Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Valu The most oft-used phrase inside these four walls must be "They don't know what they have." If they did, they'd be certified eBay millionaires. Think you're too cool for a stinking pawnshop? Maybe a drill, a gun, an obsolete stereo and a copy of Predator 2 on Beta aren't on your current wish list, but Valu at Washington and Durham goes one step beyond in the junky musical-instrument department. Sure, they stock pawnshop standard Ovation acoustics, but you might get lucky and find a severely underpriced, American-made Fender Strat too -- in working condition! Such finds are what make pawnshopping fun in the first place. And this Valu has more quality surprises than ten other pawnshops combined.
McGowen Cleaners Young professionals in the know swear by this particular dry cleaner, which is nestled in the Montrose area just west of Dunlavy. And it's not because McGowen offers any gimmicks or a particularly sexy product; it's simply good at cleaning, dryly. One customer swears they can get out any stain. Another notes that they've never once broken a button -- which, alas, is more than we can say about some of their competitors. It's also endlessly reliable: If you give McGowen your clothes, you'll get them back, clean and on time. And isn't that the point?
Heights Floral Shop Established in 1935, Heights Floral Shop is one of the oldest florists in Houston. Age doesn't always indicate excellence (just ask any Hollywood agent), but this family-owned and -operated flower joint is thriving more vibrantly than ever. Take this summer, for example. While many florists reduce their employees' hours during the balmy months, this cozy old house on 20th has its crew working as much as ever. "We do a lot of funerals," says in-house designer Jimmy Castillo. Their beautiful fresh arrangements, Tuscan pottery and lush houseplants not only comfort the bereaved and give hope to the ill in Heights Hospital across the street, but they also give brides that special blush and beautify family celebrations. And through it all, the folks at Heights Floral Shop remain approachable and modest.
Spectacles on Montrose Like the librarian type? Then pop out those contact lenses, man. LASIK is vanity, but eyewear is fashion, and the folks at this friendly boutique can fix you up with the sexiest specs in town. Spectacles on Montrose offers a sprawling variety of über-chic styles, and owners Evan Mape and Corey Theige make choosing a pair a blast. Need an eye exam? No problem. Step in the back, and Dr. Mape will give your peepers a once-over. Unlike other doctors, he'll let you play with that monstrous mechanical eye machine, and he'll even allow you to peer into your sweetie's cornea. You'll never look into that pair of eyes in the same way.
Central Market At Howard E. Butt's megamart, Central Market, there are enough varieties of coffee beans to make Starbucks and Juan Valdez very jealous. The coffee buyers at Houston's gourmet paradise scour the globe to bring you the finest in roasted bulk beans. Blends from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Ethiopia sit alongside beans from Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico. On each coffee name placard you'll find a helpful description of its flavor. The San Fran blend, for instance, is great for those seeking "good acidity and a spicy lingering aftertaste." Looking for a cup with a fruity aroma and smoky finish? That'd be the mustang blend. And if International Delight creamers aren't cutting it for you, Central Market offers a healthy stock of flavored beans (tiramisu, coconut cream and Texas pecan). Grinders are provided on site, so you can bust up your beans in the traditional style or pulverize them into dust for your French press. If you just don't know where to start, there are samples available and coffee experts on staff.
Takeout Taxi For those times when getting dressed to go out takes too much effort and yet you're tired of zapping your food, you may think your only option is Domino's or Chinese. But you don't have to settle for oversalty kung pao chicken or limp pizza ever again, since the good folks at Takeout Taxi are willing to do all the legwork for you. For a $4.99 delivery fee, Takeout Taxi delivers dishes from more than 100 different restaurants. There's a $15 minimum, but that's not bad, considering you can get Otto's rib plates, Mama Ninfa's carnitas or La Strada's Angus steak salad delivered right to your door.