West Elm

You may steer clear of the Highland Village shopping district strictly because of their rent-a-cop parking Nazis, but then you'd miss out on this chic store, which occasionally has good deals to boot. West Elm is not just trendy geegaws; it also provides stylish furniture upon which to rest said geegaws. We recently searched for months in vain for an affordable, white-leather tufted headboard and finally decided to have one custom-made, albeit from "pleather." Color us shocked that West Elm had the real deal, cheaper than all the quotes we'd collected. There are buffets, coffee tables, sofas, chairs of every stripe — all in neutral colors and often sporting some sort of "green" credential — and the Wood Tiled Dresser is a modernist work of art. West Elm offers monogramming as well, for the geegaw of your choice.

The Montrose Veterinary Clinic

Kind, compassionate and cost-effective, the Montrose Veterinary Clinic has been in business since the Jimmy Carter administration, and the clinic has won several national awards, for both design and performance. Now home to six vets, the clinic offers not just the standard array of healthcare services for cats, dogs and small mammals — diagnostics, surgery, emergency treatment — but also acupuncture and high-tech ultrasound and telemedicine services. That's all well and good, but what most pet owners love about Montrose Vets is the genuine sense of caring you get from all the employees, from the honest smiles from the tattooed ladies at the front desk to the follow-up calls from your vet after your pet is recovering at home.

Heights Neighborhood Library

The Heights Neighborhood Library takes the nod for Best Library on two counts: first as an architectural gem, and second as a center of culture and entertainment as well as education for the area. The original structure was built in 1925 by J. M. Glover. It has impressive Italian Renaissance details executed in cast stone and a tile roof. In 1979, Ray Bailey Architects rehabilitated the then 59-year-old building and added a large, modern extension that perfectly complemented the original structure. The library is a busy, bustling place with programming including book clubs, play dates for toddlers, crafts, film screenings, and talks by local groups such as the Houston Ballet and the Audubon Society. There are also job-skills clinics, computer classes and, of course, shelves and shelves of books and multimedia resources.

Even though Oops! uses an all-natural pretreatment solution "made of citric acid or orange peels, so safe you can drink it," we recommend just enjoying an ice-cold lemonade while you watch the Oops! team bring your carpet back to life. One of the many things we like about Oops! is how the Web site explains the various ways unscrupulous cleaners rip off customers. It's like they're saying, "Here's how a bunch of jerks operate, and here's how we do it." Plus, they back up their work with a 30-day guarantee. And it's not just carpet, either — they'll clean your upholstery, tiles, rugs and air ducts. We like these guys so much that we sometimes deliberately pour gallons of grape juice on our living room carpet just to watch them perform their magic. Totally worth it.

Old books are like old friends — they should be cared for and revisited often. With more than 65,000 titles in stock, Long Lost Friends is a treasure trove of used and rare books. New titles are added almost daily, and the shop often makes large bulk purchases, such as a recent 10,000-title science fiction buy, so just because they don't have the book you're looking for today doesn't mean they won't have it tomorrow. You can go online to check offerings, but everything isn't listed on the Web site, so it's best (and more fun) to go into the store and check the shelves. Don't have time for a visit? Fill out a form online and the staff will search their stock and resources for you.

Camera Co-op

While record stores have made a comeback, the opposite can be said about their analog brethren known as camera shops. That's why we hold onto the old Durham Drive standby a little tighter, especially since the longtime photography spot employs an eager-to-help staff that's hip to analog and digital hardware and accessories. If you're not buying a new digital rig or selling off old equipment, you can make your way through the back room that's dedicated solely to darkroom needs, ranging from silver gelatin chemicals to enlargers and safelights.

Las Delicias Mexicanas

If you're looking for tasty candy to fill a piñata, your first and only stop should be Las Delicias Mexicanas. But even if a piñata isn't involved, Las Delicias should be a regular stop for dulce lovers. The shop regularly imports candy directly from Mexico under the Las Delicias label. While the shop offers plenty of chocolate, nut-based candy and spicy treats, it specializes in pumpkin and sweet-potato creations, including caramelized and white pumpkin. The treats, sitting heaped up in large baskets, look like rough-cut gemstones. Among the novelty items Las Delicias carries are paletotas (oversize lollipops) and a few adults-only products, including tequila and Kahlúa-based candy.

Say you're digging through Grandma's attic and find a charming old lamp adorned with a chap holding a lantern, but the cord and plug are so old you'd scarcely risk plugging it in? Take the little guy to A & O Lamp Company, where they'll rig up new works for you, fearlessly. It's scandalously hard to find lamp stores that will also do interior repair work. Owner Steve Schwartz is honest, and he and the folks who work for him all know their way around a lamp harp. It seems everyone sells lamps and shades nowadays, but remember, you get what you pay for. The lighting fixtures may seem pricey, but they're high-quality — we were able to find a hot pink chandelier here, the perfect touch for an overly formal foyer.

Nu Cuts

Lest you think, due to the name, that this is one of those cheap chain places, you'd be wrong. It is cheap — ahem, inexpensive — but the shop is owned by a talented stylist named Celina Arzola, who gives a good-quality haircut, and for men, will do a superb job on cleaning up beards, sideburns and facial hair. Walk-ins and last-minute appointments are easy to make. The salon's been open just east of the Montrose/Westheimer intersection for a decade now, and it definitely feels like part of the neighborhood.

Look, the fact of the matter is that Barely Legal #91 loses its luster on the small screen. Some porn deserves true silver-screen presentation, and that's where Executive comes in (so to speak). The theater is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m., and students, members of our proud armed forces, and seniors get a discount. Okay, so the metal chairs might not be as comfortable as the cushy stadium seating of your average theater, but they're easy to clean, which is especially important for female patrons — after all, couples are welcome at the Executive. But even if you're not looking for the in-store experience, Executive also has an extensive collection of DVDs, toys, magazines, lingerie, costumes and other accessories to enhance your erotic endeavors. And with special "midnight madness" sales, you won't have to worry about your wallet. You need to check this place out — in fact, it's an "executive" order.

Best Of Houston®

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