Best Dinner and a Show 2014 | Hong Kong Market | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

When you're heating up the wok, head to Hong Kong Market for all the ingredients for dinner, plus some amazing entertainment while you shop. On one occasion, an Observer staffer went to check out what they were told was an amazing special on lobster. While waiting at the seafood counter, another customer in line ordered live catfish. The guy working the seafood counter fished out a catfish, but it got away from him and fell on the floor. Without blinking, he reached for the baseball bat that had been leaning against the wall, beat the flopping-on-the-floor catfish senseless with it, turned to the line and asked, "Anyone want half-priced catfish?" Not only do they have fresh produce and all the Asian dry goods you could ever ask for, Hong Kong Market will always deliver a magnificent, WTF-just-happened-to-my-eyes experience.

Sooner or later you will tell yourself, "Yeah, this house is authentic and historical and all that good stuff, but I need to be able to open a window." As soon as you say that, you are off down the road to re-do Hades. The windows you've got won't open because they have been painted, nailed and puttied shut, and when you look really close at them they're halfway made out of old banana crates anyway. But as soon as you touch hammer or pry to one of them, you just made yourself a much bigger problem. Next way-station on the road to Old House Hell: How easy do you think it's going to be to find a replacement for that dude? Pause here. Before you pick up the phone and call the Jolly Roger Skull and Crossbones Carpentry Company to come out and build you new windows for the price of a Harvard undergraduate degree, go to Orr-Reed where you will find a wonderful trove of old windows carefully salvaged from old North Texas houses. Tell your problem to proprietor Hannah Hargrove. She'll probably take you to just what you need. Same goes for doors, lintels and anything else. Never have it made for you until you've checked with Hannah.

Kids of a certain age will never get sick of certain popular bounce-house venues. Parents, on the other hand, forced to haul their child to a party there every goddamned weekend, can barely choke down the bile. Enter Quiggly's Clayhouse. As its name implies, parties there involve clay — painting for the little ones, sculpting for the bigger ones — and fun. You will no doubt find your child's artistic creation precocious and adorable. More important, though, you'll be bathed in gratitude by your fellow parents for not dragging them to the bounce-house place.

Best Place to Explode Your 4-Year-Old's Brain


There aren't many good reasons to drive to Grapevine. The best one, if you have a child obsessed with a certain brand of molded plastic block, is Legoland. It's a Lego theme park. With two million Legos. With a 4-D(!) movie theater. With Lego go-carts. It won't actually explode your kid's brain, but it will so inundate his senses that it will render him unable to muster the energy to outsmart you, at least for the rest of the day.

Do you have to go to a baby shower for a fancy baby? Go to Baby Bliss and snag all the expensive baby crap that fancy baby desperately needs. You want to spend 30 bucks on a onesie the kid will puke on in the first two seconds it wears it, and then immediately outgrow? Easy. You want to buy a $180 plush mermaid your new grandbaby will rip the hair out of? They've got you covered. The staff here is super nice and accommodating. Just tell them what kind of baby thing you want to spend lots of money on, and they'll point you in the perfect direction.

Sometimes, your kids are bouncing off the walls in your house, and you'd rather have them bounce off the wall somewhere — anywhere — else. At this desperate point, you make the choice to drive them to Jumpstreet. Jumpstreet is an "indoor trampoline park" (read: a warehouse space they lined wall-to-wall with trampolines), and is meant to be the perfect place for kids to jump out all that kid energy. What it really becomes is a place for kids to play a good game of "How Long Until I Get a Head Injury?" Something changes in the eyes of every kid who walks through the automatic doors here. They go primal. And there's no stopping it. Whether they're double-bouncing each other into the ceiling, begging you to let their not-yet-fully-formed-bodies ride the mechanical bull or vomiting in the bounce house, just remember: You signed up for this.

The play area on the third floor of the Galleria is enclosed, with only one entrance/exit. It's carpeted. And it's full of squishy, rounded-cornered stuff for your kids to climb all over. The whole thing is even lined with a never-ending bench, so every parent has a place to sit. And it's free. You would think it would be the perfect play place. But once you walk through the entrance of this play area, it's every soiled-diapered toddler for himself. This playground is jungle-themed for a reason. Every single one of these kids has been cooped up in a shitty stroller for an hour while Mom shopped for lingerie — they deserve this moment to let loose. Just buckle up, get a seat by the exitrance (that's what you call an entrance/exit, right?) and hold onto your butts. Hope you brought bandages.

On a 106-acre spread in southern Dallas, a particular species congregates every morning for a week at a time during certain parts of the year. That species: the yoga pants mom. The reason for their migration to these parts: Dallas Zoo day camps. During the summer — and again during both winter break and spring break — the Dallas Zoo hosts preschoolers through high schoolers for week-long themed educational camps. And the moms rejoice: They drop their kids off at 9 a.m. in a classroom just inside the gates where the order of the day includes animal encounters, zoo exploration and crafts. Said moms can then go to practice their standing bows, head to lunch with the ladies, clean up and drive to the camp pickup line at 3:30 p.m. And for those of us working for the man instead of flexing for the yogi, childcare is available for an additional fee both before and after camp begins. Wild.

That software you bought last year so you could learn a little conversational Spanish held so much promise, but here you are ... still struggling to figure out how to gender nouns and when to roll your Rs. That's because language acquisition doesn't really work that way. A computer can help you with rote repetition and memorization, but can never take the place of interaction. Full immersion in a foreign language is how you really get the bilingual ball rolling. It's a lot like diving into a pool to learn to swim, with context and social cues as your life preservers. Spanish House is a full-immersion language school founded locally by a pair of teachers. It offers nine graduated levels of group and individual classes so you can aprender Español on the double. Classes are small and informal and teachers are trained educators and native Spanish speakers. Spanish House also offers weekly lessons for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, plus a day care, preschool and elementary school — we know little ones that deftly back-talk in two languages after just a few semesters of Spanish House instruction.

Remember that time you thought you'd pay someone to address your wedding invitations in fancy calligraphy just like you saw on Pinterest and then HOLY MOTHER OF GOD it was, like, Uptown money? There's a reason: That shit's kind of hard. There's a whole science behind it, like the angle you need to hold the pen and the exact place you should place your blotting papers to avoid dreaded smearing. Lauren Essl's Blue Eye Brown Eye (named in honor of her dog's different colored irises) offers calligraphy classes in both Dallas and Fort Worth that show you all those things in about three hours — she cheerfully teaches beginner classes (the basics related to lower-case calligraphy), and the advanced class adds colors and uppercase letters. Basic supplies are included too, all for $165, which is about how much you'd pay for someone to address three of your shower invitations. With Essl's guidance and a little bit of practice, you'll be creating Etsy-worthy décor and stationary in no time.

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