Best Festival 2021 | Taco Libre | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Melissa Hennings

It's hard to sit out a festival when tacos are the main attraction. Merging bold flavors with brash lucha libre wrestling, Dallas' Taco Libre Festival is the most fun you'll have all year. With a wide array of offerings from the best taquerias around, festival-goers can expect to stuff their gourds with savory food. And to sweeten the deal, Taco Libre hosts top-notch live music. Unfortunately, the festival had to be postponed because of the pandemic, but it's great to know they're taking attendees' health seriously. We'll be dreaming of masked wrestlers and tasty tacos until we meet again, Taco Libre.

Courtesy Freeform/Frank Ockenfels

If you grew up in North Texas in the '90s, watching Cruel Summer probably smacked you with a heavy hit of deja vu. The excellent Freeform series was filmed in several North Texas institutions, including AllGood Cafe, One Nostalgia Tavern and Lewisville's Music City Mall (formerly Vista Ridge). Produced by actress Jessica Biel, Cruel Summer boasts stunning sets and a suspenseful script packed with twists. Each episode keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats, leaving them guessing until the very last scene. If you haven't already seen Cruel Summer, stop what you're doing and turn on the dang TV.

Linda Stogner

For a little slice of New York right in the middle of Richardson, visit Backdoor Comedy Club. They offer three shows on weekends, a Thursday night open mic, and a workshop if you want to try your hand at this iconic American art form. Once you pay the $15 cover, you'll enter an intimate room with small, circular two-tops arranged around the stage. There's a two-item minimum, and food, drink and service are provided by the neighboring bar and grill. The food isn't anything to write home about, but it's good enough, and the pours are strong and they keep coming. Thankfully, we didn't need to be wasted to have a good time at a recent Friday night showcase. Of the 10-plus comics we heard — a mixture of local and touring ones — a majority earned guffaws from the audience. They worked the crowd like pros and the intimate setting created a sense of camaraderie. It's an entertaining, two-hour escape that more Dallasites should have in their back pocket.

Chad Kelco

The end of the world never sounded so good. Dallas death metal deities Creeping Death are set to unleash their latest release in October, but in the meantime, they've graced us mortals with a most excellent music video. The perfect soundtrack to a dying, plague-ridden planet, title track "The Edge of Existence" looks like it was filmed after the fall of humankind. Viewers will unlock a vortex to hell while headbanging to this punishing single, which is packed with uber-heavy, technical riffs executed with machinelike precision. Buckle up, y'all: Creeping Death are hurtling headlong into the metal hall of fame.

Dallas Hope Charities is a godsend. Many LGBTQIA+ youths come from less-than-accepting families, forcing them to leave home and/or driving up their risk of self-harm. Through its programs and support, Dallas Hope Charities provides a safe space for the city's most vulnerable. Its Meals of Hope program serves food to hard-hit North Texans, and Dallas Hope's Transitional Living Center provides shelter to at-risk LGBTQIA+ youth. Collective Hope Coalition is another invaluable effort geared toward ending the hopelessness that leads LGBTQIA+ people to suicide. If you're in need, know that Dallas Hope Charities is there to help.

Christopher Durbin

When the neon moon rises and the work week is over, The Rustic is open and ready to boogie. This spot isn't your typical rough 'n' rowdy honky-tonk, but it's the perfect place for an urban cowboy to sport his finest alligator boots. Live music lovers are sure to catch some of their favorite country acts gracing The Rustic's incredible outdoor stage. To top it all off, the spot boasts an upscale American-style food menu and an impressive selection of beers on tap brewed in the Lone Star State.

Headbangers rejoice. Since opening in 2013, Three Links has cemented itself as a straight-up Deep Ellum institution and one of the best places around to catch live music of all kinds. Whether you're taking in the blistering sounds of a local metal group or a national hardcore band, Three Links stands ready to deliver brutal, quality tunes. It's the kind of venue where the heavier the music and the louder the show, the happier the customer. Plus, fans of the occult will get a kick out of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows symbolism around the joint, including in the venue's name itself.

Hamerly Photography

When you need to recharge but you're short on time, head to nearby Waxahachie. It's vastly underrated as a getaway, and it's home to one of DFW's best bed-and-breakfasts, the English Merchant's Inn. The home was built in 1915 by an English cotton merchant, and it's furnished with traditional English antiques plus a touch of color and whimsy. Rooms are affordable, comfortable and spacious and offer charming amenities like clawfoot tubs. Our personal favorite is the collection of china cups and saucers that you can use to serve yourself a cup of tea. Stay in the winter and you can enjoy it by a fire — one of the inn's owners will build it for you. If you're unsure about the prospect of socializing with other guests, you'll be happy to know that breakfast is a private affair, served down the street at White Rhino Coffee. It's the perfect way to begin a day of browsing the antique stores and gift shops on the square.

Nathan Hunsinger

With its bookstore located in Deep Ellum, Deep Vellum's publishing arm has quickly become a powerhouse in the Dallas literary scene. Launched as a nonprofit in 2013, the operation is headed by founder Will Evans, who later opened the little bookstore in 2016. Each year, Deep Vellum publishes several original titles and new translations of foreign literary works from around the world. In recent years, they've also put a focus on publishing Dallas-based authors and supporting the local literary community. If you get a chance to pop into their bookstore, you'll find their own titles and plenty more, and you can enjoy some of the best coffee in town.

We know, performance art isn't for everyone. But if your cup of tea spilleth over for the bizarre and avant-garde, then keep up with Odyssey Studios. The small warehouse space holds nothing in it but performers and spectators can watch inside or outdoors. One recent show featured Gibson Regester on a series called Amygdala Hijack consisting of three different nights highlighting abuse within queer relationships. In the first, the artist put on pink boxing gloves and beat themselves up with pink paint. For the last show, they ate a bar of soap. In June, the brilliant Colton White's performance showed the artist trapped in a translucent box, summing up the helpless sequestering experience of quarantine.

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