Face it: You've been addicted to customizing every corner of your life ever since you installed aftermarket neon tire valve cap lights on your Olds Delta 88. Now you can customize your own body fluids, too, with body lotions, bath oils, massage creams, bath sprays and shower gels--among other toiletry oozes and goops--tailor-made to your specifications. Choose from more than 100 fragrances and virtually any color your eyes can detect--even neon green to match those spinning tire cap lights.

Best Place to Spend Money You Don't Have

The Apple Store

Walk into the white-on-white wonder that is The Apple Store, and be forewarned: You will buy something. It will be sleek. It will be silver or white. It will be so effin' cool you'll want to take pictures of it and hang them in your hallway. It will have an "i" in front of its name (iPod, iMac), but if you are trying to justify the expense to your spouse, best to change that up a bit. ("No, honey, I got it for both of us. It's a wePod.") Now, you can tell yourself that you're too practical to pay top-of-the-line prices for computers and their accessories. Sure, you can. We did the same thing. Oh, have you seen our Titanium PowerBook?

This must be hard times for independent retailers of high-end fashion, particularly when clothes can be marked down for next to nothing at chain stores such as the Gap, knockoffs make function secondary to form and folks just don't have the bucks to shell out for designer labels. How Harry DeMarco (H.D. himself) weathers the economic storm is a testament to his good design sense, entrepreneurial instincts and indomitable personality, which makes shopping at H.D.'s feel more like schmoozing with a close friend. No uptown suits are sold here, just cutting-edge shirts, sweaters, shoes, pants and jeans. For decades, Harry and his true love, Vicky, who runs the nearly adjacent H.D.'s for women, have built up a devoted customer base and brought Europe back to Dallas for the hip and hip hopefuls. And they have done it with the kind of high style that will charm the pants right off you. Or right on you.
There was a time--before most of us at the Observer were born--when it wasn't enough for a gas station to sell gas. It needed a little something extra: a petting zoo, a reptile display or (a favorite from that trip to the Grand Canyon back in 1966) a full set of 20-foot-tall Flintstones characters complete with an oversized replica of Fred's log car. Decades later, the spirit of the roadside attraction is alive and well downtown at Fuel City, where they've moved in a herd of genuine Texas longhorn cattle, a fake pump jack and some nice cactuses native to parts nowhere close to here. Country music on the loudspeakers and a Ponderosa-style store/taco stand only enhance the mood. For the big kids, there's a handy drive-up beer window with a killer selection. Gas, beer and cows--now that's some fine Lone Star living.

Best Bargain for the Serious Shoe Whore

DSW Shoe Warehouse

DSW has various locations, but the Preston Road store is our fave, with its rock-star boots, clunky clogs, dainty sandals and even some Kenneth Cole dress shoes for the guys. Name brands abound, and with the self-serve setup, there's no guilt from sending salespeople back and forth to the stock room. What's more, the whole experience offers a sense of bonding with other shoe fanatics. Not once have we been to DSW and not asked a total stranger, or been asked by one, "What do you think of these?" The clearance section beats all (except maybe Nordstrom Rack) with an array of sizes and styles to satisfy every member of your shoe-shopping squadron. Shoppers swarm on weekends, so if you take sanity with your shopping, go on a weekday or weekend evening. The true shoe whore values the waist-high displays for quick scanning and the plethora of mirrors for the necessary one-legged examination. Don't be surprised (the clerk won't be) when you head to the checkout with four-plus pairs of kick-ass Sex and the City-worthy kicks.

These days, when animal rights are being elevated to the level of human rights, shouldn't you take every step to ensure that your pets are treated with the dignity they deserve? If you don't have the time to give them that dignity because you are out of town, too busy at work or otherwise engaged, the surrogate mom of Probable Claws, Betty Jo Hoxie, is there to meet all the emotional and physical needs of your pets. This "bonded pet-care specialist" will pet-sit little Fluffy at your home or hers; she will make a play date for a walk in the park, permit her a much-needed potty break or just give her some human face time in her own back yard. Besides dogs, Probable Claws also services the needs (including poop scooping) of cats, fish, fowl, rodents and snakes. And they do it in such a nonjudgmental way, you never feel guilty for not being there yourself.

We're not certain what constitutes health food these days, but this growing national chain was here first, and some of us are eternally grateful. Good fresh produce, bins of raw grains, organic everything and one of the nicest selections of natural soaps--including a cheap and serviceable store brand--and scented candles mean we haven't surrendered completely to last year's winner: newcomer Central Market. As serial coffee drinkers, we're always impressed with the bean selection, and at least one nonflavored variety is usually on sale. No doubt a little competition will make these guys a bit better.
Fair quotes. Nice, quick work. No false salesmanship. What more could you ask for in your vehicle's time of need? They actually did a little repair on our jalopy--a bashed mirror and a dent--while we waited in a nearby Exposition Park coffee shop. An advice-giving relative once said you can judge an auto body shop by its cleanliness and the kinds of cars it services. Our Honda was one of the few cars on the lot retailing for less than 30 grand. And the shop is spotless. Owner Alex Gonzalez set up in this up-and-coming neighborhood back in the dark days of 1991. Chances are he's the guy you'll meet when you drive up.

It's tough to choose a chain over a mom-and-pop store, but for selection of children's books, Barnes & Noble is tops. Any book the store doesn't have on its shelf, it can get pretty darn quickly. They've got all the classic stories and even the latest favorites. When asked about a copy of a certain popular children's book series, one independent bookstore operator said it could be several weeks or longer before any arrived. Barnes & Noble had several copies in stock, and its kids corner seemed to have as many titles as the specialty stores do.
Don't know about you, but discount liquor stores don't mean a thing when cheapo Wild Turkey's the best they can stuff in a bag. It's all about selection, baby, and this warehouse-sized Deep Ellum liquor paradise has just about every brand of booze you can imagine--from the inexpensive hooch to the vintage Dom you can touch but never actually afford. And since the place buys in bulk--seems to, anyway--the prices remain lowlowlow, which means you can make your Maker's Mark without emptying the wallet and even try some exotica titles without feeling like you went to Vegas and got busted on fifth street. The beer selection's awfully chill as well--literally and otherwise--with an entire wall-sized fridge stocked with bottles and sixers and cases of brew from all across the state, country and world.

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