Tucked behind a service station between Montrose and the Museum District, Carriage Car Care must be the car wash of choice for the SUV-driving crowd. On a recent Saturday, no fewer than a half-dozen urban war wagons were either lined up waiting for the Carriage crew's treatment or basking in the afterglow of a soft-glove hand wash, waiting to be picked up by their owners. The finished vehicles were positively gleaming. Carriage's basic hand wash is $23 and includes a thorough going-over on the inside. The wash and wax is $49. The truly decadent will find the deluxe detailing package, at $145, a satisfying indulgence that includes the repair and painting of minor dents and dings. Carriage also will tend to larger dents, creased bumpers and cracked windshields. The crew is quick, courteous and attentive; and though it may seem like a minor amenity, the waiting room is a surprisingly pleasant place to kill a half hour while your car is being pampered.

Mister Car Wash

Like dead fish, the ties hang unhappily, wrapped in cellophane, suffocated. They look for a way out; they yearn to be bought. Every now and again, a Jerry Garcia tie -- harmless as a watercolor painting -- leaves the store. Otherwise, the ties remain. Perhaps because they're just too darn boring. Looking for some crazy paisley dangling from your neck? For an overwhelming multitude of colors and shapes traversing the ever-so-narrow canvas that is a tie? For western-themed ones with depictions of ropes and bandannas scattered in unbecoming patterns? Everyone has taste. Tie Rack just has questionable taste.

Best Place to Get a Tint Job and a Taco

Adas Window Tint Pimpin' ain't easy, least of all when it comes to your ride. If you've got to score your ground effects in Pasadena, your alloys in Tomball and your LEDs and hydraulics in Katy, you might not have time to brake for lunch. That's why today's busy gangstas head down the East Freeway to Adas Window Tint, where you can get a bitchin' tint job and throw in an al pastor taco for an additional $1.25. The same folks own the Cuban taqueria that's tacked onto the corrugated tin garage, so show up early, camp out on a picnic table in the parking lot, and ponder which is gonna be hotter: your chorizo breakfast taco, or all those chicks you'll get when your ride scrapes the street.

Smoke N' Toke This place is the epitome of stoner chic. Spread out in five rooms of a converted house, the joint has an ample selection of pipes, bongs, hookahs, nargiles, dugouts, smoke stones, papers…hell, just about anything you could ever need to smoke your, um, stuff. The staff is hip-looking and just friendly enough to not be annoying, and they stick to the basics. Sure, there are some peripheral items, like stickers, postcards and tie-dyes, but for the most part it's just smoke supplies (read: no sex toys). They've even got do-it-yourself grow kits for all the budding entrepreneurs out there who want to eliminate the middleman, man.

Viet Hoa Here in Houston you can find Asian foods in most any mainstream grocery store. But if you're hankering for fish sauce, Peking duck or some restaurant-style bowls for serving pho, you're best served traveling to Viet Hoa in southwest Houston. A massive warehouse-sized temple of Chinese and Vietnamese fare, the store peddles produce, Chinese health and wellness goods, seafood, kitchenware and a $2.25 lunch combo at the deli. Flooded with Asian clientele, college students, fusion-friendly foodies and food-industry professionals, Viet Hoa is the spot where you can special-order a longan -- the consummate Thai summer fruit -- for a dinner party and boast to your guests that you "know someone in importing." Need an icebreaker for that first date? Tour the market and chat about the sights, smells and the premium dried cuttlefish.

The giant Big Boy in the window beckons, "Hello, remember me?" So you open the door and cross the threshold from modern-day Montrose into a bewilderment of decades. Old gas pumps with bulbous signs stand across the room from heavy rotary-dial phones and coin-operated diner jukebox connectors. Art deco chairs, shaped roundly like the bottom half of plastic Easter eggs, pair up in front of reproductions of balloon-shaped 1950s Predicta TVs. Barber chairs, movie drive-in speakers, lamps that resemble Sputnik, and polished toasters from the '30s rotate through the showroom, all of them in working order. Flashback Fun-tiques is a store for people searching for something, anything, made with Bakelite. It's a place for people who find old appliances beautiful, and for people who admire the heft and solid feel of the good old days. But old stuff in good shape is hard to come by. Owner Bill Howard scours the country's antique shows for all things cool from the past. If something trips a memory, he wants it in his shop. Especially popular are restored soda machines. Once, a customer wanted a Pepsi machine, even though Pepsi wasn't around back then. No problem. Howard found a way to weld a Pepsi sign in place of the Coca-Cola logo. The swap appeared seamless.
That's right. Point Five no longer has a monopoly on the '50s furniture market. Jerry Gibson's new shop has all the modern classics, too: chairs by Eames and Bertoia, an Eero Saarinen table, a Paul McCobb desk, a Herman Miller sofa, a Frank Lloyd Wright rug, each accompanied by a card explaining to the uninitiated exactly what they are looking at, and how much it will cost them to take it home. Of course, not all of the pieces are particularly well pedigreed, and that's a good thing. At Metro Modern, you might find interesting work by an obscure designer that you can actually afford.
Rice Epicurean Markets Sometimes we all need a break from chicken-fried steak and baby-back ribs smothered in mesquite barbecue sauce. And, well, some of us don't like to eat dead stuff. So when your inner hippie's stomach starts grumbling, hightail it to Rice Epicurean for Houston's widest-ranging selection of healthy, meat-free eats. Silken tofu, extrafirm tofu, faux cheese, soy ice cream, edamame, tofu lasagna, soy barbecue chips, Dr. Soy snack bars, six different kinds of soy milk -- they're all here. Plus, if you're too busy (or too lazy) to do the shopping yourself, you can place an order online for delivery or pickup.

Carriage Glass & Detail Co. Brothers Andy and Craig Deas don't just run a car wash -- they offer an "automotive cosmetic repair facility." Price-wise, this may not be where you wash your car every week, but the service is far and away the best in town. Hand-washing and -waxing will leave your wheels glistening, and Cesar and his crew will wipe away all the residue of your hectic life. No more pet hair on the seats, mud tracks on the carpet or coffee stains on the console. Trust us, your car deserves to come here. At this day spa for autos, you can drop your bucket of bolts and have windshield chips or paint chips repaired. Carriage can also handle bigger problems, from bumper repainting to windshield replacement. And who knew they could buff those scratches right off your hubcaps?

Most thrift stores are dusty-musty pits that you brave in hopes of making the Big Score; that is, finding that perfect, soulful piece of clothing at an insanely low price. By comparison, the Salvation Army on Washington makes a strenuous effort to be shopper-friendly. The big front windows let in natural light, and the place is neat as a pin. Someone has devoted surprising thought to displays: Up front, a family of mannequins models some of the latest acquisitions, and the western-wear section is bedecked with saddles and neon lights. The store even accepts credit cards. But can you still make the Big Score? Yes -- and in fact, you're probably more likely to unearth good stuff here than you would at a dusty-musty place. Mid-range designers' names often grace the racks, as do jeans and blouses you might have bought last year at the mall. But better still, the Washington Salvation Army offers more than its share of oddball vintage clothing: '60s polyester dresses in eye-popping colors; '70s urban cowboy shirts with glittery threads; even the occasional '80s ruffled prom shirt. You know these clothes led interesting former lives, and when you wear them, you feel more interesting yourself. Bonus: Manager Don Cairrel presides over the place as if he were hosting a party, joking with the clerks and offering new shoppers guidance through his wonderland. To the regulars, he quotes Shakespeare and Plato.

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