Your ride's looking a little shabby. It wants to get spruced up and feel pretty. But you're particular about what touches your car. You're not keen on some automated gas station drive-thru scratching the gloss on your ClearCoat. And who knows where those frazzled brushes at the coin-operated self-wash places have been? Try the machine-free artistry at Bubbles, where they wash and dry your vehicle with only the gentlest of hands -- wearing lamb's-wool mitts, to be exact. They're also gentle on your wallet; carpet shampooing for cars and trucks is only $20, and a full detailing is only $60.

Best Place to Get a Car Wash, a Haircut and a Brisket

Exquisite Touch

Imagine: An angry ex has poured garbage all over your new sports car. You haven't slept for months, and your hair has become a bit unruly. What's more, you're hungry, dammit. Well, have we got the place for you. It goes by many names. Call it Pop's Exquisite Bar-B-Q, where you can get a chopped roast beef sandwich for $3.50. Or call it Exquisite Touch Auto Detail, home of the $5.99 car wash. Then again, some people know it simply as Exquisite Touch Barber Shop and Beauty Salon. And as you're sitting there, sipping a Diet Coke and eating link sausages, contemplating what your godless ways have wrought, you'll also find a complete set of T.D. Jake's inspirational videos available for purchase, just in case you decide to turn your life around. If you want to know how this multifaceted venue came to be, just ask Pops yourself. He's usually sitting there in a corner of the shop watching TV. And like the wise old sage he is, he'll tell you: "You've got to do something."

We've got a horde of fine club dancers in this town. Somebody's gotta dress 'em. If there were still any raves around, chances are you'd see many shirts out there created by this man. Akindele's brand of clothing, Enjoymusic Enjoylife (EMEL), featuring that all-important musical-note insignia, has been the favorite among energetic clubgoers for quite a while now. Baseball shirts, T-shirts, baby tees -- they're all designed to keep a young whippersnapper comfortable while dancing to all things electronica. Fortunately, if you head out to spots like Hyperia, you can still see clothing bearing the EMEL moniker, and a bunch of kids proud to be sweating their asses off in it.
If you've ever wanted to feel like Alice down the rabbit hole, take a few hours out of your life and go underground here. You can emerge at any number of downtown spots, from office buildings to the Wortham to the Angelika Film Center. If you're smart, you'll take note of the color-coded parking bars to facilitate relocating your car. But who's complaining? Any underground parking lot search, no matter how long, is preferable to running above ground through a Houston downpour in your theater clothes.
Why buy your "How to Talk Texas" books, Houston skyline postcards and Lone Star flag barbecue aprons at some sterile mall when you can do so in the heart of the city, at the foot of the statue of Sam Houston himself? Those who say downtown is a vacuum for shoppers likely haven't yet discovered this 6,500-square-foot Texana delight located on the first floor of City Hall. In addition to the usual Texas-proud inventory, the shop features snazzy, colorful decor, museum-quality displays, a theater that screens historical films, and informative computer stations all surrounding a larger-than-life bronze representation of the first president of the Republic of Texas.

It took a while for the folks at this proudly independent music and video store to get a DVD rental section going, even after bigwig video chains Blockbuster and Hollywood beat 'em to the punch. But once they did, theirs turned out to be the definitive DVD section for die-hard movie geeks. Apart from the regular lineup of new and amped-up releases, the store has just about every release from those packrats at The Criterion Collection (practically the DVD industry's preservation society) as well as rarities from Kino Video. But it's the outrageous collection of discs from Something Weird Video, home to such bawdy, campy finds as Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, that may have folks flocking to the store in curiosity. At last, there's a place where you can get the works of Hitchcock, Bergman, Scorsese and Chesty Morgan all at once.
Houston, Texas, a portal city for Japanese anime? Yes, thanks to forward-thinking ADV founders John Ledford and Matt Greenfield. For the uninitiated, anime is Japanese animation for adults, too, not just kids. It's extremely popular in its home country and increasingly so all over the world. Recently spotted at the Video Sellers and Distributors of America conference in Las Vegas, these local boys are pushing the envelope by acquiring cutting-edge anime titles and bringing them to the States. They've been around since 1992, but in the last few years they've really hit their stride.
We've all seen those boring, windowless wooden shacks on the side of the freeway with such original names as Adult MegaPlexxx. And if it's just porn you want, then those places are probably your best bet. But what if you're itching to grab a copy of High Society magazine and, say, some beef jerky? Or what about a nice, tasteful adult film and some cheesy nachos? If that's more your bag, then the quaint little Friendly Mart on Dallas is your best bet. Where else can you satisfy all your late-night cravings at once? Its bright neon signs advertising fountain drinks and ice cream might seem a bit incongruous with the stack of racy magazines and videos by the window. But who says it's wrong to eat ice cream and watch porn at the same time? Now, please pass the jerky.

Walk in nice, walk out naughty. This store has more selection than a buffet on Sunday brunch -- from complete drag-queen attire to standard dildos and edible underpants to sinfully seductive latex nurse outfits and she-devil getups. They also carry every prop you might possibly need to carry out any fantasy, from yummy body paint and furry handcuffs to whips and wigs, not to mention fangs and spiked dog collars. Also, on the opposite side of the store you will find hip, nicely priced pants, shirts, shoes, purses and jewelry. There's something for everyone here: a head shop, erotica, princess dresses perfect for the Renaissance Festival. It's definitely a great place to get a Halloween costume, no matter what kind of treat you're looking for.
A recent transplant from Southern California was shocked when we told her that people really do surf here in Texas. She would have died laughing if we had shown her our pick for Houston's best surf shop. It's true that the outside of the Surfhouse isn't what you might expect. Instead of seagulls, we have blackbirds. Instead of salt in the air, we have exhaust fumes. Pounding waves? Forget it. The nearest beach is an hour away. But on the inside, this north-of-the-Heights landmark is a shrine to Texas surf culture. The Surfhouse has been a fixture on the Houston scene since before most of its current customers were born. It opened in 1967, under the same owners it has today. "They're really into the history of it all," said one 28-year-old customer who has been shopping here since age 11. "It's cool to support a store where they really love the sport."

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