Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
You know it's a good bar when all of the city's top bartenders go there to hang out after they punch the clock at their respective bars. Such is the case with The Windmill Lounge, which has earned its place as the elder statesman of the local cocktail craft. That's because long before the current mixology trend was in fashion, owners Charlie Papaceno and Louise Owens were sliding classic cocktails down the bar. Not to mention that they've been drinking for a collective 60-odd years, a length of time that makes any liver cower in fear. But if you just want a Budweiser and a shot, they're happy to serve that, too. Look around the bar, it's what all those bartenders are drinking anyway.
The Lodge is, without qualification, the nicest strip club in Dallas. Hell, maybe even in Texas. For starters the dancers are absolute knockouts who don't just mount the stage and shimmy out of lingerie. They wear ornate, theme-driven costumes. They dress up as pixies. They juggle fire. They emerge from a cave facade, surrounded by vaguely unsettling stuffed animals and lacquered cedar boughs. Their chef, a legit culinarian the club plucked from Terrilli's, roasts a flavorful prime rib. The club is clean, comfortable, even refined, as far as strip joints go. The Lodge isn't really for 18-year-old first-timers to carnal commerce. It's for men and women who want to drink good hooch, dine well and enjoy the gyrations of some of Dallas' most beautiful dancers.
Sons of Hermann Hall is one of those venues that feels untouched by time, and that's a good thing. The rumors that it's possibly haunted only add to the allure, and with more than 100 years of history thumping around in those walls, seeing a show there just gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. (Or is that something ... else?) We love the upstairs room, especially now that Parade of Flesh has started booking shows there, but catching a show in the downstairs bowling alley is an added bonus. More of that, please.
Truluck's on McKinney Avenue (situated between Hotel Zaza, the Crescent Hotel and Hotel St. Germaine) features a daily happy hour during which people frequently wander over from their hotels for some cocktails and crab. During the happy hour, everything at the bar is half off (we recommend the dinner martini, made with Belvedere Intense and blue-cheese stuffed olives). There is also a special happy hour menu that boasts everything from crabcakes and shrimp to Kobe beef sliders and a goat cheese plate. More often than not there's a couple of out-of-town guys dressed to the nines sitting at the bar all by their lonesomes. All you have to do is make some small talk to get them to share a bite of their award-winning chocolate cake and, who knows, maybe if you play your cards right, they'll buy you a half-priced cocktail.
If you like your women scantily clad, covered in tattoos and sporting the trendiest hair styles, you might want to hang out at the Double Wide. The bar, located on the cusp of Expo Park and Deep Ellum, has something going on nearly every night of the week, from live performances and karaoke to cheap drink specials (like Sunday's $3 you-call-its), and is normally packed with whiskey-slinging, tight-pants-wearing hipster types. So how do you knock the socks off your hipster dream lover? Start by offering to buy her a Yoohoo Yeehaw or pickle-back shot (both drinks are popular with the regulars), then let her bum a cigarette (or the entire pack, for that matter) and then, to seal the deal, whisper these magic words into her ear: "Need a ride to the afterparty?"
The historic Oak Cliff theater boasts a roster of some of the hippest events in town. Pair that with a damn good bar that serves everything from canned beer to Prohibition-era cocktails and you have yourself a Dallas hipster den. So, whether stopping by Texas Theatre for a psychedelic DJ set, the Geeks Who Drink trivia night, or to check out your favorite cult classic film on 35mm, chances are you'll bump into a hipster dreamboat before the night's end.
Sure the joint opened in the summer of 1980, but the Round-Up Saloon on Cedar Springs is one of the only places in town that could peg a "Lady Gaga is a regular" sign on the bar. Gaga has a habit of dropping by for impromptu performances on the gay bar's legendary boot-scootin' dance floor, and back in March of last year the performer showed up while in town for her Monster Ball Tour at American Airlines Center. Gaga preformed her hit "Born this Way" to a packed bar. The pop star also made an appearance at Round-Up back in 2010 and in 2008. Since her shows don't come cheap and almost always sell out, a Little Monster's chances of catching her at Round-Up are pretty good.
The first thing you notice when stepping into the tiny club off Maple Avenue is an intimate stage with a luminous backdrop, shimmering in the glow of several multicolored spotlights. The stage, surrounded by a few small tables, hosts regular performances by some of the city's top drag performers and national acts alike. From Dominique O'Hara Skyy to Kandy Cayne and Whitney Paige, at Randy's you're guaranteed an intimate performance, and maybe even a kiss on the cheek (just don't forget to bring some single dollar bills). And after the heated performance, you may even feel the urge to step into the VIP section and cool off in the enormous open shower that's in there.
This distinction isn't given based on the television-to-patron ratio. If that were the case, The Old Monk would surely lose out in this super scientific selection process. No, this is based on a handful of criteria that enrich the sports-watching experience: Patio, food, booze and, yeah, televisions. The Old Monk has one of the best patios on Henderson, which is a generally accepted fact and of the utmost importance during basketball season. You can choose from an admirable selection of microbrewed draft and bottled beers and order some pretty tasty mussels while watching the game.
On the first Friday of every other month, drag king "community" Mustache Envy takes over the Vixen Lounge at Sue Ellen's bar on Cedar Springs. The performance is a hybrid of a drag show and variety show and includes local drag kings, musicians and burlesque dancers. The high-energy and engaging event is a perfect way to blow off steam after a long workweek, especially since cover is cheap ($3 before 10 p.m., $6 after) and drinks are cheaper (happy hour runs until 8 p.m., and there are $4.25 wells and bottles of beer after that).
This is, without qualification, the best place to drink in Dallas. Sure, they can whip up a competent cocktail, and they have a selection of infused booze that's pretty interesting. But it's the vibe that keeps us coming back. Seated on a rise at the intersection of Fort Worth Street and Sylvan Avenue, nestled within the immaculately white, mod Belmont Hotel complex, Bar Belmont offers an incomparable view of the Dallas skyline. And there's nothing more relaxing than strolling down stone paths, inlaid with ceramic shards, while sipping on a drink and admiring the desert flora. If you work up an appetite, the kitchen across the way at Smoke will send over anything from sliders to sweetbreads.
Jazz fans in Dallas are grown folks. They have a certain refined taste in art and music that can't be found in many local music clubs. Also, they go to bed at a reasonable time on weeknights. Sandaga 813 understands this, which is why the eclectic space in Exposition Park has the feel of a low-lit urban art gallery. And when you get there at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday, you can expect Shelley Carrol and his impressive band have already had their first downbeat. Careful, though. The music and the atmosphere are so good that you're likely to stay up way past your bedtime.