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Best Lists

The Best of Big D 2009

Our annual review of the Dallas people, places, food, and drink that make us say, “Sweet!”
photography by Vanessa Gavalya

Best DIY Style

photography by Vanessa Gavalya
Make Shop & Studio
Founded in 2005 by owner and designer Julie McCullough-Kim, this Bishop Arts boutique has helped revitalize Dallas’ DIY community. What initially began as a creative outlet for busy urbanites has blossomed into a haven for undiscovered talents, where many new designers go to flourish. Their modern take on traditional crafting has inspired many to get in touch with their inner domestic diva. Showcasing local designers and artists, the store is stocked with unique gifts and fashion items: adult and children’s clothing, handbags, jewelry, home décor, furniture, and more. Behind the shop is a studio where the DIY magic happens. Sewing, pattern making, jewelry designing, screen printing, barware etching, floral design, furniture building, and more are offered daily (see the schedule online). 313 N. Bishop Ave. 214-256-3061. www.themakesite.com.

Best Local Confection

Photography by Kevin Marple
Dude! Sweet! Chocolates
Owner Katherine Clapner told us, “I believe the name—Dude! Sweet!—is actually better than the chocolates.” Don’t believe her. The talented chocolatier and former executive pastry chef for Stephan Pyles uses single-origin Venzeuelan, Colombian, and African cocoa beans along with Lucky Layla Farms Texas butter, Steen’s cane syrup, and a variety of exotic spices and nuts to craft her sultry sweets. With flavors like Hill Country (Texas lavender and honey), Black & Blue (Guinness and black currant), Curried Banana (yellow curry and caramel), and Tahitian (passion fruit and ginger), Clapner’s creations quickly sell out at places like Scardello, Bolsa, and Flavors from Afar. www.dudesweetchocolates.com.

photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Best Smooth Operator

Restaurant Ava
For the chef who has everything, the hot gadget is the PacoJet, a $5,000 Swiss-made high-end ice cream maker that takes a mere 20 seconds to transform frozen fruit chunks or vegetables into ultra-decadent purees. Sorbets made with a PacoJet possess a texture that’s incomparably smooth. The only place around to see for yourself is Restaurant Ava in Rockwall, where chef Randall Copeland uses it for desserts and also for novelty items such as cauliflower mousse. Meanwhile, his sorbet samplers in flavors such as grapefruit and pineapple are hands down the smoothest thing in town. 108 S. Goliad St., Rockwall. 469-698-9920. www.restaurantava.com.

Best Upscale Upgrade

photography by Elizabeth Lavin
Sisters Autumn and Jennifer Smink have been stars on the modern home-design scene in Dallas for two decades. But recently the duo relocated from the more suburban Inwood Village to the up-and-coming Design District (Dragon Street, to be exact). The 11,000-square-foot space, formerly the Gerald Peters Gallery, was spotted after a year of shopping for new digs. What this means for Smink: two floating walls, an apartment, a loading dock, and a 108-inch flat-screen television—features the Lovers Lane store didn’t have. What this means for you: the same covetable modern lines they’ve always carried (Minotti, Living Divani, and many more), artwork from Barry Whistler Gallery on the walls, and a thoughtfully laid-out space with plenty of room for browsing. Bonus: on Saturdays, the Sminks welcome guests to take a shopping break in front of the flat-screens for an afternoon of cowboy movies. 1019 Dragon St. 214-350-0542. www.sminkinc.com.

Best Place to Rest Your Jimmy Choos

Enjoying a patio in Dallas is difficult. Most overlook traffic-clogged roadways or are overrun with the liquor-soaked “cool” crowd. What a patio should be is tranquil, a respite from a harried life. That’s what you find at Cibus. Overlooking NorthPark’s CenterPark—the mall’s art-strewn gardens—Cibus’ patio is chic yet calm and inviting. Vivid orange armchairs dot the Italianate setting. Kids frolic on the open lawn. Lovers stroll the gardens hand in hand. And you get to sip a handcrafted cocktail and prop up your weary, well-shod feet after a hard day of shopping. NorthPark Center. 214-692-0001. www.cibusdallas.com.

Best Clutter Control

Muddle Management
Samantha Naeyaert, aka the “Organizational Therapist,” helps clients regain control of their lives by teaching them to live clutter free. Her service, Muddle Management, is for all organizational needs, including closets, offices, moving, and everyday clutter issues such as “piling.” Naeyaert has been called on by everyone from people consolidating three homes into one to students wanting to learn how to stay on top of homework and housework. “The relationship between an organizer and a client is quite intimate,” she says. “By the time we’re through, I know the corners of their lives—corners that they’ve often kept hidden, sometimes for many years.” Naeyaert, who also specializes in kids with ADD, says the process begins with a free “muddle huddle”: a meeting at your location to set goals and come up with a plan. Then one or more professional organizers will provide hands-on help ($260 per four-hour visit, $65 for each additional hour, per organizer). They’ll even make a trip to drop off donations or recyclable items that fit in their cars free of charge. 214-957-9366. www.muddlemanagement.com.

Best Music Venue

photography by Jason Janik
The Loft
Let’s start with the music itself. The most important considerations in judging a venue are the bands it books and how they sound. The Loft’s calendar isn’t as full as some other places in town, but the gaps in quantity are made up for with quality. It may not have many shows, but it has very few bad ones. That is thanks to a lineup of buzz-backed newcomers (Glasvegas), dependable stalwarts (Low), enjoyable throwbacks (Letters to Cleo), and a cozy room that generally sounds fantastic. As an added bonus, the Loft has a stellar view of downtown, from its perch above the Palladium on Lamar Street. It starts with the music, but it ends with the atmosphere. 1135 S. Lamar St. 214-928-9844. www.theloftdallas.com.

Best Local Musician for Middle-Aged White People Who Want to Retain a Semblance of Hipness by Owning Current, but Nonthreatening, Music from a Local Musician

photography courtesy of 4AD Records
St. Vincent
You need a CD that tells your younger co-workers—the kids on their first jobs that still go out on school nights and regularly say things you have to Google—that you’re not as old as you appear. Even though you have a wife and kids and stay up past 11 pm maybe only once a week, you still have a finger on the pulse. But you also need a CD that doesn’t make it look like you’re trying too hard to say all that. What you need is Actor, the latest and greatest disc from Annie Clark, who records under the name St. Vincent. It is, by turns, ethereal and funky, safe enough for NPR listeners, but with enough edge to appeal to the readers of Gorilla vs. Bear. Casually reference how you thought she sounded even better with a bigger band on Letterman, and you’re golden. www.ilovestvincent.com.