After silencing two snooze sessions, I rolled out of bed at 8:45 a.m. to embark on my best day ever. My mission? Hit as many spots on the Best of Big D list as I could manage in one day. My goal? Get to know all those nooks and crannies that I so often drive by in the city I call home. I would spend the next 15 hours figuring out what it was that put these businesses on D’s list.
12:02 pm — Ahab Bowen, Best Vintage Clothing Store
After fueling up with my friends Meg and Lauren, at the Original Market Diner, we arrived at Ahab Bowen, home to the embarrassing fashions of our mothers and our mothers' mothers. A porch swing and columns lined in boas blowing flamboyantly in the wind mark an otherwise quaint exterior. I can’t think of a better entrance to get one psyched for an afternoon of dress-up.
In the words of my friend Meg, “It smells like my grandma’s attic, so you know it’s good.”
After fingering the wall of costume jewelry, I found myself taken back to the days of Pretty, Pretty Princess and reminded myself that this jewelry is more on the “look” side of “look, don't touch.” It didn’t take long, however, for us to be tempted into the dressing room by racks of sequined dresses. Although a gold-beaded dress is by no means out of fashion these days, the linebacker shoulder pads that “enhanced” my build were a dead ‘80s giveaway.
The selection is small, but the quality is great. Their best collection is evening gowns — sporting old Neiman Marcus labels, among other designers. It would be a great place to deck oneself out before a costume party. And, if not, it’s always fun to try to squeeze into the fashions of our mothers, meanwhile wondering if they really would’ve worn that terry cloth romper that hangs in the middle of the rack.
2:07-3:12 pm — Wave Wash, Best Car Wash
My car enjoyed a much-needed bath at Wave Wash after spending a month with my brother on an oil field. One dirty car, one Wave Wash, and one hour later, voila! Wave Wash is the best makeover my car has had since its factory finish in ‘08.
I pulled up to Deno’s ready to be reunited with my favorite black flats and my purple purse, hoping that Deno could repair the shredded leather of the heels and the pencil-size holes on each corner of my purse. (Note: Using a purse as a backpack, while trendy, is not always practical.) Unfortunately, I was a little too early to pick them up, so I had to return the following day.
Deno’s was well worth the wait. Not only did he smooth out the leather on my flats, but he also repaired my purse so well that he left no trace of his handiwork. The clerks who work there were quite helpful as well, even giving me a call as soon as my shoes and bag were ready for pick-up. They also don't judge you for shoe and bag neglect, which is something I noticed with my last shoe repair when I found my cheeks burning as I explained that my heels seem to be strongly attracted to the nearest grate. The cobbler was not amused.
This was my first time at Deno’s, and on Saturday night, as I got up from a chair only to notice that my purse was no longer over my shoulder, I realized it would not be my last. Purse neglect has struck again with a broken clasp. See you on Monday morning, Deno's.
4 pm — Legacy Books, Best Bookstore
My mom and I arrived at Legacy Books without much time to spare before our 4:30 appointment at Zen Luxury Nail and Beauty Bar. Immediately I am struck by the size and modern layout of the store. The high ceilings and openness of the three floors draw the eye up upon entry, making it difficult not to go all the way to the top floor to browse. Admittedly I had expected this independent bookstore to be a bit of a hole-in-the-wall, with brick walls and torn-up leather chairs. Legacy Books, however, could give any Barnes and Noble or Borders a run for its bookworm clientele.
Although I didn't get as much time with Legacy Books as I would have liked, it has all the hallmarks of a great bookstore: a cafe, rows of books, and large comfy leather chairs tucked away that I would be hard pressed to pass up on a rainy day.
This “best” is a bit of a trek, but well worth the mileage. Tucked in the southwest corner of a shopping center at State Highway 121 and Legacy Drive, this nail salon provides a quiet haven for frazzled and stressed highway-goers.
A little shaken up over our bout with Google maps, my mom and I were quickly coaxed out of our frenzy by fresh tea and cookies. I can’t think of a better way to be greeted than by tea, cookies, and a foot massage.
Reclining white chairs and granite basins line the main room with a stone fountain standing tall in the center. Unlike other nail salons, where gossip magazines and the latest neighborhood scandal fill the room, Zen offers something that the other salons don’t: silence (except for the stone fountain of course).
Our basic pedicure treatment included the usual nail cleaning and polish change, but carried an additional perk of a hot stone rub. The combination of the hot stone massage, running fountain, and silence nearly lulled me to sleep and definitely gave me a pleasant escape from the heat. Although Zen has a bit of a price tag, the overall treatment and atmosphere is sure to keep it among the top nail salons in the big D.
6:35 pm — Neighborhood Services, Best French Fries
After hearing all the buzz about Neighborhood Services, I was glad to find an excuse to eat there, even if it was just to try their French fries. The doors into the restaurant open up into one long room lined with booths on the side and long, rustic wooden tables in the middle. I sat with my family and browsed the menu. Knowing that I wanted to try the French fries, I had my dinner choice narrowed down to the steak and the burger. I went the classic route: burger, fries, and a Coke.
Twenty minutes later and a plate of nachos down the hatch, my waitress, clad in a white sweater vest, presented my delicious burger and a plate of fries. I’ve had many fries in my day, so I feel qualified in saying that these fries are top notch. While not the healthiest of sides, these fries do keep some of their vitamin rich potato peel intact, giving them a semblance of health, at least for those who like to rationalize. With fries this addicting, it's almost tempting to overlook the burger … so be disciplined and make sure not to neglect the burger. It's top notch too!
8:40 pm — Arlington Improv, Best Comedy Club
I met up again with my trustee sidekick, Meg, to navigate the road west for a night of comedy at Arlington Improv. Unfortunately, even with a navigator and an iPhone, it can be easy to miss the exit. After a good 10 minutes on the wrong highway, we corrected our mistake and made our way to Arlington Improv just in time to see Aisha Tyler make her entrance.
Our seats weren't great, thanks to our 10-minute excursion onto TX-67, but Aisha Tyler’s entrance still made an impression. Before she ran up on stage, a screen came down over the red brick backdrop to display her music video. It was then that Meg and I both recognized the performer as Ross Geller's paleontologist girlfriend on the sitcom Friends. This was also when I became part of a steady contagion of laughter that lasted for the next 90 minutes.
Tyler, like many great comedians, began her act by making fun of her flaws, in turn forcing us to crack a smile about our own neurotic obsessions. The “how you know you're a grown-up” jokes were a personal favorite of mine, more for the delivery than the content. Although I don’t yet meet Aisha Tyler's criteria, which include injury by unloading groceries and first gray hairs, I still found it hilarious.
I haven't been to many improv shows, but I can say that Arlington Improv gave my abs a much-needed work out (especially after my dinner of French fries...even if they were the healthy kind). The show was affordable ($17 dollars) and well worth the haul. I only wish that excursion on TX-67 had been a shorter so I could have enjoyed more of the opening act.
11:07 pm — Maximo Heat, Best Margarita
After an hour and a half of splitting our sides, Meg and I were ready to relax over a nice, cool margarita. Unfortunately, Maximo, home to the infamous Maximo Heat, closes at eleven on Fridays. Determined not to stray from my Best of Big D hot spots, I returned to Maximo on Sunday evening just before close for my date with the Maximo Heat.
I will be the first to admit that when I heard that the Maximo Heat gleaned its name from the floating jalapeños mixed in, I was suspicious. In fact, if I had known that beforehand, I probably wouldn't have tried it. Despite my reservations, I wet my palette with the infamous margarita and discovered to my surprise that it was delicious. The jalapeños disguise the sometimes bitter sting of tequila that can accompany other margaritas and offers an interesting twist.
Although I didn't get to enjoy Maximo on a Friday or Saturday night, I have been swayed for a return visit by the lush decor and the intoxicating Maximo Heat.
11:22 pm — The Goat, Best Dive Bar
Meg and I pulled into the parking lot of the Goat around 11:22, eager to check out D's pick for best dive bar. As I looked around at the middle-aged men shooting pool, the old school arcade games, and the worn wooden bar, I was reminded of the connotations of the term dive bar. This place has character.
We grabbed a seat at a round wooden table and listened to the musical stylings of Pete Barbeck and Billy Jack, while tossing back sips of Bud Light and feigning a sense of belonging. Despite being the youngest bar divers by about 20 years, Meg and I quickly settled into our chairs and caught up with each other while the band played the blues. Meanwhile, the older woman to my right bobbed her head and nudged her hubby to take a few spins with her on the dance floor.
Though we were a little out of place at the Goat on Friday, the eclectic crowd and the live music were a nice change from the crowded college bars blaring a steady mix of the top 10 pop songs to which I've grown accustomed. With the approach of a man 20 years our senior in a worn out Virginia t-shirt asking if “these lovely ladies would like two vodka sours,” we decided to call it a night for our Best of Big D best day ever.