Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Whether you're looking for a unique libation only rarely heard of in these parts, or are only after a standard excellent bottle of something red, Spec's Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods, located just outside of downtown Houston, is the best place to go. But be prepared; you'll be walking into an absolute wonderland of booze when you enter the store. The downtown Spec's is the mothership of all the satellite stores in Houston, and as such it has just about anything you can think of on its shelves. Plus, you can always wind your way over to the grocery and deli section if you want a little something to nibble on while you enjoy your alcoholic beverage of choice. And if for some reason you don't quite know what you want, or are simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of options arrayed on aisle after aisle, the super-helpful and extremely knowledgeable Spec's employees have you covered.
Arne's Warehouse has been Houston's source for costumes for all occasions for more than 60 years now, and so far there haven't been any signs that will change anytime soon. Whether you just need to come up with a costume that's more creative than a sheet-over-the-head ghost, or are looking for the perfect Elvis wig to top off your own zombie-Elvis creation, Arne's has you covered. And if you can't find what you're looking for after wandering the lengthy aisles — all marked with signs to indicate what holiday section you're in — don't worry, because the employees at Arne's seem to have an almost clairvoyant knowledge of what's in the store and where it's located.
Nominally a record store, but nearly a Narnia for lovers of music and devotees to the slightly faded utopian notion of a counterculture, Vinal Edge fits into the landscape of things somewhere between a public literacy program and a Borgesian labyrinth of endlessly forking paths. When it comes to the more adventurous forms of music, if Vinal Edge doesn't have it, or doesn't hurry to acquire it, you probably don't need it. Head vinal-ist Chuck Roast first alighted in these parts in the mid-'80s, landing in the then-bland north Houston suburbs like a noisy Mary Poppins, with mischief in mind and an overflowing carpetbag of freaky notions. He's since moved his base nearer to town, carrying on the good work of edifying feral children and rehabilitating wayward adults.
A new arrival on the Houston drinking scene, Vinology, a wine bar and tasting room in West University, is a must-try for true oenophiles. (That is, for people who really, really like wine.) Although the shop opened less than a year ago, it brings the expertise of Patrick McCray and Thomas Moësse, the chef and the wine director, respectively, of casual-Italian mainstay Divino in Montrose. Moësse told the Houston Press in December he wants to make Vinology one of Houston's premier destinations for French wines. In any case, with regular tastings, visiting winemakers and hundreds of bottles to buy or try, the culinary duo is well on their way to creating a wine-lover's paradise.
There are plenty of antiques stores in and around Houston, but when you're in the mood for a little antiquing, head straight for AG Antiques. Nestled in the Heights, the cavernous store is filled with vendors who specialize in everything from 1920s Art Deco furniture to 1960s-era collectible ceramic plates. You can spend hours rummaging through various booths, and because of the sheer size of the place, the selection is remarkable. Whether you're looking for a replacement for that one teacup from your grandmother's china set that you broke last Thanksgiving or are simply hankering to find something old and unique, there's a good chance AG Antiques will have what you're after.
The new location on South Rice boasts "50% more floor space [and] 40,000 items," according to its website, and we'll have to take Micro Center's word, because we're not going to count all that. All we know for sure is that Micro Center seems to have it all — laptops, desktops, accessories, a Dell "store-in-a-store" and excellent prices. The tech staff also holds free clinics — like a virus and malware troubleshooting class or a basic primer on Windows 10. Micro Center also services and repairs computers — they can speed yours up, back up your data, customize your setup and plenty more. Let's face it: You can't live without your interweb machine (well, you could, but who would want to?), so you, and your computer, deserve the best.
Diapers? Check, but most stores have those. Bottles? Check, but most stores have those, too. A variety of strollers to choose from, from those for day-to-day use to the luxurious and stylish? Have to go to Buy Buy Baby for those. Even though most baby stores sell similar wares, Buy Buy Baby on Tomball Parkway broadens the typical selection of baby products, from the standard variety to the upscale and eco-friendly. So as for those diapers, choose between the Huggies you grew up in or the Honest Company's organic diaper. Make your comparisons in the store at Buy Buy Baby instead of squinting at online photographs in your Amazon shopping cart.
When you're longing for some beautiful greenery in your yard or on your porch but don't want to introduce any nonnative species to the area, Buchanan's Native Plants is the place to go. For more than 30 years, this (relatively) little plant nursery in the Heights has been serving up offerings of native and adapted plants, everything from the usual perennials and herbs to delicate rose bushes and beautifully grown trees, while developing a loyal clientele among Houston gardeners along the way. Houston can be a tricky place to grow plants, but everything Buchanan's offers has at least a fair chance of thriving (except with those among us who simply lack green thumbs) because all its plants and trees are chosen to suit the Houston climate. Buchanan's is also devoted to organic gardening, so the nursery has a nice variety of organic options and natural soils to put your greenery in. And if you're among those who are not gifted at plant growing, it's lovely to simply stroll through the place admiring it all.
Bike shops are akin to record stores. They have plenty of stuff for the average rider, but are really tailored to the enthusiast. After all, it's the latter that keeps places like I-Cycle, the longtime Oak Forest cycling shop, in business. But even if you just want a first bike for the kid, the folks at I-Cycle will hook you up with wheels and all the gear to go with them.
The circumstances of life leave us battered, bruised and in need of repair. From exercise injuries to sitting long hours in front of the screen, from automobile accidents to the ravages of time, we all form a line outside the Conklin Clinics like moths to a flame. It's here that we find respite under the healing hands of Dr. Philip Conklin, who draws from 35 years of practice and a whole-body approach to pick us up and send us back into the world feeling exponentially better. East Houston has benefited from his innovative techniques for years, and now he's practicing out of a second clinic near The Galleria.
Houston is a city likely cursed to always have questionable mass transit. We'll never be a New York or a Chicago, but stepping off the METRORail and onto Preston Station will at least give you the illusion of being a walkable city. There's plenty to visit, plenty to walk to, without having to worry about the burdens of parking. It's bright, and with spots like Notsuoh and Nightingale Room, among others, there are plenty of options for a night out without the worry of a drive home. Until you take the METRORail back to your car. This is still Houston, of course.
Getting your hair done is as much about the experience as it is the end result, and that is why you want to go to Flo at D-Vine Salon & Spa. Flo has been working miracles in Houston hair for years, and her customers keep coming back because not only does she provide stylish cuts and excellent color, but she ensures the style and cut is something you'll be able to manage and maintain. She's also wonderful at making her clients feel absolutely at home. Whether you need a cookie, a cup of coffee or just someone with whom to talk about life, she's got it all. You never leave feeling less than 110 percent better than you were before.