Best Theater Programming 2019 | Texas Theatre | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Barak Epstein
Texas Theatre

Whether it's Amélie on Valentine's Day, obscure music documentaries or the original double feature playing when Lee Harvey Oswald escaped after shooting JFK (as the legend goes, and with the original ticket admission price), Texas Theatre seems intent on a mission to keep Dallas cultured. Sure, the cinema's sound isn't always the best, but its programming is unfailingly stellar, relevant and original. To begin with, the building itself is a historical landmark and a beautifully preserved relic, a space for themed parties and underground music shows taking place behind its movie screen, a frequent participant in various film festivals and a host to visiting art figures from Crispin Glover to Adan Jodorowsky.

Karlo X Ramos
DJ Blake Ward

A favorite in Dallas' nightlife scene, DJ Blake Ward is a master in his craft. Regularly playing sets at spots like Beauty Bar, Midnight Rambler and Alice Dallas, Ward knows how to curate and tailor a mix suitable for any occasion you can book him for. Each of Ward's mixes are carefully produced and arranged, with each track flowing into the next. Ward is a DJ who is genuinely passionate about music, respects the art and knows how to create a sonically pleasing arrangement. His energy is unmatched, as he is able to remain pumped all night, from opening to last call.

Over the decades, everyone from Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy and Ellen DeGeneres has stood in front of the Improv's iconic brick wall. The Addison location has served as a launching pad for many comedians and continues to be the area's top destination to see both up-and-coming and established talent. The club recently stepped up its game with a major face-lift and a revamp of its menu, which features standard bar fare like wings and nachos. And while there's a two-drink minimum — you've been warned — it's a small price to pay to see tomorrow's comedy royalty.

Since taking over the music programming at the "hoity tonk" Uptown venue a few years back, entertainment director Kylee Kimosh has diversified the traditionally country spot with rootsier, soulful acts. From Shakey Graves to Charley Crockett, Kimosh has kept her taste-making fingers on the pulse of the current soundscape by making the bar a destination spot that includes R&B and blues. But it's The Rustic's themed nights that make patrons show up for a night of nostalgic delight. Whether it's up-and-comers like Frankie Leonie doing Dolly Day, Taylor Nicks signing '90s country diva favorites, or popstress Remy Reilly tearing into No Doubt covers, Kimosh manages to showcase new talent while appealing to the audience's sentimentality.

This North Dallas bar has changed immensely in the last decade; long gone are the kitschy decor items and the Chuck Norris urban tales painted on the bathroom walls, and most disappointing, the promised presence of velvet Elvis artwork. Without all the hipster-friendly attractions, the Velvet Elvis has gone from a movie set's idea of a dive bar to a true dive bar that isn't pretending anymore. For starters, there are plenty of loners hanging around, and the crowd is such a Cheers-like selection of random humans that you're likely to never run into anyone you know. So this is the place to come to talk shit about everyone in your life without having to look over your shoulder. The place now looks like a standard bar in any average city, with a foosball table that nobody ever plays and rarely touched billiards. The only things that remain are cheap drinks and a cigarette machine. We're all set.

Even if country music isn't really your thing, The Round-Up is a fun environment where you can dance, grab a couple of drinks and let loose. If you're a little bit rusty on your two-step, there are nights when instructors will give you lessons on their spacious dance floor. Plus, there are karaoke nights when singers are invited to belt out their best notes and even compete for cash. In the mood to be entertained? The Round-Up hosts killer drag shows with curated themes celebrating all types of gender-bending performances. If Lady Gaga is in town, chances are you might catch her at The Round-Up after a show, as they were one of the first bars to book her before her rise to fame.

Doyle Rader
Boilermaker, Grandpa's Glory

Every Sunday from 3 to 8 p.m., patrons pack the narrow walls of Single Wide for Liquid Courage Karaoke with DJ Javier Mendoza. Crowded though it might be, participants and onlookers are fervent in their Sunday Funday passion for a good song sung as well as it can be. The mix of songs is always as diverse as the mix of talent, and you can expect to hear some real pipes and some — well, frankly — really drunk girls doing their best to get through Bloodhound Gang's "Bad Touch." Whether it's the song quality, the mix and spirit of the people or the physical closeness that the Single Wide forces you into, what makes Liquid Courage Sundays unlike any other karaoke residency is just how infectious it is. Spots fill up quick, so be sure to get there and grab a Lone Star right after you wrap up your mimosas. 

It really doesn't get more rock than Reno's Chop Shop Saloon, a Dallas staple nestled in the shadows around the corner from Punk Society on Crowdus and July Alley in Deep Ellum. Don't let all the dyed-black hair, black clothes and dark make-up of its patrons scare you off; Reno's is friendlier and more welcoming than meets the eye. The only catch is that you absolutely have to be ready for the soothing sounds of the hardest metal and punk rock you will find in any bar in Dallas. Possibly in the state. Divided between a bar and a performance space, Reno's is also a great place to catch small and local bands that play anything from pop punk to powerviolence. Reno's doesn't mess with a lot of glassware, preferring bottles and cans and plastic cups to anything that might be perceived as elegant or dainty. And the drinks are some of the cheapest you'll find in Deep Ellum, served up with a sign of the horns and a few bangs of the head.

Mike Ferreira
Katrina Cain had two coaches turn around during her blind audition on The Voice.

This past October, the NBC hit reality music competition featured Dentonite and University of North Texas graduate Katrina Cain. A few days after walking down the aisle, the lead singer for electronic band TOMKAT decided to take a detour from her honeymoon, veil practically flying off, and take a stab at auditioning. Cain's impossibly high notes in her rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" earned her the chair-spinning approbation of judges Jennifer Hudson and Blake Shelton, although Kelly Clarkson and Adam Levine said it would've been a "four-chair turn" had the latter pair not used up their open spots. Cain ultimately chose team Blake, moved to Los Angeles and was eliminated a few rounds later, but her pitch-perfect cover has received millions of views and remains one of the show's best auditions.

Trinity Hall is perfect. Plenty of seating, the best Guinness drafts in town and pub food that's better than any chain. It caters to soccer, rugby and Gaelic football fans, but it happily accommodates fans of more traditionally American sports, too. It never overwhelms — thanks to its TVs only being on when there's a game — and never disappoints. Trinity Hall is a great place to spend a Sunday morning, Saturday night or anything in between.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of