Go ahead, head to Half Price on a Sunday night. Go to the art/photography section. Peruse the shelves and pick up a book. Flip through it, gaze at the pictures. Ten bucks says that unless the store is inexplicably empty, you'll get hit on. Not into art? Fine. Just head to mystery, true crime or philosophy. The plan is the same; the people and interests have just changed a bit. The accuracy of the description of this phenomenon given to us by an employee truly astounded us. We didn't believe a word, even chalked it up to retail boredom-related hallucinations. Then we went. We stood. We perused and picked up. We flipped and gazed and then...tap, tap. "Hmm, are you a fan of Man Ray, too? I'm Rob."

XPO Lounge's Thursday-night sing-along, hosted by DJ Mr. Rid, is the gold standard for karaoke, bringing in local musicians and locals who just think they are to play human jukebox. DJ Mr. Rid brings an impeccable lineup of songs from which to choose, from karaoke classics (Frank Sinatra, Cheap Trick and such) to rare finds such as Pulp's "This is Hardcore" (which was lovingly laid down by The Falkon's Wanz Dover on a disc capturing the Scaraoke magic, XPO Gold). The songs get better as the night goes on and the liquor goes down. Or maybe we just think they do.

Is it unprofessional to admit that, on occasion, we've attended press screenings with triple Maker's Marks in hands that should have been holding notebooks and pens? It is? Then we're not admitting anything, only suggesting that if every theater had a well-stocked bar like the Magnolia's, then maybe Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and Cold Creek Manor might seem a little more tolerable; if everything's good on weed, then everything's at least OK on hooch. Hey, you can see Matchstick Men anywhere, but nowhere else in town can you see it all drinky, and nowhere else can you take a bathroom and smoke break without having to leave the building. (At Cityplace, we go in the parking lot.) We love the Magnolia for the movies, but we stay for the drinks. Because we have to sober up.

Something about those big old whatever-they-are whole fish with the gnarly teeth and frozen eyeballs in the seafood department, and you know you're not in a white-bread Anglo-two-shoes store anymore when you come to Fiesta. Mariachi music on the PA system, a light sprinkling of lettuce fragments on the floor, the world's most complete assortment of hot sauces, babies speaking Spanish to their grandmas: This is the place to come when you need a break from Martha Stewart. And Fiesta has waaay better shrimp than the gringo stores.

Best Place to be Serenaded by a Mariachi

La Acapulquena

If you're into Mexican or seafood, or Mexican seafood, you'll be into La Acapulquena, an unassuming little place that bumps up against a laundry. Which comes in handy if you start playing fast and loose with the salsa. But the real draw here is the mariachi duo that makes its way around the restaurant at night, providing a pleasant soundtrack to a pleasant meal. Plus, on the way home, you'll probably be in the mood to recite a few of your favorite lines from Three Amigos (pretty much anything El Guapo says, for example), and that's always a good thing.

White Rock Lake meets our short list of essential criteria for a perfect picnic spot. It's clean and close by, with choice scenery, and hardly anyone ever gets murdered there. White Rock Lake spans 1,873 acres and offers so many interesting venues, it would be tough to get tired of it as a picnic paradise. People fish, feed the ducks, walk, run, bike, sightsee, bird-watch, paddle and sail, enjoying the water, six playgrounds, 11 miles of trails, Dallas' first dog park and historic buildings such as Bath House Cultural Center, created in the 1930s.

Consider Sambuca the Rafael Palmeiro of local nightclubs, a consistent and sometimes exceptional performer that is constantly overshadowed. Forget about jazz joints: No one else in this city, no one else in Fort Worth or Denton or Plano or wherever even comes close, save for Sambuca's other location in Addison. Here's the deal: The acts are always solid, and the atmosphere is even better. If there's something else that makes for a good jazz club (or a good club, period), then we must not know about it. Or, more likely, it doesn't really matter. There's no spot better than Sambuca, and none more versatile: The music is great whether you're looking for a soundtrack or a solo, whether you want it in the background or right up front. It's an oasis in a city full of empty water coolers. And like Palmeiro, Sambuca is having a Hall of Fame career even though it will probably never be MVP.
There are many reasons to admire this Gaston Avenue watering hole. Good cold beer selection, great shuffleboard table, killer juke, tasty pizza next door, etc. But what distinguishes it for us is the fact that it's always loaded with loaded doctor types. OK, maybe not doctors, but inside there are always plenty of young, nubile, employed men and women in scrubs from Baylor hospital next door.

Best Place to Suck Shots Off Men's Abs

BJ's

Also known as Best Gay Bar, BJ's may be a gay club, but doing shots off the toned bellies of 20-year-old boys is not just a gay-man habit--not if our wife has anything to say about it. And she does. Which works out well, because at least a few of the six-packed boys wearing low-slung jeans and not much else--BJ's calls them your waitstaff, but we have another name for them that begins with "meow"--are actually straight guys making loads of money off drunken gay guys. Given that gay women have been teasing money out of straight guys at strip clubs for decades, we think that's a good plan.
Hell, you just met the person. You don't even know his or her name. Why risk embarrassing stammering over breakfast or the cost of a motel when perfectly good backseats and semiprivate parking lots exist? Running east from Duke's Original Roadhouse to the Tollway, a string of parking areas offers everything you need (minus the backseat and the man or woman of your inebriate dreams) for a few moments of risky, soon-to-be-forgotten-or-regretted pleasure. There are large lots near Duke's and narrow, tree-lined spaces a block to the east. The darkest lots, if shyness is an issue, sit between the restaurants of Belt Line Road and the British-style pub The Londoner. Come to think of it, if you pick up someone there, you may need to find the darkest spot possible.

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