Look, we know what you're thinking. Jos. A. Bank's a pretty square choice for the Dallas Observer, right? Yeah, well, listen up, sunshine. You want a T-shirt with the logo of your favorite band or some retro consignment-shop duds, keep reading. We got plenty of those. But in the current reality, the name of the game is dress for success — or, if not success, at least a J-O-B. And for that, J-O-S has a wide selection of good quality men's clothing at reasonable prices. Suits, sport coats, polos, business casual and slacks (that's grown-up speak for "pants") make it possible for you to put together a set of work clothes that don't necessarily leave you looking like your dad (though if Dad's a pastel-loving golfer, he'd be right at home here). We know you don't want to put on a damn tie, but ask yourself this: Would you really rather move back in with Dad?

Before we get to the usual stuff about how happy we are to present this annual catalog o' bestness, we feel obliged to ask you, the readers, a question: What's up with all the ballot-stuffing in our Readers' Picks this year?


Oh, don't pull the innocent face and give us that "Who, us?" shizz. We're not naming names, and this isn't the first year we've seen stuffing, but 2012 set the record for smelly votes. (Here's a tip for you would-be ballot manipulators: If we see 300 obviously random Yahoo email addresses devoted to one obscure venue in our results, we know what's up. Because who the hell uses Yahoo mail?)


What does it say about the state of our republic and its citizens that in this vital election year, in a Best of Dallas® issue with an election theme, no less, so many people used their Internet skills to try to game the vote? It says that America's vital entrepreneurial spirit, its technical know-how and its love of winners are alive and well. Way to go Dallas; you're obviously paying attention to the political climate and know the way the world works. Plus, you care enough about our city to want to tout your accomplishments. For that, we commend you.


But you're still not gonna get that award.


Instead, what we have here is a highly scientific, entirely credible list of the best bars, restaurants, shops, people and places chosen by both readers and our trained staff, using the time-tested method of finding the Best of Dallas®. Namely, we go eat, drink, shop and hang out, and then pick places we like better than all the others. It may not sound that scientific, but we figure it's way better than the methods used in other elections. Like for president.


Don't believe us? Check out the picks yourself. We promise you'll like the results, which is more than you can say for most elections.

Oliver Francis Gallery

At first glance, this might seem an unconventional choice. In between shows, Oliver Francis Gallery looks more like a cross-fit workout facility than a high-gloss showcase arena. But that's the thing. With so many Dallas spaces representing the biggest names in art, we've come to look to OFG for something else: difficult to market but important to see contemporary work. Owner and curator Kevin Rubén Jacobs balances the scales by presenting art he loves made by people he finds interesting. It's that simple. Whether he's passionate about an international sculptor like Rachel de Joode, whose exploration of art as documentation is still lodged deeply in our robotic hearts, or he's interested in emerging local talents hiking their way up, Jacobs offers their collections a temporary home. At Oliver Francis Gallery, you won't see art as décor. You will find things that make you feel uneasy. Frustrated, even. But that's the kicker: You will feel. You will think. And a couple of years down the road, it's these exhibitions that you'll remember.

Mind Spiders started out as a solo project for former Marked Men singer/guitarist Mark Ryan. Fast forward a few years, and it's now expanded to a six-person wrecking ball with two drummers. Last year's self-titled was an impressive amalgam of all Ryan's influences: punk, soul, new wave, pop. Meltdown, released in February, is more focused in its attack, and finds Ryan sharpening his ax. One of the best North Texas albums this year. Maybe even all of Texas.

It's sort of become a running joke for Black Dotz frontman Wanz Dover to take to Facebook and declare that the quartet's next show will be their last in a while. Inevitably it's not, but they always keep us on our toes, which is what a good rock and roll band should do. If you've caught them live, you understand: All four members are accomplished musicians in their own right, but together, they pull up their soul, R&B and punk roots and claw out your eyes in a white-hot blast. If you haven't seen them, what are you waiting for? This could be your last chance.

Ah, the much maligned "special guest" is the scourge of fliers and Facebook invites everywhere. This Fort Worth punk group decided to cut out the middle man and just own the name, and we support this kind of script-flipping and mischief-making.

Jeff Siegel is funny and all that, but he also has an incredible talent for getting stuff first, which makes him not only a fun read but a must. He writes a regular column that is called, as best we can tell, "Jeff Siegel" (catchy, what?) in the Lakewood and Lake Highlands Advocate magazines, free-distribution monthlies. If they already hang the magazine on your doorknob, you know Siegel. If they don't, you need to go find him in a rack, or you will miss a steady diet of insider scoops: He was way out front on the Trader Joe/Greenville Avenue story, first to tell the tale of Lincoln Properties wanting to re-name Gaston Avenue "Arboretum Way" or some such nonsense and first to hear the Andres brothers had put most of Henderson Avenue up for sale. Siegel is also author of a blog called "Wine Curmudgeon," which often is the only place to go for plain talk about wine in Dallas — a topic that cries out for plain talk. Beneath all that writing and attitude beats the heart of an old-fashioned newspaper reporter. Siegel's got good ears, good sources, and if a really good story walks up and bites him in the ass, he gets it on the page or up on the web faster and better than anybody else in Dallas. If it bites him anywhere else, we're not sure what happens.

Texas Theatre
Barak Epstein

Southfork's own Jock Ewing haunts Texas Theatre, looking just a tad rough around the edges. Moviegoers at the historic Oak Cliff cinema palace are always treated to a special pre-flick spot from Ewing (played by local musician and lovable cable-access weirdo George Quartz). The ghost of the great man is shown lurching unsteadily toward the bar, tipping his 10-gallon back on his head, boring the bartender shitless with a semi-intelligible story about a giant catfish. "Whence using the powder room, I like to sneak a cigarette and get myself a bourbon," he advises the audience. We can do the same, he adds, or go over to the concession stand and get a snack. But Ewing has a few words of warning, ones that never seem to get less funny: "If you want to bring your own car phone in, you best turn it off," he glowers. "Last thing I want to do when I'm watching a movie is kick your ass."

The Nasher Sculpture Center

It's been almost a year since Martin Creed's exhibit at the Nasher closed, but we're still talking about it, because we miss it so. It was a giant room filled from floor to ceiling with some 9,000 yellow balloons, and you could run around through them. Technically, the piece was called "Work No. 1190: Half the air in a given space." What did it mean? Damned if Martin Creed knew. "I'm not a conceptual artist," he told an interviewer just before the show opened. "I don't believe in conceptual art." The balloon room was nothing less than a giddy, transcendent experience: the noise of the balloons like waves, the sensation of kicking them aside to walk, the gold color filling your field of vision as you tried to find your way forward. Please come back, Mr. Creed. Bring more balloons.

Raul's Corral Mexican Food & Steaks

Dallas has a wealth of plaster bulls scattered around town, by which we mean two. One is pretty good; it sits proudly atop a steak joint on Oak Cliff's Jefferson Avenue. It's cute, you know? But the longhorn outside Raul's Corral Mexican Food is absurdly, gloriously excessive, a larger-than-life testament to the noble cow, sitting atop a stone platform and surrounded by a low iron fence. It has enormous, slightly dingy white horns and an "RR" brand on the left flank, a tribute to restaurant owner Raul Ramirez. We also feel compelled to mention that it's (sort of) anatomically correct. Visit the bull, honk at the bull on your way home from work, but for God's sake, don't try to steal the bull. We've thought about it. Can't be done. Besides: Raul's longhorn deserves to reign on his throne of rocks forever.

Best Of Dallas®