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Best Lists

The Best of Big D 2005

Dallas thrives on an identity that sets it apart from the rest of the state. Our stuff isn’t just good. It’s the best, whether you’re talking about our milkshakes or our meteorologists. Here’s your invitation to enjoy the best things the city has to offer.

You don’t live here because you like Dallas. People “like” Houston. People apparently “like” El Paso. You live here because you love this place. Dallas has always thrived on an identity that sets it apart from the rest of the state. Our stuff isn’t just good. It’s the best, whether you’re talking about our happy hours or our theater troupes or our custom-made shoes. So put the things that are good out of your mind. This is Dallas, and this is your invitation to enjoy the best things the city has to offer.

WaterTower Theatre

Since its inception in 1996, the WaterTower Theatre has proven that regional theater can be much more than the minor leagues for the performing arts. For instance, It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues this past season was as good as anything on Broadway—heck, it was better. The annual Out of the Loop Festival gives smaller companies and underground plays much-needed exposure. And for everything from an intimate drama to a hand-clapping musical, inventive and impressive set designs make the most of the 32,000 square feet of interior space. If the script calls for rain, you can expect to see raindrops. What you shouldn’t expect at WaterTower are empty seats. 15650 Addison Rd. 972-450-6220.


Nana’s coulant >>

There is chocolate, and then there is Valrhona chocolate, from the French company that produces some of the finest in the world. New Nana chef Anthony Bombaci uses it in his luscious coulant—a small, chocolate soufflé-shaped cake with a warm, molten filling. Beside the tiny tower of chocolate power is a petite scoop of white chocolate ice cream to cool your tongue. A surrealist swirl of freshly whipped cream scented with ginger completes the picture-perfect dessert. Wyndham Anatole Hotel, 2201 N. Stemmons Fwy. 214-761-7479.


Photo: Doug Davis

Sure, speeding on the Dallas North Tollway is fun. But it’s illegal. And things that are illegal are wrong. Instead, get the road rage out of your system at SpeedZone. The racing-themed amusement park spreads across 12 acres, including the Top Eliminator drag strip, the Turbo Track and Slick Trax sprint racers, a miniature golf course, and a fancy arcade. But our favorite attraction is the Grand Prix. Guide your Formula One-inspired, open-wheeled car through hairpin turns to awaken your inner Danica Patrick. 11130 Malibu Dr. 972-247-7223.

Zeus Comics & Collectibles
If you have a thing for men in tights or bodacious babes who could kick your latté-sipping, Izod-wearing fanny, then Zeus is your kind of sweet sci-fi release. Stylish and vibrant, owner Richard Neal’s Oak Lawn shop dispels the myth that all comic-book stores must be dusty, disorganized, and crowded with nebbish introverts arguing over whether Joss Whedon or Chris Claremont is the definitive X-Men scribe. (C’mon, everyone knows it’s Whedon.) An eye-popping array of games, toys, collectibles, and—of course—comic books draws a diverse crowd, from serious fanboys to Park Cities fashionistas. To which we can only say, “Shazam! That’s cool.” 3878 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 100E. 214-219-8697.

MERCURY RISING: Kristine Kahanek has put the heat on her competition. Photo: Allison V. Smith.


Kristine Kahanek >>
Not only is she easy on the eyes, and not only does she steadfastly refuse to wear bow ties, but CBS Channel 11’s Kahanek actually has a degree in atmospheric science—unlike some other TV weather people in town. Plus, when 250 grade-schoolers at the Science Place recently did an experiment, they found Kahanek’s was the most accurate forecast in town. Our outlook calls for mostly brainy, with sporadic sexiness.

Bella Vita Rejuvenation Center
Forget the messy creams and Mystic Tan. For the perfect bronze glow, head to Bella Vita Rejuvenation Center for a sunless tan that’s streak-free and lasts up to a week. LeeAnn Hassell (who was trained by an expert at SunFX, the Australian company that created the magical formula) will bronze you from head to toe in less than five minutes with a concentrated, all-natural spray that gets even those hard-to-reach spots. 6170 Sherry Ln., Ste. 100. 214-373-4233.

Burdick Baby
If the anxiety of motherhood and the gadgets that you need cause more confusion than relief, this store is your guiding light. Owner and mother Rene Burdick stocks the place with the items you wish would magically appear to make motherhood easier. Products range from the divine, like the Svan of Sweden adjustable wooden high chair, to the practical, like the Pacifeeder Hands Free Bottling System. The store does carry the basics, but it prides itself on baby-product couture. 1210 W. McDermott Dr., Suite 101, Allen, TX  75013. 214-383-1142.

Lucky Girl Lingerie
Not for the mainstream mademoiselle, this modern-retro boutique at the Shops at Legacy carries fashion-forward lingerie, loungewear, and vintage costume jewels. You’ll find mostly European lines, such as Aubade, Princess Tam Tam, and Huit. This is the place to go to find unique intimates for yourself or a future bride. Our favorites: sexy unmentionables by Dutch designer Marlies Dekkers and a vintage costume bauble by Eisenberg. And for those of you who refuse to travel north of LBJ, the store ships merchandise to your home. 7205 Bishop Rd., Ste. E5. 469-241-1649.

Leave the debauchery to the bachelors. For a bachelorette party with just enough sin to feel naughty but not cheap, head to Lush, where the bride-to-be can saunter her way through the sexy crowd on the dance floor or sit on her perch upstairs in the Blue Room. Bottle service is all it takes to reserve the popular spot overlooking all the action. (Asian-inspired nibbles are available, too.) It’s far enough out of sight that no one will notice when she holds up her special gifts for the honeymoon. 1520 Greenville Ave. 214-826-2888.

Good Earth Organic Farm
You don’t have to sail all the way to Plymouth to release your inner Captain John Smith. Just head northeast for about an hour to the colony of Celeste. That’s where farmers Lynn and Paul Magedson run Good Earth Organic Farm, home to hundreds of turkeys, chickens, and lambs that roam freely over 200 acres. Call early (like now!) to order your Thanksgiving-turkey birds, ranging from 14 to 40 pounds, and they’ll have it packaged for pickup. Or you can take home a live “Tom” and do the deed yourself. Lynn admits that most customers looking for “the ultimate Thanksgiving experience” end up with the “ultimate family pet.” 8571 FM 272, Celeste. 903-496-2070.

Any successful happy hour needs three essential elements: cheap drinks, free food, and an eclectic mix of people to gossip about. Steel’s Wednesday night event has raised the bar. Spend just $5 on a martini, including the Mangotini and the Pomatini, then gorge on an endless supply of free Cajun, shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and California rolls from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Don’t think that free means second-rate. If you didn’t know it was free, you’d shell out some cash for one or two orders of the Cajun roll. Tables by the bar offer a sweet spot for people watching. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 100. 214-219-9908.

Luke’s Locker
Yeah, we remember that near-asthma attack you suffered chasing your toddler at Little Gym, but everyone should run 26.2 miles at least once. Luke’s marathon program, now in its ninth year, will get you ready. Hundreds of people gather Saturday mornings at White Rock Lake’s Bath House for runs of increasing distance. Luke’s supplies routes, water and PowerAde, training schedules, guest speakers, and coaches. (Runners are grouped by speed and ability.) What makes this program good: it promotes endurance without injury (though paramedics are also on site). What makes this program great: the people. Luke’s has the nicest staff, who will make you run far and fast. We ran a sub-four-hour marathon. Twice. 3607 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-528-1290.

Kuby’s Sausage House
Kuby’s biscuits and gravy are far more than a reason to wake up in the morning; they’re a reason to go to bed early so the morning comes faster. A golden-brown biscuit almost as big as a paperback book comes with fresh fruit and a small bowl of creamy, yummy, peppery sausage gravy. Get a side order of sausage patties to complete the dish in style. It’s called Kuby’s Sausage House, after all. 6601 Snider Plaza. 214-363-2231.

Tower Records

We tend to lose track of time at Tower Records as we shuffle along the magazine racks, picking up and putting down just a fraction of the thousand-plus weeklies, monthlies, bi-monthlies, and ’zines. From learning new holds in Grappling, “the No. 1 magazine of mixed martial arts,” to finding inspiration in Flair, an Italian magazine so beautiful we don’t care if we can’t understand it, we remember why we fell in love with magazines in the first
place. 3707 Lemmon Ave. 214-252-0200.


<< Garlic Fries at AmeriQuest Field
We have a problem. The past few times we’ve gone to a Texas Rangers game, our parking pass put us on the south side of AmeriQuest Field. As such, we enter near Section 40. Savvy stadiumgoers will recognize the closest concessions stand to this entrance: it’s the one with garlic fries. (There’s one near Section 10, too.) See, the problem is we show up to a ball game hungry, prepared to gorge on hot dogs and nachos. But when we smell those garlic fries, all bets are off. The not-quite-crispy potatoes are tossed in olive oil, then topped with garlic (lots of garlic and kosher salt), and, if you’re smart, Old Bay Seasoning. We’re full before we find our seats. 1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington.
Photo: Kevin Hunter Marple

Mona’s Skin Clinic
With a twist of cotton thread you can have arches as perfect as the Arc de Triomphe. Shenez “Mona” Lakhani has been threading brows for 40 years and counting. The technique, which hails from the Middle East, lifts hair from the root and lasts longer than waxing. An even better bonus: it’s less painful and irritating than other popular treatments. Eyebrow: $15; full face: $40. 13150 Coit Rd., Ste. 100. 214-575-0710.


Jim Schutze >>
There are only two reasons to pick up the Dallas Observer each week. The first is the massage-parlor ads. The second is Schutze. His series in 2001 on vote harvesting in South Dallas should have won him a Pulitzer. His recent revelation that some members of the Dallas Police have essentially been running a protection racket should have the entire city outraged. But, perhaps because of those massage-parlor ads, Schutze’s fine work sometimes doesn’t have the impact it should. Shame.

Photo: Allison V. Smith

Kraft may sell 300 million boxes of its version of mac and cheese, but Hibiscus executive chef Nick Badovinus deserves a feather in his cap for elevating the lowly dish to a state of majesty. His secret? Layering mass quantities (and qualities!) of cheese—aged cheddar, Dry Sonoma Jack, Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream cheese, fontina, and, our personal favorite, Port-Salut—and melting them over little pasta cylinders. That’s what we’re talking about. 2927 N. Henderson Ave. 214-827-2927.

The Man’s Shop
A custom-made pair of shoes generally starts at $1,000 and goes up quickly. But the Man’s Shop does it for about $500. The secret is a machine that uses lasers to measure 200,000 data points on your feet. Two 3-D computer images are sent to Otabo headquarters in Florida, where the shoes are made. The result is a perfect fit, unlike anything you can buy off the shelf. And the Man’s Shop is the only store in the area that has an Otabo machine. 100 S. West St., Arlington. 817-265-1116.

Green Living >>
At this Lakewood shop, it’s okay to embrace your materialistic tendencies. Especially because those materials are recycled, like the glass used in the shop’s lovely jewel-toned dinnerware. After living overseas and observing the fragility of the world’s environment, owners Kate Macaulay and Michael Johnson (left) came back to Dallas on a mission: to educate the masses and open a chic little boutique to boot. That translates into adorable all-natural baby clothes, organic gardening aids, and eco-friendly house paint in more than 900 tints. 1904 Abrams Pkwy. 214-821-8444.
Photo: Kevin Hunter Marple

Galleria Dallas’ Children’s Play Place
To the untrained eye, the scene at the Galleria’s third-floor play area is one of total chaos. But relax—those kamikaze kiddos know what they’re doing. They’re enjoying the coolest playground around, all done in an African theme, complete with camels, snakes, zebras, elephants, and a “submerged” alligator. The equipment looks like glazed ceramic, but it’s a soft material to cushion the youngsters’ wipeouts. And as for that 42-inch height limit? We won’t tell if you don’t. LBJ Fwy. @ Dallas North Tollway. 972-702-7100.

FUNNY FACE: Only a bozo would turn down a clown cookie from Casa Linda Bakery. Photo: Kevin Hunter Marple.


<< Casa Linda Bakery
One girl we know says the clown cookie here has been putting a smile on her face for 22 years. And why wouldn’t it? The dense, chewy sugar cookie is topped with icing an inch thick, forming two big eyes, a round red nose, curly orange “hair,” and a big grin that smiles at you from the case. We can’t fail to mention that, unlike at newer, fancier bakeries in town, your money goes a long way here. We got a dozen assorted cookies, six thumbprints, and Mr. Clown for just $7.35. That’s what we call a treat. 10819 Garland Rd. 214-321-0551.


Van Roberts says his wine list at Lola is a living creature. We think it’s a reflection of one of the most notorious wine geeks in town. It’s eclectic, ever-evolving, and priced to pour. This year, his passion led him to Italian wines because of the many regional and old-world varietals being produced, such as Aglianico and Taurasi. (He suggests Terradora.) Don’t miss the 1999 Terradora Taurasi ($55)—one of Roberts’ new faves. Last summer, he pumped up the Pinot Noir selections and shed a few Merlots thanks to Sideways. We can’t wait to see what fascinates him next. 2917 Fairmount St. 214-855-0700.

Pueblo Arriba

American Idol hopefuls find their way to this patio every Friday night starting at 10 o’clock to show off their pipes. Karaoke queen Kat brings her equipment and sets up the stage for all of McKinney Avenue to see (and hear). She’s also been known to pick up the mic and rap a Missy Elliot tune. Pick from hundreds of titles and belt out Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” with no shame. We won’t judge. 2621 McKinney Ave. 214-754-9334.

Gay Bingo
You don’t have to be gay to play. But you will have a gay old time at Gay Bingo. Each night is themed—Gilligan’s Island, Over the Rainbow, Barbie & Ken—and winners have to call out “bingo” when their numbers are arranged in a shape—like a ruby slipper—that fits the theme. If your cell phone goes off or you call a “bad bingo,” you go directly to Bingo Jail. There’s always a pre-contest floor show, and the money raised supports the many services provided by the Resource Center of Dallas. 214-540-4495.

Good Records
For one thing, Good Records is an independent, locally owned outfit, and we always like supporting the underdog. For another, we feel younger, hipper, and more musically aware by just stepping foot inside the Deep Ellum-area shop. In February 2000, Polyphonic Spree founder Tim DeLaughter, his wife Julie, and friend Chris Penn opened Good Records, specializing in indie labels, local bands, and music you’ve never heard of. But be not intimidated, you Top 40 fans out there. The knowledgeable, friendly staff will gladly steer your ears in the direction of something obscure yet amazing. 617 N. Good Latimer Expwy. 214-752-4663.

These days even a sandwich can set you back $7 or more, so our pocketbooks and palates were delighted to discover Tutto’s power lunch. For just $6.95, you get two courses, including a field green salad or made-from-scratch soup (think garden vegetable or shrimp bisque) and one of two entrées, either protein or pasta. We think chicken Parmesan with mashed spuds, pasta primavera, or spaghetti with homemade meatballs (chef Joseph Gutierriz grinds the meat himself) beats the pants off a turkey sub any day. And here’s the kicker: you’ll be in and out in 30 minutes. 2719 McKinney Ave. 214-220-0022.

SMOKIN’: Chef—and fireman—Dave Childs is the brains and brawn behind the bite-size burgers at Press Box Grill. Photo: Doug Davis.


Press Box Grill >>
What’s better than a juicy, bite-size burger, grilled to perfection and topped with sweet sautéed onions, sandwiched in a sourdough roll? A juicy, bite-size burger, perhaps, that was made by a bona fide fireman. Executive chef Dave Childs created these treats—called Texas sliders—for his firehouse buddies and now shares them with civilians at downtown’s Press Box Grill. And, like a true hero, when he’s done in the kitchen at Press Box, Childs can be found at firehouse Station 24. Wilson Building, 1623 Main St., Ste. 101. 214-747-8226.

The Deathray Davies
Tired of having the “best Dallas band” debate with your friends, who insist mainly on groups that don’t even live here anymore? Offer up the Deathray Davies—and rattle off this set of talking points to any Guinness-drinking doubters. 1) Five fearless, inventive releases since 1999 that sound like nothing else you’ve heard. 2) An absolute masterpiece in 2002’s The Day of the Ray. 3) A stunning live show, in which we’ve seen frontman John Dufilho hang upside-down—and keep singing. 4) Hum “The Fall Fashions,” from The Kick and the Snare, which came out in May, to win over any stragglers. Then find out the date for the next show.

Don Carter All Star Lanes-Dallas West

Call us purists, but we believe that beef makes the best barbecue, beer tastes best from a can, and bowling alleys should be solely dedicated to the fine art of strikes and spares. Okay, pool tables are all right, and a few arcade games are allowed, as long as Galaga is involved. But a bowling alley should be about bowling, and that’s all you’ll get at Don Carter’s: 58 lanes of glorious gutter-balling action. The only PBA-sanctioned alley in Dallas features some of the best lanes anywhere, well-conditioned and perfect for a family outing or serious league play. Pizza Bowl features two hours of bowling, a large pizza, and a pitcher of soda for only $42.95 to $52.95 per lane (for up to six people). And Saturday night’s Lightning Strikes Bowling is a psychedelic mix of dance music, flashing lights, and glow-in-the-dark pins. 10920 Composite Dr. 214-358-1382.

The Kaycee Pool
The Knights of Columbus 799 swimming pool, known to East Dallas residents as the Kaycee pool, is the place to spend your summers on this side of the city. The Kaycee features a kid-pleasing slide and a parent-pleasing bar. The pool opened in the ’50s, was displaced by the White Rock DART station, and moved to its current location in 1998. Although it’s a two-year wait these days to get a membership unless you’re a Knight (and don’t try to lie—the staff checks), the $400 price tag for the summer is a deal for those of us who can’t afford a country club. 10110 Shoreview Rd.


Tony Hartzel >>
We don’t envy Tony Hartzel, but we’re jealous of his talent. As the transportation columnist for the Dallas Morning News, he writes about traffic, and, in less capable hands, our eyes would glaze over with boredom. But Hartzel manages to describe government agencies with convoluted names, trucking regulations with hidden consequences, and engineers in an engaging, informative, and breezy manner. Dallas is a car culture city. With Hartzel behind the wheel, we’re a smarter one.
Photo: James Bland

The Madi Museum
The Madi Museum’s building on Carlisle Street used to be completely nondescript. As in plain-mashed-potatoes nondescript. Now it’s like potatoes with bacon and Gorgonzola. Dorothy and Bill Masterson opened the museum, which is free to the public, in early 2004, creating a one-of-a-kind façade to the new Kilgore Law Center. The Madi movement started in Argentina in the ’40s. Its bold colors and humor are enticing to even the youngest audience. You can even touch it. You have to at least drive by the building, designed by Madi architect Volf Roitman as a way to “transform a whole street into a living sculpture, a neighborhood into a state of perpetual creation.” 3109 Carlisle St. 214-855-7802.

Launa’s Little Library
Can’t seem to get your young ones excited about reading? Arthiss Kliever has your answer. A former librarian specialist at SMU, Mrs. K opens her home three days a week for children to explore the treasured collection given to her by her daughter Launa. Walk upstairs and you’ll find more than 6,000 titles just for kids, ranging from grades K-6. This unique library offers a summer reading club, videos, and story time. The environment is calm, comfortable, and, most important, encouraging. 9549 Spring Branch Dr. 214-348-4348.

A challenge: call any of the four Redenta’s locations and try to get someone on the phone who isn’t helpful and knowledgeable. Not only that, but they also do everything—plants, landscaping—organically. In fact, Redenta’s is one of the very few outfits you’ll find that does all-organic lawn fertilization. It’s stinky, but it’s better for the environment. 2001 Skillman St. 214-823-9421. Multiple locations.



Katy Koenig >>
Katy Koenig has the know-how to take your kid from guppy to shark. The former University Park School librarian (her story hours are legendary) has been teaching rug rats the art of swimming since 1987. Here’s how it works: Koenig comes to your backyard pool and provides one-on-one, 30-minute, private lessons to kids ages 2 1/2 and up. Number of children she’s taught to swim: too many to count. Number of above-ground pools she’s seen to date in UP: zero. 214-824-8558.
Photo: Scott Womack

Presbyterian Hospital System
Presbyterian offers a special sign-language class for parents with newborns from 6 to 9 months. Parents learn to sign a variety of words, such as “help” and “more,” that offer a simple and efficient way to communicate. The one-night class costs $35 and is for adults only. You can schedule a follow-up meeting with the instructor to discuss your child’s progress. 1105 N. Central Expwy., Allen; 8200 Walnut Hill Ln.; 6200 W. Parker Rd., Plano. 800-477-3729.

Russ Martin
The Russ Martin Show, on Live 105.3 FM, is a little like beer. Remember the first beer you drank? You probably didn’t like how it tasted. But now, years later, beer tastes so delicious that you have to drink it every day, as soon as you get off work. Bingo, that’s The Russ Martin Show. He’s crude, funny, smarter than you might think, and, this month, he celebrates 25 years on the airwaves. Cheers.

State Street Spirits
It’s so passé to manhandle the goblet and chug. Why not try to learn a little about the Voignier you are imbibing? On Thursday evenings from 6 to 9, this quaint State-Thomas neighborhood liquor store invites wine aficionados to teach us all a thing or two. Add tasty nibbles from local hot spots like 2900, and you’ve got yourself a dandy Thursday night. Oh, yeah, the best part: it’s free. 2907 State St. 214-871-2200.

Debbie Burkett
Ah, the fry cook, the character actor of food show business. But for every Emeril, there are thousands of “pick up” artists like Debbie Burkett at the Metro Diner who do more than 86 the mayo. From any seat you can catch her morning show where, from her tiny kitchen, she flips, dips, and ships breakfast with the synchronicity of an acrobatic juggler. Two over easy is a cinch: once flipped, she lovingly mops up any extra grease with a towel before serving. 6144 Luther Ln. 214-368-9255.

We have to admit, we’ve sampled our fair share of petit fours. We’ve been a bridesmaid nine times and all of our friends have kids. You do the math as to how many showers we’ve thrown, let alone attended. So when we tell you that the moist, sugary goodness of the Aston’s petit four is the best thing going, we know of what we speak. They are gorgeously decorated; we particularly love the baby booties. And they come in two sizes: mini and medium. Guess which one we prefer. 4342 Lovers Ln. 214-368-6425.

With more and more schools slashing budgets and cutting arts programs, it’s up to you to get your kids excited about the arts. That won’t be hard here. Pigment offers a variety of innovative classes with cool names like Kid’s Creations and Sticky Earth. But it’s truly exceptional because of its classes for autistic kids. No one knows what can reach these kids, but why couldn’t it be an art class? And in the meantime, what a gift to both the kids and their parents to have a class they can participate in. 4410 W. Lovers Ln. 214-352-2787.

Zaguan World Bakery & Cafe
Thanks to Venezuelan owner Carlos Branger, we’ve added the word cachapa to our lunch vocabulary. Picture this: an omelet-like corn-studded turnover hugging a filling of seasoned shredded beef and white cheese, served with a smattering of plantain chips. Then taste this: a trio of flavors—the sweetness of the corn, the savoriness of the beef, and the ever-so-slight saltiness of the melted cheese—bursting into one magical note on your tongue. That must be what they mean by Latin love. 2604 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-219-8393.



<< Scotty P’s
Who cares about those waifs in Hollywood? We say fat is back—in the form of a super-thick shake from the suburban burger king, Scotty P’s. The secret to the cool treat lies in an undisclosed amount (read: lots) of butterfat, plus quality ingredients like ice cream made on site, fresh strawberries, real Hershey’s syrup, and crushed Oreo cookies. Then it has to pass the “spoon test”: the spoon won’t move if the shake’s thick enough. Topped with real whipped cream—none of that fake stuff here, thank you very much—and you’ve got the perfect summer splurge. 4710 Preston Rd., Ste. 300, Frisco. 972-712-6556. Multiple locations.

 Photo: Doug Davis

Lynne Rains
Sure, laser hair removal is all the rage. But when it comes to getting rid of unwanted hair, electrolysis is still the best way to go because it works for all skin types and hair color. Enter Lynne Rains, member of the American Electrology Association and the Association of Texas Electrologists, who’s been zapping hair follicles for more than 14 years. Despite her gentle touch (never a burn) and cheery demeanor (you’ll be fast friends), she’s all business. Rains knows exactly how long it will take to achieve results, and if you’re not hair-free by the time she says you’ll be, she’ll do your touch-ups for free. 3878 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 614. 214-526-6160.

Mozzarella Company
Paula Lambert is just crazy about curds. And she’s not afraid to share her enthusiasm. Once a month, the Mozzarella Company founder and her friendly staff open the doors to the Deep Ellum factory to teach the finer points of making ricotta and mozzarella to anyone willing to don galoshes, an apron, and a hairnet. Sure, it’s good fun to stir boiling milk in a huge cauldron and stretch the mozzarella into balls. But the best part comes after the hard work, when the ever-enthusiastic Lambert talks about her cheeses while you sip wine and sample the goods. 2944 Elm St. 214-741-4072.

Lone Star Park
Get tipsy, stuff yourself, and walk away rich for only a couple bucks. Okay, walking away rich is a pipe dream. But Lone Star Park gets really generous once a year with their Dollar Days extravaganza: admission, parking, beers, hot dogs, popcorn, sodas, and bets go for a bill. Even cooler? Place a dollar on a simulcast bet at a dozen popular tracks around the country. 1000 Lone Star Pkwy., Grand Prairie. 972-263-7223.

ART ON THE EDGE: Denton could be the next Marfa thanks to the talents of Art Prostitute’s Brian Gibb (left) and Mark Searcy. Photo: Allison V. Smith.


Art Prostitute
Mark Searcy and Brian Gibb should not be here. No, the duo known as Art Prostitute should be in LA or New York or, heck, even Marfa, some place that would appreciate what they do, even if it’s hard to determine what, exactly, they do. The Denton gallery owners feature hip exhibits of artists from all over. They are artists themselves and designers, too, of clothes, skateboards, web sites, and the like. They are magazine publishers, dishing out an award-winning international quarterly. They are making North Texas a respectable art address. 210 E. Hickory St., Denton. 940-381-1526.

Allen Public Library
The sleek, modern exterior of this building is your first clue that it’s not your typical sleepy suburban library. Then you enter the 54,000-square-foot space, which opened in February, and behold high-end computer labs, a hip Teen’scape, endless stacks of new releases and magazines, and a coffee bar. Plus, it boasts more reading programs than Proust has pages. What’s the best part? You don’t have to live in Allen to join. 300 N. Allen Dr., Allen. 214-509-4900.

Hector’s on Henderson
Todd Erickson’s mother is the first one to admit that her son, the chef at Hector’s on Henderson, makes a better meatloaf. His “Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf” has turned into the biggest hit of the menu. Originally the ground veal, pork, and beef loaf wrapped in thick applewood-smoked bacon was served only as an occasional special. That was until customers started calling for it. Now the moist—unlike his mother’s dry—loaf binded with heavy cream, bread, and eggs is the star of the show. 2929 N. Henderson Ave. 214-821-0432.

Cafe Brazil

Behold the power of cheese. Five kinds, that is. Swiss, asiago, cheddar, Monterey Jack, and feta, melted lovingly between two thick slices of house-made white bread, buttered and grilled to perfection. Add avocado and tomato for a little extra you say? Yes, please. 6420 N. Central Expwy. 214-691-7791. Multiple locations.


Babe’s Chicken Dinner House >>

South Beach got you—but not your weight—down? Shine it all and head to Babe’s for a soul-satisfying plate of fried chicken. You won’t be alone. Owners Mary Beth and Paul Vinyard, who opened Bubba’s in University Park 25 years ago because “there wasn’t any fried chicken in UP,” just opened their fifth Babe’s location. The chicken is fresh, never frozen, and its double dipped before it hits the hot canola oil. If it’s not served within 15 minutes, they take it away. That’s fresh. 1456 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 171, Garland. 972-496-1041. Multiple locations.


Photo: Kevin Hunter Marple

Bishop Pawn & Jewelry
One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but a used Rolex is booty, no matter how you look at it. Sometimes a divorcée needs to hock the 5-karat dinner ring to keep the Jag. And what mogul hasn’t had to sell the pinky ring to make the house payment? Thanks to the pawn shop, everybody wins. And don’t kid yourself. It’s not only the middle-class who shops here. We’ve seen some pretty rich folk perusing the goods. 124 W. Jefferson Blvd. 214-943-2020.

Urban Flower/Grange Hall

Everything is not coming up roses at this one-of-a-kind Knox-Henderson florist. Thank God. Instead, think arrangements that are sculptural, organic, and wonderfully weird. Translation: lots of bark, moss, and woodsy succulents with bursts of brilliant color. These bizarre yet brilliant bouquets are the perfect complement to the shop’s mad sense of whimsy. How else could you explain delicate silk pillows snuggled between clay antelope busts and scorpion-imbedded tequila lollipops? Bonus: Grange Hall also has the best selection of incense in the city. 4445 Travis St. 214-443-0600.

Nodding Dog Coffee Company
No offense to Starbucks. Okay, some offense. Sure, the chain taught the world how to order a tall skinny double decaf sugar-free vanilla latté without getting winded, but we prefer our coffee with a side of community spirit. Few coffeehouses capture the flavor of its neighborhood quite like Oak Cliff’s Nodding Dog. Besides owner Gus Trevino’s strong coffee and tasty pastries (many come from local Mexican bakeries), this Bishop Arts hangout provides residents a place to gather, discuss neighborhood concerns, and bond over a really good espresso. The funky yard-sale furnishings and photography by Oak Cliff artists complete the cool community vibe. 500 N. Bishop Ave. 214-941-1166.

TRUE BLEU: Gregory Barker’s shop shines with its Cajun-inspired chandeliers. Photo: Kevin Hunter Marple.


Patina Bleu >>
This back-street jewel boasts plenty of Big Easy charm, thanks to owner Gregory Barker’s Louisiana leanings. He scours estate sales and thrift stores on the Bayou, rescues old architectural fragments and furniture, and then gives them a new lease on life. His specialty is transforming old chandeliers and sconces into works of weathered art. Though hard to find and only open Thursday through Saturday (and by appointment on Sundays), this charming Oak Cliff shop is definitely worth the search. 835 W. Seventh St. 214-941-1131.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Western Currency Facility
Did you know you can fold a bill—back and forth—4,000 times before it will tear? And that once a man sent in his cow’s stomach because the cow had swallowed his wallet? (Specialists were able to retrieve $600.) This is just some of the cash trivia you’ll learn at the free tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The facility opened in 1991, and it’s one of only two places in the country where money is printed. Kids from kindergarten and up will be fascinated to watch the 19.2 million notes being printed there daily. 9000 Blue Mound Rd., Fort Worth. 817-231-4000.


You’re thirsty. It’s happy hour. So what to do? Why not grab your pals from the office and order the biggest margarita around, the 25-ounce Homemade (not on the menu) at the original Enchilada’s (6526 E. Northwest Hwy. 214-691-1383). If quality is more important than quantity, go higher than top shelf at Blue Mesa (770 W. Northwest Hwy. 214-378-8686), which for $25 offers the best of the best: Herradurra Seleccion Suprema tequila. Prefer yours on the rocks? La Duni (4620 McKinney Ave. 214-520-7300; 4624 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-520-6888) uses fresh juice and leaves all of the squeezed limes in the bottom of the beautiful and tasty Margarinha. If “straight up” is more your style, order Primo’s (3309 McKinney Ave. 214-220-0510) simple yet satisfying Yucatan. Selection is the word at Iron Cactus (1520 Main St. 214-749-4766), which offers 80 kinds of tequila. And if you measure your drinks by their strength, the margarita at Ojeda’s (4617 Maple Ave. 214-528-8383) will knock you off your feet. But be warned, you can’t have one unless you order food to go with it.

Looking for a few feathered friends? Chances are you’ve seen (or heard) the colonies of monk parakeets—Dallas’ version of the Austin bats—who inhabit the power station at the southwest corner of White Rock Lake. But if you want to do some serious birding, head to the Village Creek drying beds in Arlington, where you might spot a whooping crane or migrating shore birds. Don’t know a sapsucker from a pink-breasted flufftail? Head to Wild Birds Unlimited (4314 Lovers Ln. 214-891-9793), where the knowledgeable staff will outfit you with binocs, books, and checklists. From there, drive to Spring Creek Park Preserve in Garland, where approximately 150 species have been identified, including the beautiful painted and Indigo buntings. Warbler freak? Prairie Creek Park in Richardson is home to 25 species. The four miles of trails and guided night trips at the Heard Natural Science Museum (One Nature Pl., McKinney. 972-562-5566) are a hoot—as in owls. Lots of them. Bald eagles have been spotted at Lake Tawakoni, and nearby Wills Point claims to be the “official bluebird capital of the Texas.” The town holds an annual festival each April to prove it. Check out these and other birding sites at

Sure, we know smoking’s bad for you. But smoking is fun. And it makes you look cool. So call Bob Staebell, owner of Staebell & Associates (300 S. Kirby St., Garland. 972-494-0100), and have him build you a $30,000 custom humidor in your house (like he’s done in a certain, ahem, house that is painted white). Fill that humidor with a bunch of premium hand-rolled cigars and maybe even some imported cigarettes from Ifs Ands & Butts (408 N. Bishop Ave. 214-941-1222), the wonderful shop run by Hamilton Rousseau. (It also carries more than 135 flavors of soda that are paired with cigars.) The good folks at d’Havana Cigars (11810 Preston Rd. 214-826-6579) roll their own cigars, and you can hire them to come roll at your party and have comely lasses hand out the product of that rolling. If you want to get out of the house and fire one up, head to The Velvet Hookah (2712 Main St. 214-747-6700; 15375 Addison Rd., Addison. 972-490-4040), where you can smoke an actual hookah; or to Cool River Cafe (1045 Hidden Ridge, Irving. 972-871-8881), which has an opulent, manly cigar lounge with a fireplace.

If you’re yearning to get your blood pumping without the help of caffeine, lace up your cross-trainers and grab a bottle of Gatorade. At the Dyno-Rock Indoor Rock Climbing Gym (608 E. Front St., Arlington. 817-461-3966), dangle on a rope and scale the walls to your heart’s content in 15,000 square feet of indoor climbing space. To get into the swing of things, take the kids to Adventure Landing (17717 Coit Rd. 972-248-4653), which offers nine softball and baseball batting cages. If your golf game needs work, North Texas Golf Center (2101 Walnut Hill Ln. 972-556-0252) challenges you with three courses tough enough for Tiger. For the ultimate putt-putt experience, hit the Park Lane Ranch (8787 Park Ln. 214-349-2002), providing three courses built into a hill with scenic landscapes, waterfalls, and waterways. Finally, take aim at the Alpine Shooting Range (5482 Shelby Rd., Fort Worth. 817-478-6613), which offers a top-notch selection of rifle and pistol ranges, sporting clays, skeet, trap and 5-stand. You can’t miss.

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