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.
Lizard Lounge
Really, if you get drunk enough, you can get your groove on at most any nightlife spot in Dallas. That said, we'd much rather you take your drunk ass out of Taco Cabana (no, the salsa bar isn't a good place to strike up the Macarena) and shake your tailfeathers all the way to the Lizard Lounge, where dancing isn't just abundant--it's downright mandatory. What has set Lizard Lounge apart for years is its booking, with superstar DJs like Qbert, Mix Master Mike and Paul Oakenfold. In addition, Dallas' goth beauties still hold court on Thursday and Sunday nights for The Church, which means even pale, awkward dancers can throw on some leather and see what the fuss is about. But you might wanna change before heading to Taco C afterward.

Readers' Pick
Station 4 911 Cedar Springs Road 214-526-7171
You unsuccessfully begged your friends to accompany you to Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. You snuck into From Justin to Kelly to avoid the snicker of the guy at the ticket counter. You skipped a night at the bar to watch Boogeyman on DVD. We get it: You have a love affair with sucky movies. It's not a crime, although there are some at the Observer who would arrest you if they could. Our point is that you shouldn't be ashamed to see a formulaic stinker on the big screen. And if you are, go to the lowest-key theater in Dallas, AMC Glen Lakes. It's clean, convenient and, most of the time, empty. You won't run into anyone you know, and you can enjoy that new Ashlee Simpson movie in peace. And, for the record, From Justin to Kelly was so bad that it was good.
If you're a social misfit in Dallas, minc opens its arms to you, baby. The Exposition Park hotspot, which has been mislabeled a gay club for a while, has recently broadened its booking horizons to remind men and women, gay and straight, black and white and tall and short that all nightlife possibilities are up for grabs at one convenient location. From dance theme nights to live rock bands and everything in between, not to mention hot parties hosted by the likes of Erykah Badu and quality DJs such as The Got House Crew and DJ Red Eye running the boards throughout the week, minc is establishing itself not as a question mark in Dallas nightlife but as an exclamation point.

Readers' Pick
Lizard Lounge 2424 Swiss Ave. 214-826-4768
Starting in March at the WaterTower Theatre in Addison and extending into late October at the Samuell Grand Amphitheatre, the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas is inching toward becoming what everybody wishes it could be--a year-round celebration of Elizabethan theater. But the two best months, for our money, are still June and July, when the festival is doing hard-core Bard for the masses out on the blankets in the grass at Samuell Grand Park in East Dallas. Acting, directing and all-around production values in recent years have been of ever better quality. And there's nothing better, when the sun finally falls on a white-hot Dallas summer day, than a good bottle of wine, a few friends and The Winter's Tale.

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