Tucked into a mostly residential part of Montrose, this laundromat is as good as it gets when it comes to laundry day. AM radio nonchalantly fills the place with the music of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, making the chore just a little more digestible. Washers and dryers always seem to be available, so the only waiting you will do here is for your clothes to dry. And you'll find that a great opportunity to strike up a conversation with one of the attractive people this place always seems to attract.

Spec's Deli
Jeff Balke

They call it Spec's Liquor Warehouse because, well, calling a liquor store the size of a large supermarket just a store wouldn't exactly do it justice. This Mecca offers it all, no matter what you're looking to down. If you need a keg for a frat party, they have over 200 different types and sizes to choose from. If for some reason you're looking for an $800 bottle of Scotch, well, they have that too, as well as a mind-boggling amount of wine that would be impossible to choose from without help from the exceptionally knowledgeable staff.

So she didn't win Project Runway like that other gal in town, but Vanessa Riley has a hot new shop next door to Grotto and across the street from Hotel Derek. If it's a swashbuckling Elizabeth Swann you want to channel, Riley's your frock-maker. With enough ruffled bodices and tight-fitting corsets to make Captain Jack's eyes pop, Riley's clothing is known for exquisite workmanship and fine fabrics. While the city's elite may have closets full of her ball gowns and horsey suits, even budget fashionistas can pick up a sheer blouse with French cuffs down to the fingertips or a darling summer dress or two from the sale rack. If money is no object, ask this Brit babe to whip up something just for you, and you'll look like the queen of the high seas.

Are you a lazy slob? Do you not like cleaning up after yourself? Well, whether you're lazy or legitimately cleaning-impaired, Maid 4 Texas is your savior. They will tackle your nasty kitchen and your disgusting bathroom. They will disinfect, mop, sweep, dust, vacuum, polish, remove, add and empty. They will undo all of your damage and make your place sparkle. They will customize a cleaning plan for you, and you can get a free quote on the phone or online. Quite simply, they offer a comprehensive range of services for a reasonable price. Hop to it, you bum. You've got company coming over tonight — do you really want them to think you live like this?

The camaraderie among the friendly staff — most of whom hail from Vietnam — is a big draw for some of the loyal clientele. But other happy customers, like Thomas Dickerson, who teaches prison inmates how to reduce their risk of catching AIDS, can vouch for something else: "They're so clean," he says. In ten years, we've had the pleasure of trying out almost everyone there: Kathy makes sure every cuticle and nail is buffed, trimmed and perfected, but why single her out? There's Mary, Helen, Linda, Tracy, Anna — and everyone provides great hand and arm massages, which are included with the bargain price of $32 for the mani-pedi combo. Lisa shines as a masseuse but, if you love overkill, there's massage chairs, too. And don't forget Tiffany, who sings Christmas carols to keep her sense of timing with the manicure. That in itself is worth the price.

So there's a tiny, weird-­looking human being living in your body, Alien-style. That's no reason to spend nine months imprisoned in a frumpy muumuu. You have choices, and Mommie Chic wants you to know that. That's why they carry some of the best names in quality maternity fashion, including Olian, Anticipation, Prego, MaMe, Mathew Cole, Belly Basics and Nicole Michelle. And Mommie Chic is so sure you'll like these clothes that, according to the Web site, "You don't have to be pregnant to want to slip on these styles. Many of the designs we carry work well for the fashion-conscious woman before and after pregnancy too."

Sound Exchange

This Montrose-area establishment has been supplying local music snobs with the most epicurean of sounds for years now. No matter if you're looking for the latest vinyl release from an obscure noise band or a self-manufactured CD by a local group, Sound Exchange is the place you're most likely to dig it up. By no means does this little house-turned-record-store have the largest selection in town — they just have one of the finest. The employee-recommended picks are a guaranteed way to learn about new music ahead of the curve, and the well-priced used vinyl makes this place hard to leave without happily spending some cash.

Walking through the maze of plants at Joshua's immediately slows the heart rate, as you lose yourself in a mini-Garden of Eden. Two zebra finches, Dot and Dash, hold court in a faux bois birdcage, stuttering the soothing Morse code that inspired their names. We've seen Joshua Kornegay throw in an extra herb plant, say, as a lagniappe, and his generosity extends to his time as well. If you don't learn all you need to from his helpful notes on each plant, he or right-hand man Joel Rangel will fill you in. "If it's hard to grow, I write, 'Hard to grow,'" Joshua says.

From bourbons to vodkas, this quaint store holds a well-priced selection of all your boozing needs. But the thing that makes it so great is the incredibly knowledgeable staff. It doesn't matter if you think you know more about drinking than Jack Daniel. Or maybe you just turned 21 and are still trying to figure out how to pour rum into your flask without spilling it all over the place. These guys can answer the most random questions about being a modern-day drunkard. They're kind of like the Yodas of the alcohol world.

So it's two days before Mother's Day and, like an idiot, you forgot all about it again. All the good flowers are probably gone — you need to get her something sweet, and you need it quick. Then you remember: What about that dual vibrating flexidong Mom's always hinting about? And as soon as you think of that, you remember that Dad's birthday is right around the corner, and you know he's always going on about how his old cock-and-ball harness has been broken for months. But where can you get a vibrating flexidong and a space-age cock-and-ball harness? Carmen's, my friend. And that's just for starters: They have so many different toys, apparel, videos and bondage play sets, you'll think you died and went to pervert heaven. And Mom and Dad will never be happier!

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