Round-Up Saloon
For more than a quarter-century The Round-Up Saloon has been one of Dallas' premier purveyors of country and western music, dancing and good times for good folks. Although classified as a gay bar, this popular watering hole welcomes those of all genders and persuasions, and any given night will give testimony that all types are present and all feel welcome. The Round-Up features all genres of country music, including old country, new/old remakes, young country and even crossover country. In short, the range of music offers styles, speeds and tastes to satisfy all. Nearly as rangy as the Ponderosa, this large club features six different bars and areas certain to provide the desired atmosphere to comfortably lip a long-neck (read that however you like). New shows and special events are scheduled frequently to ensure things keep hopping and hooting. Regular beer busts (50 cent draft!), karaoke, free dance lessons and Friday and Saturday Howdy Hour are popular mainstays here.
In only two years, the Summer Strut Home Tour, which takes place in early June, has leapt to the top of the list in this otherwise moribund category of entertainment. After all, how long can you really stay interested in Swiss Avenue? Sponsored by the AIDS Resource Center, the Summer Strut so far has presented tours in the Turtle Creek area and Greenway Parks, west of the Dallas North Tollway at Mockingbird Lane. It's not cheap--$50 a head and $90 per couple--but there are hors d'oeuvres at the houses and often live music. Old homes are mixed with new in a blend that is more stylish than what one sees on typical neighborhood tours.
El Ranchito
Kathy Tran
Every night we dine at this Oak Cliff institution we're treated to the best atmosphere of any Mexican joint in Dallas, complete with a roster of the city's finest mariachis. The fervent strumming of guitars, voices raised in perfect harmony, the sound of twin trumpets ringing off the tile--it's the next best thing to San Antonio, only you don't have to drive five hours and fight the River Walk crowds. On our last visit we even caught a touring act, an amplified band complete with twin saxophones, keyboard bass and a guy who had the sole responsibility of playing the hi-hat on the offbeat--with his hand.
What's going on with investigative TV reporting lately? For a while KTVT-Channel 11 had pulled ahead of WFAA's News 8 with a consistent string of hard-hitting, well-reported stories on local government and politics. What happened on 11? Recently their biggies were "New cameras can change the way you look," "Katie Couric's day in Texas" and, our favorite mind-boggling expos, "Schools influencing value of homes." Channel 8, meanwhile, is back in the winner's circle again with hard-hitting stories by Brett Shipp and Byron Harris on airline safety, wacked-out incompetence in the Dallas schools' administration, complaints of meshugga cops in Deep Ellum and others. All the major newscasts have competent newsreaders. It's the individual reporters and behind-the-scenes producers who make the difference. Right now, those are the people who have made News 8 the one to watch at 6 and 10.
Tired of Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville? Sick of getting hit up for change, paying eight bucks to park and constantly watching for muggers? Then head up Interstate 35 a piece and enjoy a night on the Denton town square, where the parking's free and the streets are considerably safer. For starters, we'd suggest a slice or two of delicious J&J's pizza (118 W. Oak St.). Follow that up with a shake at Beth Marie's Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Soda Fountain (117 W. Hickory St.), which you can work off with a stroll on the grounds of the picturesque courthouse. Finally, take in a show at Hailey's, Dan's or the basement of J&J's; there's bound to be a good one somewhere. If all else fails, keep your eyes peeled for a kid or two busking on the sidewalk.
Lakewood Texaco
If you're driving on Lower Greenville and notice you're being tailed, head for the corner of Skillman and Live Oak streets, where you'll find the Lakewood Texaco, favored on-duty pit stop of the East Dallas cops. Owners Issa and Lena Boeuri have firmly entrenched their station in the hearts of the local community, in the process creating a virtual Shangri-la for cops--full of doughnuts, coffee, magazines and good conversation. If your night ever goes bad, you'll probably be glad they're there--we might, however, suggest you think twice before purchasing that newly stocked issue of High Times in their presence.
John McCaa is a serious person. He has a master's degree in politics from the University of Dallas (not easy to get) and has been at WFAA since 1984, with a solid history of street reporting behind him. But look, how do you judge news anchoring, as opposed to news news? Let's be honest, McCaa is this year's best anchor because he has the best knitted-brow expression of somber authority and the best end-of-newscast chuckle. That's what you call range in the anchor biz. He also does those voice-over previews at the beginning of the newscast with just the right amount of energy, meaning he doesn't sound bored but doesn't sound like a used-car guy hawking repos either. We don't want to go on too much about the others who didn't make it in this category. Tracy Rowlett at Channel 11 was close, but his pompadour has been a little flat lately. Clarice Tinsley and Jane McGarry--their cute wore off awhile back. Karen Borta--still too cute. We know one thing: Nobody better put us in front of that camera. Don't even try. Did you hear that? We dare you. Try it. Just once.
Jake's Old Fashioned Hamburgers
One of the few good things about working near Uptown is the people-watching, and restaurant employees are no exception. Judging by the waitstaff, the interview process at the Uptown Jake's must include a visit to Tigger's tattoos--we haven't seen this many dolphins, rainbows and butterflies since we caught that IMAX movie with the Sting soundtrack. If you'd like to see what these comely young ladies might look like after 10 years and three kids, we direct you to the former Jake's (now Jakk's) on Garland Road.
Outlaw country and baseball chat--what's next, an award for our fave bait shop? Not really, and this shouldn't insinuate that other genres aren't doing well on Dallas' dial; the heated battle between KBFB-97.9 FM (The Beat) and KKDA-104 FM (K104) is good news for mainstream rap fans, and KNTU-88.1 FM delivers more worthwhile, bop-era jazz than most stations in the nation. But this year's winners aren't just the best of Dallas--they're what you'd least expect in this plastic city. Longtime local jockey Alan Peck Sr., decades past his days at trailblazing country station KBOX, continues to lead The Range with its self-professed brand of "hard country" that proves no cut is too deep, from Ray Stevens' "Ahab the Arab" to Sorta's "Party's Over" and every Texas swing gem in between. And in spite of The Ticket's growth this year, boosted by the all-sports station's official partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, the no-B.S. attitude that has won over legions of dedicated P1s hasn't softened, which means The Musers' Gordon Keith is still screwing around as The Fake Jerry Jones and The Hardline's Mike Rhyner won't stop calling Bill Parcells "The New Jersey Con Man" anytime soon. The station touts that its listeners "hang out" with the hosts, and that's exactly what it feels like to hear the guys deliver hilarious, self-deprecating material about everything from spelling bees to Parcells' "fupa" (not to mention their weekly recaps of on-air screw-ups, the kinds most other stations would prefer to ignore). Talk and country radio that isn't cheesy and contrived doesn't just exist in Dallas; it thrives.
Granada Theater
Some moms may go for Kenny G., but ours is way cooler than that, a veteran of more kick-ass concerts than you youngsters can even dream of. Unfortunately, Mom just can't party like she used to. Luckily for her there's the Granada Theater, booked solid with mom-friendly acts and shows that end by midnight. It's also non-smoking, which, let's be honest, is really a plus for everyone. Throw in reserved seating, easy parking and some cleverly named menu items and you have a recipe for a middle-aged woman dancing in the aisles.

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