Best Jon Daniels Signing 2007 | Eric Gagne | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
OK, this category is about as competitive as a Shreveport spelling bee, but we do have to give our stumbling young GM a fair amount of props for claiming the former Dodgers great off the scrap heap. Given up for dead after missing nearly two seasons with an assortment of career-threatening injuries, Eric Gagne reclaimed his spot as one of baseball's best relievers in a great comeback season for the Texas Rangers. With the up and down pitching of Kevin Millwood and streaky hitting of Michael Young, Gagne was the team's most reliable player for a good chunk of the year. For a team with rail-thin confidence, Gagne's ability to close out close games was a huge boon to the team's psyche; there were many games where a blown save could have sent the Rangers reeling to a truly ignominious season—instead of a plain old disappointing one.
Considering all the people who have been thrown out of this joint for cussin' or violating the dress code, they ought to call it Tight Ship's Lounge, 'cause they certainly run one. But dammit if they don't have a magnificent jukebox full of country and R&B classics, with names like Marty Robbins, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bobby "Blue" Bland and the Drifters whizzing past as you search for that perfect slice of heartbreak or romance. You might also notice a complete lack of Jimmy Buffet, Justin Timberlake and Interpol, which is fine and dandy with us. And if you just can't decide between Jimmy Reed and Jim Reeves, take solace in the fact that this juke still plays four songs for a dollar. (The bar's also quiet enough that you can actually hear what's playing.) So put on something besides a wife-beater, watch your mouth and show some respect for the old school, kids.
Owned in part by the surviving members of Pantera, with an airy interior whose dimensions rival that of the main cave at Carlsbad Caverns, and providing patrons with free drinks on Monday nights, the Clubhouse is a place where dirty dreams come true in the least seedy way possible. It's, as they say, a classy joint, boasting an enormous stage with just enough lighting and plenty of poles. There's also the comfy VIP section, which is a large upstairs balcony with a view of, well, everything, plus—and this is our favorite part—all the cocktail waitresses are dressed as schoolgirls. Oh yeah, and there's valet parking too, but the valets just wear regular clothes.
Dear Ask a Mexican, What is the best Latin club in Dallas? I'd really like to get my salsa on.—Gringa Skin, Latina Heart Dear Gringa, Ay, Gabacha! What makes you think you can pigeonhole what "Latin" means now days? If we were to vote, we could choose that place Blue, downtown, because the block-long line to get in has always been full of Latinos ready to get their groove on, although the place plays hip-hop. But since it plays hip-hop and not Selena, or salsa, or merengue, we'll toss it out in the basura. Plus, we think it's closed. We don't really know, as we don't hang out there after dark—downtown is dangerous at night, que no? The point is, classifying something as "Latin" is more dificil than, say, blues or hip-hop. But, if we were to go with the usual gabacho perspective, we'd choose Escapade 2009. It's giant—muy grande—with many subdivided areas and Latin genres to choose from: reggaeton, traditional, Latin pop, y muchas mas. Come to think of it, it's all things Latin music, under one roof. ¿Comprende?
A couple of years ago, Tony Bones was a wayward kid with a can of spray paint, tagging brick walls, cargo trucks and, well, any flat surface with his signature stick figures. His graffiti addiction earned him a criminal record and years of probation. But Bones rallied, moving his artistic inclinations from the streets to the walls of the art world. Featured at Deep Ellum's Kettle Art Gallery and on posters, T-shirts and even the album cover for former mayoral hopeful Zac Crain's benefit CD, Bones' work includes signature themes such as lanky, long-fingered figures, skulls and stylized animals bursting with primary colors. In the stuffy world of gallery art, Bones' punk sensibility stands out, proof that he's still got a lot of that anti-establishment tagger deep in his soul.
The workday can get so hectic you just need a breather from computers and voicemails and people you spend at least 40 hours a week with. Head downtown to the Dallas World Aquarium and take a lesson from a creature who really knows how to slow down. For the price of a counter-service lunch, you can cruise on through to visit a three-toed sloth. We've gotten to know Bella, our fave, but we hear the other two, Leno and Samba, are just as slow-going and amiable. Take a lean and watch the hairy mammal hang out on its tree, moving in slo-mo. Unlike other exhibits at the aquarium, the sloth isn't caged or enclosed, but free to reach out and slowly latch onto someone's hair (a highlight from one of our visits) or grab camera straps. But most often, they just appear to sleep. They're models of how to relax.
This summertime gathering (in Grapevine, of all places) brings writers, editors, agents and journalists to one of the premier literary events in the nation. Last year, Gay Talese, arguably the greatest living magazine scribe, was keynote speaker. This year's stars included three-time Nobel Prize nominee Joyce Carol Oates and Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer winner for The Looming Tower. In its third year, the conference is being hailed as the best of its kind for writers of literary nonfiction. The schedule for the three-day event typically includes workshops on freelance magazine writing, finding narratives in true tales and how to reconstruct dialogue and scenes in sports stories (taught this year by Sports Illustrated's Bill Nack). Agents, authors and would-be authors are spreading the good word about this confab. If you're a writer, it's the place to be if you want to be read.
A music venue is more than four walls and a sound system (even if, as in the case of the House of Blues, it's a mind-blowingly stellar sound system). Three years ago, CD World owner Mike Schoder—he of the perfectly casual blond coif and the laidback surfer's grin—bought the storied Granada Theater, which over the years housed everything from Cowboys watching parties to screenings of The Godfather, and it has evolved into the spot for those who eschew corporate-owned venues, for those who would rather attend the Baboon CD release party than a Justin Timberlake show and those who would rather hear Animal Collective than Creed. Schoder's decision to hire local scenester Kris Youmans as a booking agent has improved the caliber of shows dramatically; even with the Charles Attals of the world pushing the majority of artists toward the House of Blues and Palladium, the Granada's blend of indie groups, giant-name artists and local luminaries—everyone from Devendra Banhart to Lucinda Williams to Ghosthustler—has something for anyone who has an ounce of taste. Oh, and don't worry, they still have the Cowboys watching parties.
We hate to say it. It's almost a cliché. We know that there were so many brilliant contenders for this category, it's almost a shame to decide on the Spree. But damn that Tim DeLaughter, he just keeps coming at us with such transcendent stuff that ultimately we must admit This Fragile Army wins as best local release. This, the Spree's third disc, finds the army of love ditching the robes and donning gray uniforms, reflecting the slightly darker, though still ultimately optimistic, fare of the band. You'll still find the usual Polyphonic outpouring of music, a joyous chorus of horns and harps and layered, ecstatic vocals, but what makes this the best CD of the year is the subtle smarts behind it. The Spree would have looked stupid blithely barreling along with its Zoloft-coated message; by admitting the world is currently screwed, DeLaughter et al. maintain their credibility, all with songs of gorgeous, sweeping scope.
So many to choose from...and that's the problem. WeShotJR, BigDlittled, Boca Tinta, the Fine Line—and these are just the best-known tip of the iceberg—are all fine and dandy, and we appreciate each for its particular personality. Each gets the straight-up skinny, albeit with a few snags here and there (the fallout from the Great Matthew and the Arrogant Sea Debacle at weshotjr is just now subsiding), but here's the thing: The pissiness turns us off. Sometimes it's the bloggers themselves, other times it's the commenters, but there are always unintelligent, needle-sharp barbs and/or general stupidity plaguing these and other URLs about town. Thus, we choose an unexpected winner—'s music section. This sucker has every single thing you need to know about the music world of DFW. Bands divided by genre or venue played; venues divided by genre or neighborhood; every single freakin' gig going on within LBJ and beyond, regardless of how significant or not, all there with an easy-to-use interface and lack of attitude. Now that's news we can use.

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