Best Place to Go If You've Got the Sewing Bug

The Fabric Affair

It's one of those dying arts that's now making a strong comeback. Women are getting back into the kind of sewing that Grandma did, says owner Judy Mack. Not only is she an authorized Pfaff dealer, but she offers a variety of fabrics, supplies, notions, books, patterns and--perhaps most important--instruction classes. Instructors will teach you everything from beginning quilting to installing zippers without tears, tatting and digitizing. There are even classes for the kids and teen-agers. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Not only does Nice-born co-owner Yasmine Bohsali serve up the best baguettes and chocolate croissants this side of the Mediterranean, but his shop has become a social gathering spot for French transplants and Americans who speak the language. "Many of our French customers," Bohsali says, "tell us our place reminds them of home because we're authentic." L'Alliance Française, the local chapter of French expatriates, had them cater the group's recent Bastille Day celebration. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Frequently a readers' pick as the best music store in Dallas, what this chain does best is provide good prices on most of its offerings--and it provides huge offerings. Even somewhat obscure artists from the era when Tower Records carried actual records can be found (on digitally remastered CDs, of course). The store also has tapes, DVDs, posters, magazines and other stuff to keep you occupied for hours. When record-company execs start bitching that online and digital music will destroy their industry, just head to Tower on a Saturday and see people go through the beautiful ritual of touching, reading and purchasing music. Well, it's beautiful to the people who own the store, at least.

CD World must have a stack of these awards by now. But we'll gladly hand it over to someone new...just as soon as we can walk out of the store empty-handed or without at least three new stamps on our frequent shopper card. It's the place to go for cheap prices on all the new, popular stuff (The Vines, The Hives, anyone else worshiped by MTV and the staff of Rolling Stone) and for the no-one-likes-it-but-me records. It's also the only reliable source for used local music, with an inventory that includes entire catalogs by bands such as Bedhead, Baboon and Slobberbone, plus the new releases by bands such as The Deathray Davies and Macavity. The new and used CDs are even shelved together, allowing you to comparison shop as you comb the racks.

That learning can be fun is a good idea in theory, but it doesn't hold up when juxtaposed against a compulsory public school education. And there is something about the concept of an educational toy that seems less playful than a toy ought to be. But Learning Express does its best to dispel these notions, offering a wide array of toys that promote knowledge and still offer kids a rollicking good time. Whether it's the Math Shark or the Geosafari Laptop or a Wrist Rox Bracelet Kit, there is something for every age, gender and interest at Learning Express. Friendly, knowledgeable service cuts against its chain-store origins and that overwhelming feeling you get from a Toys R Us. If you are late for a birthday party and need something fast, not only can you find it here, but Learning Express will gift wrap it as well. That's why the place is a boon to those of us who are poorly organized and might not have been, if we would have only played with more educational toys in the first place.

While the rest of the world seems to love soccer almost to the point of obsession, we doubt that many people in Dallas would be able to identify the name Pelé or tell you when to catch the next World Cup. (And if we valued our status as Texans, we wouldn't dare say that we stayed up till wee hours to watch World Cup games but fell asleep during the Super Bowl.) So, for all you soccer subversives out there, Soccer Corner is a "football" mecca. They have all sorts of equipment for actual players--balls, clothing, protective gear--plus T-shirts and hats for those of us who couldn't make a goal if our life depended on it. If nothing else, being a soccer fan will add a little European flair to your life--especially if you buy the "Soccer Players Do It For 90 Minutes" bumper sticker.

Veggie Garden

Even the chain grocery stores are stocking Boca burgers, Gardenburgers and other fake meat now. But those who want the good stuff--the filet mignon and caviar of the vegetarian world, if you will--can find the largest selection at the Veggie Garden restaurant stacked in freezer cases at the back of the dining room by the buffet. There's Tuno (the fake tuna that tastes like the real deal when mixed with Veganaise, the fake mayo, for Tuno salad sandwiches) and little chicken wings made from soy, with small wooden rods serving as bones. Trust us; they taste much better than they sound. These same fake meats are used in Veggie Garden's all-vegan buffet and menu dishes. Its sister restaurant, Suma's Veggie Cafe, has a small grocery section in its dining room as well.

Of the five Dallas locations and three in Denton County, this Lower Greenville store is the flagship, offering the entire gamut of the hard stuff as well as 1,500 brands of wine, ranging from the best produced by Texas wineries to imports from all over the world. If it's beer you're stopping in for, reserve some time to look over the 100 or more brands, ranging from domestic to imported to microbrew labels. Bottom line is that wine is the specialty of the house, proven by the fact that Goody purchasing director Dick Rick Jr. annually travels throughout Europe, South America and Australia to buy the best of the best.

This category is about quantity. Of the rows of chocolate Super Target sells, which include your standard Halloween-sized bags of Almond Joys, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers bars and the like, there is one deal that will make your eyes pop out: Super Target, the bigger and more upscale version of regular Target, sells a Toblerone bar the size of a fire log for next to nothing. We're talking 14.1 ounces of pure Swiss-made, almond nougat chocolate ecstasy for $4.99. If the triangular-shaped treat isn't your taste, 3.05-ounce Lindt bars can be found for $1.79, and bigger still Cadbury bars, weighing in at a belt-busting 4.05 ounces, go for just $1.29.

Remember the scene in Mallrats where Brodie and T.S. head to the "dirt mall" for a little spiritual cleansing and wind up having their fortunes told by a three-nippled Priscilla Barnes? Well, this place is a little like that; we've never actually visited this flea market's fortunetellers, and there are several, but we're taking it on faith one's gotta have something special up her, ahem, sleeve. If not, there's still plenty o' plenty to keep you occupied from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday--when this joint is open, which means it must be special--from rows of "retailers" peddling "leather" apparel to the dude selling samurai swords (fun for the kids!) to the furniture outlet loaded with stuff we might actually buy, were this 1994. Our fave destination here is the guitar shop--prices so reasonable we bought a National steel and don't know how to play it--but we're also fond of just spending a day without spending a dollar, though the booth selling retro bumper stickers for stoners did get us to cough up a quarter. The dust here got us to cough up a lung.

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