Best Neighborhood Advocate 2009 | Jason Roberts | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

The revitalization of Oak Cliff couldn't happen without the efforts of selfless, community-minded volunteers like Jason Roberts. He's an IT consultant, a husband and a father, but his volunteer efforts alone would be enough to drive a lesser man mad. He co-founded the nonprofit Art Conspiracy, which raises money for art and music charities; in fact, his band, Happy Bullets, often plays Art Conspiracy fund-raisers. Roberts is also spearheading the effort to rehab the historic Texas Theater for community use and helped found two transportation-related neighborhood groups, Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and the Oak Cliff Transportation Authority. The OCTA is working to secure $96 million in federal funds to build new streetcar lines in Oak Cliff. BFOC, meanwhile, is planning a 10-day bike festival for October as well as a Safe Routes To School initiative. It's this kind of effort that earned him the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year award in 2008. Now if only he'd get cracking on the next Happy Bullets album.

By "new," we mean Democratic, since they came in droves—all 42 of them during the 2006 election. And just because they are Democrats and different from what we had before (read: Republicans) doesn't mean they aren't susceptible to the same judicial foibles as their predecessors—arrogance, ignorance of the law, fear of making a decision, bad taste in robes. But Judge Marty Lowy has none of these, and any judge who attended the original Woodstock—all three days—is bound to be able to keep an open mind. He is not afraid to criticize the Dallas Bar Association when he thinks they act too politically. Yet he did well in the DBA bar poll and is liked by lawyers for his fairness and competence. Judge Craig Smith runs a close second on our list, but Lowy plays a mean guitar in a lawyer boy-band and that put him ahead by a chord.

Back in August, when Clint and Whitney Barlow reopened the much-loved space that once saw Kurt Cobain get his ass kicked by a security guard, they had to deal with the pressure of living up to the hype of the club of the same name, which had closed four and a half years earlier. And because it wasn't exactly the same Trees—most notably, it's nicer, thanks to the improvements the Barlows made to the room's sound system, bar, green room, bathrooms and other amenities—the old "I remember back when Deep Ellum was cool in the late '80s!" set that had previous begged for the venue to reopen complained because the same types of bands weren't being booked. Well, we hate to break it to ya, folks, but Funland's not reuniting anytime soon. And, well, neither is Nirvana. Sure, we too have our issues with some of the bands getting added to the calendar, but let's not lose sight of the big picture here: We all wanted the place to open, but didn't think it ever would. Then the Barlows came in and did the unthinkable. Let's not forget that. Rather, let's cheer it on, lest we see it die before our eyes again.

Feeling strung out? At regular "lace-ins," the ladies of the Dallas Lace Society meet to teach and practice the old-fashioned, very relaxing arts of bobbin lace and tatting—methods of creating intricately woven patterns using only fingers, simple tools and threads and yarns. Workshops focusing on various projects and advanced techniques are held throughout the year. Guests are welcome. Membership is $15 per year.

Sure, the great food and wine selection keeps the clientele at Bolsa satisfied despite the long waits and occasionally lazy service. It's the décor that really sells it, however—anyone who knew it in its former incarnation as Settles Auto Garage would be amazed with the clean, airy feel of Bolsa's interior now. The patio is even better, sharing an indoor/outdoor bar with the building and using the auto garage's reclaimed cement to approximate a limestone floor. The modern wooden slats overhead let in just the right amount of light, while the xeriscaped exterior contributes to the funky Oak Cliff feel that keeps the joint busy with a hip, diverse clientele night after night. Now that the stifling heat of summer is finally behind us, it's the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors.

It started off as an old warehouse used for numerous businesses like Mohawk Rubber Co. and Tejano Rodeo. Now you know it as the Dallas World Aquarium, home to various underwater species. For only $18 (plus some tax) you get to feel like you are standing in the middle of a rain forest or getting the secret skinny about what really happens under the ocean's surface. Throughout the day they have feeding and performance times scheduled for almost everything from penguins to Orinoco crocodiles. Dallas World Aquarium also has a gift shop, bookstore and a few restaurants, if you feel like you need to take a break from the oceanic adventure. The best thing about this aquarium is that they're closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. So you can pick up and go whenever, except at night, because the animals need their rest too.

It's happened at least once. We have a personal account from a trusted source and read that saucy little blurb from The Dallas Morning News' Alan Peppard: In April, Preston Hollow residents George W. and Lady Laura arrived fully backed by black SUVs and Secret Service to dine at the Mercury Grill. Before they even received the menu, the former first couple was met with a standing ovation from fellow diners. Should we be surprised? Probably not given the old money and silver hair that is known to populate the bar and dining floor of the Mercury, but then maybe we have it all wrong. Perhaps the applause was meant as a "Glad you're back here, and not in the White House! Woo hoo!"

Who would have thought that a swift-boating Dallas billionaire would raise a daughter with a strong social conscience? But Serena Simmons Connelly, a social worker and the daughter of Harold Simmons, is one of the backers of It's a Grind, a unique Deep Ellum coffee shop dedicated to the mission of providing a livable wage, full health benefits and an ethical workplace to its employees, who are hired despite their troubled backgrounds—asylum seekers, immigrants, victims of domestic violence, ex-convicts, reformed prostitutes—pretty much anyone in dire need of a second chance. Its employment practices build fiercely loyal baristas who make a damn fine cuppa Joe, as well. The social experiment has only been going on since November, but it's building community while also serving delicious baked goods.

Best Place To Ogle, Uh, Sure, Let's Go With Platinum Record Plaques

The Clubhouse

Yes, The Clubhouse, like so many other establishments on Manana Drive, is a strip club. And, as strip clubs go, it's probably not the tops in town. But, unlike the other gentlemen's establishments of the region, this one offers more to stare at than naked women. Owned by Arlington native and famed Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, the club's walls are lined with something it usually takes more than a couple dollar bills to see: gold and platinum records signifying what's becoming more and more a monumental achievement in today's music industry—selling 500,000 and 1 million records, respectively. And it's not just Vinnie Paul's own records that line the walls. Plaques commemorating acts like Godsmack and others join his in what has to be the coolest music collection that Dallas boasts (apologies to the new Hard Rock Café in Victory Park). And it's all out there in the open, ready for you to scan. Just like the boobies.

Since the smoking ban, places in Dallas are still a bit stale, but it's nothing compared to the stank that once permeated hair and clothing after a night out in Big D. Even smokers had to spray down and air out. But no more. No more, that is, unless you go to see a band in Denton. Sure, Fort Worth still lights up, but without the intense fervor of Denton bar patrons. Stand next to four people in Denton, and chances are three will pull out a cig. We even put on our dirtiest jeans to avoid ruining clean ones when heading north. Save Dan's Silverleaf, which is smoke-free for many shows, watching a band in little d is like looking through a fog, and breathing it. So thank you, Dan. Maybe you can pave the way for other venues to provide a smokeless, odorless zone for drinkers and music lovers. Perhaps Denton can make a change...and not just out of those smoky jeans.

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