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  • Best Strip Mall

    Northline Strip Mall

    Here in H-Town's funkier regions, strip malls, those much-maligned supposed harbingers of sterility and bland suburbanism, sure can have a hell of a lot of grit and soul. Take this doozy on the northside, just across the street from the site of the former Northline Mall. The actual strip looks to be about 50 years old, and it's a one-stop… More >>
  • Best Gas Station

    A to Z Food & Deli No. 7

    The gas station at the northeast corner of Montrose and Richmond used to be a full-service garage and repair shop, meaning the retail part of it was as cramped as most Montrose convenience stores. Now it's a big, shining example of how to do gas stations right. There's 14 pumps — in the middle of Montrose! — but inside is… More >>
  • Best Handyman

    Exterior Worlds

    It wasn't long ago that River Oaks was considered the richest ZIP code in the nation. But time can take its toll, and even $15 million mansions need a facelift sometimes. During the last three decades, Houston's Exterior Worlds has helped with that. The company specializes in "high-end landscape design," repairing and building outdoor fountains, luxury swimming pools and even… More >>
  • Best Antique Store

    Heights Station Antiques

    Smack-dab between the antiquing hotspots of lower Westheimer and West 19th Street there looms this 1895 carriage barn, with more than 5,000 square feet of trash 'n' treasure within. Lots of antique stores tend to cater to women, but Heights Station's multi-dealer layout features a couple of fun testosterone zones with their sports memorabilia and rock and roll collectibles sections.… More >>
  • Best Spice Shop

    Penzeys Spices

    Just step inside this Heights shop and smell the difference. It's like taking a gourmet-shopping trip around the world. Want Vietnamese cinnamon? Tellicherry black peppercorns? Szechuan pepper salt? Mexican oregano? Yep, Penzeys has all that and more, offering spices, herbs, seasonings, gift boxes and some pretty cool pepper mills and saltshakers. It's a great place to buy gifts, and novices… More >>
  • Best Sexy Lingerie

    Zone d'Erotica (Galleria location)

    Sticking out like a giant neon-pink boner, Zone D'Erotica's Galleria location is the perfect paean to no-zoning laws. So you wanna create a huge commercial district with a Container Store, Cheesecake Factory and plenty of nice hotels for dentistry conventions? Fine, we're going to build a big freakin' gaudy, obnoxious-looking place where you can buy edible undies and double-headed dongs.… More >>
  • Best Pawn Shop

    Wolf's Department Store & Pawn Shop

    For some people, including us, Wolf's Department Store & Pawn Shop is as much a Houston institution as Spec's, the Astrodome or the Galleria. At Wolf's, you can find a nice selection of new Kangol and Stetson hats, and the pawn shop collection is light years better than the typical stock. Even better, Wolf's has been around since 1955 and… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Fish

    Whole Foods on Kirby

    There's something fishy at the Whole Foods on Kirby. And we mean that in a good way. The fish section here is swimming with good buys, fresh fish and the coolest fishmongers in town. These guys and gals know their stuff. They stock only organic, sustainable seafood, and they'll tell you what's best and freshest and how to cook it.… More >>
  • Best Aquarium Supply

    The Fish Gallery Houston

    The name of this category does not begin to do justice to The Fish Gallery, which could almost pass for a museum of natural science — except for the comfy leather couches in a soothing pale blue. The Fish Gallery offers outreach programs as a museum would: a summer reading program for children and kids' birthday parties. This summer's kickoff… More >>
  • Best Hairstylist

    Cerón

    Just like Madonna or Cher, our local hairstylist to the stars goes by one name only, thank you very much. Cerón's salon in Uptown Park (as well as his space at The Omni and his new Neiman Marcus shop in Dallas) caters to blue-hairs and socialites alike, but you don't have to be Becca Cason Thrash to get a color… More >>
  • Best Bait and Tackle

    Fishing Tackle Unlimited

    If you ever get lost and you look over and see the world's largest anything, chances are you're in Houston. Fishing Tackle Unlimited helps with that, because the place is literally the world's largest tackle store. The good thing is, it's not an overdone Disney World-type place like other mammoth outdoor shops. The reel section alone is enough to make… More >>
  • Best Doggie Daycare

    Rover Oaks Pet Resort

    Sit. Stay. Play. Doggies do it all at Rover Oaks Pet Resort, and why not? This five-year-old establishment offers luxury suites that rival rooms at Hotel ZaZa for pets staying overnight. Doggie Day Camp-ers can romp over acres of green space, get in a little cuddle time and gorge on "gourmet" meals. There's also a state-of-the-art spa and training facilities,… More >>
  • Best Vintage Clothing

    Replay on 19th St.

    Houston is blessed with lots of wonderful vintage clothing stores, but right now our favorite is Replay on 19th St. This charming boutique, right in the heart of the Heights, features 2,500 square feet of reasonably priced clothes, jewelry, handbags and other accessories. Plus, the friendly, helpful sales staff is always open to bargaining. The styles (for both guys and… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Music

    At shows

    No disrespect to any of Houston's handful of plucky independent record stores — which, by and large, are doing just fine, thank you very much — but the best selection of music-related merchandise often comes with a live show as part of the bargain. And it is a bargain: Not only does the average merch table these days generally offer… More >>
  • Best Car Wash

    Mister Car Wash

    The Upper Kirby location of this national chain packs 'em in on the weekends, but that's okay because there's plenty to do inside while you wait. Pull up to a lane, fill up the tank if need be and turn your car over to the army of attendants who hoover the inside and roll it to the auto wash. Inside,… More >>
  • Best Florist

    River Oaks Plant House

    You know River Oaks Plant House, even if you don't recognize the name: Its breathtaking topiaries along the median at Buffalo Speedway and Westheimer are something of a landmark. And that's just the cherry on top of the expansive selection inside. Whatever your needs, and whether you're a horticultural expert or a wide-eyed novice, the helpful, experienced staff are there… More >>
  • Best Maid Service

    Maid in the Shade

    With 22 years in the cleanin' business, Maid in the Shade must be doing something right. Whether you need residential or office cleaning, the full-time employees (i.e., no fly-by-night, subbed-out contract workers) will meet all your cleaning needs, no matter how badly you've let your place go. They'll disinfect cabinets, hand-wash the baseboards (yuck!) and even get all that grimy… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    The Acadian Bakers

    Although owner Sandra Jean Bubbert boasts of being the "Baker to the Stars," don't be intimidated by pics of Bubbert smiling with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Larry King, Dennis Miller and Condi Rice: Even the little people can enjoy the specialty cakes, famous "lunch boxes" and extensive deli menu this old favorite has to offer. From the amaretto butter cream cake to… More >>
  • Best Candy Store

    Candylicious

    Even grown-ups turn into kids in this candy store. The original location (next door to The Chocolate Bar) is barely bigger than a shoebox, but the sheer amount of sweets inside is staggering — be prepared to be dazzled. Brightly colored candies from floor to ceiling assault the senses, causing sugary ADD. Look! Pez dispensers! Gummies in every shape and… More >>
  • Best Mechanic

    Swiss Garage

    We cried when Mike Grivon sold his gas station at the corner of Kirby and Westheimer to make way for West Ave, because it was the best local mechanic shop in town. But the sun shined again when he bought the Swiss Garage a few blocks away. The old gang's still here — Mike, Nick, Joe, et al. — and… More >>
  • Best Bike Shop

    Blue Line Bike Lab

    For many years, the vast majority of Houston's bike shops were as sterile as a Greenway Plaza mid-rise. But as you can tell from the Día de Los Muertos mural spray-painted on the side of Blue Line, this is not one of those shops. Blue Line serves the odd ducks among bike riders. While most of the floor space is… More >>
  • Best Shoe Store

    DSW

    If it were okay to use profanity in mainstream advertising, then DSW would be perfectly justified in describing its inventory as a "shit-ton of kickers at kick-ass prices." Each location is a kingdom of footwear; a one-stop shopping experience for all your shoe needs, from sneakers to heels to wingtips to flip-flops to whatever battery-powered neon-lit contraptions the kids are… More >>
  • Best Bookstore

    Domy Books - CLOSED

    Every time we've been to Domy, we've been turned on to a book or author we'd probably never come across in one of the chain bookstores. Listen, Borders and the like obviously have their place, but sometimes you need something truly different, something that can only be had from indie publishers and off-the-beaten-path authors. And mixed in with the esoteric… More >>
  • Best Window Shopping

    19th Street in the Heights

    Houston is practically the capital of soulless strip malls, and if you spend much of your life in the car, crawling along the freeway on your commute, it's easy to think that the commercial landscape is all one giant eyesore. The cure, then, is to get out of the car and see that there are still pretty, funky, quirky neighborhood… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy an Engagement Ring

    Queen of Heirs Antique and Estate Jewelry

    As a young woman, jewelry shop owner Robin Lindberg was dubbed the Queen of Heirs when she inherited a trove of estate jewelry from a wealthy aunt in New Orleans, the sort of woman who would assuage the travails of a bad day by spending $5K on a ring. Years of training and education later, Lindberg used that windfall as… More >>
  • Best Comic Book Store

    Bedrock City Comics

    Bedrock City Comics boasts four Houston-area locations, covering every comic book devotee from Clear Lake to FM 1960 and all points in between with stacks and stacks of inked tales. There's also a selection of collectibles in each store that will make your inner child salivate with glee, and the online store is also addicting. Right now we have our… More >>
  • Best Vintage Record Store

    Vinal Edge

    It may be a drive for the average Inner Looper, but to vinyl fetishists and people looking for undiscovered gems, North Houston's Vinal Edge is a worthy weekend road-trip destination. Just be sure to save some dough for gas money. Housed inside a nondescript shopping center on Veterans Memorial are thousands of LPs, discs, posters and other assorted musical nuggets… More >>
  • Best Veterinarian

    Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital

    Say you have a pet in crisis, or one with special needs — maybe an elderly rescue fraught with medical problems, some of which require surgery. Forget all the Aggie jokes you've ever heard or told and head straight to the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M, where on any given day, Houstonians can be found in the waiting room.… More >>
  • Best Used Furniture

    The Guild Shop

    The slogan at The Guild Shop is "Resale at Its Best," and we doubt that any city has a better resale shop than this Montrose gem. The store is run by St. John the Divine Church, and if you're looking for some cool used furniture, this place really can be heaven. From flea market rough to museum quality, The Guild… More >>
  • Best Liquor Store

    Spec's

    The massive Spec's near downtown might be the one must-see destination in Houston. While the "water wall" at the mall or the fountains by the hospitals are probably more photographed, Spec's, a liquor store, is the place everyone seems to take out-of-town guests when they visit Houston. Apart from the huge liquor selection, there's deli food, chocolate, cigars, coffee and… More >>
  • Best Hobby Shop

    Sew Crafty

    "Everyone is welcome here — from the über-crafty to those who can't pick a sewing machine out of a lineup," the Sew Crafty Web site states. And the folks there mean it. Sew Crafty is as much about community as craft; that's why they host the monthly Crafty Cocktails gathering, as well as offer classes in sewing, knitting, crochet and… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Cigars

    Briar Shoppe

    If smoking cigars were as popular as drinking booze, then the Briar Shoppe would rank up there with Spec's as a Houston institution. In fact, it probably already does. The Briar Shoppe has been a Rice Village fixture for close to 50 years, and each year, the place keeps churning out a great selection of cigars. Even better, in an… More >>
  • Best Costume Store

    Frankel's

    For 58 years, Frankel's has helped kids and adults get in touch with their inner ghost, ghoul, French maid, pimp, ho, devil, clown, or whatever particular persona floats their boat. Whether you want to buy in-store, online, or over the phone, we're pretty sure your Frankel's experience will be a good one. There are a ton of cheap, quick chipping… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    Midtown Farmers' Market - CLOSED

    As it says on the all-local Midtown Farmers' Market's Web site, "It's a foodie paradise and morning party all in one!" And they aren't exaggerating. Although it's not the largest of Houston's farmers' markets by a long shot, it's the best place to go on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. until noon to run into friends, get your knives sharpened… More >>
  • Best Asian Supermarket

    Super H Mart

    This primarily Korean grocery store opened with great fanfare in the summer of 2008, and with good reason: The large national chain offers an enormous selection of Asian foodstuffs, fresh seafood and household products in a bright, clean space with prices that are competitive with the likes of H-E-B and Walmart. Super H Mart is a one-stop shop for most… More >>
  • Best Newsstand

    Newsbox Etc.

    As "written" communication is increasingly measured in tweeted characters instead of blocky paragraphs — or, for real journalism old-timers, column inches — the printed page nevertheless holds out a couple of key advantages over its computer-screen counterpart. First of all, it's a lot less catastrophic to spill food or drink on a piece of paper than on a laptop. If… More >>
  • Best Flea Market

    Sunny Flea Market

    Over 50,000 people stream each weekend through the stalls at this 35-acre bazaar that sprawls along a gritty, norteño-blasting stretch of north Houston's Airline Drive. Not only can you get traditional flea market-style items like furniture, art and religious statuary, battered toys and cartridges from long-dead video game platforms, tools and appliances, but you can also buy extremely fresh produce… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market Vendor

    Animal Farm

    It is not easy to choose a vendor at all the local farmers' markets as the best. There are so many, doing so many cool things right now. But when it comes to longevity and consistency, Animal Farm leads the pack. One talk with Gita Van Woerden will prove to anybody that she knows what she's doing. The organic, sustainable… More >>
  • Best Grocery Store

    Belden's

    If you find navigating a cart through Central Market on a weekend to be too much of an emotional and physical workout, try Belden's in Meyerland. This refreshingly independent store is a treasure trove of surprises: hard-to-find baking supplies, steaks that eclipse anything from Outback, fresh baguettes put out warm each afternoon and a wine selection second only to that… More >>
  • Best Spectacles/Glasses/Optometry

    Pearle Vision in the Galleria

    At Pearle Vision in the Galleria, optometrist Nadia Sledge and opticians Mehri and Bobbie brighten their customers' days, making it easy to do what is usually a chore. This is the place to go for stylish professional glasses that will still get compliments years later. And the level of care provided is exceptional. On a recent visit, when a customer… More >>
  • Best Native Texas Plants

    Brookwood Store

    Brookwood is a local, nonprofit mini-chain of garden and retail shops with luscious plants that are in better shape than those at most nurseries. One season, they had a special breed of the bluebonnet, only it was maroon. (Surprise: Texas A&M cooked up that version.) Brookwood's not limited to native Texas plants only: It also offers handcrafted pottery and such… More >>
  • Best Life Coach

    Cinda Johnson

    With the economy's alleged recovery about as stable as Lindsay Lohan's psyche, it's not a shabby idea to seek outside help. No, not from a bank — they're probably why you're hurting in the first place. No, not a priest — ditto. Instead, get a life coach to help you get where you want to go. If you feel you… More >>
  • Best Green Store

    New Living

    Going "green" has come to mean many things to many people, but to the folks at New Living, it is a social, environmental and economic lifestyle. The place itself, located in an old hardware store in Rice Village, specializes in building supplies, such as organic bedding, nontoxic paints and nontoxic children's furniture. Additional "green" services include chemical-free home cleaning, recycling… More >>
  • Best Tutor

    Varsity Tutors

    Houston's Medical Center, considered the best hospital system in the world, is expected to be bigger than downtown Dallas in just a few years. Even if that doesn't happen, there's no doubt that all the aspiring doctors in Houston will need some tutors. That's where Varsity Tutors can help. Varsity has a staff of tutors with varied backgrounds, but most… More >>
  • Best Toy Store

    Toys to Love

    Everything about Toys to Love is a surprise. It's in the city's Galleria area, surrounded by towering new condos and upscale shops like RDG + Bar Annie and Pinto Ranch Western Wear, so you might expect to find an expensive, pretentious toy store. But you won't. Toys to Love actually seems more like a dollar store on first glance. Regardless,… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market Takeout

    Nisha's Quick-N-Ezee Indian Food

    Started in 2008 by Manish Puri and his wife Ashmin Nisha, Nisha's Quick-N-Ezee Indian Food is always one of the most popular stalls at Houston's farmers' markets. They accommodate meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike and use local ingredients whenever possible. Though you cannot find Nisha's deliciously authentic Indian dishes in any store or restaurant, it is always worth a trip… More >>
  • As Blockbuster stores disappear, this Montrose institution survives selling videotapes

    Definitely a Plus

    As Blockbuster stores disappear, this Montrose institution survives selling videotapes

    by Paul Knight The best approach to finding a movie at Montrose's Audio Video Plus is simply browsing, because browsing here is better than Google. Take the Burt Reynolds section. We were marveling at these gems from the '70s and '80s when there, staring us in the face, was Reynolds. Pictured from the waist up, he was dressed in what appeared to… More >>
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