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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