The West End gets a bad rap. People say its a bland, white-bread corner of downtown Dallas that offers clueless tourists and timid suburbanites the high parking fees of a real downtown but little else that one could classify as urban. And thats just not fair. That characterization completely ignores that the West End has a very nice aquarium. Oh, and, once a year, it plays host to a pretty sweet festival. If you havent been to the previous 16 editions of the three-day event known as Taste of Dallas, you should make it a point to do this year. Running July 18 to 20, the TOD offers Big Ds biggest free outdoor festival, even if you consider the disorganized drunken fun of St. Patricks Day on Greenville Avenue as a festival. (Whassup, Avi!?) TOD brings together nearly 300 thousand folks who bring their kids, aunts, uncles, estranged lovers, and now-law-abiding partners to sample food from more than 100 restaurants and specialty shops. The music line-up for TOD deserves plaudits as well. Yes, there will be the usual assortment of half-complete or washed-up bands, but any outdoor gathering featuring Charlie Robison (7 p.m. Sunday, Miller Lite Main Stage) whups ace in our book. Also, the bitchin stylings of local acts Doosu and Eleven Hundred Springs will be on hand, so try to catch their tunes, too. Oh, and a shout out to Pulling Wool, because we can. Admission is free; TOD runs 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Food costs money, but not much. Call 214-741-7185 for more info, or visit www.tasteofdallas.org. --Eric Celeste
A Lotta Latin Lovin'
You want hot, spicy and jumping? Downtown Fort Worth's got it this weekend when the city hosts the fourth annual Gran Fiesta de Fort Worth, a three-day celebration of the influence of Hispanic and Latin American cultures on the Southwest. Many, many bands will play, including Gary Hobbs, La Sonora Dinamite, Havana NRG and others. The festival also features Mexican, Caribbean and Southwest fare and beer and wine. Low lawn chairs and blankets are permitted. The festival will be open 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Call festival producers at 214-855-1881 or 817-488-2336 for more information or visit their Web site at meifestivals.com. Admission and parking are free. --Charles Siderius
She's Got Legs
Hello, ladies. Listen, think you have great legs? How about coming over to the Landmark parking lot Saturday and proving it? Does $500 sweeten the deal? OK, it's not nearly as shady as it sounds, since Gillette is sponsoring the Legs of a Goddess competition to promote a new razor and Taste of Dallas in the West End is the next stop. The lady with the most humpable appendages will then compete nationally for more fame and fortune, which is great, but we suggest boycotting the whole thing if ZZ Top is actually used as the contest theme. The Landmark parking lot is between Ross and Lamar streets. Registration is at 1 p.m., and the contest is at 2 p.m. --Matt Hursh
The first lesson: A tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. Now, with that understanding, the folks at Central Market's Fort Worth Cooking School, 4651 West Freeway, Interstate 30 at Hulen Street, are now ready to proceed with their free Tomato Workshops, July 18 through July 20. On Friday, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., you can learn all you need to know about canning, freezing and drying. Then from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. hear a mouth-watering discussion of Tomatoes Around the World. Saturday, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., you can learn 101 uses for tomatoes. Sunday, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., the focus will be on salsas, sauces and soups and the history of the famed Texas tomatoes (4 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Call 817-377-9005. --Carlton Stowers
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