Best Of Arts & Entertainment
Best Metal Bar
Nobody is putting on the caliber of up-and-coming or underground metal and punk that Three Links is. Since opening last year, it's found a groove that Dallas didn't even know it was missing, one that contains all the most interesting shows toward the louder end of the scale. While Trees...
Best Rock Bar
OK, we know we also named Three Links best metal bar, but what the hell. They're not all-metal all-the-time, and no one out there can compete with the consistent quality of rock shows hosted by Three Links these days — and that's no slight to other venues in North Texas...
Best New Venue
While it might not be a new bar, Twilite Lounge is the best up-and-coming new host of music in Deep Ellum. Stepping it up from hosting live music maybe once every week or so, now it's packed Wednesday through Sunday with DJs, live blues, jazz, folk, the best karaoke in...
It isn't often that "best" and "free" coincide, but in the case of Adair's, that's the winning combination that has turned this place into a Dallas institution. On any given night of the week, you'll hear up-and-coming or established artists from Texas and beyond who are trying to keep country...
Best Strip Club
You've only been here a minute — barely enough time to fork over your $3 daylight cover, pull out a Dos Equis from the arctic beer bin at the entrance and pull up at the bar. And yet, she's already pulling up next to you, Zora from Portugal, curvy and...
Best Music Tweeter
The relentless and tireless Preston Jones of DFW.com is literally everywhere. There must be about six of him. If you tried to keep up with him at SXSW, you'd have needed a teleporter. We have no idea how he gets into all the shows he does, but we're more than...
Best Live Music Venue
If you interpret "best live music venue" as "best place to listen to live music," then the only winner in town has to be the Kessler Theater. Above all else it is a listening room: The acoustics and quality of the sound system are far beyond what anywhere else in...
Best DIY Venue
Two Bronze Doors
By their very nature, do-it-yourself venues tend to come and go quickly. Whether it's a house in East Dallas, a warehouse in Oak Cliff or some rotating combination of the two, staying off the radar is often integral to their survival — both from a standpoint of overexposure and trouble...
Best Local Music Release
Child in the Wild by Blue, the Misfit
Anyone with their finger on the pulse of North Texas hip-hop had been waiting for this one for a while. Brandon Blue, the beat-making mastermind behind local rap troupe the Brain Gang, had been carving out a fresh niche as a solo MC under the guise of Blue, the Misfit...
George Strait at AT&T Stadium
Saying farewell to George Strait is bittersweet for any country music fan, but there could have been no more fitting end than the final performance of his The Cowboy Rides Away tour at AT&T Stadium. After a 30-year career and more success than almost any other artist in the genre,...
Best Strip Club for the Ladies
Who says strip clubs are just for bachelor parties and tits? All night, every night, Dallas hunks are tearing off their trousers and shaking what their daddies gave them at one of the few all-male strip clubs dedicated to female clientele — men must be accompanied by a woman to...
Best Open Mic Night
The Prophet Bar
Dallas has a surprisingly wide variety of open mic nights, from classical music to country, blues to hip-hop. The Prophet Bar in Deep Ellum offers the greatest in the latter end of the spectrum, and for the audience, few open mics are quite as entertaining. RC Williams, an Erykah Badu...
Best Record Store Day Party
Vinyl records sales have been on the steady increase over the past decade and locally that has been most visible at Good Records, where the vinyl racks moved from their upstairs to the main floor display a few years ago. Every year Good leads the charge with an all-day lineup...
Best Punk Venue
Night in and night out, you can make the trip up to Denton to catch an up-and-coming punk band from literally anywhere trying to make it work in the same grim room so many of their forebears played in. Josh Baish and his crew of merry men and women have...
Best All-Ages Venue
It's hard out there for the under-21 music fan. You have to sneak your own booze in and venues up-charge you on tickets as sort of a bizarre punishment for you having your whole future in front of you, but lucky for you Dada has your back. They get all...
Best Dance Club
It'll Do Club
Far removed from the usual bar and club spots in Dallas, It'll Do has carved out a little oasis off Columbia Avenue in Old East Dallas. A big dance floor, no VIP, no bottle service and one of the best club sound systems in town make for a true-to-roots dance...
Best Variety of Music
A triple Best of Dallas winner this year, Dada is a welcoming place not only for all ages, but for those with all kinds of musical tastes. In an average week at Dada you can see indie, rock, rap, metal, country, folk and probably country-metal, if you look hard enough...
Best Place to See an Outdoor Show
Klyde Warren Park
While North Texas has a more than an adequate array of outdoor venues and patio stages, and although the climate may be unbearable at times, there are still a few outdoor settings that cater well to the music lovers of the outdoorsy type. Among them, Klyde Warren Park easily sets...
Best Gay Bar
J.R.'s Bar and Grill
JR's has been pouring drinks on the Cedar Springs strip since 1980. The lively bar is split into two different sections; the downstairs is adorned in dark wood and has the feel of a charming, old-school pub, while the upper level feels more like a Miami nightclub decked out in...
Best Libertarian-Themed Bar
The Free Man Cajun Cafe & Lounge
"We gladly serve gator because they would gladly serve you," says the menu, giving some attitude in its explanation for why a dish of fried alligator and french fries is on there. The Free Man is on Commerce, away from most of the Deep Ellum nightlife and music venues. That's...
Best Happy Hour
Single Wide offers the same cheap deal as Double Wide, its sister bar: $2 wells and domestic beers every weekday from 5 to 9 p.m. Both bars attract an artsy-looking but unpretentious, slightly punk, tattooed crowd. But Single Wide's patrons are a little older, calmer and generally less annoying for...
Best Club DJ
Every Thursday, The Travis Disco is home to a clubbing experience that calls itself a dance party, and feels like one too. That's probably because DJ Sober learned his trade not at sleazy clubs but at house parties, spinning vinyl in people's homes before he went on to become a...
Best Spot to Be Drunk and Yell at Tourists
Now that Dallas has marked the 50th anniversary of JFK's murder, the city is moving on from the tragedy. It's time to acknowledge that the Grassy Knoll is a great spot to hide in and yell at people. The most elevated point at Dallas' knoll has an excellent view of...
Best Outdoor Summer Dance Marathon
Decks in the Park
The last Thursday of every month, Klyde Warren Park hosts a free concert that comes alive when the weather is warm. Close to the stage, hundreds of people gathered on a recent Thursday to dance to an awesome light show while Red Eye, Rob Vaughan and DJ Love spun records...
Best Pub Quiz
8 p.m. Wednesdays at Ten Bells Tavern
Some pub quizzes are too crowded. Some have hosts whose jokes are so awful you want to slide under the table in embarrassment for them. Some have hosts who are so manic it's exhausting just to watch them. And some have questions that are just too hard — come on,...
You know that old trick where you clear out a bar by picking some terrible song on the jukebox and play it on repeat for as many spins as a five-spot or sawbuck will cover? It can't be done at the Twilite Lounge. There, the jukebox's CDs (yes, CDs, not...
If you're sick of waiting in line to sing a song you barely know to a tune you don't recall, ditch your usual spot and head to the Windmill Lounge's Thursday night karaoke. It might be known as one of the best cocktail bars in the city, but it's about...
Best Between-Bands Time Killer
Twitter Wall at the Granada Theater
Often at concerts and local shows, the lull between bands means that you'll see a bunch of faces lit by the glow of their smartphones as they peck out texts, hunt for Tinder matches or read their Twitter feeds. But at the Granada, sometimes they're all lit by ... well,...
Best Jazz Venue
Dallas Museum of Art
Finding good jazz spots in Dallas is a slippery proposition, but hardly impossible. Often, impromptu performances and roaming venues deliver the highest quality jazz to our city, but like any great one-off exhibition, these come few and far between. If what you're after is a settled locale, the Dallas Museum...
Best Hip-Hop Venue
If you want to see a rap show, just like a metal or punk or anything show in Dallas, it would behoove you to hang around Deep Ellum. Trees is a great place to catch rising mainstream stars before they make the jump from clubs to venues with names sponsored...
Best Family-Friendly Drag Show
This authentic sit-down Mexican restaurant offers hearty staples like $1.30 tacos, free salsa and chips and a full bar. It's open until 2 a.m. on weeknights and all night over the weekend. But this restaurant has something that other late-night establishments in Dallas don't have: children. The kids come with...
Best Hotel Lobby to Make Yourself at Home
There are always at least two doormen waiting by the entrance of the Joule hotel lobby, and they will not let anyone else touch the door. It can feel awkward. All guests who approach will immediately have the door held open for them whether they want it or not. After...
Best Dive Bar
It's a question as old as hangovers: What exactly constitutes a dive bar? To some, true dive bars are not social places so much as dark, dank watering holes where customers can get away from the rest of the world. But to hell with that. Our checklist for dive bars...
Best Arts and Crafts Teachers
Oil and Cotton
Whether it's in a one-day workshop or semester-long series of classes, this Bishop Arts District shop offers something for anyone who wants to learn or improve at an art and/or craft. Past classes have included opportunities to learn the art of horror writing, creating pinhole cameras, printmaking, glass-cutting, calligraphy and...
Best DISD School
Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
One Observer staffer loves to tell the story of when he realized that BTW is the exception to the rule for DISD schools. Early in his daughter's freshman year, she saw a crowd of kids rush over to surround some commotion in the courtyard. She assumed what any other kid...
Best New Thing in Town
The Wild Detectives
If someone pitched you the idea for a bookstore, wine bar and coffee shop, would you buy in? What if it was the first to the neighborhood? Better yet, to the city? We could assign The Wild Detectives countless awards this year, but instead we're just going to give this...
Best News Anchor
The news anchors you grew up with are gone. The McGarrys and the Rowletts and the Camposes, they've been replaced by children who, while bright-eyed and eager, have smooth, unfurrowed brows incapable of properly conveying the gravity of the day's news. John McCaa's brow, by contrast, is perpetually furrowed, the...
Best TV News Show
Channel 8 News at 10
Any show anchored by John McCaa has an almost insurmountable advantage over its competitors. Throw in the two best cop reporters in the city, Tanya Eiserer and Rebecca Lopez, a theatrically hyperventilating weatherman/demigod Pete Delkus, the unexpectedly progressive social commentary of Dale Hansen and big-game hunters Brett Shipp and David...
Best Music Radio Station
Perhaps the most jarring segue in Dallas radio is at 4 a.m. on Sundays, when extreme metal gives way to gospel music. What makes KNON work so well is that it has no use for mainstream or pop music, even if some of the artists that various shows play are...
Best News Radio Station
"KRLD's traffic and weather on the 8s" is the go-to program for Dallasites banging their heads on their steering wheels during rush hour or stuck in a torrential downpour. Which is to say, everyone. When the typical waves of massive storms and a few tornados roll through North Texas in...
David Finfrock is an institution in this town. Every kid growing up in Dallas was glued to the Finfrock's coverage when there was even a hint of a tornado or flood or other sign of impending Armageddon. He's been with NBC forever (or since 1975), and is always incredibly soft-spoken...
Best Radio DJ
On Sunday nights when long-time local radio host and musician Paul Slavens takes over KXT's signal for a few hours, the otherwise dull, listener-supported station comes to life. You can hear literally anything from Slavens' show: experimental music from locals, French standards, Italian horror soundtracks, an actual person of color,...
Best Radio Talk Show
On the air since 1983, Lambda Weekly claims to be the longest-running gay and lesbian radio show on the air anywhere on Earth. We were unwilling to do the work required to substantiate that claim but considered it irrelevant anyway: Lambda Weekly is just such a great show, gay or...
Best Architecture Critic
OK, so Mark Lamster wins this by default since he's the only professional architecture critic in Dallas, but don't let that take away from his importance. Imported from New York City through a partnership between the University of Texas at Arlington and The Dallas Morning News, he is a public...
Best Movie Theater
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
It may not technically be in Dallas, although a new location is expected to open in The Cedars sometime in 2015, but this Austin transplant stands out for what it has, and what it doesn't. For a movie theater, the food and beer selections are fantastic, as is the chain's...
Best Stage Actress
A good actor doesn't just act when he or she is speaking. Acting is reacting, and Stormi Demerson, a veteran of DFW theaters and star of recent productions at Amphibian Stage and Theatre Three, is expert at listening and reacting to the actors around her. Always enhancing the roles she...
Best Stage Actor
Over the past decade on Dallas stages including Undermain, Kitchen Dog, Shakespeare Dallas and Second Thought Theatre, Drew Wall has matured past roles as the goofy kid and silly sidekick. Now in his early 30s, the Baylor drama grad, part of Second Thought's regular acting company, is a confident, handsome...
Best Stage Director
Many theater directors have wrestled with the most difficult works of Shakespeare, Albee and Stoppard. Only one we know of has done them to critical acclaim with actors under the age of 16. Jeff Swearingen is director and resident playwright at Fun House Theatre and Film, the all-youth company he...
Best Theater Company
A solid season of comedies, dramas and musicals has boosted Uptown Players, the gay-centric company that gets bigger and better by the year. Its regional premiere of Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a send-up of Chekhovian themes, featured a tight, comically fine-tuned ensemble (Bob Hess, Wendy...
Barbecue Apocalypse by Matt Lyle
If playwright Matt Lyle hadn't already decided to return to Dallas from Chicago (where he did some time at Second City), we'd have sent out a posse to get him back here. With Barbecue Apocalypse, given its world premiere this summer directed by Lee Trull as the centerpiece of Kitchen...
Best Small Theater
The tiny Ochre House theater, a 40-seat storefront space near Fair Park, is founder Matthew Posey's artistic playground and his home (he lives in the back). With no formal season and no subscriptions, this company works on a schedule set only by Posey's prodigious output as playwright, director and star...
Dallas Theater Center's artistic director Kevin Moriarty loves to surprise theatergoers by shaking up expectations, especially with popular pieces like Les Miz. For this summer's DTC production of the beloved musical, Moriarty brought in director Liesl Tommy, who'd never seen Les Miz (or so she says). She changed the show's...
Best Theatrical Comeback
Margo Jones Theatre
For too long, the Margo Jones Theatre in the middle of Fair Park went unused by theater artists. As the Magnolia Lounge, it was a visitors' center for the State Fair. But Dallas theater director Matt Tomlanovich had ideas for how to turn one of America's landmark small theaters back...
The zine is a tricky art form, but if anyone in Dallas has mastered it, it's the team at THRWD magazine. This avant-garde publication continues to exist as a result of spunk and determination, delivering the work of the underground art scene issue after issue. It's a labor of love...
Best Art Space
Maybe you've heard of the Goss-Michael Foundation because one of its founders was pop singer George Michael. Or perhaps you know this West Dallas nonprofit for its programs featuring British art. But it's more than all that — it's also a foundation dedicated to achieving some good. Under the watchful...
Best Arts Volunteer
He's the nicest man you're likely to meet at the theater. And if you go to the theater, you're likely to meet him. James Stroman volunteers at almost every theater in town like it's his full-time job. He helps build sets, assists with opening night parties, ushers and then at...
Best Art Gallery
Circuit 12 Contemporary
When it comes to commercial galleries in Dallas, the Design District is the hotbed of the Dallas arts market and Dragon Street is the epicenter. But for the most part, the area presents fairly standard fare. Few galleries break the predictable mold while still retaining a reputation as a go-to...
A good retrospective walks you through the stages and phases of an artist's career, like a road map for a career's journey. A great retrospective takes you on the trip. The joint exhibition between the Nasher Sculpture Center and the The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth succinctly walked visitors...
Best Art Event
ALIVE for 35!
Does anyone else remember lock-ins? Those all-night gatherings that locked a bunch of elementary or middle school kids into a gymnasium or some other school-condoned space where kids would eat candy, play games and wreak havoc until their parents came to pick them up? This year for its 35th birthday,...
Dallas is so overrun with festivals that it can be a little overwhelming. Picking and choosing is a necessity lest one suffer from a bout of festival fatigue. No matter how selective your list of must-attends is, though, Index Festival should be on it. The festival, which takes over Deep...
Kimbell Art Museum
We know people who look down on big traveling art exhibitions, those money-makers larded with masterpieces that draw masses who line up to rent headsets for the audio tour. Well, screw those canape-nibbling hater snobs. We like the big shows. Take, for example the Kimbell's exhibition from earlier this year,...
Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge on the Trinity
The Continental Avenue Bridge spanning the Trinity River west of downtown reopened in June as a multi-million-dollar renovated park. It now offers playground equipment, a bocce court, spray fountains, incredible views of downtown and, most important, a walking path. While this may not have the pizazz or glamour of the...
Best Dallas Police Twitter Account
Major Max Geron
In June, Dallas Police Department spokesman Major Max Geron messed up. He tweeted that Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib was charged with public intoxication. NBC soon realized the name was wrong and corrected him; it was actually Yaqub Talib, Aqib's brother. Geron took to Twitter to say sorry. Not that...
Best Place to Take a Selfie
Eyeball at The Joule Hotel
You take them in your car; in your place of business; in your bathroom (gross!). We're getting really tired of your lack of creativity. If you insist on showing us how green your eyes turn in the sunlight (#chameleon) or want our opinions on your new haircut (#unsure), could you...
Best Magic Parlor
Exposition Avenue is a strange little street filled with diversion and magic. No, really, magic. You'll know Confetti Eddie's magic parlor by the smaller-than-life dinosaur out front — an artifact of his own creation. Inside, you'll be welcomed into a show that is equal parts art and magic. He performs...
If you must live outside of Dallas — maybe it's the fear of Dallas ISD, maybe the reality of being priced out of booming neighborhoods — live in Richardson. It has good schools, affordable homes, and, as part of Dallas' older, inner ring of suburbs, lacks the nouveau riche tackiness...
It's a simple image: Two grackles painted in shades of azure and watermelon pink. But in context of Trinity Groves, these derisible birds in the mural by Michael Sieben carry a narrative of beautification and restoration. One of several collaborations between the Dallas Contemporary and this West Dallas culinary epicenter,...
For years, the southernmost strip of Greenville Avenue had a reputation for underage drinking and drunken disagreements. Now it has a reputation for frozen pops and poutine. In just a short time, these few blocks have become desirable real estate, welcoming in new tenants like Trader Joe's and the ever-popular...
Best Convention of Nerds
Dallas Comic Con
When the folks behind Dallas Comic Con announced they were finally bringing it to Dallas proper, con attendees shrugged their shoulders. When it comes to conventions like this, location of the building doesn't matter because inside it's an entirely different universe. But accompanying the setting change was the announcement of...
Best Use of Reunion Tower Observation Deck
The GeoDeck is the recently reopened observation deck on Reunion Tower. Dude Perfect is a mildly obnoxious group of frat-guy types who have achieved Internet fame filming themselves making improbable basketball shots. How it took until 2014 for the two to come together is a mystery, but it finally happened...
Best Tattoo Artist
Kevyn "Konfident" McCallister creates some of the most interesting body art in the nation, a statement that's easily backed up by a perusing of his personal website and Instagram feed, where McCallister posts snapshots of his work. McCallister specializes in portrait work, frequently inking some of the most realistic-looking portraits...
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins
Clay Jenkins has had what some might call a banner year. In his quest for equality, the judge spearheaded the effort to give private employees who contract with the county a better quality of life by raising their hourly wages to that of full-time county employees. He applauded Parkland Hospital...
Best Blues Bar
R.L.'s Blues Palace #2
For this and every other year, R.L.'s should win best blues bar, and here is why. It is an experience like no other, a one-off in Dallas where some of the most talented blues, soul, old-school R&B and funk musicians get together every weekend to play one set that's many,...