Hailey's Club

The rumor's been that the reason Hailey's is the swankest, nicest, classiest rock-and-roll club north of the Gypsy Tea Room is that it was never supposed to be a haven for indie rockers. Instead, it was designed for jazz and blues artists, and the disposable income-ready fans attracted by that "more adult" music. But the youth market was more profitable, so a switch was made, and the hipsters paying the cover got to benefit from the fancy digs. It's a great story. But it's just not true. Owner Eric Hill wanted a club like no other, meaning no barn wood and neon signs, but rock was always part of the equation, along with the blues and jazz (the University of North Texas' award-winning jazz school is minutes away). There's a little jazz sprinkled in on occasion, but the calendar's usually booked with buzzworthy rock bands, dance nights and even Hipsters Balls because, despite the smoove façade, Hailey's has always been ready to rock.

The jukebox is filled with classic country, '70s rock and a few blues brothers; Christmas lights line the area above the bar, and a stream of water trickles from one section of a leaky ceiling tile. KC's II, in all its glory, is a badass little barroom on Northwest Highway that serves up Bud in the bottle and anything else as strong as you want it. KC's patrons are the epitome of the Common Man--no frills, no fuss. They're friends, too--or maybe just friendly--and they fully comprehend the concept of "come as you are." And we like that. We also like the dirty joke we heard the last time we were there.

Customers and tenants alike complain about the tough parking situation at Mockingbird Station. Folks anxiously cruise the shops during peak hours, holding up the line of cars for minutes at a time while they wait for some 17-year-old to quit fumbling with her keys, get in her damned Audi and make her precious space available. It's not that there aren't enough parking spaces--there's underground parking on the east side of the shops and plenty of covered and adjacent spots to the north. But it just seems so far. Smart MS shoppers, though, know the secret. Go the service road on northbound Central Expressway, take it about 50 yards or so, then enter the near-secret covered lot that allows you to exit between Silver Moon and Virgin Megastore. When you're done, bam, you whip out onto the service road, no parking hassle at all. And parking is important to us, because we're old and cranky.

Dallas Aquarium

Little kids like to touch stuff. The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park lets them do that every Saturday at noon. It isn't to be confused with the much more expensive, privately operated Dallas World Aquarium in the West End. That's a fine place for many other reasons (see Best Kids Attraction), but you can't touch. You just look. At the Dallas Aquarium, however, staff members let you touch, hold or gently prod sea urchins, hermit crabs, starfish and other creatures, which are housed in a kid-level tank on the north end of the building. From slippery to prickly to slimy, kids can't get enough of the amazing array of textures. And here's something else you'll like: Parking is free, and admission is only $3 for adults, $1.50 for children.

Stan's Blue Note

For the past couple of years, The Ginger Man has dominated this category. And, granted, the place serves a smorgasbord of beers, but this year we were looking for something a little different, a bar with a little more character. And after much research, we found it in Stan's Blue Note, a Lower Greenville joint that has character (and characters) out the wazoo. For example, all beers are served in 16-ounce Mason jars. C'mon, how cool is that? And for those who can swill beer like a champ, there are T-shirts for completing all the brews: one for the 100 or so bottled beers and one for draft beers, of which there are about 50 varieties, with a few ciders thrown in, too. Stan's also serves lunch and has two front patios, which are prime spots for the annual St. Patrick's Day shenanigans that take place on Lower Greenville.

Readers' Pick

The Ginger Man

2718 Ball St.

214-754-8771

Obscurities Tattoos

On a ballot from one of our worldly and learned readers last year, the answer in this category was "shoulder." We laughed about it then and still did until recently. Then we licked our way to the Tootsie Roll center of this particular Tootsie Pop: This wasn't necessarily a joke. Someone has probably actually had one--or maybe even both--of their shoulders pierced. Which led to the larger question of "Where would you go if you wanted to do that?" As it turned out, the answer was relatively simple. You'd go to Obscurities, the same place you'd go if you wanted anything pierced. The colorful and capable staff, including piercers Allen Falkner and Tasha Halverson, will hook you up no matter what you're willing to get hooked up. And since it's a tattoo parlor as well, it's one-stop shopping. That's always a good thing.

Readers' Pick

Tigger's Tattoos

2602 Main St.

214-655-2639

Forget them fancy import beers, son. Tonight, you're drinkin' a Lone Star. Want a little history? It's all over these walls. That messy graffiti, been here long's I can recall. Back in the day, we'd write our college emblems up on these walls. Heck, Lois Adair over there gave us the Marks-a-lots to use. She's a fine one, Lois, been runnin' this place for 40 years now. 'Course, they moved since it opened in 1963, and now it's famous, seein' as how Don Henley used Adair's to shoot part of that video about JFK dyin', and Pat Green shot that other video, and hell, I can't tell ya the scores of musicians done recorded themselves at Adair's. See, son, Dallas ain't all about Uptown and fancy cars and real estate. Sometimes, it's about good times with real down-home folk, music that feels like home, a little Patsy Cline on the jukebox. Just about any night is a good night at Adair's, son. Now pass me a bottle of that old skull popper. Daddy's gotta dance.

Readers' Pick

W.W. Fairfields

147 N. Plano Road, Richardson

972-231-3844

Flummoxed by whether to call Minc a gay bar or a post-gay hive of hipsterdom, we've given up all attempts to pigeonhole the place. There is often a saucy drag queen at the door, it's true, but Minc has become the most refreshing bar in Dallas to be gay without shouting out your queerness, that creeping feeling of politicization we often experience while on Cedar Springs (when all we want is to hang out). The gay boys tend to self-segregate in Minc's spacious back yard, where there's plenty of room for neck-craning cruising. But sprinkled amidst them, and throughout the rest of this large watering hole, are young straight cosmopolitan couples or friends who seem right at home. Impromptu dance circles often form in front of the DJ booth, and there's room--though not more quiet--in the bar's front area for those who want to try to converse. Minc welcomes whoever ends up there; it's a self-selecting democracy of hip.

Readers' Pick

JR's Bar & Grill

3923 Cedar Springs Road

214-559-0650

Look, we're advocates of making out anywhere. Movie theaters? Fine. Bathroom stalls? Whatever. As long as it is the pure and simple make-out, we're all for it. (Anything more is kind of, y'know, slutty.) But there is no finer place to make out than downtown Dallas on a breezy fall night, face flushed with a few glasses of wine. First of all, no one will care, because it's downtown, and people are selling crack and beating up tourists somewhere close by. Second, because the whole place is kind of dangerous (see reason one), which gives us an illicit thrill we haven't felt since high school. Third, it has a cinematic appeal--more Woody Allen than John Hughes' manicured suburban parks (which we preferred when we were 16, along with the back seat of Chevy Novas). A revitalized downtown is good for everyone in this city. Let the suits take care of the business side. We'll bring the love.

Our favorite bar in college was a saloon-type joint furnished with wooden tables that had been defaced by years of carving and writing. Who loves whom, who graduates when and who thinks who or what "RULES!!!" were common announcements on the ad hoc message boards. We loved that place. And we love Adair's because it reminds us of it. On one particular evening at Adair's, after many pitchers o' Miller Lite, nostalgia got the better of us, and we asked our waitress to bring us a Sharpie. Can't remember what we wrote on the wooden booth that reminded us of home, but we do remember that the Sharpie ended up in our purse. So, Adair's, we owe you a Sharpie--and an apology. We're pretty sure, though, that in our stupor of hops, barley and sentiment we royally overtipped. We hope that covers us for the petty theft and for any words we may have misspelled with said Sharpie.

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