Best Place to Get a Blue Ribbon 2003 | Double Wide | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Matt Nager
When a friend told us his band was playing at a new place called the Double Wide (yes, as in trailer) and he began to describe it, his voice trailed off and our imagination took over. We pictured him sitting behind his drum kit, dodging beer bottles as the trailer-park regulars battled over their trucks, their old ladies and who's gonna buy the next round of Pabst Blue Ribbon. We were shaken back to reality when we heard our friend say, "So, are you comin'?" To which we promptly replied, "Hell, yeah!" We realized later the white-trash factor was only a façade, a means of decoration. The macramé wall hangings and velvet artwork were just for looks, and the Franzia box wine in the cooler was meant in fun. But even though the clientele didn't provide the people-watching we hoped for, the Double Wide gets a thumbs up. Where else can you and your buddies sit on plastic-clad furniture, knock back cans of Pabst and Lone Star and put out your smokes in sandbag ashtrays? Well, besides home, we mean.

Nikita Khrushchev once proclaimed the martini "America's lethal weapon." And nowhere in Dallas is this weapon as expertly cocked as it is at the Quarter. They're crystalline, cold and luminous, chilling the tip of the lip just before pricking the back of the throat with heat. Pickling an olive or balancing a twist, splashed clean or murked with pollution, these martinis twist thoughts, curl speech and banish those shabby worries.

We'd recommend Presby if only for the cafeteria in the Margot Perot Center for women and infants--best gyros, like, ever. But, hey, the dining experience isn't exactly what you're worried about 31 hours into labor; it's more like, "When's this sucker coming out?" and, "Hey, doc, tell me you didn't just say 'C-section.'" We worried at first upon checking in and getting shuffled off to the old emergency-room-turned-storage-closet, but things were all uphill from there: We wound up in a lovely room, complete with CD player and VCR (needed something to do for 31 hours besides 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 push) and a shower and rocking chair for those moments when mommy-to-be needed to, ya know, chill. Marathon labor aside, the experience couldn't have been better: The obstetrician was cautious and cheerful (s'up, Dr. Woodbridge), the nurses were attentive and delightful and the facilities were as accommodating as a mother's womb. Just as good were the pre- and post-birthing classes for, among other things, baby care and breast-feeding; we thought we knew everything going in, then realized we knew nothing till checkout. And, damn, those gyros are awesome.

Best you can hope for if you're a blues fan: a not-too-hot summer night on Hole in the Wall's patio, with a burger in hand and local legend Brian "Hash Brown" Calway onstage. Just about every other visit to Hole in the Wall (and that's truth in advertising) should scratch your itch--if you can make it inside, at least. This teeny-tiny joint is king of the ever-shrinking hill, and not just because of the unfortunate dearth of blues clubs in Dallas; there could be dozens more and this would still be our pick. If you've forgotten about Blind Lemon Jefferson or Stevie Ray Vaughan or T-Bone Walker, Hole in the Wall is here to remind you.
If you can't take your bong with you to concerts but need a quick way to unwind after having your eardrums perforated by a loud local band, you, my friend, had best go to the Velvet Hookah. This richly decorated Deep Ellum pit stop features a full bar, light Mediterranean meals (think hummus, olives, fruit) and, of course, hookahs in a plethora of flavors, from rose to licorice to orange Dreamsicle. Light it up, take a puff, that's gooood.
Fear Factor? No, thanks! We'll take our life-affirming adventures in the safety of a dark movie theater or in a fake, Disneyland-style environment. Even Dallas' risk-averse will get off on the re-created Orinoco River basin rain forest at the Dallas World Aquarium. Just inside the door, a walkway spirals down through the South American jungle facsimile, where you quickly get used to the warm humidity. Enveloped in sights and smells, you'll see and hear birds overhead, spiral down through exotic plants, fish and turtles, and nary a poisonous snake or malaria-carrying mosquito will cross your path. The rain forest ends where the aquarium begins, and we recommend that, too. The DWA isn't a huge facility, but that's appealing; animals are well cared for, and the place is virtually stench-free. On top of all that, you can step outside and drink too much, eat too much and spend too much money at the touristy West End. Perfect Sunday afternoon.

Is there really any doubt? Since 1992, The Ginger Man pub has been introducing Dallas drinkers to the best array of barley and hops in town. The Dallas location (there are two others in Texas) has more than 60 brews on draft (including Moretti, for you Italians) and about a hundred bottled brands (try Fuller's London Porter if it's stocked; good cold, even better as it approaches room temperature). If the scene is too fratish downstairs, try the quieter sitting area and balcony upstairs, one of our favorite retreats from the real world even as you taste the best the globe has to offer.
This answer to the West Village club Nikita was bumpin' the night we were there. The packed house and good service were nice to see at Mockingbird Station, but what we were most pleased with was the cocktail selection. Great specialty martinis seemed to be their, um, specialty. We particularly liked the apple-pear martini, for its slices of fruit and attention to subtlety. As a bonus, they didn't flinch when we ordered a Campari and soda--most bartenders stare back at you and look confused when you ask for this Italian staple. Now, they just need to arrange the drinks on the menu by type, instead of alphabetically, and we'll call it cocktail heaven.

This popular picnic spot is a great place for kids--even better than the zillionth viewing of Jungle Book 2. The plaza provides a sweeping view of airport operations, with takeoffs and landings close enough to smell the burning rubber. The big jets sometimes taxi and stop right in front of the plaza, where kids can wave at the pilots--and they usually wave back. A sound system at the back section of the plaza relays conversations between airplane crews and air traffic controllers. Pretty thrilling stuff for a kid. And free, too.

It's not exactly Halloween. It's more of a cross between American Halloween and Mexican Day of the Dead, a sort of strange, wonderful, sometimes nettlesome, mainly joyous commingling of immigrant culture from surrounding East Dallas neighborhoods with the grand home traditions of Swiss Avenue. Tens of thousands of kids are brought here in the backs of pickup trucks, in vans and on motorcycles to make the pilgrimage of the candy-seekers up and down Swiss on Halloween night. Most of the Swiss people are cool: They put on a show and hand out bales of candy. Some new residents don't get it and hire security guards. A quintessential Dallas scene you won't see anywhere else.

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