Baylor Medical Center
If you're having a medical emergency, the best facility isn't usually the one that shows up on U.S. News & World Report's hospital rankings year after year or the one that landed 14 consecutive Consumer Choice Awards. It's the closest. Fortunately for an East Dallas-dwelling friend who had a recent health crisis in which seconds counted, his nearest medical center was Baylor, which has won all of those honors along with many others. His experience with a top-notch medical team was just as positive as those of other friends and family members who've been patients there recently. And it doesn't hurt that the cafeteria food options are surprisingly good, including a Chik-fil-A stand instead of the dreaded McDonald's outpost. Baylor, while not always the closest, is the best choice when you have a choice.
Cliff Notes Prolonged Media
Just like the literature summaries that inspired the bookstore's name, Cliff Notes is small. Before its move a couple doors down from 1222 W. Davis St. to its just slightly bigger current space, you could reach the register from the opposite wall in a couple of steps. But Carlos and Opalina Salas' shop is all the better for its diminutive size, with a selection (used and new) that shows an inclination toward Beat writers such as Ginsburg, Kerouac and Burroughs but also includes music history books and biographies, cannabis growing guides, biographies of revolutionaries and other edgy literature. Further, if they don't have what you're looking for, they're happy to order it for you. There are also a couple crates of vinyl if you're interested in a new 180-gram reissue or a used Kraftwerk LP. A shelf full of art and literary zines is the only place in town to find works from some up-and-coming writers and poets. But perhaps its biggest contribution to the community is the programming, ranging from poetry readings to an author signing by Dirty South hip-hop chronicler Ben Westhoff to weekly children's enrichment activities. And yes, for the students undertaking a last-minute cram session, they also sell CliffsNotes study guides.
Centre
If you don't know about Centre, chances are you're old, hate rap music and have never been on a skateboard. Because everyone else in town knows well about this Mockingbird Station shop, the go-to retail spot for all things street wear and culturally up-to-date. Eye-catching graphic tees, hard-to-find sneakers, expressive ballcaps and even ceramic toys — Centre's got it all. Other things, too, like in-store appearances from musicians and artists rolling through town. Plus, it's just a cool spot to hang out in, a haven for those for which the "new" is too old and "new-new" can't come fast enough. The best part: Aside, even, from being Dallas' epicenter of all things cool, the people who work and shop here are proud of their Dallas roots. You need a shirt that says you proudly rep the D, but you're sick of wearing another sports team tee? Hit up Centre. They'll hook you up with a fresh look.
Good Records
For one of the worst industries you can be in, Good Records seems to be doing quite well. With vinyl back in fashion, the Lower Greenville Avenue record store is staying afloat; more than half of their sales are LPs. But their success is probably because they sell more than just records. Their impressive in-store performances from national touring acts and local bands with new records to hawk take place on the covered stage on the store's back wall, which is pretty much unmatched by any other music venue on all of Lower Greenville Avenue. The shows, coupled with a weekly rock-and-roll movie night, make Good Records one of the coolest places to hang out on Lower Greenville.
Traders Village
There's a certain odd comfort that comes from wandering around the expansive grounds of Trader's Village in South Grand Prairie. It's like a giant flea market mixed with the State Fair of Texas, and it happens every weekend of the year. Hundreds of vendors open up shop in small garage units, selling anything imaginable from furniture to comic books and music. The merchandise is mostly fake (don't look too closely at the diamonds on those gold necklaces), but the tattoos you'll likely see are all too real. The only thing better than the people-watching is the price of beer in the food tents: $2 for a Pacifico.
Avant Garden
If your idea of a great flower arrangement comes from 1-800-FLOWERS, you might be surprised by the sophisticated European-style offerings from Avant Garden. The Highland Park Village flower shop has been serving the surrounding affluent community for well more than a decade, but in 2010 it received a makeover thanks to new owner Todd Fiscus. While the shop's appearance changed, one thing that didn't was the style of the small, compact, hydrangea-heavy arrangements that the shop is known for, all of which come in artfully designed vases that you don't have to be filthy rich to appreciate.
Penzey's Spices
With more than 250 different seasonings, spices, herbs, sprinkles and blends from around the world, Penzeys Spices is the place to go if you're looking to spice things up, whether you're a professional chef or amateur in the kitchen. Penzeys offers traditional seasonings like cinnamons, black peppers and curry powders, as well as dozens of unique blends. Northwoods seasoning, a combination of Hungarian paprika, herbs, black pepper and garlic, spices up everything from chicken to fish and even homemade salad dressing. The tantalizing Sunny Paris seasoning is next to impossible to resist as the aroma entices the senses — actually your nose can guide you through the place — and Mural of Flavor can be sprinkled on anything. Penzeys opened its first storefront in '97 — the Dallas spot opened in 2005 — and has been selling its worldly selection of spices by mail order for more than 20 years.
Titan Comics
What we said about Nick's Sports Cards goes triple for Titan Comics, the longtime Bachman Lake staple recently dispatched to Forest Lane to make way for a Walmart (much better location). We've said it countless times before: No toys, no action figures, no plush Green Lanterns for the baby dork, just comics, past and present, lining every wall and every shelf and stuffing every file cabinet in which the old issues are now pragmatically stored for each browsing. (The hand-painted, comics-artist-designed statues, also for sale, serve more as museum pieces behind glass cases.) We've taken countless collectors to Titan over the years, including hard-to-please out-of-towners, and all walk out with stacks of stories they remembered as kids and had to have again, as well as the new tales of suspense introduced to them by Jeremy Shorr and his staff of fanboys — and fangirls, no kidding. No geek locker room here, just the world's finest.
REI
Maybe because other places have been selling decent tents for cheap in recent years, REI has found ways to offer its own store line of tents at pretty good prices — under two bills for a two-man — and still maintain the quality for which REI is so well known. Their tents can get pricey, of course, but they have smart salespeople on hand to tell you exactly what you're getting for your money. If you're in the market for a good tent but you have questions, REI is definitely the way to go.
Pitaya
As much as we want to like Forever 21 for its affordable style, it's too disorganized, loud and glittery (have you seen that floor?!) to get our business. That's why we're grateful for Pitaya. Not only can we find trendy dresses, tops and bottoms for $50 or less on average, we know that new stuff is guaranteed to be there on every visit because inventory is updated weekly. On a recent trip we snagged a Native American-inspired, one-shoulder dress for $30 and a pair of fringe-y sandals for $40. Not too shabby and nowhere near the mall.

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