Best Daily Newspaper Column 2008 | Rod Dreher | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Skip the Metro section, and why bother reading a sports column when we all know those guys save their best bits for radio and ESPN? (We're talking to you Cowlishaw, Galloway, et al.) If you want to find a column worth your time—one that offers an original opinion and actually makes you think—you'll have to wade deep into the paper's editorial section to find the wit and wisdom of the much maligned (in these pages anyway) Rod Dreher. You may disagree with much of what he says—you may hate it, in fact—but at least the Crunchy Con does what a newspaper columnist is supposed to do, which is to make you pause for a moment and consider another viewpoint.

When Ann Williams started her modest dance company more than 30 years back, she probably had no aspirations to become an icon. From its humble beginnings in recreation centers, her company grew into the internationally acclaimed Dallas Black Dance Theatre and is soon to be one of the glittering jewels of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. The ensemble of 12 professionals performs a mixed repertory of modern, jazz, ethnic and spiritual works by choreographers who include Alvin Ailey, Talley Beatty, Donald Byrd and Alonzo King. These dancers enjoy a singular luxury in the world of dance: an 11-month contract. To keep up with demand, Ann Williams formed DBDT II, a semi-professional company of 12 aspiring artists from around the nation. When wishing good luck to dancers, never say "break a leg." But let's wish Ann Williams and her company another 30 years of great moves.

Fallout Lounge is small and intimate with just enough room to dance. There's a down-to-earth vibe that's the antithesis of the city's see-and-be-seen, must-be-on-the-list meat markets. Fallout can be mellow, a perfect place to go on a weeknight or after a show to sink into comfy couches while DJs spin lounge sounds. But on the weekends it's a great place to dance with a packed house and fast-movin' beats. Whether full or empty, weeknight or weekend, the drinks are strong, the tunes are solid and it's never pretentious.

Want to know where some of your tax dollars are going? Just watch the gritty detective work showcased on A&E's The First 48. The premise is simple: "For homicide detectives, the clock starts ticking the moment they are called. Their chance of solving a case is cut in half if they don't get a lead in the first 48." For regular viewers, you'll know the intro, but for those unfamiliar, flip on the show and you still might recognize something: Dallas. The detective unit of our fair "City of Hate" is one of the current over-worked and underpaid teams followed on the show. More often than not, we've recognized intersections and neighborhoods and for that very reason, we feel grateful to The First 48 for showing us the pavement-pounding and crazy interrogation skills of our brave badges.

Director Bruce R. Coleman likes to say he's been around Dallas theater so long there are 12 companies on his résumé that don't even exist anymore. That includes New Theatre Company, which he ran for seven seasons. These days Coleman is in demand from almost every theater in Dallas and Fort Worth. He's recently put up shows at Theatre Three (House and Garden), Uptown (Bent) and ICT (Dracula). His specialties: comedies and musicals. And the bonus: He's also a whiz at designing sets and costumes. Coleman's a big fan of the local talent he gets to put through their paces in plays. "The not-so-famous folks I work with are tons more talented than most of those big names you see in New York or L.A. I'll take [Dallas actors] Regan Adair and Arianna Movassagh over Nicolas Cage and Julia Roberts any day." His enthusiasm for theater is infectious. "It is a visceral and communal experience that electrifies for the sheer glory of sharing it with our fellow beings," says Coleman. "People should go to the theater because it reminds us how to be human."

It's not easy to find a laidback, just-dingy-enough bar that acts both as a backyard filled with fire pits and picnic tables, and a place to get down to your favorite DJ. And that's why we love it. The yard is sprawling, with a stage for local acts like folk-country band Eleven Hundred Springs. The inside of the little shack is about as big as a matchbox. Yet somehow it fits a pool table and games such as Ms. Pac-Man, as well as an itty-bitty dance floor. Which brings us to the DJs. At least three nights a week, the shack rocks with tunes spun by EZ Eddie, DJ Chikki G or, our personal favorite, DJ Sista Whitenoise. Forget the painfully monotonous and sterile house mixes of Uptown's exclusive clubs. Sista Whitenoise combines complex, layered beats and rhythms with the best of dance music, from Steve Wonder and Parliament to the Beastie Boys and MIA. She spins at Lee Harvey's every Saturday night.

Yes, it got flooded for quite some time this spring. Yes, it was muddy. But let's face it: You know it's the best dog park when people ignore the "closed" sign and hop fences in defiance of rain and muck to bond with their pups, mutts and AKC breeds. The small and large yards of the White Rock Dog Park are large enough to accommodate a healthy population of both under 30-pound and over 30-pound four-leggers, plus the swim section provides a different sort of canine fun (a ramped entrance helps fetchers return their sticks, balls and toys to dry land). Maintained by public donations and volunteer efforts, the WRDP is open daily from 5 a.m. to midnight (second and fourth Mondays are closed for maintenance) so even parents with bizarre schedules can snag some off-leash time for their fur-babies at the park.

The running joke is that this is the only theater in town with a longer line at intermission for the men's room than the ladies'. That gives you some idea how the audience tips. That they're gay gentlemen would be almost beside the point except that the Uptown Players troupe targets the gay male theatergoer season after sellout season, with Charles Busch drag comedies, raucous musicals such as Valley of the Dolls and edgy dramas by leading gay playwrights. Everyone's welcome, of course, at Uptown, and the loyal subscribers always are eager to bring newcomers into the fold. No audience laughs louder, weeps more unabashedly and applauds with more unbridled enthusiasm.

Movie ticket prices are into the double digits at most theaters, but there's still at least one theater in the area where you can see not just one but two new films for just $6. Galaxy Drive-In offers eight new movies on four screens every night, and you can watch two for less than some theaters charge for a single matinee ticket—from your car, folding chair or picnic blanket. Better yet, there are surprisingly affordable snack-bar munchies such as pizza, nachos and funnel cakes. The prices aren't the only thing that's retro, either. Promotional ads at intermission are straight out of the '50s, upping the nostalgia factor. Get there early to ensure you snag a good spot with time to spare for a $3 round of miniature golf.


Technology, shmechnology. Bluetooth, Blu-ray, blah, blah, blah. Toys are terrific and gadgets are great, but these modern times can turn tiresome. A litany of life's simpler pleasures is but a stone's throw down Interstate 35 where another dimension awaits. Troubles melt and tempers tame as you cross the border into a time gone by at Scarborough Renaissance Festival. Located in historic Waxahachie, this seasonal Renaissance-themed fest is based on the year 1533 during the reign of Tudor monarch Henry VIII. Visit 200 "shoppes" featuring handmade wares, take in a demonstration of glassblowing, blacksmithing or candlemaking, catch three full-combat jousts each day, watch a winged falcon overhead or mingle with "Queen Anne Boleyn." Full-bodied food is a favorite feature, and more than 20 tons of the festival's famous giant turkey legs are devoured annually, along with more than 60 other hearty foods that comprise the culinary adventure at this quaint 35-acre "village." And when the throat becomes parched, convey yourself to one of seven pubs and taverns and hoist a pint with a kindly innkeeper or, better yet, a lusty wench. What ho!

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