In just three short years, Jeremy and Annie Bulloch have established one of the most perfect geek havens in the city of Houston. 8th Dimension is packed to Namor's gills with everything a comics fan could desire. Their back-issue stock is impressive, as are their collections of toys and T-shirts. Jeremy Bulloch's knowledge of current comics stories, artists, news and trends is utterly remarkable, and if you want a guide to lead you down the path to geek nirvana, there's no better person in the city. He will find you the series you didn't even know you wanted to read. Plus, they maintain one of the best gaming rooms around, with food delivery from several shops coming right to your table. Got eight hours to spare? Ask about a round of Twilight Imperium.

Murder by the Book

It isn't just readers who love Murder by the Book bookstore; writers love it, too. Charlaine Harris, the author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries featuring Sookie Stackhouse, counts the store as one of her top two in the country. It's easy to see why. MBTB hosts several author appearances a week, all of which are well attended by the store's voracious readers (with so much experience, the staff routinely produces hiccup-free events). But it's the work the staff does between signings that wins authors' hearts. MBTB's knowledgeable crew is as well read as its customers and able to guide readers to exactly the right book to fit their interests, making both a sale and a new fan.

Earlier this year, Houston's best and biggest farmers' market began running all weekend long. Now if you simply cannot make it to the Saturday morning market (hangover, cough, cough), open from 8 a.m. to noon, you can join the fun on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. There you'll find a plethora of farmers and vendors ready to help you pick out some of the best locally harvested produce and meats, freshly baked treats, and artisan goods around. You'll also find hot brunch items from local chefs, tons of food samples and even live entertainment — they often have live music, cooking demos or showcases like the world's largest paella. Come hungry. Leave happy.

Texas Junk Company

Texas Junk's hours are wonky. If it's open at all, it's only open Friday and Saturday, and calling first is mandatory. But if you have a shred of pack rat in you, you owe yourself a visit even if you have no intention of buying anything. The three garage doors in front are your first clue that this is a place for serious stuff, for which the owner spends the rest of his time scouring the Southwest. (That's why the hours are so limited.) Known for its mind-boggling selection of cowboy boots — so much so that it takes months to fully restock after rodeo season — Texas Junk also boasts an equally impressive array of picture frames, books, cassettes, clothing, household knickknacks, gadgets, and both odds and ends. Come inside for a quick look around and you may well find yourself spending all day browsing through all the wonderful, reasonably priced...stuff. No credit or debit cards.

Renee Guerdrum operates You Had Me at Woof out of her Montrose home, and getting a dog-sitting session with her isn't easy. For one thing, most of her clients come through recommendations. And she auditions each and every dog she watches (one wonders if it's really the dogs or the owners getting the auditions). But it's that attention to detail and deep love of animals that come through when your fur baby is in her care. Guerdrum offers daytime care, vacation boarding and overnight sleepovers, and best of all, she's always willing to work with your schedule for late pickups or weekend visits. One look at Guerdrum's Facebook page shows a bevvy of happy furballs playing in her backyard. Don't be surprised if, while you're out of town, you get tagged with a photo just to let you know how well little Spot is doing in your absence.

When Billy Gibbons's pre-ZZ Top garage band the Moving Sidewalks reunited earlier this year, guess where they came to get their gear? Every city has a music store staffed by musicians who can teach you not only how to play an instrument but how to fix it, too, and luckily Houston has been blessed with Rockin' Robin for more than 40 years now. It's been in its spot near Shepherd Plaza since 1980, featuring a fantastic mural of another of Rockin' Robin's best customers...the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. If you can make music on it — all manner of guitars, basses, mandolins, ukuleles, drums — they've got it, plus a wide array of amps and pedals that will make that instrument sound just right. Because it's just that righteous, Rockin' Robin even sells surfboards.

As a licensed interior designer, Gibbins has an especially discerning eye, and it shows in her shop's remarkable selection. This includes Welsh dressers, cricket tables, trunks and more period oaks than you can shake a stick at. According to her Web site, "Carol makes three to five buying trips every year, which helps her keep the shop in Houston full of inventory on three large floors." So you're guaranteed to fall in love with at least one piece any time you go. Whether you're a beginner or you've been ­antiquing your whole life, you won't be ­disappointed.

1919 Wine and Mixology
Photo by Houston Press Staff

A good bartender acknowledges you right away, serves you promptly and keeps the drinks flowing steadily. A great bartender also remembers your name and your drink preference and will become one of your most important confidants aside from your partner and your priest. Andres Chapa, the dark, handsome and eternally cool mixologist, fits this description perfectly. While other barkeeps in Houston range from aloof hipsters to sunglass-wearing snobs, Chapa keeps it professional and prompt. He takes his work seriously and is a veteran of many upscale restaurants, bars and lounges all over this city. You can also find him tending bar and managing at Eighteenth Cocktail Bar and Hughes Hangar.

Houston is blessed with many good supermarkets, both chain and independent, which is a great thing for the consumer. We've got hoity-toity places, no-frills bargain bins and plenty of exotic markets. But among the four prominent local chains, we usually find ourselves at Kroger — and one Kroger in particular: the gleaming, expansive oasis in West U. The produce, seafood and meat seem fresher there; the layout more intuitive; and the whole space just seems cleaner and brighter. H-E-B tried to snatch some of the upscale clientele by opening a store across the street, but no thanks. We're sticking to the O.G. — that's Original Grocery.

This family-owned business has a wonderful selection at reasonable prices. Whatever the occasion — birthday, anniversary, sympathy, wedding, thank-you or "just because" — the friendly, experienced staff can help you find the best way to express your thoughts. Ace says on its Web site, "Because all of our customers are important, our professional staff is dedicated to making your experience a pleasant one. That is why we always go the extra mile to make your floral gift perfect." They're telling the truth. So we encourage you to give them a shot the next time you need to say it with flowers.

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