Ever just sit back and watch Adam Salazar work? We have, largely because we were propped up against the bar. This guy serves a good drink, no matter the cocktail. He knows alcohol and all the intricacies of running a bar. Remembers names and faces, too. No other bartender can claim his following, which includes people of various age groups and geographic locations. He can handle high-volume jobs but speaks with some authority on the important barroom topics, as well--sports, babes, etc. What's really interesting when you're clinging to the bar watching him work is the understated, easy and almost graceful way he arrays empty glasses, flicks bottles from the well and pours multiple drinks, all while scanning the room and laughing with customers. It bespeaks a man of experience, a professional.
A few years back, entrepreneur Todd Wagner was looking for philanthropic ways to spend his billions. He and Mark Cuban had just sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo and now Wagner had the Foundation for Community Empowerment on the phone, asking for a local nonprofit that was really making a difference in the area. Head to Oak Cliff, the foundation said. Find Greg Hatley. Out of his garage, Hatley taught kids how to box. But he didn't just teach boxing; he taught boys to be men. And he didn't just teach any kids. He found the worst: the truants running the streets, lucky if they had one parent to raise them, luckier still if that parent had a job. Hatley somehow could turn that kid's life around. Impressed with Hatley, Wagner built him a barn of a gym in Lancaster. Today, Li'l Chris, Brutus, any fighter at the Oak Cliff Boxing Club--they all say the same thing: Coach saved my life.
Inspired by The Food Network's Iron Chef, Iron Bartender presents its drink slingers with quite a challenge: They draw two liquors out of a hat and then have five minutes to turn those ingredients into a kick-ass cocktail. The performance is then rated by a panel of judges, who are a group of highly trained and highly discerning individuals--and we're not just saying that because we were one of them. Patrons get to sample all of the concoctions, and it seems like everyone has a great time. At least we think so. The last time we were there, we woke up the next morning wearing a tiara and someone else's clothes. Iron Bartender takes place occasionally and at the whim of the guys who run Down Bar and Lounge. So pay attention.
You may have noticed that other than our own Jim Schutze, there is a distinct lack of angry, ax-wielding columnists here in the metroplex. In fact, the weapon of choice would be more like a Nerf tomahawk. Jacquielynn Floyd isn't going to dismember anybody with her sensible, sanitary opinions either, but what she does have is an uncanny knack for addressing the exact story that caught your eye the day before. In her self-effacing, semi-folksy style, she lays out well-reasoned, moderate essays on just about every issue of import to Dallasites. The Wilmer-Hutchins mess. The Wright Amendment. The strong mayor initiative. Like any columnist, she strays on occasion, like her recent eulogy for the guy who invented TV dinners (turns out he really didn't, but that's another story). Even her digressions are always intelligent. And Nerfy though they may be, Floyd's tomahawk swings are generally right on the mark.

Readers' Pick
Steve Blow The Dallas Morning News
Way back when people considering themselves ahead of the hipness curve crowded into Samba Room, Matthew Giese worked behind the bar. Already he had developed a keen understanding of popular habits and the Dallas scene. That's when we first labeled him the "poet laureate of Dallas nightlife," a title he has yet to relinquish. He worked several top clubs following the demise of Samba (yes, we know it's still there, but...) then turned his unique understanding into a personal franchise. The poet laureate brings crowds to a location. Bars bring him in to resurrect a dead night or kick-start a new spot. Martini Ranch on Mondays, Obar on Thursdays, Lush, Medici, Spike--you name it. His MO? Know the party people, gain their trust, steer them in the right direction, repeat.
The guy has presence, and presence is what you need as a TV anchor. Sure, Tracy Rowlett has more than that. For one, he has responsibility: He's the managing editor, the big man of the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. He's ringmaster of the newsroom circus at KTVT. But behind the desk, with the camera on him, you see a guy who's forthright yet relaxed, even-handed yet authoritative. He's able to distance himself from the news. You'll never catch Rowlett putting on the grave face to report--oh, no!--another middle-class white woman missing. He treats every story with a detachment that respects not only the story's subjects but the people watching it. Finally, Rowlett just exudes Dallas. The way his suits hang, the way he parts his hair, that stentorian voice--it's as if it's Tracy Rowlett's destiny to anchor a newscast in Dallas. By comparison, his competitors look like shaky transplants from Yankeeland.

Readers' Pick
Gloria Campos WFAA-Channel 8
It's on a rooftop. It has palm trees. The pretty people gather on weekends. The Sunday afternoon parties featuring the 12-Inch Pimps are already legendary. Some of the city's best bartenders sling drinks at the small outdoor bar, including Adam Salazar. Oh, did we mention they have a pool? It's difficult not to like a place where women strip down to string bikinis and splash around after boozing it up a bit. Yep, check your moral standards at the door.
KXAS-Channel 5 will be unwatchable till they kick off Mike Snyder and Jane McGarry, who together make half an interesting person; KDFW-Channel 4's got Shaun Rabb's hat collection; and WFAA-Channel 8's gone off the air (whatnooonot really?hunh, coulda sworn). Which leaves KTVT-Channel 11 as the last, best hope for anyone interested in getting their news from TV. Fact is, there are some folks at the CBS affiliate doing good work--Sarah Dodd, for one--but best of all are former Channel 8 investigative ace Robert Riggs and ex-Morning Newser-turned-TV-producer Todd Bensman, together known as "The Investigators," like they're a superhero crime-fighting duo or something. Their work on the FBI investigation at City Hall has been superb. If they're not providing much context, something the Morning News didn't do till late August, at least they're giving us riveting television as they gnaw on some delicious hunks of this chewed-over tale. We'll never be able to look at state Representative Terri Hodge ever again without recalling the look on her face when asked August 25 who pays the rent at her Southwest Housing apartment.

Readers' Pick
Good Day KDFW-Channel 4
Ozona Grill & Bar
Finally, a drink special we can get on board with: On Wednesdays at Ozona Grill & Bar, domestic drafts are $1 all day. That's one dollar. All day. Are you listening? Beer snobs, obviously, need not apply. But if domestic brews don't rankle your nose hairs (how else to explain your snout's permanent uplift?), then bring a few bucks and park your butt on a plastic chair on Ozona's patio. And if you are a beer snob, maybe it's time to go slummin', because we love Ozona and we think you should, too. Ozona has personality and a homey feel that some might call...domestic.
Finally, the answer to Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity and the other yakky neo-cons who've held sway way to the right on the airwaves for so long. Air America Radio colors its talk blue--state, that is--carrying the national broadcasts of The Jerry Springer Radio Show (8 a.m.-11 a.m.), The Al Franken Show (11 a.m.-2 p.m.), Randi Rhodes (2 p.m.-6 p.m.) and other hours hosted by lippy liberals such as Janeane Garofalo and Bobby Kennedy Jr. Late-nighter Mike Malloy makes it a practice regularly to blast "the Bush crime family," probably guaranteeing him a lifetime of IRS audits. Early a.m. Morning Sedition features a segment called "Rapture Watch." Franken's is the show for the edgiest interviews, like his recent set-to with author Ed Klein over an unauthorized Hillary Clinton bio. You could practically hear Klein slithering away from the mike as Franken called him on error after error.

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