Lakewood Landing

Huddled in the back around a dark corner by the restrooms in Lakewood Landing's caught-out-of-time bar lies a lone pool table. Really, it's a pool table cave. A single wooden shelf lines the perimeter of the walls and hosts an array of long-forgotten beer and cocktail glasses, and an old couch to fall onto when you miss that easy corner-pocket shot. Sitting nearby is a jukebox blasting everything from obscure local music to hip-hop to old Motown hits. The pool cave is one of Dallas' best places to blow off steam.

He's familiar to DFW dance fans as the founder of the Track Meet DJ collective, but Rodrigo Diaz, aka Ynfynyt Scroll, stands on his own. His new residency alongside Lil' Texas at Beauty Bar features a seamless mix of rowdy hits and obscurities. Diaz seeks new music tirelessly and omnivorously, playing everything from brand new Southern hip-hop to reggaeton to whatever he finds poking around the foreign corners of Soundcloud.

As country music just keeps betting harder and harder on boring and shiny and stuff that really isn't even country at all, DJ Mike Crow digs his heels even deeper into the red dirt of Texas' country heroes. He created the Honky Tonk Texas show, now hosted by Mark "Hawkeye" Louis on KSCS-FM 96.3. And now Crow's settled in at 92.1 Hank FM, where he hosts Crowman's Honky Tonk Texas Highway for four hours every weekday morning. Live from the Stockyards in Fort Worth, Crow plays The Highwaymen and all who follow in their shit-kicking bootprints.

The choppers parked out front and the death metal roaring in back may be intimidating, but even non-biker non-metalheads get a warm welcome from the bartenders and regulars at Reno's. The drinks are cheap and come in plastic disposable cups that won't send glass shards flying if things get too rowdy. The bands that play are as heavy as they come, ranging from hardcore to grindcore to death metal to thrash. And it was the perfect setting for a biker to pull out a tooth during the Dallas Observer Music Awards showcase last year — where else but Reno's?

Lakewood Landing

It's so dark inside Lakewood Landing no one will ever know if you've been there for one drink or five. "Private" doesn't begin to cover the seclusion you'll find in a booth, but the bar remains social most of the time. Whether you're a regular or a newcomer, you're welcome to join in, enjoy the eclectic offerings of the jukebox and get comfortable. They don't start serving those legendary corn dogs until midnight, and you'll want to be there when they start.

It's as comfortable as your oldest pair of jeans, so it's hard to believe Twilite Lounge has only been open since June. Dark stained wood and warm lighting give it a timeless feel, like somewhere your grandparents might have imbibed. The New Orleans-style back patio beckons even non-smokers to enjoy the evening cool. The selection of beers, wines and spirits is well thought-out but not overwhelming. And the jukebox. Oh, the jukebox, with its funk, R&B, jazz, classic country and '90s indie rock, sets the mood perfectly. We linger too long at most bars' jukeboxes because it's such a task to find a tolerable song, but here it's because we can't narrow our possible choices down to a manageable number. Add in performances by an eclectic mix of solo musicians, jazz combos and even stand-up comics and you've got precisely the bar Deep Ellum (and Dallas as a whole) needed.

Humperdinks NW Hwy

The easy line on Humperdink's is about size: The place serves 100-ounce beer towers and features TV screens larger than 100 inches. Those are strong qualities in a sports bar, true, but it's actually the attention to littler things that appeals most about the chain, which started on Greenville Avenue in 1976 and now has four locations in the area. The littler things include a shuttle from the Arlington location to either AT&T Stadium or The Ballpark. At $10 round trip for up to four people, it isn't history's greatest deal, but it definitely beats parking at either venue. And the pre-gaming is considerably better than cans of Bud Light — Humperdink's own brews have won Great American Beer Fest medals.

Three Links

Three Links, which took the space of La Grange in Deep Ellum just a few months after the old venue closed, hasn't had much time to establish its rock bar credentials. But it hasn't wasted a second. The co-ownership of scene staples Kris Youmans, Scott Beggs and Oliver Peck got the bar off to a strong start, and an early run of raucous shows proved the three men weren't afraid to break in their shiny new sound system with furious tests by the likes of The Dwarves. But even when there's no one onstage, Three Links is a fine place for a drink — the staff and beer selection are both superb.

When On the Eve, the new rock musical about time travelers, written by Michael Federico and Home by Hovercraft's Seth and Sean Magill, opened at the Magnolia Lounge in late 2012, it was an instant hit with critics and theatergoers. The performances were stellar but just as impressive were things director and designer Jeffrey Schmidt did to make a no-budget production look and feel like a million bucks. Long interested in sustainable design for the stage, Schmidt recycled bits and bobs of other shows' scenery, plus kids' drawings, stuff pulled from Dumpsters and, in a final swoosh of theatrical drama, a swath of parachute silk that flew over the audience like a rippling piece of blue sky. Schmidt, a longtime director and designer at Theatre Three (he directed and designed the spiffy dark comedy Enron there earlier this year), gets to enlarge On the Eve when that theater restages it for a longer run in 2014. Watch, he'll do more with less than any show you've ever seen there.

Round-Up Saloon

What makes a great honky-tonk? In fact, what makes a honky-tonk at all, instead of just a bar that plays country music sometimes? It's a few key ingredients: A spacious, well-used wooden dance floor, no fewer than three places you can buy your Lone Star and a commitment to some Wild West ideal shared by patrons and staff alike. Round-Up Saloon in Oak Lawn possesses all three. You'll see better line-dancing there than at Love and War or Billy Bob's or anywhere else around (maybe it's the lessons the place offers three nights a week), and the company's fine along any of the joint's several hundred feet of bar space. Sometimes, a cowboy just needs another cowboy.

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