Best Of :: People & Places
Here's the deal, Dallas: Considering how important a role the blues played in our city's musical history (y'know, "Deep Ellum Blues," and all that), it's really a goddamn shame how there aren't all that many clubs—well, many clubs worth mentioning, at least—that offer up the genre on a regular basis. Last we heard, there's one coming back to Deep Ellum, thank you very much, in the spot behind the Twisted Root, right where the Red Blood Club used to be. But for the time being, may we recommend the Pearl for your misery-loves-company ways? Located on the east edge of downtown, it's close to our city's historical blues home in Deep Ellum, and with touring and local blues performers coming in on a regular basis—including a Monday happy hour residency from Miss Marcy and her Texas Sugar Daddies—along with a slew of jazz and folk artists, it's the only place we can look you straight in the eye and offer up as a cure for your Lack of Deep Ellum blues blues.
'Bout a year ago, back when Jack's first opened, a buddy of mine convinced us to check the place out, promising that the then-new Oak Cliff spot was gonna be quite the big deal in the very near future. Sure enough, what we saw upon arrival was, indeed, quite the chic, if somewhat hidden, hot spot. And it definitely didn't hurt that there were only two males in the place aside from one of the barkeeps. But it wasn't long before the place started drawing a bigger, more varied mix of patrons, and for good reason: An upscale bar with primo lounge seating, a well-kept pool table and glass garage doors that lead out to one of the best patios the region has to offer. It was only a matter of time before everyone else caught on to what was, if only for a short period of time, the LGBT set's best-kept secret.
What do we want—no, wait—what do we need from a bar for it to be a great bar, a go-to bar or, if the heavens align correctly, a home bar? Ample seating. Clean restrooms. An area outdoors for the smokers. Music. Stomach lining options. Good classic hooch. Great service. A TV to stare at when someone strange is trying to talk to us. A great jukebox. Prices that don't break the bank of hard-working folk who deserve a drink come happy hour. The Windmill Lounge has all of these requirements along with a simply smashing cocktail list, misters on the patio, themed big-screen nights, a cell phone lounge and chalkboard walls in the loo. Oh, and in addition to some chomp-worthy panini, the lounge also offers Triscuits with cream cheese and jalapeño jelly or Pickapeppa sauce.The jukebox at the Windmill Lounge is front-loaded with a well-chosen and diverse selection of standards (Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald), classic soul (James Brown, Curtis Mayfield), Texas singer-songwriters (Guy Clark, Joe Ely) and admirable young artists (Black Joe Lewis, Justin Townes Earle). But flip a few pages and you'll find the music less and less appealing, unless you're toasted, in which case your inner 15-year-old might giddily plop down the credits for bizarre selections like Pink, the Bloodhound Gang and the Anchorman soundtrack. Think of it as the perfect test of musical mettle also—if your date goes for the Barenaked Ladies, then you know it wasn't meant to be. If she cues up Otis Redding, you've got yourself a keeper.
There are plenty of reasons why the Libertine deserves recognition—the traditional pub atmosphere, the friendly faces behind the bar, and the fact that, even though it's not much of a venue, the place does its part to support local music with live performances. But the best reason to love the Libertine? The food offered up by the folks in the kitchen. The burger, the tuna sandwich, the three-way fries—they're all legit. And the best part: the pricing. Or, better yet, the half-pricing: Every Sunday, from 5 p.m. till midnight, this food, which has no right belonging in a straight-up bar like this, is offered at half the cost. Oh, and the reasonably priced, five-course monthly beer dinners ain't too shabby either.
One of the great joys of traveling is trying new beers that are hard to find in your home town. But who has the money to travel these days? Fortunately, if your travel budget has gone from Amsterdam, Germany and Fort Lauderdale to Addison, Garland and Fort Worth, you can still make like a tourist at your nearest Flying Saucer. With an ever-changing draft lineup, there will always be an unfamiliar brew waiting for you. And if you think you've got the liver and the lucre to try 200 different beers, you can join the U.F.O. Club; upon reaching that lofty goal you win a $100 bar tab and a commemorative plate to hang on the wall. Even if you fall short, you still get a T-shirt. Either way, not a bad souvenir.
It's no secret that a greasy breakfast complete with Barbec's legendary beer biscuits is one of the best hangover cures in Dallas. If you find yourself treating your date to one of their famous breakfasts (lucky you), don't forget to stop by the free zoo that is Boutique Pet Shop, where the cuddly guinea pigs, flashy saltwater fish and adorable love birds will help melt the heart of that special someone. Then head home and do as the rabbits do.
Don't expect a red carpet or a VIP list here—it's a divey sort of place where you can never be sure what lies in store. Relatively small and cave-like, with a rustic concrete floor and DJs spinning on the weekends, it tends to turn into an all-out dance party on Friday nights. Like any dance party worth its salt, this includes a decent dose of '80s music, along with some contemporary tracks in the mix. The crowd is generally laidback, the same people who patronize The Amsterdam and The Meridian Room nearby. Occasionally the place is surprisingly empty, which we think is cool, because it means you can create your own private dance party for special occasions.
With the advent of new dog parks around the metroplex, this competition has gotten downright dog-eat-dog. (Sorry.) It would be easy to bark up the same old tree (another apology) and give the Mockingbird Point Dog Park at White Rock Lake, which teaches socialization skills for both man and beast, our annual nod. But there is a new canine scene in town, Unleashed, and it has amenities other dog parks can't match. First off, it's indoors, has 25,000 square feet of K9Grass, an antimicrobial, easy on the paws (and the human nose) synthetic grass, and safe environs, with attendants on call to break up any fight between territorial terriers or whomever. Yes, there's a fee, but it's worth it, particularly during long bouts of inclement weather when Rover just can't rove without getting heat stroke or mud-caked paws. There's a café and a lounge and on-site grooming—a one-of-a-kind experience for dog and dog lover. The only thing missing from the indoor park is well, the outdoors, and that's in the park's future.
Don't let the Uptown yuppies in their Polo shirts and Banana Republic slacks fool you: There is, indeed, quite the hip streetwear fashion scene in Dallas—and it's growing every year. Case in point: Kixpo, Dallas' annual sneaker and streetwear expo. Run by a group of sneaker and streetwear fiends who collectively call themselves Dead Stock, the annual event draws sneakerheads and fashion-savvy skate-punks from far beyond North Texas into town for a weekend of hip-hop, basketball and, most important, a couple hours of showing off. The third annual event, held this past July 25 at Life in Deep Ellum, saw a room full of sneaker collectors, streetwear fashion boutiques and mixtape makers showing off their own collections' finest pieces. And, even though few items were actually for sale—"Don't Touch!" signs littered the display booths covered in some of the flashiest kicks you've ever seen—around 2,000 squeezed into the room to jealously stare down the materials being flaunted. With an increasing fan base and not too many other national sneaker conventions to speak of, the sky seems the limit for this foot-obsessed, fetishy upstart.
Be prepared to enter a whole new world: photos displayed on flat screens of muscular, all-American men in cowboy hats with hairless chests; a front "parlor" for karaoke where "they sing all the time," said a bouncer; and an authentic, good-sized dance floor for country dancing. Above the sunken dance floor, a giant neon red outline of the great state of Texas surrounds a spinning disco ball, which shoots off flashes of color around the room. Three times a week—Monday, Tuesday and Thursday—show up for free country dance lessons from 8:30 to 10 p.m. While you're there, try the most popular shots, a Jagerbomb or a Cowboy Cock Sucker. That's butterscotch schnapps and a bit of Irish cream, y'all.
The drink specials aren't all that special during Stein Hour at Bavarian Grill: $2.75 domestic longnecks, $3.25 Loewenbraus, or a dollar off selected drafts. They're better than nothing, but going to a bar with so many great German brews only to drink domestic longnecks (or Loewenbrau, for that matter) is like going to Six Flags and never getting off the parking tram. It's the food specials that really make Stein Hour so happy. For each half-liter draft, you can add an authentic Bavarian biergarten dish for just 95 cents: weisswurst or Bratwürstel sausages with mustard, crispy meatloaf frikadelles, tangy and meaty goulash, chicken-and-grape salad and more. They're substantial snacks, too, plenty to tide you over till a late dinner. Better yet, have a few as a light meal. Prost!
The trails at Southwest Dallas' Audubon-managed Cedar Ridge Preserve make for some of the best hiking in North Texas. Whether you pick the leisurely Possumhaw Trail or the heavy woods and elevation changes of the Cedar Break Trail, you're sure to enjoy the experience, which puts the hiking at nearby Cedar Hill State Park to shame. (If you're with your honey the observation towers are prime make-out spots too.) After all that hiking, you'll find it easy to justify a post-exercise treat at Sheridan's, where the frozen custard will satisfy any sweet tooth. We'd suggest the Grant's Grasshopper (vanilla custard with mint, chocolate chips and Oreos), but we're sure you'll have your own ideas—a Brownie Bling Pothole, perhaps?