Sitting on Thai Soon's patio, it's hard to believe that the traffic on Greenville is just a few feet away. It's really quiet. Well, it's more quiet than you'd expect when you're close enough to read the odometers on slow-moving cars. A lattice covered in vines and plants surrounds the patio, shading it from the sun. Flowers and other stretching plants are nestled into the walls with birds occasionally dropping by to snatch up rice and egg-roll crumbs. The stone benches and tables stay cool in the afternoon, but the curry, rice, and noodle dishes are served hot and fresh.

When we arrived in town two decades ago, way back when Reunion had rowdies and there were more Von Erichs alive than dead, a lifelong resident told us that the only naturally beautiful thing in Dallas was White Rock Lake. We had two reactions to this statement: 1. Does this mean that Bambi Woods--who played the lead cheerleader in Debbie Does Dallas--really doesn't live here? and 2. You've gotta be kidding. Now we realize he was correct. There are topographically beautiful areas of town (Oak Cliff), impressive sights to see (uh, give us a minute...) and all that, but if you want to have a true at-one-with-nature experience, you must circle White Rock Lake. Preferably in jogging shorts, not in a car. Go at sunrise--sunset is a cluster-run of joggers and bikers--and talk to your inner child amid the dew, the view, and the hotties running next to you.

Big hats, big belt buckles, big hair, and boots galore. A whole lot of dancing goes on at this multilevel home of progressive country music (hint: nonalcoholic beer is available, and none of it is flavored with Merle or Loretta's tears). Although the bar stays busy, the main order of business is to boot and scoot, then dance some more, right up until 45 minutes before closing time, when the music switches to C&W's oldies but goodies. Headline-name bands take the stage regularly. Wednesday is Ladies Night, and there are dance lessons on Sundays. This place is Yuppie cowboy and cowgirl heaven.

AMF Richardson Lanes
There's nothing wrong with some of the bigger alleys, like Don Carter's West or Showplace Lanes in Garland, but we think AMF Richardson offers the best of both worlds. We grew up next-door to a small bowling alley in Okie-homa, and we like an alley to be fewer than 50 lanes, which AMF is. But we also like some of the updates the place has made to its lanes, its gameroom, the billiards area, and so on. For the kids, it offers Xtreme bowling on weekends (music, disco ball, etc.) and plain ol' pitchers of beer, smoke, and big shiny balls during the week. Now, if we could just break 150...

You've got to hand it to the frat-boy entrepreneurs behind the bar that, for a few months at least, occupied the space that once housed the Orbit Room. Rarely, if ever, has a drinking establishment cut so quickly to the chase. With such a can't-miss name, we can't believe Beer Goggles, you know, missed. They should have just named it Roofies or Date Rapists. We're sure they considered it.

This little bar tucked away in a strip mall is a real charmer. Its atmosphere is more like a dim, elegant, quietly chatty bar in New York than anything else you'd find in Dallas, and we mean that in a nice way. Owners Bradley Johnson and Andy Krumm opened this establishment on April 7 of this year, and already it's become one of the favorite watering holes of the Oak Lawn set. Serious money was spent on the interiors, furniture, and, most especially, the lighting (which makes everyone look no older than 30!). It has a valet parking service to make parking a little easier for its patrons. But the real reason that people keep coming back is the fantastic music they play seven nights a week till 2 a.m. The singers (including veteran favorites Linda Petty and Sandra Kaye) and musicians playing in this tiny bar keep the atmosphere lively but intimate.

We don't know about you, but we're tired of seeing groups of women stagger out of bars with the girl in the center wearing a sweater full of condoms. Isn't there a more tasteful way to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of a friend than making her feel like a hooker? The groom gets his fill of those at his party. Fortunately, there are alternatives for observing this happy event. The S&S Tea Room in Inwood Village is a nice restaurant serving breakfast and dinner. It also makes a lovely location for women to get together and celebrate the upcoming joy of their soon-to-be-married friend. Save the cheap Greenville Avenue bars for after the divorce.

It's one of those signs you think you've misread, but no, it really says Topless Motors. Then you think, "How clever, they must specialize in convertibles." No, they pretty much just sell junky old cars at rock-bottom prices. This is just 100 percent pure Madison Avenue-style marketing at its low-rent best: got you, caught you and reeled you in like a dancer at the Million Dollar Saloon.

It takes a while to get out to Van Zandt County, located about 50 miles east of Dallas, but it's no wonder you find so many people who have or want a country place there. Parts of it roll like the prairies and are filled with just enough pines and oaks to provide scenery and greenery. The locals say the southern part of the county is the prettiest. So next time you head out to Canton in search of a wagon-wheel table (or whatever) at First Monday Trade Days, head south of town for a taste of Texas countryside.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Just 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth off Interstate 20, Fossil Rim offers the opportunity to drive through and visit with hundreds of rare and endangered animals from around the world that roam free on 1,500 acres of unspoiled countryside. It's open rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until two hours before sunset every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. After you see all the wildlife in a habitat that mirrors its African terrain and climate, you can make a 20-minute drive over to Dinosaur Valley Park in Glen Rose and see where animals from another time left their footprints in the bed of the Paluxy River. Or:

OK, so controversy over the government actions against the Branch Davidians is fading from the mainstream. Reports clearing the feds of the most egregious accusations have surfaced, and civil trials have fizzled like wet fireworks. The fact remains, the siege of Mt. Carmel was a definitive moment in U.S. history, a debate flash point over freedom of religion and the responsibilities and limits of government. The place is beautiful and eerie, and the characters who flock there are intriguing and relevant. There is something pure about going to a place that has no signposts off the highway, no official markers or souvenir shop. It's simply the Place where Something Happened, undistilled and unvarnished. The real pain in the ass is knowing how to get there. Here are directions: Take Interstate 35 to North Loop 340 and turn eastward. Continue to FM 2491 and turn left onto it. Follow it to Double E Ranch Road. Turn left onto Double E Ranch Road. Follow it approximately 1/4 mile to the entrance of Mt. Carmel on the right. You'll see a rebuilt church and a small building where David Koresh's mother sometimes lurks.

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