Best Of Dallas

A Flawless Plan for Having a Kickass Summer in Dallas, 2017 Edition

Summer is a blank canvas. Fill it up with something awesome.
Summer is a blank canvas. Fill it up with something awesome. Proto Flux
Just like life, summer may feel long at times, but it actually goes by quite fast. Don't wake up in January with regrets about the outdoor yoga classes untaken, the popsicles uneaten and the patios un-sat on. Instead, scratch off all the items on our Dallas summer bucket list and you can hibernate with peace of mind all winter long.

Stop and Smell the Flowers at Dallas Arboretum
Well. Maybe we didn't know what we had. We knew the Dallas Arboretum was gorgeous, offered spectacular seasonal shows and included a special wonderland for kids. But we have to admit, we might not have ranked it with the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, the Chicago Botanic Garden or the Claude Monet Foundation gardens in Giverny, France. But, yeah, it ranks right up there, at least according to an article in the July 2016 Architectural Digest called "15 Breathtaking Botanical Gardens to Visit This Season." As in, in the world! Wow. Knock us over with a fern frond. 8525 Garland Road, 214-515-6500,

Work Out Your Kinks at Foot Therapy
The southeast corner of Central Expressway and Royal Lane is known to most as "oh, yeah right, that's where the Chicken Express is." But behind those fried tenders are strong, knowing hands with the power to relax even the most fried Dallasite. Knowledge of pressure points or reflexology isn't required; leave that to the practitioners at Foot Therapy. Also, the name could not be more of an undersell, in the most amazing way: For a freakishly low rate per hour, customers receive foot reflexology (as one would expect), as well as a full body rub that manages to both relax and invigorate. From scalp to toe, virtually every body part is either massaged, thumped, pounded or stretched, depending on the intensity requested by each client, and the problem areas pointed out by the client or simply sussed out by the therapist. And wow, can they suss. Aside from shoes and socks, clothes stay on, so the massage area is communal, but very calm — save the thumping sounds — and the cushy chair-pallets are so comfortable that under the face-covering towel, the outside world is quickly forgotten. 10910 N. Central Expressway, 214-346-1763,

Hit the Floor at It'll Do
It'll Do Club takes the crown once again, mostly thanks to consistency. Every Saturday you know exactly what you are going to get from It'll Do: world-class house music (with occasional techno) bringing in some of the most respected touring DJs in the world. No VIP, no bottle service and none of the other pretentious pitfalls far too many clubs fall into. It's all about the music, dance floor and the DJ. It's the crown jewel in Brooke Humphries' growing empire of bars, clubs and restaurants, and the vibe at It'll Do recalls '90s warehouse parties minus all the sketchiness. On the off nights that they don't have a touring show, resident DJ Red Eye holds it down bringing sets that often one-up a lot of the touring acts that come through. 4322 Elm St., 214-827-0262.

The Dallas Arboretum makes for a pretty picture. Now just imagine it in person.
Sarah Schumacher
Create a Picnic Fit for a 10-Year-Old at Rocket Fizz
There are those of you who enjoy a rare blueberry soda or peanut butter and jelly flavored beverage. Adventurous drinkers and Texas transplants who crave regional specialties can get their fix at Rocket Fizz, an eminently explorable shop in Deep Ellum. The 1,500-square-foot store, the third of its kind but the only one in Dallas, showcases hundreds of kinds of sodas and an equally vast array of candy. Vintage signs and oddball tchotchkes can encourage loitering and impulse buys. But the soda selection is really the main attraction. Where else can one buy a bottle of Martian Poop marionberry flavored soda? And what the hell is a marionberry? 2701 Main St., Suite 160, 972-773-9155.

Find a Date at Mutt's Cantina
Sometimes Tinder and OKCupid just don't suffice. Sometimes it's nice to meet a mate in the flesh before committing to drinks with them on a Saturday night. It takes effort, but it's worth it when you can finally fulfill that pesky "In a Relationship" status on Facebook. Meeting single people in Dallas is easy, so long as you go to Mutts Canine Cantina, the combination dog park, bar and restaurant in Uptown. Going to a bar alone and drinking can be hard and come off as creepy. Going to a dog park with only your dog and drinking can be cool and inviting. Simply head to Mutts with a dog — your dog, a stray dog, any dog — order a beer and watch the potential spouses come rolling in. Dogs are great icebreakers because they sniff your potential mate's butt before you ever have to. 2889 Cityplace W. Blvd. 214-377-8723,

We can't guarantee that the singles at Mutt's Cantina will be cute, but their pups certainly will be.
Zara Walsh

Cop Some New Tunes at Josey Records
In only two years, Josey Records has established itself as a go-to stop for the crate digger on the hunt for vinyl gold. Ranging from the pricier collector items to the hidden gems buried among the racks of vinyl, there is something special to be found in Josey's used and new stock. The warehouse-sized retail space is easy to get lost in with its ever-shifting inventory. Record players, vinyl cases, multiple vinyl listening stations and all kinds of assorted vinyl accessories contribute to a full-service vinyl shopping experience. Josey also serves as a great performance space with a stage and PA at one end of the store and one of the nicer DJ booths in town, which comes in handy on the Record Store Day celebration and other events throughout the year. 2821 Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, Farmers Branch, 972-243-2039,

Sing Your Heart Out at Family Karaoke
It's not about the singing, OK? A good karaoke spot, like a good karaoke singer, needs only to have the right spirit to be a success. And Family Karaoke has spirit to spare. The large space means multiple rooms, with decent sound muffling to let you go as loud as you'd like. The rooms are comfortable, with cozy couches and solid speakers. It has a fully stocked bar and food options that range from the typical bar food (chicken wings, mozzarella sticks) to delicious Japanese options (miso udon). The location seems sketchy but adds to the allure of the place and welcome diversity of the patrons. 11433 Goodnight Lane, 469-522-0365,

Spend a day getting lost inside Josey Records.
Wanz Dover
Go for a Hike at Oak Cliff Nature Preserve
Tucked into an Oak Cliff neighborhood, backing up to an apartment complex, the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve is a gem in a city often accused of not having enough nature. Miles upon miles of trails perfect for mountain biking, hiking and cross-country jogging twist through hills and trees and a small creek. Pick your trail based on your desired mileage and difficulty and forget you're in Dallas. On the edges of the preserve you might hear a car in the distance, but the loudest noise will be coming from the birds or the cicadas. 2875 Pierce St.

Wash Pizza Down with a Martini at Cosmo's
A dimly lit bar with retro fixtures that hearken back to the 1960s would be, not surprisingly, the best place to forget the daily struggles of 2017. Tucked in a strip center in Lakewood that's just far enough removed from the madness of Lower Greenville, Cosmo's is off the beaten path, which makes it less likely that you'll run into your boss or an ex that you're trying to avoid. (They'll probably be next door at the Landing.) Cosmo's serves up an array of strong signature martinis and pizzas. All the more reason Cosmo's is the best place to hide away from the world. 1212 Skillman St., 214-826-4200,

Old 97's play a show on Twilite Lounge's patio.
Mike Brooks
See a Free Show on Twilite Lounge's Patio
One of the great things about living in Texas, when you can get past the crippling summertime heat, is the luxury of year-round patios. Own a bar in Dallas? You'd better have a patio. And with Deep Ellum's continued boom, you're never more than five steps away from a spot to sip a drink outdoors. One of the best is Twilite Lounge — and that's without even considering the live music that they host on the patio. Over the years, they've packed out the patio with the likes of Old 97's and Sam Outlaw, and offered a rare live performance by Dividends, the electronic project of Sarah Jaffe and Grammy winning producer S1. Oh, and all Twilite's shows (patio or otherwise, in fact) cost zero dollars. The only drawback? You better show up early if you want to get in. 2640 Elm St.

Settle a Disagreement at Common Ground Games
Sometimes playing games is actually good for one's relationships. Game playing has even been known to foster new ones. At least, that's the case when the games are played at Common Ground Games. No one is required to play Cards Against Humanity. Most of the game playing during the week revolves around Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Pokémon, Star Wars: LCG and community-centric games. Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to close serve as a new game demo and board game night, and most every Saturday from noon to 8 p.m., there's open gaming (although, technically, Common Ground is always open gaming, that's just the day there's no scheduled game event). Attendees can buy, borrow or BYOBG, then grab a table. All are welcome: That is to say, there's no intimidation — backgammon, Risk, Telestrations, Mysterium and Tyrants of the Underdark are all perfectly acceptable. Most folks bring fellow players with, but friends can be made over shared strategies and/or snacks. As always with gaming (and relationships), snacks and hydration recommended. 1328 Inwood Road, 214-631-4263.

Good luck beating the high scores at Nickelrama. You'll need it.
Sarah Schumacher
Attempt to Beat the Pinball High Scores at Nickelrama
The pinball industry has been struggling since the '90s, but in the last couple of years it has made a comeback with new manufacturers producing colorful, cleverly designed games with LED lights and sometimes multiple levels of play. While Dallas is home to a yearly convention, the Texas Pinball Festival, that brings out tables new and old from all over the country for people to play, there are only a few arcades in Dallas that offer pinball fans a selection of tables. The best of these is Nickelrama. For admission of just $3.25 you can play 12 tables that accept nickels, including Game of Thrones, Star Trek, The Walking Dead and Ghostbusters. They seem to almost always be unoccupied, which can't be said for the rest of the Dave and Busters-type games. They are usually hogged by kids on the weekend. The real draw here is to play pinball in peace. 1238 Belt Line Road, Garland, 972-414-7042,

Try a Different Look at Dear Clark Hair Salon
Your friend with the good hair gets it done at Dear Clark. This friendly, full service salon has a variety of stylists, all of whom are willing to help you find a new look, whether it's ombre, balayage or neon pink. Plus, they'll serve you a mimosa while they tame your mane. Whether you know what shade of red you want or you just broke up with your boyfriend, they'll leave you looking good. The only downside is the valet parking, but hey, this is Dallas, and at least it's free. 3317 McKinney Ave.

Get a Cold Caffeine Injection at Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters
In a city that gets as hot as Dallas, chilled caffeine options become incredibly important. Cold-brew isn't hard to find anymore — it's in just about every coffee shop in Dallas — but one local roaster consistently drips out some of the best cold-brew we've ever had: Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters. Beautifully smooth with hints of chocolate, warm vanilla and toasted marshmallows, Noble Coyote's cold-brew is made with small batch, ethically sourced, fresh-roasted, single origin coffee that's been cold-brewed for 16 hours. It's bottled in adorable 16-oz. bottles that are easy to find around Dallas at spots like Whole Foods, Cox Farms Market and on nitro tap at bars like LUCK, Eight Bells Alehouse and Braindead Brewing. 819 Exposition Ave., 214-321-4321.

click to enlarge
Hutchins BBQ is worth the drive to McKinney.
Rachael Cleaver
Take a Drive for Barbecue
Frank Sinatra once crooned of New York: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." When it comes to the
culinary world, making it means coming to New York to cook dinner for the James Beard House, an honor bestowed on Hutchins BBQ. The praise heaped on the McKinney joint (there's a second location in Frisco) is well deserved; traditional barbecue meats such as brisket, rib and sausage are standout examples of the craft, while the chicken and turkey drip with moist smoky flavor. There's not a weak link among the sides, and regulars know to save room for free peach cobbler. Recognition from the Beard Foundation for Hutchins' barbecue prowess is a high honor, but only confirms something we've known here in Dallas for some time. 1301 N. Tennessee St., McKinney, 972-548-2629,

See a Movie the Old-Fashioned Way at Galaxy Drive-In
If you're meeting someone from OKCupid for the first time, a drive out to Ennis might not be the brightest idea. But once you have a pretty good sense that your potential partner isn't a serial killer or, worse, an excessive chatterbox, making the half-hour drive from Dallas to see a movie the old-fashioned way is a perfect date. For $7 you can see two brand-new features back-to-back — cheaper than any other theater in town. There are seven screens to choose from and the first movie starts playing at 8:45 p.m., or as soon as it's dark enough. As far we know it's the only drive-in movie theater still operating in the area. Bring some blankets, back your car in, open the trunk and have a movie-going experience that's more comfortable than the fanciest new movie theaters. 5301 N. IH 45, Ennis 972-875-5505,

Stretch Your Limbs for Free on the Ron Kirk Bridge
Sure, the city renamed the Continental Avenue bridge for former Mayor Ron Kirk, the driving force behind the plan to build a high-speed tollway underneath the pedestrian bridge/park. But let's not hold grudges and rather celebrate the fact that Dallas has this fine amenity over the Trinity with a peerless view of downtown and the Trinity River. Not only that, but every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, weather permitting, V12 Yogo offers free community yoga classes on the bridge known as the gateway to Oak Cliff. So go, stretch out and bask in the feeling you're in a cool, human-friendly city. Do your downward facing dogs while contemplating the irony of being in a pedestrian park named for a man whose vision was to turn the Trinity into a highway. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Who knew flavored ice could taste so good?
courtesy Steel City Pops

Sate Your Sweet Tooth at Steel City Pops
Root beer, mango, spicy ginger ale, orange mint green tea, creamy caramel, coffee, horchata, all frozen on a stick. So sit at the counter and watch the scene pass you by on Lower Greenville, or take your popsicle out there and join it. Yeah, at three bucks a pop, it's not free, but compare it with anything else you can do. A visit to Steel City Pops is a mellow interlude and a chance to commune with the flavors of the universe, some of them old-fashioned and reminiscent, some of them new and surprising and a few that are just weird as hell, but remember, it's just a popsicle. How much can you lose?  2012 Greenville Ave., 972-807-9062,

Sign Up for an Intramural League with Dallas Park and Recreation
Basketball, dodgeball, kickball, volley ball and something called pickleball (a mash-up of tennis, pingpong and badminton), Dallas' recreation centers have all your balls covered with their free to low-priced leagues, and not just for seniors or kids. Regular adults can join in too. Since these are city leagues, don't expect the free-flowing booze you might get in private intramural groups, but on the other hand, you don't have to get the boozing expected in some private leagues. Team sports not your bag? The city's rec centers also offer a full schedule of classes at various level in the martial arts, yoga and assorted fitness classes. Prices range from free to $180 for league entries.

Do a Few Laps Around the Rink at Dad's Broadway Skateland
Assassination Derby, one of Dallas' best roller derby teams, gave their seal of approval to this more than 50-year-old skating rink located in Mesquite. It looks like it was built in 1961, but a roller skater can't beat the price at Dad's. The skating rink is large. The bathrooms smell like a bathroom should smell and the service is exceptionally friendly. Dad's also offers skating classes for children and hosts dance skating between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. every Friday for the star-crossed junior lovers or older couples who wish to reminisce. 3022 Moon Drive, Mesquite, 972-279-0421,
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dallas Observer Staff

Latest Stories