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Best Of :: People & Places

Paul Evans

Local wine publications haven't shown much resilience in Dallas. At least two upstart carcasses litter the landscape, testaments to the absurdity of attempting to translate Big D's thirst for cork-finished juice into an urge to read about it through a local lens. The Dallas Food & Wine Journal, a food-and-wine rag launched by entrepreneur Harvey Jury in 1995, lasted just two issues. Even the considerable heft of Belo couldn't get Dallas' sipper denizens to think local. The Dallas Morning News' quarterly insert magazine Wine and Food, launched in 1998, was scuttled after just a couple of issues.

So what makes former computer parts broker Paul Evans think he can conquer a market that has bloodied others with better armaments? Mental instability. "You have to be a crazy person to do this," says the 30-year old publisher of Vine Texas. "But you also have to be very passionate."

It's that passion--a term so often tossed around with respect to wine it has become as tiresome as road tar metaphors in tasting notes--Evans thinks will drive him to publishing success with Vine Texas, an upstart four-color glossy with wine personality profiles, reviews, beer and cigar jabber, as well as tips on wine acquisition.

So what? Aren't there enough glossies from New York packed with cherry-berry-leather-tar-tropical fruit-cream-grass-gooseberry notes of the latest bottlings? Sure. But Evans says Vine Texas is different. It's dedicated to the whims of the Texas wine enthusiast (the July/August issue even argues that those tasting descriptors are obsolete, as much of young America has never tasted raw fruit or unprocessed veggies--are Fruit Roll-Ups that pervasive?). "You're not going to see articles about wines that are hard to find in Texas," Evans insists. "We're not going to stick our noses in the air and brag about how we tasted this 1989 bottle of Petrus that you can't find except in some restaurant for $2,000."

Not that Vine Texas has a nose-in-the-air pedigree. Originally launched as Vine Dallas earlier this year, Vine Texas was dreamed up by Evans and entrepreneur Mike Whitaker after Evans lost his job as a sales manager at The Met following its purchase and erasure by Dallas Observer parent New Times in late 2000. Whitaker, publisher of the free Dallas nightlife/lifestyle magazine called The Link, brought Evans on to breathe some life into the rag.

But Evans says it was quickly obvious The Link was not long for this world. "The Link was very stressful, near the end, money-wise," he laments. "To tell you the truth, Mike and I both, we got sick of club and bar owners. They never pay on time, and when you're running a company off revenue from advertising, you have to rely on being paid."

So the pair sought to unearth a niche stocked not only with a panting audience, but also a cache of vendors willing to open their checkbooks. They decided to focus on wine because it was the preoccupation of several Link staffers. Evans and his cronies met with jeers. But they also had some cheerleaders among Dallas' restaurant heavies, including Al Biernat of Al Biernat's, Judd Fruia of Pappas Bros., Alessio Franceschetti (formerly of eccolo) and Efisio Farris of Arcodoro Pomodoro.

With virtually no seed money, Evans assembled a magazine prototype on the cheap and printed 1,000 copies, dispersing them to potential advertisers. "Next thing you know, I have people all over the place calling me," he boasts. "It was passed around like the plague."

Smitten by the interest the prototype generated, Evans and Whitaker shut down The Link last January after a two-year run and flushed all their energy into Vine Dallas, which turned out a January and a March issue. The original plan was to secure the Dallas market and then customize the magazine for other Texas markets, distributing titles such as Vine Houston and Vine Austin. But national advertisers balked at the move.

Vine Texas was the upshot. Evans and Whitaker pumped 80,000 copies of the first bimonthly (July/August) issue through a number of outlets, including Barnes & Noble, Winn-Dixie, Albertson's and selected fine wine shops. They hope to publish monthly by next summer.

Evans snickers when he thinks about all the people who told him he was crazy--or worse--for launching a Dallas wine magazine. "They said, 'If you have a third issue, I'll pat you on the back.' Well, pat me on the back. Number three has arrived."

Best Place to Beat the Heat
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we gather defenses, pool resources and try our damnedest to beat the heat. And, though we may win a few battles along the way, the heat always wins the war. You can't beat it, so why not--as the cliché goes--join it. Revel in it. Bake in it. And the best place to do it is Hurricane Harbor, which opens just as the heat kicks into gear and closes as it begins to peter out into fall. The water park offers respite in the form of dozens of slides for the novice and the cowardly to the experienced and the brave, along with a lazy river for floating, pools and a pirate's ship play area for the kids. Though the lines twist up and up for popular rides such as the Black Hole, most of the waiting area is shaded and, with a 500-foot drop into a pool, the payoff is worth the wait.

1800 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, 76006
MAP
817-265-3356
Best Place to Swing
Sons of Hermann Hall

The large, renovated ballroom upstairs at Sons of Hermann Hall is the perfect venue for swing-dance nights, which it hosts every Wednesday. There's a refinished hardwood floor, smooth enough for twirling without friction but with enough traction that you can stay on your feet. There are tables and chairs for those who need to take a breather, and a bar for those who need some liquid incentive to strut their stuff. With the air conditioner cranked and music blaring from the sound booth or from the bandstand, it's easy to feel as if you've stepped back in time, since Sons was around decades before swing was popular the first time.

3414 Elm St., Dallas, 75226
MAP
214-747-4422
Best Bike Trails
Cedar Hill State Park

On the weekends you can't stir the bicycles with a stick. Mom and Dad are there with their trail bikes, and the kiddies, some still maneuvering with training wheels, tag right along. There's a maze of off-road cycling for all ages and all levels of expertise. The park's most popular trail is a collection of three single-track routes that wind through woods and a tall grass prairie with a nice, cooling view of Joe Pool Lake. If it has rained recently, you might want to call and check on trail conditions before loading up and heading out.

1570 F.M. 1382, Cedar Hill, 75104
MAP
972-291-3900
Best Free Entertainment for a Kid

Little kids who like airplanes, trucks and other big stuff (which means all of them, natch) will truly be thrilled to spend an hour watching the jets come and go from this busy airport. The plaza overlooks main runways and provides a clear view of takeoffs and landings. Voices of air-traffic controllers and pilots can be heard over a speaker on the plaza. There is room to walk around on grass around the plaza, but parking is also plentiful from places where you can see the big beasts soar.

Best Secret Fishing Hole Surrounded by High-end Real Estate

A true hidden paradise for local anglers, this Turtle Creek estuary is home to 1- to 2-pound bass. On a recent summer day, a single fisherman was casting his line (a light-action pole with an open cast reel), relishing the solitude away from the city traffic just a few yards away. Besides the bass, there are also some nice-sized bluegills and carp around here, according to the University Park Wildlife Department. All are edible, say the park officials. Ready to be fried up on one of those $5,000 Viking stoves in the mansions nearby.

Best Tejano Club
Escapade 2001

Along with its sister club, Escapade 2009, Escapade 2001 is the No. 1 destination for Dallas' swelling Latino population (the people who've made KNOL-FM one of the highest-rated radio stations in the area) every weekend, the place to go for people looking to blow off steam by dancing to ranchera and cumbia music. And there are quite a few of them: Every Friday through Sunday--the only nights Escapade 2001 is open--the parking lot outside rivals that of a Mavericks game, and the bar receipts routinely top the list of drinking establishments in the city. With that many people voting yes, who are we to say no?

10701 Finell St., Dallas, 75220
MAP
214-902-6400
Best Outing with the Kids
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

When you enter Fossil Rim, it's hard to figure who is really in the zoo: you and the wife and kids, locked up in your SUV, air conditioner running, carbon monoxide emitting, or the 50 species of well-attended animals languishing over 1,500 gently rolling, beautifully wooded acres in the North Texas Hill Country. Located 75 miles southwest of Dallas, no zoo could offer the contact, the closeness, the natural setting that is afforded over 1,000 animals that are free to roam its savannas and juniper-oak woodlands save only the carnivores and rhinos. Humans remain in their vehicles during the two hours that cover the scenic tour. The Fossil Rim mission is one of conservation rather than conquest; its intention is to better establish the balance between man and nature. What better way is there for your screaming 4-year-old to get up close and personal with an ocelot? Just make sure you keep things in balance and take your little creature home.

2155 County Road 2008, Glen Rose, 76043
MAP
254-897-2960
Best Place to Go for a Day Trip

You might think you're just not old enough to visit Granbury, Texas; that it's a place for bus tours and blue hairs and history buffs. But that's precisely the reason to visit: The trip is a trip, a Victorian town that is remarkably well-preserved and riddled with legend and myth and memory--from Jesse James and John Wilkes Booth to the ghost-haunted Opera House. There is a fully functioning drive-in movie house, boat tours on Lake Granbury, and the town, located 65 miles southwest of Dallas, is damn near close to an antique shopping mecca, with more than 50 stores at your disposal. But if quaint you ain't, then Dinosaur Valley State Park (best-preserved dinosaur tracks in Texas) and Eagle Flight Skydiving (lessons available) are within jumping-off distance.

Best Playground

If you are willing to get wet and spend a little money for the privilege, the best water playground in the Dallas area is in North Richland Hills. NRH20 has something for everyone, priding itself on a safety rating system that identifies which rides are appropriate for which age category. Low speed is for shallow-water attractions and shallow-water kids. High speed is for the more skillful swimmer, someone who can navigate the new Green Extreme, a seven-story-tall water slide with 1,161 feet of twists and turns. The thoroughly modern water park has one holdover from days gone by: an outdoor "dive in" movie on Friday nights throughout the summer, where kid flicks like Shrek and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone can be seen while floating in the wave pool or relaxing in a lounge chair on the beach. Well, a simulated beach anyway.

Best Place for a Kid's Party

You've done your Chuck E. Cheese's, your Fun Fest, your rain-soaked birthday party at the neighborhood park. And there's no way you are going to subject your own home to the kind of abuse 30 5-year-olds can cause after the giant Jaws bounce house you promised doesn't arrive on time. What you need is a seamless, low-maintenance, high-energy, modestly priced, kid-tested alternative to the mind-numbing childhood ritual known as the birthday party. You can find it at ASI Gymnastics, with its seven ground-level trampolines, its carpet-bonded tumble floors and its giant foam pit. Curb service for your store-bought cake and decorations, which can be any theme you bring in, from Sesame Street to Harry Potter. The first 60 minutes will be spent jumping and running and swinging and tumbling with coaches who are both cool and safety-conscious. The next 30 are spent in a private room with cake and pizza or whatever you decide to import. The best part is, ASI provides the cleanup. If they could only dispose of the 30 gifts that your child is dying to get his hands on and doesn't really need.

Best Swimming Pool

Some pools are just chlorine and water, a liquid playpen that, when combined with the intense summer sun, will cause the most exuberant of children to grow tired enough to take a nap. But then there are other pools that soak you in luxury, acting as therapy for the mind, a spa for the body. One of these is the pool at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Colinas: lagoon-shaped, waterfalls cascading, attractive attendants who not only serve you frozen drinks to relax your spirit, but also frozen face cloths and ice water to brace yourself against the hot Texas summer. Of course, it comes at a price: You have to stay at the hotel, but the Four Seasons offers weekend packages for those who need to get away from home without ever leaving it. Parents of young children understand this need. Parents of young children are willing to pay this price. Parents of young children can be found poolside at the Four Seasons Hotel, without their young children.

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Paul Evans: Vine Texas

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