As one local musician put it, "You get the best show in town, and it only costs you five bucks in the collection plate." You won't find any of these players with more profitable gigs (though, one could make the argument, what pays better than being in the Lord's house band?), since they play all day Sunday, and choir practice is every Thursday night. Word of warning: If you're less spiritually inclined, services at many of these churches can run up to four hours. Develop a bulletproof fake cough and park close to the door.

Now almost 20 years old, the Asian gardens sprang up spontaneously in the early '80s on scuzzy vacant lots in East Dallas at a time when the federal government was dumping tens of thousands of bewildered Southeast Asian refugees into Dallas slums. The gardens were a place of refuge and peace for people who had seen too much war and chaos. Now the refugees are no longer bewildered; most have moved north into the suburbs and are very upwardly mobile. But they still come back and maintain the gardens as a kind of informal shrine to their arrival in a tough new world. Visitors are always welcome, and hours are informal, mainly from early morning to late afternoon. A little piece of a far-away world.

Best Place to See a Man in Leather Hot Pants Enjoying a Down-Home Dinner

Good Eats

Good Eats

We're not sure about the other Good Eats locations in the area, but if you want a side of people-watching with your chicken-fried steak, look no further than this Oak Lawn staple, where the clientele is always gaily attired. (Simmer down: We meant cheerfully.) If you want the real deal, opt for the smoking section near the bar. That's where we were when a young gentleman clad in a skin-tight T (helpfully inscribed "Daddy"), black leather short-shorts and matching captain's hat sat at the booth opposite us, effectively distracting us from the entirety of our meal. So maybe you should eat at home first.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum

So you've had an argument with your significant other. For example: It's the anniversary of the first time she ever called you her "little sugar pants" or whatever, and she wanted to have a nice candlelight dinner to mark the occasion. You, on the other hand, came home drunker than an American Eagle pilot about three hours after she put the food in the fridge and cried herself to sleep. You're in a fix, my friend. So pack a picnic basket and head to the Arboretum's lushly landscaped setup on White Rock Lake, and don't forget to bring an extra helping of Jesus-Christ-I-can't-believe-I'm-such-a-moron-and-you-probably-never-should've-married-me-but-I'll-try-to-be-better. All will be forgotten. Probably never forgiven, but that's the best we can do.

Medieval Times

You've already got the dodgy ponytail and questionable facial hair required for enlistment in Medieval Times' Renaissance army, and Mars Music isn't hiring. And you need the extra scratch to move out of Mom's basement. Bonus: You get to call the ladies "wenches." Or, you could always work the merch booth for ASKA. Your call.

Blue Mesa Grill

You know, there's really no such thing as a bad happy hour. Any working stiff who knows the agony of counting down the seconds till that 5 o'clock whistle blows can tell you that. A drink special's a drink special, right? But some happy hours are better than others, and one is the best. Happy hour at Blue Mesa Grill in the Lincoln Park Shopping Center goes above and beyond the typical happy-hour offerings. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, bar patrons can partake of complimentary quesadillas as well as chips and salsa. And besides the usual tortilla chips many restaurants offer, Blue Mesa's signature sweet potato chips are also available--and with two kinds of salsa, too. But don't forget the drink specials. After working up a thirst at the quesadilla bar, mosey on over to that other bar and take advantage of reduced prices on bottled beer and margaritas from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Blue Mesa's house margarita is a tasty blue concoction that could wash away any workplace blues.

The Cockpit
Oh, what's that you say? Dude, it's a pilots' hangout? What up? That's like naming a bar that caters to road construction crews The Manhole.

Clarification: The Cockpit is not a gay bar. We repeat: The Cockpit, a neighborhood bar on Marsh Lane, is not a gay bar. Our writer was cracking a joke about The Cockpit's name when he selected it as critic's choice for Best Gay Bar in the September 26 Best of Dallas issue. Apparently, not everyone got the joke. We apologize to all--employees, proprietors, and patrons--for any unpleasant consequences we may have caused.

We could have picked some country road where the traffic is slow and the scenery is beautiful. But this is Dallas and, well, call us sentimental, but nothing warms our hearts like progress. We had this same feeling when Central Expressway was under construction, and we have it again, watching the new merger of Central and LBJ crawl out of the starting blocks, trotting toward a finish line that will undoubtedly get farther away as the years go by. (Check www.dallashighfive.org for updates.) We longingly gaze at the concrete columns (because that's pretty much all you can do around there, given the stop-and-stop traffic situation), dreaming of the day when it's complete.

Best Short Road Trip to a Small Town that Isn't Really Anymore

McKinney

When we were a kid, last month, used to be a drive up Central Expressway to McKinney lasted a week; 75 was one lane north and south, and it wasn't so long ago. Now it takes 20 minutes, without much traffic, to head up to this Collin County town that's growing every day without losing much of its charm. In fact, it still looks like it did when Joe Camp shot his first Benji up there--giant old homes with rustic front porches, a town square anchored by an old courthouse. That it's slowly been populated by big-city folk in search of small-town charm hasn't harmed McKinney; they came not to speed up the city but to slow themselves down. So they opened quaint restaurants (from cheap diners to gourmet eateries), charming antique stores, homey clothing boutiques, inviting used bookstores and beckoning bed-and-breakfasts. It's a place Doc Hollywood would love, a town where it's Groundhog Day every day, and in the fall and winter we can be found here celebrating "A Dickens Christmas" (the weekend after Thanksgiving, locals dress up in Victorian garb to welcome visitors in the holiday spirit) or drinking hot cocoa in the old county jail that's now a hot dining destination. We hate gentrification as much as the next guy who can't afford it, but at least the yuppies live on the other side of Central, in El Dorado--ya know, where the Starbucks went in.

The space that once held Baby Routh now houses two sister restaurants, Arcodoro and Pomodoro, joined at the hip to form a faux Sardinian village. The patio is especially appealing in good weather and provides a kind of village square where the young cool people, usually from the Arcodoro side, may mingle with old rich people, who tend to hang on the tighter, tonier Pomodoro side. It's just one big Euro-bar community, brought together by great Italian food and credit cards.

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