{ DINING }
Bread Winner

If you’ve lived here more than one day, you know our success stories when it comes to chain restaurants: Steak & Ale, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and Tony Roma’s, just to name a few. Most food critics don’t pay attention to the “c-word”—it’s  the same Chili’s whether it’s on Greenville Avenue or in Greenville, Texas—but we’re happy to make an exception for Jeff Sinelli, who is well on his way to joining the local chain gang. The 35-year-old struck gold by overhauling Genghis Cahn’s Mongolian Feast into Genghis Grill, and now he’s back with Which Wich, a restaurant dedicated to the fine art (it is!) of making good sandwiches. Here the customer is always right, with made-to-order creations that rely on high-quality meats, cheeses, and condiments. Even better, unlike other sandwich shops, Which Wich doesn’t herd customers like sheep to view the assembly-line production.

We’re not the only ones to notice: in September, Chain Leader magazine gave Sinelli its first-ever Protégé Award, a considerable achievement because the other two categories were won by Rick Federico, CEO of P.F. Chang’s (Chain Leadership), and Norman Brinker, one of Sinelli’s mentors (Legend Award). Sinelli has already sold five franchises of Which Wich in Florida and has plans to open between 30 and 50 in the Dallas area. Brown-bagging never had it so good. —Nancy Nichols

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ANGEL AMONG US: Cecilia Edwards has a long history with nonprofit groups.
{ COMMUNITY SPIRIT }
Good Works
Meet the leader of a local foundation who is making Dallas better.
by Brian D. Sweany

When Cecilia Edwards discusses the Foundation for Community Empowerment during a recent lunch, her passion becomes clear the longer her shrimp fritter sits on her fork. She could eat—her food is halfway from the plate to her mouth—but she is talking so passionately about reading initiatives and housing programs and job development that the minutes fly by between bites. But it’s a good thing that Edwards would rather talk business than eat. She makes Dallas a better place.

As the executive vice president of FCE, which was founded in 1995 by Trammell Crow Chairman Emeritus Don Williams, Edwards provides assistance—from detailed census data to grants to technical support—to a host of community groups. According to Edwards, FCE is a catalyst for helping people on the front lines.

For example, FCE recently convened the Dallas Kid’s Coalition to try and ensure that every student in the DISD came to kindergarten ready to learn. FCE’s job was to determine how low-income kids could benefit from the program. “We found 19,000 kids who fit the profile,” Edwards says. “We just completed our first year, and we are now serving 11,000 of those children.” But she is quick to share the credit. “But I mean the broader ‘we.’ We’re not the service provider. We’re just helping the people who are doing the work.”

Last March FCE worked with a handful of other groups to launch the web site www.dallasindicators.org, and in July it created www.analyzedallas.org. Both sites provide critical data about the city and make it easier for community activists to gather information. In the first six weeks of operation, Analyze Dallas had 9,000 visitors. Many have used the information to write grants to spearhead more community programs, and those results thrill Edwards. “People send us notes that say, ‘I thank God for you. I thank God for FCE,’” Edwards says. “And you think, ‘Oh, my goodness. I’m doing something that’s more important than just me.’ It keeps you focused and wanting to do more.”

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{ FIRST PERSON }
Kisses and Makeup
Why did I attend the Romance Writers of America convention? It’s quite a story.
by Victor McGlothin

When the Romance Writers of America recently descended upon Dallas for a four-day national conference, my initial thought was “So what?!” The novels I’ve written, listed under general fiction, are spun with formulas that tolerate women falling in love, but because I’m a guy, something typically gets blown up by chapter five. Still, my target audience consists mostly of women, so with some reluctance I went to the Adam’s Mark Hotel. With a little bit of prodding from my editor (okay, a lot), I decided to see what romance in full bloom looked like up close. But not too close.

The vibrant chatter of excited women filled the lobby, and I was immediately blinded by outfits showcasing every hue of the color spectrum. A collage of designer fragrances mixed with scents I assumed had been purchased on considerably smaller budgets. The resulting fog was powerful enough to knock out a small farm animal. But I steadied myself and dismissed my preconceived notions. I knew that more than 75 percent of romance readers are white females, so I worried that an African-American with a 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound frame just might stand out. As I pretended to fit in, I was pleasantly surprised when two women approached me for an autograph. Humbled and appreciative, I scribbled my signature onto their programs, pleased to meet new fans. Unfortunately, things got a little weird when the ladies realized I wasn’t Emmitt Smith. 

With my ego severely bruised, I retreated to lick my wounds, when I found myself in the Romance Writer’s Den, the meeting place for published authors, industry moguls, agents, and aspiring storytellers. I inched closer to a mountain of books on display. Some of the titles had me blushing like a preacher who’d stumbled into a Victoria’s Secret photo shoot. Wild and Willing and One Naughty Night caught my attention, and I held them for longer than I’d care to admit. The themes were obvious: heroic heartthrobs, wayward women, misunderstood mistresses, and housewives with a lot to hide. Despite the overwhelming presence of steam, it dawned on me that the novels reflected the passions of everyday people while providing tantalizing escapism—kind of like the books I write. But as far as I’m concerned, romantic tales still leave much to be desired if nothing gets blown up. Of course, that’s just one man’s opinion.

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2 to 1
Follow his father’s next book
with one aimed toward the lucrative youth market

3 to 1
Host the next incarnation of Hollywood Squares

5 to 1
Offer marital advice to
Nick and Jessica

8 to 1
Use his SMU law degree as a measure of intellectual credibility

15 to 1
Actually pass the bar exam

25 to 1
Write a tell-all about Dr. Phil
in a desperate attempt to return
to the spotlight

5,000 to 1
Cure cancer

Even
Fade into obscurity, crippled by
unresolved issues with Daddy

{ 15 MINUTES }
Reality Check
Having ridden his father’s coattails to middling celebrity status, Jay McGraw is now climbing the ladder to fame and fortune all by himself. This fall he’s hosting a reality show on FOX called Renovate My Family. The premise is simple: McGraw will improve a family’s troubled interpersonal relationships while his crew builds them a bigger house and buys them a better wardrobe. McGraw, of course, is well-suited to make the leap to television host. He has written best-selling self-help books (based on the fact that he’s Dr. Phil’s son) that are geared toward teens (based on the fact that he’s younger than Dr. Phil). But what will he do after the show gets canceled, which D’s oddsmakers suggest? Here are the best bets:

 

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LOW BAR

Everyone and his dog knows about Lee Harvey’s on Commerce Street, but did you know about the Lee Harvey Oswald bar in Berlin? Yes, the popular disco and lounge is located in the same city in which President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. In fact, it’s not far from “Karl Marx Allee.”

Oswald’s mug shots, enlarged and illuminated, stare out from the front window. A replica Mannlicher-Carcano rifle is mounted over the bar. Three television monitors run a loop of archival footage from those grisly days in November 1963. Drink specials trail along the bottom of the screens, adding to the surreal atmosphere.

It feels counterintuitive to describe the place as “tastefully done,” but it is—in an unsettling way. Proprietor Kristian Wolff concedes he and partner Andi Zeidler had provocation in mind when they opened the bar last year, but they did not intend to glorify JFK’s assassin. “A bar is there for a drink and to enjoy oneself,” Zeidler says. “It’s not really a forum for politics.” —Peter Voskamp

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Jody Dean v. Chuck Norris

What happens when Jody Dean takes on Chuck Norris? In a fistfight, our money is on Chuck. He is, after all, a six-time world karate champion. If you’re talking about hair, Jody gets the nod. He is, after all, a news anchor. But in the category of Best Godly Autobiography, the two are duking it out. Take a look:

Title
Jody:
Finding God in the Evening News: A Broadcast Journalist Looks Beyond the Headlines (Revell, $12.99)
Chuck: Against All Odds: My Story (Broadman & Holman, $24.99)
Advantage: Chuck. We love Phil Collins.

Jesus Walks Among Us
Jody: After seeing Kevin Spacey take time to visit with two children after an in-studio interview, Jody makes an obvious connection: “I’ve tried to imagine what it must have been like the day all those people started crowding around Jesus with their children.”
Chuck: Even though he can deter challengers simply with an angry look in his eyes, he has never used martial arts to hurt anyone. “I think Jesus exhibited a similar power under control. Although Jesus was never a martial artist that I know of (that scene when he chased the money changers out of the temple comes pretty close!), Jesus exuded a confidence that came from inner strength.”
Advantage: Jody. Who wouldn’t think that?

In a Nutshell
Jody: “I might be very eloquent, a terrific writer, convince you to trust me, say the things you like to hear, say all the right things, and even have a huge audience, but if I don’t have love, I’m nothing more than a cheap, annoying noisemaker.”
Chuck: “When Lo Wei, a Chinese director, asked me to play a role in a low-budget karate movie called Yellow-faced Tiger that he was making in San Francisco, I said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
Advantage: Jody. We know his salary. He ain’t cheap.

Photos: Sinelli: Dan Sellers; Edwards: Joshua Martin; McGraw Family: David Woo; Jay McGraw: Laura Farr; Oswald Bar: Courtesy of Peter Voskamp