Best Neighborhood 2019 | Design District | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

What the Design District has: a great dive bar/bowling alley (Bowlounge), a fantastic craft beer bar (Meddlesome Moth), a perfect neighborhood coffee shop (Ascension) and a bevy of the city's best restaurants (Town Hearth, Wheelhouse, Sassetta, El Bolero, Rodeo Goat and Ferris Wheelers, to name a half-dozen). What the Design District doesn't have: overwhelming crowds, stumbling drunks or — for the most part — scooters on the damn sidewalk. Gather ye rosebuds and head to the west side of I-35 while ye may.

Robert Redford publicly announced The Old Man and the Gun as his last film, and the last story he wanted to tell was that of affable and gentlemanly bank robber and serial prison escapee Tucker Forest. Redford brought the script to Dallas-based (and Disney director) filmmaker David Lowery, who assembled a dream cast including Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Casey Affleck and Elizabeth Moss. The film puts its audience through an awkwardly conflicted moment of moral introspection as we root for the bad guy to get away with crime. It's a beautiful piece of filmmaking told through Lowery's austere style, with impeccable scoring by fellow Dallasite Daniel Hart.

Roderick Pullum

The phenomenon that is May May Graves has been wowing audiences throughout the area since making her way into the local drag and burlesque circuit in 2015. Confidence and stage presence may be prerequisites for drag performers, but Graves has those attributes on a level that's transcendent within her craft. Graves has built a massive following, which has allowed her to pursue other ventures in the entertainment industry. Graves released an industrial punk album in July 2018 called Monsters. She's also a highly sought-after event host, but fair warning: Graves as an MC is essentially a stand-up comedian. The only thing that's more blue than her make-up and outfits is her sense of humor. On the second Thursday of every month, Graves produces Qweird at The Nines. The show blends the genres of drag and burlesque while intentionally pushing the boundaries of what audiences come to expect from both.

Brian Maschino

For 20 years, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions was untouchable. Then, suddenly, in 2018, he wasn't. Counting on local distaste for President Donald Trump and Dallas' rapidly changing demographics to push them to victory, four Democrats threw their hats in the primary ring. Colin Allred, a civil rights attorney and former NFL player, won the right to take on Sessions. In the general election, Allred repeatedly hammered the incumbent on healthcare, a winning issue in North Dallas, and cruised to victory by six points. Sessions blamed his loss on California residents moving to Dallas, but Allred beat him on the issues.

Opened by entrepreneur brother-sister team Rachel and Alex Fox, The Refuge is a city haven for meditation. The Foxes are Dallas natives and SMU alums who spent time in California then decided to bring a bit of Los Angeles meditation practice to Texas. Located in Deep Ellum, The Refuge's classes take place in an airy, high-ceiling loft space decorated with local art, crystals and candles. A seemingly industrial scene becomes serene in the presence of their welcoming, diversely trained teachers. The Refuge offers a full schedule of classes, ranging from a quick but effective 30 to 50 minutes, all within the realm of meditation and self-care. One of those offerings includes therapeutic yoga, which allows for hands-on, personal mental and physical renewal. Others are their sound and essential oil baths, which seek to send students into deep, restful relaxation. It's the ultimate place of self-care for an overworked generation.

4140 Commerce St. , No. 202,

Kathy Tran

There's a new age-old question: Are art pop-ups — installations made primarily for Instagram's benefit — cheapening the traditionally high-brow art world experience, or elevating selfie culture by offering backgrounds far more interesting than your dirty bathroom mirror? No matter how you feel about the selfie factories, they're not going anywhere — especially in Dallas, where we can count at least eight happening just this last year. But nobody does it as well as Sweet Tooth Hotel, which changes themes seasonally and is always impeccably constructed by custom designers Built by Bender, with art installations by some of the city's greatest. With a Prince-themed bar and a silent disco fitness class, there's far more to do at Sweet Tooth than making a duck face with your friends.

Best Local Defense of the Affordable Care Act

Michael Lummus

Before a federal court hearing in Fort Worth, Alvarado's Michael Lummus took the chance to berate one of the attorneys representing plaintiffs trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act. "Why you lying, boy?" Lummus said. "That Obamacare saved my life, and people like you want to kill people like me because we can't work. I'm trying to find a job, but they ain't going to cover me if you take away pre-existing conditions."

Brian Maschino

When Dallas made the decision to take down its Robert E. Lee statue, one of the many arguments trotted out by those who wanted the statue left in Turtle Creek Park was that getting rid of it would be too expensive. As it turned out, the city made money on the deal, thanks to a successful online auction in June. It cost the city $450,000 to take the statue down. It got $1.5 million from an Addison-based attorney for the oversize bronze. Good riddance.

Eric Johnson may have won Dallas' mayoral election, but the tape that emerged of one of his fundraisers in May certainly livened up his race with former City Council member Scott Griggs. The tape made clear what many observers had whispered for a long time, that Dallas' moneyed cabal intended to do everything it could to stop Griggs. The anonymously recorded tape didn't change the election's result, but it crystallized what was at stake.

Dallas County District Attorney's Office
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot ran for office on a platform of ending mass incarceration and reforming the county's criminal justice system. Last April, Creuzot announced steps his office was taking toward that goal. Among other changes, Creuzot declared that he would no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases for first-time offenders or cases involving people arrested for possession of trace amounts of drugs, driving with a suspended license or stealing necessary items. It's too early to say how effective these changes will be, but it's always good to see an elected official walking the criminal justice reform talk.

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