Best Of :: Shopping & Services
This perennial favorite continues its stranglehold on this category for two simple reasons: They stock things you can't get anywhere else in town, and the staffers know their shit. Whether it's a Houston or regional title, import, long-lost record your granddad had, or an obscure EP by Death Cab for Cutie, you can find it at Cactus. If not, they'll order it for you. The store has also started a "Build a Better Music Library" sale that encourages patrons to check out original classic albums on CD rather than buying greatest-hits compilations. And though toys, shirts, videos and knickknacks take up a good chunk of floor space, Cactus still has the widest and most eclectic selection of music anywhere in Houston. Its LP and vinyl business has increased over the past year. Time to reorder those fuzzy black record dusters.
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