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GOODS & SERVICES

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If you can avoid it, why buy contact lenses from your optometrist, who'll probably charge you a huge markup? If you wear disposable contacts, it makes sense to take out a Price Club membership and buy your lenses in bulk. See?

Best Lights Before Christmas
Tour USA Christmas Light Motorcoach Tours
Christmas-light displays in the metro area seem to have been reproducing in recent years. So by the time you can figure your coordinates and get a proper course mapped out, the kids are asleep and that Christmas spirit is suddenly soggy. But don't give up. Tour USA--a family-oriented company that also organizes "Boning Up on Dinosaurs" trips during the summer months--lets you sit back and enjoy the sparkling lights of the city by offering two separate tours, east and west, on fancy buses with wraparound windows. The cost is $15 a head (children's rates available)--Christmas music, stories and candy canes included.

Best Way to Get to the Theater
RTD Light Rail
You've been there: An 8 o'clock curtain and a line of impatient horn-honkers waiting outside the Plex's parking garage. You try circling the block, looking for a vacant space. And then the next block. You fume at a couple sitting in their immobile parked car. You start over. The clock is ticking. The lights are going down--smell of the greasepaint, roar of the crowd. Next time, if you're smart, you'll park your car at I-25 and Broadway and hop aboard another of Denver's many recent claims to urbanity.

Best Place to Pretend You're in Beverly Hills
Wild Oats Market
1111 S. Washington St.

It's got a sushi counter, a pastaria and a pizzeria. It's got a de rigueur coffee bar and a dessert counter stacked with caloric treats. It sells huge Billy's Bagels in flavors as classic as "sesame" and as adventurous as "pesto." The entire produce section is to die for. Meat guy Rodger makes his own sausages but sells several other varieties, along with slabs of Coleman's natural meats and plump free-range cluckers. You can create your own bouquet of blue delphiniums and yellow chrysanthemums at the flower stall. Your child can push his own mini grocery cart. You can take your vitamins. 'Nuff said.

Best Groceries From the Good Old Days
Hi Lo Market
7290 Monaco Blvd., Commerce City

Is it the Fifties yet? At this forgotten corner in Commerce City, it certainly is. The Hi Lo Market is the kind of place where you pile Dixie Cups, Rainbow bread and Ovaltine into your cart while a freckled kid with a cowlick and an apron sweeps up old iceberg-lettuce leaves. Maybe we're hallucinating, but Hi Lo exudes an innocence rarely found in your typical mega-grocery. Don't forget to ask for your Hi Lo trading stamps.

Best Grocery Delivery
King Soopers
For a mere $4.99, King Soopers will have an energetic employee dash through the store and pick up everything you need. You can specify brand-name goods or store brands--and they'll even honor your coupons. If you have time, you can pick up the bagged groceries yourself, but why bother, when the store charges only $5 to deliver them to your door? (The charge is waived for the elderly or disabled.) King's will even drop off a rental video for you--but you have to bring it back yourself.

Best Deli Manager
Edythe Mullins
Capitol Hill Alfalfa's
900 E. 11th Ave.

A veteran of the former FBC Foods at the same location, Edythe Mullins knows all you'd ever need to about cheese, olives, pate and pimiento loaf. She knows what's fresh, what's coming in, when something will go on sale, and where, exactly, the New York lox comes from. Though customers are constantly paging her, Edythe treats every question or special request as a top priority.

Best 16th Street Mall Vendor
Salaam's Fish & Fries
16th and Champa streets

Grease is the word on most fast food. But at this sea-blue cart, bedecked with painted mermaids, the fare is surprisingly free of it. Well, we'd be fibbing if we told you our fingers weren't a little bit shiny after wolfing down Salaam's crispy, cornmeal-encrusted, tender-at-the-center catfish pieces, with spicy fries and a--whoopee!--Tabasco-based hot sauce. But that's just part of the street-food experience. The price is right--fish and golden fries for $3.50. And Salaam, who's been on the mall since December, is as genuine as they come, free and easy with Southern hospitality as he dishes battered fish, shrimp or clams into sturdy paper boats.

Readers' choice: Tristan's hot dogs

Best Huge Live Lobsters
Sir Loin Meat Shoppe
1910 S. Havana St.

Obviously, price is no object, or you wouldn't be reading about huge live lobsters in the first place. So as long as you're splurging, how about a few five-pound behemoths for a half-dozen of your closest friends? They don't get much heftier than two pounds at the supermarket chains, and if you become a faithful Sir Loin customer, you can enter the yearly Christmas raffle--whose winner takes home the biggest lobster the store can find. Last year's weighed in at seventeen pounds. The only place you'll find fresher: Maine.

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