We've seen and heard just about everything on Sunday nights at Nikita. Randy drunks try to catch the eyes of other randy drunks. They beg for phone numbers when their dates rush off to the unisex bathroom. Inside the john, guys brazenly attempt to lure party girls into stalls. One woman simply walked up to us and slurred, "I'm trying to pick you up." Nikita represents the last gasp, the last chance for a little weekend hanky-panky until, well, four days from now. Up until recently the bit of Sabbath bacchanalia was known as "Naked Sunday" because bar staff ran soft-core porn on two small monitors. Dallas vice cops blacked out the bouncing breasts a few months ago because of a deep concern for the morality of 20- and 30-somethings. Ah, but the revelry continues.
Once in awhile some curmudgeon laments the evolutionary process that reduces once manly cocktails to whimpering, effeminate things with barely a drizzle of liquor. Hemingway and other tough guys slurped piña coladas that were alcoholic beasts, not frozen desserts. Stolid British gents downed dry, puckering gin martinis, not clean, unthreatening glasses of vodka, to fortify themselves for a day abusing colonial natives. Fortunately, the folks at Monica's decided to preserve the fading memory of one classic, the margarita. Frankie's Margarita blends three ingredients: good tequila, orange liqueur and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Served neat, it's tart with a hint of sweetness, followed by a dry, vegetal undercurrent from Mexico's most popular export. Above all, Frankie's Margarita contains alcohol. Cut only by a little lime, it's a time bomb with a quick fuse. Two of these and your female friends ask you to inspect their breasts for firmness and proper alignment. No matter what anyone tells you, this is the best, most potent, most traditional margarita served in Dallas.

Readers' Pick
Mi Cocina Multiple locations
The Grapevine
We're still not sure we heard John the Bartender right; after all, it was our first time in the legendary haunt, the Observer's new next-door neighbor and Best Friend Forever, and we were a bit overwhelmed by the awesomely funky vibe of the place. But we coulda sworn he said something about how all drinks are two bucks on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Maybe not. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. Even if we were wrong, happy hour here delivers two-dollar versions of five-buck beverages, including their famous bellinis and a hurricane that could swamp New Orleans (if that's in bad taste, the drink ain't at all).

Readers' Pick
Absinthe Lounge 1409 S. Lamar St., Suite 008 214-421-5500
We started to credit Leann Berry with best use of pomegranate for her unique "pom pom" cocktail. Then we tried her latest creation, the pantheistic "nectar of the gods." It resembles a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, a perfect way to start the day, until the musky tartness of passion fruit and dry kick of tequila clutches your throat. A strong pour of agave juice. She treats the pulpy fruit first, probably in a vat of alcohol, then blends it with a good reposado tequila, Grand Marnier and other ingredients. We suspect key lime, but can't pick out the remaining flavors. Berry may be the city's most creative mixologist, designing several Ciudad standouts and kicking ass in a Corzo competition. Clearly not so good when it comes to naming things, however. No self-respecting guy is likely to stroll up to a bar, nod to a nearby babe, and blurt "nectar of the gods, please, and another scotch for the lady."
So you caved in to peer pressure, begged some credit and bought one of those overpriced condos popping up all around Oak Lawn and Uptown. Friday and Saturday nights you press the limits of your Visa account ordering overpriced cocktails at Medici. Gotta spend Tuesday nights on Primo's sparse patio, like everybody else, and cram into Nikita on Sunday, which puts you to work several hours late. There goes the raise. When it's time to scale back, there's always Snookie's, with a menu of comforting fried foods that will keep you feeling stuffed all day long and a full bar to beat back any attempt by the rational part of your brain to make the rest of you cognizant of financial distress. Parking around back is a good thing: You can hide the Kia from public view.
Several evenings last summer we popped up to Medici and found a real-life reenactment of those cartoon moments when the main character freezes and everything falls silent. Crickets chirping, that sort of thing. After the usual grand opening frenzy abated, the party people slinked away from Phil Romano's upscale lounge. Yet somehow Romano's hard-working fix-it man, Joe Palladino, managed to revive the place. This summer, hordes of comely youngsters bumped elbows and anything else that protruded. The well-appointed lounge now ranks amongst the hippest spots in Dallas, despite offering some of the most expensive drinks. Palladino guessed that relaxing the dress code, kicking up the music and loosening the door policy would pull the mob back, and it worked.
Dallas has an abundance of public parks, but some of them are poorly kept, and others, such as Kiest Park, are sprawling and green but offer too many places where danger could lurk. Best to go to the near suburbs, where parks departments don't have as much acreage to tend to and cops are all over the place. Head to Duncanville's Kidsville. Kidsville resembles a giant wooden fort: It's an intricate, multilevel complex of smooth wooden play structures, including a train engine, tug boat and castle. Each of the structures is connected by bridges and walkways, creating lots of "secret passages" and cozy spots where a kid can perch inside. Adjacent to the fort are swingsets and picnic facilities and benches where exhausted parents can sit down. Little kids can wring literally hours of imaginative play from this place, and you get the feeling, at least, that it's about as safe of a park environment as you'll find.

Readers' Pick
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children Corner of Oak Lawn and Maple avenues
Celebration Station
It's loud. It's crass. It's overrun with grubby kids begging for more tokens. But every visit gets compliments from the most demanding customer of all--the kids themselves. On the food chain of kids' entertainment venues, it's a notch above Chuck E. Cheese but located in Mesquite, the epicenter of blue-collar Dallas County. So what do the kids see in it? A set price gets you wristbands that allow unlimited use of rides such as bumper cars, water bumper cars (the consensus favorite; the littlest kids must ride with an adult or older child) and a few kiddie rides, as well as two pieces of edible pizza per child and a handful of tokens for two floors of arcade games. We judge it by the results: Some kids at the birthday party we threw stayed for five hours and practically had to be lassoed and dragged out.

Readers' Pick
Chuck E. Cheese Multiple locations
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
All along U.S. Highway 67, passing through two-bit towns, auction arenas and a grain elevator decorated in Holstein spots, the anticipation builds. You'll hear plenty of "Are we there yet?" on the 90-minute journey to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a safari park in Glen Rose, but the payoff is always there. Once you purchase admission and your optional feed bag, you're a critter magnet. First up are the ostriches, pecking your car windows. Then seemingly every variety of deer, gazelle and cloven-hoofed beast known to man on rolling hills designed to approximate an African savannah. Down a steep drive are the aggressive zebras; open car windows at your own risk. Then the giraffes, who will occasionally bend down to peer at you through a moon roof (and drool). Very good munchies can be found at Fossil Rim's restaurant and the store is exceptionally well-stocked with the trinkets kids favor, as well as stuff you might actually like.

Readers' Pick
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens 8525 Garland Road 214-327-4901
Sure, the Dallas World Aquarium is world-class, but for $15.95, we want one of the fish we saw grilled and blackened. The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, on the other hand, charges $3 for admission, and while it's not as modern as the DWA, it does boast several recently added exhibits, including the "Amazon Flooded Forest" and the "Seahorse Rodeo." The Dallas Aquarium was also one of the first aquariums to breed several endangered Texas aquatic species in captivity, including the Barton Springs salamander and the desert pupfish. Our favorite resident, however, is the 135-pound alligator snapping turtle, who may or may not be older than your grandmother, but is certainly big enough to eat her.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of