Best New Thing in Town 2014 | The Wild Detectives | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Catherine Downes

If someone pitched you the idea for a bookstore, wine bar and coffee shop, would you buy in? What if it was the first to the neighborhood? Better yet, to the city? We could assign The Wild Detectives countless awards this year, but instead we're just going to give this thriving Oak Cliff business the expansive superlative: Best New Thing in Town. Because, if we're being honest, there's nothing greater that's opened in the past 12 months, if not long before that as well. It satisfies both our gastronomy and literary cravings, which is saying quite a lot. Thus far, there have been book readings inside, concerts outside and a great deal of wine and local beer split between the two.

The news anchors you grew up with are gone. The McGarrys and the Rowletts and the Camposes, they've been replaced by children who, while bright-eyed and eager, have smooth, unfurrowed brows incapable of properly conveying the gravity of the day's news. John McCaa's brow, by contrast, is perpetually furrowed, the legacy of three decades delivering news at WFAA Channel 8. No one on local TV outside of Fox 4's Clarice Tinsley is as experienced as McCaa, and even she can't match the avuncular, Murrow-like presence that assures viewers that, no matter how horrific that fatal car crash, everything's going to be all right.

Any show anchored by John McCaa has an almost insurmountable advantage over its competitors. Throw in the two best cop reporters in the city, Tanya Eiserer and Rebecca Lopez, a theatrically hyperventilating weatherman/demigod Pete Delkus, the unexpectedly progressive social commentary of Dale Hansen and big-game hunters Brett Shipp and David Schechter, and it's not even a competition.

Perhaps the most jarring segue in Dallas radio is at 4 a.m. on Sundays, when extreme metal gives way to gospel music. What makes KNON work so well is that it has no use for mainstream or pop music, even if some of the artists that various shows play are household names. Each show has a particular focus, whether it's zydeco, Jewish music, '60s psychedelia, hard country, rockabilly or blues. What that results in is volunteer DJs who are extraordinarily passionate and knowledgeable about their respective genres — the narrower the niche, the better. And then, counter to this notion but equally enjoyable are the station's new weekday Morning Blend shows from 7 to 9. Each day, it's like a different host puts KNON's weekly programming on shuffle. You'll hear folk, blues, country, rock, reggae, metal, cumbia and more, all in the span of a couple hours, like a JACK-FM with better taste.

"KRLD's traffic and weather on the 8s" is the go-to program for Dallasites banging their heads on their steering wheels during rush hour or stuck in a torrential downpour. Which is to say, everyone. When the typical waves of massive storms and a few tornados roll through North Texas in the spring, KRLD's coverage is one of the most exciting things to happen on local news radio. The station goes all out: Angry siren noises, panicking announcers, the works. "Get in a shelter NOW," announcers tell listeners repeatedly, creating chicken-with-its-head-cut-off drivers all over the area. Weather excitement aside, KRLD is a staple to Dallas radio with its reliable and thorough coverage.

David Finfrock is an institution in this town. Every kid growing up in Dallas was glued to the Finfrock's coverage when there was even a hint of a tornado or flood or other sign of impending Armageddon. He's been with NBC forever (or since 1975), and is always incredibly soft-spoken and calm in the face of natural disaster. But more than someone who seems very nice on TV, he's someone you'd want to be your grandfather. He likes gardening and maps (he's the editor of the Texas Map Society newsletter, which is as awesome as it sounds) and nature hikes. He would probably bake you chocolate chip cookies for no reason. Also you could write sonnets about that mustache, and many people probably have.

On Sunday nights when long-time local radio host and musician Paul Slavens takes over KXT's signal for a few hours, the otherwise dull, listener-supported station comes to life. You can hear literally anything from Slavens' show: experimental music from locals, French standards, Italian horror soundtracks, an actual person of color, even. That's because Slavens has built a reputation on great taste and actually listens to what his listeners suggest he plays. Think of it as supported-listeners radio.

On the air since 1983, Lambda Weekly claims to be the longest-running gay and lesbian radio show on the air anywhere on Earth. We were unwilling to do the work required to substantiate that claim but considered it irrelevant anyway: Lambda Weekly is just such a great show, gay or lesbian or longest-running or not. Captained by the genial and always well-informed David Taffet, the show is an informative and thoughtful window on local and national issues. With his very smart and loyal lieutenants, Lerone Landis and Patti Fink, at his side, Taffet has interviewed Charo, Lisa Loeb, Jagger, The Dixie Chicks, SONiA, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears (), Alan Sues (Laugh In), Dan Butler (Frazier) — a bunch of celebrities and many important national political figures. It's never a mistake to catch Lambda Weekly on Sunday.

OK, so Mark Lamster wins this by default since he's the only professional architecture critic in Dallas, but don't let that take away from his importance. Imported from New York City through a partnership between the University of Texas at Arlington and The Dallas Morning News, he is a public intellectual, which is rare around these parts. He not only critiques Dallas' fancy new buildings — though there's plenty of that — he casts a critical eye on how the city is built. He's not the only one doing this, but he's the most visible, and he's too intelligent and too good a writer to be ignored.

It may not technically be in Dallas, although a new location is expected to open in The Cedars sometime in 2015, but this Austin transplant stands out for what it has, and what it doesn't. For a movie theater, the food and beer selections are fantastic, as is the chain's special programming, like sing- and quote-alongs and screenings you can't catch anywhere else. What you won't see is anyone texting or peeking at Twitter after a movie has started — that merits an ejection from the theater after one warning, seriously — or any unaccompanied kids, as every person at every showing must be accompanied by someone 18-plus.

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