Burning Question

Before launching into this week's topic, members of the Burning Question crew wish to declare that we, too, love Katie Holmes. So step aside, Tom. If she ditches you and accepts our deal, no need to sacrifice her virginity--more than once--just help us promote our religion: alcohol. We'll have our lawyers draw up a five-year contract.

Now, we address this subject (getting laid, not Katie Holmes--that's a one-time thing) every year, and every year people confront us with the same old pedantic question: "Ooh, how do you do your research?" We know what they're implying and, yes, disciplined study, some in-depth reading of human psychology texts and a staunch commitment to the principles of solid journalism guide our efforts. Anyway, after logging several hundred hours in various bars, listening to countless tales of corruption and promising more than a dozen Caribbean tours on our luxury yacht, we've determined the following:

Sunday night at Nikita. The bar no longer threatens to undermine the high moral standards of Dallas club-hoppers by rolling soft-core porn on video monitors, but no matter. Dress with a bit of panache and spew out your lines in a timely manner, and Sunday night at this West Village bar becomes as sure a thing as exists in the city. It's the place where women, as nightlife denizen Hai Schaeffer puts it, are most likely to "give up the punanny."

"Tonight rivals any Thursday, Friday, Saturday anywhere," agrees Adam Salazar, Sabbath-day bartender at Nikita. "It's absolutely shooting fish in a barrel...a small barrel...a glass."

On other nights this subterranean vodka bar resembles any relatively tame former hot spot. Sunday nights, however, draw carnivorous crowds. During one visit, for example, two nearby women eyeballed every guy in the joint. We encountered a desperate male in the unisex restroom imploring some babe to step into a stall. And a stunning sort exchanged more than furtive glances with us each time her boyfriend glanced the other way.

Nikita is responsible for mass absenteeism and a dramatic decline in Monday-morning productivity.

Weekends at Obar, Dragonfly, Medici, Sense and Candle Room. There's a certain ring of familiarity to the top six pickup spots. With the notable exception of Dragonfly, hip and dark lounges seem to cultivate illicit nocturnal behavior. The hotel bar stands out like a beacon, thanks largely to a poolside patio and brighter-than-normal interior lighting. Most places--and, indeed, most inebriates--fear daylight. Hell, they even scurry into dark corners when bulbs flicker on at 2 a.m. ZaZa, the Dragonfly's alcoholic outpost, however, positively glows and, as bartender Chris Michael points out, "I don't think anybody's complaining." We could even read it when a rather forward woman scribbled "I want to have sex" in our stern reporter's notebook.

Aside from the lighting, two through six share certain similarities. "One of the keys is atmosphere," explains Chris Moler of Candle Room. "People have to feel they're at home." Atmosphere means designing a look and creating an environment welcoming to women.

"Women, that's the bottom line," says Danny Bui, bartender at Medici.

It's a simple equation. "You don't have women, you don't have guys," Bui continues. "You don't have guys, no one's buying drinks."

Guys, just throw us a drink and a few chips--just so long as there's alcohol and a TV, we're happy. High-end pickup places, however, feature outstanding service, top bartending crews and other "feminine" touches. Perhaps that's why Nick & Sam's and Al Biernat's appear on the list this year. Not as Top 10 destinations, mind you, but friendly spots where women feel comfortable.

The rest of the Top 10 includes a couple of rowdy and less female-friendly joints: Carson's, Duke's, Blue Fish (on Thursday) and Hurricane Grill. Dallas attorney Brooks Anderson settled into a new office across the road from the latter. "On our first Monday afternoon in the space, we stepped outside at 4:30," he recalls. "Two women waved, and one of them promptly stood up and flashed her tits--on our first Monday."

Other locations: Fuse and Nobu recently opened and thus draw crowds attracted to novelty. Fuse also beckons with one of the more interesting patios in Dallas, complete with palm trees and a pool. Martini Ranch rules Monday nights. On Tuesday habitual drunks stumble from Primo's over to The Quarter for amorous action. On Wednesday try Spike in Mockingbird Station, which lubes the primal urges with $3 Tuaca shots.

"The place just fills up," reports Spike bartender Mike Fleeman. "You can barely walk."

Oh, anyone who struck out earlier on those crucial Friday and Saturday nights ends up at Seven.

We've answered this week's question, but one more item requires attention: Is there a common thread? Well, Willie Trimmer and his consortium of DJs--the 12-Inch Pimps--spin at several of the aforementioned clubs. So if you must lay down some blame for indecorous non-fundamentalist behavior, it's the DJs, not the alcohol (isn't that right, Katie?).

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