BEST PLACE TO DROWN YOUR SORROWS 2013 | Ships Lounge | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Behind the heavily padded door at Ships Lounge it is always 10 p.m. on a Saturday. Sometimes it's a rowdy one, more often it's a quiet one with a couple close friends, but the point is it always feels right. The decor is as unassuming and welcoming as that jukebox, which is full of soul classics and crooners. So when you need to forget what's happening outside that door, just bring some cash and know the staff have seen people in worse shape than you. They'll keep the bottles of domestics coming, or, if you brought your own bottle from home, they'll make sure your plastic ice bucket and can of mixer are fresh. Soon you'll put some distance between you and your problems.

Jury's out on whether Outpost would cop to being a sports bar. Hell, they might be offended by it. After all, the bar's got solid cocktails and the best local brews on tap from Peticolas, Deep Ellum, Revolver and Four Corners. It's got tasty pulled-pork sandwiches and bacon-and-goat-cheese flatbreads. OK, so it's definitely a gastropub. But it also has big flat-screens mounted along the walls. Think of it as a sports bar without the obnoxious sports fans, with your favorite booze and grub beyond nachos and cheese fries. Think of it as Oak Cliff's very own answer to Uptown.

Catherine Downes

A while ago, Nick Badovinus closed his previous restaurant, NHS Tavern, and opened Tried and True. It's a roadhouse-themed bar (it's got that shelled-peanuts feel) with great whiskeys and sandwiches. But here's the thing: They play records. No, seriously, they play vinyl. You can actually saddle up to a burger and let Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger or Led Zeppelin's first-through-fourth albums pop and hiss around. It's why Tried and True is one of Dallas' best places to plant and drink.

Sometimes you need a drink at 7 a.m. Maybe you work the third shift and the sunrise hours are your happy hours. Maybe you're keeping the party going even beyond the break of dawn. Or maybe you're just a drunk. Whatever the case, the humble East Dallas blues dive The Goat is there for you. At that hour, it's quiet and calm, free of rowdy crowds but not lonely — exactly the right atmosphere when you could use a beer or screwdriver at that hour but would like a little company.

Deep Ellum gets all the comeback love, but Greenville is experiencing something of a nightlife renaissance itself — especially Lower Greenville, where a new bar or restaurant seems to open every week. The robust foot traffic there may soon lead to a different, more stable crowd than musicians, but right at this moment there are plenty, spilling over the patio at the Single Wide, stopping at Good Records for an in-store performance, attending one of the practically nightly gigs at Crown and Harp or buying a drink for a friend at one of the most welcoming bars in the city: The Libertine. That's the Town Hall of the neighborhood, and the guitarist-to-barstool ratio in there is often damn near even.

Whether it's a crisp autumn evening or a scorching summer afternoon, the large outdoor patio at Uptown's Katy Trail Ice House is constantly packed with dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds. This spacious outdoor patio invites Rex to join in on the fun. Whether he just got through running alongside his owner on the trail or got a new hairdo at the pet spa around the corner, he's welcome to hang out while you guzzle a few beers and watch the game or catch up with friends. The patio is so dog-friendly that the pooch-watching can be more entertaining than the people-watching.

The old girl's got a lot of life in her yet. Built in 1959, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the creamy layered wedding cake of a theater building on Turtle Creek has lately been home to some spectacular new productions. Uptown Players now do all their shows there, having learned in recent seasons how to handle the stage's balky revolve and how to complement its curves and acute angles. It is a friendly hug of a theater space, with the best acoustics in town. And no matter where you sit in the 400-seater, the view is fine. The best event there this year was Dallas Theater Center's musical Fly by Night, an intimate, magical piece with a small cast, a tight little band and simple scenery. The warmth of Kalita was perfect for that show, which would have been swallowed by the cold, cavernous Wyly Theatre downtown. Now owned by the city, Kalita Humphreys desperately needs an interior makeover: new carpets, fresh paint, reliable air conditioning (Uptown has struggled through some performances sans air this summer). Can't someone Kickstart a fund for keeping Kalita cool?

Patrick Williams

Listen, It'll Do Club is unstuck in time. A trip through It'll Do will take you through a grab bag of iconic outfits from the last three decades. Somewhere in between running into a cast member from Flashdance and discovering where Waldo has been all this time, you'll find the dance floor. It's one of the best in Dallas with its electric blue panels and chandeliers. There's no sense of time inside, just loud music, big drinks and dim lights to hide those awkward dance moves. It's also the most unassuming club in Dallas, where any sort of adventurous soul can un-Dallas themselves and cut a rug.

We weren't expecting it either. Snug against the wall of Uptown-adjacent barbecue spot sits the most fascinating jukebox in Dallas. It's big, Tron-like front is loaded with typewritery slips of paper that have perfect songs from Elvis, Billy Joel and B.B. King. It's one of the oldest working jukeboxes in Dallas, has about 100 albums in it, and it still plays 45s. Also? It's a quarter per song. Take that, digital jukeboxes.

DFW is home to the largest country radio market in the country. Flip through your FM dial and you'll hear plenty of twang, but it's all been polished to shapeless oblivion in Nashville. Well, almost all of it. There is one strange holdout, a rare independently owned commercial radio station, at 95.3 FM The Range. There, you'll hear country outlaws and Texas legends and bleeding-heart Americana hipsters and whatever the hell else the eclectic DJs feel like playing. After commercial breaks, the voice of Burton Gilliam (Lyle in Blazing Saddles) will tell you what you're listening to, cackling mischievously. Clear Channel would never abide something this ramshackle — no, this is the work of real, actual music fans.

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