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.
At 2:30 in the morning, this is not a restaurant. This is a freak show. All of the drunks, from all over town, come here, to this Café Brazil on the border of SMU's campus for two things: They are hungry, and they are horny. Last time we were there, a guy next to us sat with a group of women he did not know--just sat down with them, ordered food, got them laughing and went home with, yes, two of them. Stuff like that happens every weekend. It's got to. Eating at Café Brazil between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. is like coming late to a party where only the offspring of Colin Farrell are left. Sure, the drunks here get annoying--they scream, they laugh, food flies out of their mouths. But this is the best place to people-watch in Dallas, hands down.

Readers' Pick
Café Brazil Multiple locations
On Friday night, drivers looking for a hot radio station don't normally flip to the AM dial--certainly nowhere near oldies station 770 KAAM. But you'd be smart to delay the trunk-rattling tracks on Fridays to make some time for Europe Today, the strangest radio program heard on any of Dallas' crowded airwaves. Sure, the all-European song selection is hit-or-miss, unless you're a raging fan of overtures, waltzes and '80s Italian pop songs, but it's Hermann Bockelmann's outlandish presence that makes the show worth a listen. His thick German accent is unmistakable, and whether he's softly pleading with listeners ("I lahhf you, oh, goot-ness, you are a fantahhstic ahh-dee-enz"), making fun of his own show's advertisers or throwing loud, manic tirades about news stories, he proves himself to be a most bizarre and captivating on-air personality. Our favorite moment came when he talked about a man who robbed graves and cut corpses open for experiments. After yelling for a few minutes, the host shifted gears and quietly asked, "What in this crazy world can save us now?" He paused for effect. "Polka!"

Readers' Pick
Kidd Kraddick KISS 106.1 FM
You've got to hand it to the Irish: They spend so much time thinking about Guinness that they have rules. It should take exactly 119.5 seconds to draw a pint. The head must protrude above the rim but never spill over. The pint should be served at precisely 42.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Each sip must leave a tidal ring on the inside of the glass. And the shamrock drawn in the foam with a fine stream from the tap should reach the bottom of the glass intact. Now, we didn't time our man Darren at the Tipperary Inn. Nor did we take the temperature of the beer. But darned if those rings and that shamrock didn't show up every time--well, the first five or so. After that it's a little bit hazy.
The best morning radio shows make you feel better about waking up, and nothing works like a heaping serving of good old-fashioned soul. On Soul 73 KKDA, it's served up by local legend Bobby Patterson, the man responsible for stone-cold soul classics like "She Don't Have to See You (To See Through You)" and "Quiet! Do Not Disturb." On record, he was Dallas' answer to Otis Redding, but on the radio he's more James Brown, rhyming and screaming like the Godfather himself. He keeps the between-songs banter to a minimum, however, preferring to let the music work its sweet magic on his listeners. The playlist is heavy on the old stuff, from Ray Charles to Wilson Pickett, which is just fine with us. Often, Bobby will break in to sing along or to add a "you heard tha boy!," creating the kind of heaven-sent radio gold that can only be found in the a.m. on the AM.

Readers' Pick
Kidd Kraddick KISS 106.1 FM
OK, so he's a little nasal. And he can be condescending and abrupt with callers. But Glenn Mitchell has something no other local talk show host can match: He is interesting, not for his antics, but for his information. When you flick on KERA over lunch, you never know what Mitchell will be talking about. It could be Iraq, it could be the Wright Amendment, or it could be a session of "Everything you always wanted to know" about why a quarter is called "two bits" (because old Spanish pesos used to be broken into eight pieces, or "pieces of eight"). His guests range from Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle to former CIA Director James Woolsey to gay humorist David Sedaris, and Mitchell usually manages to draw them out without grilling them. In short, Mitchell holds your attention without having to be the center of it.

Readers' Pick
The Russ Martin Show KLLI 105.3 FM
Most of our Best Of awards take the previous year into consideration when picking a winner, but in the case of Lower Greenville's The Cavern, we think the year ahead is optimistic enough to earn this nod. After all, Lance Yocom has revitalized the cozy music venue by overtaking the booking as part of his Spune Productions company and organizing repairs and expansions to the sound system. As a result, Yocom has quickly made this a must-visit spot for rock lovers in town. Upstairs DJs Chris Penn (Good Records, The Polyphonic Spree), Josh Venable (102.1 The Edge's The Adventure Club) and DJ G (Hailey's '80s night) give music fans a reason to rock out during the middle of the week. But it's the downstairs area that is turning The Cavern into a must-visit weekend destination with local guitar champs like Record Hop, The Tah-Dahs and John LaMonica. If the Dallas music scene is born anew in 2006, here's hoping it's The Cavern's fault.

Readers' Pick
(TIE) Double Wide 3510 Commerce St. 214-887-6510 Gypsy Tea Room 2548 Elm St. 214-744-9779
The Grapevine
No more flipping through page after jukebox page, looking for that one song by George Jones or Run DMC or the Strokes. The Grapevine has more than 200,000 titles on its jukebox, all of them available for download from the Internet at a touch of a button. Using the keyboard on the monitor's screen, you can search by artist, album or song. And you can pay for your selections with your Visa or Mastercard. The jukebox stays up with new releases. The night we went, the White Stripes' latest effort was available, and we heard 50 Cent's newest single as we bought our first drinks. In fact, there are so many current songs, The Grapevine starts to sound like a club. But that can, of course, be remedied. Just stop by the jukebox yourself.

Readers' Pick
The Cavern 1914 Lower Greenville Ave. 214-828-1914
Who knew that a couple of messy pop-rock bands could be marketing geniuses? On a stereo, The Tah-Dahs and The Happy Bullets aren't a perfect musical match. The former rocks out with bare-bones twee-punk while the latter mixes horn arrangements into its softer, Decemberists-loving songs. But the Dallas bands teamed up roughly one year ago to play nearly every concert together, often helping each other onstage for massive dual-band songs. Through the partnership, two disparate fan bases emerged as an even bigger pop-rock movement. Thus, it made sense in April for both bands to join the same record label, local upstart Undeniable Records, and release their new albums on the same day. Each shot to the top of the local charts that week and not just by the virtue of the tag-team promotional attack. Vice and Virtue, with the help of famed producer Stuart Sikes, is the cleanest, tightest recording ever made by the Bullets, and Le Fun proves that Tah-Dahs leader Roy Ivy is among the wittiest, strongest songwriters in town. With the albums seeing national, simultaneous release in November, we can only hope that this musical pairing works just as well outside the metroplex.

Readers' Pick
Deaf Pedestrians Deaf Pedestrians
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

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