Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
What's your best friend like? Does she constantly bombard you with new and wacky gimmicks in a desperate attempt to hold your attention? No way. Your best friend got that title because he or she is consistently awesome. Dallas' best bar should be just like that, and La Grange, at less than a year old, has mastered reliable excellence faster than most watering holes that have been around for 10 times as long. Thirst-quenchers at the small-town themed "swanky-tonk" range from signature cocktails to a rotating selection of low-rent beers on draft. The jukebox harbors a minimum of pap, and the bar food (rock shrimp quesadillas!) is hand-crafted heaven on the cheap. The woodsy patio's a great place to hide—alone or with a partner—while the aurally inclined will appreciate owners Stephanie and Rob Schumaker booking Dallas' finest indie and country bands. Yee-homegrown-haw.
Summers in Texas can be brutal, so patio-sittin isnt exactly a popular pastime in the hot months. That is, unless youre a regular at Bolsa near Oak Cliffs Bishop Arts District. Bolsas covered patio is an oasis with its huge fans, generous misters and adventurous cocktails. The Betty Draper, a blend of Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream and Macallan scotch, is one of the menus most popular drinks, but if thats too fancy for you, a cold Lone Star for $2.50 will hit the spot. On crowded nights, the patios limited space and picnic table seating will have you up close and personal with hipsters, young and old. But none of Bolsas regulars seem to mindafter all, Texas is the friendly state.
You want to watch a movie? How about two? Well, they start at 8:15 p.m. (or so) Wednesdays at Tradewinds Social Club. (Hence the name Tradewinds Cinema Club.) George Baum—master of the turntables in late-night watering holes like Lee Harvey's—serves as the TCC master of ceremonies and creates weekly themes such as French flicks (Amelie and Delicatessen) for Bastille Day and "Really Bad People" Movie Night (The Bad Seed and Touch of Evil). But c'mon, we all know one of the best things about Tradewinds is the people watching, and frankly, that just doesn't change when you project a movie onto the wall. Picture it: the usual crowd of Cliff dwellers and hipsters, plus die-hard fans who mouth all the dialogue, then throw in the dude who can't follow what's happening and the totally oblivious chick who walks in right when the girl sets the caretaker on fire. Now that's something to watch.
You need to play whirly ball. That's just all there is to it. We can tell you that after grabbing a beer at the bar and getting briefed by a Whirly Ball Dallas professional (most assuredly with a shady nickname), you will walk into a strange gym-like room and board a bumper car that has a crank instead of a steering wheel. We could tell you that while "driving" said car you'll toss around a whiffle ball using a lacrosse-like scoop and aim the ball at the target on a net-less electronic backboard. But that doesn't convey the bizarrely sudden competitive spirit that seizes your soul and compels you to contort your upper body in ways you didn't know you could just to snatch a little ball away from an opposing team member...while verbally taunting them. Or how incredibly fun it is to spend any amount of time acting like a total freak on the court.
We have a theory about how the drinking game quarters, in which you attempt to bounce a 25-cent piece into a beer cup, was invented. Someone really wanted to play a round of Ms. Pac-Man or Q*Bert and was making do with a situation wherein they had the change but no arcade game to stick it in. Fortunately, that will never be a problem at Barcadia, where your love of skee-ball and old-school stand-up arcade classics and your hatred for the health of your liver can both be satisfied. Trust us, there are few things more entertaining than watching a grown man punch Spy Hunter's toy steering wheel out of whiskey-fueled, video-game-instigated anger. It's way more fun than drinking coin-flavored beer.
As Downtown Dallas creeps closer and closer to regaining its status as a top entertainment destination among the city's many, many options, the neighborhood is facing some roadblocks. There are just too many carbon-copy ultra lounge establishments that have popped up on Main Street in recent years; we have a hard time keeping track of them all. Thank God, then, for City Tavern, a downtown bar and restaurant that is the polar opposite of the lush venues that surround it. There are no frills at this place, called "the Tavern" by its regulars. And it's working in the bar's favor, too: Whereas the security at the clubs surrounding the City Tavern carefully calculate how many people to allow in from the glitzy lines gathered outside their spots, so as to keep up a demand for entry, the Tavern needs no such tricks. Its patrons walk in and out with nonchalance, and, when gathered out front for a cigarette or simply to gawk at the lemmings in line for the competition, its sidewalk crowds often end up being bigger.