Best Of :: People & Places
Lofts in Plano? Strange but true. Eastside Village offers apartment living above street-level retail shops in the middle of "historic" downtown Plano. The nearby DART station makes zipping to work in downtown Dallas or Mockingbird Station for a movie at the Angelika a breeze. Residents can walk to nearby restaurants, bars, a small farmers market and antique stores, and the ArtCentre of Plano and two theaters are within strolling distance. The apartments range in size from efficiencies with 466 square feet, lofts with 700 square feet to two-bedrooms with 1,300 square feet finished in urban style, with high ceilings, hardwood floors and interior brick walls. Our favorite amenity isn't found in too many urban settings: a courtyard filled with hammocks. Still, the idea that you don't need a car to live in Plano is revolutionary.
Two words: Prince afterparty. Two more words: Snoop afterparty. Get the idea? When the baddest muthas come to Dallas, the real happening is at Erykah Badu's South Dallas club. A 1960s movie house that had fallen into disrepair, the Black Forest has been reimagined as a thriving cultural spot, with hand-painted murals, checkerboard floors, lush green walls, and good sound and lighting. This is all thanks to Ms. Badu, who uses the space as ground zero for a South Dallas revitalization project called Beautiful Love Incorporated Non Profit Development (or BLIND). Semi-regular entertainment comes from Mizz B herself, along with soul, R&B, hip-hop and rock acts from around the community. Notice that word: community. 'Cause even though Black Forest may host some of the biggest names in music, ain't no question whose home this really is. Prince may be on the marquee and Erykah Badu may be on the lease, but this place belongs to South Dallas.
It wasn't so long ago that Dallas blues had fallen on hard times. Once the signature sound of Deep Ellum, back when Blind Lemon Jefferson busked the streets and the blues poured out of every bar and brothel, by early 2004 the blues had all but disappeared from the downtown area. That changed with the February opening of Deep Ellum Blues. With a central location (painted all in blue) and an expansive seating area, the club can accommodate both intimate local shows and national touring acts. In its six months, Deep Ellum Blues has played host to such acts as George Thorogood, hometown hero Hash Brown and Austin heartthrob Guy Forsyth. But the club's real coup is owner Jim Suhler, longtime guitarist for Thorogood and nominee for Best Blues in the 2004 Dallas Observer Music Awards for Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat. He not only knows the blues; he plays them just as well.
Deep Ellum Blues
We smoke cigars about twice a year or so. The last time was during a fancy birthday dinner for a friend at Sambuca Uptown (which is actually between Uptown and downtown). We retired to the smoking room there, which is a glass-walled patio complete with all manner of plush seating options. It was the middle of summer, but the area was cool, the stars were bright, and the rich, hot blasting pleasure of sweet cancerous tobacco filled our lungs. Couple this with a glass of vino or a fine cocktail from Sambuca, pipe in some of the best jazz in town (you can see the stage clearly while you smoke it up), and you have a fine place in which to pump your lungs full of the good stuff.
OK, the rabid sheep turned out not to be rabid, all right? Buy a bag of feed pellets and cruise through Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, where you're so close to the animals they drool on you. Or stare menacingly into your car window, occasionally tapping it with a huge beak, like the ostriches and emus. Everybody loves Fossil Rim Wildlife Center--even our friend from Nigeria, who talked on his cell phone the whole time (we didn't even know you could get a signal out here) but admitted he'd never seen any of these animals in his own country. At Fossil Rim, just south of Glen Rose--90 minutes southwest of Dallas down Highway 67--you drive in your own car through 10 miles of habitats that simulate the African savannah and other wildlife-rich regions. Along the way, you see gazelles boinging in the fields; seemingly every species of deer known to man; zebras; giraffes; cheetahs; rare black rhinos and much more. If it doesn't seem too weird to dine on animal flesh, have a delicious Black Angus burger at the cafe halfway through the safari drive and get a penny squished in the gift shop. You won't be out too many bucks, and what you do spend helps support Fossil Rim's internationally recognized breeding and wildlife preservation efforts.
Dog park folk are a different breed. Parents who put down a bowl of cool water in a dog park don't expect their dog to be the only one privy to it. They may put it down in front of little Oliver, but they're happy for Skids, Blue and Gracie to partake. Moms and dads of canines who think enough of their pup to take her to the park are flat-out considerate, and at the White Rock Lake park, that consideration is evident as humans watch out for their own pals and everyone else's. We've seen at least seven humans bolt to help keep a dog from sneaking past the first of two gates. The dog park is a more intimate setting than regular parks where kids are on alert for strangers and parents generally cut the conversation with "Hi, is this your sippy cup?" Www.dallasdogparks.org actually has a pet bio section where owners can look up other dogs they meet and find out when they usually go, you know, so Fido can play with his buddy again. Though, it's nice if it helps the parents make human friends, too.