Thursday, March 30, 2023 Mar 30, 2023
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A Daily Conversation About Dallas
Food & Drink

Discover a True Texas Roadhouse and Have the Night of Your Life

Kathy Wise
By |
A pickin’ night at the Gar Hole, in Anna.

Here’s how not to discover the best little roadhouse in Texas: google “Texas roadhouse.” The term was effectively appropriated by the late Kent Taylor, may he rest in peace, the Kentucky native who founded the Texas Roadhouse chain of restaurants that successfully commodified the concept nationwide.

What was previously understood to be a welcoming, no-frills establishment providing passing travelers with food, libations, and musical entertainment—maybe even guest and equine accommodations—instead became synonymous with fried onion blossoms, jalapeño poppers, and “Texas chili” with, bless Taylor’s bluegrass heart, beans.

No, the best way to discover the best little roadhouse in Texas is to hit the actual road. Or, in my case, to stumble across a Facebook tribute to Hondo Crouch on the anniversary of his death written by an East Dallas guy named Claude “Spider” Webb. 

Webb was so inspired by Crouch and the way he turned the former ghost town of Luckenbach into a music and gathering destination that Webb opened his own roadhouse, the Gar Hole, right before the pandemic in a bank once robbed by Bonnie and Clyde in a town once known as Westminster. 

Even more bizarrely, it turns out Webb isn’t the only great storyteller with a spider-related nickname to open a new roadhouse with an old soul in a historic building relatively close to home. There’s also Laura “Spydie” Bush, the proprietor of the Rattlesnake Roadhouse in Walnut Springs. You can read more about both venues—as well as several more good-time gathering places worth the drive—in our March cover feature, which goes online today. (Then, stick around and read about Spidey Webb’s love of Luckenbach and why he brought its energy to North Texas. He wrote an essay about it.)

So ditch the Cactus Blossoms and try a Texas roadhouse less traveled by. I promise: it will make all the difference.


Southlake Done Dirty by Dumb DMN Story

Tim Rogers
By |
Southlake Town Hall

Here is today’s media lesson. Get out your pencils.

The Dallas Morning News today published a story headlined “How Far Can a $100K Salary Stretch? Maybe Not So Far If You Live in Southlake, Survey Says.” When you go googling, you’ll find an even click-ier headline: “Why Affluent Cities Southlake, Bellaire Seem Undesirable.” The second and third paragraphs of the story read as follows:

“The perks of a six-figure salary vary depending on purchasing power, or the ability to buy things, according to deals discovery website [name redacted]. For example, inexpensive [sic] cities such as San Francisco and New York City, a lot of income goes toward paying rent and affording other basic necessities.

“To figure out what cities appeal to people, the real-time coupon site surveyed 3,000 respondents and presented them with this hypothetical: which of America’s 150 most expensive cities would you least like to live in, if earning a salary of $100,000?”

It’s hard to know where to start. I guess, first off, who felt the need to define “purchasing power” as “the ability to buy things,” and why didn’t that person simply use the phrase “cost of living”?

Local News

Leading Off (3/29/23)

Matt Goodman
By |

The Rash of Deleted Evidence Gets Worse. Prosecutors apparently knew that Dallas police had accidentally deleted evidence in homicide cases and allowed those cases to go to trial anyway. Defense attorneys for six clients told the Dallas Morning News that they were not informed of any missing evidence, although prosecutors in one case let the attorney know after securing a life sentence for capital murder.

North Texas Mean Green Advances to NIT Championship. It’s the first time in my alma mater’s history to make it this far, and it came after an absolute defensive suffocation against the curd-fed Wisconsin Badgers. The Mean Green plays a very specific game of muck. Its most effective offense appears stuck in molasses and uses most of the shot clock. But its swarming, help-reliant defense sucks any sort of rhythm out of the opposing team. The Badgers came out running and gunning and grew a 14-point lead, but UNT allowed just 13 points in the second half—and none in the final 9 minutes. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but these never are. That’s the cost of victory. The championship is Thursday.

Carroll ISD School Board Votes to Leave State School Board Association. Carroll ISD, which is under federal investigation for violating its students civil rights, will no longer be a part of the Texas Association of School Boards. The board apparently found it “woke” to follow the TASB’s guidelines that call for districtwide policies that protect transgender students from discrimination and bullying. The association provides vendors and other services to its members. The vote to leave was 5-1.

About a quarter of land in Dallas’ city center is used for parking, a percentage roughly shared by the Texas cities of Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Concrete covers 42 percent of Arlington’s core, while just 17 percent of Austin’s city center is used for parking. The capitol city features the lowest parking percentage of anywhere in the state, according to a map from the Parking Reform Network.

The PRN analyzed parking lots in the densest, most central, and most valuable real estate in 50 cities then compared how a city’s land use measures up to other cities of similar sizes. (In Dallas, the organization stuck to the downtown core.) It then assigned each city a score. The lower the score, the less land a city has devoted to parking compared to the average for a city its size.

Translated: 24 percent might sound good, but Dallas scored a 75, putting it in the upper echelons of municipalities with a ton of parking space in high-demand areas. Arlington, where more than 40 percent of its most dense real estate is devoted to resting vehicles, scored 100. Austin, where less than 20 percent of its city center land is parking, scored a 43.

Local News

Leading Off (3/28/23)

Tim Rogers
By |

Globe Life Field Reveals New Food Options. Opening Day is Thursday. Our Nataly Keomoungkhoun reports that baseball fans will be able to eat a 2-foot-long hamburger and also tacos from a place called Cartel Taco Bar. Have fun, y’all.

Jerry Jones’ Hit With Defamation Suit. Alexandra Davis filed a lawsuit against Jones last year, seeking recognition that she is his daughter. Now she has filed a federal defamation suit against him, claiming he “initiated a deliberate plan” to portray her “as an ‘extortionist’ and a ‘shakedown artist’ whose motivation was money and greed.”

Carroll ISD to Leave Texas Association of School Boards. I’ll just quote from the lede of the Fox 4 story: “The Carroll ISD school board decided to cut ties with the state’s association of school boards over its diversity and inclusion policies. It’s another escalation from a district facing several federal civil rights investigations for discrimination.”

Local News

Watermark South Dallas and Its Neighbors Will Spend More Time Hashing Out Concerns

Bethany Erickson
By |
Watermark Church purchased the former Pearl C. Anderson Learning Center in 2019, intending for it to be both a south Dallas outpost and a community services hub. Google Streetview

Pearl C. Anderson Learning Center was shuttered by Dallas ISD in 2012, sat vacant for seven years, then was sold as surplus property to Watermark Church. 

At the time, the church sought to reassure district trustees that it intended to use the building on Garden Lane, just off Elsie Faye Heggins Street, for worship services and as a place to provide social and medical support for the surrounding community. Even then, the community questioned Watermark’s intentions, wondering if the church was aware of the already present supports in the community that it could collaborate with.

Last fall, the church asked for a zoning change that would allow it to build a mixed-use planned development. A story published in the Dallas Free Press indicated that the community felt the church had not adequately explained why it needed a zoning change. In fact, it submitted plans for the 10-acre space less than two weeks before it held its second community meeting, which was meant to be an opportunity for the church to collaborate with its neighbors.

“It feels like an arranged marriage,” Ken Smith, president of the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, told the Dallas Free Press. “It seems like we were brought into Watermark South Dallas’ plans.”


The Explosive Story You Won’t See on Grey’s Anatomy

S. Holland Murphy
By |
first reunion after fire
The firefighters’ first reunion in the wellness garden. Courtesy

When I read a recent headline that said Meredith Grey would be leaving Grey’s Anatomy, I was absolutely shocked—I honestly had no idea the show was still on TV. So, maybe I’m off-base here, but if the medical drama formula has remained the same since I watched in the Katherine Heigl heyday, you can count on any given episode to involve insane injuries (at least one a year is rectal, am I right?), mysterious illnesses, and of course, plenty of collegial broom-closet canoodling.

The medical drama I wrote for our March issue only ticks one of those boxes. A gas explosion nearly killed three Dallas firefighters in September 2021. The injuries the three suffered were so horrific, I questioned whether I should even include some details. Firefighter Pauline Perez gave me the green light on one particularly graphic image, saying, “I want people to know how bad it was.”

But the story also includes the kinds of things you will never see in an episode of Grey’s: a realistic portrayal of how a hospital functions during a mass casualty event and a profile of a stand-out nurse who gave the blast survivors a ray of sunshine when they needed it most. The story is online today.

Leading Off

Leading Off (3/27/23)

Zac Crain
By |

Mavs Lose Back-to-Back Games Against Lowly Hornets. No one was expecting anything out of the Hornets on Friday night. They were on the second game of a back-to-back, have a seriously depleted roster, and have long since given up on the season. The Mavs came out flat, rallied, but could never quite overcome starting off so terribly. OK, a wake-up call, right? Well, Sunday at noon, they came out flat, rallied, but could never quite overcome starting off so terribly (though they did at least get a very brief lead in this one). That leaves them at 36-39, a game out of the play-in. The Western Conference is bunched up so tight, the Mavs could hit a run and this will all be fine. But I sincerely doubt it. We should move on to other topics, like should Jason Kidd come back next season.

Two Cold Fronts Coming. Make up your mind! I’m switching back and forth between heat and cold, wearing sleeveless t-shirts under long-sleeved snap shirts.

FC Dallas Loses to LAFC. Despite playing a man down the entire second half, FC Dallas rallied to tie the defending MLS champs, only to give up a goal in the 84th minute. Rough one, buddy.


The Parkland Nurse and the Worst Explosion in Dallas Fire-Rescue’s History

S. Holland Murphy
By |
Dallas Fire Rescue team
Hero Shot: (from left) Dallas Fire-Rescue officer Pauline Perez, dispatcher Ron Hall, Parkland nursing director Katie Mapula, and Captain Christopher Gadomski. Gadomski nominated Mapula for an Excellence in Nursing award. Elizabeth Lavin

To work inside a county hospital like Parkland, you have to keep a steady gait while the ground shifts beneath your feet. That’s what Katie Mapula loves about her job as the nursing director over all five intensive care units and burn center operations. You think you know what the day will look like, and then—boom—there’s an urgent rush to make order of fresh chaos. 

On the morning of September 29, 2021, Mapula was making order of yet another exhausting COVID surge. The swath the Delta variant cut through Dallas had filled every bed in the ICU and then some. She had already converted 12 more beds on the Medical Surgery floor to handle the growing demand when—boom—a startling notification rang in. 

The City Council next month will learn about an ordinance that will ban short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods in Dallas.

A recommendation from the City Plan Commission would push Airbnbs, Vrbos, and other platforms out of single-family zoning, where, city staffers say, about 95 percent of the registered stock in Dallas currently operate. By a count of 9-4, plan commissioners in December voted to recommend redefining these properties as “lodging uses,” which makes them illegal in residential communities.

The city of Dallas has been mulling over this matter since 2020. There have been three task forces, dozens of community meetings, a study, and the plan commission’s recommendation. Now, it will be up to the City Council, which appears poised to vote before the May election.

It has been contentious. Those who want short-term rentals out of residential neighborhoods cite quality-of-life and safety concerns, juiced by large parties, high-profile shootings, and what police described as a brothel. They consider these 30-days-or-fewer rentals to be businesses that, under existing city code, are operating illegally in single-family neighborhoods.

Those who speak in support of these rentals believe zoning to be too blunt of an instrument. Instead, they say, pick up the scalpel. Hike registration fees to pay for more code enforcement to cut down on nuisance houses and crime while generating more hotel tax revenue for the city and allowing property owners to have another revenue stream.

The Quality of Life Committee was briefed on the plan this week. The body immediately went into executive session after the briefing and punted questions until the full Council hears the details on April 4. So we don’t know exactly where all of the Council falls on this. But five members requested the vote in April: Paul Ridley, in downtown, Uptown, and East Dallas; Carolyn King Arnold, in South Oak Cliff; Omar Narvaez, in West Dallas; Cara Mendelsohn, in Far North Dallas; and Gay Donnell Willis, in Preston Hollow.

One thing is clear: Dallas has missed out on a significant bit of money. City Hall didn’t start collecting hotel taxes on these properties until 2019. The contractor in charge of registering these properties and collecting their taxes reports that there are 1,735 properly registered and active—and about 1,200 “possible” locations that aren’t registered and aren’t paying any hotel tax. Other third-party databases show more than 6,000 operating in the city, a number the anti-folks believe is more accurate.

Just 48 of those would be allowed to operate if the Council follows the plan commission’s recommendations.

Local News

Leading Off (3/24/23)

Matt Goodman
By |

Whew, That Rain Really Came Down. You’ve heard this one before: a severe thunderstorm warning spread across much of North Texas earlier this morning. Collin County is currently being battered by a storm that’s moving northeast at 45 mph and bringing wind gusts of up to 60 mph. Most of the warnings expired before 6 a.m., and this storm didn’t bring the damaging hail and tornadoes that we saw earlier in the month. We’ll still have scattered storms for the next hour or so, but the worst of it is northeast of us.

Toll Company Didn’t Properly De-Ice Roads Before Fatal Fort Worth Crash. The 2021 pileup on Interstate 35E in Fort Worth killed six people and injured dozens because the North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners didn’t adequately control the highway conditions. That’s according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board, which found that the consortium’s monitoring of the frozen conditions that day didn’t identify a stretch of elevated road for additional deicing treatment. The company “strongly disagrees” with the NTSB’s findings and says its work was “reasonable and consistent with federal and state guidelines.”

Man Killed During Test Drive in Arlington. Two men arranged a meetup to buy a car, then killed the 55-year-old seller during a test drive. Arlington PD released photos to help find the two.

Local News

When a Student Was Shot, These Thomas Jefferson Staffers Took Action

Bethany Erickson
By |
From left, Thomas Jefferson High School athletic trainer Raul Velazquez, assistant athletic director Brandi Elder, and band director Bob Romano rushed to help a student that was shot in the school parking lot Tuesday afternoon. Dallas ISD

It was an ordinary Tuesday afternoon. Most of the 1,400 or so students at Thomas Jefferson High School dispersed once school dismissed at 4:30 p.m. 

Band director Bob Romano was outside, near the parking lot that connects his school and the adjacent Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy, just off Walnut Hill Lane and Lenel Place. Athletic trainer Raul Velazquez was nearby in his clinic, tending to his athletes. The clinic’s bay door, which faces the parking lot, was open. Assistant athletic director Brandi Elder was leaving the building, her day nearly done. 

Ten minutes after the final bell rang, a car with two people—one likely a student, officials said later—drove up, shot another student, and then drove away. (By Thursday, an arrest had been made, but district officials declined to give more details.)

Seconds later, all three were rushing toward the parking lot where a student lay bleeding from a gunshot wound in the arm. All three are being heralded by Dallas ISD officials for the quick actions they took in the seconds and minutes that followed. 

“It didn’t sound like a gunshot at first; it was kind of muffled and away from us,” Romano recalled Thursday morning. “It wasn’t until I saw Raul running out from his clinic—and I was about 20 feet away from him—that we both ran over there.”