Houstonian Dental

No one, except maybe the Bill Murray character in Little Shop of Horrors, likes going to the dentist. So "Best Dentist" doesn't necessarily mean a place where you'll enjoy yourself; it just means the utter annoyance of it all will be kept to a bare minimum. And that's what you get at Houstonian Dental, conveniently located at Greenbriar and 59: two dentists (Dr. Helen Jafari and Dr. Jane Herrington) who are cheerful, efficient and good at their jobs. Kids who have gotten too old for the surrounded-by-toys dental offices will be in good hands here and be made to feel safe and...well, if not exactly happy, at least not dreading the experience for days before the appointment.

Got a big date or speech coming up? Visit the Chantecaille desk at Neiman Marcus. The cosmetics team will wave the gorgeous wand over you. The glamorous but definitely down-to-earth J.R. Johnson and Darlene Gillespie keep customers updated about special complimentary events such as makeovers or facials with them or Greg Messer, the line's L.A.-based esthetician. While the goods are a bit pricey, they're also natural, subtle and French — worth it if you have delicate skin or need to look as though you have money. And the TLC is free. Pampering without prissiness: heavenly.

It's not easy to trust someone to walk, feed and truly care for your furry little four-legged baby while you're away. But the folks at The Dog Walker, owned and operated by Ben Louis, make it as easy as possible. Fully bonded and trained in pet CPR, Louis, a former Rice student who turned his sideline job into a full-time business with a host of employees, will play with your dog probably more than you do. And after each walk and game of fetch, The Dog Walker will leave behind a doggie report card letting you know what kind of mood your dog was in that day and how many times it went to the bathroom. Other services offered include bringing in the mail, taking out the trash and sending Internet greetings and photos from your pet.

Eagle Express

One thing to remember about a dry cleaner: Absolutely no one achieves 100 percent customer satisfaction. There's just something about clothes and stains and expectations. If you praise an establishment, someone will fire back with a "lost my buttons" story. Eagle Express in Montrose no doubt has its share of disgruntled former customers, but we're guessing it has fewer than most. The crew there is polite, efficient and seems to remember your name after even one visit. The prices are in line with every other place, and Eagle Express is not going to be here today and gone tomorrow. (We say with fingers crossed, given the current economy.) Even if you live out in the 'burbs, if you work downtown, it's worth a bit of a pre- or post-work drive to Montrose to get quality care for your clothes.

Canino's Produce

We were as excited as anyone else about the early 2000s boomlet in farmers' markets all over Houston. Sadly, each of them disappointed us. Yeah, we're down with the whole "support the American farmer" and "buy local produce" movements, but when all you've got are a few tables with piles of chard, artisanal cheese and arugula on them, it reminds us less of bountiful America than of some kind of snooty version of a godforsaken nutrition-deficient Soviet backwater. Give us the majesty of the purple mountains of eggplants and amber waves of maize of Canino's any day. There you can fully stock your produce drawer, fruit bowl and tamale platter in one fell swoop, not to mention pick up a piñata and a licuado while you're at it, all at the best prices and the highest quality in town. And we also just love the experience of shopping there — the crush and bustle of the throngs of shoppers, the disarray of the box- and tamale-wrapper-strewn parking lot, the crunch of reggaeton beats, the lisping norteño accordions and the blat of tuba-driven banda music, and the beep-beep-beep of forklifts ferrying boxes of mangos to and fro.

Traders Village

At Traders Village, you can buy a Chihuahua, get your hair cut, drink a beer, arm yourself with nunchakus and a samurai sword, and then buy a dress for a quinceañera. Not to mention, all the friendly vendors are truly the salt of the earth. One image that sums up Traders Village is a life-size statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator, for sale in front of a table of incense. What's not to love?

G & G Model Shop

Hobby shops have become huge chain stores these days. Rice Village has become a charmless strip of overpriced Gap-like outlets. So it's a little bit surprising that tear-it-down Houston has a charming old-timey hobby shop, and that it's in Rice Village. G&G has been around since TV was new (it has the retro sign to prove it) and specializes in trains, airplanes and other modeling minutiae. Says one hobbyist we know, "Hobby shops, like the neighborhood drugstore, are an anachronism now that Internet stores can sell for so much cheaper. But what you miss by not supporting your local hobby shop is being able to hang around, swap tips with other modelers, ask advice from proprietors, that kind of thing." And that's just the "kind of thing" that G&G specializes in. Long may it do so.

Nothing fancy here — and we appreciate that. It's $1.25 per load in (often) old machines that can shake like they're possessed, and three or four quarters in the scalding hot dryers usually gets the job done fast (careful about burning your threads, though). The set-up is drab; the arcade games are kind of depressing. But here's what makes the place stand out: The attached (and modestly priced) wash-and-fold means there's always someone on hand to field a complaint, keep the lights on an extra five minutes or, most thankfully, make change for a $20 bill — a far cry from the faceless, coin-sucking misery of most Laundromats. As an additional bonus, the place is centrally located on the bustling hipster thoroughfare of Westheimer, allowing one to pass time with a drink at nearby Poison Girl or do some people-watching (or mocking) at the countless clothing exchanges down the street.

So you're buying a house, or need someone to check work done by someone else on your digs. Michael Busch, a licensed sewer inspector, has got the camera equipment to ease your mind. He even takes smaller plumbing jobs on a case-by-case basis, with the caveat that he may be called to bigger, filthier emergencies at any time. Busch jokes that he's got a really strong immune system from being forced at many a lunchtime to eat a sandwich while checking a sewer line, but to look at him, he's sartorially sanitary. He's respectful of your turf, too, leaving behind no detritus of any kind.

Spec’s Fine Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods
Jeff Balke

How many different ways can you riff on the reasons why Spec's downtown is the best liquor store in the city? Not many, because the store continues to be the best for the same reason: Whether it's beer, wine, whiskey, rum or scotch, Spec's will have it. Almost guaranteed. Not to mention a deli and cheese selection that's ridiculously large. Or the cash discount. This year, Best of Houston® exhaustively searched for another liquor store that could match up to Spec's, but fact is, there's no place like it, and until another store steps up, we'll keep awarding it to this place. Because anytime out-of-towners make a point to visit a liquor store for the experience, you know it's solid gold.

Best Of Houston®

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