Neiman Marcus

One Sunday afternoon not long ago, we sat at the MBar in Neiman's NorthPark Center location watching with great affection and no small amount of awe the care with which Jose Mejia mixed up his homemade Bloody Mary brew. On the counter sat a small vat of tomato juice; nearby, there was a large glass filled with Worcestershire sauce, into which he added generous dollops of Tabasco sauce, followed by the juice of freshly grated horseradish and several heaps of the white heat. He sniffed each container before blending them together for yet another smell test, then a taste test. "This way," he said, "you don't need salt, just vodka." He grinned, then poured us another refill, into which he dropped a stalk of celery the size of a baby's arm. We muster myriad excuses to belly up to the Mbar—most involving Sunday-afternoon football games on the three TV sets perched in front of the six stools, providing a welcome respite from the hubbub of overpriced commerce nearby—but, truth is, there's no better place to drink or eat or drink in the entirety of NorthPark; and Mejia, who's stood watch over the bar since its inception four years ago, is as generous and considerate a host as any afternoon mall drinker could ask for.

Flying Saucer on the Lake

Sure, it's disappointing that a place with a name so associated with aliens and UFOs isn't decked out as such. In fact, the décor is a little confusing at the Saucer, as the walls and ceilings are covered with glass plates. But the place makes up for it with plenty of couches and a cozy room called the "Pub of Love," along with its unmatched selection of beer. On any given night, you've got a choice between 90 to 100 beers on tap and another 90 to 100 in bottles. Want a beer from the Czech Republic? They got it. Japan? Check.

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Andy+Hanson
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When a musical needs a voice that can hit the back row, go through the back wall, into the parking lot and out to the stratosphere, the director calls for Megan Kelly Bates. The bouncy redhead sings, tap-dances and gets laughs, winning hearts and testing eardrums most recently as a yappy pup with a lot of high notes in Theatre Three's A Dog's Life. You've seen Bates, 28, in The Great American Trailer Park Musical and Urinetown at WaterTower, plus shows at Casa Manana, Contemporary Theatre and other stages all over North Texas. And where'd she come by those pipes? "When I was 5 and about to audition for my first show, The King and I, my mom put me in the living room, and we practiced my song. Then she had me sing in the hallway while she stayed in the living room and yelled, 'I can't hear you!' From there a belter was born!"

Reno's has the obligatory large windows that any biker bar needs so patrons between errands and work can keep watch over their babies, show 'em off and shop for new ones. It's also a great place to go—especially if you live or work in Deep Ellum—to kick back and enjoy a cheap drink and a little rock 'n' roll. The staff's friendly, and they play the good stuff like AC/DC, Guns N' Roses and Black Sabbath.

According to his blog, Pete's Place is "a running commentary on whatever strikes me at the moment," and the result is sharp and thoughtful commentary on issues ranging from college football to national politics. Pete Oppel, former music writer and entertainment editor for The Dallas Morning News, offers up a regular dose of movie and DVD reviews, and he also likes to talk about the Cowboys, Mavericks and Rangers. Oppel, who also served as public information officer for the city of Dallas, pays close attention to local politics and isn't afraid to call out public officials. Most of his posts don't get comments, leading us to believe that Pete's Place is drifting out in the blogosphere, buried among the zillions of other blogs out there. But that much effort can't go unnoticed for too much longer, as Pete's Place continues to slowly find its way into the personal blogrolls of people all over Dallas.

The Balcony Club
courtesy Lorena Davey

Is it a blues bar or a jazz bar? Does it matter? The music isn't the best thing about The Balcony Club; the musicians are. The bands that play this old Lakewood dive aren't exactly spring chickens. No, they're professional, and they've been doing this for years, thank you very much, so they'll play what they want. Oh, and they're good. Or good enough, at least to the point where The Balcony Club has remained a favorite despite its slightly off-the-beaten-path location (up the stairs next to the Lakewood Theater). But it's probably that very location that allows the place to keep its rustic, time-worn charm.

Craving to kick up a heel, cut a rusty or clog with a cutie? The Texas Twisters are a group of gay men and women whose passion is country and western dancing. Nope, you don't have to be gay to take part. Although most of the group is gay folk, membership is open to anyone with an open mind and a love of dance. Founded in 2000, the club's goals promote country and western music and dance, raise money for community charities and establish and maintain a dance team for performances and competitions. Wednesday night dance classes and monthly Club Night Out on Saturdays keep spirits soaring and toes tapping. The Texas Twisters' performance teams have won local, state, national and international awards, and plans are afoot to perform in Texas gay pride parades and to compete in the Texas Gay Rodeo Association Dance Contest. In addition to having fun and making friends, joining the club has built-in fringe benefits. Like finding a partner with rhythm.

Double Wide
Matt Nager

The party celebrating The Southern Unknown was one for the books. Too many bands are content to stack a show with their friends' bands and just call it a "CD Release Party." Dove Hunter and the Double Wide actually held up the "party" end of the bargain, hauling out a snowcone machine and bringing in an all-female mariachi band from Fort Worth to open the festivities. Honestly, we had so much fun before Dove Hunter played that the band's actual set is something of a blur—but we certainly remember the party. Here's hoping the band gets to work fast on album No. 2 just so we can go to the bash.

She hits the switch every year on November 1. And for the next two months Liz Simmons' house is ablaze with 100,000 lights, a glowing 6-foot snowman and half a dozen blinking snow-pals, a twirling spider, an 8-foot sleigh and an illuminated tree on the tippy-top of her roof. Last year Simmons' display made it to the top 20 in a nationwide Home Depot contest. She adds new features every year with the help of a friendly electrician who makes sure her yard art doesn't black out the area in a surge. The energetic Simmons is a much-loved character in her Hollywood/Santa Monica neighborhood, which uses the display as the centerpiece of an annual block party. Let's be glad the neighbors are cool with all the hot wattage.

The Barking Dog out to keep Lower Greenville free of "scumbars" and the sumbitches who populate them is a filmmaker now—or, c'mon, don't you read our blog Unfair Park? Because, seriously, every Monday morning we know Avi will provide us with a must-see video in which a drunk or 10 are getting busted by Dallas' Finest. And Avi's no sideline cinematographer: He's up in their shit, taking their taunts, asking for more, getting plenty of action, yeah, that's it, hotter, let the camera see you seethe, bleed. We don't know that it makes one bit of diff—he's become quite the director, not so much the deterrent—but that's half the fun, watching Avi out on the mean streets in search of the trouble that usually comes right to him and, sooner or later, right to us via the Vimeo site to which he's now posting his widescreen wonders for which the Academy thanks him very, very much.

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