Love and War in Texas

Texas country is somewhat different from red dirt country, quite different from alt-country and a whole hell of a lot different from bro-country. Texas country is real; it's not full of glitz and glitter, and it's not about trucks or bass fishing or taking shots or dancing. It's about living in this nation's greatest state and all that entails. That's why Love and War in Texas is Dallas' best country bar. It ignores everything else and just gives you the best in Texas country on as many nights of the week as possible.

Write a book about experiences you don't remember. It's a riddle of a premise, but Dallas native Sarah Hepola wasn't afraid of a challenge. Her relationship with alcohol, which continued despite crippling blackouts, is the subject of her memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. It's a tale of recovery that will move anyone who's struggled with substances or knows someone who has, but it's relatable on other levels. It's a beautifully and often humorously written exploration of memory and the pain of reconciling big dreams with bigger doubts. Hepola dedicates the book to "anyone who needs it." If you ask us, that's everyone.

sarahhepola.com

Because secondhand embarrassment is real, we sometimes get nervous before seeing stand-up comics. Good jokes take risks, which means any comedian with hope of being good is just as likely to get crickets as big laughs. When Clint Werth takes the stage, however, you forget to be nervous for him. Werth is not just funny "for a little-known stand-up" or "better than you expected of a local comic." His stage presence and dark, self-deprecating perspective — on topics such as his neighbors, who treat him like he's a pedophile or a shut-in, never suspecting that he might actually just be stealing their cigarettes — may remind you of other depressive yet outrageous comics like Louis CK, but Werth's material doesn't feel derivative. He's his own hilarious animal.

clintwerth.com

This is the best bar to watch soccer in Dallas. This is also the best bar to watch the Cowboys play, which you might find hard to believe because it's not located in some posh neighborhood or in an old rundown building. The clientele is 99 percent Latino, but gringos, don't be shy. When a local team is playing, Ojos Locos is always packed out and it's an amazingly good time. Really, there's no better place to watch any game in Dallas.

Round-Up Saloon

This cowboy-themed bar is a Cedar Springs legend, and for good reason. In addition to the frequently cheap drink specials, cute boys (and girls) dressed in western wear and RuPaul's Drag Race watch-parties, Round-Up is the place every celebrity in the world heads to when he or she visits Dallas. Lady Gaga is known to frequent the spot, and you can see plenty of Drag Race faves just enjoying cocktails and dancing to country tunes. Their karaoke night is also widely considered one of the best in the city, so don't be afraid to bust out your best rendition of "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" after a few Long Island iced teas. Maybe Gaga will discover you and you can ride her coattails all the way to stardom.

At some of the nation's top shopping malls, the "Santa experience" is being retooled. A Santa show produced by DreamWorks, for example, promises a "fully immersive story hosted by characters," including "a thrilling four-minute flight on Santa's sleigh." The shows Dallas puppet maestro John Hardman has produced with his Le Theatre de Marionette for 40 years are a flight in the opposite direction, back to a pre-pixel Punch and Judy time. His free Scrooge Puppet Theatre at NorthPark Center every holiday season — witty ad-libbed insults from Dickens' old miser — is borne of an ancient art form that entrances even today's over-entertained children and adults.

John Hardman Productions, 214-824-6435
Station 4

If you're really trying to shake your groove thing, Station 4 is the only place to go in Dallas. This massive club on Cedar Springs is always playing pulsing techno, and the dense crowd means you won't have to be self-conscious about your moves. In addition to the five-plus dance floors, you can also get tips on dancing from the drag queens performing in The Rose Room. If you're the type who has to be really, really drunk to dance, you can a) accomplish that, or b) just stand in the corner and observe as people of all walks of life dance the night away. Don't be surprised to see a few in full-on furry costumes grinding on the stage or a Lady Gaga impersonator getting it on with a guy who looks like an Abercrombie model. Anything can happen at Station 4.

No matter what you've heard about the Dallas school board over the last year, picking the best member isn't easy. Miguel Solis, for example, did a yeoman's job as board president, stitching together consensus in a body ripped by controversy. But Mike Morath is the one who has suffered the worst slings and arrows, usually for his devotion to research and logical thinking. Through it all he has displayed a remarkable ability to grin and bear it. Asked recently if he thought the end could be near for public education, he said, "If we give up on public schools, we give up on America."

District 2, Dallas Independent School District, 214-925-3700, mikemorath.com

District 1 (Oak Cliff) Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs is known outside his district for leadership in citywide battles against bad stuff like fracking operations near homes and schools and that stupid toll road they want to build along the river. But he's better known inside his district for the unheralded hard work of constituent services, seeing to it the parkways get mowed and business start-ups don't get shut down by red tape. A constituent said she was surprised recently that Griggs had heard about her getting mugged and had spoken to the police department about the incident on her behalf. "I'm just a nobody," she said. But nobody's nobody in Scott Griggs' district.

District 1, Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St., Room 5FN, 214-670-0776, scottgriggsdallas.com

You know the satisfaction of walking into a bar and realizing you've found exactly what you've been looking for? For Dallas metal heads, that feeling comes as they step through the doors of Reno's Chop Shop. It has been an institution of the Dallas metal scene for years. The bar keeps things simple, which is a large part of its appeal. Not much legwork goes into planning for a night parked at Reno's. The drink? Beer. The attire? Black. The music? Heavy. Plus, the attached venue hosts some of the wildest bands on earth, solidifying Reno's metal credentials.

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