Tietze Park

Yes, it's hard to do. Maybe that's why we see so many couples call it quits in the park. It's a public place, so not too much drama (the slapping, the screaming) can go down. It's more relaxing with the grass and trees. And it's hard to get too upset watching kids swing alongside a pickup game of basketball. In the past year, we've known or witnessed at least 10 couples break up at Tietze. We're not trying to give it a bad name or anything; in fact, it's a testament to the peaceful surroundings that folks entrust such pivotal moments to the place. In all fairness, we've seen a proposal there, too, but 10 beats one.

This humongous dance club, tucked away on a blah stretch of industrial buildings off Northwest Highway, is the Latin dance scene's least-kept secret. Escapade 2009 keeps the weekends thumping with its reliable mix of Top 40 music and rock en Espaol, along with live bands on some Thursdays. Giant video screens and fog machines give the sprawling dance floor some crazy techno cred. Good times don't come cheap, however--cover can run as high as 20 bucks. Fortunately for the male patrons, ladies seem to have a different interpretation of "no cover"--the skirts and shirts are barely there.

Readers' Pick

Babalu Club

2910 McKinney Ave.

214-953-0300

Best Place to Hide From the Boss in the Middle of a Workday

Sevy's Grill

Sevy's Grill
Alison McLean

A few assumptions to start: You're out of precious vacation days; you need a break; you enjoy a good midafternoon buzz; and your boss isn't already sitting at the bar. Good, then yelp in pain, announce an urgent need to visit the dentist and call it a day. Sevy's attracts brokers and bankers and fully gruntled postal workers and housewives--just about anyone. The dress code ranges from casual on up. The kitchen serves a special afternoon bar menu. Bartender James Pintello spins out stories as well as medicinal doses of alcohol (remember the toothache?). It's a bright, quiet and friendly space, with a clear view of the doorway, just in case the boss gets the same idea. Plenty of time to duck into a corner or dash out to the patio, jump the fence and make your escape. Oh, yeah--almost forgot the underground parking garage. Good thing if you wish to avoid detection.

What possesses someone to look at the liquor cabinet one day and say, "Hey, let's float a frozen margarita in a pool of alcohol and splash some more alcohol on top of the whole thing"? The onset of dementia, perhaps, or a deep and abiding desire to test the limits of inebriation. Whatever, the folks at Ciudad managed to create a best-of-all-worlds margarita. Some people appreciate the tart bite of the traditional cocktail. Others prefer the less potent sweetness of the frozen variety. A few opt for gimmick versions mixed with Midori or other liqueurs. Well, the bellybutton combines all three into a concoction capable of smacking you with brain freeze, clouding your mind with alcohol and tricking your taste buds into demanding several more rounds--all at the same time. Good luck finding the door.

Kismet Lounge

Think back to freshman-level science, when we first learned the essential value of coffee and alcohol. Life cannot exist without these two elements. Indeed, journalism cannot exist without these two elements. Yet they occupy opposite ends of the spectrum. They are, metaphorically, yin and yang, heaven and earth, Franken and Limbaugh. Attempts to meld coffee and alcohol generally fizzle: Kahlúa and cream, for example. Despite the obstacles, bartenders at Kismet managed to combine the electrifying buzz of high-octane coffee and the mind-numbing anesthetic of alcohol into one incredible concoction. The Turkish coffee martini is a blend of strong, bitter coffee, vanilla vodka, white chocolate liqueur and the aforementioned Kahlúa--potent in more ways than one. At once sweet and bitter, the cocktail provides something for everyone. It's visually appealing, slightly complex and laced with alcohol. Unfortunately, it goes down so smoothly that patrons may exceed their credit limit in a matter of a few minutes. It's that good and that easy to drink.

Think about bartenders for a moment and you begin to see why Adam Salazar holds the top spot in Dallas. Oh, there are older guys. But after 15 years working everything from dance clubs to high-end lounges, Salazar knows pretty much every trick, every shot, every cocktail. A few bartenders arguably mix better drinks--very few. Some are faster, although Salazar keeps the pace on Nikita's Naked Sundays. Several tell stories with stronger punch lines or maintain a more constant smile, but he manages to handle a lot of crap without losing his cool. What really sets him apart is this: He's knowledgeable, consistent and instantly recognizes regulars at every bar on his rotation. No matter which place he works, Salazar keeps pace with the vibe. When it's slow, he chats with customers. Ten deep at the bar and you find him slinging drinks. Need a drink? He sees you. Most important, people follow him--men, women, professionals and "professionals." Oh, and he reputedly can drink the rest of us under the table.

When expressway service drives started out, they had what? Maybe a Shell station? Then you started getting your McDonald's, your Wendy's, maybe an occasional Subway on the service drive. Well, the southbound service drive on Central at Knox takes the service drive scene to a whole new level. Baja Fresh is here, Fadi's Mediterranean Grill, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Juice Zone, Marble Slab Creamery, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Vermilion Cajun Seafood & Grill. Any given noon hour on a weekday, this service drive is jammed. You have to fight Beemers and Hummers for the parking slots. And the most amazing thing, given that this is an expressway service drive? Try as hard as you may, you cannot buy a lottery ticket here or find a single plastic jar full of Slim Jims. The bitter with the sweet, man.

Double Wide
Matt Nager

It could be the Pabst Blue Ribbon. It could be the Astroturf patio. It could be that awwwesome velvet painting of the topless she-demon-thingy. Whatever it is, Double Wide feels like home--that is, if your mama was Anna Nicole Smith and your daddy was, well, who the hell knows? What makes Double Wide the best rock venue in town, however, is not in dispute: clean sound, nice-size stage, solid local booking, affordable cover and two different bars to separate the drankers from the rawkers. It's no surprise that, after only a year and a half on the scene, the Double Wide is winning this honor for the second time. What's surprising is that some people still haven't been there. What's the holdup, folks?

Readers' Pick

Trees

2709 Elm St.

214-748-5009

Let's face it: Downtown ain't pretty. With few exceptions, Dallas downtown plays host to big ugly buildings, lots of concrete, little plant life, crowded streets and empty sidewalks. The important thing to remember is that there are exceptions, foremost among them the tiny strip of restaurants and cafes known as Stone Street Gardens. This little cranny connecting Main and Elm streets offers what passes for charm in Dallas--outdoor seating, interesting architecture, cool happy hour and nightspots, a pleasant place for lunch alone or with a friend. Now if whatever was infecting the rest of our poor center city could be eradicated with a dose of smart development like this, we'd be, like, almost a real city.

Fireside Pies

Every man fears "women's drinks" for one reason: Ordering a fruity neon drink may cause a bit of...well...shrinkage. But if you pack more than enough to spare, there's no reason not to fight through the crowds at Fireside Pies and order up a prickly pear margarita. The color alone--a cross between fuchsia and flaming pink--is enough to cause your masculine regions to shrivel up and your voice to reach the eunuch octave. Just think of it this way: They create the drink from a manly portion of tequila; pureed cactus from the very fields where guys like Randolph Scott and John Wayne chugged rotgut whiskey while huntin' down renegade "injuns"; fresh-squeezed lime juice (probably hacked from trees by rusted machetes); and orange liqueur. French stuff--can't help you there. But it's rimmed with salt chiseled from mines deep in the Urals by tough old prisoners from the Gulag. Whatever you need to convince yourself, the effort is worth it. The cocktail is refreshing and has a kick, sweet but not fruity.

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