The Best of Big D 2009

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

Best Nurturing Nail Technician

Joe Flores at Frederic Fekkai

Joe Flores photography by Jason Janik
Joe “Joey” Flores started his career in 1982 in a small shop in Ennis, and he has worked at some of the best spas in Dallas, including the Mansion (for 16 and a half years), the Ritz, and Frederic Fekkai, where he is currently the lead nail technician. This is not just a profession for Flores; it’s more of a calling. A survivor of cancer, Flores does more than fix his clientele’s nails. To some, he is also “a therapist and healer of all things.” He has been known to take time out of his schedule to walk with clients suffering from illnesses. Celebrities, including Jessica Simpson and Debbie Reynolds, seek him out not only for his expertise and gentle hands, but also for his sound advice. Clients travel from as far away as New York. He was recognized by the ISPA for a lifetime contribution to the spa industry in 2003, was voted best nail technician by Creative Nails that same year, and was honored with a HOSPY award (given by the Hospitality Industry Network) in 2008. Every nail session includes a soothing leg or hand massage—and a hug. Frederic Fekkai, 47 Highland Park Village. 214-219-3600.

Best Reason to Still Read Your DMN

The “Project” Team

A lot of what a newspaper traditionally provided can be consumed better online. It’s easier to check sports scores, shop for houses, look for jobs, even scan movie reviews on the Internets. One thing a paper still does better than any other medium, though, is tackle tough, complicated news stories. That’s why the DMN’s “Project” team, tasked primarily with long-term investigations, is so vital to this city. They will work to uncover everything from environmental dangers (which could take years to investigate) to asking important questions about the Dallas Cowboys practice facility collapse. These stories are vital and they can’t be scanned. The paper still serves a purpose.

Best Hippie Restaurant

Potager Cafe

The conceit behind this Arlington restaurant seems so charmingly, naively idealistic: customers pay what they think the food is worth. Human nature being what it is, you’d expect the restaurant to always get less than it deserves. But so far, owner Cynthia Chippindale has kept the boat afloat and has even expanded to dinner hours. Maybe that’s because her from-scratch food, including salads, casseroles, quiche, and étouffée, is so lovingly made. The other side of her proposition is that there’s no set portion size; you ask for and get exactly how much you want, so there’s no waste. What a concept. 315 S. Mesquite St., Arlington. 817-861-2292.

Best Appraiser

Nature Exchange’s Gerald Bogan photography by Joshua Martin
The Nature Exchange

Does your daughter like to dig in the dirt? Next time she unearths something unusual—a rock, a shell, a fossil, something that looks like a fossil—take her and her odd object to the Nature Exchange at the Dallas Zoo. Think of it as Antiques Roadshow for the underage, nature-loving set. A staffer will assess the object and, based on its rarity, condition, and other factors, award points that can be used to buy cool stuff—a few points for a shell, say, or many thousands for a dinosaur tooth or a geode. Each of the three full-time “interpreters,” as the assessors are called, are wonderful, but we’re partial to Gerald Bogan. He has no formal education beyond high school and worked in construction until he came to the Zoo, but his knowledge of paleontology, geology, and the natural world as a whole will astound you. More importantly, it will engage your daughter. He is kind and patient, and in his slow, Southern drawl, he will make everything illuminated. 650 S. R.L. Thornton Frwy. 214-670-5656.

Best New Foodie Hangout

The Shops at Old Denton photography by Elizabeth Lavin
The Shops at Old Denton, Carrollton

You read that right: Carrollton. It may be a hike into the great Northwest, but in one center, you’ve got a world of tasty bites and au courant dining trends. Build up your appetite by browsing through Super H Mart, a mind-blowing Asian retail complex with food court attached, selling everything from rice cookers to fresh cherries to 30 kinds of kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage). Grab a bite next door at Todamgol Tofu Kitchen, where spicy-hot Korean stews and noodle dishes will light your fire. Stroll over to Yogurtland, the only Texas branch of this superior California-based frozen-yogurt chain, and serve yourself a cup of Madagascar vanilla yogurt topped with chopped kiwi. Lastly, stop in at Mozart Bakery and pick up one of their to-die-for sweets—for the ride home, of course. 2625 Old Denton Rd., Carrollton.

Best Alcohol-Free Friday-Night Scene

Yogilicious photography by Billy Surface

Even hard-core weekend warriors need to detox once in a while. Still craving social interaction? Grab your sweet tooth and head to Uptown’s Yogilicious. (Although the chain is currently undergoing a name change: Yumilicious.) You’ll find some of the best frozen yogurt in town and plenty of young (and not so young) people pulling the soft-serve handles and scooping toppings. We recently spotted everyone from SMU girls in tiny sweats to 20-year-olds to a family with Campania pizza leftovers (it’s next door) with toddlers in tow. The music is loud and the vibe is energetic. So it’s pretty much like a night at your favorite pub, sans alcohol. And there’s one other difference: Yogilicious has free Wii for patrons. 3800 McKinney Ave., Ste. 160. 214-521-7888.