Pastime Ace Hardware 10057 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-526-6615
Like most hardware stores, Pastime Ace Hardware is packed to the rafters with home-improvement essentials: nuts, bolts, pliers, and cleaning products. But where this store really shines, as its name suggests, is in outfitting you for your leisure time, whether your hobby is gardening, birdwatching, or cooking. Camping aficionados will appreciate that here, not only can you find traditional outdoorsy supplies -- tent pegs, say, or a snakebite kit -- but also truly strange items like a tube of rainbow flame crystals that promise to turn your campfire shades of blue and green, or a mosquito head-net to keep the little buggers out of your hair. Barbecue fiends can seek out accessories like the perfect rib rack or sacks of smoking pellets in a variety of flavors. (Jack Daniel's, anyone?) And most magical of all: the aisle full of kitchen gadgets. How did we ever live without the Lemon Faucet or the Magic Orange Peeler, or without a pack of no-stick, no-burn silicone cupcake cups or a tuna press?