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  • Best Liquor Store

    Spec's Liquor Warehouse

    There are few adulthood joys that compare to the childhood experience of walking into a Toys-R-Us. But walking into Spec's Liquor gives grown-ups that same feeling of wonder. You immediately find yourself running down the aisles going, "Oh, wow! I can't believe they have this stuff, too!" Wanna down some New Orleans Voodoo Lager that you never thought you'd find… More >>
  • Best Dry Cleaners

    Montrose Dry Cleaners

    Although having something dry-cleaned sounds like it should be a straightforward task, it can sometimes be a horrific experience: You drop off your most expensive piece of clothing and it comes back destroyed, with a terse reminder of the cleaner's liability disclaimer. A former member of Faith No More once went so far as to purposefully puke all over his… More >>
  • Best Shoe Store

    DSW

    The company's Web site says the typical DSW store carries more than 30,000 pairs of shoes in more than 2,000 styles. Sounds about right. The two Houston locations are huge yet easy-to-navigate churches of footwear. They've got everything from dress shoes to flip-flops at prices that will make your wallet as happy as your feet. And the staff isn't pushy,… More >>
  • Best Adult Video Store

    Adult Video Megaplexxx

    That's right, Megaplexxx. With three Xs, you know you're getting the real deal. We're talking a purported 100,000 movies, eight private viewing rooms and nine 63-channel arcades. We're talking a cornucopia of porn — a "pornucopia," if you will. They've got hot new releases, cheap used videos and classics, and there's always a good sale going on. You like amateur… More >>
  • Best Bookstore

    Murder by the Book

    Whodunit? Murder by the Book, that's who. The 26-year-old Inner Loop book nook has retained a loyal following despite the proliferation of enormous chains in its immediate neighborhood. Many patrons of the indie store are die-hard mystery fans who go to see and hear the parade of prestigious and up-and-coming mystery authors who give readings there several times a week.… More >>
  • Best Asian Grocery

    Hong Kong Food Market No. 4

    The total square footage of this market comes to an even freakin' huge. They had to invent a whole new measurement to calculate the aisles of exotic treasures you'll find in this Chinatown landmark. It's nothin' fancy, just tons of great produce, meat, fish, spices and desserts you'd rarely find elsewhere under one roof. Plus, watching the dudes cut up… More >>
  • Best Computer Store

    Fry's Electronics

    Once upon a time, nerds had to wait until they died to get to computer heaven. But the brothers Fry saw a market in sentient beings, so they opened one of the most kick-ass electronics stores around. And they put an emphasis on customer service to make shopping at their stores a good experience for non-nerds as well. With hardware,… More >>
  • Best Plants

    Buchanan's Native Plants

    Has your green thumb turned brown and got ya down? And has that balcony herb garden barely yielded enough to do anything other than order takeout? Maybe it's time to stop picking plants at the grocery store as an afterthought. Buchanan's specializes in flora native to the area, so whatever greenery you choose will love the oppressive heat and humidity… More >>
  • Best Day Spa for Men

    METRO-His Spa

    Metrosexuals, unite! While the term may have gone out of vogue, (some) men's proclivity to stay neatly groomed predates — and will forever outlive — pop phrases such as "manscaping." Owner Raul Guzman opened METRO in November 2004 and has been offering cosmetic services, massage and pampering to his male clientele ever since. Relax in the hot tub or with… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    Kraftsmen Baking

    In cities such as San Francisco, almost every neighborhood has a boutique bakery with handmade breads and pastries cooked with top-quality ingredients. Houston has Kraftsmen. Walk over (if you live in Montrose) or drive in from Sugar Land. Either way, it's worth the trip if you value a great French baguette or boule — crunchy on the outside, dense and… More >>
  • Best Meat Market

    Burt's Meat Market & Cajun Foods

    Yes, we know they sell meat at Fiesta and Kroger and Whole Foods. But do they sell hog chitterlings and Cajun pan sausage? Do they sell smoked andouille and three kinds of boudin? Well, they do at Burt's Meat Market & Cajun Foods, making the trek past payday stores and pawnshops to its low-slung building in the Fifth Ward well… More >>
  • Best Bartender

    Ralph Rager

    We've been to Absinthe Lounge on nights it's so busy that you can't hear a damn thing over the voices echoing off the tile floor, and each time we're more impressed with owner Ralph Rager, who's a machine when it comes to slinging drinks. He's so deft and accurate, so quick with his hands and on his feet, that we… More >>
  • Best Art Supply Store

    Texas Art Supply

    We're going to have to retire this award unless someone else steps up to the easel pretty soon, but for now the folks at Texas Art Supply can hang up their third plaque in as many years. The place really does have it all: paints, brushes, canvases, easels, stamps, inks, molds, clay, posterboard, books, desks — you name it. Good… More >>
  • Best Hip-hop Mall

    Sharpstown Mall

    Is there a shopping center anywhere in America as gangsta-riffic as our own Sharpstown Mall? Each of the mall's entrance halls is lined with jewelry stalls — or bling counters, as we like to call them. Of course, there's the Johnny Dang/Paul Wall joint venture TV Jewelry, which now has multiple outlets in Sharpstown Mall alone, and there are about… More >>
  • Best Record Collection

    Nick DiFonzo's Worst Album Covers in the World

    If there were any justice in the world, Nick DiFonzo would be a wealthy man. A few years back, the KHOU-TV technician/satellite truck engineer started Bizarrerecords.com, a Web site on which he posted scans of hundreds of the weird, tacky and just plain bad album covers he's found in the thrift shops of Houston and Austin. Several of them, including… More >>
  • Best Head Shop

    Houston 420

    We used to bemoan the way the Houston 420 franchises were taking over the city. We felt like the Starbuckization of head shops was, like, totally uncool, man. But then we realized that all head shops are already pretty much the same anyway: bongs, hookahs, metal and glass pipes, Bob Marley T-shirts, sex toys, wacky bumper stickers...We were going to… More >>
  • Best Designer Boutique

    Tootsies

    The reigning queen of fashion, this Highland Village landmark is the place for serious femme shopping. Don't let the overattentive sales staff ("May I get you a drink?"), trophy wives and designer jewelry intimidate you. Sure, River Oaks divas drop a bundle on the evening gowns here, but Tootsies also stocks more reasonably priced fashion-forward casual clothes. Plus, get in… More >>
  • Best Grocery Store

    Central Market

    Central Market is the cure for the common grocery store. Exotic produce, gourmet microbrews, healthy snacks, bubble bath and sweet-smelling soaps, case upon case of tender cuts of meat, freshly baked bread, prepared foods and towering bulk bins vie for patrons' attention in this gourmand's paradise. You'll never again be able to say you don't know where to find truffle… More >>
  • Best Sporting Goods Store

    Academy Sports & Outdoors

    Houston is not the only place you can find this sports authority, but it is the home of what was once known as Academy Super Surplus. It's for good reason that this local favorite has spread its huge selection of boats and bats, shorts and shotguns, tents and tennis balls to 80 stores in ten states. The management never forgets… More >>
  • Best Car Wash

    Carisma Car Wash

    The type of cars you'd normally see being patted down with diapers by valets can now be spotted rolling into a $4 car wash. Why? As the name implies, there's a magnetic appeal to a place that offers a job well done. The best part is that you, the driver, are in control of how much or how little of… More >>
  • Best Spectacles

    Smith Opticians

    If you're on the lookout for Elton John-esque specs, funky, cheap or just cooler-than-average eyewear, Smith's Opticians is the go-to place. Owner-optician Phillip Brown is an affable guy with a burning love for spectacles, an affection passed down to him from his dad, who was also an optician. Brown's vintage pieces are sought after by film companies in need of… More >>
  • Best Place to Shop When You Don't Know What to Buy

    Bering's Hardware

    People who wander into Bering's Hardware expecting to find nuts and bolts and little else might find it confusing when they stumble onto the innovative cookware or the stationery section. They might be thrown by the unparalleled customer service and the divine smell of roasted coffee that lingers over the brass fixtures and ceramic drawer pulls. In fact, it seems… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Gun

    Carter's Country

    For Texans, "gun control" means using both hands, so it's no mean feat to be the greatest gun- and gun-related equipment retailer in Big H. Whether you've been buying and trading guns since you were knee-high to a bumblebee or you're a first-time shooter, Carter's Country has a full lineup. With an inventory ranging from brand-new cowboy-action guns to used… More >>
  • Best Dog Trainer

    Loralei Zwitt

    Fido still isn't listening when you calmly explain that jumping on the furniture is costing you a fortune in upholstery-cleaning fees? Trainer Loralei Zwitt can teach you how to get your message across effectively by utilizing her famous motto: Think like a dog. Houston's own dog whisperer has nearly 20 years of experience using posture, tone and rewards to help… More >>
  • Best Watch Repair

    Little Watch Shop

    In a day and age when nearly every business seems hell-bent on offering services as varied as nose-wiping and landscaping, it's refreshing to find a place that's been doing one thing — and doing it well — for nearly 60 years. The Little Watch Shop is a small house/store in Montrose that's been keeping Houstonians on time since 1947. Whether… More >>
  • Best Manicure

    Instyle Nails

    It's not hard to find a mani-pedi combo in this town for $25: Look for the nearest strip mall and take your pick. There's no need to wait — that is, unless you're going to Instyle Nails, where you'll get a great deal and a great massage. Yes! A shoulder and neck massage! Hallelujah! The little bonus rejuvenation that comes… More >>
  • Best Chiropractor

    Jacqueline A. Doval

    Any chiropractor can crack your bones, but few are going to care about your total state of health as much as Jackie Doval does. At Alternative Health and Wellness, she uses traditional chiropractic manipulations (a.k.a. bone-popping), in conjunction with exercise, massage and nutrition, all in a supportive environment. A community advocate, Doval helped organize the Lesbian Health Fair and has… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    Canino's Produce Co.

    Inner Loopers have been patting themselves heartily on the back lately for bringing back "roadside" produce stands at various farmers' markets. Although our hats are off to the boom in homegrown tomatoes, we'd like to give props to the giant farmers' market (inside the Loop) that's been offering a tremendous selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, vinegars and even milk… More >>
  • Best Mexican Bakery

    La Ojarasca Panaderia

    La Ojarasca Panaderia has been around for more than 40 years — and that's a lot of cookies. And bolillos (French bread). And marranitos (gingerbread made in the shape of a pig). Deep in Houston's East End, La Ojarasca is the place for fresh, hot Mexican delicacies. Don't worry if you don't speak Spanish — you don't have to know… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Socks

    Marshalls MegaStore

    Even for a chain boasting overall prices that distribute evenly along the "Holy shit, that's cheap!" continuum, this particular Marshalls is an even better bet than most for those hoping to land CK and Polo hosiery for next to nothing. And, as a special added bonus for the frugal yet bourgeois at heart (you know who you are), the tony… More >>
  • Best Tattoo Parlor

    Bombshell Tattoo & Body Piercings

    Since opening in December, Bombshell Tattoo has quickly become the only place we get our ink done. Whether you need a butterfly or have been dreaming of a custom back-piece, this shop's talented stable of artists knows how to create art that'll last, well, forever. Its Spartan, lavender interior is a refreshing change of pace, lending it a spalike atmosphere… More >>
  • Best Store in the Galleria

    Apple Store

    One employee at the Apple Store in the Galleria is a shaggy-haired slacker who stumbles around the place singing to himself. "Hey, what's up?" he'll interrupt himself to ask a customer. "What's the deal-i-o?" The store, painted stark white with blond wood floors, is as sleek as the wafer-thin iPods on display. It has fast replaced the arcade and record… More >>
  • Best Magazine Selection

    Issues Magazine Store

    Issues offers no coffee bar, no hearty muffins, no place to sit and page through periodicals. Heck, it hardly offers a place to park. But the store's lone location on Shepherd has that certain something the big-box book behemoths don't. Namely, it's not a big-box book behemoth. Devoted almost exclusively to glossies, Issues boasts more than 3,000 titles, ranging from… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy an Engagement Ring

    A.A. Benjamin Ltd.

    These days it's all the rage to slap ridiculously sized diamonds — which cost as much as a two-bedroom pad in West U — on plain platinum bands and call them engagement rings. But if you long for something classier than a gaudy, Paris Hilton-esque trinket, your answer is antique and estate jewelry. These pieces have a story. These pieces… More >>
  • Best Tattoo Removal

    Town & Country Plastic Surgery

    Maybe it wasn't the best idea to get the big spiderweb tattoo that curls around your neck. And though Blues Brothers is a classic, you might have gone a little far getting "J-A-K-E" inked across your knuckles. So now it's time for a little tattoo removal. The folks at Town & Country Plastic Surgery are more than happy to fire… More >>
  • Best Reason to Go to
    the Galleria

    To gawk at makeup hijackers in Sephora

    Described by one disgruntled along-for-the-ride male acquaintance as a "cosmetics crackhouse," Sephora is an orgy of high-end lip gloss, eye shadow, blush and sundry other forms of pretty-up. For a truly overwhelming experience, venture to Sephora's Galleria location on a Friday or Saturday evening between six and eight and bear witness as scores of young women rotate like a greasepainted… More >>
  • Best Camera Store

    Houston Camera Exchange

    Any photog geek will tell you there's really only one camera store in the city worth knowing, and that's the Houston Camera Exchange. A perennial winner in this category, the warehouse-size location on Westheimer is a dream come true for any avid shutterbug. And budding amateurs needn't be shy: The knowledgeable staff will set you on the path to a… More >>
  • Best Psychic

    Sean Harribance

    Every month, a dozen people gather at the Sugar Land house of psychic Sean Harribance for a potluck lunch and a day of exploring the paranormal. Somehow, with no planning or coordination, it always seems like there's just the right amount and variety of food. Is it the triumph of psychic waves, or mere coincidence? Well, if you believe the… More >>
  • Best Live Models

    Abercrombie & Fitch

    Despite what you might think, life isn't easy for the luscious live models at the Galleria's Abercrombie & Fitch store. Gaggles of preteens constantly swarm with cameras. Lonely types offer lame come-ons. And occasionally mall security is called to haul away a leering creep. Of course, it doesn't help that the store heavily markets images of teenagers in steamy, soft-core-porn… More >>
  • Best Flea Market

    Traders Village

    A visit to Traders Village might tempt you to buy the RV of your dreams and move right in. The open-air flea market, located just outside the beltway in northwest Houston, has great carny food: turkey legs, sausage-on-a-stick and funnel cakes. The entertainment is old-timey: bluegrass bands, chili cookoffs, amusement park rides. And the self-described "largest market on the Texas… More >>
  • Best Junk

    Texas Junk Company

    The sign in front of Texas Junk Company has an offer you just can't refuse: Over 1,000 used cowboy boots under $30. Sure enough, once you step inside, the smell of well-worn leather will guide your nose to the shelves piled high with Tex Ritter's favorite footwear. Aside from the bargain-priced boots, the cavernous warehouse is littered with junk and… More >>
  • Best Arborist

    Kris Bitner

    One of the only things that make Houston tolerable during the dog days of summer is the gorgeously green trees that embower the city. The soft shade of the live oaks, pecans and crepe myrtles that grow so profusely here can make the unforgiving heat seem almost worthwhile. So it's horrifying to walk through your backyard and discover an ailing… More >>
  • Best Carpenter

    Rosendo Mendez

    Nothing is more crazy-making than remodeling, so finding a carpenter you can count on is the first line of defense against the dread of disappointment. Rosendo Mendez goes way beyond reliable. He will make your fabulous new kitchen/bedroom/great room dreams come true, and he won't break the bank doing it. Cabinets are his specialty, but he can also put in… More >>
  • Best House Painter

    Marcelo Escobedo

    Whether you like your walls museum-white or racy red, Marcelo Escobedo is happy to oblige. And it's a good thing, too; he can make any wall into a thing of beauty with his steady hand and Zen-like technique. Once he's done with a room, you can't help but marvel at the clean, straight lines and smooth surfaces. He can also… More >>
  • Best Real Estate Agent

    Dennis Sigut

    The booming Houston real estate market makes finding a good agent more important than ever. Dennis Sigut of Keller Williams Realty isn't just good — he's one of those rare go-getters who can buy and sell with the best of them and still sleep at night. His dealings are honest, and he doesn't drop his clients off at the doorstep… More >>
  • Best Local Interior Designer

    Cari Brookbanks

    Call her the Color Guru, because Cari Brookbanks can slide her magic gaze over any space and know just what it needs to make it absolutely gorgeous. Whether you're trying to fix up a house to sell, or redo an outdated condo to last you for the next 20 years, Brookbanks will whip out her bag full of color charts… More >>
  • Best Local Clothing Designer

    Chloe Dao

    What's not to love about Chloe Dao? The sixth of eight children from Pakse, Laos, Dao settled in Houston with her family and grew up riveted to CNN's Style with Elsa Klensch. A good daughter, Dao followed her parents' wishes and entered UH's business school, but she soon left to pursue design. She climbed the NYC fashion ladder and, in… More >>
  • Best Florist

    Elaine's Florist and
    Gift Baskets

    Did someone you know have a birthday, baby, wedding, graduation or simply a bad day? Did someone get promoted? Or die? Elaine's has a great vase or basket bouquet for all those occasions. They've got floral arrangements, bromeliads, silk and dried arrangements and even a cute gift basket selection that includes chocolates, pastries, candles and "pampering products," and their delivery… More >>
  • Best Novelty Store

    Cindie's

    Ahhh, Cindie's, you had us at "butt-plug." Cindie's sells good old-fashioned fun: We're talking body jewelry, oils, vibrators, love kits, body stockings, even educational videos for those in the remedial classes. Their hours are great, too — open till midnight Monday through Saturday and until 10 p.m. on the Lord's day! So if you suddenly find yourself in last-minute need… More >>
  • Best Clothes for Your Dog

    PetSmart

    If there's one thing every dog loves, it's wearing clothes. And in Houston, your best selection is at this venerable chain, which carries a bounty of haute couture for Fluffy and Rex. This summer, why not treat your bitch to a striped tennis dress or a cool zebra-print affair? For your he-dog, try out a fresh velour hoodie or bandanna.… More >>
  • Best Doggy Day Care

    Rover Oaks Pet Resort

    Why not give your special buddy a chance to get footloose and fancy free while you're at work? Take him to Rover Oaks, a company founded on a philosophy of "positive reinforcement, plenty of exercise, and Τgroup play' for pets with good social skills," and whose Houston location (there's one in Katy, too) boasts a lakeside campus. Tell us you… More >>
  • Best Barber

    Leonard Morgan

    Walking into Doug & Don's Barber Shop in the Heights is like taking a step back in time. Nostalgic photos and articles line the walls, and the sounds of KPFT, Neil Young or the afternoon news fill the room during conversational lulls. It's a classic barbershop, similar to one you may have seen in television commercials or in the movie… More >>
  • Best Mechanic

    Kar Hospital

    In Houston, finding a mechanic you can trust is as important as finding a competent doctor; many people in this town practically live in their vehicles, and chances are that your car will see more time on the operating table than you ever will. That's why it's imperative to find someone who has not only the knowledge to get the… More >>
  • Best Comic Book Store

    Nan's Games & Comics Too

    Seedy strip-mall location? Check. Pale, geeky-yet-arrogant clerks who live up to the stereotype by listening to bands like Rush and Jethro Tull? Yep. Nan's has all of those things. (And best of all for male comic book lovers, they even employ some cute comic-book-loving girls.) Even better than all that is the inventory. While the store is definitely cluttered and… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy CDs by Local Musicians

    Sound Exchange

    Sound Exchange might not have the widest selection of local music — the place is too small for that — but it's still the best spot to buy the stuff. That's because the staff there knows local music like no other salespeople anywhere, and they pretty much stock anything from any band willing to walk in with a consignment. And… More >>
  • Best Record Store

    Sig's Lagoon

    The demise of Cactus Music and Video this year left a huge void in Houston's music scene. Not because of the inventory, mind you, but because of the sense of community and the 100-percent-Houston-proud vibe Cactus had. Good thing Sig's Lagoon opened up shop. Though much smaller than Cactus, Sig's offers the same type of music and gifts and even… More >>
  • Best Vintage Clothing

    That 70s Shop

    Admit it — back in the day, you were totally envious of that kid who sported an "I'm a Pepper" T-shirt. Now, thanks to folks who purge their clothes from yesteryear, you can finally get your hands on one at That 70s Shop — if you stop in at the right time. Although the name evokes memories from the decade… More >>
  • Best Fabric Store

    High Fashion Fabric Center

    On any given Saturday afternoon, crafty soccer moms, fashionable drag queens and frantic brides-to-be can be seen pushing and pulling at thousands of bolts of fabric — and at each other — in search of a yard of perfect pastel polyester or a roll of fabulous faux fur. With one of the widest selections of fabrics, patterns and accessories to… More >>
  • Best Hobby Shop

    Maridawn's Scrapbooking

    It seems as though everyone's doing it: preserving family memories in a personalized scrapbook. But where do you go when you need supplies? You'll find everything — and we do mean everything — at Maridawn's Scrapbooking. Don't know how to make a scrapbook? No worries. The Maridawn staff can show you. They have beginner's classes as well as workshops on… More >>
  • Best Veterinarian

    Jim Vulgamott

    Unless your pet is the star of an animated children's movie or the product of a really bad acid trip, chances are it doesn't speak English. So when something goes wrong with said pooch, kitty or ferret, you need the help of someone as close as possible to an animal whisperer. Jim Vulgamott, head internist at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists,… More >>
  • Best Department Store

    Foley's

    Foley's downtown emporium, which occupies an entire city block on Main Street, has long been the flagship location of the chain's 70 or so stores. In its heyday (the chain was founded in Houston more than a hundred years ago just a few blocks from the downtown location), it featured nine wonderful floors of shopping. That's down to five now,… More >>
  • Best Place for Men to Buy High Heels

    Jewel's Crossdresser's Boutique and More

    Jewel Dean is more than a boutique owner, she's a fashion expert. And she's generous with her expertise. Customers at her store will find wigs, makeup, dresses, body forms (translation: fake breasts) and shoes in special sizes (translation: giant), but they'll also find a warm, supportive atmosphere. Not to mention a lot of delicately worded truth ("You might want to… More >>
  • Best Gas Station

    Shell Service Station No. 34

    Gassing up your car has become a budget-breaking experience, but you can make the trip a little more pleasant by going to the Shell station off 290 and West 43rd. There are plenty of pumps, so there's no waiting. The shopette features fresh fruit and pastries, along with beer and wine, CDs and lotto tickets. There's a car wash, too,… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Fish

    Aquarium World

    Whether your interest is in freshwater or saltwater fish, the best place to buy your finned pets is Aquarium World. Not only is the selection of animals and aquatic-type products one of the largest in the county, but the staff is extraordinarily helpful and knowledgeable about all things fishy. At Aquarium World, you'll find close to a hundred tanks filled… More >>
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