The Elbow Room
Temporally and geographically, Dallas is not so close to the 1849 California mining rush, it being 2006 and Texas and all. But if it's gold-digging that needs doing, Dallas is definitely the "can do" city. Weekends see hundreds of poor, helpless, Gucci-unadorned boob jobs bobbing about Medici, Sense and the whole of Addison looking for a thick-wallet-wielding beau. But the best place in town to earn an M.D. (without, you know, enrolling in classes) ain't some fancy watering hole. If it's a well-to-do man in scrubs you need, the Elbow Room provides in abundance, since it's practically attached to Baylor hospital. Happy hour finds the Elbow Room rife with scrub-clad docs and nurses ordering liver-quenching brewskies. Strike up a conversation over a mutual love for drunken dart-playing or inebriated shuffleboard. Soon, you'll be picking out curtains with the surgeon of your dreams.
Deep Ellum: You stopped going because of the bar fights. And the teeny-bopper dance clubs. And the shady parking. But you started going again because of the Darkside Lounge. Wait, you haven't been to the Darkside Lounge? Guess that means you haven't been out to some of the best local shows, drinking some of the cheapest local brews and hanging out with some of the coolest local people. But that's OK. It's early yet, especially in the rejuvenation of Deep Ellum. Thanks to the Darkside Lounge, though, the neighborhood's regaining a little bit of that long-lost coolness. At Darkside, you'll find cushy Vegas-style booths for canoodling, a pool table for schmoozing and a good-sized stage for local band viewing. In fact, the Darkside Lounge's killer weekend musical lineups will probably be what brings you out the first time, but it's this venue's neighborhood bar-meets-scenester-lounge sensibility that'll keep you coming back.
Gameworks
It's not that the Dallas area is arcade-starved; you can find Golden Tee games and nostalgic cabinets at plenty of bars and restaurants. But if you want to make a day of it--immerse yourself in a digital candy land--every "amusement" destination in the region falls short, except for GameWorks. The national chain delivers local arcade salvation in the form of hundreds--yes, hundreds--of games and more new and recent titles than any spot in town. Pinball tables? Check. Skee-ball? Three varieties. A canoeing simulator? Sure, why not. Even better are unique attractions such as Sky Pirates, which launches players up to 25 feet in special chairs as they battle in virtual hot-air balloons, and the eight-man F1 racing kiosk with a live commentator who calls the action. So drop the kids off at GameWorks' Dance Dance Revolution station, tell them you'll be upstairs at the arcade's fully stocked bar and sneak away when they're not looking to perfect your canoeing skills.
When the XPO Lounge closed in 2004, loyalists scoffed at plans for the bar's future: "It's becoming a [insert obscenity of choice] tiki bar?!" The loyalists (and former staff) found new watering holes, leaving the bar behind for what they assumed would become a schmaltzy, preppy destination, but things didn't turn out so badly. In fact, the new ownership's stress on increased patio comfort has vaulted this destination into a prime spot for outdoor drinking: comfortable chairs (no wooden benches), tolerable temperatures, next to no insects and hip DJs spinning tunes at a low enough volume so you can actually hear your date. The tiki theme, eh, we can live without (save the whole emphasis on rum, anyway), but the ambiance is thanks to coziness, not hula dolls.
At the end of 2005, Club Dada was down for the count, knocked out by bumbling ownership and deemed another tombstone in the dwindling reputation of Deep Ellum. So how come it's winning this award and hosting big-name gigs (such as June's New Bohemians reunion) not even 12 months later? Because the new ownership--including members of Beatles cover band Hard Night's Day--has figured out how to make the joint appeal to two completely different audiences, making this the best rock bar across the board. Happy hour patrons and casual music fans are making their way to Dada to see the city's best cover bands (and some solid local original acts tucked into those schedules, no less) on weekends, while the kids are catching stellar out-of-town acts and local indie openers on such weekly events as New Music Tuesdays. Cheap cover and drinks help, of course. The separate crowds aren't yet holding hands and singing "Kumbaya," but if the right hipster band played that as a prog-rock song, well, who knows?

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