Black Swan Saloon
"Mixologist" has always seemed such a pretentious term. Bartender wasn't good enough? Did a bunch of drink-slingers attend a doctoral program in mixology at Johns Hopkins? Pfft. At least we used to think that way until we met Gabe Sanchez, owner of Black Swan Saloon and winner of two other "bests" in this issue — for introducing pickle shots to the city and creating his watermelon-infused vodka and club soda. Mixologist? How about "alcohological alchemist?" With its large glass jars of house-made fruit and veggie infusions, Sanchez's narrow, woody saloon, tucked on a Deep Ellum street corner, has the vibe of a medieval chemist's lab (a very cool, inviting lab). Tell him how your tastes run, and he'll whip out various liquids, infusions, ice cream, pixie dust, whatever and whip up something you've never had before but realize you've been hankering for all along. Alchemists searched vainly for the secret to turning dross into gold, but Sanchez has found something better: the recipes for liquid happiness. (Philospher's stone would make an excellent drink name, by the way.)
Billy Bob's Texas
Caity Colvard
This award has become synonymous with Adair's – the broken-in dance floor, the burger, the flair cluttering every possible space on the wall. It's local; it's loved; it's fantastic. We'd never argue otherwise. But since we've told you about Adair's every year for, like, forever, this year we decided to change up the equation and cast the honky-tonk net far and wide, all the way to Fort Worth. If you figure the ratio of dance-floor square footage to distance from Dallas, Billy Bob's is practically in your backyard, or something. But honestly, the place that bills itself as the world's largest honky tonk is a sight to behold. Every seen a saddle that's a disco ball? Go to Billy Bob's. Want to see the best country concerts? Billy Bob's. Crave an order of righteous fried pickles? Yeah, Billy Bob's. It's a special occasion honky tonk, the Six Flags of country bars, and every two-steppin' Texan worth his or her cowboy boots should make the drive at least once to drink a Shiner in what feels like the most spectacular Western movie set.

Best Place to Unleash Your Inner Rock Star

MAC Karaoke

Mac Karaoke
You do it in the shower, but nobody is watching. You do it in your car when you should be paying attention to your driving. At MAC Karaoke you get to do it in front of the captive audience of your buddies while being serviced by some friendly Koreans. Get your mind out of the gutter. We're talking about unleashing that inner rock star that secretly resides in each and every one of us. No more embarrassing surprise walk-ins while singing into a round brush or shampoo bottle, and no more side-eyes from the person in the next car. At MAC, your terrible sing-along to Journey is encouraged! As far as Korean karaoke joints go, MAC boasts one of the most all-encompassing and frequently updated song lists out there. While you're belting away, imbibe on a selection of soju and beer, because after all, you are a rock star. If you want, you can even order a fruit platter or some of their killer Korean spicy wings and pretend they're on your bands' rider list. It's what the Britneys and Jessicas would do. (Especially the wings part.)
Double Wide
Matt Nager
Thursday nights carry a temptation like no other: From 10 or 11 p.m. (it's loose; go with it) to 2 a.m. GOOD LUCK Karaoke commences with fucking up the Double Wide proper via themed karaoke parties ranging from the bizarre to the downright genteel. Hosts Josh Hammertimez and Oliver Pecker (whose real names have been partially changed to prot ... well, just because) never disappoint when it comes to inspired moves or stage wear. As Pecker says, "We do it for the love of PARTY'N!" Hammertimez agrees, adding "Oliver is really good at throwing parties and I'm really good at attending them." GLK recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and looking back, Hammertimez says the boys' fondest memories are of toga, emergency-room and construction-zone nights. In that case, yield to your DJs and proceed without caution; rockers ahead.
Round-Up Saloon
On March 14, a club full of gay men thundered with excitement after a long night's wait. It wasn't because the bartender replaced the kegs of cosmos. Lady Gaga had arrived. The night before her Monster Ball Tour hit the American Airlines Center with the Scissor Sisters, Twitter's rumor mill was spinning. She was there. She was at the jam-packed Round-Up Saloon on Oak Lawn. "Please don't rush the stage," the club's announcer said over the P.A, "or I'll kick you in the nuts." Someone nearby screamed, "Is she here?" Then it happened. Fast. Like a lightning strike, she stepped on the wooden dance floor, performed "Born This Way," and left. It was fast and furious, and something very special. There was a sense of genuine care, love and community in the air. There was a sense that we all caught the view of something fleeting and good. We all saw an artist at work, just for a moment. Whether you love or hate her, in that moment, she was great. It was an exciting moment in a city that pretends to have too few.
Dallas Comedy House
Kaspars Skels
There's no bonding experience quite like self-imposed humiliation — or mutual success. Dallas Comedy House's improv classes offer the perfect way for laugh-loving folk to meet, make friends and figure out paths to punch lines that don't always involve dick jokes. Students enjoy weekly classes to build skills and show them off in a public showcase at the end of each term so they can prove to family and friends why they should or shouldn't be the next member of Upright Citizens Brigade. Those who truly improve their improv get to level up to more challenging classes. Jam sessions (for those who prefer a seat in the audience or those who want to go after improv with open-mic-style abandon) can sometimes morph into a dance party and the cover's cheaper than an ultra-chode lounge. Occasionally, DCH offers a trial improv class for free so potential students can see if the world of "yes, and" is right for them.
Canton Co-Op
Dallas, you finally have that place. That one place you keep hearing about, haven't fully grasped what it is and need to be there. It's a place that shimmers at night and sleeps by day. Here's the kicker for this music and art find on 2703 Canton St.: It's the most unpretentious, genuine venue in Dallas. Proprietors Leticia Gallegos (who also runs a local music aggregate site called Gorilla Groove) and Emilo Muniz (a photographer schooled at UNT) are lovers of Deep Ellum. They're protectors. It's in their bones. They live it, and the vibrancy of Deep Ellum shines best at their shows. Established in 2010, the co-op has hosted shows that include metal art, live photography, Parade of Flesh brand concerts and "Who Sharted?" (a hilarious T-shirt art concept show). They are always on the lookout for local sponsors who give a shit (they currently have an informal partnership with Batter Blaster, an aerosol pancake dispenser thing out of Austin). Oh, one thing we forgot to mention — there's always free beer. Donations are welcome, though.
Beauty Bar
Most happy hours consist of a few cheap beer specials and dollar-off wells, but the Beauty Bar specializes in our kind of happy hour: manicures and martinis. During their workday happy hour, the low, low price of $10 lets you end a stressful day with a new coat of nail polish and James Bond's chosen libation. Don't expect the spa treatment, but you will get a damn good manicure and strong adult beverage for less than you'd pay for a mani at the nail salon. The vibe's cool, the manicurists are sexy and you'll have pretty nails and a buzz by the time you leave. Now that's killing two birds with one stone.
Cabaret Royale
There's no shortage of titillating men's clubs in the city, and we've done enough research to know that it's no easy decision choosing a favorite. But one of the defining qualities of a great men's club is its ability to cater not just to men but also the ladies. Plus it has to have a wide variety of women to appeal to, well, a wide variety of clients. That's why Cabaret Royale gets our vote. There are the standard bottle-blond types, the exotic brunettes, the stick-thin, the curvy girls and just about every other type of lady you want to see partially clothed. And since the club is just as accommodating to lady customers, you can feel comfortable bringing the girlfriend. It's a lot easier than explaining the stack of ones in your wallet.
Lakewood Landing
Over the course of one night spent bouncing between the indoor tables and the patio of the Lakewood Landing, we overheard the following conversations: a girl weighing the pros and cons of various birth control (she knew that shit like she'd auditioned for the latest Ortho-Vaginale commercial), a guy lamenting how messy his roommate's "bike room" was (We're jealous. Who can spare an entire room for bike storage?), a group of duders besting one another on their knowledge of Argentina (yes, a girl was involved and no, she was not interested) and a proposed sugar-cookie eating contest. OK, fine, there's a large chance we were actually involved in that last one. Point is, the Landing may always be a great place to catch up with friends, but it's also a fantastic place to go to forget about your own troubles and focus on someone else's.

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