Little things mean a lot, especially when the family pet leaves big messes in your yard. With both parents working, it's hard to keep up with the cooking and cleaning and lawn care, let alone enjoy home life. But Scoop le Poop makes having a dog that much easier. For a reasonable fee, le Poop makes regular visits to discretely remove offending matter. No need to worry about these professional scoopers transmitting other dogs' diseases to your household. These waste wranglers are so tidy with their equipment, you'd think they trained with a biohazard unit. (Services start at $15, with discounts for senior citizens and service dogs.)
It's mostly the employees of Fluor Enterprises who know about the affordable, honest wizardry of nearby Auto Tech, but it's also open to the public at large. The original owner, Joe, and his knowledgeable staff could make even the most rickety engine purr like a kitten in no time. Before he sold the place (to live a peaceful retirement full of deep-sea fishing), Joe knew most of his clientele by name and remembered details about their cars most owners would forget. Whatever the problem, Joe could find the least expensive solution and was known to recommend wrecking yards where you could find parts to save a few more dollars. What's more, one of Joe's employees drove a Honda with well over 200,000 miles on it. That's a staff that knows how to keep a car going. Even with new owner Alberto Capitallo, the garage is still so reliable, so true to the original work ethic, that we don't mind the trip down to Sugar Land for service.
On weekends, cars wedge into the small lot of this service station-turned-panaderia, with most people hoofing it from distant parking spaces down the street. They know. They've been warring over parking spots every year for the last two decades or so to get at the pan dulce of La Victoria. The apricot empanadas with toasted coconut flakes catch your eye, but soon you notice the maranitos (gingerbread piggies) and the neon-colored galletas (cookies). They vie for your attention amid the other desserts, most of them variations with piña, calabaza, fresas, pacanas, manzanas and coco. Oh, yes, and azúcar. This is where you pick up your Day of the Dead breads, and if you can afford them, the fancy skeleton-shaped ones. But today you came here to pick up a birthday cake, because you know it is, hands down, the best cake in all of Houston, beautifully decorated in a spray of brightly colored fresh flowers. The cake will have to wait until later, but you sit down for a piece of melt-in-your-mouth tres leches to energize you for the walk back to the car.

Arandas Bakery

Many hardware stores are so enormous, they're more of a hindrance than a help. Who wants to hike two miles to find a one-and-a-half-inch beveled polywasher for the kitchen sink, then another mile searching for one-eighth-inch mirror brackets? Then there's the attitude. Unlike contractors, we usually don't know what we're doing in those long aisles, and most hardware store employees aren't interested in helping us figure it out. The guys over at River Oaks Hardware, on the other hand, will leave you alone but keep a watchful eye, intervening at just the right moment. This is clearly not your typical visit to a "big box" warehouse.

Before you get too excited, you should know that SSQQ stands for slow, slow, quick, quick, not sadomasochists squealing and quivering quietly. And instruction in "The Whip" has more to do with fancy footwork than learning how to inflict a blow that will hurt like hell without breaking the skin. But that doesn't mean SSQQ's Whip classes aren't hot. The Whip is a spin-off of West Coast swing, brought home to Texas by GIs returning from their California posts after World War II. But over the years Texas women put their own twist on the upright USO dance: They added a sexy hip swivel, and the dance went downhill (in the very best way) from there. The naughty whippers practiced to the music of Al Green, the Commodores, Barry White, ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan in the dives and honky-tonks along Telephone Road. SSQQ owner Rick Archer honed his dirty dancing skills at one such club, the now-defunct Four Palms, a place with a sign advising you to "Check your guns and knives at the door." Now, in his much better lit Bellaire studio, he teaches The Whip complete with all the bumps and all the grinds. Try it out at a party. Jaws will drop. Just $36 for ladies and $44 for men gets you eight hours of classes, two hours once a week for a month. Schedules vary from month to month, so call ahead or check out www.ssqq.com.
Your ride's looking a little shabby. It wants to get spruced up and feel pretty. But you're particular about what touches your car. You're not keen on some automated gas station drive-thru scratching the gloss on your ClearCoat. And who knows where those frazzled brushes at the coin-operated self-wash places have been? Try the machine-free artistry at Bubbles, where they wash and dry your vehicle with only the gentlest of hands -- wearing lamb's-wool mitts, to be exact. They're also gentle on your wallet; carpet shampooing for cars and trucks is only $20, and a full detailing is only $60.

Best Place to Get a Car Wash, a Haircut and a Brisket

Exquisite Touch

Imagine: An angry ex has poured garbage all over your new sports car. You haven't slept for months, and your hair has become a bit unruly. What's more, you're hungry, dammit. Well, have we got the place for you. It goes by many names. Call it Pop's Exquisite Bar-B-Q, where you can get a chopped roast beef sandwich for $3.50. Or call it Exquisite Touch Auto Detail, home of the $5.99 car wash. Then again, some people know it simply as Exquisite Touch Barber Shop and Beauty Salon. And as you're sitting there, sipping a Diet Coke and eating link sausages, contemplating what your godless ways have wrought, you'll also find a complete set of T.D. Jake's inspirational videos available for purchase, just in case you decide to turn your life around. If you want to know how this multifaceted venue came to be, just ask Pops yourself. He's usually sitting there in a corner of the shop watching TV. And like the wise old sage he is, he'll tell you: "You've got to do something."

The Galleria is filled with stores trying to sell you stuff that you never knew you needed, but at least there's one whose merchandise can help you learn a thing or two. The Discovery Channel store is, not surprisingly, an offshoot of cable's Discovery group of networks (which includes The Learning Channel and Animal Planet), a group that is home to lots of World War II documentaries and goofily addictive shows like Junkyard Wars, where two teams are locked into a scrap yard and compete to build the best cannon, or amphibious vehicle, or whatever, from materials on hand. The store is a perfect place to go if you have to find a birthday gift for some kid you barely know; there's everything from plush stuffed animals to Pond Scum Soap to informative scale models and astronomy kits. Since it's in the Galleria, by definition it's pricey, but a visit to the Discovery Channel store is a much better option than your standard toy outlet.

We've got a horde of fine club dancers in this town. Somebody's gotta dress 'em. If there were still any raves around, chances are you'd see many shirts out there created by this man. Akindele's brand of clothing, Enjoymusic Enjoylife (EMEL), featuring that all-important musical-note insignia, has been the favorite among energetic clubgoers for quite a while now. Baseball shirts, T-shirts, baby tees -- they're all designed to keep a young whippersnapper comfortable while dancing to all things electronica. Fortunately, if you head out to spots like Hyperia, you can still see clothing bearing the EMEL moniker, and a bunch of kids proud to be sweating their asses off in it.
Don't let the name of the place fool you. K&R Tire is a full-service auto shop. They'll do your oil change while you wait, often in the same amount of time it takes those other franchises that promise you oil, lube and filter in a jiff. The difference is that they don't pressure you into services you don't need. They don't have to. Business is good. You get to know the guys with the dirty fingernails, and perhaps more importantly, they get to know your car. If you're in a hurry, call first. They'll let you know if they can take you right away. And they don't pretend that 20 minutes is the same as 45. If it's going to take longer than they said, they'll come back and let you know, so that you can decide to bring your car back another time, instead of making you reread the same industry magazines in the waiting area.

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