A few months ago, when D magazine's blog, FrontBurner, posted a desperate request for donations to pay for a new Web server, a few Observer staffers chipped in (check the site's archives if you don't believe us). So why would we support a Web site run by a rival publication? Well, quite frankly, we can't live without it. The all-staff, all-local blog, dominated by Senior Editor Adam McGill and Executive Editor Tim Rogers, is home to the best in local news flashes, gossipy bits and, lest we forget, chatter about hometown hotties such as Jessica Simpson and Amber Campisi (with photos attached, of course). We're hoping this coming year will see a reduction in "news" entries to make room for more T&A, but if our wish doesn't come true, at least we can trust FrontBurner to keep its finger on Dallas' pulse.

Readers' Pick
FrontBurner
The movies roll on Monday nights, the least trafficked of any on Greenville Avenue. They're shown on a projection screen on the deck, two stories above the street entrance to Gachet, a coffee house with a Europhile complex that, coincidentally, serves the best espresso in town. Some of the movies are iconic (North by Northwest), some are cult faves (Napoleon Dynamite), some are bad (21 Grams). But all are screened for free. It's a different feeling, watching a movie beneath an open sky, surrounded by coffee tables, downtown behind you, drunks below. Maybe rewarded is the right word; you feel rewarded for having found this place.
Adair's Saloon
For some folks, country music concerts are best with a huge hardwood floor that caters to line dancing, and really, that's fine and dandy. If people want to meet en masse, stand in formation and promenade to generic country music, have at it. But it's nice to have a casual, down-home alternative that understands what country music is really all about--a rootsy, beer-sudsin' bar like Adair's. This intimate Deep Ellum venue is the perfect backdrop for local live country faves like Boys Named Sue and Eleven Hundred Springs, and the cheap beer and cheap-beer-loving crowd make the no-nonsense country bands booked here sound even better. What Adair's lacks in big-name booking (Billy Bob's is still king of that mountain), it makes up for in its consistency as a local country destination. Hell, you can always make room in the small crowd to dance a two-step or two with your partner, just as long as you don't try anything too formal...like, you know, a line.

Readers' Pick
Adair's
Every day, Cindy Chaffin proves herself the biggest music nut in town by slaving over her Web site, www.texasgigs.com. She summarizes dozens of local music articles, posts countless concert recommendations and babbles on and on about her favorite (and even not-so-favorite) bands. We know the woman isn't making much (if any) money running the site in her spare time, so it's even more astounding that she takes the time every week to set up live concert broadcasts from all over town. Hailey's, Club Dada, Barley House, the What? Bar--Chaffin has hit 'em all with her portable recording gear, helping homebodies enjoy some great shows and rebroadcasting the goods for concertgoers who want a memento the next day. Sure, podcasts have a certain anti-establishment charm, but if you want a downloadable alternative to radio, Chaffin's bootlegging hobby has everybody else in Dallas beat.
Escapade 2009
So there was this hot chick standing by herself at a watering hole in Dallas a while back, and we, thanks to liquid courage, decided to chat her up. At first, she reacted meekly to our drunk flirting, but after the formalities, the tall blonde cut to the chase. "This scene blows. My friends and I are going to Escapade--you should come with." Hell, she was so gorgeous that if she'd asked to go to the abandoned train tracks, we'd have followed, but luckily, Escapade 2009, located way out on Northwest Highway, turned out to be incredibly fun. The dance and rock versions of Latin tracks got the hot, skimpily dressed crowd moving on the industrial-sized dance floor, and with so many people dancing, we weren't embarrassed to join in--who'd notice one bad dancer in this scene? In the end, we didn't get the girl but no matter. 2009's Latin flavor got us.

Readers' Pick
Club Babalu 2912 McKinney Ave. 214-953-0300

Best Movie Theater (Till the NorthPark Opens, Anyway)

AMC Valley View 16

AMC Valley View 16
Look, there are two kinds of "best movie theaters": the ones that show great movies and the ones that show movies great. For the former, sure, try the Magnolia or the Angelika; they've saved us during this drought-stricken summer, when the best the mainstream googolplexes had to offer was The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But the best moviegoing experience right now is to be had at the AMC Valley View, with its wraparound screen and Sensurround sound. It reminds us of the good old days, back when the NorthPark 1 &2 were still open and putting the "buster" into blockbusters with sterling projectors illuminating crystalline screens and knocking us out of our seats and onto our asses with speakers the size of small cars. Sure, you have to go to the mall, and sure, it's Valley View, but it could be worse; you could go to any other mainstream theater in the city, where the picture's bound to be out of focus or framed incorrectly, and the sound's sure to have all the wallop of a transistor radio.

Readers' Pick
Angelika Film Center 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane 214-841-4700
To think, Deep Ellum Blues has only been around a year and a half and has already positioned itself as the foremost source of blues in Dallas. What's even more amazing, though, is how subtle the new venue was in dominating the scene. There haven't been any super-huge festivals or expensive redesigns at the Deep Ellum club (unless you count painting the walls blue). It's a simple, clean building with fine sound and perhaps forgettable if not for the solid booking that fills the stage with the best in local blues five nights a week, from Lance Lopez to Texas Slim and from Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat to Elvis T. Busboy and the Blues Butchers. This is the best place in town to have the worst mood.

Readers' Pick
Hole in the Wall Gourmet 11654 Harry Hines Blvd. 972-247-2253
Lakewood Theater
Cheapskate or nostalgic. Spendthrift or creative. Penny-pinching or innovative. No matter the motive--paying as little as possible on a date or looking for something out of the norm to do--the Lakewood Theater makes you look good. Movie tickets, depending on the night and the sponsor, cost a dollar or less. Popcorn also comes cheap. Drinks at the bar are on special. Basically, it's two tickets and two sets of snacks for less than the cost of a regular movie. Besides being budget-friendly, the screenings also give viewers the chance to see films on the big screen that they might not otherwise. From Scarface and Reservoir Dogs to Up in Smoke and Animal House, the Lakewood Theater's flicks are light on the wallet, heavy on the cool.
The Grapevine
Sometimes you wanna go where everyone knows your name, and sometimes you just want to fade into the corner with your friends Jack, Jim and Jose. At The Grapevine, you can do either. Conversation is easy to find, but so is the enjoyment of sitting alone listening to everything from Marvin Gaye to ABBA to The Killers. OK, so The Grapevine isn't necessarily a gay bar; what it is, though, is an everyone bar. Gays, straightseveryone's welcome. A place where you can kick it on the patio with your boys and still hang with your girl and nobody bats an eye or feels uncomfortable. What The GV has managed to do is blur the line of gay/straight bar and answer the age-old question "Can't we all just get along?" Yes we can. No need to scream "we're here, we're queer." They already know, they just don't care. Welcome to the mainstream. Now give mama bourbon.

Readers' Pick
JR's Bar & Grill Dallas 3923 Cedar Springs Road 214-559-0650
For a while she was looking like scary old actress Norma Desmond, standing on a shabby staircase with a scowl on her puss. But a gorgeous facelift and chic makeover have turned Dallas' last movie palace, owned by Landmark Theatres, into a glamorous starlet. Interior designer Brooks Graham spoiled none of the Inwood's existing art deco details in adding cushy leather seats in the VIP area upstairs and installing a neat walkway between the intimate Inwood Lounge and the theater itself (OK to cart those cocktails over now, too). The Inwood once again is ready for her close-up.

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