Flying Saucer Pie Company

Nestled between an air-conditioning repair business and an auto garage in an industrial part of north Houston, this pie bakery has been around for more than 40 years for a reason. The owners keep a no-frills shop, prices are low and they make mouthwatering, addictive pies that literally have customers lined up outside the door waiting for their very own slice. Try their famous strawberry cream pie and enjoy the fresh-baked taste of the crispy crust underneath the fluffy home-made cream, with fresh strawberries bringing the two together in a forkful of perfection.

As the only woman on a large staff in a popular shop in a Fiesta shopping center, where guys in wifebeaters congregate outside in the middle of the afternoon, Nish has to be good. Loyal patrons say her female touch creates a cut like no other. Laid-back and reserved, Nish listens carefully to her clients, then adds a woman's perspective on what looks good, as the result always does. "She knows how to keep you straight," one customer says. Nish can handle any kind of hair, and keep it healthy, along with your skin — she's even known to sway wary clients into getting a facial.

Any Occasion Party Rental

The Houston Press doesn't want anything fancy for its birthday party. Just a massive pit barbecue that we have to tow over with our pickup. Then we'll need some tables and chairs, plates and napkins, and a frozen margarita machine. A hot-dog roll-cart (with sneeze guard), maybe a nacho cheese warmer. Definitely karaoke. At Any Occasion Party Rental, it's strictly the serious stuff: getting people full, drunk and possibly singing, and making it convenient. The professional staff will walk you through it all as if you're planning a wedding (and you can do that here, too). Tell them what you want, and they'll tell you how to get it done — right down to finding the nearest Party City location to pick up all the amateur stuff.

Finding a friendly neighborhood bookstore is a welcome respite from the mega-stores and online warehouses that have become the norm. As it happens, "friendly" and "neighborhood" are two words that describe Blue Willow Bookstore perfectly. It's as much a gathering place as it is a retail shop. Sure, books get sold — they also get talked about (several book clubs meet here, including the Tough Broads Out at Night Book Club for women and Biblueophiles for teens). Books also get read aloud (author appearances are frequent, and Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor, Sharon Creech and Joy Preble are all on the fall schedule). They even get sung about (the teen band Harry and the Potters have appeared in concert at the store).

Houston Camera Exchange

This store sells everything a photographer — either a novice or the ultimate pro — could ever need. It's got new cameras, old-fashioned cameras, tripods, lights and more. It even has its own photo lab for both digital and film processing. But what makes this place an "exchange" is the fact that if the owners can sell it, they'll buy it from you. There's a huge selection of used cameras and gear for great prices. And if you're the seller, the shop offers either store credit or a good old-fashioned check.

Chocolat Du Monde

From the outside, this place in Rice Village may not look like a chocolate shop, with its display window filled with toy dolls, but it sure smells like one when you get inside. The shelves are filled with chocolate powders and mixes and oversize glass jars of chocolate-covered coffee beans and peppermints. But a giant display case filled with nearly every variety of bonbon ever devised is the real star. For the last five years, proprietor David Heiland has boasted that his shop is the only one in Texas to sell Leonidas Belgian chocolate, one of the world's finest, which he imports fresh every week. But if that doesn't make you drool, maybe the butter creams or chocolate-covered potato chips will.

Core Chiropractic

Who would think that a chiropractor could solve a lingering migraine headache that no other doctor could fix? That's exactly what happened to a patient of Dr. Philip Cordova, who runs Core Chiropractic — not far from the Galleria — along with his wife Natalie, whom he married the day after the couple graduated from chiropractic college. Cordova gets "adjusted" every couple weeks, he says, and he started doing so after a chiropractor alleviated the pain from an injury he suffered as a teen. Core Chiropractic offers free consultations, and no referrals are needed to schedule an appointment. So if your doctor is shutting off the supply of Vicodin scrips, you might want to think about giving Cordova a call.

Kegg's Candies

Kegg's has been serving up delicious handmade chocolate crafted right here in Houston for more than 60 years. This place has it all, from chocolate truffles and chocolate-coated nuts to oversize peanut butter cups and fudge. Everything comes in both dark and milk chocolate. And if buying in bulk is more your style, Kegg's can easily accommodate; the chocolatiers can even shape their decadent wares to look like a set of tools, a tennis racquet or a set of dentures.

S F2 Sports Fan

When out-of-town rap stars find themselves in Houston, their itinerary might include a stop at SF2. Owner Teresa Waldon travels far and wide (okay, mostly New York City and Los Angeles, but still) to get the scoop on what's hot, and her stores (there's also a smaller one near Sharpstown Mall) carry a selection of brands and styles diverse and fresh enough to make the likes of Rick Ross and Jadakiss come in and sign their names on the wall. At the Sharpstown location, the back wall is a glass case of high-tops to make any aficionado drool — Adidas and Reebok, sure, but also Creative Recreation (Los Angeles), A-Life (New York) and PF Flyers. Clothing brands range from skate-savvy Supra to Crooks and Castles to Paul Wall's Expen$ive Taste and T.I.'s Akoo. If you need a little wisdom on the different choices, the well-schooled staff is happy to fill you in.

Third Planet

There are cleaner, more organized comic book stores, sure. There are also cooler ones, which specialize in hipper, more underground comics. But let's not kid ourselves: A comic book store needs to cater to people who love comic books (it seems so simple), and that's what Third Planet does, by virtue of sheer volume. Entering the store, you are greeted by a vast expanse packed full of shelves, cabinets, boxes, tables, more boxes and more shelves, all loaded with comics and comic memorabilia. Oh yeah, the memorabilia is nice, too, from brand-new, expensive collectors' items to forgotten treasures that can still be picked up for a song. But the main reason to go is for the comics: tons and tons and tons of them, all kinds, all in excellent condition.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of