Best Mall
Houston Press file photo

Memorial City Mall is not without its quirks. You have to go outside to get to the Old Navy. The part of the mall next to the ice rink is a weird, pretend ski lodge. One of the anchor stores is a Target. But that's kind of the magic of the mall. What other mall in Houston gives you the chance to get an American Girl doll styled after you as you grab a bite at Tout Suite and check out the model trains courtesy of the Houston Tinplate Operators Society? Memorial City Mall isn't a place to be seen or a place to kill a few hours before a concert. It's a place you go to hang around for a few hours and give in to the eccentricities of the place. And with the addition of The Square, there are even more reasons to kill a day at Memorial City.

Best Pharmacy
Photo by Mike Mozart via CC

It feels like there are roughly a million drugstores within the Houston city limits, but that doesn't mean all those pharmacies are actually good places to get your prescriptions filled while also finding fun new face creams and picking up a last-minute birthday present. That's where the Walgreens on West T.C. Jester comes in. There are plenty of fun goods to look at and potentially impulse-buy while you wait on your prescriptions, but the magical part about this Walgreens is you will almost never have to wait long. The pharmacists behind the counter know what they're about and are quick to get prescriptions filled, and if you're getting something new that you have questions about, they'll be glad to answer them. On top of that, if for some reason they can't fill a prescription, they will take the time to figure out what the problem is, whether it's an insurance issue or the fact that the entire chain just happens to be running low on a particular medication. From there, they'll make the phone calls needed to get the prescription approved or to find a pharmacy that can fill your order, and they're always nice about it.

Field & Tides Restaurant & Bar (FTRB)
Photo by Troy Fields

With more than 17 years of bartending experience in her back pocket, Monique Hernandez runs a tight ship at Field & Tides, the go-to Heights eatery for pimento balls, scallops and more Gulf Coast delights, with a cocktail list that's incredibly food- and user-friendly. While offering hospitality with panache and grace, Hernandez is the type of bartender that epitomizes what the job is all about: making customers happy and crafting complex flavors into refreshing, approachable quaffs. Her spicy, snappy play on a margarita is worth the trip alone, but you'll also want to sample the showstopping El Vaquero, a frothy mezcal sour with the restaurant's logo, FT, stenciled across the top.

Best Head Shop
Photo by Ecig Click via CC

This homegrown beauty of a shop has now won three years in a row, and no, it's not because we suffer from memory loss. Rather, it's because we simply haven't had a better customer experience since. Plus, the selection is astounding — whether you're looking for ornate, locally crafted, hand-blown glass or just a basic vaping accessory, chances are you've come to the right place. But really, what keeps us coming back is the super-knowledgeable, amazingly courteous staff. They'll make you an instant, loyal customer. Now, where'd we put those Cheetos...

Best Amusement Center
Photo by Brittanie Shey

If Clark Griswold could have a do-over, and we all know he could have used it, we bet he'd haul the family and station wagon to the Pleasure Pier right here in our own bay. What's better than a boardwalk attraction that has its own roller coaster — 100-foot drop included — a Texas-size fried Oreo and a Ferris wheel that's picture-perfect come sundown, plus rides for even the smallest thrill seekers? If you don't have time to visit this summer, Pleasure Pier has got you covered there too. It is open year-round, including weekends during the fall, and the opportunity is always there for you to make memories at the Houston area's best amusement center.

Best Specialty Store
Photo by John Kiely

Hot sauce isn't for everyone, and those with feeble palates have no business anywhere near iBurn. They don't know what they're missing; hot sauce is now an estimated $1.37 billion-per-year industry (per USA Today), and in Houston this cozy shop off Bellaire Boulevard is Ground Zero for those who are happiest with tongues aflame. Next to a gun range and a mural as fiery as anything in one of the hundreds of glass bottles inside, iBurn specializes in taste-bud destroyers that make the offerings at Kroger and H-E-B seem like Pace Picante Sauce. Among the many salsas, sauces, powders, rubs and marinades — a wealth of bacon-flavored items — many products bear names like "American Bad Ass," "Powder Keg," "Mad Dog," "Creamator" and "Reaper." All of this heat, however, pales in comparison to the seclusion of iBurn's closet-size "Chuck Norris Room," whose shelves proffer condiments so piquant children under 18 are forbidden.

Best Wedding Venue
Photo courtesy of AvantGarden

Aside from everything a bride can think to demand for her dream day, what really makes a wedding is the venue. The space for the reception is crucial to providing a loving ambience and a feeling for the newlyweds that will truly last forever, as well as making guests feel welcome. Mariana Lemesoff, owner of AvantGarden, began dedicating the venue in recent years to weddings and has transformed the patio into a luxe, cool backdrop that any bride- and groom-to-be would swoon over.

Texas Children's Hospital

The staff at Texas Children's Hospital are very aware that being sick is hard, but not only do they do their best to make sick kids better; they also make sure they do everything possible to make it easier on families, too. From the moment the first patient arrived in 1954, Texas Children's has been at the forefront in how it handles and treats its young patients. The first physician-in-chief, Dr. Russell Blatner, established the policy, groundbreaking at the time, that a parent can stay with a child continuously while the kid is in the hospital. Since then, Texas Children's has made a point of being on the cutting edge of medical technology — the hospital has excelled at treating everything from pediatric HIV/AIDS to childhood cancer, and it still funds a prodigious amount of charity and medical research — while never forgetting that most of its patients are still kids. Thus, red wagons are often used to transport the children, as per tradition, but the hospital also has a kid-focused radio station, age-appropriate playrooms, a classroom and even a hair salon that is open to all.

Houston Camera Exchange

Put people who love something in a store that sells items related to that something and you get a combination of outward nerdiness and downright obsession with detail. Houston Camera Exchange is the definition of such places. Filled with more camera gear than logically possible and expert salespeople who are shutterbugs themselves, this is the place to get a new lens or camera body or just some assistance with how real cameras work in the age of the cell-phone selfie.

Best Doggie Day Care
Photo by David Locke via CC

There are tons of choices when it comes to doggie day care in Houston, but Bed & Biscuits Pet Spa is truly a notch above the rest. When your dogs come out of a busy day at Bed & Biscuits, they will be socialized, exercised and ready to go home and take a leisurely approach to life alongside their chosen human. The place is set up with large indoor and outdoor play areas so that dogs can play, rain or shine, no matter how hot it gets outside. On top of that, each new dog is evaluated when he or she gets to Bed & Biscuits so the attendants can figure out whether the dog will do best with the big canines or the small ones or with more walks, cuddles and general hangout time with people.

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