Best Bowling Alley 2014 | Bowlounge | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Photo Courtesy of Bowlounge

Years ago, Don Carter's and Jupiter Lanes were the epitome of cool old-school bowling alleys. They looked vintage even then, reeked of cigarette smoke and cheap concession food, and the glove-wearing teams of bowlers proved these lanes were the real deal even if they were pretty affordable. Alas, they are gone, but if we can't have them anymore, at least we can have a place that looks that old and cheap. Bowlounge isn't cheap, and with ancient scoring machines that seem to miscount pins a few times every round, it's not for serious bowlers. But the lanes, pin-setters and scoring, salvaged from an East Texas alley facing demolition, give off such a comforting nostalgic vibe that a little bit of scorekeeping chaos is easily overlooked. And we'll take Twisted Root burgers over stale, neon-cheese-topped nachos any day.

Find the big hill off Mountain Creek Parkway and Eagle Ford Drive. Climb through the pearly white gates. Ignore the sprawling evangelical complex/prayer center up top. Park in the clearing beneath the electrical transformer. From there, follow the signs to 22 miles of some of the best off-road biking trails in Dallas. How the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association managed to pack that much trail on that hilltop is a mystery. But with plenty of technical twists and a good number of exhilarating descents, you'll be glad they did.

From a policy standpoint, the Dallas City Council's decision to repeal an ordinance requiring adult cyclists to wear helmets was the most important step toward bike friendliness, since it sliced through the problem of how users of a future bike share system would protect their heads. Symbolically, it was the council's decision to lift a ban on "stunt riding," which made things like wheelies and riding without one's hands on the handlebars a ticketable offense. Because nothing says mindless over-regulation like a wheelie ban. We are hoping, but not betting, that this marks a new era in rational city government.

Once upon a time, a young Lee Trevino launched his professional golf career at Tenison Park by hustling any player foolish enough to challenge him. A half century later, any budding PGA legends are probably refining their game elsewhere, though Tenison Park, particularly the Highlands course, is a solid choice for Dallas' budget-minded amateurs. Renovated a decade ago, the city-owned course offers tree-lined fairways and hilly terrain that offer a fun, scenic challenge.

There was a time in the not too distant past when one could walk up to the Moody Coliseum box office at game time, buy a ticket and pick a seat from the thousands of empty ones that ring the arena. No longer. Larry Brown has lifted the Mustangs into respectability, knocking off four top 25 teams — including two victories over eventual national champion UConn — en route to an NIT finals appearance, and turning the team into a hot ticket. They were screwed out of what should have been their first NCAA tournament appearance in decades, but if the pattern holds, they'll be invited to the big dance next year.

Few political movements have been more successful yet under-the-radar than Critical Mass, an unofficial bike ride held in cities nationwide on the last Friday of every month. The point is to remind motorists that bicycles are vehicles entitled to use city streets, so please stop running them over. Dallas' Critical Mass is also just a fun way to meet people, attracting a friendly crowd that's happy to spend a few hours exploring together without knowing the destination point. The turnout tends to be stronger in the warmer months, with July's event getting a crowd that appeared to be at least 400-strong. All cyclists (or occasionally, someone dressed in in-line skates or just jogging clothes) are invited to join the fun at Main Street Garden for a 7:30 p.m. meet-up and 8 p.m. departure. The ride is slow enough to welcome riders of all skill levels and ends at a different bar each time.

Every player claims he'll do whatever it takes to help his team win a championship. But would they put their money where their mouths are? Dirk Nowitzki did, accepting a three-year, $25 million deal — a whopping cut from making nearly that much in a single season last year — in order to give the Mavericks the financial flexibility to bring in Chandler Parsons. In doing so, he didn't even entertain max-level offers from the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, leaving $72 million on the table. Let that sink in for a moment and then have a good laugh imagining how quickly LeBron James would have walked out the door if Cleveland offered him $72 million less than any other team. For bringing the Larry O'Brien championship trophy to Dallas in 2011, Nowitzki would have gone down in sports history as one of the greatest and most beloved players to ever set foot in the town. But his insistence on staying in Dallas until he retires and taking a humbling pay cut to do so makes him a saint.

Kiest Park had a fine tree-lined, shaded running and biking path, a favorite spot for South Oak Cliff residents to exercise and people watch. In fact, it was becoming so popular that it would be uncomfortably crowded on good-weather days. The asphalt was cracked, buckled and even missing in a couple patches. In short, it was in need of a serious makeover. And that's what it's getting, as the city tears up the old blacktop and lays down fresh concrete, widening the paths and adding some new ones while they're at it. The temporary fencing blocking off areas still in progress is ugly and inconvenient, but it looks like it will be worth the wait.

A good local bike shop is like a good local coffee shop. Other than the coffee, people go for the atmosphere and the staff, who should know the best time of year for Peruvian beans but don't rub it in if you can't taste the difference between brewed and pressed coffee. The same principle holds for bike shops. The employees should be able to direct customers to the best frame but not make them feel dumb for not knowing the difference between Presta and Schrader valves. They should spend as much time tinkering on their own bikes as they do on customers' but explain it in a non-technical way. Transit Bicycle Co. has such a staff. As it says on their website, "Air and advice are always free." And, like the best coffee shops, Transit offers an intimate environment.

Serious runners have a choice: Run On or Luke's. Both provide expert evaluation of one's running style and foot structure. Both offer a comparable selection of gear. Both are locally based and have outposts at Mockingbird and Central Expressway. Both are wonderful. Which one runners patronize is entirely a matter of personal taste and whether they choose to turn right or left from the Central Expressway service road.

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