Best Comedy Club 2017 | Addison Improv | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

What happens when you get comedians and actors Charlyne Yi, Thomas Lennon, Udo Kier and Michael Pare together? They head to the Addison Improv. (And no, that wasn't the punch line to a bad joke.) This spring, they were all in town filming Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and took a trip to see their friend, Craig Robinson, perform at the Addison comedy house. Few comedians, save Louis CK, Bill Maher and Jerry Seinfeld, are big enough to fill out a venue like the Majestic or Music Hall at Fair Park; anyone else who's any good — and there a lot of them — heads to the Improv. In addition to Robinson, this year the club hosted Piff the Magic Dragon, Steve-O of Jackass fame and India's most famous comic, Vir Das. Addison Improv is useful, too. If you're working off a ticket, it has a defensive driving course that, unlike most, won't bore you to tears and is somehow also legit.

Readers' Pick: Addison Improv

Mike Brooks

Eighteen years after it quit playing, legendary Dallas rock band Tripping Daisy returned for a victory lap. Its first show back, at Club Dada, was packed equally with Gen-Xers who followed them closely in the '90s and young fans who had, until that moment, never had a chance to hear the MTV hit "I Got a Girl" performed live. The reception was so positive and powerful that the band played for two hours, including repeats of six songs. The reunion continued with two more dates in the Dallas area — at Homegrown Fest and NyTex Sports Centre — as well as gigs in Houston, Waco, San Antonio and Austin. Frontman Tim DeLaughter remained vague about the band's future, but when the NyTex gig arrived, it was clear another goodbye was imminent. Energy at the show was sky high, with laser lights, bubbles, 750 pounds of confetti and numerous crowd-surfers, including DeLaughter's son. Breaking up is hard to do, but we applaud the band for giving the brief reunion its all and leaving us wanting more. Here's hoping DeLaughter was serious when he said the group might return in another 18 years.

Dallas Observer

Strokers Ice House isn't a "Disneyland for bikers." It's as close to motorcycle paradise as can be found on Harry Hines Boulevard near Love Field with its custom motorcycle fabrication studio, bar and tattoo parlor, and live music. Revered custom bike builder Rick Fairless wanted it to be a one-stop shop for bikers, a place where classic rock and blues hold court for the 500 to 1,000 bikes that roll through Strokers on a given night. "It's definitely a biker bar," Tony Avezzano, the former owner of Hat Tricks, a live music venue in Lewisville, told the Observer in June 2016. "But it's not a rough place with a bunch of big biker dudes fighting all the time."

Dallas Observer

If you're going to drunkenly stumble into a bar bathroom to take a piss, it might as well be entertaining. Nothing says a Saturday night out on the town like crying alone in a bathroom stall. And if you're going to do that, you might as well have a nice view. Adair's Saloon's bathroom isn't necessarily nice or where you would want to change a baby's diaper, but it's fun. And by fun, we mean covered in graffiti. "Let go and let God" and other seemingly inspirational sayings fill the walls. Or, you know, you can always call Susie for a good time. Either way, wander into Adair's bathroom for a leak or cry next time you're there and add your own message. We all need it.

Patrick Perez

It's long been said that Deep Ellum begins at Elm and Exhibition streets with Sons of Hermann Hall. Times may be a-changin', but this mainstay country and western Dallas fixture ain't goin' nowhere. It's old as hell, having remained unmoved since 1890. Still used as a private lodge, the building is now a Texas Historic Landmark and was home to native daughter Kelly Clarkson's first audition for American Idol. Visit the downstairs dive bar for drinks over a game of shuffleboard, or take a tour of the lodge's historical bowling alley. It's rumored to be haunted, but as the dance floor announcer says, "Welcome to Texas, boys and girls, that's fantastic!" Not much has changed inside the Sons of Hermann Hall since its inception year, when Benjamin Harrison was president. Can we all agree that's a beautiful thing?

Readers' Pick: Billy Bob's Texas

Kathy Tran

Beautiful people. Technically gifted dancers. The occasional Lady Gaga appearance. Polish up them spurs, y'all, because not only is 37-year-old Round Up Saloon the best gay bar in Dallas, it's been voted, word has it, the best in the nation. Tim Smith, the statewide president of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, tells us its original name was Magnolia Thunderpussies. This has not been verified, but dang it, of course it was. If you're a person with dance envy, no need to worry: The dance floor is huge, so you can join fellow onlookers around the edges and watch the people do their thangs. Don't let the comparatively timid pre-midnight crowd fool you; come 12 o'clock, Round Up turns into a cowboy's dream. Perhaps the best thing about Round Up is that it's a melting pot. You're as likely to encounter a den of straight cheerleading moms as you are a Stetson-sporting, belt buckle-polishing group of vaqueros.

Readers' Pick: Round-Up Saloon

Courtesy Gemma Restaurant

This minimalist, high-end restaurant really knows how to create an ideal happy hour. Happy hours usually land within 3-7 p.m., but Gemma has a "reversed" happy hour that goes from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. It offers $6 specialty cocktails, $3 beers, $6 selected wines and $2 oysters. Raw, delicious and affordable oysters ... Gemma wins Best Happy Hour just for that. Gemma has a grasp on what is quality while making sure to not complicate a menu by listing too much. If your partner is a lover of Bob Dylan's music, grab the "Tangled Up In Blue," which has Tito's Vodka, fresh blueberries, blueberry shrub, lavender syrup, lemon, house vanilla and Vouvray sparkling wine. If you want a cocktail with more spice and burn, check out the Texas Heat, which has jalapeño-infused tequila, lemon, cilantro and lime. So treat yourself to a late night of delicious drinks, oysters and top-notch service.

Hannah Ridings

When Free Play Arcade opened its first location in Richardson in 2015, it was the first video game arcade to offer a buffet of classic games to more grownup players. It also offered a true retro feel, from the neon striped walls to the sounds of '80s staples like Rush and Cyndi Lauper filling the air. Free Play Arcade's massive success brought a new level of competition among the local arcade scene and brought on some interesting competition with new entries like the Bishop Cider Company's Cidercade and the eSports-focused Versus Gameplay in Plano. Free Play Arcade fired back by expanding its empire to a second, much larger location in Arlington that provides more space to show off an impressive collection of classic video game machines that are set to open play without requiring those annoying credits to continue. The arcade chain takes a moral obligation to achieving greatness by refusing to install emulating machines that cram hundreds of titles into one cabinet. Owner Corey Hyden dedicates his time to making sure his customers feel like they've stepped into the same video game arcade they visited when their parents had to drive them there or they weren't old enough to order any of the adult beverages served by Free Play's bartenders. The only difference is that they don't have to carry around the $10 in quarters needed to beat the Evil MC boss at the end of Smash TV.

Bryan Coonrad

JT Donaldson is so much more than just a DJ. With his involvement with local vinyl holy ground Josey Records, Donaldson has the well-curated label New Math Records, a more than 20-year career as a producer and a string of reputable residencies around town. With his New Math Mondays Residency at Off the Record, he has also filled the role of talent buyer, featuring some of the most forward-thinking Dallas artists along with notable artists and DJs from all over the country, like house heavyweights Seven Davis Jr. and Honey Dijon. The connecting thread through all these roles is curation, one of the most important roles of any club DJ, and Donaldson's fine ear runs through everything he does, especially his actual DJ sets. Although his discography of music boasts more than 50 releases stretching back to the mid '90s, his expert cart-digging skills have served him well.

Readers' Pick: DJ Red Eye

Kathy Tran

Rock music has a home in Deep Ellum, and that home is Three Links. With a calendar that leans heavy toward the punk side of things, Three Links still covers all kinds of ground, from touring punk and indie acts to up-and-coming local bands of all stripes, along with a who's who of classic punk bands. Every Tuesday, it hosts a performance by funk and soul outfit Colab, curating one of the most consistent weeknight events in Deep Ellum showcasing bands from the groovier side of the Dallas music scene. The room is the perfect size for small road shows and local acts without skimping on top-notch sound. This makes for a standout experience for live music fans. In a neighborhood that seems to look less and less like the Deep Ellum we used to know, Three Links is a welcome constant for live music.

Readers' Pick: Gas Monkey Live!

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