After a long week at work, an hour on the massage table could be your cure. Finding a masseuse, however, is another matter. Your best bet is to check out Massage Envy, a national chain with 26 locations in Houston. We're familiar with the store at Buffalo Speedway and Westpark Drive, where "membership" costs about $50 a month. That gets you one massage — same-day appointments are usually available — and any additional massages run about $40. That rate probably isn't the best around town, but it's better than most. And the best part: Massage Envy stays open late on the weekdays, making it maybe the only late-night massage joint in town that won't get raided by the vice squad.

Marines, skinheads and head-lice victims all agree: There's nothing like having your head shaved. The warm lather, the feel of a razor (preferably a straight razor) scraping over your scalp, the sting of the post-shave tonic on your freshly shaved pate — it's the tonsorial equivalent of a deep-tissue massage. For those of us who prefer to leave an inch-wide, inch-high strip straight down the middle, nobody etches a finer Mohawk than Ambrose Cardenas at Joe Lee's Barber Shop downtown. Shortly after we moved to Houston, we wandered into Joe Lee's wondering if anyone in town would be able to touch up our 'Hawk; the soft-spoken, laid-back Cardenas didn't bat an eye and told us to have a seat. We've been going ever since, and only wish we could figure out a way to make our hair grow faster.

There are no garish posters here. Miracle Nails & Spa, near Meyerland, is simply yet tastefully decorated, and your hands will be too. Miracle is spotlessly clean, with cozy and vigorous spa massage chairs and — miracle of miracles — an actual man doing nails. Aaden's female colleagues – look for Lisa, Cindy and Nancy – also are adept, and the salon just reduced hour massage prices to $45. "Better than Massage Envy," says Lisa: "No membership." Plus, none of the manicurists gossip about the clients in another language (see Seinfeld episode No. 110).

Get us into a bookstore — especially one as conveniently located as the new Books a Million in downtown's Houston Pavilions development — and there go at least a couple of hours down the drain. With an entire wall of publications ranging from The Nation and Mojo to Guns & Ammo and Vanity Fair, Books a Million is a magazine lover's paradise. Better yet, the staff won't mind if you sit a spell and browse the periodicals (as long as it's not one that comes in a sealed wrapper, but there are plenty of those too), or if you take a couple over to the in-store coffee shop and read as you sip.

Sig's Lagoon

Besides being one of Houston's finest record stores — and, with all due respect to Cactus Music, Sound Exchange, etc., the finest when it comes to hard-to-find and out-of-print Houston and Gulf Coast musical memorabilia — Sig's Lagoon is the place to go when you're looking for a genuine tiki mug, skull-and-crossbones bath mat or Darth Vader bobblehead doll, part of the store's 30-foot-high bobblehead display. There's also clothing, jewelry, books and DVDs (mostly music- or Houston-themed), posters — Sig's Uncle Charlie collection alone is worth a gander — and action figures of notable Men in Black from the last century (Johnny Cash) and the one before that (Edgar Allan Poe). Call it a novelty store if you must, but Sig's sells a whole lot of stuff — besides music, of course — we simply can't live without.

Getting an oil change usually means having to endure some mechanic trying to upsell you on parts or services you don't need. Not at Shepherd Tire & Auto. These guys do an extremely thorough oil change; they check all your fluids, but it's not with an eye to spin you. If there's a problem, they'll tell you; if there isn't, you're not going to be presented with a bogus encrusted air filter and told you need to get it replaced pronto. Prices vary according to your vehicle, but for about $30 you can come out of your oil change confident your car is fine...and your wallet is too.

Wolf's Department Store & Pawn

With an exterior that probably hasn't changed much since the place opened in 1955, and right across from regal St. John the Baptist Church, Wolf's (the apostrophe is a diamond) is an island of old-time Main Street in a sea of drab urban sprawl. Inside, the staff and patrons are neighborhood-friendly, and the atmosphere is dated to the type of department store that scarcely exists these days. Everything from cologne and nylon underwear to any kind of hat imaginable is on hand, along with standard pawn-shop fare such as jewelry, guns and even camcorders. The upstairs features an impressive wall of vintage electric guitars, along with a rack of buzz saws, a saddle and a collection of hand-carved African statues. Somehow, everything seems to fit together, even if the shop itself is delightfully out of place.

Natural Pawz

The melamine pet food scare has made many a dog owner a little paranoid. But you can go natural at Natural Pawz, which offers human-grade food produced in the U.S. or Canada (no, it's not Soylent Green; it's just good enough for humans). Our senior dog transitioned to an all-natural brand owners Nadine Joli-Coeur and Biff Picone recommended. Plus, the stores offer high-end collars, bedding, comfortable harnesses and other goodies. Take your four-legged friend with you — no one has an ugly baby at Natural Pawz.

It's worth the drive to Sugar Land to check out Cigar Cigar!, located in the city's Town Square. The place may seem a bit small, and the hand soaps and lotion for sale are an odd addition, but the roomy humidor is one of the best around. You'll find all the standards at standard prices, along with an array of interesting brands such as Vengeance, Acid and Delirium. We didn't try the $30 God of Fire, but it looked like a beast. The real gem of the store is the Diamond Lounge, a members-only back room that costs $59 or $99 a month, depending on the level of membership you want. Members get private lockers for stashing cigars or booze or whatever, and the place gets pretty lively on weekend nights, with poker games lasting well into the morning.

Premium Goods

You can buy art and tennis shoes at this year's winner for Best Place to Buy Good, Cheap Art. Premium Goods has built a reputation for regularly having exhibits of cutting-edge outsider and urban art. (A new show goes up every four months or so.) The artists here (Melinda Mosheim and Y.E. Torres among them) show work that has a decided pop, graphic vibe, popular among young — and often financially challenged — art lovers. Many produce graffiti-like paintings; others veer toward the torn collage aesthetic, and still others embrace wheat-paste posters. The one unifying aspect of their work? It's all modestly priced.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of