When Elba Garcia was our pick for best city council member three years ago, the competition was stiff. It was a tough call. Several people on the council were contenders. This year, it's different. In the competition to be the best, Garcia is already ahead of some on the council by virtue of not being the target of an FBI corruption probe. But she still has a solid lead, based on her tendency to do serious analysis of issues before shooting her mouth off. She's a mother and the head of a busy dental practice, so she's proof that the rest of them could find time for some homework, too. As former chairperson of the council's public safety committee, she steered an interesting middle course between general support for the police and a willingness to speak out against abuses. She will be a key player in putting Humpty Dumpty back together again whenever the current civic crisis gets resolved.

Readers' Pick
Mayor Laura Miller

Best Place to Drink the Most Disgusting Drink Ever

Absinthe Lounge

Absinthe Lounge
Like most good college students, we had a raucous four months studying abroad in Europe where we discovered nude beaches, smoking indoors and the "green fairy," absinthe. So when we heard about the Absinthe Lounge over on Lamar Street, we were skeptical. Since the real stuff is illegal in the States, the folks there have to brew up a watered-down version made from a less potent kind of wormwood. The drink itself has few, if any, redeeming qualities. It's expensive, it won't alter your consciousness, and it tastes horrible, unless you're really into extremely bitter black licorice. Why go, then? Because they have plush velveteen chairs, an incredibly attractive (and friendly) waitstaff and the best, most ignorable live lounge music this side of the Trinity.
The Cuckoo's Nest has a lot going for it, including a plethora of pool tables, cheap drinks and sympathetic bartenders. But what really sets this upper Greenville dive apart is the floor décor: rough, rug burn-inducing hotel-grade carpet emblazoned with what may or may not have once been a floral design. Become a part of history yourself by buying a Bud, heading for a back corner and tipping out a little bit of brew.
There are those fleeting moments when Dallas feels like a real city. Like sitting just off Ross Avenue and St. Paul Street in the hidden cove of the Dallas Museum of Art's Sculpture Garden. The high walls block the street noise, and the large, imposing sculptures bring the eye upward to the skyline, partially obscured by the garden's trees. Just as good as the ambience is the live music that was performed each Thursday in April by artists such as Will Johnson (Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel) and Denton's DJ Wild in the Streets. Admission was free, drinks were cheap. And record labels played new music over the speakers and handed out free samplers and CDs. Here's to a second installment.
Many public meeting spaces can't seem to find a happy medium between aesthetics and price--you get either a white-shoebox classroom setting or something that's way beyond the budget of a small family reunion, wedding or other gathering. That's why we have our eye on these three city of Dallas-owned venues: Big Thicket (50 people capacity), the Dreyfuss Club (150 capacity) or Winfrey Point (250 capacity). They're priced at a pittance--$55, $75 and $90 an hour, respectively--and offer nice views of one of the few nice things to view in Dallas, White Rock Lake.

Best Night Club Attached to a Convenience Store

The Slip Inn

The Slip Inn
It took us four passes with the windows rolled up and the doors locked before we built up the courage to pull into the Slip Inn parking lot, but boy, are we glad we did. Once inside, the whiskey was cheap, the hipsters were minimal, and the dancing was a free-for-all. All cares were forgotten until we stumbled back out into the night and realized that we still had a thirst that could only be quenched with pork rinds and soda. Luckily, the Save-Way grocery was just a few short staggers away, beckoning with all the processed food and carbonated beverages we could purchase with the loose change we dug out of the booths at the back of the Inn.
The myth about Dallas is that you can't garden here because of bad soil and hot weather. The truth is that you can garden here, but you have to grow the right stuff--often not what the nurseries are bringing in by the 18-wheeler load and pushing in their ads. The Dallas Arboretum, in partnership with Texas A&M University, has been raising garden plants in test beds for several years now, trying to find out what really can grow in Dallas and what really cannot. The beds themselves and the staff associated with the effort, especially plant guru Jimmy L. Turner, comprise the best resource any serious gardener can hope to find in this region.
When you sink to the level of tequila shots, you generally think college bar or Tex-Mex dive. Too bad. Agave Azul is indistinct enough, sitting on one corner of a lonely shopping strip, and they serve Tex-Mex fare, but the place is designed for more sophisticated hard-core alcoholics. They separate the bar side from the dining room with a wall of windows so, while you chug agave juice, you can stare at those sorry-ass practitioners of sobriety. They stock, by our count, about 80 different bottles priced by the amount of time the spirit sat in barrels--$8 for reposados, $9 for the older anejos. On the top shelf there's a set of premium tequilas, such as Don Julio Real, which will set you back 30 to 50 bucks a shot. That's a lot to choose from, but don't worry. Agave Azul offers flights of regular tequilas and a sampler of the ultra high-end stuff.
Ah, the constant uphill battle of being a blogger: You know you're brilliant, witty and well-informed, but how do you spread the news to potential readers just dying to know what you had for breakfast? Fear not, for the folks at DFW Blogs understand your plight and are doing their damnedest to help distribute your self-obsession to the rest of the world. All you have to do is e-mail them with your blog's address to be added to the listing. With more than 700 Dallas-area blogs ranked according to the time of their most recent update, the site ensures that your navel-gazing will be of the freshest variety, and thank God, because the only thing worse than meaningless, pretentious drivel is week-old meaningless, pretentious drivel.
Yeah, yeah, we know you're probably wondering why anybody from the Observer would be at SMU long enough during the summer to determine a reason NOT to be there. The answer is simple: One of us still hasn't gotten that piece of paper that determines whether we're going to be just another low-income journalist or a low-income journalist with a college diploma. But what really matters here is the fact that SMU whores itself out to hundreds of cheerleaders every summer for rah-rah camp. Like having to deal with bleached blond sorority princesses balancing cell phones in one hand and a latte and a Louis Vuitton bag in the other, while sticking perfectly pedicured feet into the road without looking to see if cars are coming, isn't enough. Now lucky SMU students have to spend summer school maneuvering through throngs of peppy ponytails and pom-poms attached to pubescent people who really just need a good smackdown. When will the madness end?

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