Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Anybody with a soul will argue that too many Inner Loop bungalows have been bulldozed to make room for that architectural atrocity of the 21st century, the McMansion. But like it or not, builders will keep at it as long as our fair city keeps growing. At least the folks at Benssons Builders are trying to construct something lovely from their Hardi-Plank dreams. A real mom-and-pop operation, the business is owned and operated by Steve and Lynda Anderson, along with British designer Sarah-Jayne Smith. They have been constructing sensibly sized, affordable "cottage homes" in the Heights for a few years now. They feature all the typical amenities, including granite countertops, hardwood floors and postage-stamp yards. And the charming exteriors have the tincture of a sweet home in, say, San Francisco or Boston. Best of all, Benssons stand by their homes. They seem to like nothing better than making their clients feel right at home.
With the Houston 420 chain taking over this town, we searched far and wide for a head shop with quality selection, good prices and a friendly staff. (And we'll let you draw your own conclusions from that statement, thank you very much.) We found what we were looking for out on 1960, which isn't so surprising, really, when you consider how much smoke suburban kids toke. Rock 'N Roll It has just about everything a smoker needs: pipes, bongs, papers, vaporizers, dugouts, scales and clips. It's also got its fair share of extras, like beads, posters, stickers and T-shirts. But what we can't get enough of is the store's selection of inexpensive blown glass. All glass pipes break sooner or later, no matter how careful you are or how sturdy they're made, so you might as well buy yourself a cheap piece and puff away without worry. After all, that's what smoking's supposed to be all about. Smoke N' Toke, RIP.
Reader's choice: Bizarre Bazaar
Practically a living legend in the world of tattoos and piercing, Tiger John is a big enough authority to have spoken at the Houston Public Library on the history of tattoos and related health issues. Rather than opting for cookie-cutter stencil work like so many "artists" out there, Tiger John makes one-of-a-kind designs that exhibit the work of a true artist. His eye for detail is astonishing, especially when we look at his flash of Celtic images, intricate patterns composed of endless interwoven knots. Asian images are shaped and poised in just the right way to accent and compliment the contours of your body (a skill that is an art form within an art, really). His work might cost a bit more than some random joint in a strip mall, but it's folly to bargain-shop for something that will adorn your body even after death.
Wines, ports, lighters, pipes, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, and don't forget the cigars. The folks at this convenient boutique in Rice Village don't just work here. Ask them a question, any question, and they'll fill you in on the details. What corona will best complement a Fonseca Bin 27 Porto? Which blend has the fullest body but with hints of vanilla? Are there lighters designed specifically for pipes? What humidors are available to the light smoker on a budget? These people delight in the challenge of a good query. And when you're out of questions, they'll gladly snip the tip of your stogie for you, so it's ready when you are.
Have you seen Comfort & Joy, the offbeat comedy about a popular Scottish DJ who goes through an identity crisis after his shoplifting girlfriend leaves him during the holidays and he gets stuck in the middle of a feud between two rival ice cream magnates? If you haven't, you're not alone. The movie has been out of circulation on video for years, and the chances of it hitting DVD in the States are close to nil. Thank God there's a VHS copy waiting to be checked out at this Audio Video Plus location, otherwise known as the city's video vault. Whether it's uber-obscure flicks, Russ Meyer's T&A classics or HBO stand-up specials that were released during the '80s, it's available at Audio Video Plus, which reportedly has more than 60,000 titles backlogged and ready for rental. This is truly the spot in town where VHS tapes go when they die.
Reader's choice: Blockbuster Video
We know it's hot in Space City. For much of the year, venturing out on the streets is no fun because, frankly, the streets aren't air-conditioned. Some days, it's a shame we have to be outdoors for any reason, and this is especially true when we have to run mundane errands like picking up the dry cleaning. Dry Clean Super Store at the corner of 11th and Shepherd has the answer: a drive-thru. The service is quick and friendly, and they also turn out superclean and fresh clothing. You can pay when you drop off, to make the pickup even faster. And the best part is, you'll never have to leave your car.
Readers' choice: Pilgrim Cleaners