Just thinking about this shop's remarkable selection of pipes gives us the munchies. These are pure works of art, some of the finest glassware we've ever seen, and we're not just saying that because we're in an especially mellow place right now. Generic "smoke shops" are a dimebag a dozen — you see them in just about every strip mall, and they're all interchangeable. But the guys at BC are artisans. They're passionate. And it's reflected in the inventory. The Web site proudly proclaims, "'Cause it's the...DANK!" Truer words were never coughed out in a smoky haze.

Hidden in an unassuming shopping center between Fondren and Gessner, this combination carnicería, taquería, frutería and grocery is the best place to buy all the fresh ingredients you need for a magnificent dinner. The fajitas are of excellent quality and can be purchased marinated in a powerful and tasty blend of chiles and other spices. You will also find pollos enteros, menudo, asado de puerco and steaks. Complete your shopping with fresh fruits and vegetables, pan de dulce and tamales. If your hunger gets the best of you, they also have a counter with daily lunch specials, soups, tacos and aguas frescas.

Jeff Balke

In the world of liquor stores, Spec's is the undisputed king in Houston. And the featured jewel in the crown is the company's Midtown location, which can be described as a wonderland full of beer, spirits, cigars and specialty foods. Every aspect of this store is top-shelf, with low-priced selections of your favorite tequilas and whiskeys; specialty beers such as Saint Arnold Divine Reserve; and those high-end bottles that you only see in rap-music videos. The staff is always available and friendly, and if by some remote chance they're out of what you need, no worry; they'll find it for you at one of their 70 other locations.

It's one thing to carry board games, card games and miniature war games, but what's really impressive about Asgard Games is the amount of space they devote to giving the gamers of Houston a place to play. From flattops for Magic: The Gathering to elaborate battlegrounds for miniature armies, there's a good chance that if you've got a physical game, there's a place to play it at Asgard Games, and with their weekly tournaments for the more popular games, you'll never be in need of an opponent again. There's even an online forum on their Web site to help gamers connect with each other outside the store.

Some of the quirkiest, most beautiful and eclectic jewelry we've seen in Houston has been inside the glass cases of Sloan/Hall. Though it's not solely a jewelry store per se, the store's owners, Marcus Sloan and Shannon Hall, seek out artisan jewelry from artists like The Woods and Ileana Makri, which includes everything from a delicate bangle in the shape of a snake with diamond eyes, to stackable rings in a variety of gemstones, to tiny string bracelets with 14k gold "sequins." If you're shopping for a gift, be sure to also check out their excellent selection of cards.

You're going to want to devote some time to Kuhl-Linscomb's sprawling campus, just east of the Whole Foods on Alabama and Kirby. The store is actually five separate showrooms, some in old houses, featuring everything from antiques to candles to jewelry to furniture and linens to an apothecary section with an old-timey feel to it. It's a great place to register for a wedding or housewarming, but it's also a convenient one-stop shop for things like stocking stuffers for literally everyone on your list or for that little something that says, "I'm thinking of you."

Gun lovers in Houston are particularly blessed — unlike some cities, Houston has its fair share of gun stores. But for selection, service and price, it's hard to beat Collectors Firearms. In business for more than 30 years, Collectors boasts an "ever changing inventory of 7,000 guns" as well as thousands of books and a wide range of ammunition and accessories. You can check out the inventory online, which includes everything from the latest Sig Sauer handhelds to antique muskets. Whatever your preference — be it over/under shotguns, Glocks, Browning rifles — Collectors is bound to have it.

For 59 years, Village Shoe Shop has been on a mission to help people find shoes that fit perfectly. How, you ask. Well, for one, they customize shoes that support and hug every contour of your feet — they'll make a cast of your feet and then hand-craft your shoes. And we're not talking clunky orthopedic wear, but stylish get-ups in a variety of styles. They'll also repair your shoes, spiffing them up until they look almost like they did the first day you walked out of the store in them. We suggest you check Village Shoe Shop out — your aching feet will thank you.

It's almost automatic — anytime we need stuff, whether it be a shirt, a shower curtain or a vacuum cleaner, our first thought is "Target!" Like Walmart, it has everything, but unlike with Walmart, you won't feel guilty for shopping there. We're fortunate to have several locations in Houston, but the one we seem drawn to most often is the location on Main — maybe it's the proximity to the Medical Center, in case we come down with an acute case of Overshopping. We especially like this location's grocery section, which has grown into a truly wonderful affair: The meat and seafood are fresh; the beer and wine selection is great; the salespeople are helpful; and the store is bright, clean and ­inviting.

Why go out to an adult video store when free smut is just a Google search away? Adult video stores have to work harder than ever to get business, but Discount 24 Hr Video has figured out the secret to getting people to keep coming back. Not only have they built up quite the collection of porn and sex toys, they've built something even better: a community. The Members Only section of the building provides a welcoming space for those couples and individuals looking to indulge in a bit of erotic video watching in the company of like-minded people. Added bonuses include clean theaters, a friendly and inviting staff, and a privacy fence in the parking lot.

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