their sphincters--I mean purse strings--and tip. Mid-March saw the tip jar graced with a photo of Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein reaching a most pleasant accord: "Anthrax, shmanthrax!" the two big bananas grin. "From this day on, we make coffee!" Espresso technician Brad Wipp dives behind the counter and produces a bag full of past signs, like "You May Tip Us or You May Wear This Splendid Coconut Bikini Top" and "Isn't It Nice to Have Options?" and last year's cheery tax-time offering of "If We Don't Get Your Money, They Will!" Asked if the fancy signs work, Wipp responds, "It's hard to tell. Sometimes they don't say anything and put money in. Sometimes they laugh and just walk away." Well, you gotta give 'em credit for trying.
Traci Hukill


Best Spot to Get Realigned
Another Bike Shop

The helpful, wholesome boys of the Westside's Another Bike Shop provide some of the best service around town. Whether you need a hole patched, a lube job or some brand-new mountain-biking equipment, these smiling guys are there to please. The small, intimate shop on Mission Street is the perfect place for a tuneup--and a little flirting while you wait. Rumor has it some devout fans have taken to slashing their own bike tires to make more frequent shop visits. But please, grrrls, save some maintenance time for the rest of us.
Mary Spicuzza


Best Incomprehensible Phone Greeting
Hollywood Video

What is it about chain stores that manage to add insult to the injury of working for peanuts? There's the certain horror of ending up in one of the festively striped uniforms and Bucky Beaver hats at Hotdog on a Stick. But sometimes making their workers look like dorks is not enough for a mighty megachain. It certainly isn't for Hollywood Video, which not only dresses clerks like organ-grinder monkeys, but forces them to answer the phone with a "Welcome-to-hollywood-video- where-g.i.jane-peacemaker-and- airforce-one-are-guaranteed-to-be-in-stock- this-is-jason-how-may-i-help-you?" We're sure it sounded like a great sales idea to the cheese, but imagine what it sounds like--and feels like to say--after about 50 times each day. Give the poor kids a break, for cryin' out loud, and instead spend that corporate know-how on teaching them something about movies.
Kelly Luker


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From the March 26-April 1, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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