Best Place to See an Outdoor Show 2014 | Klyde Warren Park | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

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.

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.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of