Best Community Garden 2012 | Bhutanese Refugee Garden | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

The best thing about community gardens in older urban areas is their sheer obduracy — the grit and patience, the sweat equity involved in digging down through rubble to find real dirt again and bring it back to green abundance. A great example is this garden, four-tenths of an acre of serenity just off a noisy intersection in Old East Dallas. In the early '90s it was an overflow garden for Cambodian refugees not able to find plots in the busy Southeast Asian refugee garden a few blocks away. Later abandoned and neglected, it has been adopted again by families fleeing turmoil in Bhutan, a Himalayan nation sandwiched between China and India. You can wander in and watch them work their beds in rhythms and tones of ancient practice, their garden a soft prayer to our city's roaring heart.

It's not even one of the official canoe trails designated by the state, but some of those you're not allowed to use anyway, like the one downtown on the Trinity River. White Rock Creek north (upstream) from White Rock Lake has the appeal of some bushwhacking, getting out where you don't need no stinkin' official canoe trail, thank you. Half a mile up White Rock Creek, after you paddle under Northwest Highway, it splits. Jackson Branch comes in on your right, flowing down from northeast, and White Rock Creek, which is bigger, continues on up northwest. Unless it's right after a big rain, paddling upstream is easy. Is there trash? Oh, yeah. But there are wonderful little oxbows and side channels, too, where there is very little trash and where you're surrounded by verdure and bird song, with the sounds of the city far, far away. This is a place where you can go explore, right in the heart of the city. How can you beat that?

Every year on the first Saturday in June the city of Dallas teams up with Addison, the Texas Agrilife Extension Service and the Master Gardeners of Dallas County to present a tour of gardens and landscaping that demonstrate sound water conservation techniques. The gardens and landscape installations on the tour always present a delightful and surprisingly broad spectrum of possibilities, from true xeriscaping with lots of gravel and cactus to more verdant transitional gardens. In the verdant examples, gardeners have marshaled combinations of drip irrigation with native species to show that a luxuriously green garden can be water-wise at the same time, even in Dallas. Every year there's a new, better way to do it. The tour presents 30-minute talks on water-wise techniques at the various headquarters.

Arcades are officially on the endangered species list of entertainment venues. Blame the cost of coin-op upkeep or those whippersnappers with their fancy schmancy home systems, but these watering holes for nerds are few and far between. That's why finding one that's not only survived, but also maintained its eccentricity as Nickelrama has, feels like a bizarro throwback to an earlier era. Or a pit stop on the drive to Atlantic City. Either way, it's beautiful, strange and infectious (literally, hand sanitizer is positioned everywhere). The business' slogan, "Worth Every Nickel," sums up the experience perfectly. Sure, roughly half of the games you play will gobble up your Jeffersons without apology, but the other half will work in 5-cent denominations. When's the last time you played pinball for 15 cents? Never, that's when. Also, Nickelrama has great knock-off versions of games you kinda know, as well as a whole mess of others that act mostly as a nickel-for-tickets exchange, like Shoot The Quarter In The Gorilla's Mouth. You'll feel so wealthy at this Garland hideaway, playing for hours on five dollars, that you won't even mind when swarms of dirty children steal the redemption tickets from your games, like tiny pickpocketing gypsies.

As any apartment dweller can attest, bathing your pooch at home is a messy task, one that inevitably ends in an emergency call to a plumber. Add on that your fur child requires several hours of cross-fit daily just so he doesn't destroy your home, and you have yourself a dog park challenge. Central Dog Park is a lovely secluded hideaway tucked behind Central Christian Church that anyone is welcome to visit. It's inviting, with a shady, hilly stretch of fenced-in play space for the pups and dozens of lawn chairs scattered around for human socializing. But wait, it gets better. Those chairs are positioned under rows of misters and in front of two industrial box fans: You'll unapologetically pose like that fella from the Maxell cassette ads. The real deal-sealer is the dog washing station. This park knows that your dog is a filthy, disgusting creature, so it's taken mercy on you. A wooden ramped platform constructed at the park's entrance, lined with soaps and towels, acts as your safety net. What's that? Your dog just rolled in crap? Dog washing station. Ooh, he found something dead in a bush? Dog washing station. He was distracted by excitement at the park and pissed all over himself? Dog washing station. Peace will return to your household, as well as your shower drains. Praise be.

Pro Wrestling Onslaught has everything the WWE offers and more, and also less. More great characters, more humor, more originality, more fun. Less in the way of 'roided-up muscleheads, less cost to enjoy the bouts live, less distance between spectators and the action. The characters include skinny everyday-looking guys, a longhaired chubby burnout who runs in terror from a more muscular fighter, and masked behemoths sporting enviable but not chemically created muscle tone. The first time we caught a match, we went in expecting amateurish, poorly acted second-rate stunts. By the end we were screaming for our favorites as they pulled off impressive acrobatics, aerial stunts and painful-looking takedowns.

Best Place to Leave Your Toddler Unattended While You Have a Cocktail


So you don't consider yourself the NorthPark type. It's too close to the Park Cities, and it is filled with places in which every item is worth more than your car. All true enough, but there's also a little place called Bookmarks. It's a public library, but without the homeless people. Plus, it's just for kids. There are children's books and DVDs, educational programs and colorful nooks that, depending on the child, serve as a great spot to curl up with a book or re-enact all 24 Tarzan novels. Better yet, there are several eating establishments within walking distance that also serve liquor. The best strategy is sit with your kid on the periphery during story times and then, when the librarian is looking the other way, tiptoe into the mall and go have a drink or three. If you keep track of time, they'll never miss you. If you don't, just remember that your tax money is paying the librarians' salaries, so it's kind of like you're their boss anyway.

It's been a century since William Howard Taft rocked a mustache in the Oval Office. That 'stache, while admittedly righteous, is also sad, marking as it does the death knell of facial hair in American politics. Every president since has been clean-shaven. In lower office, facial hair has hardly been prevalent. That's why Domingo Garcia's run for a U.S. House seat was so refreshing. The man has a mustache best described as, depending on the day, belonging to a '70s major league pitcher or a '70s porn star, and he owned it. It's something you can't help but respect. In the end, the electorate was not quite ready for such an onslaught of facial hair, and Garcia was defeated by opponent Marc Veasey in a runoff. Garcia's campaign, however, wasn't for naught, as it made facial hair, scorned for so long in American politics, relevant again.

Maybe we sound like a Travel Channel show host here, but sometimes the best way to get to know a city's culture is through the food. So, if some wayward alien named Glorbers crashed his disc-shaped spacecraft into White Rock Lake and decided to live amongst us in secret, how would he get to know the iconic food behind our fine little city? Glorbers should follow Dallas' best meat twitter: @BBQSnob, aka Daniel Vaughn. He's one of Dallas' best chroniclers of the slow cook. He's like the old prospector waist-deep in the river, panning for treasure. Every week, his feed unveils nuggets (yes, there are always porny food photos) of where to get the best meat treasures, in Dallas and beyond. Follow Daniel and you're sure to get to know Dallas through its barbecue.

First Baptist's Robert Jeffress may be the marquee name among Dallas evangelicals, but Jeffress has never brought a live lion to his Easter service, spent 24 hours with his wife in a bed on the roof of his megachurch, launched a blog doling out fashion tips to his fellow clergy or written a book titled Sexperiment. That was Ed Young, founding pastor of Grapevine's Fellowship Church, who did all of the above in the course of about four months this year. If such antics strike you as a desperate, toddler-like ploy for the attention, your understanding of scripture is woefully unsophisticated, because Young has the evangelical chops to back it up. He has a master's in divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and his father helms Second Baptist Church in Houston, one of the country's largest. Besides, he's entertaining as hell.

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