Best Children’s Entertainer
We know firsthand how hard it is to capture the attention of a gaggle of pint-size partygoers when the promise of cake looms on the horizon. Enthralling entertainment is key. And animals. Enter Critterman (aka David Kleven), our pick yet again for keeping the kiddos happy. The America’s Teaching Zoo-trained animal whisperer is known for his shows for 100-plus children at the Rockwall County Library, featuring an American alligator named Steve and a ferret named Slinky. Suffice to say, for Critterman, Junior’s birthday party is a piece of cake.
Readers’ Pick: Critterman
Best Landscape Design Company
David Rolston Landscape Architects
If you want azaleas, don’t bother calling David Rolston. It’s not that the noted landscape designer doesn’t dabble in the traditional. But what we love best about his impressive portfolio is the simplicity of his work. Structured spaces and clean lines give way to free-flowing, asymmetrical beds. He relies heavily on native plantings that can withstand brutal Texas summers and require less water. His designs include pathways and points of interest that invite visitors to linger. Other local designers can create typical Dallas gardens that scream “wow.” But no one captures serenity like Rolston. His wow is a lovely whisper.
Readers’ Pick: Bonick Landscaping
We hated yoga before giving this local chain a try. We eyed them suspiciously when they gave us a free week for trying an intro class. We giggled at the orchestrated breathing exercises, and we panted like dogs in the scripted, 98.6-degree Fire class. And then we realized we were in love. Even in Sunstone’s bustling Uptown studio, instructors are thoughtful, checking in with each student. Classes run the gamut from slower-paced Spark to boot-camp-style Metal.
Multiple locations. sunstoneyoga.com.
Readers’ Pick: Sunstone Yoga
Best Facial/Best Eyebrows
We’ve given our faces over to the skilled hands of Joanna Czech. (She’s good enough for Anna Wintour and Christy Turlington, whom she sees regularly.) All treatments are customized, so there is no one-size-fits-all routine. She’ll assess the situation, perform the latest LED therapies, and send you on your way with radiant skin and an updated beauty routine. Go ahead and name her your new go-to brow girl, too. Using only tweezers, she’ll pluck your caterpillars into perfect, naturally shaped arches worthy of a page in Vogue.
Yes, she has beautiful penmanship. Yes, she has decades of experience. And, yes, she has a client list that includes the likes of Buckingham Palace and the White House. But the reason Susie-Melissa Cherry of Calligraphic Arts takes the prize is her willingness to share her calligraphy wisdom with others. Her SMU classes have helped many a calligraphic neophyte master the art of hand lettering and have inspired some to launch their own calligraphy businesses.
Readers’ Pick: Tara Jones Calligraphy
Getting a blowout at La Bichette feels like part of the special occasion, rather than tiresome prep work beforehand. Mom and daughter owners Marsha and Tammy Coleman greet customers with smiles—and, more important, mimosas—before seating them around the Parisian-themed space. Stylists can whip up heads full of voluminous curls, retro waves, bohemian milk braids, or whatever tickles your fancy, while makeup artists offer classic makeovers and camera-ready options using natural mineral makeup.
Readers’ Pick: Drybar
Best Children’s Dance Class
Dallas Ballet Center
A simplified online registration/class enrollment process and recently expanded studios are two of the reasons Judy and Brent Klopfenstein’s North Dallas ballet school gets top honors for the second year running. They take their ballet pretty seriously (in other words, you won’t find cheer dance taught here), they have an in-house, nonprofit dance company that has turned out more than one professional dancer, and they eschew frills and sequins for buns, black leotards, and pink tights.
Readers’ Pick: Dallas Ballet Center
Best Place to Get a Massage
While undeniably relaxing, most massages leave us feeling greasy, slightly pummeled, and, frankly, tired. But after spending an hour partaking in a Reiki massage at Exhale, we emerged in a state of energized bliss. Our highly knowledgeable therapist put us at ease (essential when you’re under a blanket in the buff in the presence of a total stranger) as he briefly explained the benefits of each step, and assured us that the part massage, part Eastern therapy would leave us with feelings of warmth and comfort. He didn’t lie. 5300 E. Mockingbird Ln. 214-370-5800.
Readers’ Pick: Hiatus Spa + Retreat
Best Veterinary Clinic
Hillside Veterinary Clinic
We’re not sure if it’s the friendly and knowledgeable staff, the quick (but not rushed) routine visits, or the specialty treats and food stocked at Hillside Veterinary Clinic that has our Shih Tzu pup running to the front door with his tail wagging. Pet owners are psyched about the 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week hours. After all, scary pet problems always tend to strike at the most inconvenient times. Rest easy—there’s no emergency fee.
Reader’s Pick: CityVet
Irina Zhuravsky—or the Miracle Seamstress, as she is appropriately nicknamed—is one of Dallas’ best-kept secrets. Working out of a backroom at Elements boutique—her “alterations speakeasy,” as the shopgirls call it—Zhuravsky nips and tucks everything from the finest in couture gowns to men’s shirts and denim hems. If you’re in a bind and she has the time, you can
book her for a last-minute job a la Cinderella.
Readers’ Pick: J’s Tailor
Best Shoe Repair
Deno’s of highland Park is still our trusted source for restoring prized Hermès bags and Christian Louboutin heels, but what about shoes without red soles? Of similar name but no relation, Kosta Dino’s repairs broken heels, resuscitates our favorite worn-out shoes, stitches our leather handbags back together, and turns it all around quickly and at unbeatable prices. They even managed to refurbish our prized Manolo Blahnik heels that suffered an oil stain.
Readers’ Pick: Deno’s of Highland Park
Best Pet Boarder
Did our loveable Australian Shepherd mix, Katie, deserve to be blacklisted by Kinder Kritter for her “rough play”? Look, it’s possible. She gets excited sometimes, you know? Here’s what we do know: every day, Kinder Kritter emails you pictures of your dog playing. Their prices are reasonable ($30 per day, for dogs over 30 pounds). And they do not mess around with unruly mutts.
Readers’ Pick: Paradise 4 Paws
Onyx Nail Bar
If the full bar doesn’t win you over, the stadium seating will. Three rows of mani and pedi stations make the salon an ideal destination for group trips. Services range from “straight up” manicures ($17) to fancy organic pedicures ($60), but we like the Lavender duo with a scrub, paraffin dip, massage, and complimentary cocktail. To top off a girls’ outing, walk your shiny new tootsies over to Dish next door.
Readers’ Pick: Hiatus Spa + Retreat
Best Sunless Tanning
Bronze & Beautiful
We’ve subjected ourselves to countless sunless tanning experiments in the name of finding the perfect faux glow, but we keep coming back to Jacy Rader. She’s an expert with the airbrush, leaving you evenly tanned with a customized color in the intensity of your choosing. Most importantly, she does this all in the comfort of your own home, a serious luxury when you’re being spray-painted in the buff. 817-880-4383.
Readers’ Pick: Palm Beach Tan
Best Hair Salon
The Songbird Society
It doesn’t sound like a salon, we know. It doesn’t feel like one, either. Tucked away off Insurance Lane, this soulful hair studio is home to some of the most talented stylists in the city. Richard Hayler and J.T. Osgood man the operation and lead the color department, while stylist Henry Uldall works wonders with the scissors. Instead of cranking out the same tired trends, Songbird is a step ahead, sending clients out the door with updated looks.
Readers’ Pick: Clive and Co.
Best Fitness Program
Maybe it’s the theme rides (think disco, hair bands, and Jay-Z vs. Beyoncé). Maybe it’s the Troy Aikman sightings (Mike Modano is a regular, too). Or maybe it’s the fact that every Flywheel session is a 45- or 60-minute indoor cycling workout that tones the upper body with weighted bars while working the lower body with a series of climbs, descents, and races. Really, it’s the whole kickass combo that makes Flywheel the best fitness fix in town.
Readers’ Pick: Camp Gladiator Boot Camp
It’s a tedious process, having lashes glued on, one at a time, for hours on end. But this is where you want it done: in Claria Nieves’ Uptown space, under her masterful hands. She has been enhancing lackluster eyelids for more than a decade. You won’t walk away with theatrical strips of black fur. Yours will be a flirty set of longer lashes that’ll have you batting your eyes at everyone.
Readers’ Pick: Eyelashes by Stephanie
Best Day Spa
Hiatus Spa + Retreat
We’re picky about our day spas. Everything has to be perfect, from the waiting area to post-service tea. Hiatus nails it. The approach is holistic, so chemicals are banned and replaced with natural products and hands-on treatments. The 80-minute Hiatus Mani-Pedi Retreat combo in an anti-gravity chair is good on its own. But prep it with a vichy shower and the new, aptly named Best Facial Ever, and you might never come down from your spa-induced high.
Readers’ Pick: Hiatus Spa + Retreat
Recently, we were sitting in a daylong off-site meeting. It was going okay, as far as meetings go, but then we broke for lunch, which was catered by Bolsa Mercado. We were served a mixed green salad with grapefruit and Texas pecan brittle, chicken from Windy Meadows with roasted mushrooms and farm egg sauce, and dried currant and pecan brownies. We don’t remember anything from the meeting, but we will never forget that lunch.
Readers’ Pick: Two Sisters Catering