Rumblings down at City Hall point to Mayor Tom Leppert and the city council pushing for an extension of our current smoking ordinances to include bars and nightclubs by year's end—to which we say, what took you so long? Sure, there are some Observer staffers who might disagree, but there are also several of us who long for the night we can leave The Double Wide or The Cavern without reeking of music editors past and present. And spare us the "But it's a bar!" excuses. There was a time when it was OK to shoot people in saloons too.

Lakewood Landing

From the outside, the Landing is unassuming at best. Not surprising, considering it proudly calls itself "an upscale dive" on the sign outside. So you walk in, allow your eyes to adjust to just how damn dark it is in there, and you maybe grab some of the surprisingly delicious bar food. And you relax. Subconsciously, you find your head nodding along to the infectious tune coming from the jukebox. You pause. You know this song...what is it? So you walk over to the source and flip through the rows of the machine's albums. Oh look, an Old 97's record. Hey, the Slider Pines. Wow—there's a lot of local discs in this sumbitch. Which makes sense when you find the disc you were looking for. Oh yeah, it's another local: Baboon. You thumb through your pocket, grab a crumpled dollar bill and you keep the local love going. Now this, you think to yourself, this is a jukebox you can get behind.

If spelling is an issue for your kid in school, you might want to plan his or her party with someone other than Kreative Kidz Partyz. But if you are looking for a place that puts the K in creative and takes the stress out of your party planning, then parents, look no further. This Plano party spot packages themes for birthdays at reasonable prices. By themes, we mean the current pop fixation of your 5-year-old: Disney princesses, Dora the Explorer, Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Pop Star Karaoke. Kreative Kidz Partyz does everything, from themed invitations to themed birthday cakes to themed costumes for the partygoers to themed party helpers. For 90 minutes of birthday party-crazy, you let the professionals take care of all the details. Plus there is no nagging cleanup afterward. There's even a thank-you note attached to the themed party favor. Thank you!

Gloria's

So, Gloria's isn't necessarily a club, per se. But, nonetheless, once a week, every Thursday night, Gloria's might as well be considered a discoteca thanks to the salsa dance party that takes place inside. The music comes courtesy of The Havana NRG Orchestra, a nationally renowned, Dallas-based Latin orchestra; by the time the band is in full swing and the dance floor has a crowd, you'll forget that you're having this much fun in a restaurant. No, you'll think you're somewhere south of the border. The best part: Though the restaurant charges a $5 cover charge to men at this popular event, the women get in free. Ay, Chihuahua.

Warwick Melrose Hotel

Maybe not a great place to read, despite all those shelves of old books. But this bar, recently redone but, thank God, not too much, is an interesting place to read people. For the kind of grown-up date where you want a good drink and some meaningful conversation, the Library Bar has that old New York bar vibe. Some nights there's a pianist, tinkling the keys of the grand piano for some mellow show tunes and jazz. The lighting is low, the waitstaff is attentive when needed and the bartenders can mix a Manhattan. Start spreadin' the news.

Granada Theater

In a local live music landscape filled with small, bar-like venues (yeah, you, The Cavern!); sprawling, massive ones (you listening, Superpages.com Center, Nokia Theater, American Airlines Center and Palladium Ballroom?); and the ever-dreaded McVenues (cough—House of Blues—cough), the Granada offers a phenomenal stage, an ace sound system, a primo location, and a kind staff. And it's completely independent, which allows for an open-minded booking process. It's appreciated by the fans, who turn out for country and hip-hop shows alike, and the artists who roll through town. Owner Mike Schoder proudly explains that many touring acts would rather play the independent venues than have to deal with national booking conglomerates like AEG Live and LiveNation. And the Granada is more than willing to accommodate them.

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Having already played Hamlet, getting the lead as Jack, the main pup in Theatre Three's whimsical musical A Dog's Life, could have felt like a bit of a comedown. Gregory Lush, however, sank his canines into the part and made the show and his performance moving and memorable. The darkly handsome 36-year-old actor, a grad of UT-Arlington with an MFA from Ole Miss, has worked professionally in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Facing extended unemployment, he returned to Dallas last year and landed five consecutive starring roles. Besides the dog show, he was Professor Henry Higgins in T3's Pygmalion and the romantic lead in The Goodbye Girl. He recently played Uncle Ernie in Dallas Theater Center's huge production of The Who's Tommy. What next? "I would love to play Hamlet again," says Lush, who's also a teacher of Fitzmaurice vocal technique. "And Wolverine, if they ever make a musical out of the X-Men." Now wouldn't that be barking mad?

Contemporary Theatre of Dallas

When she was 5, she performed an "interpretive dance" to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and a career was born. Lydia Mackay, 31, comes from a family of actors and artists, so playing dress-up even as a grown-up is a snap. The SMU MFA grad recently played Blanche DuBois in Contemporary Theatre's A Streetcar Named Desire, Rosalind in As You Like It, Arkadina in The Seagull and Lady Macbeth. If she has a specialty onstage, it's classical roles, but she's oomphy enough to play bombshells. Here's what she says about being a Dallas actor: "So many people seem to think that you have to live in New York or L.A. to be a serious actor. Bullshit. Dallas creates a fertile ground for people who are serious about being working actors." See why we love her?

Who else could make a horny Haitian voodoo goddess, an aid worker turned African diamond smuggler and a bird watcher trapped in the Colombian rainforest seem not only familiar, but infinitely relatable? Only local writer Ben Fountain. The Southwest Review fiction editor, who is putting the finishing touches on a new novel based in Dallas, is the perfect writer for our time. In his collection of short stories, the exquisitely rendered Brief Encounters With Che Guevera, Fountain deftly navigated the world we now live in—one that has become increasingly dense and intertwined. Thankfully, Fountain is just getting started. His first novel, The Texas Itch, will be published early next year.

Record Hop's self-titled sophomore record stormed out of the gates when it was released in late March, offering listeners a furious, ferocious, angst-filled update on the post-grunge sound of the '90s. Is it groundbreaking? Maybe not. But, more than anything, it's a work of art—and clearly a labor of love for its members (front woman Ashley Cromeens, guitarist Scott Porter, bass player Corey Ward and drummer Tony Wann). Standout tracks "Skirtchaser," "Maths" and "End of Line" showcase this incredibly loud band's ability to throw out lightning-fast riffs and beats without batting an eye and also offer Cromeens' gritty vocals the perfect backing. Produced in Chicago by Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana), Record Hop was able to do its influences quite proud on this release.

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