Swallow Lounge

Deep Ellum's newest drinkery has a backlit bar outlined with beautiful cutouts of the bar's namesake bird, a row of shiny red stools and an exceptionally beautiful waitstaff. The tunes range from old blues to the sugariest Top 40, but the crowd is always friendly and there's never a shortage of places to sit: at the bar, on the velvet couches upstairs or outside on the back patio, where you can toss beanbags and make a few new friends. Despite its glam vibe and the fancy cocktails on offer, the small size of the place makes it feel like a friendly neighborhood spot. But we don't think anybody would bat an eye if you got the urge to wear your favorite corset there while sipping a sidecar. And that is always a very good thing.

Windmill Lounge

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 Chesterfield

The age of the three-martini lunch went the way of Lehman Bros., but the downtown Dallas mixology titan, The Chesterfield, has made a way for you to get totally sloshed before noon on a workday without the guilt. Every weekday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., The Chesterfield offers a menu of $1 cocktails that includes a vanilla old fashioned, a basil gimlet, a raspberry Collins, the margarita-like Buena Suerte and the Ward Eight. The only catch is you have to order food, which will unfortunately slow the alcohol-to-bloodstream speed. The best thing you can get at The Chesterfield's lunch happy hour, besides a rock solid buzz, is the advice on the bottom of the menu: "Don't tell your boss you were here."

Trees

This veteran Deep Ellum outpost has been the site of many shows that elicit an "I was there, man." But since reopening three years ago, they've stepped their game way up and started pulling in acts beyond the typical Trees metal/punk/rock fare, including a healthy new roster of hip-hop. Makes sense: All those acts sound great pumped out of Trees' top-notch sound system, but that volume only serves as a reminder that Trees started out a rock club and will die a rock club.

Love and War in Texas Plano

We've lauded their fried pickles in the past, and those wild boar quesadillas are a glutton's dream, but Love & War in Texas' best feature is a wealth of Texas music pride to match its epic name. Every weekend, L&W's dance floor is packed with two-steppers hootin' and hollerin' to the best country Texas has to offer. Hayes Carll has dropped in, and Rusty Wier was a venue favorite. It's a true Texas honky-tonk that's managed to keep up with the times while still keeping its dusty charm.

As much as we love Adair's, we actually fit in with the crowd there, and we don't wear Stetsons or shit-kickers. As great as the band schedule at Billy Bob's Texas may be, it's big enough to be host to Willie Nelson and has live rodeo action — more a country-music Six Flags than actual tonk. Post Time feels like the real deal. Its older crowd, line dancing, live country and cheap drinks at happy hour give it an authentic enough feel that we wondered if we'd even pass a dress-code inspection without a trip to Western Warehouse first. But we managed to have a good time nonetheless.

Majestic Theatre

Hey, Majestic Theatre. Has anyone told you lately how beautiful you are? It's true. You are ... majestic. What we wish is that you had more concerts in you, because your sound system is also pretty great. Not just the odd summer show here, or comedy gig there, but a regular string of shows at which your talents could really shine as brightly as that lovely chandelier in your lobby.

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