A beginning fisherman (or woman) could get lost in this sprawling tackle store in south Houston. But the staff can hook you up with all the equipment and knowledge you need to be on your way. Unlike other big-box outdoor stores, Fishing Tackle Unlimited is straight fishing. There's plenty of gear for any kind of angling — in-shore, offshore or fly. The shop hosts a couple instructional classes and demos throughout the year, but on any day a staffer will take you to the parking lot and teach the technique with a casting or fly reel. Fishing Tackle Unlimited also has a nice variety of kayaks, which it rents for $50 a day. If you get serious about kayaking, the rental fee can be applied to the purchase price. You can also try out a kayak in the store's big outdoor pool.

Photo by Houston Press Staff

Elizabeth Harrison and Peter Cooper may have gone Hollywood — the couple moved to L.A. to make films — but when it came time to open a bakery, they did it back home in H-Town. Their last flick, Love and Mary, was shot in Houston, and about a baker; also, Harrison has had a sweet tooth for years. So the swanky little shop in Uptown Park is just a natural extension of their creative juices. If gluttony is a vice, so be it. But one bite of her granny's Nutella cupcake and you'll be hooked and craving (yeah, we said it) more cupcakes.

Can't fix your bike? Yes, you can. Workshop Houston gives you the tools and the knowledge to mend clicking cranks, hard-to-handle handlebars, flat tires and more — all for free (unless you need new parts, but those are practically free). They'll even teach you how to build your own bike. Sure, you could just leave your ride with a mechanic, but you might be surprised at how little time and money it takes to do it yourself. Already got the know-how? Don't let these guys stand in your way. Tell them the tools you need and they'll point you in the right direction. Stick around long enough and take a tour of the Chopper Shop. All profits are put back into expanding the shop and Workshop Houston's other charity projects that benefit Houston youth.

There are sometimes as many as six author appearances a week at Murder by the Book. That's reason enough to love it. Add that the store specializing in mysteries has an ­extensive range of titles and an incredibly knowledgeable staff, and it's easy to see why it wins our Best Bookstore award. Authors ­routinely alter their tour plans to stop at Murder by the Book, which they say is among the most hospitable in the country (read: they sell a lot of books). So, want a graphic thriller? Murder by the Book has it. How about a steamy whodunit? Got it. Or an English cozy? Check. Mysteries — with every level of intrigue, sex and violence, and characters ranging from the hardened P.I. to the English grandma, the ­modern vampire to the medieval damsel — cram the shelves.

Dave Rosales

All right, so, "Best Candy Store," let's see...mmm...chocolate-covered popcorn...Whoops, sorry. Got distracted. Anyway, Chocolate Bar has served delicious homemade goodies for years now...mmm...chocolate cream truffles and s'mores chocolate cheesecake...Whoa — did it again! Sorry about that. Now where were we? Oh yes, Chocolate Bar has excellent ice cream, cakes and coffees to go along with their chocolate specialties like chocolate "greeting" bars and chocolate-dipped fresh fruit...mmm...and chocolate pizza...They also have sugar-free choices and even carob-covered goodies for your dog (i.e., chocolate-free). So really, it's no wonder that Chocolate Bar is this year's winner for...mmm...brownies...

This category really should be "Best Chiropractor and Former Movie Actor." Brian Cesak was one of the stars of Kevin Reynolds's first feature film, the 1985 road movie cult classic ­Fandango, with one spoken line (hilarious though it may be). A poster from the movie hangs in his Memorial-area office. You wonder if he's the lush he portrays in the movie, but one session convinces you there's no way. No one in their cups could manage such focused adjustments; plus, he's got the Jesus fish on his business cards. One thing he does have in common with the character he played: When it comes to discussing the movie, they're equally chatty. He's more focused on healing folks now.

Packaged in a simple brown paper box, this chocolate cube may not look groundbreaking, but when it comes to chocolate, it's taste that counts. Richard Kaplan, a former chef at trendy New York and Key West spots, hit the Houston chocolate scene in 2004 with a burst of flavor combos seldom if ever seen before. His recipes range from mixing milk chocolate with Jack Daniel's, caramel, cashews and fleur de sel, to white chocolate with candied Meyer lemon, Myers's dark rum and thyme. And don't forget the delicious dark stuff; Kaplan offers six variations that will make you smile and swoon. Brown Paper Chocolates can be found at several stores around town including Spec's and Whole Foods, as well as online.

The residents of Montrose have had a deep rivalry for years. Like Republicans and Democrats, they hold arguments at bars that evoke the silliness of Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book. All the fuss is over which is the better convenience store, Hollywood or Pak's. Well, the final answer is Pak's. The colorful clerks' personalities are as varied as the beer selection, and good-to-quirky music is constantly being played. It's always clean inside, and stopping and getting into a rather lengthy conversation with the clerk or fellow customers seems more normal and acceptable than awkward.

Forget about that scene in Marathon Man — Dr. John Barras is a cutie pie with a sugar-sweet staff, high-tech tools and an ubër-cool office of hardwoods and distressed walls. If a dentist's office can look like a boutique, this is the one. He specializes in "sedation dentistry" — as in, we'll relax you and even put you to sleep if need be — and his staff gives squeaky-clean cleanings. So just relax, don the headphones or position the flat-screen TV overhead and say "ahhhhhh."

The Fido-friendly folks at Jester Plaza ­Veterinary Clinic will treat your best pal like he's family. At their doggy day care, pooches of every size and shape hang around the place getting pets, pats and even occasional kisses. And if they need a round of shots, dear Dr. Stephen Burda is right there — the day care is inside his clinic, after all. They also offer grooming services for any pup in need of a shave and a mani-pedi, and a yard out back is perfect for catching Frisbees. But the best thing about this doggy day care is that the canines kicking back at the clinic are clearly happy to be in the company of some very ­caring humans.

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