For two years, Chad and Nellie Montgomery's Fair Park brew fest has brought in dozens of breweries offering hundreds of great beers at reasonable prices. This year's edition included a handful of food trucks as well, which cut down greatly on the wait along with offering a better selection of potential pairings for the suds. The location, within stumbling distance of the Fair Park DART train station, meant there were no excuses for drunken driving afterward. And the specialty and one-off brews were some of the best we've seen at a beer fest. Inspired by Denver's Great American Beer Festival, the two want to grow their own fest into a destination event, and with a sell-out crowd of 5,300 at the 2013 Big Texas Beer Fest, it may well be on its way to such a status. We'll drink to that.

Good Records

Good Records' free in-store performances are fantastic on their own, bringing some of the best local and national indie acts to an all-ages audience at a reasonably early hour. Offering free beer is almost too much — we wondered what the catch was the first time we pumped a cup of Lone Star from a keg. Then, at the Baptist Generals' release party and show for Jackleg Devotional to the Heart in May, there was a spread of barbecue and fixin's from Sonny Bryan and gratis cans of Deep Ellum Brewing Co. beer, and other shows have included grub ranging from hot dogs to vegan food from Spiral Diner. So you want to quibble that vinyl is getting too expensive? Just time your next shopping trip to coincide with a performance. Forty bucks for a 180-gram deluxe reissue doesn't sound so bad now that it comes with a concert, a meal and a buzz.

Most Texans know that the phrase "Bless your heart" is condescending at best, and can usually be translated as "You dumbass." That's why it's the perfect slogan for Bob Lovell's company. His HMS commercials are mesmerizing, and there are so many variations we don't know how he has time away from the camera to actually run a real estate company. Sometimes he simply insults potential homebuyers for not getting out of "the rent race" sooner. Sometimes he goes off on non sequitur tangents about various topics that have little if anything to do with his business. And sometimes he goes meta, responding to purported viewer feedback about his commercials. But the smarminess is somehow charming, thanks to his soothing voice and especially thanks to that regal swoop of silver hair, moussed and brushed back to streamlined perfection. We've never used HMS, but it's got to be the best at whatever it is that it does if the man is half as good at his business as he is delivering winking ad copy and sculpting a majestic pompadour.

Daniel Vaughn's monomaniacal obsession with perfectly smoked meat made his well-informed, passionate observations at the Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog the authority on Texas barbecue. His never-ending quest for the perfect combination of smoke, meat and seasoning gained popularity and probably had no small part in the growing awareness that brisket can be even better than a prime steak and certainly shouldn't taste like the gray, dry slabs one finds all too often at lesser barbecue joints. Texas Monthly, which dedicates a good portion of its food coverage to barbecue and whose annual BBQ Festival sells out every year, saw fit to create the coolest position in the history of journalism for Vaughn: barbecue editor. He may not make as much as he did in his previous life as an architect, but you can't put a price on having that unique title on your business card.

With some FM stations starting up with the Christmas music around, oh, mid-September, you’d think by Christmas Eve we would be well past the point of exhaustion with little drummer boys, silver bells and silent nights. And we are. Nonetheless, we tune in every year when former Observerer and current Dallas Morning News blogger Robert Wilonsky brings his massive collection of Christmas music to the airwaves. Of course, no former music editor — and certainly not one who’s as obsessive a collector as Wilonsky — is going to play the tired old carols. You’ll hear interesting originals and offbeat covers from a wide variety of genres from funk to punk. You might hear Centro-matic’s “Christmas ’83” or Freddie King’s “I Hear Jinglebells,” or call in to request a chestnut of your own. Wilonsky has just what you need to soundtrack your last-minute gift-wrapping after one too many eggnogs.

The Grapevine

A Sunday afternoon at The Grapevine is like a celebration of population density. It's a shoulder-to-shoulder mob, every member of which is either swaddled in post-brunch bliss or has just woken up and is making a breakfast of Velvet Hammer or Everclear bellinis. While drinking in general is skill that needs constant honing, day drinking is something more. It's an art. A craft even. And bars built to encourage day drinking are workshops where practitioners can perfect their craft. On any given night Grapevine pulls in a crowd that's big and always diverse, covering a mélange of sexualities and a healthy mix of ages. It's part of what makes the place so appealing, that it communicates a sense of weirdness and welcoming at the same time. And that's what draws the crowd every Sunday. That and the chance to suck down bellinis while soaking in vitamin D.

Oak Street Draft House

Imagine all of the best moments from your younger days and that's like two hours at the patio of Oak Street Draft House in "Little D." Even if you know no one, you can usually snag a cable-spool tabletop under a shaded tree at the back of the gravel lot and it won't be long before someone's dog comes to lick the frost that has formed on your glass of beer, or a friendly face asks you for an extra seat. Large picnic tables and pingpong tournaments are only two of the reasons to show up; the people, countless draft beers and new outdoor bar are even more.

Her beauty would probably be enough to keep her working steadily as an actress, but SMU theater grad Martha Harms brings an interesting, not-always-pretty edge to every role she's played in Dallas theaters over the past five years. She's done six shows at Kitchen Dog, and lots more for Undermain and Echo Theatre. Last fall she thrilled critics and audiences with her daffy Marie Antoinette in the new rock musical On the Eve at Magnolia Lounge, a part she'll reprise when Theatre Three revives the show, with cast intact, in 2014. When she's not onstage, Harms is working in industrial films and doing voice-overs for radio, TV and Japanese anime. She was the voice of Maya in the video game Borderlands 2. Dream roles? Says Harms, "Hedda Gabler and Nora in A Doll's House. We never do Ibsen here!"

Tradewinds Social Club

"This is why you should move to Oak Cliff," is a familiar phrase at Tradewinds. Busy on some nights, dead on others, there's always a person to converse with, including the outgoing staff of bartenders who sometimes hand out free shots on slow nights. A tiny patio around back is where you'll hear the best stories. Set up camp here for a few hours and you'll hear the Oak Cliff regulars' stories of everything from war to strife to women, and you might even tell a couple of your own.

The Dallasite

You will never again have to complain that there's nothing to do in Dallas on Friday night. There's always one option: karaoke at Dallasite. Trust. This is a magical thing. There's no stage, no professional speakers, no pomp, just teeth-clenching bad "singing" and good times. It wouldn't be out of place in this dark, aromatic watering hole to find line dances to the backdrop of "Thriller" tributes and sub-par rap renditions. It's all welcome at Dallasite. There's just one rule: no judging.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of