Best place to buy chic furnishings on a not-so-chic budget (tie)

Crate & Barrel Outlet and Target

At one time it was respectable to furnish an apartment piece-by-piece as the budget allowed. Now there's no need to be so patient. There are credit cards and discount stores with items sexier than their price tags. Unlike many outlet stores, Crate & Barrel doesn't have stock that recalls the stragglers left at the bar at last call. It has the odd-colored painted ceramics and bed skirts sans matching sheets, but those aren't the norm. Most shelves hold desirable items at bargain-basement prices. Besides the expected glassware, bar accessories, and dining supplies, the Crate & Barrel Outlet also has furniture for the whole house, linens for each room, and a plethora of magazine racks (does no one read anymore?).

Target, the most progressive of discount stores, has increased its toniness with several new lines of furniture, kitchenware, fancy dining room chairs (some with tony prices still intact), and the Michael Graves collection. The designer offers up slate-blue plastic, brushed aluminum, and honey-colored wood products with lines so sleek and graceful that even the pot scrubbers are a work of art. Target's also amassing enough high-quality drawer pulls and bathroom fixtures to make Restoration Hardware proud in a sensei-to-student sort of way.

You've got to hand it to Borders. Their deep catalog cannot be beaten; to do better you have to go to Amazon.com, and do you really want to wait a week for a book you want to start reading tonight? Besides Borders also has nice little coffee shops and excellent magazine sections that highlight more than biker and weightlifting titles. They bring in local and regional voices for book readings. As a company, they also have a sorry history of union busting (well-educated clerks who read Marx are responsible), but our political sensibilities are usually soothed by the overall Borders shopping experience.

The plucky Wheeler family has chosen to go up against the Holy Trinity of Dallas' liquor stores-- Sigel's, Red Coleman, and Centennial--in the battle for your booze bucks, and they're doing a nifty job of it with little amenities such as easy chairs and handy reference books in an airy, spacious, light-filled store. Plus, they have nice little tastings on Saturday evenings.

Best place to buy salvaged parts for your home

Alexander's Salvage

When your budget is shy of enough zeros to call a contractor, check out the salvaged parts, and the few architectural gems, strewn about this junkyard: sinks and counters from the '80s in good-enough shape, lots of wrought-iron fencing, and the odd door and bathtub. Prices are reasonable.

This is not the biggest liquor store in Dallas, and it by no means has the best selection, but the bottom line is, you usually want to get in and out of a liquor store as quickly as possible for fear that someone you know might see you buying bottles of Boone's Farm. At the Centennial Liquor Store by The Village apartments, a favorite stop for hotties, you'll want to hang out and get some face time. Trust.

Best place to buy ribbons, trim, and other stuff to make a hat

Milliners Supply Co.

You can bet that the fiercest Easter bonnets began life here. The ground floor feels like the attic of an ancient, slightly haunted, dusty, dark Victorian house that's crammed to the ceiling with miles of fabric, tiny drawers full of trim, spangles, beads, and a flurry of feathers. Grab a ready-made hat form and let the Carmen Miranda in you come out.

Best place to get your tennis racket strung

Star Tennis

With a hot match at five in the afternoon you learn at three that the old racket badly needs to be re-strung. Not a problem at Dallas' newest racket sports specialty store. In addition to top-of-the-line equipment and accessories, an on-staff master racket technician--for you weekend players that means he's USRSA-qualified, has strung more than 6,000 frames, and knows how to operate something called the Babolat Star 4 stringing machine. While you're waiting, check out the nutritional supplements center or test-drive a few rackets.

It's still a free country, in theory, and your right to own a firearm is still protected. In Texas, it's a cherished right. To exercise this right in Dallas, take a drive to First Call Firearms, where Jerry Carroll will buy, sell, or trade guns with amiability and institutional knowledge. In Texas, gun rights include being licensed to carry a concealed weapon, and First Call offers four-day-long licensing classes ($110) that include lunch at El Chico. The best deals can still be found at gun shows, but for that personal touch and friendly training, First Call is the first choice.

You can always recognize the married couples that don't have kids: They go to dinner and talk all night about their dogs and/or cats as though they're children. They take their animals to things like Dog Day Afternoon at Reverchon Park; they enroll their dog in the Dallas Dog and Disc club, taking great pride in their puppy's second-place finish in the competition (and she's never even practiced!). We know, because that's us. See, we'd like to have kids, but they're just so demanding. Hey, if we gotta clean up the crap and spend all that money at the vet, at least we don't have to worry about Lily going on a first date or Groucho wrecking the car. (See how proud we are of our animals--we got their names in print.) Animals won't turn on you like children; their idea of revolt is chewing on a shoe, and big freakin' deal. But our Lily doesn't even do that, not since we took our 2-year-old Lab (when she was but a little puppy) to Nathan and Greg Shows at Best Behavior. After a mere three-week stay with this father-and-son team, our little Lily was sitting, staying, and heeling with the best of 'em; we were proud parents indeed. The Shows will not only train your animal, but they will offer refresher courses as well: Mom and/or Dad are expected to show up for class, since owning an animal is a family affair. The Shows boys will even board and train your dog when you're out of town, and they guarantee their work--but only if you do yours. If you don't, it's your loss. Maybe you don't like your shoes. Or your couch. Or your carpet...

Premiere Video
Finding a movie for a slow evening at home is an art, not a science. Oftentimes you don't know exactly what you want, and it's better to just roll the dice with a blind rental--or not-so-blind. The staffers at Premiere Video know their stuff and are eager to let customers tap into their institutional knowledge to guide them to a film. Know your genre and give them examples of other movies that flicked your Bic and they'll produce a winner. Most video stores in town are light on strange-o flicks and camp, but Premiere seems to revel in the arcane. If you want to see a new release, head to a big chain. If you want a more unusual movie experience, try Premiere Video.

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