Best Bet to (Shockingly) Still be in Business by Next Year's Best of Dallas Issue

Blue

A ton of money went into this gi-normous downtown nightspot, and you can definitely tell. Huge dance floor, great sound system, a beautiful stage backed by the biggest LED screen not in use on a U2 world tour--and that's just for a start. No expense was spared, which is the main reason we wagered that Blue would be boarded up in six months, 12 tops. But hey, word is they're bringing in record crowds. Way to go, guys, even though we're most likely out 20 bucks.

Instead of a party, our young son asked to visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Center on his birthday for the second year in a row. He never tires of tooling along the 10-mile safari course, poking his head out the car window and tossing handfuls of kibbles to zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, aoudads and the many other varieties of exotic animals in the savannah-like environs. You'll view some 50 species, from giraffes (keep that moon roof shut, unless you want a visit from a giant, slimy black giraffe tongue) to the gorgeous fallow deer, which look like creatures from a children's fantasy book. Halfway through is a large, well-stocked gift shop, a petting zoo and a restaurant on a cliff that serves outstanding hamburgers as well as gourmet salads and sandwiches. Your children will appreciate that the animals are healthy, happy and free to roam, yet numerous enough (1,000-plus critters) to see up close. At the end of the safari course, cheetahs and black rhinoceroses are on display in spacious pens. Guided tours are also available. For most Dallas-area residents, it's a trip of about 90 minutes to Fossil Rim, which is southwest on state Highway 67 near Glen Rose. Count on spending some three hours at the park if you stop for a snack.
A trip to the emergency room is never fun. But for a germophobe, it's an utter nightmare. A cursory glance of the waiting area can evoke sweaty palms, heart palpitations and the unyielding urge to flee. But, unfortunately, sometimes you gotta do it; and if the need arises, Baylor's medical facility is as good a place as any. So whether you're the patient or merely the moral support, here are a few suggestions for the germ-fearing among us: 1) Though it will be tempting, DO NOT choose a seat near the exit door, because, you see, it's also within earshot of the patient interview area. And the first time you hear the phrase, "So, you have open sores..." don't be surprised if you feel your throat begin to close and your breathing become labored. 2) Don't even think about the Bath & Body Works anti-bacterial hand gel you have in your purse. It ain't gonna cut it. Just ease your mind by imagining the Silkwood-style shower you'll take when you get home. 3) Finally, and this may be the most important, DO NOT engage in conversation with any fellow waiting-roomer. You'll just have to trust us on this one.

Sometimes the simple pleasures stand out. While other establishments spread multicolored chips or unidentifiable puffed snacks along the bar, the folks at Nana set bowls of cashews out for bar guests. That's it. Cashews--unadorned but for a dusting of salt and all you care to grab before the bartenders realize what you're up to. Other places serve all kinds of free goodies for happy hour, but none match the simplicity and the quality. These things are just damn good: very fresh and consistent. Anywhere else, a plastic bag of stale cashews will run you...well, we're not sure what they cost. We're hooked on the free stuff. A bowl of nuts, a drink and a view of traffic stalled along Stemmons Freeway make the Nana bar a perfect happy-hour stop.

Best Place to Act Wealthy and Hook Up With a Gold Digger

Dragonfly

This is what Dallas is all about: pretense and similitude. Big words, we know, reflecting a city that likes to show off but not stand apart. In other words, the right car or the firmest implants help us fit in with the crowd. Wear the proper clothes (check the fashion mags) and mimic group behavior; that's all the preparation necessary for an evening of debauchery at Dragonfly. It's a cool space with a pool outside and a bar scene indoors. Pretty people bump elbows throughout. And everyone glances as fresh meat enters the scene. Yep, we're saying it's a pickup bar, and female patrons match the men in aggressiveness. But success here depends on the self-assured manner and hip style that only wads of cash or an overextended credit card can purchase. So send only the bare minimum to Visa, shop the first level at the Galleria and then stroll into Dragonfly as if you own the place. Well, at least as if you own a car.

While to the untrained eye all ice rinks may seem the same, please understand that this is most definitely not the case. Not all rinks are created equal, and the Duncanville StarCenter shows that. It's true that the competition isn't steep, but Duncanville manages to distinguish itself from the meager pack in a few important respects: It has two full-sized sheets of ice, it's relatively convenient and it's clean. If you've been to a lot of rinks in the area, you know that the latter is definitely a factor to consider. And though the Valley Ranch StarCenter may have the best ice--because of its time as the Stars' practice rink--Duncanville has the best facilities, such as large locker rooms, relatively good food and an upstairs bar/viewing spot for all the parents forced to attend extraordinarily early or late game times. The rink also has a pro shop that is well-stocked with the essentials, though prices run higher than at a normal equipment store such as Peranis or Players Bench. So if you think you've got an interest in hitting big guys with sticks, exposing yourself in tights or just want to get out of the heat and into a building that's always freezing, then this is the rink for you.

Best Place to Act Single While Drinking Doubles

The Beagle

The name of this award may be a little misleading, 'cause if you're at The Beagle, we hope you're truly single and not just "acting." Seriously, guys, that is so not cool. But we digress. With plenty of drink specials and tunes by the likes of Tone-Loc, Missy Elliott and David Allan Coe, The Beagle is a pickup point without shame. (Yeah, we know we never even called you by your name, but we promise it's not because we couldn't remember it. It was just loud in the club...you know how it is.) And in case you didn't know, memorizing someone else's phone number works wonders at a place like this. We suggest your local Papa John's or maybe one of the "escorts" from the back pages of this publication. We hear Brandi and Vixen are lookin' for love.

An unauthorized sprawl on the Dallas Museum of Art's manicured grass in the dark, however appealing, will get you at least 20 hours in the city jail, assuming someone agrees to bail you out. See, they've got really priceless art in that building, and plenty of security guards to make sure it stays there. A nighttime prowl between Harwood and St. Paul streets is tempting, though. If you've ever had a hankering to wander the DMA's park-like grounds at night, to look up at the stars between the dark, shadowy outlines of downtown skyscrapers, wait for the summer season of Jazz Under the Stars, and you'll stay out of trouble. Urban campers pack a snack and bring their blankies for a twilight picnic, complete with live jazz and the murmurs of the city streets. Best of all, the music and the ambience are free.

Why do we lease a Mercedes or Beemer? To impress the valet, of course. Most of us, indeed, consider it acceptable for restaurants to park the hottest cars in highly visible areas, as if the sight of a Ferrari will make the couple cruising past in an '87 Corolla slam on the brakes and say, "Let's go mingle with the wealthy folks." The staff at Javier's takes the concept a step further, providing stellar valet service for guests driving expensive vehicles while shunning--in the most subtle manner--the rest of the population. Walk out of the restaurant on a busy evening and ask them to bring your 7 Series around, and they hastily pull it within an inch or two of your kneecaps. Call for your Infiniti--or lesser vehicle--and expect a bit of a stroll.

The Dallas Morning News recently mentioned that it visited this downtown establishment and was dismayed by the fact it wasn't jam-packed with patrons. They point out that they showed up at 6 p.m. Now, far be it from us to call the folks at the daily paper idiots, but, ah, do you think you could try going to a bar after the sun goes down? The last time we were in CT, it was hoppin': both levels full of folks enjoying the ambience (dark woods, big tables), the cold beer and the downtown scene. It reminded us of a typical neighborhood bar in Chicago, something you don't see much of in Dallas. Oh, yeah, it also has a little side room upstairs for folks who want to play Golden Tee but don't want to keep bumping into patrons when their $30 putts come up short. Which makes it extra awesome.

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