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The Ten Best Bars in Denton

An attendee at Oaktopia ponders her many bar options from Denton's town square.
An attendee at Oaktopia ponders her many bar options from Denton's town square.
Ed Steele

In many ways, Denton is DFW's little Austin, our small slice of "weird." Its inexpensive living costs and college town environment have made it something of a cultural hotbed, a landscape as readily filled with bohemians as fraternity herds. This unique melting pot of backgrounds and social interests has led to the founding of many fantastic bars. From rowdy and raucous to relaxed and refined, here are our ten favorite spots in Denton to drink away our paychecks.

The Ten Best Bars in Denton

10. The Labb Arguably the best place in Denton to watch a game, The Labb is a large, delightfully low-key meat-and-potatoes sports bar. Pool Tables, and a slew of HD TVs add to this vibe, as does the obscenely inexpensive drink specials and mean pub sandwiches (try the French dip). Like so many other Denton establishments, they offer live music here on occasion as well. Oh, and yes, those unbelievable rumors are true, they offer $1 beers on nights of regular season Mavericks/Cowboys/Rangers games.

9. Cool Beans We dare say the best bar food in Denton -- just try the black bean burger, waffle fries, or hot dogs and you'll know what we mean. It does everything a college town bar should do well: offer cheap food, serve cheap drinks, keep a divey atmosphere, and offer good options for day drinking (it's college after all). Admittedly, the service can be touch-and-go, but with a walk-up ordering kitchen/bar you shouldn't run into much trouble. The big selling point here is the roof patio. It offers a birds-eye view of Fry street and is often paired with locally-grown live music.

8. The Loophole The Loophole pub is very much like a small town bar, doing everything very well while not needing to excel in any one specialty. After a recent redesign the food is surprisingly good (is this still bar food?), and the new brew selection is far improved. The darts, jukebox and pool reinforce the classic feel to this no frills local staple. If you are hoping to avoid the typical hipster vibe so commonly associated with Denton, The Loophole is for you. This is an Americana bar as solid as oak, "real" through and through.  

7. Lucky Lou's If a party atmosphere is your thing, Lou's is your Denton bar. It's the type of establishment you always imagined as a youth when you pictured going to college and getting drunk every other night--exactly like that! It's typically packed in lieu of its packed-worthy drink specials, but it's hardly an issue in light of its massive outdoor front patio. Denton's number one social bar.

6. The Greenhouse Live jazz, tasty drink concoctions, and restaurant quality grub are the nuts and bolts of the Greenhouse. Stick with a burger if you're on a budget - some menu items are pricey - but always order a signature cocktail. They're worth every penny. The Greenhouse is a bar where you can not only take a first date, but also your parents--the ambiance is classy and the food is, for the most part, very healthy. Tip: always sit in the bar area, it's prime location to get the most out of your experience, guaranteeing you the promptest service.

5. East Side Social Club Brought to you by John Williams - the brains behind Oak Street Draft House - East Side Social Club is another newcomer to the Denton bar scene. Like Oak Street Draft House, this place puts a strong emphasis on craft beers and a relaxed atmosphere. But what makes ESSC different is its spectacular attention to whiskey and bourbon. The bourbon/whiskey/scotch selection and the cocktail menu reflect this focus, with over 60 types to choose from. The food truck helps keep you drinking, and the refreshing inclusion of booths helps keep you standing, sort of.

The Ten Best Bars in Denton
Photo by Flickr user silkolive (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimwall/)

4. Dan's Silver Leaf There's no questioning Dan's Silver Leaf as a cultural hub and seminal music venue, but it's also an awesome bar as well. The staff is friendly and attentive to service, and there are always eyebrow-raising drink specials to choose from. In many ways it feels like a slice of an older Denton, a bar where the employees remember your name, and where the patio is always teeming with regulars. But here it's all about the music. The line-ups that swing through are consistently great, and the acoustics are unexpectedly superb. It only takes one visit to understand why this place has been a priceless cornerstone in Denton's famed music scene for over a decade.  

3. Oak Street Draft House With a selection boasting over 70 different drafts (35 local), Oak Street Draft House is Denton's go-to spot for beer-heads. This place is as homey as bars get, having been literally built within a home--the third oldest in Denton. With a pet friendly, wrap-around porch, and a large backyard converted into a "beer garden," there's simply no better place to enjoy a drink outside. Oak Street Draft House is unusually welcoming and just plain fun. It's unfussy, bicycle accommodating (air pumps on site), and as family-friendly as any bar you'll come across; hell, they even have board games and ping pong. When the weather's right, come here, grab a beer-flight and relax on the porch, you won't be disappointed.

2. Paschall Bar Owned by band Midlake and ornately swanky, Paschall is Denton's most aesthetically pleasing bar and then some. Busts are nestled between rows of books that line the walls, smoke curls between patrons, darkened wood and nuanced lighting complete the scene; it's the sort of joint where you always imagined Freud nursing a pipe, or Hemingway sketching a novel. Sure, it's all a bit too postured, but that's part of the charm: humor is an essential element to the gamey flavor here (see those faux mustachioed bar keeps). The beer menu at Paschall is outstanding to say the least; and the cocktail list is an ever-growing monster of delectable classics and artisan creations. Expect clouds of smoke and, on most nights, a dense crowd; but after that first sip, and one glance at the privileged third-floor view of the downtown square, and all those worries just fade into the ambiance.

The Ten Best Bars in Denton
Photo by Flickr user YoLaGringo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/yolagringo/)

1. Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios Denton's best music venue is also our favorite bar in the city--go figure. Rubber Gloves is a music venue that doubles as a bar and triples as a recording studio. The acoustics are loud, it's small, grimy, and nearly everything is cracking, splitting, or just plain falling apart; it's wonderful. Denton just wouldn't be Denton without this place. They recently went smoke-free, which was a great decision given that its limited quarters resembled Stephen King's The Mist when faced with even ten smokers. There are so many cheap options here, and they make them strong, so even when the night's band is sub par (not likely) you can drink your way to blissful fandom. Descriptions can't tell you much of anything when it comes to Rubber Gloves, it's a place that's reputation is etched from sensory intangibles. There's no way around it, you just need to experience it for yourself.

See also: -The 100 Best Texas Songs: The Complete List -The Ten Most Badass Band Names in DFW -The Best Bands in DFW: 2012 Edition -Photo Essay: The Tattoos of Dallas' Nightlife Scene

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