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.
Sometimes we don't want to go where everybody knows our name. Sometimes, we need to lay low after a nasty fight with the sig other or escape the bona fide parking nightmares that are Dallas' various entertainment districts. Those times, Lota's Goat is just what the functional alcoholic ordered. If it's a warm side-hug, a cold brew and a sympathetic ear you need, someone at Lota's Goat will be happy to oblige—whether you've met before or not. The neon-lit, wood-paneled bar pulls off one heck of a double-wide trailer impression and features a parade of comfortingly nutty regulars, from the bleached blond lady who always sings "Black Velvet" on karaoke night to the steady string of weathered local musicians. New patrons who favor total anonymity best be careful, though, because the bar's friendly East Dallas attitude could turn most anyone into a nightly fixture.
As technology expands, so do our entertainment options. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Radio has made a resurgence as a niche entertainment source. North Texas is home to the sixth-largest GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) community in the country, and Dallas now boasts its first and only station representing the gay community. Don't bother trying to tune it in on your radio dial; the station can be heard only online or on HD radio. The channel's options include 24/7 streaming music, music on demand, news, gossip, videos and all things pop culture and entertainment-related. Special programs include New York-based "Ryan and Caroline" (called radio's "Will & Grace"), who feature listener stories, movie reviews, travel, style and health spots, and dish about the latest dirt with celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. Dallas favorite Jen Austin is the local source. There's even a Hunk of the Day and Babe of the Day. Pride Radio is on loud and proud.
Hidden Door
There's nothing particularly subtle about the Hidden Door, starting with its name and continuing the moment you walk inside to a room of aging gay men kissing and joking like long-lost soul mates. The Hidden Bar is a gay bar in both senses of the word: On a Sunday afternoon when an overflow crowd spills out into the patio, it may be the happiest place in Dallas. This is not your trendy gay bar; no SMU girls just looking to dance, no young, trim gay men looking to impress. It's just a loud, chatty crowd of regulars, like the kind you might find in a working-class bar in Staten Island, only with a whole bunch of gay men, some of whom are inexplicably shirtless. In its own way, the Hidden Door attracts a mixed crowd, from straight-looking office worker types to middle-aged men who make Elton John look like Steve McQueen. Best of all, the Oak Lawn Avenue joint can boast some of the best bartenders in town, who remember the familiar faces and warm up to the new ones.
Tucked away on an unassuming stretch of Maple Avenue (at Throckmorton Street) perches a nightclub that, while modest of appearance, has heaps of heart. Although the club prides itself on diversity and inclusion, it's mainly a welcome watering hole for gay boys, gay gals and their friends and fans. Everyone is welcome to kick up their heels, have a laugh or sing a song. Twice-a-week karaoke is one of the most popular attractions at Illusions. Activities abound nightly from potent potable price-breaks and pool tournaments, to pageants and potluck dinners. But the cornerstone of this quaint cabaret is the wonderfully wacky weekly drag show featuring some of Dallas' most outrageous she-males. Special charity fund-raising events provide a frequent opportunity for the club to give back to the community. Illusions is a warm little shoebox of a bar with an accommodating staff who love their customers and pride themselves on a friendly atmosphere with fun times for all.
Dallas' annual Black Tie Dinner is not only one of the most successful sit-down charity dinners in America, it is the largest event of its kind. Established in 1982, the nation's leading gay and lesbian fund-raising dinner has grown from a modest first event, which had 140 guests and raised $6,000, to more than 3,000 guests and a record haul of $1.35 million at last year's 25th annual gala. Black Tie Dinner Inc. is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as well as gay and lesbian organizations serving North Texas. This elegant evening is one of the highlights of the Dallas gay social calendar and features nationally known guest speakers, entertainers and celebrities. Past luminaries have included Maya Angelou, Stockard Channing, Lily Tomlin and Megan Mullally. In 2005 Sharon Stone led the luxury auction to record high bids. The 2007 gala will be held November 17 at the Adam's Mark Hotel. Check the Web site for ticket info. The guest speaker this year is slated to be actor, social activist and humanitarian Martin Sheen.
The popular summer TV show may be called America's Got Talent, but an argument could be made that Dallas Has Got Talent too. And it's onstage at the annual Voice of Pride competition, now in its fourth year. Open to members of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community over age 21, the American Idol-style singing contest starts in late spring with a series of preliminary, elimination and semi-final rounds held at various gay clubs around the city. The 12 finalists perform in a special finale competition, and the winner pockets $3,000 in cash as well as invitations to appear at various community events throughout the year. Voting for Voice of Pride, after the preliminary rounds, is done by teams of qualified music professionals, making it a true singing competition and less of a popularity contest. And there won't be snarky comments from any Simon Cowell-ian judges: The atmosphere at this contest is decidedly upbeat and supportive. The 2007 winner, Randall Garland, was chosen August 5. Info on upcoming events and on entering the 2008 competition can be found by visiting the Dallas Tavern Guild Web site.
Granted, Texas has some beautiful scenery, but sometimes we just want to see some honest-to-goodness forest and mountains. And so we head to southeastern Oklahoma, to the edge of the Ouachita National Forest. The terrain is beautiful, with mountain lakes and rivers and thousands of conifers (though you may need a four-wheel-drive in some areas). For camping, head to Beavers Bend State Park (about 3.5 hours from Dallas) or for a less rustic romantic or family outing, pick any of the log cabins and cottages for rent along Highway 259.
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Brandon+Thibodeaux
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The Dallas Theater Center will move out of the cantilevered layer-cake building on Turtle Creek when the new Wyly arts complex downtown is finished in 2009. But we're wondering if the ghost of the building's legendary architect will make the move too. Since the theater opened nearly 48 years ago, it's been part of its colorful lore that the ghost of architect Frank Lloyd Wright haunts the scene shop's elevator. Seems Wright designed DTC with no right angles (making those steps to the restrooms from the lobby particularly treacherous) and no way to lift large set pieces from the basement to the stage. Wright died in April 1959; the theater opened in December of that year. In the months between, they put in the elevator, thus enraging the spirit, so the story goes, of Wright. Late-night scene shop workers have reported sightings of the levitating head in the elevator for decades. Now that's a show.

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