Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
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, we went to public school. Ten Bells Tavern's manages to find the sweet spot, with challenging but not impossibly hard queries that are right in the wheelhouse for the big but not too big crowds of twenty- and thirtysomething Oak Cliff pub patrons who come out weekly. Hosts Scott Porter (of Record Hop fame), Grant Jones (sans The Pistol Grip Lassos) and a rotating cast of standup comedians keep it fun during four rounds of 10 questions, with a different theme for each round. You might get 10 questions about marijuana, Monty Python, condiments or just 10 random subjects. And with the comedians doing sets before and after the quiz, even if you don't win the $50 or $25 gift card prize, at least you get a free show out of it.
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 down the street puts on the more predictable metal, Three Links isn't afraid to take a risk on booking acts that are great but may not necessarily sell out the relatively small venue. It's the most valuable addition to Deep Ellum in a while.
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. Helmed by the booking duo of Scott Beggs and Kris Youmans, who between them have logged more years in the music biz than they probably care to count, plus business partner Oliver Peck, Three Links rose from the ashes of La Grange less than 18 months ago, but all of that experience shows in the bands they land. Just in the past six months, they've brought in rowdy yung'uns like Diarrhea Planet, got a little weird with Bob Log, courted controversy with Perfect Pussy and snagged an almost-impossible-to-get name like British punk vets Sham 69. They also have the ska scene on lock-down. So step back, pretenders. Three Links is here to show us how rock music is done.
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 town ... it's amazing what they can fit into such a small space, and the booking is impeccable. Also, it's always free to get in. Since it's started hosting so many concerts, Twilite Lounge has made everyone else around them up their game too.
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 music alive. It may not have thousands of square feet for two-stepping or a fancy reputation, but there's no disputing the place in history that Adair's holds for Texas country musicians. On the walls, you'll find photos of performers who have gone on to immense success, like the Dixie Chicks and up-and-comer William Clark Green. The staff is down-home friendly and the food is perfectly good for this kind of dive bar. Most important, there are plenty of cheap drinks that are perfect for both putting a tear in your beer and hanging out with all your rowdy friends.
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 sweet. Annoying? Maybe, if you come to strip clubs to gawk from a safe distance. But you're at Baby Dolls, tucked off Northwest Highway in Dallas' industrial/boob district, for what makes strip clubs interesting — playful conversation heightened by the safest kind of sex: the not-sex kind. Zora does it right, just lingering, chatting, no mention of the lap dance(s) she needs to give to make rent. You don't mention it either, keeping the inevitable conversation at bay while you and Zora debate the merits of the bartender's newly purple hair, and you steal peeks at one of the 7,000 TVs, all locked to ESPN, all portending fantasy-football doom. Soon Zora will have to take the stage; you'll be right here when she gets done, right? Yes! Maybe. Maybe.