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Best Lists

The Best of Big D 2007

We scoured our sparkling city for the most dazzling displays of bestness we could find. Herewith, our favorite food, people, culture, and services in Dallas. Enjoy!

There are the best Dallas players in the “new media” world (stuff you read on your iPhone), and there are the mainstream media types who aren’t part of the same old tired crowd (Dale Hansen, Steve Blow, Tim Rogers, etc.). Get to know these people, so that 10 years from now you can declare they’ve lost their edge.

… To Wake Up To

Brendan Higgans NBC Channel 5
The morning anchor wears a smirk when he interviews his third inane guest of the day, and he always seems sleepy. No fake cheeriness. That’s what we love about him.

… To Make Your Virtual Barroom Buddy

Tim MacMahan
MacMahan is the primary contributor for all three main Morning News sports blogs—Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers—and he understands that his job is not to respond to news but to generate discussion.

… If You Need a Voice of Reason

Michael Davis
Davis is the best-known minority blogger in town, with good reason. His take on the city’s daily political machinations is, as he puts it, “what needs to be written about the Southern Sector, not happy talk.”

… If You Love Media Whores

Gordon Keith KTCK 1310-AM, KFWD 52, Quick,
Don’t feel like you get enough Gordo as part of The Ticket’s morning show team? He has a Thursday night TV show, too, called The Gordon Keith Show! Check out his website for details! No, his website, not his humor column that runs every Thursday in Quick. Why so much Gordo? Because he’s funny and smart and sexy in a middle-aged Merle Haggard sort of way.

… For Behind-the-Scenes Reporting

Matt Pulle Dallas Observer
He really came into his own while covering the recent mayoral election. He stripped away the nonsense spewed by the candidates and explained clearly what sort of people we were really voting for made for.

… For Explaining How Your City Works

Catherine Cuellar KERA 90.1
Why is that every time we hear one of her stories, we feel like we have a better understanding of our city? Because her simple, stellar prose (it’s that creative writing background) serves the story and doesn’t aim to impress.

… To Examine Your Spreadsheets

Allen GwInn
As the big local daily goes more and more to “consultative journalism” (which means paying other people to take the heat), this concerned citizen keeps DISD and City Hall on their toes by combing through as many public records as he can get his hands on.

… To Give You a Feeling of Indie Cred

Chris Cantalini
One of the top MP3 blogs in the nation is run right here in Dallas as a part-time gig by this music fan with good taste. When he says he likes someone, the Net’s big-time music players sit up and take notice.

… If You Dig Girls in the Locker Room

Jennifer Floyd Engel ESPN 103.3 FM
The “little ball of hate,” as she’s known, has always been a nice read as a Star-Telegram columnist, but she really shines in her new role as morning-show sports-talk queen. Her opinions seem organic, not born by some silly desire to seem “controversial” (aka Skip Bayless disease) but informed by her time spent covering, and loving, the local teams.

… If You Relish Devilishly Good Criticism

Bill Addison Dallas Morning News
Some chefs hate him, claiming he lacks sophisticated foodie knowledge, but as lovers of all things snarky, we dig that the DMN’s new dining critic came into town swinging, tackling the biggest names in the local restaurant scene.


photography courtesy of The Cliffs Resort

by the AVIDGOLFER Magazine staff


The Cliffs Resort: No. 8
Possum Kingdom Lake might be the most beautiful body of water in Texas. Thus, The Cliffs at Possum Kingdom Lake is regarded as one of the most breathtaking courses in the state. The most thrilling hole at The Cliffs is the par-5 eighth, a dogleg-right that features trouble right and beyond the green. The trouble: a 150-foot drop down to the lake. Go long or right of the green and watch the ball do its best cliff diving imitation.

Cowboys Golf Club: No. 4
Elevated tees makes this a dramatic hole. But it’s not the view that creates the buzz here; it’s the Cowboys star in the middle of the fairway. The star is the perfect target on this short par-4. Skank it right and say goodbye to the ball in the trees. Go left and expect a difficult approach shot over a bunker.

The Golf Club at Fossil Creek: No. 6
Keep the driver in the bag on this par-4, a 377-yard, left-to-right bender that features trees dotting both sides of the fairway. The Kodak moment here is the second shot. Approaches must fly the layered rock embankment of Fossil Creek to reach the green. Any shot short has a splash landing, while anything long encounters the same result—just in a sand trap. A delicate bunker shot to a green sloped toward the creek. Good luck. You’ll need it.

Firewheel Golf Park, Old Course: No. 9
Once upon a time, the Old Course at Firewheel was the place to play. While newer courses have taken away some of this course’s shine, the ninth is still regarded as one of the best par-5s in the area. The layout descends from tee to green, with battalions of trees down both sides. Long bombers can reach this stellar hole in two, but the smart play is to attack the green on the third shot.

Cedar Crest Golf Course: No. 1
Imagine playing an A.W. Tillinghast design that once played host to a major championship—without having to pay a six-figure initiation fee. Welcome to Cedar Crest Golf Course, site of the 1927 PGA Championship. The first hole is a splendid par-5 that falls from tee to green and bends right. It’s a fantastic hole at one of Dallas’ most storied layouts.

Pine Dunes Golf Club: No. 11
Often tabbed the “Pinehurst of Texas,” Pine Dunes is definitely worth the 90-minute jaunt from downtown Dallas. The best hole at Pine Dunes is the 11th, an exceptional par-5 that features sand dunes and fescue grasses throughout. The dunes makes golfers use something other than driver off the tee, thus this green has never been reached in two. Some call this 605-yard hole hokey; most golfers call it outstanding.

The Cliffs Resort: No. 15
Such an exhilarating hole on an exhilarating course. The 15th tee is elevated 50 feet from the green and offers a mesmerizing view of the scenery and the target. Any shot right finds a watery grave; shots left of the putting surface will careen off a wall to who knows where. And factor the swirling wind here; rarely does the 15th play the yardage listed.

Lantana Golf Club: No. 15
This island green might not be as terrifying as the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, but it still will have golfers shaking in their softspikes. Water surrounds this green, and the target seems like a postage stamp from the tee. But it plays shorter than listed because of the prevailing wind. Golfers often hit mulligans off this tee, and the 15th at Lantana is one of the holes that keep ball retrieval companies in business.

Heritage Ranch Golf and Country Club: No. 16
The 16th at Heritage Ranch proves that not all golf holes at “active adult communities” (i.e., grannies in the hood) are pushovers. This par-3 ascends from tee to green and features a dazzling creek and waterfall left of the green. Any shot right is lost in the trees. Water left and jail right of the green—not the sights one would want to see with a long iron in his hand.



Getting buzzed never looked (and tasted) so good.


… For the Hi-C Lover

Alberto Lombardi offers it three ways: a traditional red-wine version with pears and apples; a white-wine spin-off bobbing with grapes; and a vanilla-scented sparkler with fresh raspberries, like a rustic Kir royale. 4524 Cole Ave. 214-520-4863.

… To Put You Up a Tree

Mango Margarita 
This Indian spot from Austin starts its margarita with potent mango liqueur and mango juice, mixes it with tequila and sweet-and-sour, and pours it over ice into a sugar-rimmed glass. 4460 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-233-0111.

… To Get Your Fruit RDA

Blackberry Smash 
Here’s one fruity drink that eschews the usual invisible vodka or gin and goes for bourbon, a booze with actual flavor. An even bigger deal: they mix it with two ounces of hooch, not one. 2912 N. Henderson Ave. 214-828-2916.

... For Lispers

Sfrozen Sfuzzi Bellini 
It gets an automatic nod for being the first frozen margarita knockoff and an icon of fabulousness in its time. That aside, how you can beat an adult Slurpee fortified with champagne and peach schnapps? 3699 McKinney Ave., Ste. 106. 214-522-3888.

… Posing as a Dessert

Key Lime Martini  HATTIE’S
Something this beautiful shouldn’t be so sinful. The kick comes from the Stoli vanilla vodka, house-made Key lime syrup, and Triple Sec. The cloudy appearance is from half-and-half, and the yum from a graham cracker-crusted rim. 418 Bishop Ave. 214-942-7400.

… To Make You Pucker

Limoncello drop  NOVE
Do you ever want to walk into a bar and say, “I’ll have a lemon drop”? No. But Limoncello (the smooth, Italian-spawned liqueur), Ketel One Citroen, and lemon juice make for something else entirely. 3090 Olive St., Ste. 130. 214-720-9903.

… To Sip While Watching Re-runs of Gilligan’s Island

The Scorpion 
Warning: do not eat the floating gardenia. It smells nice but tread carefully—Trader Vic’s drinks are nothing if not potent. The Scorp is served in a bowl-like glass, and “Vic” claims it’s made of fruit juice and rum. Not sure how much fruit juice, but we can vouch for the rum. 5330 E. Mockingbird Ln. 214-823-0600.

… To Conspire Over

Grassy Knoll 
Finally a cocktail that sums up the gulp of lemonade you take after mowing the lawn. Craft mixes its own lemonade with Pimm’s, grassy Zubrowka vodka, and passionfruit for a drink that screams “summer.” W Hotel, 2440 Victory Park Ln., Ste. 100. 214-397-4111.


MEATY MOUTHFUL: You’ll have to special order it, but Fireside Pies’ meatball grinder is worth the extra effort.
photography by Kevin Hunter Marple


From the sleeziest to the cheesiest, we present the best things since sliced bread.

… An Off-the-Menu Item

Meatball grinder 
Fireside Pies
Fireside took this off the menu but they’ll do it if you insist. It’s for when you don’t want a pizza but crave the flavorful meatballs. They line up eight on a baguette, add crimini mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and their three-cheese blend, and fire it up ’til hot and crusty. 2820 N. Henderson Ave. 214-370-3916.

… To Guilt-trip Mom

Meatloaf sandwich 
Kathleen’s Art Café
Here’s the meatloaf every mom would love to make, with its 15 “secret ingredients” (hi, onion) and sweet tomato glaze. You get two extra-thick meatloaf planks on top of equally thick slices of seven-grain bread, along with tomato, blue cheese crumbles, and a homey smear of mayonnaise. 4424 Lovers Ln. 214-691-2355.

... Named After a Republican

The Mayor Rudy 
Ed’s Deli
Authentic New York deli makes its own corned beef, nice and pink, and you get a mountain of it with slaw, Thousand Island, and melted Swiss cheese on toasted egg bread. Get it with potato salad—made with mayo, not mustard—and help yourself to free pickles. 12817 Preston Rd. 972-386-0300.

… With a Quarter-pound of Meat

Kuby’s Sausage House
It’s not a kosher version, but don’t let that stop you. Kuby’s shaves a quarter pound of its house-made corned beef onto rye (at dinner, it bumps up to a third pound). Add Swiss, mustard with a bit of grain, and sauerkraut seasoned with bacon and caraway. Heat. You have it: the perfect Reuben. 6601 Snider Plaza. 214-363-2231.

… Named after a Lower Greenville Street

Palo Pinto Pimento cheese
Corner Market
For starters, they use Empire bread—enough said. They make their own pimento spread with three cheeses, purveyed from Boar’s Head, then smear it on sourdough and grill it, almost like a panini. One of the cheeses is a pepper Jack, so you get some nice heat. House-made pickles on the side, and you are golden. 3426 Greenville Ave. 214-826-8282.

… To Embarrass Yourself While Ordering

Sleazy grilled cheese 
Lucky’s Cafe
The name says it all. I mean, for God’s sake, they make it on Texas toast. Sliced tomatoes, bacon, green chilies, and diced onions get cozy with Swiss and cheddar in a super-messy two-fister. Comes with choice of side, but there’s only one way to go and that’s onion rings. 3531 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-522-3500.

… That Takes 15 Minutes to Prepare

The Cuban 
Jimmy’s Food Store
You must be strong to face up to the intense strata of flavors in Jimmy’s Cuban. A French roll gets toasted then heaped with smoked ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles, tickled with spicy mojo and citrus marinade, and pressed until warm and formidable. Steel yourself. 4901 Bryan St. 214-823-6180.


… On a Boogie Board

Hawaiian Falls—Firewheel
This summer, as part of a $1 million expansion, Hawaiian Falls opened a new 16,000-square-foot, 300,000-gallon wave pool unlike any other in North Texas. Waikiki Beach can produce nine different wave patterns, including 3-foot breakers. 4550 N. Garland Ave., Garland. 972-675-8888.

… Through a Straw

Rain Fresh
This little family-run bottled water company has been in business since 1985. Their wet stuff is carbon-filtered, ozonated, reverse-osmosed, and run through a magnetic field to remove “negative memories” of pollutants. It’s the best-selling bottled water at area Whole Foods. 3134 National Circle, Garland. 972-271-2060.

… With a Splash

Davis Park Swimming Pool
Last summer, thanks to the Texas Department of State Health Services, pools everywhere had to rip out their high dives. Too dangerous, the bureaucrats said. But Highland Park would not go quietly into the night. The town spent about $720,000 deepening and improving its public pool so that it could keep its 2-meter board. Bully on them. $6 admission but only for HP residents and their guests. 3801 Lexington Ave.

… With a Brain Freeze

Aunt Stelle’s Sno-Cones
For more than 45 years, thirsty Oak Cliff denizens have queued at 1 pm during the summer, waiting for Aunt Stelle’s to open its doors. Because from April to mid-October (it annually closes for six months during the winter), ASSC offers the best flavored ice you can find. Open daily, 1 to 10 pm. 2002 W. Clarendon. 214-946-1431.

… From One Extreme to the Other

Russian Banya Family Spa & Café
Tony Goldshmid’s is the only such authentic Russian sauna in the state. Housed in a former gym, this huge (17,000 square feet) hot-water palace offers not just saunas but also an ice-cold plunge pool, game rooms, waxing, and even an on-site restaurant. And we do mean hot water: the temps can exceed 200 degrees and 65 percent humidity. 2515 E. Rosemeade Pkwy. Ste. 401, Carrollton. 214-483-5050.

While Wearing Neoprene

Clear Springs Scuba Park
Nothing cools you like an underwater trek at this 22-acre spring-fed park in Terrell, which boasts startling clarity and a diverse underwater landscape. Nearly 60 feet deep, the lake features plains, rock formations, and even a sunken American Eagle ATR prop plane. Various clubs and scuba schools in Dallas offer weekend outings. Cost is $20 per dive. 8131 County Road 346, Terrell. 972-524-6820.


Even though you know the suburbs are dangerous places with lousy schools and not enough cars, sometimes circumstances dictate that you live, or at least visit, one of Dallas’ ring cities. For those times, here’s your best chance at finding something approximating big-city culture.

Download chart in pdf format. 



… With Your Sugar Daddy

French Room Bar
You’ve just finished a fabulous five-course dinner with Mr. Warbucks at the French Room when, suddenly, it hits you: you must kunkle with him immediately. Steer him into the French Room Bar next to the restaurant, and ease onto the rose-colored sofa against the far back wall. With wood-paneled walls and low lighting, no one is going to see a thing—unless you want them to. 1321 Commerce St. 214-742-8200.

… With Your High School Sweetheart

Overlook at Mockingbird and Peavy
With White Rock Lake in the foreground and the downtown skyline peeking over the trees, the scenic overlook at Mockingbird and Peavy is the ideal place to park and relive the amorous impulses (read: awkward groping) of your youth. To the side of the point is a gravel area where you can pull over with your sweetie and reacquaint yourselves with first base. Just keep your heavy petting PG—word is cops patrol the area frequently.

… With Someone From Plano

Martini Park
You can’t argue with the numbers: Plano’s Martini Park has the third-highest liquor sales of any bar in the state. That means plenty of drunk suburbanites ripe for the picking. Look for spiky hair, questionable wardrobe selections, and dance moves that will make even city folk blush. But back to the liquor. We like the sound of the Honeydew This. Which will likely be the preferred directive for our new Plano boy toy. 7200 Bishop Rd., Plano. 214-473-6644.

… With Your Paramour

Blind dates are awkward, but at Kenichi girls can surveil their dates from the small windows in the bathroom that overlook the bar and decide if a) kunkling is going to take place or b) if you’ve just been hit with a sidelining stomachache. If it’s the former, talk your way into one of the restaurant’s inset booths with curtains that you can pull for privacy while you nibble on a Godzilla roll and black cod misozuke. Then prepare to get to know the man behind the user name. 2400 Victory Park Ln. 214-871-8883.


HIGH-TECH JAVA: Have a latte with your laptop at Javalato.
photography by Doug Davis


Stay perky and caffeinated at these java joints.

… For Starbucks Haters

Murray Street Coffee
Tucked away on a nondescript side street in Deep Ellum, Murray Street Coffee is the anti-Starbucks. Its airy space includes a bright downstairs seating area and a loft perfect for lounging with your laptop or perusing the shop’s always-current magazine collection. In addition to the coffee standards, Murray Street sells fresh baked goods, sandwiches, and booze to take the edge off of that caffeine high. 103 Murray St. 214-655-2808.

… With Live Music

Opening Bell
Despite a nasty battle over naming rights, Opening Bell, the former Standard and Pours spot, still has reason to feel bullish about its future. Wednesday through Saturday, caffeinated guests can enjoy free (tips are recommended) musical performances showcasing local artists. Between sets, idlers can take advantage of free wi-fi while guzzling lattes (or beer or wine). Sounds like a concept we’d buy stock in. 1409 S. Lamar St., Ste. 12. 214-565-0383.

… For iPhones

Free wireless Internet is a powerful enticement. And while that’s what initially attracted us to Javalato, the mysterious string of good-looking customers had us milking our lattes long after our work was done. With your new gadget, it’s easy to surf the Web via wi-fi and discreetly take pictures of the customers to send to your friends at the office. The Preston Center hot spot also offers a free business center, good grub, and an impressive coffee selection. Additionally, the “lato” in the name comes from the shop’s house-made gelato. It’s almost as appealing as the clientele. 6125 Berkshire Ln. 214-361-1145.


photography by Dan Sellers


Best Actor

James Crawford
It’s a tough call with so much talent in the city, but James Crawford is in the flow. How can a man be entirely convincing as Christian apologist and Oxford don C.S. Lewis discovering sexual love (Shadowlands, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas), and then turn around to play George in all the wee-hours savagery of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (WaterTower)? Crawford has the intelligence, gravitas, and subtlety to perform everything from Shakespeare to the virtually shape-shifting roles of Stones in his Pockets. Even though he could eschew the local stage—he’s a professor at SMU—he’s made himself central to what’s best in Dallas theater.

Best Actress

Tina Parker
She’s no beauty queen, and she’d probably rather play the Nurse rather than Juliet—but if she wanted to be Juliet, it would be a production you’d never forget. Tina Parker finds herself most at home with roles that allow her whole, considerable intelligence its raunchiest free play (The Dead Monkey comes to mind), but she has such a capacity to become other people that it’s almost cross-yourself scary. Her performance as a 4-year-old girl in Mr. Marmalade earlier this year had jaded critics shaking their heads in amazement. That’s when she’s not winning awards for her directing. Lucky Kitchen Dog Theater.

photography by Bode Helm

1 Best Transformation

LeAnn Rimes
LeAnne Rimes has made Garland proud, with No. 1 hits and a voice that still gives us chills. Now, at 24, she has a new album, an adoring husband, and a trim figure that she’s not afraid to flaunt.

Read the full article on LeAnn Rimes.


photography by Bode Helm

Best Place to Customize Your Bling
Lyles-DeGrazier Jewelers

Scott Polk’s grandfather started the wholesale jeweler in 1949, and now he’s a proud third-generation manufacturer of fine jewelry. There’s no showroom open to the public, but he can make just about any high-end custom item you need, from rings to bracelets to necklaces and more. Say you need a three-quarter-carat white-gold necklace that says “Dallas” for a magazine shoot. Voila. 2050 N. Stemmons Fwy., Ste. 7943. 214-747-3558.

Best Breakfast With Bite

If you like a little spice with your sunny-side up, this New Mexican import is the best way to perk up your mornings. While the huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos are fiery favorites, we reserve our passion for the papas: a mountain of hash browns with red and green chiles, Cheddar and Jack cheeses, and two eggs. Try it “sloppy” style, with homemade gravy, diced bacon, ham, and sausage. 921 W. Main St., Lewisville. 972-420-8400.

photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Best Cupcakes
Frosted Art Bakery

What cake master, executive chef, and Food Network darling Bronwen Weber does with batter and icing is almost magical. Her award-winning creations for Frosted Art Bakery & Studio are stunningly beautiful and nothing short of artwork. According to the bakery’s website, “if you can dream it, she can buttercream it.” Mmmm, buttercream. 1546 Edison St. 214-760-8707.

Best Video Rental
Premiere Video
Is this possible? We’ve never given Premiere Video a “Best”? We just checked our online archives. The search engine is terrible. It’s possible we missed it. But we think not. So let us ensure this entry rises to the top of the relevancy list by saying the name: Premiere Video, Premiere Video, Premiere Video. Premiere. Go see owner Sam Wade. Ask him if he has a movie—anything. A new Hollywood release or some old, obscure Indian film. He’ll have it. If he doesn’t have it, he’ll get it. If you don’t have one of those all-region DVD players you need to watch some foreign films, he’ll rent you one. Also, the name of the store is Premiere Video. 5400 E. Mockingbird Ln., Ste. 104. 214-827-8969.

Best Kids Sportswear
The Pup

Owners of the famed St. Bernard Sports spawned The Pup, a haven for active youngsters. The 2,500-square-foot shop offers a definitive selection of sportswear in a kid-friendly environment. Think candy-colored walls and plush beanbags. With lines such as Small Paul by Paul Frank, Spyder, Junk Food, Uggs, and the largest assortment of children’s North Face and Vineyard Vines in Dallas stocking the shelves, you’re sure to find something the little one fancies. 5560 W. Lovers Ln., Ste. 243. 214-366-3398.

Best Road Trip Station
Lonestar 92.5

It’s XM without the XM price. In any given hour you’ll hear Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash (three of the station’s “core artists”), but just as many songs you’ve never heard before because country stations—mainstream country stations—quit playing country long ago. But Lonestar is more than just its Western roots. It plays Dylan and a lot of Drive-By Truckers, the rustic reincarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd (also a band Lonestar favors). Anymore, we never change the dial.

photography by Vanessa Gavalya

Best Home Furnishings for the Hip

Pretty, pretty, pretty. That’s the best way to describe Haven, the new home décor store in Victory Park. The showroom, the merchandise, even the owners (the dashing duo of Jon Tutolo and John Bassignani) are pleasing to the eye. Everything is contemporary, cool, and chic. And, yes, that does include the two cuties who run the place. 2416 Victory Park Lane 214-954-1515

Best Schnitzel
Jörg’s Café Vienna

Nothing says central European cuisine like cream sauce and an umlaut. And Jörg’s schnitzel doesn’t disappoint. The classic dish served at this authentic Austrian cafe in Plano is not fancy or forced. It’s just standard schnitzel done exactly right: pork or chicken cutlets, cream sauce, spaetzle, red cabbage, the whole bit. And don’t miss out on Jörg’s biergarten or the upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. 1037 E. 15th St., Plano. 972-509-5966.

Best Rump Shaker
Movin’ 107.5 FM
We like to dance. So when we found Movin’ 107.5 FM, we were hooked. Its play list includes gems from our youth such as “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Ice, Ice Baby.” And even if a song were not to our liking, we’d still boogie to it on the dance floor anyway. That’s the kind of toe-tapping, booty-shaking fare that Movin’ specializes in. If only we still had our Hammer pants.

Best Director
Rene Moreno
Look through the seasons of local theaters to see who’s directing plays, and if Rene Moreno’s name doesn’t come up at least once, something’s the matter. This man finds the heart of any play he directs, and he works with the actors and designers to make it a lucid, beautifully paced experience of dramatic form. Details count, and it shows. Even if think you don’t like the play or the playwright, you’ll come away from one of his productions wondering why you were so prejudiced. Tennessee Williams’ universally scorned The Gnadiges Fraulein, for example, blossomed into a critical and audience favorite with Moreno directing for WingSpan. Watch for his return to the stage as an actor in Kitchen Dog’s Richard III next spring.

Best Place For Heelys
Dallas Museum of Art

The DMA has “no set policy” on Heelys, but the long, smooth, sloping hallway that leads from the front entrance down to the Atrium Café and Museum Store, and also the concrete slabs in the nifty open-air garden that opens onto Ross Avenue just beckon to be traversed on wheels. Which is good, because if kids are to enjoy art—you know, while they’re coasting along—it’s nice to make it fun. 1717 N. Harwood St. 214-922-1200.

Best Unusual Hummus
Kitchen 1924

Consumption of the black-eyed pea is usually limited to New Year’s Day. But Kitchen 1924 elevates this humble legume to new culinary heights by using it as the base for the restaurant’s black-eyed pea hummus. Not only are the black-eyed peas seasoned and finely pureed, they are topped with caramelized onions and goat cheese, heated in a brick oven, and served with hot flatbread. 1924 Abrams Pkwy. 214-821-1924.

photography by Doug Davis

Best Cab
The Karaoke Yellow Cab

Cabbie Francisco Loaiza is brilliant. He understands this simple fact: who wouldn’t want to take a cab ride that allows you to channel your inner American Idol via a free karaoke machine? For no extra charge, Loaiza will pick up you and seven friends, tolerate your rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing,” and then drop you at your preferred destination for a night out. Don’t forget to call at least one day in advance—something this fun gets booked up fast. 214-893-0613.

Best Laser Hair Removal
The Skin Center

It’s not just whether they get the nether hair gone, it’s how you feel when they do it. Erin Campbell at the Skin Center uses ice beforehand to ease any discomfort. It doesn’t take the master’s degree she has to understand how this works, but no one else we know of does it. Located in a doctor’s office, they can also offer prescription-level skin products that ordinary spas don’t. 5316 W. Plano Pkwy., Plano. 972-620-1700.

photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Best Neapolitan Pie
Campania Pizza

The dining room is cramped, the wait for the meal too long—but the pizza is the best in Dallas. Campania does it the Old World way, with crusts that are yeasty yet thin, gourmet cheeses, and sparingly applied toppings that allow for the flavor of each ingredient to be savored. The basica, a pie with nothing more than tomato sauce, mozzarella, and olive oil, may be the best we’ve ever had. Few are surprised to learn that Italians run the kitchen. This is as close as Texas gets to Naples. 3800 McKinney Ave. 214-780-0605.

Best Biographer
Life Scribe
Mark Twain believed that even the mundane lead interesting lives. Glenda Vosburgh agrees. She’s an assistant managing editor at the Dallas Business Journal and, at a reasonable rate, your personal biographer. The woman can do everything, from research your genealogy to create mementos for future generations, to write a full-blown, 300-page memoir. Rates vary, but for a memoir it costs about $1,500 for every two hours of interviews she conducts. The price includes the cost to do the interview, transcribe it, write it, proofread it, edit it, scan any photos, design all pages, and print and bind the book. David McCullough doesn’t do that. [email protected]. 972-423-9789.

Best Budget Tree Remover
Salas Services

The city is filled with trees and businesses that will take care of them or cut them down for you when necessary. Storms, disease, age—and life-sucking ivy in our case—make for frequent necessity. Quality and prices can vary. The tree has to come down, without taking out a roof or power lines or stray cat, and then there’s the problem of all those limbs and trunks. The guys at Salas Services, 20 years in business, take care of it all, including stump-grinding (which you definitely want) for a price that can be less than half of other bids. And they’re nice guys: prompt, efficient, professional. 3829 Rainier St., Irving. 972-413-1800.

Best Twisted Dairy
Lucky Layla Farms’ Drinkable Yogurt

Eating yogurt with a spoon is so 2006. Today’s yogurt lovers are getting their drink on, and Garland cheese maker Lucky Layla Farms has gotten in on the action. Available at Eatzi’s and Sprouts locations, among other places, each yogurt comes in a cute little plastic container, and flavors include such favorites as pina colada, passion fruit, blueberry, and custard apple. 2025 Wall St., Ste. B, Garland. 214-748-2912.

photography by Julie Boyd

Best Sun Salutations

Julie Boyd
Our in-house yoga expert calls Ashtanga teacher Julie Boyd “heart-opening and powerful.” Another one of Boyd’s admiring students lauds her “challenging vinyasas” and “amazing adjustments.” But we’re more curious about how Boyd can stretch her body into positions we thought reserved only for Cirque du Soleil. Yoginis can aspire to Boyd’s bendiness during Music Flow classes at Exhale Spa on the property of the Hotel Palomar. 5300 E. Mockingbird Ln. 214-370-5800.

Best Use of Cheese
Queso Fundido Tamiahua at Veracruz Café

You’ll never dip another chip in watered-down Velveeta again after a visit to Veracruz Café in the Bishop Arts District. First, the tiny bowl, barely big enough to scoop into without bumping your neighbor’s hand, is gone and replaced with a sizzling platter, wide enough to accommodate four grubby hands at once. White Monterey Jack cheese is dotted with chunks of chorizo or chicken and slices of mushroom, and while the consistency when hot is good for dipping, once cool, the cheese-pulling contest begins. Our advice: grab a tortilla, cut a chunk of cheese off with your fork, place in the middle of the tortilla, bite, bliss out, repeat. 408 N. Bishop Ave., Ste. 107. 214-948-4746.


Tired of the $10 margarita? Looking for a nice dining room to relax and have a meal without half the bill going .toward your wine tab? Relax. The cozy spot that houses Eden is perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a family get-together for 12. Chef-owner Karen Kahn serves homestyle items that range from roasted hen with plum sauce to a darn good shrimp Creole. And you provide your own sommelier services and pocket the mark-up for a rainy day. 4416 W. Lovers Ln. 972-267-3336.

Best Greeting Cards

Known for its original, contemporary art pieces, Iota also has another bright spot. On a small section of the back wall is a selection of greeting cards that are so fun and creative, a recent visit has a year’s worth of birthdays covered for all our friends and family. Each card is personally selected by the owner, so even though the store is low on stock, it’s high in quality. 3107 Knox St. 214-522-2999.

Best Action Figures
Inanimate Objects
Holy unique gift idea, Batman! There can’t be anything cooler than an action figure of yourself, and Cason Pilliod, a Dallas-based master customizer, can make it real. A hobbyist who has created an array of action figures for discerning and serious collectors (aka geeks), Pilliod can, for the right price, design an action figure based on your likeness or that of your special someone, complete with packaging. Be sure to e-mail him for details.

Best Outdoor Stage
Dallas Arboretum

You’re not likely to catch Def Leppard or Journey here. Think more N’Awlins Gumbo Kings (August 2). And think about reclining on a blanket, sipping the wine you brought. Every so often, you pretend to be a mindful parent, glancing over to where your kiddos are gamboling down the hill. But as the sun sets and bottle drains, you focus more on the lovely little tree-framed stage, White Rock Lake behind it, and the glimmering Dallas skyline in the distance. If the staff didn’t eventually wake you up and make you go home, it’d be heaven. Check website for Cool Thursdays and kids concert series. 8525 Garland Rd. 214-515-6500.

Best Self-Serve Dog Wash
Dirty Dawgz

You bring: your dirty, smelly hound. They provide: towels, soaps, grooming mitt, and anything else you’d need for a pooch pampering session. It’s just like a self-serve car wash, right down to the soap and the rinsing water coming out of the same gun. Then you shop-vac your pet dry. Or you can make it a full afternoon of doggie day spa, with grooming and clipping service. Washing bays accommodate everything from petite pups to gentle giants. Seven area locations.

Best Kitchen for Kids
Young Chefs Academy

Most kids feel like mini-Rachael Rays if they can cook a frozen pizza or follow instructions on a box of mac and cheese. However, you can help your kids channel their inner culinary creativity without the mess by enrolling them at Young Chefs Academy, where kids from ages 4 to 15 are instructed on basic cooking and baking techniques, food safety, table setting, and—drum roll, please—manners. The classes are hands on, and with membership, each student receives a chefs’ hat, apron, and binder for recipes.

Best Bite-Size Burgers
Filet Sliders at Perry’s

Perry’s filet sliders are scrumptious little morsels of tender filet mignon on a tasty bun served with horseradish cream and au jus. The mini-sandwiches come three to a plate and are accompanied by a bevy of steak fries. We’re not sure, but this could be what our nutritionist was talking about when she recommended eating smaller portions. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-9991.

Best Scribbler
Retro 1951
This Richardson company makes pens that are about more than ink flowing through a cylinder. Retro 51 manufactures fine writing instruments inspired by the style of the 1950s, and its designs span from cool and classic (such as the Double 8 series) to fresh and fun (witness the Tornado Bill, featuring dollar bills shredded and applied by hand to each barrel). Pick up a Retro 51 at various retailers in the area—your penmanship depends on it. 972-479-1405.

Best Ring Maker

Single ladies know what the best use for a ring finger is, but until that wealthy, handsome, heterosexual man comes along bearing a big diamond, Staxx will have to do. Created by Dallasite Molly Langford, Staxx lets wearers design their own rings, and by purchasing just one base and several interchangeable toppers, they can design as many as they want. That means the rings are affordable, fashionable, and fun. What more could you ask for? 866-697-8299.

ODD COUPLE: Grange Hall owners Rajan Patel and Jeffrey Lee.
photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Best Strange Gifts
Grange Hall

Ever since the party we attended at Grange Hall that featured live chickens, in coops, wearing necklaces, we’ve loved the store for its slightly dark and taxidermy-heavy gift selection. Owners Rajan Patel and Jeffrey Lee have stocked the boutique full of unusual and beautiful finds: think candleholders made out of doll heads, stuffed peacocks, skull and crossbones stationery, and paperweights with snake skeletons inside. The guys at Grange also have muted and marvelous floral creations featuring flowers such as succulents, orchids, a porcupine quill or two, and even a hornets’ nest—the ultimate way to say “I love you.” 4445 Travis St., Ste. 101. 214-443-0600.

Best New-School Float
Tiramisu Float at Coal Vines

The cozy patio at Coal Vines is great for date night or girls’ night, and the bustling dining room has a festive atmosphere. Oh, and the pizza is splendid. So it’s really no surprise that the restaurant does dessert well, too. The ladyfingers, mascarpone, and tiramisu gelato in espresso soda comprising the tiramisu float are a primo combination that provides the perfect ending to a fine meal. And it’s only $5. 2404 Cedar Springs Rd., Ste. 500. 214-855-4999.
Best Weekly Pig-Out
Roasted Suckling Pig at Arcodoro and Pomodoro

You’d expect a meal immortalized in literature by the likes of Ernest Hemingway to achieve greatness. And you’d be right. While the roasted suckling pig in myrtle leaves served up on Tuesdays at Arcodoro and Pomodoro is the Sardinian version of Papa Hemingway’s treasured Spanish dish, it’s just as likely to inspire glowing prose. Or at least a short, short story: Go. Order the pig. The end. 2708 Routh St. 214-871-1924.

Best Morning Workout
Jay’s Boot Camp
No pain, no gain. That oft-used motivator sums up our recent predawn sessions with Jay’s Boot Camp. And waking up before 5 am is painful. As is the muscle soreness that results from circuit training combining cardio and weights. But the lack of sleep was worth the results: a stronger core, a toned bod, and the ability to perform exercises while counting in cadence. Our biceps were far more noticeable than the bags under our eyes. 972-373-8344.

Best All-Night Ahi
K Tokyo
This 24-hour Lower Greenville sushi bar offers a welcome substitute to the typical late-night munchies hang. And even though the sushi here is more than good, what really stands out is the service—a host rings a gong upon each guest’s arrival and departure, and chef Kang Dae Soo is just about the cutest thing ever. Then there’s the entertainment—karaoke starts at 10 pm nightly. IHOP can’t beat that. 2217 Greenville Ave. 214-824-3255.

Best Twice-Baked Potato
Cowboy Chicken
It’s a small scoop of butterfat heaven: shredded potatoes, butter, sour cream, and cheese all baked together. That’s it. Nothing more. Yet this deceptively simple side dish is sinfully delicious, rivaling Cowboy Chicken’s famed rotisserie chicken in popularity and making our hearts swell with gastronomic joy. That and cholesterol. 5315 Greenville Ave. 214-234-0505. 17437 Preston Rd. 972-732-6281.

Best Blowout

The Blow-Drying Class at Jean-Philippe Studio
Look, blow-drying Texas hair ain’t easier just because the poof is out of fashion. So come to Jean-Philippe Salon, where the stylists will teach you the craft of the blow-dry for free at a weekly class. Not only that, but they’ll give tips on managing curls and frizz and picking the right conditioner.
5600 W. Lovers Ln., Ste. 125. 214-350-7897.

Best  Place to Let the Kids Run Free 
Play Area at the Shops at Willow Bend

Next time you’re heading to Neiman’s on the lower level of The Shops at Willow Bend, why not let Junior out of the stroller for a spree that doesn’t involve your credit card? Willow Bend houses a spacious, all-soft play area where parents can let the kiddos romp, worry free. Plus, the playthings are cleaned twice a day, and there are coin-operated riding toys that your munchkin will appreciate way more than that smocked outfit you bought him. 6121 W. Park Blvd., Plano. 972-202-4900.

Best Chocolate Fix
Chocolate Secrets
We are obsessed with Chocolate Secrets for more than its selection of tempting chocolate treats (cakes, chocolate-covered berries, croissants, handmade truffles, hot chocolate). They also offer free French lessons on Wednesday evenings. Drop by Saturday nights for live jazz and a wine and chocolate pairing. For $25, you get your choice of four chocolates and two glasses of wine. Signature truffles Take Me Now, Have-to-Have Hazelnut, and the peanut butter cups are some of our faves. Oui, oui. 3926 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-252-9801.

Best Puppy Cam
City Vet

Not only do City Vet’s online webcams allow concerned pet owners to keep an eye on their animals, they’re also great entertainment. Every 15 to 30 seconds, the image refreshes to reveal what your pup is up to while you’re away. City Vet has cameras in its premium day care and boarding rooms at both its locations, so whether you have a Chihuahua or a chow chow, your pet is never more than a click away.

photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Best French Fries

Tillman’s Roadhouse
This upscale down-home eatery’s french fries appetizer is the rockingest trio since ZZ Top—or, at least, Tony Orlando and Dawn. The three different kinds of potatoes (sweet, purple, and brown russet) come with three different seasonings (Parmesan black pepper, chili powder, and smoked salt), and the fries are elegantly presented in a wooden box. The accompanying sides of homemade ketchup and bread-and-butter pickle mayo are the perfect complements. 324 W. Seventh St. 214-942-0988.

Best Age Mitigation
Timeless Skin Rejuvenation & Laser Spa
Whether it’s cellulite reduction, photofacial rejuvenation, or microdermabrasion, the services offered at the new Timeless medical spa are all about reversing the effects of aging. Timeless offers a host of other nonsurgical procedures as well, but if the menu of treatments doesn’t win you over, the before and after photos just might do it. A long lunch break here could mean returning to the office looking years younger. 6333 E. Mockingbird Ln., Ste. 260. 214-824-8463.

Best Shoe Shop
Nestled on the second floor of a cottage in Uptown, Linus can be hard to spot, but it’s definitely not one to miss. The upscale shoe boutique offers a collection of top designer shoes you won’t find anywhere else in Dallas. Lounge in style while sipping Chardonnay and slipping on a patent pump by Scorah Pattullo or platform peep-toe by Ruthie Davis. Owner Kristen Radakovich scouts European markets for the best of the best each season, so there is always something new and drool-worthy. By appointment only. 2724 Routh St. 214-965-0180.

photography by Vanessa Gavalya

Best Wine Sampling
This is wine sampling, version 2.0. You walk into Cork and decide the dollar amount you’d like to spend on sampling. Then a Cork employee hands over a debit card to use at six touch-screen monitors that contain a list of wines from all over the world, including bottle and sampling prices. You swipe your card, select the wine you’d like to try, and a Cork staffer fastidiously offers the glass with its sample-size serving. The best part: deciding if the $75 French wine is better than the $20 one from Argentina, over and over again. 3636 McKinney Ave., Ste. 170. 214-780-0373.

Best Meaty Salad Bar
Texas de Brazil

The upscale churrascaria that started in Addison has almost become too chain-y (11 restaurants) to warrant BoBD status, but then comes culinary director Evandro Caregnato and his $70,000 salad bar. Each granite-and-glass masterpiece was designed by Caregnato to fit in its own particular restaurant, and space prevents a full listing of all the tasty morsels they accommodate, but let’s try anyway: five varieties of olives, roasted peppers, whole garlic cloves, shrimp seviche, sushi, Caprese salad, salamis and prosciutto from Italy—and about 50 other items. Did we mention it’s all you can eat? Go for lunch, when the salad bar comes with soup and a side for $12.50. The Fort Worth and Dallas locations only serve lunch on Fridays (101 N. Houston, Fort Worth, 817-882-9500; 2727 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-720-1414), but Addison does lunch all week (15101 Addison Rd., 972-385-1000).

Best Wizard Hangout
The Philosopher’s Stone

North Oak Cliff is a little more magical thanks to Philosopher Stone owners Angela and Kel Landrith. Their Bishop Arts shop features a vast selection of magic wands, occult curios, tarot cards, and “witchy wear,” all designed to inspire your inner wizard. Fret not, muggles: there’s plenty of incense, wooden chalices, and Celtic jewelry to appease pagans and non-pagans alike. 408 N. Bishop Ave., Ste. 104. 214-942-2600.

photography by Doug Davis

Best Inner-city Cathedral
Cathedral Church of St. Matthew
The “mother church” of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, formerly a chapel for defunct St. Mary’s College, anchors the corner of decidedly unspiritual Ross Avenue at Garrett with a timeless, comforting presence. Inside, the old cathedral’s stained-glass windows and simple wooden pews make it a good place to sit and think and let the car horns and worries of the world dissolve, no matter what your faith. Se habla español, too. 5100 Ross Ave. 214-823-8134.

Best Break ’n’ Bake Cookies
Festive Kitchen
Tollhouse will always have a place in our hearts, but for the freshest, most homemade-tasting pre-made-you-bake-it cookies, look no further than Festive Kitchen in Snider Plaza. Buy a bag of these frozen 2-ounce, ball-shaped pieces of heaven and warm the oven. The peanut butter cookies contain bits of real peanuts, and the chocolate chip cookies are so addictive they’ll make you want to invest in bigger pants. 3404 Rosedale. 214-363-5111.

OLD SCHOOL RULES: Owners Sherry and Bob Prikyl keep the drive-in spirit alive at Dairy-Ette.
photography by Doug Davis

Best  Retro Drive-in

The ’50s-era drive-in across the street from Bishop Lynch High School in Casa View celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and one bite of a cheeseburger or corny dog, or big gulp of the house-made root beer (especially in a float) explains the longevity. Inside, well-worn red vinyl booths speak of happy days, but you can also park out front, flick your lights, and give your order to a carhop. Frequented by everyone from yard guys on lunch break to cops to vintage car clubs. 9785 Ferguson Rd. 214-327-9983.

Best Summer Treat
Sheridan’s Lattes and Frozen Custard
If Willy Wonka had been into frozen treats instead of confections, he would have had a place like Sheridan’s. With locations in Dallas and Frisco, it’s a sure-fire way to chase away those late August afternoon heat lulls. (Our advice: sprinkle a little New York cheesecake atop your chocolate chip custard for a sinful indulgence. It’ll cost you five Hail Marys and 1,000 crunches, but so what?) 6033 Campbell Rd. 972-931-7110. 8909 Gaylord Pkwy., Frisco. 972-377-6144.

Best Authentic Tapas
Chic From Barcelona

True Catalan heritage has been imported to Dallas by way of this old-fashioned Spanish eatery that celebrates Spanish cuisine as no other in Dallas ever has. Rafa and Magda Vilaclara, both children of Barcelona, have a menu that offers truly authentic tapas and the tastiest red and white wine sangrias found this side of Portugal. The venue has an ambiance as welcoming to romantic dates as to simple evenings with friends. 11909 Preston Rd. 972-239-2442.

Best Condiment Bar
Tio’s Tortas
You’ve probably heard about the big-as-your-face Mexican sandwiches at Tio’s Tortas, but the thing that’s even greater about Tio’s is its condiment bar. Owner Lex Berlin tells us traditional Mexican tortas are pretty mild, thus the creation of the 15-plus item condiment bar where diners can spice, sweeten, and drench their sammies and salads. All the extras are made in house, including red onion relish, zucchini pickles, cranberry salsa, chipotle ketchup, Tio’s hot salsa, and rancho mayo. We plan to try them all. 4015 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-4846.

Best Service of the Year

Kent Rathbun’s showcase kitchen is manned by one-time Top Chef contestant Tre Wilcox, and the cuisine has matured and now offers a taste for everyone. But it is the impeccable service staff that boosts Abacus above the competition. There’s not a single “Hi, I’m Larry”-style server. Instead, your every need is met before you realize it. Water and wine glasses are topped off as if by a ghost. The pace of your meal is determined by you—no rush or unobtrusive fuss. 4511 McKinney Ave. 214-559-3111.

Best Use of Thread
Brow Threading at Zaibee’s

When you shape the eyebrows of Indian royalty with nothing more than a piece of thread, you earn the right to be known by a single moniker. Zaibee’s technique is simple. She bites down on part of a strand of thread while holding the rest in her hand, uprooting a follicle at a time. These days, Zaibee does not accept walk-ins. Her client list is too long. You must reserve a time well in advance. But if you seek an alternative to hot wax, it’s worth the wait. 524 W. Beltline Rd., Richardson. 972-980-7834.

Best Gay Bar
Barneys New York
Looking for the hunkiest, most stylish men in Dallas? Sorry, ladies. This one is for the guys. The A-list gays—and the fashionistas who love them—have made shopping at Barneys a Saturday tradition. Some say the boys go for the designer duds. We know, however, the true draw is Barneys’ free wine, poured for serious shoppers with credit to burn. It’s the hottest scene in town sans a shiny disco ball. 1030 NorthPark Center. 469-221-4700.

Best Asian Shopping
Asia World Market
Plano’s population has diversified so much in the past few decades that it can now support a strip shopping center dedicated to Asian staples. But even if you’re of the Occidental persuasion, Asia World Market has a lot to offer. We spied fish balls, Japanese china, duck feet, live tilapia, and an ample selection of Hello Kitty. The store’s aisles are labeled with concise monikers such as “Dumpling” and “Drink,” which make our shopping trips a breeze. 240 Legacy Dr., Plano. 972-517-8858.

Best Scents for Less
Er’go Candle Co.

Locally produced, mixed, and created, the soy-based concoctions can be purchased for $18–$25 in retail shops, or you can visit the company’s outlet store in Dallas to find discontinued and over-poured candles for less than $10 each. Autumn Leaf, Lily of the Valley, and Vanilla Bean are just a few of the lush scents you can pick up on the cheap. 9200 Carpenter Fwy. 214-905-9050.

Best House of Style
House of Dang!

If you’re young and hip, then House of Dang! should already be a regular stop on your Dallas retail tour. But if you’re just hoping to infuse a little of that hipster flair into your home or wardrobe, then stop by this funky East Dallas boutique and pick up some House of Dang! original fashion pieces, vintage knickknacks, and other retro goodies.  4219 Bryan St. 214-827-1146.

Best Baby Roller Derby
Thunderbird Skate Center

Let’s be straight—it’s hard to find postpartum exercise that won’t bore you to tears, and with an incautious stroll in the Dallas summer heat, you could cook Junior like a slab of bacon. To the rescue: Strollerskating at the Thunderbird Skate Center on Thursday mornings. Even if it weren’t the only comfortably cool rink where moms could strap on skates and push their babies in strollers, it would be the best. Inline or old-school four-wheel skates available. 3200 Thunderbird Ln., Plano. 972-422-4984.

Best Place to Score a Lid
By Barnhart

We struggle with what to call it. Let’s not say “Annie Hall hat.” And let’s not call it cloche. Because neither is a description of a hat a man as manly as we should own, and our floppy lid, handmade by Dallas craftswoman Reid Barnhart, is one of our favorites. She scours estate sales and Goodwills for cool old fabrics. She uses unraveled neckties to cut bias strips for the piping. Prices range from $44 to $75, depending. You won’t find them in stores. Try: 214-942-2092 or [email protected].