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Best & Worst

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IT GOT TO A POINT LAST AUTUMN THAT DaLLASITES had to wonder, how low can a city go?

And you couldn’t even blame it on those most usual of suspects, the Cowboys, who remained relatively scandal-free in 1997-no drug indictments or team-sanctioned bordellos and just one recanted rape allegation. A regular bunch of altar boys. Sure, there was that humiliating concealed weapon arrest at DFW Airport-but it only involved resident Okie Barry Switzer. Even a 20-year incarceration of Barry wouldn’t have had a material effect on the Boys* standings. And, fortunate- ly, the incident and Barry’s subsequent unsettling, weepy locker room confessional didn’t get much public attention outside psychiatrie circles, where “village idiot” is being reconsidered as a diagnosis.

No, things hit bottom for Dallas when scandal toppled our bulldozer-driving, corrupt ion-fighting superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez. Any TAAS-test washout could tell you the Dallas Independent School District was, and is, riddled from bottom to top with insider deals, lax supervision, and mind-boggling bureaucracy. But even district gadflies like John Wiley Price had to have been struck-if only momentarily-speechless when Gonzalez admitted in a federal plea bargain that she had been binging at the district’s cookie jar. Of course we never expected our new superintendent to be a card-carrying Mensa member, but what kind of intellect would call in the FBI to investigate corruption when she was the one who was corrupt? It’s a question, perhaps, only Barry Switzer can answer.

If the logjam of allegations against Gonzalez-including misappropriation, intimidation, destroying careers, and sexual harassment-weren’t embarrassing enough, we had to endure those creepy love notes that her former close, personal pal Matthew Harden Jr. felt strangely compelled to share with the world in his lawsuit-cum-publicity blitz. Chief Financial Officer Harden produced missives in which Gonzalez wooed him as her “Heating Pad” and beckoned, ’’How about a little one-on-one?” (At about this point, the entire city felt the overwhelming urge to take a shower and collectively scrub our brains with a wire brush.) It’s disheartening enough to have a corruption-fighting white knight turn into a crook, but into a lovesick loser? As they say in the cafeteria: “Yuck.”

The saddest part of the district’s ongoing mess is the advanced-placement course in betrayal, deceit, and cynicism that Gonzalez taught the city’s children-who, as she often liked to point out, are Dallas’ future. “I can forgive,” one disillusioned student told a reporter, “but I’ll never forget.” Unbelievably, something good emerged from this tawdry affair. Dallas got its best evidence yet of its kids’ moral resiliency. Amid the adults’ continued bickering and back-stabbing, they continue to show up at school. Rumor has it they expect to get an education.

Still, truth and beauty did triumph in Dallas this year. Businessman Raymond Nasher earned his angel’s wings when he announced in April that he would place his extraordinary 200-piece sculpture collection in the Arts District. (An act that earned him D’s “Man of the Year,” page 54.) By establishing his collection here, with works by Willem de Kooning and Henry Moore, Nasher put Dallas on the map in global cultural circles that even “Walker, Texas Ranger” has yet to reach.

And 1997 will be remembered as the best of years in less spectacular but consequential ways. The communities that share the Trinity River finally agreed to work together to develop and protect the river and its rich ecosystem, which historically has been treated as little more than a sewer. And, mundane as it sounds, it’s wonderful that White Rock Lake will finally be dredged, polishing the city’s murky jewel.

Finally, how could we look back on 1997’s best moments without noting that after years of stumbling and thrashing about, Dallas city leaders finally managed to push through a plan to build a new sports arena? If nothing else, Dallas’ new sports venue ensures we won’t have to endure the excruciating spectacle of the Mavericks and Stars being sucked up to by every suburb from Gun Barrel City to Pantego.

If you’re keeping score, it comes out roughly to Truth I, Beauty 1, Justice 0. Read on for a detailed analysis of just how Best and Worst a year it was.

LIFE & LEISURE

PUCE TO BE OH A SUNDAY NIGHT

BEST: Monica Aca y Alla on Main Street in Deep Ellum for hot and spicy live salsa music and dancing. Watch the “pros” do the tango and the rumba-or cha cha on your own. As always, at Monica’s you’re free to swing any way you want.

WORST: Humperdink’s after a Cowboys home game. Unless, of course, you enjoy die company of big-bellied men burping Budweiser and reliving the day’s battle.

DALLAS SHOWBIZ AMBASSADOR TO THE WORLD

BEST: It makes little difference whether Texan cartoonist Mike Judge’s town of Arlen is meant to be Arlington or Garland, if you live in one of Dallas’cedar-fenced suburbs, you pass clueless vulgarian Hank Hill, star of Fox’s “King of the Hill,” every day. The rest of the world sees a basically decent Texas good old boy trying to grapple with a world turned upside down, in which, sadly, even guns are somehow bad and the art of a shade-tree oil change has been lost.

WORST: A decade ago, the world gleaned its understanding of Dallas from “Dallas.” Now, Dallas’ image is broadcast around the world in the form of a needlessly violent . Texas Ranger, portrayed by Chuck Horns. Thanks to Chuck, in the world’s eyes we’ve gone from “the town that killed Kennedy” to the town that beats :he crap out of anything that moves.

RESTAURANT TO MEET SOMEONE FOR A CLANDESTINE RENDEZVOUS

BEST: Sardine’s in Fort Worth. For your next notte d’amore, this intimate restaurant is the place to be and not be seen. It’s so dark you’ll have to share the centerpiece candle to read the menu. And that’s the point.

WORST; PATRIZIO in Highland Park Village. If you can actually hear what your lover is saying over all the clatter, you’re lucky. Which is probably fortunate because it’s impossible to escape the scrutiny of the local lunch yentas, who use this eatery as a posh pit stop between Harold’s and Hermes. Lord have mercy if your wedding rings don’t match.



BUS DRIVER

BEST: Eddie Washington Jr.. a DART bus driver tor 24 years, was stopped at a red light in Iront of Presbyterian Hospital when he saw a car jet through the intersection, papers flying off the roof. An OB/GYN rushing to a delivery had forgotten he had put them there. Washington got out of the bus, halted traffic, and picked up the scattered medical charts, then called the doctor’s office and told the receptionist when he’d again be in front of Presbyterian. He arrived on schedule and delivered the papers on time. Oh yes, and the doctor did the same with the baby.

WORST: When first-grader Kimberly Perez tried to take her beloved Winnie the Pooh bear onto the school bus at 7 a.m.. driver Gloria Brown wouldn’t let her gel on: No toys allowed OB hoard. In the pre-dawn gloom. Kimberly had to walk back home with only Pooh to protect her. The next day. Brown was fired by Dallas County Schools.



EXAMPLE OF DOMESTICITY

BEST: In September, Habitat for Humanity staged a “Blitz Build” in the Fair Park area, erecting 19 single-family homes in three months, The homes, in a previously weed-infested block along Garland and Parry avenues, will be sold at affordable rates to families with incomes between $11,000 and $24,000.WORST: When Overtoil Bank and Trust, ? anting to build a motor bank at McKinnon and Wolf streets, and 90-year-old Ramon Rodriguez failed to come to terms over the value of Rodriguez’s land, bank officials threatened to build their bank around Rodriguez’s house. And they did. On your way to the drive-through, honk if you love compromis



MARKETING OF A MINOR

BEST: Uncertain how to market LeAnn Rums, the underage chanteuse who sings about cheat in’ hearts and givin’ love but never gettin’ love, record executives for years shied away from signing the Garland teenager to a record deal A major-label record deal, two Grammys, and a made-for-TV movie later, LeAnn Rimes was the breakout artist of 1997. WORST: LeAnn Rimes. By the end of 1997, country music’s It girl-our very own little LeAnn-showed early signs of an identity crisis. With the release of her third album. “You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs,” Rimes recycled unoriginal ’70s schlock and, in a curious shift in marketing strategy, began turning up in provocative magazine spreads wearing midriff-baring half slips and Stroppy dresses. Whoa. Le Ann. If nobody around you will remind you, it’s up to us: You’re only 15.



ANIMAL FRIENDS

BEST: When the Fort Worth Zoo unveiled its new meerkat exhibit, adults and children alike cooed and smiled at the half-dozen varmints immortalized in The Lion King. Cowtown zoo had once again one-upped its Dallas competitor by planning the exhibit long before Disney’s movie and hit Broadway musical.

WORST: In a contest sponsored by Combat insect repellent. Pleasant Grove resident Pamela Anderson won the dubious honor of having one of the six most-infested houses in the country. Her prize included a visit from the world’s leading roach expert, who found 70,000 cockroaches in Anderson’s house.

EXAMPLE OF KNOWING WHICH WAY THE WIND BLOWS BEST: Last October, decisionmakers at the U.S. Department of Commerce decided not to close the National Weather Service’s southern region headquarters in Fort Worth. On second thought, the bureaucrats decided that it might be a good idea if the bureau that monitors one of the most active weather regions in the world stayed open.

WORST: In its ongoing campaign to breathe death into its faltering editorial pages, a Dallas Morning News September editorial boldly took on the weather. “Has anybody noticed how much hotter it’s been on recent weekends than meteorologists had predicted?” began the punchy commentary, which tackled a controversy we haven’t heard discussed in this much depth since automatic elevators forced their human operators into retraining-apparently as News editorial writers. “Really.” the riveting piece continued, “the consistency of the phenomenon has been extraordinary.”



EXAMPLE OF GETTING BACK TO THE EDUCATIONAL BASICS

BEST: Six Lancaster math teachers, including the math department head, were suspended for distributing a work sheet that included word problems posing situations such as “José has 2 ounces of cocaine and he sells an 8 ball to Jackson…, What is the street value of the balance of me cocaine if he doesn’t cut it?”

WORST: In February, two Carroll High School cheerleaders and four male basketball players mooned each other on the way home from a game. All were given three-day suspensions from school, but the cheerleaders were kicked off the squad. One administrator defended the unequal punishment, saying cheerleaders are “held to higher standards.”

PINK SLIP

BEST: Howard Stern. Worries about the loss of potential advertising prompted KEGL-FM 97.1 to dump the New York City-based shock jock at the end of his five-year contract. Despite Initial feeble prolests by Stern fans, the “King of All Media” has passed without a blip into Dallas radio oblivion.

WORST: David Gold. A change in format and dism;il ratings prompted KLIF-AM 570 to dump Dallas radio’s most conservative voice after almost 12 years on the air. Gold irritated, he provoked, he challenged-and he never played nicey-nice.

But he was reasonable, he was professional, and at his best he articulated positions his listeners only felt.



CORPORATE PR

BEST: To celebrate its 125th birthday in May Irving-based Kimberly-Clark committed $2.6 million 10 build a playground in every U.S. city where it has a facility. In Dallas, a vacant lot in Oak Cliff was filled with new swings and slides. Great timing. That same month, Florida’s attorney general sued Kimberly-Clark and nine other companies for toilet paper price fixing.

WORST. Blockbuster promised a free movie rental for kids who made a B average. When excited students showed up at some stores to present their report cards and reap the benefits of scholarship, they were met with hand-lettered notes on the cash registers saying the program had been discontinued. The kids’ refresher course in the unfairness of life was due to a bar-coding glitch followed by corporate miscommunication. explains a Blockbuster flak (who gets a D- for lame excuses).



HYPE

BEST: The opening of Grapevine Mills was greeted with the kind of enthusiasm usually afforded major cultural institutions. The grand-scale PR campaign promised the stars: unbeatable shopping, eating, and entertainment all rolled into one. But what’s so great about a few worthy retailers (Guess, Bebe, Off 5th) mixed into a whole slew of no-name, who-cares kind of stores? Well, there’s no denying that the hype paid off; the mobs of shoppers are a testament to that. But what we really want to know is, how many of those people left disappointed? We did.

WORST: Beggars supposedly can’t be choosers, but when ticket sales were sluggish for Farm Aid 1997 in Texas Stadium, pro-moters chose to move the annual benefit concert to Chicago. The scheduled lineup featured grizzled veterans (Neil Young, Allman Brothers) and younger acts (Beck,Dave Matthews) alike, but fans weren’t buying. According to Willie Nelson, originator of the event, ticket sales were so slow that “We would have had to have a Farm Aid for Farm Aid.” On the road again, indeed.



NEWSPAPER SERIES

BEST: Park Cities People series on Elisa McCall’s unsuccessful battle with depression and eating disorders. “Elisa’s Story: A tragic struggle with bulimia” took an oft-discussed subject and gave it fresh perspective. The reporters interviewed those closest to her. including her therapist and her parents, who allowed access to the late 20-year-old’s diaries. Her father and stepmother decided her story should be told as a cautionary tale.

WORST: The Dallas Morning News’ opus on the Duncanville High School Pantherettes. “The Season of a Lifetime” ran for what seemed like a lifetime in the newspaper’s “Today” section, Twenty-two “’chapters” look the render through the history of Duncanville. the legacy of girls’ basketball, the old coach, the new coach, the 1996-97 season, the team’s quest for the state championship, the winning of the championship, the slumber parly after the championship. We warned to cry “Foul!” What prompted this? A new Pulitzer category for the most boring series justifying Title IX?

KLAN NEWS

BEST: A group of leading Dallas social types “who like to hunt and fish” and have Tor decades drolly called themselves the Koon Kreek Klub bowed to political correctness and changed their K’s to C’s. “We didn’t want the name to indicate that we were offensive to anyone,” said klub official Daniel Mahoney.

WORST: For nearly a decade. Bishop Lynch High School supporters spiritedly referred to themselves as the “Lynch Mob.” School officials, jumping on the PC bandwagon, last fall banned the term, citing concerns of racial insensitivity. What’s next? A school name change?



ALTERNATIVE ARTS

BEST: No one expected the Dallas Theater Center’s annual “Big D Festival of the Unexpected” to ever actually bear fruit. But in its fifth season, the festival-which develops new, often experimental plays-staged a . workshop produc-tion of a DTC-commissioned play by former Dallas i playwright Octavio It Solis. “Dreamily, landia” went on to win a $50,000 grant from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the largest awarded by the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays.

WORST: The three-year-old McKinney Avenue Contemporary still doesn’t seem to have a clue what it’s supposed to be doing for Dallas besides providing a venue for landlord Claude Albritton’s artistic ambitions. Unfortunately, Albritton doesn’t seem ambitious enough.



PUBLICITY SHOOTOUT

BEST: After Chuck Noms look-alike Bill Cavenaugh dressed up as a Texas Ranger in ads for a Wisconsin car dealership, the real-life Norris obtained a cease-and-desist order against Givenaugh. Cavenaugh. in turn, leased a downtown Dallas billboard that said, “Thanks to Chuck Norris, I am an unemployed commercial actor.”

WORST: A Bud light billboard in East Arlington depicting two ’ young men who appeared to be teenagers specifically targeted Hispanic teens (“Yo quiero una,” it said). Officials with Anheuser-Busch, saying they did not want “to be misper-ceived,” yanked the ad after outraged parents called every media outlet in town. Our question: Why didn’t the ad agency tank this billboard before it saw the light of day?

FACELIFT

BEST: “Spirit of the Centennial,” the 16-foot-high art deco statue and mural originally designed in 193ft for the Centennial in Fair Park. Dallas businessman Richard H. Collins is restoring it in honor of his mother, Calvert K. Collins, the first woman on the Dallas City Council.

WORST: The 50-year-old art mod-erne Dr Pepper building on Mockingbird Lane was clumsily demolished. The five-story clock tower with its beloved “10-2-4” reminder fell on a worker to make way for more strip mall-inspired architecture. At least some of the building was saved: An enterprising entrepreneur salvaged the building’s famous glass blocks and sold them to nostalgic Dr Pepper drinkers.

OFFICIAL TASTE TEST

Cookie Monsters



We took six dozen chocolate chip cookies and two gallons of milk to the weekly meeting of Girl Scout troop 1190 at the Stoneway Private School in Garland. These 12-year-old marketing mavens were gearing up for their annual cookie sale, which runs Jan. 2 through March 16. They had to chose the best from Neiman Marcus, Celebrity Deli, JD’s Chippery, Tom Thumb, and Empire Bakery. Pre-test giddiness and laughter cut to silence when score cards were passed out. This troop is all business when it comes to cookies. The next 10 minutes were filled with the sounds of chomping and gulping. These girls refused to talk with their mouths full. But between bites we learned that Empire Bakery’s taste “a little burnt,” and Celebrity Deli’s are “nasty-not sweet.” Texture preferences were mixed-some preferred soft, doughy cookies while others liked the crispy kind. But the overall cry after tasting JD’s Chippery was “Cookie dough rocks!” with fists in the air.

BEST: JD’s Chippery

ALSO-RANS: Neiman Marcus Celebrity Deli Empire Bakery

WORST: Tom Thumb

FOOD & DRINK

TREND OF THE YEAR

BEST: So many fish restaurants have opened in the past 12 months you’d think there were waves lapping at the heels of that red horse. Fish. Okeanos by Avner, Lombard! Mare, Clive & Stuart, Jungle Red, Picardys Shrimp Shop, any number of sushi restaurants-the list goes on. It’s a mixed catch, ranging from incredible to inedible, but at least now we have a choice beyond S&D oysters or cod at the cafeteria.

WORST: Tall food, clear evidence of the desperate measures chefs take to Do Something Different. Towering example: A lunch appetizer at Gershwin’s at Greenville Avenue and Walnut Hill Lane stacks yummy components-a warm potato cake. herbed cream cheese, house-smoked salmon, and a waffled potato basket of baby lettuces- on a spice-strewn plate to build a hand-high structure too impressive to destroy, but impossible to eat without reducing it to rubble.



USE OF FISH IN A SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS DECOR

BEST: The marl in over thebar at St Pete’s Dancing Marlin on Commerce Street in Deep Ellum signifies nothing more than a reason for the name. There’s no theme it ties into, nobody associated with the restaurant landed it, and there’s not even any fish on the menu unless you count the tuna sandwich. Bui isn’t there a certain poetic correctness, a melding of intent and ambience, in such purely meaningless bar decoration? Order another margarita and ponder the big fish.

WORST: The goldfish bowls hanging like Tiffany lamps over the bar at Lombardi Mare on Belt Line Road in Addison are a great idea, but we’ve spotted floaters.

LUNCH DEAL BEST: Pablo Llanito. a graduate of 8.0,

Fast & Cool, and Red Jacket, lias opened his own brightly colored casa de tacos called Pablo’s Tax-Hex and Taquerla. It’s not far from downtown at Singleton and Hampton streets, and what you spend on gas you’ll save on lunch–three tacos, rice, and beans for $2.95. You read it right.

WORST: The cost of pasta for lunch ai Coco Pazzo, both on McKinney Avenue and Bell Line Road in Addison, is around $ 12. Although Coco Pazzo means crazy cook, it doesn’t mean crazy diner. Think we don’t know what macaroni costs?



RESTAURANT ROW

BEST. The comer of Montfort Drive and Beltline Road lines up Okeanos by Avner, Chow Thai, Momo’s, Mattito’s-without exception all exceptional places to eat. Yes, it’s in a strip shopping mall, but as anyone who’s seen Beauty and the Beast knows, it’s what’s inside that counts.

WORST: Let’s talk about tired. The most exciting thing on lower McKinney Avenue these days is Clive & Stuart. Where do all those Uptowners eat?



WINE SELECTION

BEST: OK. so it’s a hokey name. Nevertheless, The Grape Escape. Michel Baudouin s new wine bar in Fort Worth, really lets you seriously experience wine-red, white, pink, bubbly. vertical tastings, horizontal tastings.

WORST: When’s the last time someone answered “red or white’’ when you asked what kind of wine was available? You were probably at Al-Amir.



RESTAURANT RESTROOM

BEST: As charmingly Brit as the food and the proprietor, Barclays’ (on Fairmont Street) little space is flowered and quaint, full of bric a brae, and furnished with thoroughly English comforts like lavender soap and Craven English mints With a copy of Sense and Sensibility, you could be comfortable here for quite a while.

WORST: We love almost everything about Daddy Jack’s-the food, the atmosphere, the service. We just , don’t love the restrooms, at least in the Greenville Avenue location. The squeeze down the hallway is light enough, but when it comes to the logistics of the door and the accommodations-we don’t even want to go into it.



EXAMPLE OF “FUSION” BEST: Why Asian food is the only one that “fuses” remains a mystery, but since that’s the case, Kent Rathbun and George W. Brown Jr. are the ones who perform this geographical-alchemical miracle with the greatest panache. The salmon on soba with ginger at 1717 in the Dallas Museum of ’ Art on Harwood Street fuses West with East so that it seems almost natural.

WORST: More like Aunt Jemima meets Daffy Duck-the so-called Peking duck at The Mansion on Turtle Creek topped a pancake suitable for patching tires with a mess of shredded bird and a mass of frizzled vegetables that looked like a bad hair day on a plate. Con-fused, we say.



VENTILATION SYSTEM BEST: The bar at Sevy’s on Preston Road opens out into the dining room, so why the smoke from the latter doesn’t pollute the former is a matter of technological wizardry.

WORST: The minute you enter Deep Ellum Cafe on Elm Street, you can tell what the kitchen was cooking yesterday. It doesn’t make you linger to find out what’s cooking today.

USE OF A LEFTOVER LOBSTER

BEST: A welcome sea of lobster bisque has overrun Dallas. So many restaurants are flying in their own lobsters, and lobster bisque is the only answer to a second-day dead lobster- a happy answer, since the creamy, terra cotta soup is one of the stars of the soup kingdom. (At Lavendou, for example.) Of course, then you end up with leftover lobster bisque.

WORST: How can there possibly be so much leftover lobster, we wonder? Suddenly folding leftover lobster bisque and cooked lobster into mashed potatoes (at restaurants like Lombardi Mare) is a good and thrifty idea. OK, we understand the thrifty part. But good? Chucks of chewy lobster in mashed potatoes?

AL FRESCO DINING

BEST: Tarazza’s namesake terrace at Travis Walk is perfect if the night is and its elevation places it far above the street level yards most restaurants call (heir patio. If the weather is especially nice and the doors are open, you can enjoy Dave Williams’ smooth piano music and the stars at the same lime.

WORST: The Blue Goose on Greenville Avenue offers a choice: a view of cars parked on a side street or a traffic jam on [he main street-it all depends on what kind of outdoor ambi-ence you’re searching for.

ENCHILADA

BEST: Mole is the crown jewel of authentic Mexican cuisine, but it’s so unreasonably com-* plicated to make, ?quiring dozens of ingredients blended together in perfect proportion, that it’s rarely prepared well in Yankee-sty le Mexican restau-rants. El Tio Lupe on Ross Avenue has the best mole in town. The enchiladas are good, too-even with ranchers sauce instead of the sublime mole.

WORST: Everyone loves them, and who are we to argue, but we will: The cheese enchiladas at Uncle Julio’s are thick, gooey, and indigestible.



EGG ROLL

BEST: The food at Szechwan Pavilion on Preston Road is less dependable than it once was, but its egg rolls are still stellar, much more than the fried rabbit fodder passed off in loo many of its Chinese brethren.

WORST: Lovers Egg Roll al Inwood Road and Lovers Lane. There’s nothing much to say but this: Lovers’ egg rolls are awful. But their pot stickers are great. Maybe they should change the restaurant’s name to Lovers Pot Stickers.

CAESAR SALAD

BEST: Marie’s on Henderson actually follows the recipe, preparing it tableside with eggs and anchovies.

WORST: La Madeleine’s famous salad can be tasty, but it’s not Caesar. Creamy Italian, maybe. Close, but not enough.



CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK BEST: Paradoxically. Matt Martinez, the king of Mexican food, fixes die best chicken-fried steak in Dallas/Fort Worth al Mart’s Rancho Martinez on La Vista Drive. Maybe that’s because when it’s covered cowboy-style with chili and cheese, it tastes a lot like his great enchiladas.

WORST: Apparently, the chicken-fried steak at Walt Garrison’s Rodeo Bar at the Hotel Adolphus on Commerce Street has been dipped in paprika-seasoned cement before being fried in tepid oil. At least, that’s the recipe as far as we could figure it out.

MILKSHAKE

BEST: Highland Park Pharmacy at Knox and Travis streets. For more than 20 years we’ve been telling you this. When will you listen?

WORST: Burger Street’s shake is all foam and no cream.

MARTINI

BEST: Martini sounds Italian, doesn’t it? And Lombardi Mare’s mix-cold and clear as an ice cube-is a good prelude to seafood, Italiano. (If you want to opt out of ^ alcohol, the pristine shrimp cocktail comes in a martini glass, with a side of Bloody Mary base,)

WORST: At Martini Ranch on Fairmount Street, they actually serve something called a “Godiva martini.” and. yes, it mixes chocolate and gin. and, yes. it is disgusting. One more good reason to avoid any bar with the word “martini” in its name.



CHEESEBURGER

BEST: At Theo’s on Hall Street. Tony quietly cooks “em to order while Sybil talks. The calories you’ll consume in the burger you’ll burn trying to keep up with her quick wit and fast mouth. Rumor has it this is where Elvis will appear next, looking for the perfect cheeseburger. He should know, right?

WORST: The buffalo cheeseburger for is it cheese buffaloburger?) at Barcelona on Greenville Avenue is the best thing on the menu, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t terrible.



FRENCH FRIES

BEST: The fries at Jack’s Burger House on Hillcrest Avenue have achieved local tame, and justly so: crisp, golden, and dusted with that savory secret salt. Now you can buy the salt to use at home, but why bother when heaven is at Jack’s?



WORST: How can we say this? Tepid, limp, pale, and greasy- those are ail good words to describe the alleged French fry at Texas Hamburgers on Market Center Boulevard. And to think they dare use “Texas” in their name.

OFFICIAL TASTE TEST 2

Bagel Babes

The bagel, once the authentic finger food of the New York Jewish community, has crossed ethnic lines and become so mainstream that every Denny’s carries it on the menu. But ask five Jewish mothers if they eat strawberry or blueberry or jatapeno bagels-those great doughy pretenders that crop up at your neighborhood bagel chain-and they give you a look like you should know better. Plain, poppy seed, sesame seed, maybe an occasional garlic-these, they claim, are the only bagels worth eating. Despite the old borsc;ht belt Joke that with every five Jews, you get five opinions, our Jewish moms reached a consensus without much argument.

“It’s not hard for me to make a decision,” said Beedie Tiedelbaum. “I know what’s best immediately.” Equally decisive and spirited about their task were the other members of our “Oy Luck Club”-Ann Donald, Betty Fishbein, Davey Weintraub, and Esther Leventhal. But after wading like soldiers through stacks of bagels, the results didn’t surprise them, since they eat bagels every day.

What they found more surprising was that we refused to let them clean up afterward. “You need to let us help,” pleaded Ann Donald. But we stood firm-no matter how guilty they tried to make us feel.

BEST: Gilbert’s

ALSO-RANS: Deli News Einstein Bros

Bagelstein’s WORST: Bagel Chain

OFFICIAL TASTE TEST 3

Coffee Quaffers

The ER nurses at Parkland Memorial Hospital work chaotic, 12-hour shifts where anything can happen any time. They have to be ready for trauma-at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning. Their unanimous solution to staying alert? Coffee. Lots of it.

We gathered our experts in an ER break room that looked no different from the TV version. We half expected (hoped) to see George Clooney rush around the corner, stethoscope flying and coffee spilling from a Styrofoam cup in hand. The nurses took this blind coffee tasting as seriously as a Napa Valley wine panel. They were told to doctor up the coffees to their liking with cream and sugar and rate them from best to worst. Contenders included Starbucks, Cafe Society, Cafe Brazil, Java Jones, and 7-Eleven. Seated at a table with five numbered cups, they sipped and swished the coffees while cleansing their palates with chocolate donuts.

Designer coffees were DOA. The top choice was 7-Eleven. After tasting the overall loser, Starbucks, one nurse commented and the others agreed, “It tastes like someone washed their scrubs in this.”

BEST:7-Eleven

ALSO-RANS: Cafe Society Cafe Brazil Java Jones

WORST: Starbucks

GOODS & SERVICES

PLACE TO BUY CDS

BEST: Remember that guy in your dorm who hail that amazing collection of LPs by artists you didn’t even know existed? Well, today you can bet he shops at CD World on Greenville Avenue. It’s got an unbeatable selection and all new releases are $11.91 for the first week. And unlike many smaller, snobbier record stores, the employees at CD World give you the same J level of friendly respect whether you’re buying LeAnn Rimes or Busta Rhymes.

WORST: The monster of recorded media. Blockbuster, slocks lens of thousands of CDs at its music outlets. But lots of stores offer lots of CDs. What the others don’t have is the unmitigated gal] to charge as much as $16.99 for a single CD. And that much-touted listening bar is difficult to use, uncomfortable, and crowded.

WOMEN’S SHOES

BEST: OK, so the salespeople at Gregory’s in the Galleria have about as much finesse as used-car salesmen. We still like the always-current inventory of the latest designs by big-name designers.

WORST: Stanley Korshak used to offer the best-dare we say unique?-selection of women’s shoes. Now it seems thai the specially store al the Crescent has gone mainstream, diluting its offerings to reach a broader audience.



TOWING SERVICE BEST: Road Butler has been in Dallas for only six years, but its reputation for cleanshaven, well-mannered drivers who wear clean uniforms and drive new flatbed car carriers precedes it. It costs $48 to load a car and $2 per mile after the first five. Dispatch and customer service manager Don Drake says he only hires people with warm personalities who enjoy helping people in need. And if you need to be towed, a smile from the guy who’s rescuing you can go a long way.

WORST; AJ’s Wrecker Service . prices alone are worth complaining about ($116.06 for the first 24 hours of car storage. then a processing fee of $25 after 24 hours, plus $16.24 a day). Bui AJ’s deserves its own circle of hell for receiving numerous complaints of towing without authorization, damaging cars, and billing improperly.



PLACE TO BUY ATHLETIC SHOES

BEST: The owner of Luke’s Locker on Oak Lawn Avenue, Don Lucas, has been selling running shoes since 1968, when Nike was still Blue Ribbon Sports. The sales staff at Luke’s are runners with enough mileage on their knees to offer advice for anything from cramps to shin splints. And where else can customers try out the merchandise on an indoor track or treadmill?

WORST: You’ll swear the name should be Not For Service. Shop at Just For Feet if you enjoy rap music, towering video screens, and 16-year-old salespeople who wouldn’t dream of learning about athletic shoes or their store’s inventory. It wouldn’t be cool (and therefore, the store will soon be cold- and empty).

PUCE TO BUY SEXY LINGERIE BEST: Who says erotic underthings have to make you look like a cheap Jezebel? From silk nighties to velvet bodysuits. Shears on Oak Lawn Avenue offers the sexiest stuff in town in the colors you knew had to be out there somewhere. This recreational wear elevates your, er, blood pressure while it’s still on the rack. We know these offerings aren’t for everyone, but heck, just because we’re getting older doesn’t mean we can’t get better.

WORST: It’s got to be the Scandinavian influence. Why else would Nordstrom at the Galleria try to get Dallas to buy flannel pajamas with feet? Stick to your forte: shoes. Dallas women, if given a choice between sex and shoes-well, let’s just say you guys have a solid market niche.

REASON TO MOVE DOWNTOWN

BEST: In August, 1900 Elm (originally the Titche- Goettinger department store and later Joske’s) began leasing loft spaces, starting at $520, helping to transform downtown Dallas into an urban community. WORST: On most weekdays, freelance evangelists gather at what has become known as Zealot’s Corner at Elm and Ervay streets to frenetically pass out self-published pamphlets and shout out! ways to save your soul. Good intentions considered, the ruckus really puts a damper on your lunchtime excursion for a decent deli sandwich. Besides, didn’t Jesus advise hiding in a closet when we wanted to pray?



TELEMARKETERS

BEST: At least Southwestern Bell is taking the lead by advertising thai they will not call between 5 and 7:30 p.m. We appreciate the gesture, but we can’t help but ask: What about knocking it off for the other 21.5 hours?

WORST: The last time you said. “I hate telemarketers.” you had no idea. You had yet to encounter The Dental Club. One Arlington woman reported that when she declined a salesman’s offer of dental insurance he told her that she “needed to be screwed and soon.” Always good advice, but is il something you want to discuss with a telephone solicitor? When she complained, a supervi-sor screamed at her that ^* she should “go to a store and purchase a foot-long dildo.”Asyet,TheDildo Club has not called.

FUN & GAMES

LONG SHOT THAT PAID OFF BEST: I Are Sharp, a 49-1 long shot, won the first race ever at Lone Star Park, which was lilting since many believed the success of the Grand Prairie racetrack was facing even longer odds. Lone Star, so far, has proven itself to be a bet that Dallas should’ve taken-the average daily attendance during the inaugural season was 9,726 (more than New York’s famed Belmont Park), and the average on-track handle was $1.32 million.

WORST: The Edmonton Oilers upset the Dallas Star? in the first round of the playoffs. The Stars, after winning their division and being ranked second in their bracket, were considered a strong Stanley Cup contender. We’re sorry to bring these things up. but isn’t it nice…ah, forget il.



WAY TO CELEBRATE

BEST: Take off your shirt. Tatu. Dallas” famed “futbol” player, has the signature style of taking off his shirt and hurling it into the crowd after he scores a goal, over the years rewarding hundreds of Sidekicks fans with genuine, albeit sweaty, mementoes.

WORST: Take off your helmet To discourage “excessive celebration,” the National Football League enacted “The Emmitt Smith Rule,” a 15yard unsportsmanlike penalty for players who reveal their grinning, endorsing visages. The first victim of the rule: Smith himself, during a 25-22 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

POLITICAL SMILE BEST: Mayor Ron Kirk

has got it-whatever that is. The aw~sriucks, I’m-not-special. we’re-all-friends Teflon smile thai was last seen on a certain conservative Republican president. And Kirk’s jokes are even funnier,

WORST: Whether resigning in disgrace from the City Council or pleading innocent-then guilty-then Innocent again,

Paul Fielding kept turning those frowns upside down, wearing that trademark smirk that over the years made anyone who saw him want to throttle him. Fortunately, the FBI got there first.



AUTOGRAPH POLICY

BEST: Juan Gonzalez tops our list of local sports stars who are approachable tor autographs, and he’s more than willing to help out for charity,

WORST: At a Fort Worth El Fenix Mexican Restaurant, a woman approached a dining Nate Newton tor an autograph. (Fan lip: It’s never a good idea to gel between Nate and something he’s eating.) Let’s just say the woman was exposed to a side of Nate-who was later charged with a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct-he usually reserves for the Redskins defense.



EXAMPLE OF THE WONDER OF DEMOCRACY

BEST: Because good times have generated a budget surplus, the Farmers Branch City Council voted to do something beautiful– give its properly owners a rebate on their taxes through a first-of-its-kind city ordinance that returns taxes in flush years.

WORST:Raul Palmer, a Cockrell Hill City Council candidate, was indicted in September on charges of illegal voting. Palmer was accused of voting twice in the council election: once, casting a vote as himself, and the other, casting a vote as a man who was conveniently deceased. Because even in Dallas County dead men are prohibited by law from voting. Palmer, who happened to be a Dallas County deputy constable, is facing a third-degree felony charge. Worse, he lost the election in a close vole. He should have run in Du vail County. There, dead men aren’t prevented from voting.



FOOT-IN- MOUTH DISEASE

BEST: Dallas First Assistant District Attorney Norman Kinne. while being interviewed by reporters outside the courthouse during the murder trial of Darlie Routier in Kerrville, responded to interruptions by Darlie’s mother by asking, “Do I have to interview in front of this trailer trash?” taking the words out of every viewer’s mouth.

WORST: Fort Worth Police Chief Thomas Windham, under attack for allegedly offering preferential treatment for a future son-in-law to become an officer, created a furor when he told the press that up to 60 percent of his police force had “blemished” pasts. Windham’s pure-as-the-driven-snow officers were infuriated by this insult to their honor and threatened to strike. Windham later recanted.

OFFICIAL TASTE TEST 4

Hot Stuff!

Who better to taste test salsas than a group of guys who play with fire for a living? We took over a classroom at the Dallas Fire Department Training Academy, where six robust (read: studly) firefighters volunteered to pick Dallas’ best from the finalists: Herrera’s, Mart’s Rancho Martinez, Blue Mesa, Star Canyon, and El Fenix. Clad in yellow vinyl pants, suspenders, and heavy rubber boots, they looked like extras from the set of Backdraft after a day’s shooting.

But once the tasting got underway, this rugged bunch sounded like members of a local gourmet club. They commented like sous chefs on the texture, freshness, and “hints of garlic” in the various salsa selections. When it came to actually rating their favorite, their opinions turned as fiery as the hot sauce they were sampling. “No. 5 tastes like dirt,” said Keith Harrison, referring to Star Canyon’s salsa, which was unanimously voted the worst. Added Lance Haynes, “It tastes like dip; it has a touch of Copenhagen in it-just a pinch between your cheek and gums.” When we told them they just voted the most expensive salsa the worst, they remarked, “Hey, Copenhagen’s expensive too!”

BEST. Blue Mesa

ALSO-RANS: Herrera’s Matt’s Rancho Martinez El Fenix

WORST: Star Canyon

CRIME & PUNISHMENT



POLICE WORK

BEST: After receiving a mailer promising a “Bossier City Blowout” trip, nearly 100 “winners” showed up at the Infomart for their all-expenses-paid adventure. The soon-to-be-losers, all of whom were wanted on outstanding warrants, were promptly arrested.

WORST: Lt. Jeff Gardner, narcotics officer for the small town of Lavon, won rave reviews for drug operations that brought in a third of the town’s income. But then federal agents arrested Gardner, charging him with stealing seized drugs, weapons, video games, and more than $ 10,000 in cash. Another Lavon officer was charged with an unrelated weapons violation, effectively cutting the four-man police force in half.



KINKY GRIMES

BEST: In an effort to arrest a man who had broken into 10 Ellis County homes, police held a lineup, to no avail. “He goes into the master bedroom and he takes female clothing like underwear, dresses, high-heeled shoes, bras, teddies, lingerie, makeup,” one investigator said. The suspect was described as a white man in his 20s, with brown hair and blue eyes-and a predilection for silk.

WORST: Marvin and Sue Champlin woke up in their Fort Worth home about 4:30 a.m., startled to see a woman standing at the foot of their bed. The intruder shot Marvin in the right shoulder, then, after being followed into the kitchen by Sue, stabbed her. Though wounded, Marvin grabbed his gun and cornered the attacker, who turned out to be his 21-year-old son. Stephen,shaved of all body hair and dressed in women’s clothing.

McCRIMES

BEST: Arlington police have no suspects in a string of grease-nappings.” Bur-glars hijacked barrels of used ! .11 thai restaurants put out for rendering companies to make soap, pet food, and cattle feed. “It’s kind of a weird thing to steal,” said one restaurateur/victim. “It’s nasty and smelly and slippery and, well, greasy.”

WORST: Dallas police officer Raymond Dethloff Jr. was given a 15-day suspension without pay after he scarfed a McDonald’s chicken sandwich from the smashed car of a 16-year-old girl who had just been rushed to the hospital. No word on whether Dethloff used the barbecue dipping sauce,



PROOF THAT THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

BEST: When Tarrant County sheriff’s deputies got a Crime Stoppers lip that David Sum-merville had been spotted, they sped to apprehend the fugitive, who has been arrested 39 times in the last 10 years. But when they arrived, their would-be suspect argued that they had the wrong man. He explained he was actually Summerville’s twin brother. Billy, who has no arrest record. Fortunately the suspect was brazen enough to look the cops in the eye. Billy Summerville has one green eye and one brown eye. Deputies arrested and hauled off two-blue-eyed David Summerville.



WORST: Quick police work resulted in the arrest of three ? men in connection with the murders of two women at the AMC Grand theater parking lot. Officers had seen two of the men hurry across the parking lot. apparently trying to conceal something, then get in a car and race off. Aller they stopped the car, police discovered the dead women’s purse and billfold and two Shandguns. Not so fast, said the men’s attorney. Paul Johnson, citing an improbable probablecause technicality that only an ACLU lawyer could love. “I don’t think they had a right to stop every car that came out of the theater that night.”

CORRUPTION BUSTING

BEST: After months of steadfast profession of innocence followed by an aborted trial, disgraced city councilman Paul Fielding copped a federal plea to extortion and bankruptcy fraud (generally being a jerk is not a crime), The finicky, always meticulously dressed Fielding will be wearing federal prison green for next 41 months for cynically manipulating the city’s minority business incentives to enrich himself.



WORST: Federal prosecutors have tapes of City Councilman Al Lipscomb plotting with Paul Fielding to create a minority front company and use threats of protests to force Dallas companies into deals. Yet he apparently doesn’t even rate an investigation, let alone an indictment. What is this, judicial affirmative action?



CASE OF RUNAWAY EMOTIONS BEST: Would-be pro team owner and Parks Cities resident John Spano found the silver lining after he was charged with federal bank and wire fraud following his creative attempt to buy the New York Islanders hockey team with no money. Spano confided to The New York Times that the “misunderstanding” with bankers, NHL officials, and federal prosecutors had driven him head on into family values. “My marriage was falling apart All 1 thought about was the team. And then when this thing happened, my wife, Shelby, stood by me and we got close again,” he .said. Though he pleaded guilty two days later to fraud charges, he backed out of the deal in December. Apparently he wanted to avoid exploring his inner child at a federal minimum security self-actualization center.

WORST: Alter the jury in the Rudy Kos civil molestation trial left to deliberate, the emotional strain apparently led Judge Anne Ashby to snap- momentarily believing herself to be the court chaplain, She urged the plaintiffs to hold on to their faith, telling them she had been praying for “hope and healing.” The impromptu sermon followed by her hugging the plaintiffs led the flint-hearted defense team to demand she be recused from the case. On the other hand, plaintiff’s ’ lawyer Windle Turley, who had just shared in a $ 119.6 million award and would have kissed every member of the jury if he could, didn’t find anything improper about Ashby’s actions. “She ’ has a heart,” Turley said with a straight face, “some judges don’t have.”



PROUD FATHER

BEST: U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer had his law license yanked because he owes nearly $ 12,000 on a student loan he guaranteed for his son. Which, as you might suspect, made dad very cranky. “Buchmeyer was yelling…and refused to be advised about the loan,” said a spokesman for the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corp. “Buchmeyer hung up.” It’s no skin off Buchmeyer’s nose, though, because federal judges don’t need a bar license.

WORST: Two Fort Worth teenagers were arrested last spring for healing their father and stabbing him 14 times when he couldn’t come up with the money to pay them for mowing the lawn.



DISORDER IN THE COURT

BEST: Authorities in Rockwall County refused to dismiss the August 1995 cocaine possession charge after Robert Staley missed yet another court date on April Fool’s Day, even though Staley had been dead for a year. While insisting Staley”s attorney provide a death certificate to lay the matter to rest. District Judge Sue Pirtle couldn’t resist making a crack, “1 assume your client wants to maintain his right to remain silent.”

WORST: Several members of a Dallas jury lodged criminal weapons complaints against attorney Joey Phillip Robertson. The charge should have been “Impersonating Perry Mason without a license.” Robertson was seeking probation for Kelvin While, who bad pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery. While presenting his argument for leniency, Robertson grabbed exhibit A-an unloaded pistol, then whirled to point it directly at jurors’ faces. Robertson said he was trying to “steal the states’ thunder” by using the gun before the prosecution did. The jury gave While 13 years. Fortunately for Robertson, they did not have the power to put the defense lawyer away, too. He was no-billed by a grand jury.



EVIDENCE OF BLIND, AND PERHAPS STUPID, JUSTICE BEST: Sixteen-year-old Santiago Prado Jr. was accidentally released from a Dallas County Jail by a clerical error three days after pleading guilty to drug possession and murder and being sentenced to 22 years in prison. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

WORST: A 16-year-old boy transferred from Dallas juvenile detention to court for a hearing spent all weekend in a court holding cell without food, water, or plumbing facilities after authorities forgot him.

SENSE OF IMPROPRIETY BEST: Dallas County commissioner Jim Jackson decided to take a look at the computerized parking records of the county’s criminal district court judges to see how many hours the judges worked-or at least how long their cars were in the parking lot. Bui the judges demanded the records back and-clank!- sealed them with a judicial order. Security, they explained. Gosh, if the parkins records fell into the wrong hands, well, awful things could happen. You bet-like their opponents hitting the judges over the head with them come election lime.

WORST: We guess that in the Very Special Reality that is DISD. it makes perfect sense that Matthew Harden would be reinstated as chief financial officer after he filed .suit against district board members. But try suing your boss-or bosses, since Haitien has taken on the entire board-and see how long you keep your job

OFFICIAL TASTE TEST

Tequila Toasters

Sing along, now: “Wastin’ away again In Margaritaville, searching for my lost shaken of salt….” Jimmy Buffett made a culture out of a concoction with that song, so it seemed only fitting to call on his fan club to judge margaritas. We contacted Ron Allred, president of the Lonestar Parrothead Fan Club and asked for volunteers. Heemailed members without telling them what they were volunteering for. Six showed up anyway. Our margarita tasting was the least scientific of the bunch. La Valentina arrived two hours late with their entry. Monica made hers with mescal, thoroughly confounding the taste buds of the partying Parrotheads, whose standard drink Is two parts tequila, one part Rose’s Lime juice, and one part Triple Sac. The prevailing Parrothead attitude toward the drink is good-time functional: “We go for quantity, not quality,” J summed up one Buffett buff. “I ’ always use a straw; it’s faster,” advised another. And, said one, speaking for the group, “We always drink them on the rocks; freezing them takes too long. We’re looking for instant gratification.”

Instant gratification came in for some heavy criticism, with comments like “No. 3 tastes like dog drool” and “No. 2 tastes like I’m kissing a smoker.” In the end, this is how they ranked the ’ritas. Just remember, these were judged by a group whose idea of a sports event is a Hula-Hoop contest.

BEST: St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin

ALSO-RANS: La Valentina Mariano’s Primo’s

WORST: Monica Aca Y Alla