Best Library Renovation 2008 | The Library Bar | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Maybe not a great place to read, despite all those shelves of old books. But this bar, recently redone but, thank God, not too much, is an interesting place to read people. For the kind of grown-up date where you want a good drink and some meaningful conversation, the Library Bar has that old New York bar vibe. Some nights there's a pianist, tinkling the keys of the grand piano for some mellow show tunes and jazz. The lighting is low, the waitstaff is attentive when needed and the bartenders can mix a Manhattan. Start spreadin' the news.

In a local live music landscape filled with small, bar-like venues (yeah, you, The Cavern!); sprawling, massive ones (you listening, Center, Nokia Theater, American Airlines Center and Palladium Ballroom?); and the ever-dreaded McVenues (cough—House of Blues—cough), the Granada offers a phenomenal stage, an ace sound system, a primo location, and a kind staff. And it's completely independent, which allows for an open-minded booking process. It's appreciated by the fans, who turn out for country and hip-hop shows alike, and the artists who roll through town. Owner Mike Schoder proudly explains that many touring acts would rather play the independent venues than have to deal with national booking conglomerates like AEG Live and LiveNation. And the Granada is more than willing to accommodate them.


Having already played Hamlet, getting the lead as Jack, the main pup in Theatre Three's whimsical musical A Dog's Life, could have felt like a bit of a comedown. Gregory Lush, however, sank his canines into the part and made the show and his performance moving and memorable. The darkly handsome 36-year-old actor, a grad of UT-Arlington with an MFA from Ole Miss, has worked professionally in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Facing extended unemployment, he returned to Dallas last year and landed five consecutive starring roles. Besides the dog show, he was Professor Henry Higgins in T3's Pygmalion and the romantic lead in The Goodbye Girl. He recently played Uncle Ernie in Dallas Theater Center's huge production of The Who's Tommy. What next? "I would love to play Hamlet again," says Lush, who's also a teacher of Fitzmaurice vocal technique. "And Wolverine, if they ever make a musical out of the X-Men." Now wouldn't that be barking mad?

When she was 5, she performed an "interpretive dance" to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and a career was born. Lydia Mackay, 31, comes from a family of actors and artists, so playing dress-up even as a grown-up is a snap. The SMU MFA grad recently played Blanche DuBois in Contemporary Theatre's A Streetcar Named Desire, Rosalind in As You Like It, Arkadina in The Seagull and Lady Macbeth. If she has a specialty onstage, it's classical roles, but she's oomphy enough to play bombshells. Here's what she says about being a Dallas actor: "So many people seem to think that you have to live in New York or L.A. to be a serious actor. Bullshit. Dallas creates a fertile ground for people who are serious about being working actors." See why we love her?

Who else could make a horny Haitian voodoo goddess, an aid worker turned African diamond smuggler and a bird watcher trapped in the Colombian rainforest seem not only familiar, but infinitely relatable? Only local writer Ben Fountain. The Southwest Review fiction editor, who is putting the finishing touches on a new novel based in Dallas, is the perfect writer for our time. In his collection of short stories, the exquisitely rendered Brief Encounters With Che Guevera, Fountain deftly navigated the world we now live in—one that has become increasingly dense and intertwined. Thankfully, Fountain is just getting started. His first novel, The Texas Itch, will be published early next year.

Record Hop's self-titled sophomore record stormed out of the gates when it was released in late March, offering listeners a furious, ferocious, angst-filled update on the post-grunge sound of the '90s. Is it groundbreaking? Maybe not. But, more than anything, it's a work of art—and clearly a labor of love for its members (front woman Ashley Cromeens, guitarist Scott Porter, bass player Corey Ward and drummer Tony Wann). Standout tracks "Skirtchaser," "Maths" and "End of Line" showcase this incredibly loud band's ability to throw out lightning-fast riffs and beats without batting an eye and also offer Cromeens' gritty vocals the perfect backing. Produced in Chicago by Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana), Record Hop was able to do its influences quite proud on this release.

Over the years the Texas/Dallas division on the seventh floor of the downtown library has acquired a collection of local history resources running deep and broad. Prominent citizens, local businesses and institutions have left papers, pictures and other records. Somehow, in spite of recurring funding cutbacks by the city, the division has managed to carefully catalog this material. Top-quality professional librarians on the floor are ready, willing and very able to help anybody who walks in, from sophisticated scholar to curious hobbyist. It's the best place in the city to get a sense of Dallas history.

The juvenile, angry sentiments so often spewed in the comment sections on WeShotJR do quite the disservice to the site's pseudonymous ringleader efforts. Stoned Ranger, as he calls himself, has his opinions on the local music scene—strong ones, too—and he stands by them, dammit. But unlike his harem of anonymous commenters who are quick to damn a band and claim it "sucks" without rhyme or reason, Stoned Ranger at least intelligently (and, quite often, persuasively) explains the rationale behind his take. Unfortunately, Stoned Ranger ("SR" to his minions) isn't the reason people visit WeShotJR; they may stay for his take, but they show up for the flamewars that take place between the "anons" he inspires.

Choosing the best TV anchor is tough, because even people in the TV business can't really tell you what makes a great anchor. They'll usually say ratings. But why is one anchor trusted and another not? It's called gravitas, and John McCaa has it. He communicates straight-on with authority that isn't stuffy or arrogant. We hear McCaa writes his own copy, but even when he has to wing it on breaking news, he's smooth. He's a master of the moment. That comes from years of experience, nerves of steel and solid news judgment. Once again, McCaa's the best anchor on our airwaves.


A few years ago Lee Trull was just another unemployed actor/playwright. The college dropout was struggling to get by on temp jobs and the occasional small roles, mostly smart-alecky dweebs. Then came the Kitchen Dog Theater premiere of Allison Moore's Dust Bowl drama End Times. Like a young Jimmy Stewart, Trull ambled across the stage, acted the thing to pieces and became a local star. After that came mostly comedic roles at Second Thought, Theatre Three and the Out of the Loop Festival. With the acting thing working, Trull reminded directors he's also a playwright. A good one, it turns out, with commissions from Stage West and the now-defunct Classical Acting Company, adapting Huck Finn, Pinocchio and Gift of the Magi. His latest is his own original idea, Tall Thin Walls of Regret, set in Dallas at the end of the Cold War. Already a company member at Kitchen Dog, Trull, 28, was named the first artistic associate and new resident company member at Dallas Theater Center. There he will write, act in two shows a season and teach. "He is an outstanding example of a talented local artist whose work we hope to support and develop in the coming years," says DTC artistic director Kevin Moriarty. Adds Trull, "I couldn't have written a better job opportunity for myself."

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