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Operating under the facade of a renovated warehouse, the Xpo Lounge hums with the artistic-hip vibe that rocked Deep Ellum before the yuppies came. Funky paintings grace the walls-which are also decked out with martini wallpaper-and booths vibrate with eclectic cuts from the jukebox. Owner Phillip Jester chats with regulars and serves ting-a-lings-his signature concoction of rum and special juices- in chilled martini glasses. In the courtyard. the mood shifts from ambient to trippy with DJ Cheeky Puppy spinning disks. With a club scene full of overcrowded, noisy, smoky pick-up joints, the Xpo offers something new-a fun, relaxing backdrop where you can even hear the couple next to you. (You never know-it could be juicy.) We’re not the only ones that dig this place: Details magazine named it one of the best bars in the country. 408 Exposition St., 2!4-823-2329.
BLUE CAT BLUES
IN THE SHADOW OF DOWNTOWN, ON THE EDGE of Deep Ellum sits an authentic blues joint. You won’t find any offensive disco balls dangling from the ceiling, and you won’t be trampled by clubsters racing to the dance floor to swing. Blue Cat Blues is only about music. Good music. Current W.C. Handy award-winners and past legends like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Rogers have all stopped in to play their version of the blues. The Blue Delta Grill serves everything from filet mignon to stuffed jalapeno peppers. Owner Doug Henry books fresh, hard-hitting, top-notch rhythm-and-blues acts, creating the best blues club in town. Even musicians go to Blue Cat Blues to hear good music. 2612 Commerce St., 2I4-744-CATS.
The Samba Room combines the sizzle of Havana with a cool Uptown address. Inside tables are draped with white linen tablecloths and topped with Latin-inspired platefuls of fresh seafood, black beans, and spicy shredded beef. If you’re only interested in cocktails, sink into sumptuous couches on the patio with a Caipirinha-a Brazilian cachaca and lime concoction-and people-watch from Travis Walk. Playboy magazine calls the Samba Room one of the best bars in the country. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 132. 214-5224137.
CARAVAN OF DREAMS
Cool breezes on sultry summer nights make seats at the Caravan of Dreams’ rooftop Grotto Bar some of the best in the house. The bar-sequestered in its own stone cave-is surrounded by while noise from fountains and waterfalls. Stop by before or after the show down stairs and enjoy a breathtaking view of downtown Fort Worth. The Grotto Bar is an oasis on the edge of the prairie. 312 Houston St., Fort Worth. 817-877-3000.
Perched atop the art deco beauty of the Lakewood Theater, the Balcony Club presents the perfect opportunity to sip ice-cold martinis and listen to the live band put down steaming jazz licks. On the patio, neighborhood folk gather and share golf tips, while inside people snap and bop to the vocal stylings of Sir AI Dupree. On Sundays, the Arthur Riddles Jazz Trio plays riffs authentic enough to make you think Mingus might be playing bass. At the Balcony Club, you can smoke, enjoy the vibe, and the band won’t mind if you buy them a round. 1525 Abrams Rd., 2I4-826-HW4.
THE LOUNGE AT THE INWOOD THEATER
From the floor-to-ceiling art deco murals to the ’50s-style sophistication, The Lounge at [lie Inwood Theater is [he ultimate in retro-chic. Monday through Thursday, the after-work crowd-a mix of upscale business types and hipsters-sip martinis at the bar. Tables glow luminously along the glass-bricked fountain, as couples smoke Gitanes and whisper about the foreign films playing next door. On Fridays, the lounge swings with DJ Cheeky Puppy spinning eclectic a-go-go and the latest hip-hop tunes. The Saturday groove features DJ David Paige and his own brand of ’50s-style lounge and top 20 hits. For 17 years, the Lounge has attracted the hip and intellectual with its artistic refinement. During that time, it’s remained authentic enough for In-Style magazine to select it as one of the coolest places in the country. Hint: Get there early and you’ll score the booth in the viewing room, where you can sneak a peek of the feature film. 5460 Lovers Ou, 214-350-7834.
Dance the night away against a back-drop of a thousand twinkling stars at the Chaparral Club high atop Adam’s Mark Hotel. Here you’ll be transported to a time when dirty phrases like “business casual” were never uttered. The upscale New American menu serves everything from seafood to steak and the tables are luxuriously set with china and stemware. The romantic ambience makes ordering bubbly a must. The Chaparral Club adds a touch of elegance to the Dallas skyline. 400 N. Olive St., 214-777-6539.
GYPSY TEA ROOM
VOTED BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE TWO YEARS IN a row, the Gypsy Tea Room brings big local favorites and national acts to town. The front club swings on Wednesday nights and the back room has a revolving lineup of laid-back jazz, head-banging metal, and enough moshing to make you think you’re in London. Whatever your musical taste, the Gypsy Tea Room strikes a chord. 2546 Elm St., 214-744-9779.
Modeled after the club in Liverpool where the Beatles were discovered, The Cavern swings with an Austin Powers retro ’60s feel. Upstairs, the den’s a little hard to navigate with woefully little lighting, but downstairs al the bar. tables are scattered around the stage and live music plays Wednesday through Sunday. In the back, club-weary patrons recline on couches and brocade pillows around an exotic fish tank and recuperate. 1914 Greenville Ave., 214-828-1914.
LIBRARY IN THE MELROSE HOTEL
Original bookshelves line the walls at the Library in the Melrose Hotel, but there are no stuffy stodgers holding down the leather wing chairs in this intimate piano bar. The Library lias maintained the sophistica-tion of the original 75-year-old hotel, with enough new cool to entice twenty- and thir-tysomething upscale types to sip classic cocktails weekly. Tawney Kingsley brings her contemporary vocal stylings to happy hour Monday through Friday, and Eric Barnes brings on the classics after 8 p.m. Slip into that little black dress and gel there before 10 p.m.-unless you don’t mind waiting in line. 3015 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-521-5151.
MONICA’S ACA Y ALLA
Monica’s Aca y Alla in Deep Ellum shakes things up Latin-style-from salsa on Sunday nights to Latin jazz and flamenco Thursday through Saturday. The good news is Monica’s is also one of the best spots in Dallas for Mexican food, so make a night of it. Start with dinner-try the spinach jalapeno fettuccini or mushroom quesadil-las-before dancing to Cara Bali and Soul Caribe. Get your groove on at Monica’s– and enjoy some of the best margaritas in the city. 2914 Main St.. 214-748-7140.
The oldest club in Deep Ellum-Club Clearview-offers something for everyone. One cover gels you in everywhere-get trash disco at the Blind Lemon, swing with the hep cats at the Red Room, and at the Art Bar, the new beatniks–call them subterraneans-clad in their signature black turtle-necks discuss the latest from Ferlinghetti. Go-go dancers glowing with incandescent paint writhe above the stage illuminated by black lights. If that’s a little too trippy, grab a drink, relax on the rooftop, and watch the suckers still struck in traffic on the main drag. 2803 Main St.. 214-939-0077.
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