For mysterious reasons, Houston's municipal pound — BARC — only accepted animal fosters who lived in the city's limits. But in 2015, BARC expanded the boundaries to 15 miles outside those limits, and we couldn't be happier. Houston is blessed with so many people willing to offer their time — and open their homes — to animals in need, so it's wonderful that now even more folks can help. If you're not sure if you live inside the 15-mile radius, just go to the link above and type in your address. If you've been wanting to foster for a while but never got around to it, there's no better time to get involved. You'll not only make a world of difference for a dog or cat in need, you just might wind up making a new best friend.

There are malls, and then there's the leviathan otherwise known as The Galleria. Developer Gerald Hines started planning the indoor mall back in the 1960s, and he drew on the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a shopping arcade in Milan, Italy, as inspiration for his shopping extravaganza. The result was The Galleria, which was a marvel when it opened in 1970 since it was anchored by Neiman Marcus, had a hotel right inside the mall and featured that wonderful indoor skating rink that's open year-round. Decades later The Galleria, which features more than 2 million square feet of space, is still the place to go when you're looking to do some real shopping or simply to people-watch — this is a spot where the interesting, the strange, the hilarious and the rich and famous mingle with us common folk. (The crazed holiday shoppers are an added bonus once we get past mid-October.) If you get bored with all that shopping and gawking at fellow shoppers, there's always skating on the ice rink, or watching people fall down on the ice rink.

Whether you're looking for the perfect protein shake or a particular vitamin supplement that your best friend swears will make you stop bruising like a peach, Total Nutrition in the Heights is the place to go. Unlike most places that just hand over the vitamins, the folks at Total Nutrition are trained to help you figure out what sort of vitamin supplements you actually need to help you, whether you're trying to up your iron balance or get your body to blast through that next run with energy to spare.

You're coming to the rodeo anyway, and you're probably in the mood: Why not pick up some new Western threads while you're there? Within the vastness of NRG Center, an entire row of merchants like Cavender's and Pinto Ranch set up tent-like structures whose inventory can't quite compare to their brick-and-mortar sites but is still more than enough to get you looking like you just came in off a trail ride. (Considering the area is also full of mattress stalls, jewelers, farm equipment, bleachers and lots of livestock, you may not have even noticed them before; that's okay.) You could always go out and get this stuff on your own during some other time of year, but that would require a separate trip and the timing just wouldn't be right anyway.


There are places to buy running gear and then there's Luke's Locker, which takes that concept to a whole other level. We love this place because the staff is a crew of extremely cheerful and incredibly helpful running experts. They have all the gear you could possibly imagine and a few things you never thought actually existed. Plus, the salespeople know their stuff. Consult them, and they'll look at your foot and watch you trot up and down the main aisle of the store as many times as it takes to be sure you get running shoes that will get you through your marathon and not shred your feet to pieces before you hit mile 10.

Revival Market has become an important local stop for Houstonians seeking nose-to-tail cuts of beef, heritage breed pork, lamb and chicken, as well as occasionally available seasonal game meats. This is made possible largely by the skills of Revival's head butcher and charcutier, Andrew Vaserfirer, who brings a passion for specially raised meats that he butchers and prepares in-house. All the animals used are antibiotic-free and pasture-raised, and Vaserfirer brings the best of locally raised meats to the tables of Revival's customers. The shop's meat case is a carnivore's dream, and it's well worth a visit to see Vaserfirer's mouthwatering work firsthand.

8th Dimension just keeps getting bigger and better. The store is moving to a new location across the street from the old one (opening August 26) that expands the retail space and opens up 8th Dimension's gaming/event area to more than three times the original size. The store continues to offer its awesome and oft-packed Ladies' Nights as well as niche nerd concerts like Adam WarRock and Eliza Rickman. A long-running partnership with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema brings in many cooperative events that capitalize on our current golden age of superhero movies, and the store itself is always well-stocked and home to the most knowledgeable comic staff in the city.

READERS' CHOICE: Bedrock City Comic Company­

Whenever we see the "Hi Cleaners" sign, we like to say "hi" back. And wave. Yes, we realize it's dorky, but we can't help getting a lift in spirits, because it's a sign (literally) of quality and dependability. We hope the day never comes when we get oil, grass stains and grease on a shirt all at the same time, but if for some reason that happened, we wouldn't totally panic, because we know that the good folks at Hi would probably be able to save the day. The price is fair, and the cleaning and alteration services are top-notch. There's a reason this unassuming little shop has been around for so long. Stop by and say "hi" for yourself one of these days and see what we mean.

READERS' CHOICE: River Oaks Cleaners

Two things set Tree Climbers apart from other tree-removal and cutting services in Houston: the company's ability to respond to emergencies and its attitude regarding conservation. Houston's weather, which can seemingly change from a drought to a flood in just a few minutes, can weaken trees. Weak trees can fall, and all too often, they fall through roofs or into roads. The Tree Climbers staff understands the urgency of getting a downed tree out of your living room or off your car. We appreciate that. We also appreciate the company's "cut-only-as-much-as-absolutely-necessary" attitude. It seems some tree services are saw-happy and no matter what the problem, they recommend cutting the tree down and grinding the stump. Not Tree Climbers. Yes, the company's in the business of removing trees and if you want to clear a lot, it can do that. But if you're interested in pruning and shaping and, oh, we don't know, maybe saving the trees in your yard, Tree Climbers is happy to do that, too.

When we've got a yen for some unusual old stuff, we head straight for AG Antiques to get our fix. Nestled on West 19th Street in the Heights, AG Antiques offers way more than the usual array of doilies and ugly 1970s furniture that turn up at so many "antiques" stores. Now, don't get us wrong, AG Antiques offers that stuff, too, because the place has a little bit of everything packed into the various antique-dealer booths. You can spend hours strolling through the aisles or pawing over bins of ancient records, 1800s-era furniture covered in real velvet, ornate mirrors from the 1920s and 1950s-era dishes just like the ones at your grandmother's house. Even better, the selection is always changing and while there are some high-priced items, this is still the kind of antiques store where those with patience to look can hunt up real bargains. It's antiquing as it should be.


Best Of Houston®

Best Of