Best Metal Bar 2021 | Three Links | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

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.

There's nothing that gets us in the Christmas spirit like spending a couple of hours with the inhabitants of Tuna, the "third-smallest town" in Texas. The satirical 1989 play A Tuna Christmas features two actors playing over 20 colorful characters, from Tasty-Creme waitresses and radio disc jockeys to UFOlogists. Theoretically the story is about a Christmas yard display contest and the hijinks that ensue, but there are too many subplots to count. Really, the fun is in the dialogue and the gymnastics the actors perform as they switch in and out of characters. (All of whom are both completely absurd and instantly recognizable if you've spent any time in rural Texas.) When it debuted, A Tuna Christmas was so instantly beloved that it made its way to the White House, where the writers and original cast performed it for President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush. And because it's easy to produce, it's been a staple of community theaters in the South ever since.

When you think of cat cafés, you might assume something along the line of Fleabag's guinea pig themed café, not an eatery actually populated by cats. But that's what you get at The Casual Cat. Crazy cat ladies and gents with a love of felines greater than the Tiger King's can make the drive to Richland Hills to cuddle with cats for just $11 an hour for a refreshment garnished with a bit of fur ball. All the cats are up for adoption. The cat lover haven also sells cat merchandise and offers activities such as yoga with cats, crafts with cats and painting with cats.

Mistermckinney, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When nobody was looking, McKinney became cool. Not to be mixed up (by Dallasites who rarely venture beyond city limits) with McKinney Avenue, the northern suburb has always had its charm: an old prison that once housed Jesse James' brother and a Charles Manson follower, antique shops, boutiques and mom-and-pop restaurants. But now it's actually cool. McKinney has a female-owned record store with Red Zeppelin, a comic book store and a spot called Mom and Popcorn. The city's square is now also surrounded by far more bars than we remember and has specialized shops selling guitars, pies or tobacco — all under strings of lights that sparkle in the night time.

Jonathan Furlong/Facebook

Shepard Fairey, the street artist best known for his red and blue "Hope" poster of former President Barack Obama, has a long history with Dallas as the spot where he began a career as a street artist. Through his collective Obey Giant, Fairey left a gift to the city this year in the form of a mural on a water tower in Deep Ellum. The work, called "Cultivate Harmony," includes that phrase along with the words "Eyes open, minds open," and "Rise above" with a design that includes a peace sign and a giant eye, which must be Dallas' thing now.

Steven Novak

Some people are really into Halloween, but spending thousands of dollars on yard decorations doesn't necessarily make the displays any more creative. Dads, take some notes from artist Steven Novak, whose elaborate Halloween decorations terrified neighbors who called the police over what they believed to be a bloodbath taking place in his East Dallas front yard. The story on Novak's home (which, to brag, we reported first) was covered worldwide, from Newsweek and People to publications in France, Italy, Brazil and Singapore.

Rico DeLeon

The Dallas Mavericks joined with Dallas' music scene this year to do their part in the fight against racism. Truth to Power is a project started by Jeff "Skin" Wade, commentator for the Mavericks, and Josey Records co-owner Luke Sardello, with whom Wade owns record label Eastwood Records. Along with the Mavericks, the pair recruited every stellar connection in the music scene (including Leon Bridges, Sarah Jaffe and Black Pumas, as well as several local studios) for an album called Truth To Power Project, pressed on a special triple-album vinyl by Hand Drawn Pressing. Sales from the album go to four nonprofits — For Oak Cliff, the Music Forward Foundation, Joppy Momma's Farm, and Young Leaders, Strong City — that work to counter systemic racism.

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