BEST SPORTS BAR 2013 | Humperdink's | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

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, 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.

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.

It's new to the public and, so far, only open on Thursdays, but the space underneath the Travis Disco is already the finest place to dance in Dallas. For years reserved for VIPs, the bar maintains its feeling of exclusivity. Its nooks and crannies are filled with things like odd taxidermy and shiny wallpaper, and its main room is just the right size for smallish parties. The entrance, a door in an alley behind which hangs a ridiculous golden chandelier, makes the place immediately feel different. The programming has helped — so far it's DJ Sober's Big Bang party, which moved from Beauty Bar this summer and is already a hit at the new location.

Mike Brooks

There are louder places in Dallas, and places with bigger names and bigger lights. But no place takes concerts as seriously as The Kessler. Its immaculate sound and respectful crowds afford every show the opportunity to be something truly memorable, and recent shows by Rebirth Brass Band, Lucinda Williams and others have added to the growing legacy of the old theater. It's been open as a music venue for a little more than four years, and there's every reason to believe the Kessler is headed for an even brighter future — this ship's got one hell of a captain in talent buyer/manager Jeff Liles, a Dallas music elder of the highest order.

On weekend nights, R.L.'s Blues Palace No. 2 is sort of like church. Cars fill the spacious lot to bursting, and smartly dressed twosomes and tensomes walk up to the door. Inside, long tables ensure everyone gets to know a neighbor or two. The show starts at 10:30 on the nose, and immediately it becomes clear why all these people came early and paid their $10 at the door. The house band here is better, tighter and more entertaining than almost any you'll see stopping through venues of any size anywhere in town. They play a variety show of rhythm and blues. One minute it's old classics and the next it's up-tempo contemporary-sounding jams, but it all beckons the crowd onto the dance floor. After a few bottles of Bud or BYOB cocktails, everyone ends up out there.

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.

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