Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
What's your best friend like? Does she constantly bombard you with new and wacky gimmicks in a desperate attempt to hold your attention? No way. Your best friend got that title because he or she is consistently awesome. Dallas' best bar should be just like that, and La Grange, at less than a year old, has mastered reliable excellence faster than most watering holes that have been around for 10 times as long. Thirst-quenchers at the small-town themed "swanky-tonk" range from signature cocktails to a rotating selection of low-rent beers on draft. The jukebox harbors a minimum of pap, and the bar food (rock shrimp quesadillas!) is hand-crafted heaven on the cheap. The woodsy patio's a great place to hide—alone or with a partner—while the aurally inclined will appreciate owners Stephanie and Rob Schumaker booking Dallas' finest indie and country bands. Yee-homegrown-haw.
Summers in Texas can be brutal, so patio-sittin isnt exactly a popular pastime in the hot months. That is, unless youre a regular at Bolsa near Oak Cliffs Bishop Arts District. Bolsas covered patio is an oasis with its huge fans, generous misters and adventurous cocktails. The Betty Draper, a blend of Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream and Macallan scotch, is one of the menus most popular drinks, but if thats too fancy for you, a cold Lone Star for $2.50 will hit the spot. On crowded nights, the patios limited space and picnic table seating will have you up close and personal with hipsters, young and old. But none of Bolsas regulars seem to mindafter all, Texas is the friendly state.
You want to watch a movie? How about two? Well, they start at 8:15 p.m. (or so) Wednesdays at Tradewinds Social Club. (Hence the name Tradewinds Cinema Club.) George Baum—master of the turntables in late-night watering holes like Lee Harvey's—serves as the TCC master of ceremonies and creates weekly themes such as French flicks (Amelie and Delicatessen) for Bastille Day and "Really Bad People" Movie Night (The Bad Seed and Touch of Evil). But c'mon, we all know one of the best things about Tradewinds is the people watching, and frankly, that just doesn't change when you project a movie onto the wall. Picture it: the usual crowd of Cliff dwellers and hipsters, plus die-hard fans who mouth all the dialogue, then throw in the dude who can't follow what's happening and the totally oblivious chick who walks in right when the girl sets the caretaker on fire. Now that's something to watch.
You need to play whirly ball. That's just all there is to it. We can tell you that after grabbing a beer at the bar and getting briefed by a Whirly Ball Dallas professional (most assuredly with a shady nickname), you will walk into a strange gym-like room and board a bumper car that has a crank instead of a steering wheel. We could tell you that while "driving" said car you'll toss around a whiffle ball using a lacrosse-like scoop and aim the ball at the target on a net-less electronic backboard. But that doesn't convey the bizarrely sudden competitive spirit that seizes your soul and compels you to contort your upper body in ways you didn't know you could just to snatch a little ball away from an opposing team member...while verbally taunting them. Or how incredibly fun it is to spend any amount of time acting like a total freak on the court.
We have a theory about how the drinking game quarters, in which you attempt to bounce a 25-cent piece into a beer cup, was invented. Someone really wanted to play a round of Ms. Pac-Man or Q*Bert and was making do with a situation wherein they had the change but no arcade game to stick it in. Fortunately, that will never be a problem at Barcadia, where your love of skee-ball and old-school stand-up arcade classics and your hatred for the health of your liver can both be satisfied. Trust us, there are few things more entertaining than watching a grown man punch Spy Hunter's toy steering wheel out of whiskey-fueled, video-game-instigated anger. It's way more fun than drinking coin-flavored beer.
As Downtown Dallas creeps closer and closer to regaining its status as a top entertainment destination among the city's many, many options, the neighborhood is facing some roadblocks. There are just too many carbon-copy ultra lounge establishments that have popped up on Main Street in recent years; we have a hard time keeping track of them all. Thank God, then, for City Tavern, a downtown bar and restaurant that is the polar opposite of the lush venues that surround it. There are no frills at this place, called "the Tavern" by its regulars. And it's working in the bar's favor, too: Whereas the security at the clubs surrounding the City Tavern carefully calculate how many people to allow in from the glitzy lines gathered outside their spots, so as to keep up a demand for entry, the Tavern needs no such tricks. Its patrons walk in and out with nonchalance, and, when gathered out front for a cigarette or simply to gawk at the lemmings in line for the competition, its sidewalk crowds often end up being bigger.
You can't. You won't. And you don't...stop dancing at Station 4 just because it's 2 a.m. and the rest of the world is sulking its way home when their favorite lame bar shuts down. Open until 4 a.m. to facilitate maximum ass-shakage, this place is a pulsating hub of gay, straight and everything-in-between fun, pulsing through dancers' veins alongside that shot of something fluorescent taken after making an ass of oneself to that Ke$ha song. Station 4 is flashing lights on a suspended ceiling-chandelier, stretchy shirts and tiny shorts. Station 4 is no excuse not to sweat through your neon thong—and that goes for guys and girls. Station 4 is 24,000 square feet and no room not to have a good time.
Need proof that the aliens are coming to get us all in 2012? Consider this: The best bar in Dallas (Deep Ellum's La Grange) is also the best place to get a snow cone. La Grange owner Stephanie Schumaker's icy-beverage side-project, 32 Degrees, doesn't demand that you order the thing with a shot of rum, but you sure as hell can if you want to. Human evolution is clearly peaking. Schumaker traveled all the way to Hawaii to find the pinnacle of shaved ice technology, with her machine churning out baby-soft ice into petaled-plastic cone-holders that prevent the dreaded snow-cone drip. Able to order their icy refreshments in the comfort of a cowboy-themed "swanky-tonk," Dallasites no longer must hoof out to the 'burbs to stand in line in the searing sun for a cone out of a seasonal trailer.
If it's, say, late on a weekend night and you're stumbling out of an Uptown bar and into Monday Omoregbee's cab with your friends, odds are good the first question one of you will ask is whether or not this is the "Cash Cab." There are, after all, the party lights, the disco ball, the CDs stuck to the wall. It is not the "Cash Cab." It is a tricked-out white minivan with six microphones and a few songbooks—and unless you're headed deep into the suburbs, you've only got time for a song or two. Decline to sing, and Monday just has to plug in "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and your cold songless heart will melt in 10 city blocks. Still refuse the mic, and Omoregbee, in his finest lounge singer attire, will take the mic in one hand and the steering wheel in the other for a Lionel Richie tune. In Omoregbee's cab—especially after closing on a Saturday night—it's "Easy Like Sunday Morning" all the way home.
The traditional four ingredients for beer are malted barley, hops, yeast and water. At the Meddlesome Moth, you can get beers from around the world highlighting three of those ingredients: rich malty British ales or German bocks, intensely hoppy West Coast brews, complex yeasty Belgian ales and more. The only thing you won't find is a watery American macrobrew; even with easily more than 100 beer varieties to choose from, the Moth doesn't trifle with Miller Lite or its ilk. The food menu has thoughtful beer pairing suggestions, and the selection changes frequently, with cask-conditioned brews and other rare kegs tapped weekly. The beer can be expensive, but keep in mind that most of them are on the strong side, so you won't need as many. Still, you can stick to a budget during happy hour, when some 15 varieties are priced at $4 each, with one or two priced at $3.
When Eno's upstairs tavern opened up back in March, it became a favored destination for Oak Cliff's movers and shakers in a few short weeks, combining the pizza joint's already robust craft beer selection with big windows, a great view of downtown and a gorgeous, all-wood décor. There's not a TV to be found in here, so it's a nice place to meet friends or get to know your date with no Rangers-, Stars-, Mavs- or Cowboys-related distractions. And since Eno's full menu is available upstairs, the long wait for tables that once greeted hungry patrons is now largely a thing of the past. Parking is scarce on the weekends, though, so be prepared to walk a block or two. Or better yet, do the Oak Cliff thing and ride over on your bike—there's a nice rack on the side for parking, and it's one of the few places in Dallas where walking in with your helmet won't earn you funny looks from the locals.