The Old Monk
We're about to make a disclosure that has nearly cost us a few friendships. When it comes to beer, we love a good bottle of Grolsch. We truly enjoy Stella Artois from the tap. Occasionally, we'll go with some breed of Chimay. We heart Boddingtons. Cheers to Harp and Fat Tire. Dear, sweet Pyramid Apricot. Good ol' Guinness. Give us a Snakebite, and we'll show you strength through the inevitable hangover because, well, it was probably worth it. They are very tasty. Priest's Collars, Black Velvets, even Car Bombs. Point is, we've been told that one person shouldn't enjoy all of these varying types of beer. Arguments have ensued. "You can't love Grolsch and Boddingtons! Who loves Grolsch anyway?" But whatever. We do, and thankfully we have a haven when we walk through the doors of the Old Monk. The Monk's beer list reads like an international who's who with prices from budget to scandalous. Luckily, no matter which personality of ours is drinking on any given evening, the Monk keeps our pint glass full with draught or bottle brews from Belgium, Germany, Holland, Great Britain, the States, Canada, Czech Republic, Jamaica and Mexico. Pair a pint with some frites or Guinness beef stew and the experience is nothing short of world-class.

Readers' Pick
The Ginger Man 2718 Boll St. 214-754-8771
Ever since most of us on staff caved in and bought iPods, we haven't bothered with local radio stations to get our music fix, and in the past year, the corporate-owned frequencies haven't done much to change our minds. But that doesn't mean our antennae go unused. Rather, we keep the radio tuned to The Ticket on 1310 AM. And we're definitely not alone. It seems like everyone around town talks about the sports talk shows that run throughout the day, even women and non-sports fans. The biggest reason for the wide appeal has to be drive-time show The Hardline, where Mike, Greggo, Danny and Snake (yes, just "Snake") spend more time on topics like Six Feet Under, tomboys, local music and "jarring" than sports, even though their sports commentary is second to none. Still, the 7 p.m. rundown of the station's best segments from the previous day is proof that the entire Ticket schedule is getting it right, whether by delivering the most incisive sports talk in town or by playing games of "Gay, Not Gay." Once you become a P1, you won't switch your radio back to music stations, either.
The nonprofit Writer's Garret has as its stated mission the education and development of readers, writers and audiences. It stages writing workshops, panel discussions, peer critiques, contests and movie screenings. But the organization's two-year-old Writer's Studio Series, hosted by KERA at Theatre Three, takes the top prize. This year, the series brought best-selling literary stars Margaret Drabble, James Ellroy, Umberto Eco and Walter Mosley to Sunday night readings. KERA radio host Glenn Mitchell interviewed each author, who then read from one of his or her books and answered questions from the audience. Each two-hour session was taped and later played on NPR affiliates. The programs are fascinating, unpredictable and sometimes infuriating, as when politically incorrect and always controversial Ellroy told the audience that John F. Kennedy "got what he deserved." Authors scheduled this fall include Bret Easton Ellis (his new one is Lunar Park), Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking) and Scott Turow. With all the lawyers who want to be writers in town, better get your ticket early for Turow, attorney and author of Presumed Innocent and other novels.
Lakewood Landing
The Landing looks like a rec room from the 1970s; think of the basement in That '70s Show or any scene from Freaks and Geeks where people drank, got high or made out. There are a few tables, a handful of booths, one couch, a pool table, Golden Tee, a jukebox and a long bar in a narrow space. On the weekends, it's crowded like a high school party in a John Hughes movie. And that makes the Landing the best place to go after work. On early weekdays, you can hold court at one of the big round tables, feed dollar after dollar into the jukebox (it's one of the best in town with everything from Etta James to the Clash, the Old 97's to Elvis Costello), order a burger or some loaded cheese fries (also some of the best in town) and actually hear people talk while sharing a pitcher of Shiner.
Bath House Cultural Center
White Rock Lake offers more than bike and running paths. For years, the Bath House Cultural Center on the eastern shore of the lake has been a little powerhouse of art, theater, history and music. Built in 1930, the art deco building is tiny but boasts a 120-seat theater, two galleries, a darkroom and other spaces for activities including yoga classes, jazz concerts and dance workshops. It also houses a small but fascinating museum about the creation and history of the lake. (Did you know people could swim in White Rock until 1953? It was closed to bathers due to "drought, polio and racial tensions.") The galleries showcase regional artists, often those who live and work in the lake area.
White Rock Lake Dog Park
On a good day at the dog park, you'll meet dozens of dogs of various breeds and, sometimes, dozens of breeds in one dog. Not a dog owner? White Rock Lake Dog Park is a great place to "window shop" for your next pal; you can see how spectacularly tall (and drooly) a great Dane is or how mind-numbingly adorable a 4-month-old basset hound puppy can be. Good-weather Saturday afternoons seem to be the time to encounter the highest volume of canines, especially since this summer's renovation.
You can't fling a paintbrush/film canister/chisel/flashcard/pencil/found object in this town without hitting an artist. They're sketching at White Rock, shooting Deep Ellum in gritty black and white and wandering downtown, picking up lost Post-It notes and other detritus for assemblages. For most, the biggest opening reception their art will see is when they pop the top on a Bud Light after hanging their latest masterpiece over the couch. But if they're lucky, they'll catch the discerning but unpretentious eyes of Sarah Jane Semrad and Nyddia Hannah of Pigeon-Stone Project, which gives local artists and curators opportunities to show off their work in public by giving local businesses new, innovative local art to display. The duo currently books exhibits--with receptions and everything--in the Continental Lofts, the bar at the Magnolia Theater, Sozo Salon on Knox-Henderson, Zeo Salon on Travis Walk, Two Sisters Catering in Deep Ellum, Counter Culture at Mockingbird Station and the Elbow Room near Baylor Hospital on the edge of Deep Ellum. But look for them to expand to every nook and cranny with enough blank wall space to accommodate a piece or two.
Texas Discovery Gardens
At Fair Park in the building and area where the botanical society used to be, Texas Discovery Gardens is a year-round medley of all-organic garden themes, including a butterfly habitat (especially worth seeing during the State Fair), wildlife pond, scent garden, shade garden and heirloom garden. The Dallas Arboretum is more fancy-schmancy, of course, but unlike the Arboretum, the Discovery Gardens is a place where you can see what you can grow without excoriating the earth with 50-pound bags of toxins in the process. Of course, they do manage to achieve those really unearthly hues at the Arboretum, but at least here you can peruse the posies and not need a Hazmat suit.
When you're getting married, the most important thing is to impress people, right? Screw that whole love and commitment thing. This event is really about blowing the pants off everyone so they'll be talking about it long after you've paid off the credit card bills. Required elements include a full bar, romantic mood lighting, a stone balcony (perfect for a ceremony), a cool downtown location and, above all, impeccable, memorable food. Truffled mac 'n' cheese with black trumpet mushrooms and quattro formaggio or chef-carved New Zealand lamb chops with mint aioli might do the trick. Follow up with chocolate and hazelnut marjolaine with coffee and vanilla creams (or...sigh...go with wedding cake) and your guests will be serenading you all the way to your chauffeured Bentley. This little gem tucked away in the DMA has all of the necessary elements.
At the core of this year's best-of artist's category is a loss: the death of our most stellar, the rising young artist Scott Barber. The Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell once said "art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it." It is a meager, dull and uninspired life without Barber and his art. He artfully deployed his private life in the public sphere, waging his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on the painterly surface. Though we know Barber for his lapidary painting, the faintly bubbled and brightly colored planes of the renderings of his cancer cells, he was a polymath when it came to artistic medium. He worked in video and sculpture, the virtual and the plastic. His three large, round urethane-cast wall pieces give light form in plastic hirsute bodies. In yellow, blue and red, they are the primary colors of Mondrian's palette translated into an electric light-swooning affair that is perfectly shagadellic. Barber died on April 22 from complications resulting from a bone-marrow transplant.

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