Kettle Art
The Kettle Art Gallery really shouldn't exist. In a missive on the official Kettle Art Web site, co-owners Frank Campagna and Kirk Hopper admit that they rarely represent artists who sell work for bucketloads of cash. They have no major benefactor and don't live in the space or hold fund-raisers—all elements that keep most galleries afloat. To top it off, they're in Deep Ellum, the neighborhood everyone's been told to run far, far away from. But anyone who's been to Kettle knows better. Their strip of Elm Street is thriving. Campagna's and Hopper's marathon exhibition schedule, featuring everything from tattoo artists' works to horror-themed shows, keeps the gallery walls full of fresh new work from both underground and prominent local artists. It's all a mighty fine affront to conventional attitudes about how to make and sell art.
Lakewood Landing
Some would say "dive bar" is an insult, but for us, Best Dive Bar is an enormous compliment. It means this place we're as comfortable in as our own living room. It's a place we respect for its attitude and its people. There's no pretense in a dive bar. No bullshit. And that's what the Lakewood Landing is about. (The bar's sign outside claims "an upscale dive," so we know we're all on the same page here.) The booths are worn like our couch cushions, the food goes down hot and easy and the cold beer goes down even easier. We can count on watching whatever game we care about on one of their several screens. We can play seriously great music as well as some guilty pleasures on the jukebox. We can suck at pool. And while we love knocking back a few with friends at the Landing, we also know we can sidle up to the bar comfortably alone knowing the keepers of the bar and kings of the kitchen treat good folks like family and don't take any shit from assholes.
White Rock Lake Dog Park
First, a disclaimer. If you have a small, introspective dog, we do not suggest the White Rock Lake Dog Park, where your little critter will be swarmed by herds of yappy dogs upon arrival. So instead, we suggest taking your pet to the woodsy trails around the old Fish Hatchery adjacent to the White Rock spillway. It's rather peaceful there with plenty of wildflowers, streams and trees for your dog to sniff. But if you and your critter are looking for a more social experience, the White Rock Lake Dog Park, with its stunning views of the lake, remains a prime spot for man's best friend. There you have three areas, one for smaller dogs, the other for larger ones and a third with lakeside access for dogs who like to swim. The park can turn to mud after a drop of rain, but on sunny, dry days, it's a fun place to tire out your dog and meet people who share your irrational devotion to your pet.
The main gatekeeper of Club Dada goes only by the name of Beard. And, indeed, with his grizzled white-furred chin and Marine Corps insignia-laden jacket, the man resembles Santa Claus, if Santa were to ride a Harley. Also like Santa, Beard is jolly enough, and judicious but fair. If you're nice, he will check your ID, lead you right in and regale you with strange and amazing tales of the Deep Ellum of yore. If you're naughty, he'll punish you, and believe us, it's worse than a bag of switches.
The Rose Room
Boys will be boys, but at The Rose Room, they'll be girls too. And these "girls" are the jewel in the crown of Station 4, one of the largest gay dance clubs in the country. Located on the upper level of the mega-disco, the cast of The Rose Room is the crème de la crème of America's female impersonators. The atmosphere is more nightclub than gay bar. A diverse crowd watches primo parades of tucked-in pulchritude. Included in the cast are a former Miss Gay America, a former Miss Gay USofA and a former Miss Continental. The gals kick off full cast shows at 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with costumed production numbers and solo spots at center stage. Fan favorites include sexy blond bombshell Krystal Summers; Layla LaRue and her elaborate dance routines; the hilarious comic antics of Cassie Nova; and the legendary beauty of Maya Douglas. But the bloom on this rose belongs to Valerie Lohr, who has reigned as resident goddess of glamour for more 20 years. Her opulent wardrobe and wicked wit have made her one of the most enduring divas in all of dragdom. Check out caven.com for cover charges, special guest appearances and general information.
With his soft jowls and graying hair, James Crawford, 42, isn't a typical leading man. But Dallas theaters compete to cast this powerful actor, who's as versatile as John Lithgow, with a bit of Kevin Spacey's penchant for dark humor. At Contemporary Theatre of Dallas last season, he was stoic but romantic as Brit author C.S. Lewis in the tragic Shadowlands. At WaterTower he played a quietly enraged (and very drunk) George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He's done comedies at Theatre Three, classics at Dallas Theater Center (10 shows in five years) and worn jodhpurs for Echo Theatre. He's also acted at Theatre Britain, Stage West, Shakespeare Festival of Dallas and other regional and off-Broadway houses. He's been playing characters in their 40s "since I was in fifth grade," he says, and is now enjoying aging gracefully into more mature roles. There's no accent he can't perfect and no local leading lady who hasn't developed a bit of a crush on him, at least for the run of the show. His latest challenge was taking on multiple roles in DTC's Pride & Prejudice. Now teaching acting to undergrads and grad students at SMU's Meadows School of the Arts as an assistant professor, Crawford is a master of his art.
This was the breakout year for the 42-year-old Dallas actress. After a decade as one of the area's leading musical theater stars—most recently starring in the title role in Theatre Three's Caroline, or Change—Mikel made the leap to TV and film with a year's worth of work. On NBC's critically acclaimed series Friday Night Lights, she plays Corinna Williams, tough-but-warm mom to "Smash," one of the show's star high school football players (played by Gaius Charles). Cast for what she thought was a one-episode shot, Mikel ended up appearing on nearly every episode of the drama's freshman season and will be back again this fall. She'll also be seen in the new film comedy The Better Man, starring with James Earl Jones, Martin Lawrence, Mo'Nique and Cedric the Entertainer. Always a joy to watch in musical comedies, Mikel shows real fire as a dramatic actress. Friday Night Lights may shine on the show's younger stars, but playing Corinna has finally put Mikel in the national spotlight.
Fine Nails
Fine Nails is the snooping sociologist's dream. The salon attracts Swiss Avenue socialites, couples out for a his-and-hers pedi, nail-obsessed women with 2-inch claws and everyone in between. Want to know where Susie Perfect with the pink manicure met her cheating boyfriend? Just wait for a spell in the one-room salon, and chances are, she'll tell someone—either her nail technician or the person on the other end of her cell. Need to know what kind of china is hot at Lakewood weddings or which local doctor is best at identifying bizarre moles? The answers all await at Fine Nails. Since each nail station is arranged in a large circle, including the comfy pedicure chairs, it's impossible not to hear every word uttered. Which never seems to stop anyone from airing out their dirty laundry. Oh, well. At least you know their hands and/or feet are clean.
Fuel City
You probably know by now that Fuel City serves the best tacos in Texas, according to Texas Monthly and every member of the Dallas Observer editorial staff. But we're almost as impressed with the place itself as we are with its famous taco stand. Located between a strip club and a jail, Fuel City is, like Texas, a bizarre, inexplicable and larger-than-life place. We don't know why there are cattle in a field behind the store or why young Latinas amble by the pool on a cool spring day. We're not even sure why there is a pool there in the first place or how any one gas station can sell as much beer as they stock or why they have approximately 429 large-screen TVs tuned to around-the-clock auto racing. We don't know and we don't ask. We just get there, look around and eat, which, come to think of it, is what most people do when they come to Texas.
AllGood Cafe
Nick Rallo
Most repertory film series focus on things we have, at best, a middling interest in. You know, like, '70s slasher flicks, zombie movies and, uh, French stuff. The Rock 'N' Reel Wednesdays series, however, is a whole different animal, catering mostly to music nerds, aging hippies and hungry stoners with selections such as the Maysles brothers' immortal Gimme Shelter, Sam Jones' 2002 Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart and The Weather Underground, a critically acclaimed 2002 doc on the most radical wing of the Vietnam protest movement. Sure, you could get most of this stuff on Netflix if you wanted, but music is a communal thing, man, so pony up that $5 donation and get your ass down to the AllGood for some rock and roll soul food and a flick.

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