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
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

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of