Best Bartender 2016 | Máté Hartai | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Bartenders do not solely exist to crack open your cans of Lone Star and stir up your Moscow mules. They are also our "psychiatrists, comforters, wingmen, shoulders to cry on and always-waiting high five," Máté Hartai, beverage director of HG Sply and Remedy, reminded us in a Facebook post that went viral in July. Dallas had just been shaken by the killing of five police officers, but he found the words to explain what made bartenders and bars such an integral part of our lives and the healing process. "We have a city in shock, hurt, scared, angry, bleeding," he wrote. "Our greatest gift is that regardless of what happens, people come to us. In times of joy, sadness, celebration, mourning and all the shades of human emotion. They come to us." To Hartai, being a bartender is more than a job. It is a higher calling.

Readers' Pick:

Gabe Sanchez, Black Swan Saloon

It just feels wrong even telling people this, because when you step into Sprouts you feel all sanctimoniously healthy and low-fat and gluten-free just for being there, but it's a fact: Sprouts has one of the best selections of taffy anywhere – all those traditional flavors like lemon and licorice, of course, but also a rotating variety of off-beat flavors like bubblegum and watermelon, and all at pretty cheap prices. But you have to hunt for it. They keep it on this rolling bin that they move around the store, hiding it behind the produce or the candle shelf like it's their food porn section and they don't want to shock people with it. Always pinch the taffy first, by the way, to make sure it's fresh. So now you know. Shield your eyes.

Root beer, mango, spicy ginger ale, orange mint green tea, creamy caramel, coffee, horchata, all frozen on a stick. So sit at the counter and watch the scene pass you by on Lower Greenville, or take your popsicle out there and join it. Yeah, at three bucks a pop, it's not free, but compare it with anything else you can do. A visit to Steel City Pops is a mellow interlude and a chance to commune with the flavors of the universe, some of them old-fashioned and reminiscent, some of them new and surprising and a few that are just weird as hell, but remember, it's just a popsicle. How much can you lose? And so much to gain.

Holy bloody mary, Batman! This beast of a drink is more than just a brunch accompaniment. It's a whole meal. Available during their F**k Brunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends), this perfectly spicy brunch treat is delivered to your table with a slider, shrimp, sausage, assorted veggies and whatever else they decide to throw on there. The best part? You get a small beer to wash it down.

Readers' Pick:

Ozona Grill & Bar

This was officially the year Dallas hit critical mass on Southern food — every third high-profile restaurant opening touted yet another take on homey Southern fare, from $27 meatloaf to $36 buckets of fried chicken. In Deep Ellum, one spot consistently churns out interesting Southern eats: Filament. The fried hot catfish is more injurious than delicious, but otherwise it's hard to go wrong with dishes like hoppin' John, Cajun-fried oysters and Berkshire pork short ribs.

Victor Tangos has perfected the art of the liquid dinner. At this restaurant bar, the cocktails include culinary ingredients, many savory, and are composed like dishes: the Pepper Smash contains red bell peppers, the Cool Like That is made with a peach and radicchio purée and the Hipster Elixir is spiked with kale. Those definitely count toward your daily five. The real food program, if you must know, is made up of addictive sharable plates such as crispy ahi tuna nachos and tempura asparagus drizzled with fish-sauce caramel. If you're eating and drinking at Victor Tangos from atop a bar stool, you could even get away with calling its elegant restaurant fare "bar snacks."

Kathy Tran

People didn't really know what to think of Armoury D.E. when it opened in Deep Ellum in the summer of 2015. Boilermakers and Hungarian food in an industrial space? But the team behind the concept — local bar and restaurant vets Peter Novotny, Dan Murry, Johnny Brown and chef Abram Vargas — trusted we would get it. Eventually. Now the place is packed nightly (and strangely, at brunch) with Armoury D.E. addicts slurping up bowls of gulyas and slamming beer-and-shot duos like the Naked Varas: a Modelo and shot of well mezcal. The bar has a well mezcal! And since the kitchen is open until 2 a.m., you can end your night of boozing with the perfect drunk food, cheese spaetzle, even if you're in the last Uber out of Deep Ellum. OK, we get Armoury D.E. now.

We knew Rapscallion on Lowest Greenville made exceptional cocktails after trying the Kern N' Oil, its take on the classic Corn N' Oil. The original is made with blackstrap rum, Falernum (a syrup used in tiki drinks) and a squeeze of lime; Rapscallion's version includes a grilled lime wheel and bitters, making it surprisingly earthy. Huh. That's interesting. Then we tried another drink. Also good. What kind of magic was barman Eddie Eakin, who came over from Boulevardier, working exactly? And we kept going back, making our way down the cocktail menu and then back up it, eating hot fried chicken and quickly turning into Rapscallion devotees. But we may love the place most for its little-known tiki night. On Tuesdays the bartenders wiggle into Hawaiian shirts, pass out a special tropical drinks list and whip up brain-freezing concoctions like the Nuclear Banana Daiquiri (rum, banana liqueur, Falernum, lime juice and a punch of Yellow Chartreuse). The carefully made drinks are topped with colorful umbrellas and plastic monkey toys and served with an irreverence that's hard to come by in this town. See you there.

With an emphasis on European bar eats, new Deep Ellum eatery Independent Bar & Kitchen serves up filling fare like Scotch eggs, bangers and mash and shepherd's pie. The cocktails are solid, brunch is a hit and the full English breakfast is an artery-clogging plate of U.K. pride.

Lauren Drewes Daniels

Sounds weird, tastes great. Chef Nico went all-in with this rich yet refreshing margarita made with muddled avocado, pineapple and lime juices and triple sec. With the first sip, the heavens open up and the birds sing (in Spanish, obviously). With the second sip, you'll decide that no other margarita will be ever good enough for you. (Oh, you'll drink them, but you'll be thinking of this avocado margarita.)

Readers' Pick:


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