Best Bookstore for Browsing: In a city not known for its bookstore selection, Joseph-Beth Booksellers (2705 E. Carson St., SouthSide Works, 412/381-3600, www.josephbeth.com ) is a literal godsend. It’s also bigger in square footage than the biggest of chains, which means more room for readings, obscure magazines, and just about everything else.
Best Place to Find Rare Grooves: There’s a perfectly good reason why serious crate-diggers show up at 720 Records (5943 Penn Ave., 412/661-7330, www.720records.com ) in droves: Not only does the shop offer bins of downtempo, rare groove, classic hip-hop, and battle records — they also push magazines, T-shirts, DVDs, deejay accessories, and more.
Best Place to Try on Things You Can’t Afford: Emphatics (1 Oxford Centre, 412/471-4773, Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.) carries the latest couture and ready-to-wear lines from Stella McCartney, Prada, and more. And although you probably won’t find anything under $400, the staff treats every last customer like a queen (or king), making this shop the city’s ultimate fantasy boutique.
> Easiest Place to Find a Betsey Johnson Dress on Sale: Although it’s one of the smallest boutiques in Shadyside, MaxAlto (5426 Walnut St., 412/683-0508, www.maxaltofashion.com ) still manages to somehow be one of the most eclectic and funky. Prices are standard, yet thankfully, so are sales.
Best Men’s Clothing Store: Charles Spiegel for Men: The Garage (5841 Forbes Ave., 412/421-9311, www.charlesspiegel.com ) carries more stylish and European brands for men than you’re likely to find anywhere else in town.
Best Gift Shop: A cross between a novelty store, a gag shop, and a classy gift boutique, Kards Unlimited (5522 Walnut St., 412/622-0500, http://kardsunlimited.com , Mon.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m.) is a perfect one-stop shop when you need to pick up a present for Grandma, your kid brother, or, of course, yourself.
Best Place to Pamper Yourself Silly: Although its services are considerably high-end and upscale, the pros at Sewickley Spa (337 Beaver St., 412/741-4240, www.sewickleyspa.com ) are known for always making their guests feel 100 percent comfortable. First-timers unfamiliar with the routine can expect VIP treatment.
Best Outdoor Shopping Center: Home to a wide diversity of big chains, little boutiques, and everything in between, SouthSide Works (445 S. 27th St., 412/481-8800, www.southsideworks.com ) has something for everyone.
Best Place to Score an Eames Chair for Cheap: Thriftique (7400 Church St., Swissvale, 412/271-0544, call for store hours) stocks modern furniture worth thousands of dollars for mere hundreds. You know Taschen’s 1000 Chairs book? This is where those pieces sometimes live.