Brazos Bookstore

Brazos Bookstore was established by Karl Killian in 1974 to encourage the nascent Houston literary scene at the time and has been a city institution ever since. Brazos is smart in its approach; the independent bookstore can't possibly compete with the big-box stores or the online sellers for sheer selection, and it doesn't try. Instead, it's lovingly stocked with books that are carefully curated to offer unusual copies of the classics nestled among great books you've never heard of. This results in a bookstore with remarkable depth of selection. Go in for a new copy of Melville, and you'll walk out with exactly what you were after along with an armful of new discoveries. As if that weren't enough, the store is involved with all things literary in Houston, from holding in-store book signings to supporting creative writing programs and readings by famed authors.

Erotic Cabaret

If it feels like déjà vu, don't worry, you're not crazy — last year's winner maintains its status as the best place in Houston for all the fun stuff that keeps your relationship spicy. And if you want to celebrate with this year's medicine theme, we suggest the Naughty Nurse, Heart Stoppin' RN or Dr. Phil Good men's costumes — all of which are guaranteed to make your partner open up and say "ahhhhhh." Even if costumes aren't your thing, Erotic Cabaret has all the toys, lingerie, fetish gear and accessories you can imagine, and probably more than a few you can't. Outstanding customer service and terrific prices will make your experience even more enjoyable. You'll be coming (hey-oh!) back for more.

Best Place to Buy Gaming Supplies
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This gaming mecca is a geek's paradise, and we don't mix metaphors lightly. Board games, cards, role-playing, tabletop miniature — whatever your gaming jones, Asgard will hook you up. Magic: The Gathering, Star Wars, Cards Against Humanity, Warhammer — we could go on and on. Even better, Asgard fosters a sense of community by holding weekly games and tournaments, as well as maintaining an online forum. There's a genuine love of gaming within these walls. You'll find kindred spirits with whom to slay dragons or blow up spaceships, or whatever the mission may be. Game on.

Best Dentist
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Maybe you associate a trip to the dentist only with thoughts of excruciating pain, but that's because you haven't been in a chair in Dr. Bruce Smith's office yet. Not only is Smith a wonderful dentist, the kind who can work wonders on your smile and overall gum and dental health, but he's also a dentist who does not believe in causing his patients any unnecessary pain. Because of this, he evaluates patients based on their sensitivity, anxiety about going to the dentist and any other extenuating factors, and then makes sure that when they're in his chair, they are always, at the very least, completely comfortable. Smith's understanding and compassion for his patients don't stop there. When he first opened his practice, in the early 1980s, the AIDS crisis was worsening. Smith founded a clinic to offer dental treatment to HIV and AIDS patients and came up with a protocol to allow dentists to care for infected patients safely. He's still at his Montrose location along with his fabulous staff, who do everything to make you feel at home from the second you walk in the door.

Best Barbershop
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Located in the heart of Montrose, The Argyle League is a mainstay for guys who like their haircuts hip and clean. Argyle is from the crop of high-end, male-oriented barbershops — you know the kind — that offer luxurious full shaves, fraternal vibes and free bourbon to patrons. Haircuts currently run $40, putting it in the mid-to-high price range for men's barbershops. Many Houstonians find the cuts worth the cost. With at least 100 reviews on Yelp and an average rating of 4.5 stars, Argyle is one of the most popular barbershops in town.

Best Party Supplies
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Party Boy, located right off I-10, is our favorite party supply destination. The warehouse is chock-full of balloons, goody bag stuffers, patterned plates and cups, customizable banners and more — and the ready-to-help staff will guide you through the expansive space. Since 1985, it has also been a year-round destination for costumes, so you're covered even if Halloween isn't right around the corner. It even has themed party supplies in case you want to hold a Western or disco party (or, heck, a Western disco party). Plus, you can rent a popcorn machine, sno-cone maker and other food service equipment. If you want to just make one stop for all your party supplies, Party Boy is your answer.

Best Emergency Room
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If you're in a true medical emergency, just hope you get taken to the ER at Ben Taub Hospital. Located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, Ben Taub has been renowned for years as a remarkable acute care center and one of the best Level I trauma centers in the world. If you've been shot in the gut or pulled from the wreckage of a car accident and you arrive at Ben Taub, you'll be treated in the Ginni and Richard Mithoff Trauma Center, which cares for more than 100,000 patients a year. The doctors at Ben Taub's ER have been known to pull off medical feats that sometimes seem like miracles, saving the lives of some of the most critically injured people who are brought into the hospital. Ben Taub is the only Level I trauma center in the Harris Health System, so the place gets packed and you can end up waiting a long time if your situation isn't life-threatening, but if you or your loved one is critical, the Ben Taub team, staffed by physician faculty and residents from Baylor College of Medicine, is the best emergency room to find yourself in.

Not all pawn shops are created the same. Some have the same dusty merchandise day in and day out; some are so dark and dingy that you just wind up feeling depressed; and some are so poorly organized that it can take half an hour to find the item you're looking for. But Money Mart is a real oasis: a huge, clean, well-lit, well-organized store with an ever-revolving inventory of quality merchandise — electronics, jewelry, designer handbags, you name it. The prices are fair and the customer service is superb. It's worth looking here before making a trip to your go-to retail store — chances are, you may wind up with a much better deal.

Collectors Firearms

From the tiniest pea-shooter to the most exotic antique flintlock, Collectors Firearms has your back. Or your hip and ankle, for that matter. Started in 1975, this Houston mainstay has been providing people with a huge inventory of quality pistols, rifles, shotguns — and even knives and swords — at great prices, with excellent customer service from real experts. Colt, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer — whatever your brand, you won't be disappointed. Collectors Firearms boasts a regular inventory of more than 12,000 guns, from as low as $100 to $500,000. (We like to stick somewhere in the middle.) You can also salivate over the new arrivals, along with the regular stock, online.

Best Manicure
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Getting a manicure isn't only about a glossy coat of polish, but the overall experience during that manicure and the rejuvenated look of your nail beds and hands. Bliss Day Spa offers one of the best in Houston, with a price that includes it all. For $25 you're welcomed into the clean and organized salon, which boasts a spectrum exclusively of OPI polishes, followed by an exfoliating scrub, with a generous massage of the hands and forearms. The salon is extremely tidy and comfortable and has a variety of tasty drinks, both with and without alcohol. There's a two-drink maximum, but we say go for the screwdriver. One cocktail (or two) later plus a change of polish, and you'll be set for at least a week or more, assuming you don't go rock climbing with your bare hands.

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