The Pooch Patio
If your dog's wardrobe, bed, dishes and collars cost more than DISD's annual per child budget, Pooch Patio is not for you. This place is for the everydog: the four-legged fashionistas sporting Isaac Mizrahi for Target, the Saturday-morning dog park dachshund, the pug in the Passat whose mom wants to drop him off for day care and get her morning coffee buzz at one place. The colorful little house near the intersection of Oak Lawn and Maple avenues offers doggie day care (with webcam!), a self-serve grooming area, the Bark Boutique, a lounge with a bar, fireplace and wireless Internet and--as the name suggests--a patio. There's coffee and pastries in the morning, a small lunch menu, beer and wine and, for the pup on the go, take-home canine cuisine from Bone Appetite Meals 2 Go 4 Mutts. Check your e-mail, have a drink, wash your dog and hang out with friends--two- or four-legged--because Pooch Patio is dog- and people-friendly.
There is a myth that farmers and ranchers just treat their livestock like, uh, well, livestock. But at places like Roach Feed & Seed Inc. (lovingly referred to as Roach's by customers in Garland), there seems to be a mindset that it is all right to feed and treat your animals better, and we fully agree. The wooden-plank floors creak a bit as the workers haul 50-pound bags of birdseed, rabbit pellets and corn feed. They even carry monkey chow. Bins of loose seed (radish, various greens, etc.) sit atop wooden tables near the front door, and on it, of course, hangs a bell. There's a small pet shop out back with birds, small rodents and fish. It seems like your basic feed store, supplying everything from a parakeet to a pair of rubber gloves for palpating a cow, but there's an added loving touch. Cans of gourmet Merrick dog food signify that Rufus isn't just a ranch dog, he's another son. And they'll give you tips on giving Sweet Bertha diatomaceous earth in her cow grub, so she doesn't have to be treated for worms later. They even have chickens for sale in the spring, if you want to cultivate that urban farmer mystique.
Dirty Dawgz
You bring your muddy mutt in. They show the two of you to a booth equipped with a big hose and a squeeze bottle full of dog shampoo. You wash the beast. It's great. All of the stupid flapping and shaking and slobbering gets done within the confines of a nice metal stall instead of in your house or apartment or, worse, out on the lawn where other people can watch. They have a big blower so you can dry off the cur before getting back to the car. There are all kinds of steel brushes, combs and scissors available to deal with tangles. The tubs are large and sit about waist-high (your back will thank you for that), and aprons and towels are provided. Besides the wash, grooming and nail clipping are also available. (For all services, the do-it-yourself bit is optional.) And the best part is the price: One clean pup with clipped nails ran about $13. It's way cheaper than a groomer, and though you might end up a soggy wreck, your dog comes out looking better fur the effort.
We once left City Vet for a more "convenient" veterinarian, one that was closer to home. But we ended up coming back. City Vet has the hours, the friendly staff and the services that we wanted and needed. Convenience? You can drop off your pet before work and pick him up on your way home. Services? They offer standard animal medical care, plus grooming, day care and boarding. Location? Near Central Expressway and Interstate 35, it's easy to get to. Quirky perks? You can while away your workday watching your pet on City Vet's doggie day care webcams. And with the addition of City Pet Supply next door to the Oak Lawn Avenue office, they'll soon offer even more, including pet food and treats, "urban gear" and a canine-friendly coffee shop where you can share strudel with your poodle or relax over a hot meow-cha latte while kitty gets a check-up.
Sure, theoretically you could fish for bass with a fly rod in the Trinity River. You could also fish for boots with a fly rod at the city dump. But what if you want to do some real fly fishing for trout on a gorgeous mountain stream like Robert Redford in A River Runs Through It? With a full string orchestra playing behind you. Blue Drake Outfitters can set you up with almost all of that scene (you'll have to do the music in your own head). Full line of equipment and clothes, full range of prices from competitive with Bass Pro Shops to the high end of the high end. Great instructors. Perfect venue for the wannabe or the ultimate angler.
Nothing is better than beating a tire to the blow-out. Because nothing is worse than that loud KABOOM! followed by the involuntary swerve, the maneuvering to the shoulder and the dance with traffic. Inevitably you're either trying to change the tire pinched between a guardrail and the car or ass-out to rush hour, praying you don't get taken out by a semi. Therefore, it's best to let Charly and his crew at Advantage Tire Pros hook you up with a sturdy, reliable set to start out with and have a good look for maintenance on a regular basis. (Don't lie; you know you're not out there checking your tires like you should.) Now, we admit, we are a bit biased after Charly and the Pros came to the aid of more than one Observer staffer in the same day. Then he offered some friendly non-tire advice as another staffer sputtered into his lot, stopping to call for a ride. (Saved her some money, too.) These tire folk are fair and balanced--exactly what you want in a wheel. Oh, and they can fix your flat fast to boot.
You see a mechanic shop in a modest older building, it can mean one of two things. They're going to rob you blind, stick the air hose in your nose and make you squawk like a dime balloon. Or you have finally found the treasure for which every car owner's life is an endless quest--the honest mechanic who actually knows how to fix cars. Lakewood Automotive (originally Zuhdi Texaco) is that treasure. They work on everything, ancient to brand-new. They're honest, their rates are reasonable. When you get your car back it works, and you never ever have to talk to someone whose little shirt pocket thingy says "Maintenance Counselor."
Don't wear sandals, and come ready to sweat and dig. Because at Orr-Reed Wrecking Co., they're stacking 'em deep and selling 'em cheap. Their specialty is architectural salvage, and you're likely to find a little bit of everything, including ancient gas heaters and clawfoot bathtubs. But the amazing thing is the number of doors of every shape, size and age. They've forgone the Home Depot tidiness, so to unearth these treasures, be prepared to wade through cobwebs or dodge broken glass.
Here's the thing about pawn shops--the inventory changes quickly and constantly. On Tuesday, you might be able to walk in and buy a Gibson Les Paul in near-perfect condition for a mere fraction of the original price. On Wednesday, you might venture back to that same pawn shop and find only a wrench covered in what looks like goo from its last plumbing job. But if you don't mind perusing the aisles and having nice conversations with the manager, there are two places you have to hit up. Regent Pawn and Village Pawn (the Oak Cliff locations) boast two of the best pawn shop managers in town. Mark of Regent and Robert of Village are friendly guys who don't mind answering questions or making deals, if what they have is what you're looking for. Both managers are in charge of several locations in the city, so they aren't always there, but a quick phone call to see if they're in is worth it. You'll have a fun pawn-shoppin' day and maybe even a fun bargain-huntin' day, too.
Sure, you can pay $100 for a ready-made veil or $500 to have your invitations printed. And if you have $600 just burning a hole in your pocket, send it immediately to us c/o our P.O. box. Didn't think so. Your frugality--er, your appreciation of good value--will lead you to Michael's, yep, the big-box craft store, where a creative bride can find most anything to fashion the accessories for her wedding. We made our own veil with five yards of tulle ($9.99) and a package of plastic combs ($2.69) in about 30 minutes. Then, not only did we have a veil, but bragging rights ("Hey, I'm a DIY bride!") and an extra $88 to spend on, like, maybe something we'll wear more than once.

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