BEST OF DALLAS® 2005

Older and Better
Pardon us if you've already noticed the irony, but the Dallas Observer celebrates its 25th anniversary with an issue that runs contrary to everything this newspaper has always been about. You hold in your hands our annual Best of Dallas issue in which we tell you where to shop, eat and generally buy stuff. It's our consumer guide, written with kid gloves slipped over our soft little hands. It's not that we don't mean this stuff--we investigate the Best Margarita category like there's a Pulitzer at the bottom of the glass--it's just that we have a harder time writing the nice stuff than the mean stuff. Just ask Jim Schutze, who had to be restrained from contributing an item titled Best Place to Get Your BMW if You're a City Councilman Under Investigation by the FBI. So, please, by all means, patronize our winners and our advertisers. And we swear those are actual photos, too.

Of course, around the office we like to say our Best of Dallas issue only comes out once a year, while our Worst of Dallas issues pile up the other 51 weeks. That's always been the Observer's function, though: telling you how this city works and why, more often than not, it doesn't work. It wasn't always this way, of course. There was a time when the Observer consisted of little more than dolled-up press releases, a page of calendar items and a softball feature story. A story about La Bare graced the very first issue, published October 2, 1980, as did an editor's note that promised to reveal "Who is J.R., really?" (Perhaps we have not come so far, after all.) There was a time when the Observer was merely something to be read between dinner and a night out, a skinny little diversion that just maybe told you about some hep little place to catch some upstart band or some bizarro indie flick in a foreign tongue. And Lord knows how many people used to pick up the damned thing just for the personal ads. This one, from 1985, still remains a personal favorite: "This very attractive, classy young female would like to meet a financially and emotionally secure gentleman with a sense of humor for an exclusive (weekly) liaison in exchange for generous financial aid with discretion assured." Very classy, indeed, milady. But even before Phoenix-based New Times Inc. bought the Observer in 1991, the paper began the gradual change from arts rag to news mag. Already in place were writers like Rob Walker, who would go on to The New York Times, and film critic Matt Zoller Seitz, who would become a Pulitzer Prize finalist while writing here. New Times saw the paper's potential and delivered, hiring such folks as Editor Peter Elkind (recently the co-author of the best-selling Enron book-turned-movie The Smartest Guys in the Room) and writers Ann Zimmerman (now at The Wall Street Journal) and Laura Miller, now the mayor of the city she used to bitch-slap like it owed her money. (We knew we were doing our job the first time Miller called to complain about something we'd written.) New Times' purchase came at a fortuitous time, just as The Dallas Morning News was buying up and shutting down the Dallas Times Herald. It would be left to this paper to barbecue the News' sacred cows. We hope you have enjoyed, and will continue to partake of, the buffet. The Observer has always asked of its staffers one thing: Dig for the truth till your fingernails are dirty. Whether investigating the criminal misdeeds of various city officials, who never seem to learn, or tasting the latest in local restaurant fare or singing the praises of previously unknown local musicians, such as Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians or the Dixie Chicks or Erykah Badu or Norah Jones, the Observer has been Dallas' go-to newspaper when readers need to know the whole story behind the quick headline. It has spawned some of the finest journalists in Texas and the country, without whom we would have been the Thrifty Nickel. To those who've cluttered a desk around these parts, we offer our thanks and good riddance. You must understand that with our deadlines, we have no time for nostalgia. With a crack, award-winning staff that aims to take on this city and this City Hall like a heavyweight champ, we believe the Observer's best days still lie ahead. Our anniversary card isn't printed on a tombstone. This isn't the end, just one more issue, after all, with thousands more to come. You can't say you weren't warned. --Robert Wilonsky

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