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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When the City Council debated a living wage for garbage truck crews, Angela Hunt went out and rode a truck for a day. Management in Sanitation Services wanted to put her on one of the new air-conditioned vehicles, but a worker whispered to her that the old un-air-conditioned trucks are the real story. So that's where she spent a very long, very hot day seeing the issues for herself. Of course, we wouldn't name her the city's best council person if she did things like that and then came to totally screwball conclusions. Nor would we choose her if all of her efforts were narcissistic and self-promotional. The overall package here is of high energy, deep focus, rock-hard integrity, a generally intelligent take on issues and an open heart. But more than any of these, the quality that always impresses is her vision for the city. She is a rare gem in a box of bolts—the very best we've got.

Faced with a need to refurbish many aging shade structures and build more new ones, the Park Department has been using shade structures as a way of bringing public architecture into neighborhoods all over the city. Assistant Director Willis Winters, an architect, invited leading architects in Texas and from around the world to submit designs. Scott Marek of Frank Welch & Associates designed a pavilion for the Lake Highlands North Rec Center near Skillman, with a floor that slopes up gradually to form a stage at one end for neighborhood gatherings. It is one of more than 40 unique pavilions that will be built in city parks. The pavilion program includes full restoration of nine 1930s WPA pavilions. When you think about the relationship we have with the sun here in North Texas, there couldn't have been a more thoughtful way to infuse meaningful civic architecture into the day-to-day landscape.

Just by looking at them, you'd never guess that Markus Underwood, Will Rhoten and Scott Quinn were especially hip guys. By day, they're just your average-looking alterna-dudes. But by night they become (respectively) DJs Nature, Sober and $elect, the finest dancehall DJs in Texas, let alone Dallas. When their powers combine, they go by the name "The Party." It's simple, but it tells audiences exactly what they're in store for when The Party's slated for an appearance at a dance club or a music venue. Heavily influenced by the '80s, the '90s and the cutting-edge tracks of today, The Party, thanks to its impeccable feel for crowds, has a knack for playing the song you want to hear but can't remember the name of.

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