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  • Best (Pile of) Junk

    300 block of West 19th Street

    From beyond the corrugated tin walls, copper light posts topped with bulbous white globes protrude, and wilted chandeliers lie on top of the impossibly piled pile of junk. Sandwiched between La Maison and Value Village in the Heights, this nameless junk shop is easy to miss, especially when it's closed. (Many have either mistaken the tin exterior for a mere… More >>
  • Best Plants

    Suzan Prejean, The Plant Lady

    Pennants and posters that say "plants" and "sale sale sale" in bold black letters are in The Plant Lady's front yard. Her plants are gorgeous, and cheap. She sells big trees for $10 and enormous peace lilies for $5 (we've seen wimpier, wilted ones for $30 elsewhere). Flowering plants that are starting to go out of season are usually $1;… More >>
  • Best Dentist's Office Inside the Loop

    Outreach Dentistry

    The folks at Outreach Dentistry will banish forever those Marathon Man-like memories of the evil white-coated dentist who looms like a horrifying shadow over the landscape of your oral hygiene. When you push open the glass door of Outreach, you'll get a home-style welcome. The waiting room of this mom-and-pop business (he's the dentist; she runs the office) is cheerful.… More >>
  • Best Used Car Lot

    Lawrence Marshall Antique Cars

    Lawrence Marshall must really love cars. Starting as a mechanic in 1949, Marshall worked his way up the auto food chain to the purchase of a small Chevy dealership in 1969, parlaying that one outlet into the semirural, multibrand megaplex that straddles little Hempstead like an automotive behemoth. In 1999 Marshall sold his dealerships to company spokesman and former Oiler… More >>
  • Best Place to Get a Car TV Installed

    All-Star Audio Video

    What smooth talkers they are at All-Star Audio Video. Any group of employees who can talk so many customers into believing that TVs -- inside cars! -- are required accessories deserves this award. And it's not as if Houston drivers weren't bad enough, turning without signaling or lining up seven cars deep behind a left-turning car when the right lane… More >>
  • Best Bartender

    Patti D'Amato

    For most of the past decade and a half, the forever-young Patti D has kept a hard-core group of regulars coming back for another round at the two locations where she pours the drinks and beers: T.K. Bitterman's (2010 West Alabama) and The Ginger Man (5607 1/2 Morningside). In addition to mixing a mean cocktail, Patti also plays great music,… More >>
  • Best Yoga Studio

    The Yoga Institute & Bookshop

    Webster's describes yoga as a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being. But to its most dedicated adherents, yoga is the key that unlocks the secrets of the universe. Passing through that door is best accomplished with the help of a guide. Finding one in Houston, where yoga is booming, is easy. The city boasts a… More >>
  • Best Hairdresser

    Kevin Roberts, On the Cover

    A woman we know has followed this man to five different salons over six years. Together they traveled from long, mousy, dishwater-blond high school hair through short and red, short and dark brown, and really short and platinum (the experimental college years) to a much more Texas-professional highlighted bob. Incredibly, through each of these phases, people have made a point… More >>
  • Best Place to Pick Up a Slightly Worn Copy of the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom

    Detering Book Gallery Inc.

    Okay, maybe you won't find that precise title, but this place is about as highbrow a used bookstore as you'll find in this city that doesn't market exclusively rare and collectible editions -- though there are plenty of those on the shelves. This is not a source for light reading; Jackie Collins fans might not make it past the ropes.… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Middle Eastern Groceries

    Phoenicia Specialty Foods

    Don't be put off by the sign outside that reads "wholesale" -- if you've got cash, they've got the merchandise. While they specialize in Middle Eastern ingredients, they also have many Western and Eastern European specialties. Here you'll find bulk bulgur at 59 cents per pound; all kinds of dried and canned beans and lentils; many different kinds of teas,… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Live Chicken

    Tai Hung Farm Poultry

    Fans of the movie Chicken Run may wonder if the birds at Tai Hung are hatching fantastic escape schemes along with eggs. They're everywhere, these hapless birds -- clucking inside coops, strutting on the grass, fleeing wild-eyed children. The frowsy white hens and proud orange roosters spend most of their time in their pens pecking at feed. Ducks abound, relishing… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Art Supplies

    Art Supply

    Two years ago, after 40 years at Richmond and Montrose, Ben Russell and Vikki Trammell moved Art Supply to a two-story commercial space in Midtown. Respected as nurturers of the local art scene as well as the preferred source for top-grade fine-arts supplies, the couple remodeled the upstairs of 2711 Main into 22 studios and seven loft apartments for artists,… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Doughnuts

    Shipway Donuts

    Note that this category is called Best Place by Buy Doughnuts, not Best Doughnuts. If we were picking the best doughnuts, we would have to give the nod to Krispy Kreme again. But our favorite place to buy doughnuts is Shipway Donuts, at Telephone Road near the South Loop, a tiny, poorly air-conditioned doughnut shop/loncheria that stands head and shoulders… More >>
  • Best Person to Consult About Renting Movie Videos

    George St. Clair, Cactus Music & Video

    So you want to watch a good movie on your VCR, but your mind is a blank as to what to pick? Just tell St. Clair what you're in the mood for, and he'll rattle off a half-dozen or so suggestions. If that's not enough, he'll come up with more. St. Clair never fails to help us find something unusual… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy an Action Figure

    Jams Collectibles

    Stop rummaging through the local comic-book stores in town looking for that rare orange-carded TIE Fighter Pilot with the "Warning!" sticker on the box. When a store catering to obsessive SF fans (which means sci-fi, for the uninitiated [which stands for science fiction, for the very uninitiated]) is locked away in an antique market, chances are that even the most… More >>
  • Best Car Wash

    Carriage Car Care

    Tucked behind a service station between Montrose and the Museum District, Carriage Car Care must be the car wash of choice for the SUV-driving crowd. On a recent Saturday, no fewer than a half-dozen urban war wagons were either lined up waiting for the Carriage crew's treatment or basking in the afterglow of a soft-glove hand wash, waiting to be… More >>
  • Best Garish Ties

    Tie Rack

    Like dead fish, the ties hang unhappily, wrapped in cellophane, suffocated. They look for a way out; they yearn to be bought. Every now and again, a Jerry Garcia tie -- harmless as a watercolor painting -- leaves the store. Otherwise, the ties remain. Perhaps because they're just too darn boring. Looking for some crazy paisley dangling from your neck?… More >>
  • Best Retro Goods

    Flashback Fun-tiques

    The giant Big Boy in the window beckons, "Hello, remember me?" So you open the door and cross the threshold from modern-day Montrose into a bewilderment of decades. Old gas pumps with bulbous signs stand across the room from heavy rotary-dial phones and coin-operated diner jukebox connectors. Art deco chairs, shaped roundly like the bottom half of plastic Easter eggs,… More >>
  • Best Retro Furniture

    Metro Modern

    That's right. Point Five no longer has a monopoly on the '50s furniture market. Jerry Gibson's new shop has all the modern classics, too: chairs by Eames and Bertoia, an Eero Saarinen table, a Paul McCobb desk, a Herman Miller sofa, a Frank Lloyd Wright rug, each accompanied by a card explaining to the uninitiated exactly what they are looking… More >>
  • Best Thrift Store

    Salvation Army

    Most thrift stores are dusty-musty pits that you brave in hopes of making the Big Score; that is, finding that perfect, soulful piece of clothing at an insanely low price. By comparison, the Salvation Army on Washington makes a strenuous effort to be shopper-friendly. The big front windows let in natural light, and the place is neat as a pin.… More >>
  • Best Salad

    Carraba’s

    When Johnny Carraba wanted to pay tribute to a couple of family members, he bestowed upon them a true culinary honor in our book, the Johnny Rocco salad ($10). The name is a combination of Carraba’s dad, Johnny, and good old Uncle Rocco. The salad is a combination of mixed field greens, ricotta salata (salted ricotta), grilled shrimp and scallops,… More >>
  • Best Professional Wench

    Lucenden "Loosey" Crotch

    Her real name is Catherine Douglas, and she's a Florida-born actress and comedienne, making a living doing what she loves best. But when she slips on her corseted milkmaid dress, pushes her freckled cleavage up to her chin and puts on a choppy Scottish accent, this redheaded spitfire becomes Lucenden "Loosey" Crotch, Wench For Hire. Just what the hell is… More >>
  • Best Banjo Teacher

    Anton Ullrich

    Full disclosure: We haven't exactly traipsed around town sampling the services of the city's presumably multitudinous banjo instructors (check the Yellow Pages -- that "multitudinous" bit was a joke), but we have shopped widely for one of the semi-archaic five-stringers to practice on. The level of music-store expertise on display was less than encouraging. We are, however, happy with the… More >>
  • Best Place for a Free Massage

    The Sharper Image

    Remember when bars used to cater expansive free buffets to entice people to walk through the door? Remember how you used to go there, order a Coke and eat like a wild pig? This is the same philosophy, only with less guilt. While your parsimonious partying may have contributed to the closing of more than one kickerdome, you can relax… More >>
  • Best Music Store

    Soundwaves

    To be the best, a music store has to carry a vast selection. For those whose tastes run all over the board, you can find everything from your favorite Jello Biafra or Henry Rollins spoken-word CD to Peter Allen's At His Best. You also will find everything in the middle -- jazz, hip-hop, industrial, rock, R&B, dance, rap, blues, imports,… More >>
  • Best Former Soviet Union Grocery and Deli

    Russian General Store

    Now that there are several stores catering to the large and growing Russophone community of Houston, it's possible to pick the best one. This little spot, located in an obscure strip center in southwest Houston, is a true general store in the American sense, selling foodstuffs, prepared to-go items, CDs, videotapes and even Russian-language editions of Playboy and Good Housekeeping.… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Used CDs

    Wherehouse Music

    It kills us to let this secret out, but Houstonians with good taste already know it: Not only does Wherehouse Music have the most impressive collection of used, mostly pop CDs, arranged nicely and in a customer-friendly way (in alphabetical order and by artist) along a handful of 20-foot-long display rows, but the store also has the best artists. Makes… More >>
  • Best Cake Shop

    Goodness Cake House

    Pandan, also called screwpine leaves, is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine. Its floral flavor and intense green hue usually enhance rice and pudding dishes. But at Goodness Cake House, pandan also makes a surprisingly good cake flavor, along with coffee, vanilla and chocolate. The choices may be few, but really, how much cake can you eat, anyway? Most… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Impressive Art Cheap

    Glassell School of Art Fund-raiser and Auction

    Well, okay, $3,000 isn't cheap. But for, say, a drawing by James Surls or a painting by Vernon Fisher -- both of which would likely fetch at least $5,000 elsewhere -- it's a bargain, to be sure. Held every spring (the next one is May 4, 2001), the Glassell's annual fund-raising auction attracts serious collectors with an eye for contemporary… More >>
  • Best Veterinarian

    Southside Place Animal Hospital

    The ancient house ferret, Bandit, rummages among the boarding cages filled with loved ones. Pepi, a black mutt abandoned by his owners because his hind legs were paralyzed, bounds four at a time about the premises. Kate is back for another week's vacation, little evidence remaining of the jaw reconstruction necessitated by an encounter with a car several months earlier.… More >>
  • Best Science Teacher

    Jamie Scott

    No job is harder than teaching public school. So how does Jamie Scott, the integrated-physics and chemistry teacher at HISD's Hamilton Middle School, make it look like so much fun? The big, blond, smiling bear of a man is clearly doing something right. His students come home from citywide science fairs covered with ribbons and beaming with pride. But even… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Gun

    Top Gun of Texas

    Houston has a special fondness for its firearms. That's obvious from the sheer number and variety of outlets, from Carter's Country -- that Wal-Mart of weaponry -- to other high-profile retailers. Top Gun takes a different, specialized tact. Just like most golfers know they shouldn't buy clubs until they test them out, Top Gun realizes that live-fire is the only… More >>
  • Best Toy Store

    Toys for All Inc.

    The nice thing about having a mall like Town & Country crash and burn is that rent plummets to the point that more obscure independent stores like Toys for All can move in. Specializing in vintage toys and games spanning the entire spectrum of obsessive-compulsive hobbies, from Beanie Babies and Barbies to board games and Hot Wheels, this store even… More >>
  • Best Local Designer

    Vanessa Riley

    Stacked unceremoniously under the sale racks at the back of Vanessa Riley's boutique are sheets and sheets of drawings of chic, oh-so-European women in slinky, oh-so-European suits and gowns. Their haphazard nondisplay belies their significance. This is no ordinary designer store where some anonymous underling in a faraway fashion house conceives the ready-to-wear fare. In this boutique, the woman who… More >>
  • Best Appraiser

    Paul F. Wishnow, ASA

    Anybody who has tuned in to PBS's Antiques Roadshow marvels at how veteran appraisers quickly scan somebody's closet clutter and come up with rich histories and details on such obscure items. Paul F. Wishnow takes it one step further. Each Sunday morning on KPRC Radio (950 AM), he delivers a wealth of information without even seeing the items of interest… More >>
  • Best Local Invention

    FrogPad

    Though not expected on the market before early next year, FrogPad, developed by Houston-based FrogPad L.L.C., could revolutionize the exploding market for wireless Web technology. While the gadgets -- smart phones, handheld PCs and personal digital assistants, like the Palm -- are getting smaller and more sophisticated, manufacturers have yet to figure out how to incorporate a practical, easy-to-use keypad… More >>
  • Best Tow Truck Driver

    Jerry Turner

    Jerry Turner doesn't fit the wrecker-driver profile. Towing cars is a cutthroat kind of business, but Turner just isn't a cutthroat kind of guy. He'll advise drivers at accident scenes, for example, of their right to refuse his assistance and to select the wrecker company of their choice. If he sees a towing scam at a sporting-event parking lot, he'll… More >>
  • Best Liquor Store

    Spec's

    Every shop's stock of booze pales in comparison to the famed downtown Spec's, where enthusiasts can spend hours browsing among the thousands of bottles of wine from every region of every alcohol-producing nation in the world. But most people don't have hours to browse, and the massive selection can overwhelm the average couple-of-liters-a-week consumer. Not to mention, for example, the… More >>
  • Best Body Piercing

    Taurian Piercing and Metals

    Black-haired, pale-skinned and soft-spoken Byriah Dailey has earned a reputation as a clean, safe and super-professional piercer at his seven-year-old shop, Taurian. But with the addition of piercer Steve Joyner, who relocated to Houston earlier this spring from Obscurities Precision Piercing in Dallas, some of the best Texas piercers now work under the same roof. Joyner, who credits his Native… More >>
  • Best Bookstore

    Brazos Bookstore

    You won't encounter a "mystery" section at Brazos Bookstore; nor can you order a mocha au lait. A fabulous collection of books and a knowledgeable staff are this classy enclave's draw. Brazos clearly places quality over quantity. Perusing the literature, history and art sections, you will be hard-pressed to find a throwaway title. DeLillo and Dostoyevsky share shelf space with… More >>
  • Best Asian Grocery

    Hong Kong Market No. 4

    Say good-bye to the cramped, dirty Asian grocery store with its persistent fishy stench, and hello to brightly lit aisles upon aisles of groceries. True to the very Texas notion that bigger is better, the newest Hong Kong Market location on Bellaire at Boone Road is bigger than a Randalls Flagship, bigger than a Fiesta, bigger, even, than Wayne Dolcefino's… More >>
  • Best Newsstand

    SuperStand

    SuperStand lacks the hard-boiled grit of an old-time newsstand, but it does have thousands of magazines, cresting in glossy abundance like waves of a media-saturated sea. The inevitable mugs of Eastwood, Travolta and Buffy the Vampire Slayer stare from shelves, but you also will find more arcane fare. Aggressive outdoor types will relish mags like Turkey Hunting Strategy. The news… More >>
  • Best Ballpark Vendor

    Arnie the Peanut Dude

    The Astros have tanked, and the pitchers can't get anybody out, but one guy at "Homeron" Field is still consistently throwing strikes: Arnie the Peanut Dude, who hurls his roasted wares across entire sections to waving fans and nails 'em in the mitts every time. Arnie doesn't just deliver peanuts and make change; he entertains the crowd in a blue-collar… More >>
  • Best Museum Gift Shop

    Houston Museum of Natural Science

    Make this one plural, as in Best Shops. The Houston Museum of Natural Science severs the traditional museum gift store into a parent-and-child participatory sport. Mom and Dad -- or just those without children -- get their consumer time in the fairly upscale Collector's Gift Shop. The quiet confines with classy thick wood accents offer up genuine collectibles and quality… More >>
  • Best Mobile Barbecue Pit

    The Gator Pit

    The Houston makers of this device tout it as "the ultimate tailgate barbecue pit." What you have is your basic steel drum-style cooker that you can use in your backyard or attach to the back of your car or truck and haul to the beach, park or ball game. Apparently you can cook while you drive. The mobile version of… More >>
  • Best Florist

    In Bloom

    Scott McCool is Houston's florist to the stars. He won't name the names of the socialites on his roster of 1,800 accounts, but he will tell us that his designers have spruced up events at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Alley Theatre and the River Oaks Country Club, with fabulous arrangements of roses from Ecuador, lilies from Chile and… More >>
  • Best Drive-thru Bank

    Bank of America

    Where else but on the gentrifying Washington Avenue can you find a slick Bank of America a stone's toss from junkyards, dive bars and diners? With 11 (yes, 11) drive-thru slots, this drive-up darling in the shadow of downtown fills up around lunchtime and quitting time. It's a fun place to people-watch from the comfort of your car, as drivers… More >>
  • Best Used Clothing

    Buffalo Exchange

    The problem with thrift stores is that they require too much work: To find that vintage western shirt, or that trendy fresh-from-the-mall sundress, you have to paw through racks of stained or ripped goods that honestly weren't all that desirable to begin with. But at Buffalo Exchange, the dregs have been weeded out, leaving behind only those that appeal to… More >>
  • Best Live Window-Dressing

    North Beach Leather

    If you think leather is just for bulky bomber jackets and boring loafers, the North Beach girls will make you think again. Posing at the door of the Galleria store, these leathered-up ladies are more likely to be dressed in hot pink hot pants, turquoise halter tops, python-print miniskirts or hip-hugging, reality-straining, ohmigod, don't-look-now, fire-engine-red jeans. Theirs is the wardrobe… More >>
  • Best Junkyard

    Pick-n-Pull

    Like a Glamour magazine list of fashion don'ts, Pick-n-Pull's proscriptions for maintaining junkyard etiquette, hanging directly in front of the place's South Shaver entrance, are equally as mind-numbing. Some deserve mentioning: 5. No open-toed shoes; 6. No alcohol; 7. No torches or power saws; and the doozy, 11. No cameras or weapons allowed. Makes the average upstanding citizen feel right… More >>
  • Best Developer

    Pierce Scarpulla Development Group

    In Houston, real estate development is a business dominated by stereotypes: the good ol' boy, the profit-at-all-costs mentality, the belief that any structure more than 25 years old needs to be torn down and replaced with something shiny and new, not to mention exorbitantly expensive. Tamra Pierce and Mimi Scarpulla defy these testosterone-driven traditions at every step. The two women,… More >>
  • Best Pool Guy

    Bill Jordan

    Bill Jordan is too nice a guy to be in the pool business, a rare dolphin in a sea of sharks. Swimming pools, as their owners well know, are subject to a host of problems, and to deal with them requires an incongruent knowledge of chemistry, construction, engineering and mechanics. Without a complete grasp of the organism at hand, pool… More >>
  • Best Bike Shop

    Shirar's Bicycle Store

    When asked how he could be leading bike rides well into his eighties, B.M. Shirar always replied, "I eat a banana every day." B.M. died nine years ago, but his bicycle shop -- the nation's oldest, according to B.M.'s grandson and the current proprietor, James Turner -- is still pedaling strong at 88. B.M. and his father opened Shirar's at… More >>
  • Best Microbrewery

    Saint Arnold Brewing Company

    The Best Microbrewery prize easily goes to... the only microbrewery in Houston! That stated, Saint Arnold produces a revolving selection of beers and ales that really are, if you happen to be a serious devotee of the brewmaster's art, excellent. The brews are made according to German legal standards that U.S. breweries do not have to follow, but Saint Arnold… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Flavored Condoms Free

    AIDS Foundation Houston

    Has this ever happened to you? You're with your beloved for a night of freaky-sneaky, hanky-spanky action. Then you realize -- oh, damn -- you're all out of flavored condoms. You could do the whole thing manually with some regular rubbers and a bottle of flavored Motion Lotion, but that takes too long and it tends to get messy. You… More >>
  • Best Bookstore for Poetry

    Bookstop

    "My business is words. Words are like labels / Or coins, or better, like swarming bees," writes Anne Sexton, in Said the Poet to the Analyst. The shrink may have tried Thorazine to subdue Sexton's swarm, but the tenacious buzzing persists. Her works and those of many of the giants of world poetry line Bookstop's well-stocked shelves, poised… More >>
  • Best Tofu/Soy Products

    Thanh Son-Hien Khanh

    Bean curd doesn't have to be tasteless, especially if you can buy it fresh. Thanh Son-Hien Khanh makes its tofu daily. Unlike the packaged stuff, which can have a tinge of sourness to it and behave with the consistency of an eraser, this tofu is soft, silky and as fluffy as tofu can possibly get. Poke it, and it wiggles… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy CDs by Local Musicians

    www.420radio.com

    Okay, we're cheating here. Obviously you can't buy -- in the traditional sense of the word -- CDs at this Web site. What you can do, however, is find MP3s of local and regional bands, then with a few mouse clicks, make a purchase. The site is essentially an MP3.com for Houston acts, but better. It's Houston-based, run by ex-local… More >>
  • Best Mexican Bakery

    La Victoria

    On weekends, cars wedge into the small lot of this service station-turned-panaderia, with most people hoofing it from distant parking spaces down the street. They know. They've been warring over parking spots every year for the last two decades or so to get at the pan dulce of La Victoria. The apricot empanadas with toasted coconut flakes catch your eye,… More >>
  • Best Place to Learn "The Whip"

    SSQQ Dance Studio

    Before you get too excited, you should know that SSQQ stands for slow, slow, quick, quick, not sadomasochists squealing and quivering quietly. And instruction in "The Whip" has more to do with fancy footwork than learning how to inflict a blow that will hurt like hell without breaking the skin. But that doesn't mean SSQQ's Whip classes aren't hot. The… More >>
  • Best Store in the Galleria

    Discovery Channel store

    The Galleria is filled with stores trying to sell you stuff that you never knew you needed, but at least there's one whose merchandise can help you learn a thing or two. The Discovery Channel store is, not surprisingly, an offshoot of cable's Discovery group of networks (which includes The Learning Channel and Animal Planet), a group that is home… More >>
  • Best Oil Change

    K&R Tire

    Don't let the name of the place fool you. K&R Tire is a full-service auto shop. They'll do your oil change while you wait, often in the same amount of time it takes those other franchises that promise you oil, lube and filter in a jiff. The difference is that they don't pressure you into services you don't need. They… More >>
  • Best Gourmet Doggy Biscuits

    Three Dog Bakery - CLOSED

    This store is heaven for the yuppie puppy. Situated in River Oaks, it's a place where people spend $12 for a bottle of ChampPagne (which is Canadian spring water). The pastry case rivals that of Three Brothers Bakery just down the street. (Sometimes people get confused and go to the dog bakery.) They sell Scottie Biscotti, Ciao Wow Cheese Pizza… More >>
  • Best Auto Parts Store

    SGP Racing

    SGP Racing in Deer Park isn't one of those places you drop off your car for a quickie oil change or brake check. It's the place where serious speed and performance enthusiasts might leave their cars for weeks for engine overhauls, ridiculous amounts of horsepower (600, anyone?) and new computerization systems. Their motto, "Performance, not promises," is apparently true, judging… More >>
  • Best Used Boots

    Texas Junk Company

    A pair of purple ropers from the '80s. A needle-nosed black pair with six impressive rows of stitching on the shaft. A '50s pair of toddler boots with nifty red inlays. White majorette boots with fringe. High-heeled fashion boots from the '70s. Elephant hide, rough-outs, skins from reptiles so exotic that they're probably extinct. Tony Lamas, Acmes, custom-mades and cheapo… More >>
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