Monroe St. in Madison (South of Regent) continues to put a smile on my face every week or so.
When I first moved here, I was just out of school with very little money and even fewer kitchen tools. I think I had one knife that you could actually use to cut something harder than butter (not including the Swiss Army Knife, of course).
Having found an over-large but under-loved appartment on the North side of the Isthmus a week earlier, I decided that what I really needed was a potato peeler. I don't remember why, but I recall wanting a good one. These are the kinds of decisions you fret about when you've been using your parents hand-me-down flatware for 2 years and your first "real" paycheck is on the way. Anyway, someone at work (Josh?) told me one evening that there was a shop that carried really nice stuff somewhere down by the University and that if I liked to cook at all, I should really check it out. Some scribbled directions and a small prayer that they were still open later, I was off. Without too much trouble, I found Orange Tree Imports and a really nifty little block or two that keeps reminding me that this town isn't a backwater.
More recently I've discovered that Monroe St. is home to my favorite tennis store and a really neat little deli that makes a mean corned beef sandwich. Tomorrow I'm going to take a painting that my sister made to be framed at a little shop a couple of doors down from the deli. I didn't even know it was there until I walked by it today. Then there's the wine shop and the coffee shop. They're all little places; moderately traveled in a very Madison-ish neighborhood but togeather they give you some vague feeling of what living in a real neighborhood (not the manufactured 'burb or New Urbanist kind) must be like. Until then, I guess I'll just visit for lunch once or twice a week and take my raquets in to be strung by a small guy with a thick Sweedish accent.
And if you're ever looking for a peeler, Zyliss makes one so good that you'll forget you're doing prep work. Incidentially, I know this little place where you can get one...