Velvet Taco

There are two kinds of late night food in Dallas: the kind that you don't need alcohol to eat, and the kind that leaves you contemplating the faulty lock on your workplace bathroom stall come morning. Velvet Taco is very much the former. Get past the lengthy wait time and the "I'm paying how much for a single taco?" attitude, and you're well on your way to hangover splendor. Order the elotes — roasted corn in a spicy cream sauce with queso fresco — and tack on one or two of Velvet Taco's larger than life fish or Indian concoctions and you've already forgotten about the mandatory karaoke at your company Christmas party that night.

Lakewood Brewing Co.

Brewery tours are strange. The name implies a guided exploration through the processes and equipment a brewery uses to produce beer, when in reality the tours provide little more than an excuse to consume it. Not that anyone is complaining. We could probably use a few more excuses. The best “tour” by far can be found at Lakewood Brewing Co. in Garland, where a $10 admission gets a generous four pours. Owner Wim Bens gives a blessedly short talk about the brewery, and then he lets his guests get back to what’s really important — drinking more beer. Most Saturdays there’s a food truck parked out back, and musicians fill the brewery floor with energy and music. There may be no finer place to sip from a glass of Hop Trapp or Rock Ryder. It certainly won’t get any fresher than this.

Ginger Man

Really, it’s the only beer shot. Can you think of another in Dallas? But that isn’t the point! Combine two chilly draft favorites, Maredsous 8 and Ace Pear Cider, and you have the crispest, most refreshing beer combo since beer plus your mouth. They tout this mixture as “The Ginger Man Special,” a sweet and sour juncture that takes place on the tip of the tongue. Just be careful, because two of these and you’ll never know what hit you — or whom you hit.

To borrow a note from Jeffrey Tambor in Arrested Development, eating an ice cream sandwich should be a love affair. Indulgent, satisfying and sometimes weird. Bizarre even. And in combinations you wouldn't have dreamed of before the options were suddenly placed in front of you. And CoolHaus has more flavors of both cream and cookies than the Kama Sutra has ways to throw out your back — like olive oil gelato on butterscotch and potato chip cookies. Rice milk and cardamom sorbet on double chocolate sea salt cookies. Or brown butter ice cream filled with chunks of real cooked bacon on, why the hell not, vegan carrot cake cookies. The food truck lines at Klyde Warren Park can get fatally long on sunny summer days, but the blood orange sorbet on rosemary cookies are worth any sunburn. Also, all the sandwiches come in edible wrappers.

Dumplings in broth
Taylor Adams
Dumplings in broth

Cosmo's is a beautiful mystery. Right next door to one of Dallas' greatest dives (see Lakewood Landing), is a place that can pull off the terms "'80s" and "swank" in the same breath. The drinks are as strong as Terminator here, but are softened by whatever is happening in the kitchen. Their Vietnamese options are surprisingly top-notch. The swift crunch of their egg rolls is nice, but pales in comparison to the dishes they serve up on Banh Mi Mondays.

The Elbow Room

Here's the scene: You're saddled up to one of Elbow Room's two ancient pool tables and you're about to knock in that critical black ball when shots arrive at your table, ordered by the girl who thought that was a good idea. Clearly she's never had a shot at Elbow Room. At Elbow Room, shots come in squatty cocktail glasses, not shot glasses — that's because this bar serves shots so big they inspire yo-mama jokes. Order with caution if you had any plans of driving anywhere ever. And remember: Yo mama's so fat she thinks Elbow Room's shots are normal-sized shots.

SODA Bar
Catherine Downes

Sitting high atop NYLO Dallas Southside, the city's coolest new boutique hotel, is a bar that either exists on South Lamar Street or is actually some kind of quantum wormhole that transports patrons to Miami. Let's review the evidence. At Soda Bar, there are lounge chairs surrounding an infinity pool that appears to extend out into an unbroken horizon; a bar ringed with some kind of softly glowing LED light; and billowing curtains, suggesting a Caribbean opulence. Where the South Florida spell ends is at the view. It's often said that Bar Belmont offers one of the finest views of the Dallas skyline. But have you seen it from the south side?

Mike and Connie Hale raise chickens on their farm in Campbell, but not just any chickens. These chickens are hormone-free, antibiotic-free and pastured. The Hales go so far as to house their organically fed ladies in moveable yurts. Yes, yurts. They even process the chickens on-site, which means if you have a question about a Windy Meadows product, Mike Hale can answer it for you because he raised it from beginning to end. For the Hales, it's about providing a quality product you can't find in a typical grocery store. Luckily for you, you can find their chicken, broth, sausage and more in small grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants around Dallas.

Windmill Lounge

Bars are always changing. The stools, fixtures and walls might stay the same for decades, but the customers shift like sand. The Windmill Lounge has served all types, but these days it's a drink-maker's bar. Charlie Papaceno is the bartender's bartender, and though he's not behind the wood every night, he's a fixture here too. Don't be high maintenance and ask him what he makes well, just tell him what you want and you'll end up with a well-made drink. Papaceno stays loyal to classic recipes when he should, but he also throws you a subtle twist to keep things new. While other mixologists twirl their mustaches while telling you about specially procured cloves for their next bitters recipe, Papaceno is a simple craftsman. You're damn right that maraschino cherry is handmade, but he'd never say so unless you asked him.

They lied to you. You don't have to be caught in the rain to enjoy a piña colada. You just have to make happy hour at a strip mall that shares parking with the Kroger in Denton. If you're ordering the piña colada at El Matador, you don't have to play the sacrifice game that often comes with icy, sugary drinks elsewhere: flavor versus alcohol. You get both here. The piña colada is blended so smoothly that you could mistake it for a milkshake ... but a milkshake with a very, very important kick.

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