Replay on 19th

Houston is blessed with lots of wonderful vintage clothing stores, but right now our favorite is Replay on 19th St. This charming boutique, right in the heart of the Heights, features 2,500 square feet of reasonably priced clothes, jewelry, handbags and other accessories. Plus, the friendly, helpful sales staff is always open to bargaining. The styles (for both guys and gals) span from the '40s to the '80s, which means that you should have no problem finding the right kind of outfits for your look — or even discovering a whole new look.

No disrespect to any of Houston's handful of plucky independent record stores — which, by and large, are doing just fine, thank you very much — but the best selection of music-related merchandise often comes with a live show as part of the bargain. And it is a bargain: Not only does the average merch table these days generally offer more than is generally available at the store — like out-of-print or hard-to-find singles and LPs, much more than just stickers and T-shirts — but these over-the-counter transactions come without that bothersome sales tax and, if you're so inclined, usually with a ready-made autograph attached. Many local bands, such as the Wild Moccasins, have begun taking this a step further by giving away recorded products, like full-length debut Skin Collision Past, as a sort of party favor with the price of cover.

Mister Car Wash

The Upper Kirby location of this national chain packs 'em in on the weekends, but that's okay because there's plenty to do inside while you wait. Pull up to a lane, fill up the tank if need be and turn your car over to the army of attendants who hoover the inside and roll it to the auto wash. Inside, you can watch the cars being washed and rinsed and even shoot a little water at them as they go by. (Kids love this!) This place also has the best selection of greeting cards, plus scented candles, cookbooks, costume jewelry and stuffed animals. The lounge offers comfy leather couches and a shoe shine section. Oh, and there's free popcorn and coffee.

You know River Oaks Plant House, even if you don't recognize the name: Its breathtaking topiaries along the median at Buffalo Speedway and Westheimer are something of a landmark. And that's just the cherry on top of the expansive selection inside. Whatever your needs, and whether you're a horticultural expert or a wide-eyed novice, the helpful, experienced staff are there to make sure you find the plants, flowers or accessories you need. Sure, there are cheaper places, but just go check out what ROPH has to offer, and we're pretty sure you won't mind spending an extra buck or two on perfection.

With 22 years in the cleanin' business, Maid in the Shade must be doing something right. Whether you need residential or office cleaning, the full-time employees (i.e., no fly-by-night, subbed-out contract workers) will meet all your cleaning needs, no matter how badly you've let your place go. They'll disinfect cabinets, hand-wash the baseboards (yuck!) and even get all that grimy gunk that's been building up in your refrigerator. A recipient of the BBB's Gold Star Award and a member of the Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce, Maid in the Shade is serious about customer satisfaction. All of this, at reasonable rates — you can even get a quote online.

Acadian Bakery
Photo by Houston Press Staff

Although owner Sandra Jean Bubbert boasts of being the "Baker to the Stars," don't be intimidated by pics of Bubbert smiling with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Larry King, Dennis Miller and Condi Rice: Even the little people can enjoy the specialty cakes, famous "lunch boxes" and extensive deli menu this old favorite has to offer. From the amaretto butter cream cake to Mardi Gras staple king cakes, from fresh homemade soup to an "opera tray" filled with lemon bars and praline brownies, Acadian has something to satisfy everyone.

Candylicious

Even grown-ups turn into kids in this candy store. The original location (next door to The Chocolate Bar) is barely bigger than a shoebox, but the sheer amount of sweets inside is staggering — be prepared to be dazzled. Brightly colored candies from floor to ceiling assault the senses, causing sugary ADD. Look! Pez dispensers! Gummies in every shape and size! And bins of Jelly Bellies and M&Ms! This is the sweet spot for old-fashioned candies, European imports and crazy holiday novelties, like the plastic reindeer that poops candy from its butt. And the "cakes" and sculptures made of wrapped candies are delectable works of art.

Swiss Garage

We cried when Mike Grivon sold his gas station at the corner of Kirby and Westheimer to make way for West Ave, because it was the best local mechanic shop in town. But the sun shined again when he bought the Swiss Garage a few blocks away. The old gang's still here — Mike, Nick, Joe, et al. — and they are the friendliest, fastest auto docs around. They're ASE-certified master technicians who specialize in German cars, but the guys will work on any make and model. Best of all, they really are trustworthy. Gals (and guys) without a clue can feel safe dropping off a car that's "making an odd noise" here. They'll set ol' Bessie right and save you a bundle over the dealership.

Blue Line Bike Lab

For many years, the vast majority of Houston's bike shops were as sterile as a Greenway Plaza mid-rise. But as you can tell from the Día de Los Muertos mural spray-painted on the side of Blue Line, this is not one of those shops. Blue Line serves the odd ducks among bike riders. While most of the floor space is given over to road and cross-country mountain bikes, brothers David and Fred Zapalac also showcase plenty of trials bikes, fixies and single-speeds. It's that rare shop that caters first to the rarest subtype of Houston bicyclists: the true cycling commuter, and they unironically term such courageous lunatics as the artists and warriors they must be to arrive safely at work each day.

If it were okay to use profanity in mainstream advertising, then DSW would be perfectly justified in describing its inventory as a "shit-ton of kickers at kick-ass prices." Each location is a kingdom of footwear; a one-stop shopping experience for all your shoe needs, from sneakers to heels to wingtips to flip-flops to whatever battery-powered neon-lit contraptions the kids are wearing these days. You simply can't find a better selection anywhere else, and the service is top-notch. With multiple locations, chances are you won't have to drive far, or you can order online, where shipping is free. Plus, DSW offers a generous "rewards" program, which makes shopping there even more worthwhile. Trust us — check it out, and your feet will be smiling. Um, if feet could smile.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of