Dallas' independent source of
local news and culture
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.
There are loads of generic honky-tonks all over the metroplex. They have giant dance floors where the Wrangler-wearing masses spend their weekends dancing to country bands that don't venture far from top 40 playlists. Adair's Saloon has virtually nothing in common with these places. Consider it the CBGB of honky-tonks. A small, well-worn dance floor stretches from one overly decorated wall to another. Local country acts The King Bucks and Boys Name Sue regularly whip line-dancing regulars into a frenzy with their take on old country standards and hilarious originals. But if you don't feel much like dancing, Adair's Saloon has one of the best burgers in town and plenty of cold Lone Star beer to help wash it down.
Take your favorite dive bar, slap on a fresh coat of paint and line the walls with a dream array of bar games, and you've got Dallasite—a gem of a neighborhood bar between two neighborhoods that draws a crowd from both because the drinks are cheap, the food is good and the electronics still work. If you run out of things to talk about with fellow drinkers between the Big Buck Hunter, the Friday night karaoke or the game on the big-screen TV, there's no social crutch in the world that can help you—in which case, that video lottery game in the corner may just be calling your name. More likely, though, you'll get lost in the eyes of a woman twice your age sharing a Charley Pride sing-along.
From its humble roots at a Best Western in Garland 14 years ago, QuakeCon has grown into an epic bring-your-own-computer happening, the largest free LAN party in the world—and if that doesn't mean much to you, well, you're probably not headed to QuakeCon anytime soon. Each summer, though, the "Woodstock of gaming" takes over one of Dallas' biggest resort hotels, with thousands of die-hard Quake and Doom devotees streaming in from around the world for a long weekend of virtual shoot-'em-up tournament action; keynote talks, packed with laser and smoke displays, from local id Software gurus; drinking at the hotel bar; and pretty much anything other than sleep.
Stiff drinks, hand-crafted snacks and dim lighting are par for the bar-course when it comes to things Dallasites demand in their nightlife, but they're hardly staples at comedy clubs, where overpriced booze gets served up alongside lukewarm nachos and some hack's life story. To the rescue: improv comics Amanda Austin and Clay Barton, who opened the Dallas Comedy House last year in an increasingly vigorous Deep Ellum. Offering high-quality improv classes on the cheap and stand-up comedy and variety shows seven nights a week, the Dallas Comedy House has brought in all kinds of folks searching for a spare meter along Commerce Street. Despite plentiful seating, the black-box DCH remains cozy, and the deceptively large stage supports a troupe of improv-ers or a lone stand-up with equal ease. But quality booze and service aside, the comedy at DCH hardly requires even a little funny bone-lubricating buzz.
There's church, and then there's The Church. Can you spot the difference? Both take place on Sunday and both rely on camaraderie. But at one, people sport leather-bound Bibles, while at the other people sport leather-bound booties. The latter takes place at the Lizard Lounge every Sunday and Thursday, where people put on their least-safe-for-work garb and gather for an all-night celebration of their individualism. The Church isn't for everyone, though. Unless you have a penchant for stomach-churning performance art pieces, gothy/dance musical performances and older men flaunting nipple rings and leather girdles, you might want to stick with old time religion. But more spiked-collar-clad people turn out for these weekly events than one might expect, despite it being an alternative club.
The trick here is that the Cool Thursdays evening concerts at the Arboretum aren't supposed to be free. It's 10 bucks a head plus seven more for parking for these pop concerts, April through July, none in August, then a fall series throughout September and October. But you can hear them all without paying a nickel and also enjoy a very eclectic scene simply by paddling or sailing your small craft to the foot of the Arboretum, just off E. Lawther Drive near the Garland Road entrance to White Rock Lake. Call the Arboretum at 214-515-6518 for concert information or look on their Web page at dallasarboretum.org/concerts.html. If you do speak to them, ask about all their prices and then be sure to say the Dallas Observer told you it would be free if you came in your kayak.