Antique Warehaus

"Trash and Treasure since 1947," the slogan for Antique Warehaus, says it all. The Montrose-based dive is stacked from dirty floor to raftered ceiling with everything from leather couches and ottomans to flatware and glassware, lamps, old cameras, bar stools and picture frames. It's the city's best, most affordable and unpretentious antiques store.

We know a driver who fell victim to one of Houston's notorious potholes, leaving half the front underside of his car dragging ominously. He took it to the nearest garage, where they helpfully jury-rigged a solution but told him to get a permanent fix at his regular mechanic. So he took it to Shepherd Square Tire & Auto, near Shepherd and Westheimer. They took a look at it and said they could replace the jury-rigging with factory parts and charge $300 or so, but it wouldn't be any better than what was on there now. Three years later, he still hasn't had any problems. The guys at Shepherd Square are straight-shooters who won't try to upsell you and will do the work they promise at the price they promise. An oil change brings with it an inspection of your car that's not designed to bilk you but to keep you safe. Plus, it's right next door to the Brown Bag Deli, so waiting for the work to be done is a snap.

Maybe Halliburton can't run a war — much less a country — but one of its former civil engineers can whip your skin into shape! Mahssa burned out on her former career but, lucky for us, became an esthetician and makeup artist. She's as bubbly as you'd expect for someone in the glamour trade, but her grasp of science and how things work gives her uncanny insight into ridding us of weird bumps and hairs (she does waxing and chemical peels, too). Mahssa is a bit of a freak, because her own skin just might truly be made of porcelain and therefore need no TLC — unlike most of the rest of us. She personalizes each skin treatment, keeps lengthy customer files (don't worry; Halliburton can't access them) and is the next best thing to a dermatologist. One woman we know with chronic acne saw a complete turnaround. And we've been told we are aglow — days after a session. Throw in a hand and arm massage, and get a quickie lesson in minerals makeup, and you'll glow, too. We won't trust our hide to anyone else. A caveat: You'd better be using sunscreen year-round, or prepare yourself for a drubbing.

Farmers' markets are hard to come by in Houston, which is why Bayou City Farmers' Market is such a find. It's tucked away on a side street in the Upper Kirby district, and growers and artisans alike come to peddle their goods every Wednesday and Saturday. Aside from produce, you can find grass-fed beef, fresh baked goods, organic salads, artisanal cheeses, locally made honey and coffee. If you're lucky, there may be some live music playing as you make your way from vendor to vendor sampling their offerings and wondering why you didn't find this place sooner. You can also sign up for a mailing list that keeps you up-to-date on fresh food happenings around the city.

It had to happen — a chain offering massages at discount rates. And we tired, poor, huddled masses say, "Bring it!" Of 660 clinics nationwide, 20 or so are in the Houston area, lending credibility to the rumor that our city's traffic really does suck. We go to the one in Meyerland; a coworker swears by a skilled masseuse's Swedish technique at the Sugar Land location. First visit's $39 per hour! Check out the Web site, where you'll learn about the different massage types — we learned that there is no authorized use of a peacock feather in any of the salons. And to think we once paid a guy for that at a sports club downtown! We love the standardized, cookie-cutter reassurance of Massage Envy.

If you want to snap up a cute lil' chihuahua, get a really big dog for protection or even snare one of the new hybrids, like a Puggle, for cheap from the Houston SPCA, first you gotta pass muster with the gentle folks there. The organization has you undergo a bit of counseling and education. You'll also have to cough up the fee for the animal to be spayed or neutered before they'll release your new pet. But the cost — under $100, depending on the animal's size — includes deworming and the first set of vaccinations. All this is designed to make a happier family for pets and humans. The kind SPCA volunteers have been known to adopt a pet or two of their own, which says a lot about the animals and even more about the folks who donate their time.

Kronberg's Flags and Flagpoles

Want to strike terror into the heart of that idiot doing a mere 75 miles an hour in the fast lane on the Katy Freeway? Hoist a Jolly Roger from your car's mainmast — that ought to get them the hell out of the way. Kronberg's Flags and Flagpoles carries the classic, black skull-and-crossbones banner in stock. The real pirates of yore each had their own flag, so you might want to customize your own. Kronberg's has you covered there too — you tell them what you want, and they'll make it for you.

David's Pools & Spas

Don't service people generally just scare the crap out of you? They reel off a judgmental tirade laden with technological jargon designed to make you feel like a worm. Where to go, if you're a new pool owner flummoxed by the summertime care and feeding that rivals a newborn baby's? Long before hot weather hits and algae threaten to take over not only the pool but your entire backyard, get thee to David's Pools & Spas. Their mentoring and superior products will make it worth your while. They'll put up with your asking the same question every week for two years, till you get the hang of the gymnast's, mechanic's and chemist's skills required to keep an H-town pool pristine. Occasional house calls.

While Value Village Super Store has plenty to offer anyone stocking an apartment on a budget, the best part of the thrift store is its stock of weird crap to buy for stupid reasons. You can get an old computer screen to throw off a building for a YouTube movie. You can pick up a VHS preview of CBS's 1991 season and laugh at all the shows that didn't make it to '92. You can purchase famed photographs of sailboats or kittens to tear up and doodle obscene pictures over for part of an art project. You can stock your cupboard with coffee cups featuring the names of rural Texas high school football teams or Las Vegas hotels/casinos that closed in 1985. And all of the above will cost you less than 20 bucks.

West Alabama Animal Clinic

What can we say about Dr. Danielle Rosser and the staff at WAAC? Woof! What's not to like about a clinic that sports free, adoptable puppies in the waiting room, tiny canine T-shirts with rhinestone sayings like, "My Mother's a Bitch!," premium pet food, a 20-plus-pound cat on the reception desk and Tag, the Golden Retriever who's always ready with a friendly lick. (Hint: He's trying to get you to give him a treat from the canister on the counter.) Super-efficient and friendly, this crew loves animals and it shows. Check out their Web site and you'll find a mission statement, profiles of staff (and their pets) and a photo gallery of happy customers. Separate entrances for dogs and cats ensure peace among the species.

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