Best Outdoor Summer Dance Marathon 2014 | Decks in the Park | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

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.

Some pub quizzes are too crowded. Some have hosts whose jokes are so awful you want to slide under the table in embarrassment for them. Some have hosts who are so manic it's exhausting just to watch them. And some have questions that are just too hard — come on, we went to public school. Ten Bells Tavern's manages to find the sweet spot, with challenging but not impossibly hard queries that are right in the wheelhouse for the big but not too big crowds of twenty- and thirtysomething Oak Cliff pub patrons who come out weekly. Hosts Scott Porter (of Record Hop fame), Grant Jones (sans The Pistol Grip Lassos) and a rotating cast of standup comedians keep it fun during four rounds of 10 questions, with a different theme for each round. You might get 10 questions about marijuana, Monty Python, condiments or just 10 random subjects. And with the comedians doing sets before and after the quiz, even if you don't win the $50 or $25 gift card prize, at least you get a free show out of it.

You know that old trick where you clear out a bar by picking some terrible song on the jukebox and play it on repeat for as many spins as a five-spot or sawbuck will cover? It can't be done at the Twilite Lounge. There, the jukebox's CDs (yes, CDs, not that Internet crap where you pay double to download a song someone else hasn't previously chosen) may not all be to your taste, but it's clear they were carefully picked by people who know good music. Which makes sense, as the bar is owned by musicians Jess Barr and Danny Balis. There are R&B, classic country, jazz and local rock — Johnny Cash, the Beatles, Bob Marley and many more all rub shoulders in the old-school mechanical jukebox. And they all fit the vibe of the cozy, dimly chandelier-lit, rich wood-paneled Deep Ellum joint — effortlessly cool.

If you're sick of waiting in line to sing a song you barely know to a tune you don't recall, ditch your usual spot and head to the Windmill Lounge's Thursday night karaoke. It might be known as one of the best cocktail bars in the city, but it's about time the Windmill earned recognition for its karaoke. DJ Raye offers more song choices than any Thursday night crooner deserves and won't let anyone skip the line. Whether you're a first-time one-note or a regular, it's heaven for Carly Simon wannabes or "All That Jazz" reproductions. Just sit back, sip your drink and attempt to hit the high notes.

Often at concerts and local shows, the lull between bands means that you'll see a bunch of faces lit by the glow of their smartphones as they peck out texts, hunt for Tinder matches or read their Twitter feeds. But at the Granada, sometimes they're all lit by ... well, a Twitter feed. At least it's a somewhat more communal feed, as a big screen displays the sometimes funny, sometimes ridiculous and sometimes offensive tweets from patrons to the venue's account. (Though one doesn't have to be present to get a tweet up there, references to the show make it clear that generally participants are indeed in the building.) Sometimes it's the most entertaining part of the show: People at indie-rock shows are as good at issuing snarky one-liners as the bands are at staring at their feet.

Finding good jazz spots in Dallas is a slippery proposition, but hardly impossible. Often, impromptu performances and roaming venues deliver the highest quality jazz to our city, but like any great one-off exhibition, these come few and far between. If what you're after is a settled locale, the Dallas Museum of Art is the best place in town. The DMA's weekly "Jazz in the Atrium" series is the most consistently rewarding live jazz offering in Dallas. From 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday just outside the DMA café, the museum plays host to a different jazz group, typically local but always high-caliber. The kicker is that, aside from cocktails and food, the evening is completely free of charge, including a stroll through the museum's exhibits if the mood should strike you.

If you want to see a rap show, just like a metal or punk or anything show in Dallas, it would behoove you to hang around Deep Ellum. Trees is a great place to catch rising mainstream stars before they make the jump from clubs to venues with names sponsored by corporations. Thanks to The Door's setup as a dark and dank space, it exudes the do-it-yourself culture of rap. Those places are great, but Dada, where niche acts and kings of the local scene drop by at steady and alarming pace, is the crown jewel of places to see rap in Dallas. The bills at Dada are wonderful, yes, but there's nothing like going 0 to 100 real quick in that small and intimate space. There's something that's just so charming about the energy.

This authentic sit-down Mexican restaurant offers hearty staples like $1.30 tacos, free salsa and chips and a full bar. It's open until 2 a.m. on weeknights and all night over the weekend. But this restaurant has something that other late-night establishments in Dallas don't have: children. The kids come with their parents. They're even there on Tuesday nights, when drag performers such as Extasis Show put on sparkly dresses for a full night of singing and jokes. The drag performance is in Spanish, but gringos can enjoy the lively scene and music while scarfing down barbacoa. There's something particularly awesome about watching kids and parents laugh together at a confident performer who may or may not be making jokes about the size of his penis.

Best Hotel Lobby to Make Yourself at Home

The Joule

There are always at least two doormen waiting by the entrance of the Joule hotel lobby, and they will not let anyone else touch the door. It can feel awkward. All guests who approach will immediately have the door held open for them whether they want it or not. After being ushered in with such aggressive politeness, visitors can relax with a pile of free copies of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times or The Dallas Morning News. The restrooms are beautifully decorated, offering full-length doors in front of each stall for maximum privacy. Instead of paper towels, guests dry their hands with cloths and then throw the towels in a basket. A lobby cafe called Weekend sells excellent coffee and pastries. Surrounding the cafe is ample seating, Wi-Fi and a wide selection of arty coffee table books that people read without even buying. The best part is that no one seems to care whether visitors are actually guests at the hotel, though that may change if anybody buys too many drinks from the lobby bar and passes out on one of the comfy couches.

Doyle Rader
Boilermaker, Grandpa's Glory

It's a question as old as hangovers: What exactly constitutes a dive bar? To some, true dive bars are not social places so much as dark, dank watering holes where customers can get away from the rest of the world. But to hell with that. Our checklist for dive bars includes such quaint features as wood paneling, hubcaps on the wall, curtains on the windows and, what the hell, a velvet painting or two. Most important, it's a place to have fun and meet people. In those regards, Single Wide — the younger sibling to Kim Finch's flagship bar, Double Wide — covers the bases. There isn't a better bar along Lower Greenville to slam your Lone Stars and Jamesons while listening to a DJ spin post-punk or, on Sundays, some real stand-up karaoke performances. The tight quarters and smoking patio only encourage socializing.

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