Dave Rosales

It's not easy to make high-society, grown-up types look like, well, kids in a candy store, but these sweet slingers manage to pull it off. The Chocolate Bar offers tasty, original-recipe ice cream and cakes along with chocolate-covered everything; and Candylicious sells a variety of traditional and wacky confections, from jelly beans to a plunger sucker that you dip in a toilet filled with candy sprinkles. On any given night you can see both kiddos and just-out-of-the-office types drooling over something on the shelves or in the cases. Both shops are owned by candy masters Gilbert Johnson and Jimmy Smith, who are always developing new ways to enjoy their tasty treats, including a pirate ship made from fun-size Hershey bars, licorice whips and whatever else they have lying around their stores.

Bubbles isn't the cheapest car wash in Houston. But do you want your car to be clean, or do you want it to be kinda clean? The good folks at Bubbles will clean your carriage inside and out, top to bottom, while you chill inside and entertain yourself by looking through merchandise ranging from CDs to books to flip-flops. Or you can use a computer to check e-mail or www.houstonpress.com. With a variety of cleaning, waxing, shampooing, detailing and whatever-ing packages, Bubbles definitely can meet your particular needs and make even a '79 Gremlin feel like a brand-sparkling-new Bentley.

We had Thanksgiving catered from Adrian's – delivered to our home, no less – for pennies on the dollar for what it would have cost to cook it ourselves. And could we have duplicated Robert Campbell's succulent turkey or Tina Grimstead-Campbell's perfect po­tato salad? No way! Walk-in customers have learned that they can both place and pick up catering orders from Adrian's, as well as grab a custom-made salad or sandwich for lunch – all made with the freshest ingredients. If you like a berry cobbler featured one day, rest assured you can order a mega-size one to take home to feed your family reunion. It's strange how people suddenly invite themselves over for luscious home cooking – and it's strange how we're not real up-front about whose home was used for the cooking. This family-run catering company now also has a downtown storefront called The Jury's Out...To Lunch (815 Walker) in the historic Esperson Building, where they do a fair amount of business with law firms.

If you're into comics, anime, action figures, movie posters or goth collectibles, check out Bedrock City. They answer the question "Whadda ya got besides funny-books?" with total logic and verve: "Does the Louvre only house works by Da Vinci?" Owner Richard Evans opened the original location in 1990, and he now sells at three other area locations and online. Bedrock City not only stays on top of trends, new releases and special and rare comic book editions, they also have heart: We've seen 'em donate small gifts to graduates of Houston elementary and middle schools. Maybe that's the old dealer adage: Give the kids a taste for free, and they'll keep coming back for more.

Okay, all you PC lovers, put up your dukes! It's on! The PC vs. Mac argument has been going for years. It will be years still before that particular consumer struggle is decided, but inside the Apple store in the Galleria, Mac has won. A haven for Mac lovers who are usually relegated to some back corner of the PC store, the Apple Store was recently refurbished and now resembles an art gallery. Gray walls feature strategic lighting that highlights displays of Mac software; long tables run down the center of the showroom, groaning under the weight of notebooks and iPods; and there's plenty of space for mingling. These days there's a huge display of iPhones right up front (just look for the table where everyone stands entranced), and a children's table in the back, with supposedly indestructible, kid-friendly computers.

This chain of Vietnamese-owned stores has been serving neighborhood patrons with all sorts of needs, at all sorts of hours. No matter if you need to just pick up some milk or want to choose a fresh cigar from the walk-in humidor, this place provides the things commonly found in a normal convenience store and then some. From their fine selection of chocolates to unusual magazines, you will find it all here, well-priced and sold to you with a smile.

This family-run business has been a Houston institution since 1950. Things have changed a bit since then, and that's a good thing — you can now view costumes and order online. And they have disguises for pretty much everyone — adults, kids, plus-size — from the standard to the more playful. And, of course, pirates! Even if you think you're too "mature" to dress up for Halloween or casual Friday, you owe it to yourself to swing by the store or check out the Web site.

Bruce Smith is a great believer in "no pain" dentistry. That alone should qualify him for an award, but that's not all Dr. Smith has done to deserve our notice. The dentist, who began his career by doing service work in rural Waller County, came to Houston in 1981 — the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When Smith saw the incredible need for quality dental care for HIV/AIDS patients, who often had no medical insurance, he helped found the Bering Dental Clinic, which provided free services. He also developed a universal precaution standard that he taught to other dentists so that they could safely care for HIV/AIDS patients. His current practice includes people from all walks of life.

Four stories of fine fabric is only the beginning of the offerings at High Fashion Fabrics. Besides the yards and yards of silk, velvet, brocade, leather, linen and every other kind of millinery marvel, there's furniture, design books, ribbon, pillows, rugs and design thingamajigs and doodads in just about every corner. The staff is very helpful and, best of all, most of it costs way less than what you'd pay at most other fabric/furniture stores in town. And since High Fashion Fabric Center is open seven days a week, you can get your design fix whenever the bug bites.

Its hard to pick a favorite. You have the Bright Day Bouquet, the Mellow Yellow, the Picture Perfect. You could spend quite a long time at Breens, searching through many beautiful bouquets, looking for the one that expresses exactly what you want to say. And no doubt Breens will have it, whether its for graduation, birthday, sympathy, wedding or just to say, You kick ass, dude. You can even join Breens e‑mail list to get a newsletter and coupons and enter contests where you can win free flowers.

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