Best All-Ages Venue 2014 | Dada | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

It's hard out there for the under-21 music fan. You have to sneak your own booze in and venues up-charge you on tickets as sort of a bizarre punishment for you having your whole future in front of you, but lucky for you Dada has your back. They get all the up-and-coming shows and make it a point to let fans of all ages enjoy themselves. When you think about it, it's sort of cute to see some teens running around having their minds blown by their first real show.

Patrick Williams

Far removed from the usual bar and club spots in Dallas, It'll Do has carved out a little oasis off Columbia Avenue in Old East Dallas. A big dance floor, no VIP, no bottle service and one of the best club sound systems in town make for a true-to-roots dance club experience that at times feels just like an old warehouse party. The booking is top-notch, featuring some of the best talent in underground dance music. Simian Mobile Disco, Roy Davis Jr., Doc Scott, Kevin Saunderson, Maceo Plex, MK, Mark Farina, Disclosure, Juan Atkins and James Murphy are among the international club heavyweights who have brought heat to It'll Do. To see most of these DJs you have to travel halfway across the country and still probably have to see them at a festival. Supported by the always dependable resident DJ Red Eye and every now and then some of the city's finest house DJs, It'll Do has filled a void in Dallas' long legacy of house music that had been needing a proper home for many years.

A triple Best of Dallas winner this year, Dada is a welcoming place not only for all ages, but for those with all kinds of musical tastes. In an average week at Dada you can see indie, rock, rap, metal, country, folk and probably country-metal, if you look hard enough. Dada's not fussy about genres. Many venues around Dallas have a set place, and that's good too — you know where you can go to see a particular genre you enjoy. At Dada, though, every single kind of music will come through that divine patio and into a room with a weird-angled stage and cheap booze (sorry, kids), and that kind of eclecticism is good for Dallas.

While North Texas has a more than an adequate array of outdoor venues and patio stages, and although the climate may be unbearable at times, there are still a few outdoor settings that cater well to the music lovers of the outdoorsy type. Among them, Klyde Warren Park easily sets the standard. With the city's skyline serving as the backdrop, the concerts range anywhere from large-scale shows by notable artists to intimate singer-songwriter performances. This architecturally attractive setting, now approaching its two-year anniversary, isn't necessarily a traditional venue, nor a staple entity among Dallas' list of stages in the open air; they don't even charge admission. Touring artists don't typically book shows here, and while that is best left to grandiose outdoor auditoriums saturated with corporate sponsorships and overpriced beer, what is gained from a concert at Klyde Warren Park is the quintessential outdoor experience at the heart of downtown coupled with a humble appreciation for local musicians of all varieties.

JR's has been pouring drinks on the Cedar Springs strip since 1980. The lively bar is split into two different sections; the downstairs is adorned in dark wood and has the feel of a charming, old-school pub, while the upper level feels more like a Miami nightclub decked out in stark white walls, crystal chandeliers and LED lights. There's a different drink special at JR's every night of the week (yes, even on the weekends), making it the perfect spot to grab a draft beer, or even a fancy Irish coffee with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

"We gladly serve gator because they would gladly serve you," says the menu, giving some attitude in its explanation for why a dish of fried alligator and french fries is on there. The Free Man is on Commerce, away from most of the Deep Ellum nightlife and music venues. That's for the best, as it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the neighborhood anyway. This quirky, fiercely independent lounge brings bluesy, New Orleans-style jazz and swing music to an otherwise quiet block every night. The drinks are strong, and the kitchen serves Cajun favorites such as gator, crawfish and jambalaya. At least two jazz bands play most nights, and regular performers include the The Free Loaders and the Savoy Swing Band. The lounge gets its name from an American libertarian journal, and the bar is decorated accordingly with anti-government posters and signs. It's not just a shtick: The lounge recently played host to Rocky Palmquist, the Libertarian candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner.

Doyle Rader
Boilermaker, Grandpa's Glory

Single Wide offers the same cheap deal as Double Wide, its sister bar: $2 wells and domestic beers every weekday from 5 to 9 p.m. Both bars attract an artsy-looking but unpretentious, slightly punk, tattooed crowd. But Single Wide's patrons are a little older, calmer and generally less annoying for anyone who just got off a long day of work, and business clothes worn to Single Wide are far less likely to get anything spilled on them by a fresh-faced 21-year-old. This is a mellower dive bar. It gets crowded during the weekend and isn't a bad place to party. But it's best as a judgment-free zone for anyone who just needs to get wasted in the middle of the week.

Every Thursday, The Travis Disco is home to a clubbing experience that calls itself a dance party, and feels like one too. That's probably because DJ Sober learned his trade not at sleazy clubs but at house parties, spinning vinyl in people's homes before he went on to become a successful local DJ. Sober has since become a regular in this newspaper, most recently taking home the best producer award for the Observer's annual music awards. Last year, Sober teamed up with another DJ, Dallas' PicnicTyme, to form a popular new production duo called Booty Fade, playing what they describe as New Orleans bounce and Dallas boogie. But you don't have to be cool enough to know what those phrases mean to appreciate the simple fact that Sober puts on a good party. His Travis events cram together people of all ages, races and style of dress, a rarity in Uptown.

Best Spot to Be Drunk and Yell at Tourists

Grassy Knoll

Now that Dallas has marked the 50th anniversary of JFK's murder, the city is moving on from the tragedy. It's time to acknowledge that the Grassy Knoll is a great spot to hide in and yell at people. The most elevated point at Dallas' knoll has an excellent view of tourists below, all of whom appear very interested to hear any Dallas factoids, personal revelations or conspiracy theories shouted at them from above. For people intent on yelling at tourists all night, showing up drunk tends to yield more creative results, such as the ever popular "Al Qaeda did it!" Other fun knoll-related activities include just silently sitting and not yelling at people and rolling down the hill.

The last Thursday of every month, Klyde Warren Park hosts a free concert that comes alive when the weather is warm. Close to the stage, hundreds of people gathered on a recent Thursday to dance to an awesome light show while Red Eye, Rob Vaughan and DJ Love spun records until around 10 p.m. Away from the tightly packed groups of dancers, hundreds more people lounged on picnic blankets and towels in the grass, enjoying the people-watching, drinks and food from dozens of trucks surrounding the park. People can argue all they want that Dallas is a snobby city with no sense of community, but the diverse group of young and old partiers crammed together, clubbing for free in the outdoors, would disagree.

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