Adolf Hoepfl & Son

North Shepherd is an ugly, functional thoroughfare: Houston's undisputed Muffler Row, lined with one used car dealership, spare-parts peddler, tire barn and transmission barn after another. The immaculately white, bunting-adorned, vintage-neon-announced Hoepfl garage appears almost as a mirage amid this sea of asphalt, exhaust miasma and general automotive grunge. Once inside, you'll find that the TLC doesn't stop at creating a pretty exterior. Owners Sybren and Kathryn van der Pol bought the now 66-year-old shop from the Hoepfl family in 2004, and they run a fair, thorough and honest business, pinned on the belief that if you take care of the customers and give back to the community, then the business will take care of itself. Hoepfl and Sons transcends mere repairs and maintenance: The shop is also the site of vintage car shows, educational seminars (often teaching teens about routine repairs and maintenance), fish fries and ice cream socials. Rice grad Kathryn Van der Pol also makes a mean glass of lemonade and, as an avid cyclist, will adjust the specs on your bike helmet strap free of charge.

Expressions Fine Chocolate

The almond-pecan florentines are deceptively innocent-looking at Expressions Fine Chocolate. They are, in fact, decadent, as are most of the concoctions owner Valerie Gamble creates. Gamble, a former stockbroker, started her shop in 2004. She makes everything by hand and uses only the finest ingredients with no preservatives, which means her chocolates have a very short shelf life. Consequently, her storefront shop is open for the Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter seasons, with appointment-only and made-to-order sales during the rest of the year. Two highlights from the sweet lineup are her champagne truffles (champagne ganache covered in dark chocolate and topped with edible gold leaf) and her Dorothy Shoe (a chocolate shoe covered in edible red glitter). At Easter, look for her giant Easter Eggs (hollow, dark Belgian chocolate Easter eggs filled with a pound of assorted treats).

M&M Hobby Center

Jam-packed with model kits and remote-controlled everything, M&M Hobby Shop would be overwhelming if it weren't so damned awesome. This place is a remote-control and model kit enthusiast's dream on steroids. And if you do get a little overcome by all the marvels inside, step outside and race a remote-controlled car on one of the mini tracks on the property.

Stubb's Harley-Davidson

Stubbs caters to the weekend road warrior and the grizzled, bug-crusted biker. Few shops are as synonymous with Houston motorcycle culture as Stubbs is. It's where most people buy their first helmets, gloves and other gear. Saturdays are the best time to go to Stubbs, because the looks of aggravation and fear on the wives of the husbands looking into buying their first hog are priceless. Bring popcorn.

If you live in Houston and love Halloween, it's a good chance you have found yourself in line at Party Boy near I-10 battling for a last-minute costume at the end of October. When you aren't looking for just the right slutty nurse outfit, you can get all the theme-party supplies you need every month of the year. The walls are stocked with enough candy, toys and gag gifts to keep us all busy.

Cole's Antique Village

Long a must-see for people on the south side of Houston, Cole's is like a slice of Mexico in the middle of suburbia. Sprawling 145,000 square feet of air-conditioned space just inside Pearland city limits, this place has been in business for decades. On Sundays there is a traffic jam just to park. Families flock to Cole's on the weekends for great deals on antiques, home goods and groceries, and to partake of the food court, which puts any mall fare to shame. Where else can you buy a machete or a used turntable and eat your weight in tacos?

Knitting in the Loop

Since Yarns 2 Ewe closed its storefront on Shepherd last year, several smaller knitting shops have stepped in to fill the void. Our favorite is the cleverly named Knitting in the Loop (knitters will get it). Located in an off-the-beaten-path old house in River Oaks, this store is warm and welcoming from the moment you walk in. Most of the fibers carried here are high-quality or specialty yarns, so it's not the place to find a bargain, but beginners will feel comfortable with the patient and knowledgeable staff, especially since they offer classes almost every day of the week. The shop has also done community outreach with groups like The Houston Zoo and the Houston Area Women's Center. Stop by on Thursday nights for Sit & Knit to get a feel for the place.

Barrio Dogs isn't exactly an adoption service — it's a nonprofit staffed entirely by volunteers dedicated to educating lower-income Houston neighborhoods about animal overpopulation, neglect, low-cost sterilization and state animal cruelty statutes. But through the Barrio Dogs Facebook page and Web site, the group often unites hardscrabble barrio strays with foster parents and, eventually, forever homes. If you follow Barrio Dogs on Facebook, beware: Some of the rescues' stories are hard to swallow, but they're made all the more worthwhile thanks to regular tail-wagging happy endings.

It's not the kind of jewelry store you'd go to for an engagement ring (though you might find one there, depending on how funky your style is), but local designer J. Landa brings together the best of well-crafted modern jewelry designed by indie jewelers throughout the country. The store's shelves are lined with the kind of stuff you might see in In Style magazine, like wrap bracelets from Chan Luu and delicate sterling necklaces by Dogeared. Landa makes his own designs, too — when last we were there, his collection consisted of small enamel evil-eye charms and metal plates with Catholic icons etched on them. Pricewise there's something for everyone, and the store has regular trunk shows and sales, making it a great place to shop for gifts for your favorite (precious) metal-head.

When Montrose-area chiropractor Jacqueline Doval says she serves patients from all walks of life, she means it literally. Along with serving human clients, she's also certified in animal chiropractic care (she was the first one in Texas to earn the distinction). In practice for a decade, Dr. Doval believes that the body has the power to heal itself. According to her, with a little spinal manipulation by her (translation: cracking bones back into place), proper exercise and nutrition, anyone, on two legs or four, can quickly overcome disease and discomfort. So don't be surprised if you see several well-behaved pets in the waiting room of her clinic, the Alternative Health & Wellness Center. Like you, they're on their way back to health with the help of Dr. Doval.

Best Of Houston®

Best Of