Rice Epicurean Market
Sometimes we all need a break from chicken-fried steak and baby-back ribs smothered in mesquite barbecue sauce. And, well, some of us don't like to eat dead stuff. So when your inner hippie's stomach starts grumbling, hightail it to Rice Epicurean Markets. These classy joints are part of Houston's oldest family-owned supermarket chain, founded in 1937. The first Epicurean Market opened in 1988, with a mission to offer more than the usual fare. Although the folks at Rice Epicurean were the first market to carry Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Houston, you really ought to check out their health food selection. Silken tofu, extra-firm tofu, tofu lasagna, Dr. Soy snack bars -- they're all here. And with fair prices, there's no excuse not to give their broad selection a shot.
The moaners and screamers are mostly men, Ati Shafik will tell you in her delightful Egyptian accent, as she applies a sticky paste of warmed sugar and lemon juice to your hairy parts. It's part of a hair-removal process called sugaring, akin to waxing, but allegedly less painful and damaging to your epidermis. True to her spa's name, Cleopatra's Secret, Shafik will keep your personal hair-removal designs and desires hush-hush, even offering options to protect your anonymity. (Guys wanting to avoid raised eyebrows from gym rats in the locker room should leave belly hair intact, she advises.) Female hair-haters might opt for "The Egyptian," a procedure as old as Cleopatra herself that promises you'll be bare down there, er, front to back throughout. (You'll understand what we mean when Shafik cheerfully tells you on the table to "turn the engine over.") This sugar mama is a savior for swimmers, bodybuilders and even camping enthusiasts, who swear by her back-door treatments when a leaf is your only source of personal hygiene.
We don't care much for porn. It debases both the performers and the viewers, if you ask us. But we've got this, um, friend, right, and this friend of ours has been to just about every adult video store in this sticky city, and that's saying a lot, considering how many there are. So our friend just loves Emporio 30 XXX, even if the name is a little repetitive when you break it down into Roman numerals. (No worries: Next month the place is changing its name to Carmen's 24 Hr. Boutique & Video.) Our friend raves about the selection -- straight, gay, bi, transsexual, even the classics -- and our friend can't get enough of the viewing rooms, where you can flip through 127 channels of sweaty pleasure. And when our friend's done with that, there's an erotic boutique next door with even more fun. Our friend really loves this place.
Thirty-five years ago, Dan and Joy Boone started refurbishing secondhand bikes in their backyard for extra grocery money. Today, they have one of the most popular bike shops in the city. The shop is still in the backyard, but they now have everything from $300 city bikes to a $4,000 specialty frame and fork. In addition to road bikes and mountain bikes, they have an extensive collection of clothes and accessories, including jerseys, gloves, shoes, cleats and helmets. If you buy from them, the shop will also service your new ride free for a year (not including accidents or abuse). As unique as the setup is, owner Joy Boone says the place is easy to miss from the street. "If you're not looking for the bike shop, you may just pass it by," she says. We recommend you don't.
All convenience stores are pretty much the same, right? Wrong. This place has all the basics -- you know, candy, chips, sodas, cigs, forties -- but it's the extras that really make it a cut above the rest. There's incense, faux designer sunglasses and weed magazines galore. (Seriously, we had no idea there were so many mags devoted to bud.) But what really makes this place rock is the young staff (always helpful and friendly) and the music (always jamming and turned way the hell up). Hang around long enough and you'll become an expert in Asian-tinged electronica, not to mention what kinds of nuggets have been coming out of BC lately.
Frankel's Costume
Halloween is but one time of the year to dress up and pretend you're someone (or something) else. For example, you can go rampaging anytime. For the uninitiated, that's when a group of friends all dress up in the same wacky style, be it as Santas, ballerinas or simians, and hit up bars and events en masse just to see how people react. And Frankel's will meet all your rampaging needs. This place has got materials for pretty much any kind of costume you can imagine, not to mention tons of other party favors and magic tricks. You and your friends want to go out as Madonnas? Frankel's has the wigs and bustiers to do it. Y'all wanna go all Jersey-style and dress up as gangsters? No problem -- just grab a suit and a fake gun. And how about faux cowboys? Yep, Frankel's has even got you covered when it comes to stirrups and Dubya masks. Now get out there and raise a ruckus.
Six years ago rapper Paul Wall hooked up with Vietnamese jeweler Johnny Dang, and the mouths of the South haven't been the same since. Dang's skills with grills are legendary in the hip-hop community, as is evident by the man's client list: Lil Jon, David Banner, Z-Ro, Mike Jones and Nelly, to name a few. It's easy to attribute a lot of this success to Wall's promotional skills, but you can't deny the benefits of TV Jewelry's factory-direct approach. You walk in, pick out a style, get fitted and come back when the work is done. And then you get to slobber all over the piece before walking out the door, just to make sure it's going to stay in place. Pearly whites, get ready to shine.
Nestled in the same strip center as Aries Restaurant and Zimm's Wine Bar, Spectacles on Montrose is perfectly poised to make you look like a true Inner Loop hipster. Want a shiny, iridescent pair of exclusive Booth & Bruce frames from England? How about some paper-clip-thin, uber-chic, aluminum frames by !ci Berlin (for your sunglasses, natch)? For those who understand the fashion aesthetic rule that eyewear can be an accessory, owners Evan Mapes and Corey Theige have created a mecca of designer specs. Mapes, who looks every bit the Montrose hipster but is positively nerdy about eye care, is acutely attuned to a patient's desire to look cool despite -400/-100 (read: lousy) vision, and is known for making contacts work for people who dream of a life free from glasses. Whether you're looking for one-of-a-kind frames or the perfect set of gas permeables, this is the place to make a spectacle of yourself.
Readers' choice: Texas State Optical
The former Christopher's Wine Warehouse may have a new name and a new location, but the selection, ambiance and expertise are as excellent as always. Christopher Massie has been in the business for 20 years, so he knows his stuff. And if you hang out long enough at his shop, you will too. Oenophiles will delight over the wide selection, including labels from Europe, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. And they're priced from $10.99, so you don't have to break the bank. For those whose knowledge of wines is limited to the sweet nectar of Mr. Boone's farm, Christopher's hosts a weekly seminar and frequent tastings.
Jay Lee, Houston Chronicle Help Line columnist and co-host of KPFT/90.1 FM's Technology Bytes, makes understanding the oft-frustrating wired world of computers possible for even the most basic of users. Lee's strength is in his simple instructions and advice. But if you want to get hard-core, he can also out-geek any challenger on the methods of machinery. Lee first became interested in computers in high school in 1978 with a Tandy TRS-80 (that sleek design, the sensuous hot buttons...oh, wait, we're talking about a machine here...), but he didn't own his first system until the late '80s. "It didn't work when I took it out of the box, but I was able to sort it out myself. That's when I knew I had a knack for computer troubleshooting," he says. Lee notes that spyware is now the "single most common cause of computer performance problems today" and preaches with the zeal of Jimmy Swaggart in a whorehouse about the urgency to back up, back up and back up your computer's data and files.

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