Best of Big D

Nightlife

Featured in The Best of Big D 2015

Best Cocktails

Proof + Pantry

Forget the food. Focus on fighting for a seat at the bar, which occupies a tiny piece of real estate in this One Arts Plaza restaurant. The cocktail program, created by co-owner and veteran barman Michael Martensen, has made Proof a rare downtown watering hole and a drinking destination. When you order an I’m Rich—a deliciously tart rum concoction that tastes like Key lime pie—the bartenders might make you shout the name of the drink. Should you purchase too many, however, you will not be rich for long.

Readers’ Pick: Parliament has an absurdly huge menu, so in the immortal words of T.I., you can have whatever you like.

Best Lounge

D.E.C. on Dragon

This event space in the Design District occasionally doubles as the hottest spot in town. Every now and again, the space will host a swanky pop-up party that attracts a late-night crowd of beautiful people. (The man behind these parties? The Standard Pour’s Jonathan Rosenberg.) Drinks flow, a DJ spins upbeat tracks, and guests have access to the rooftop, which has one of the best views of the city skyline. Watch the venue’s Facebook page for details on the next one.

Readers’ Pick: Truth & Alibi is a lounge masquerading as a speakeasy masquerading as a fake candy store.

Best Margarita / Best Bartender

Komali – Leann Berry

Every bar in Dallas makes a margarita, but few elevate the drink above Jimmy Buffett’s standard lime-green beverage. At Komali, you’ll find true enlightenment. The Tamarind Margarita—designed by bar manager Leann Berry to fit the restaurant’s cuisine—is a regal blend of Herradura Reposado, Cointreau, tamarind purée, and fresh lime juice. But Berry can do more than make margaritas. She plays her stock of 75 tequilas like a symphony. She welcomes you to challenge her by ordering an off-the-menu cocktail from the ingredients on hand. She’ll mix anything and do it with an effervescent smile. Plus, each year, she and owner Abraham Salum travel to Mexico to custom-blend a double barrel tequila.

Readers’ Pick: (Best Margarita) The Inca Gold—a chilled grande glass filled with Cuervo Gold, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier—is just one reason why North Texans flock to El Fenix. (Best Bartender) During his reign as bar manager of Boulevardier, Eddie Eakin’s adventurous craft cocktails have attracted national attention.

Best Hotel Bar

The Mansion Bar

Slip into a comfy leather chair in this dimly lit den and escape the day. The drinks are classic and classy. Order a Mansion Manhattan or a gin and tonic poured over custom ice and listen to live jazz. Then, check out your well-heeled companions. Chances are good you’ll spot a few boldface names in the crowd.

Readers’ Pick: The Mansion Bar

Best Sports Bar

Lakewood’s 1st and 10

What do you need in a sports bar? It’s a pretty simple checklist: ample TVs, satisfying food, good service, and a crowd that understands people are there to watch the game. Lakewood’s 1st and 10 aces every category, plus it has Golden Tee if you need to step away from the action for a moment.

Readers’ Pick: Katy Trail Ice House also does a good job, and you get to be outside.

Best Bar With a View

Soda Bar at the NYLO

When it comes to pure vantage point, there is simply no better view of downtown than the one offered from the bar on the roof of the NYLO Dallas South Side. Add an infinity pool, fashionable guests, and a sidelong view of the Dallas Police Headquarters, and you feel like you’re living in a scene straight out of one of those old, PG-13 Crimetime After Primetime late night dramas (in a good way, we think).

Readers’ Pick: Even with its downtown view obscured by a less-than-neighborly development, Bar Belmont in Oak Cliff remains popular.

Best Bar With Games

Barcadia

When kids go to an arcade, they don’t want anything but games. But an arcade for grown-ups has to walk more of a tightrope, balancing between having enough games and enough room for folks who don’t want to play. No one does it better than Barcadia. You can have your drink and play skee-ball, too.

Readers’ Pick: Barcadia

Best Dive Bar

The Underpass

It’s not just a clever name. This bar is wedged under Interstate 30. It’s a little airier than you’d expect in a dive bar, but it has everything else: bare-bones decor, a pool table, and an irascible old bartender. The main dive bar question: could you imagine a heist being planned on the premises? Here: absolutely.

Readers’ Pick: Nondescript in the best way possible, Inwood Tavern is a great spot for an anonymous drink.

Best Place to Dance

Beauty Bar

Dallas’ rowdiest dancers flock to Beauty Bar after the nearby bars and restaurants of Lower Greenville close. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, expect a sweaty, pulsating mob with a chance of champagne showers. The tiny dance floor is come-one, come-all, while a diverse roster of DJs makes each night different. (Bonus: DJ Sober is back on Thursdays.) It’s also a popular spot for nightlife photographers, so watch your step.

Readers’ Pick: Don’t be fooled by the name. It’ll Do and its light-up floor will definitely satisfy your dancing needs.

Best Gay Bar

The Round-Up Saloon & Dance Hall

The Round-Up reigns supreme as Dallas’ liveliest gay bar, and you don’t have to be a cowboy or girl to enjoy the charms of this all-inclusive enclave. Those seeking an authentic experience can take two-step lessons or have their boots shined. Peak dancing hours for casual folks come Saturdays after midnight. And while we normally embrace all the colors of the rainbow, whatever you do, do not get the red Jell-O shots. The green and blue ones, however, are fine.

Readers’ Pick: The Grapevine Bar, not so much a gay bar by definition so much as by location, might be the only place in Oak Lawn where you can shoot hoops on a half-court while drinking a frozen Everclear bellini.

Best Karaoke

One Nostalgia Tavern

Do not be scared by the somewhat dubious exterior. On a recent Friday night, regulars and tambourine-wielding SMU types came together for an excellent evening of song. An older gentleman kicked things off with Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed,” and the kids took over when the liquid courage kicked in. What’s more, the crowd tolerated a newly engaged couple’s off-key warbling of “Going to the Chapel of Love” with a grace that bordered on enthusiasm. It’s the friendliest place to sing your guts out, amateur or otherwise.

Readers’ Pick: Uptown’s McKinney Avenue Tavern hosts karaoke on the weekends.

Best Live Music Venue

The Bomb Factory

It took a few visits to the risen-like-a-phoenix Deep Ellum concert hall to be won over. But the Bomb Factory worked out its kinks, tweaked its sound system, and showed that it can still host acts that don’t quite fill its cavernous interior; it’s more of a flexible space than you might imagine. Now that it has hit its stride, it is, simply, the most fan-friendly music venue larger than the Kessler Theater.

Readers’ Pick: The Granada Theater continues to attract some of the best acts that breeze through town.

Best Bar With a Patio

Katy Trail Ice House

The Uptown patio at this casual neighborhood bar is an ideal spot to kick back with an icy brew and gawk at joggers passing by on the trail (what a bunch of suckers). Enjoy the fake wind in your hair during the summer as one of the misting fans blows away the heat, or curl up next to a fire pit during the cooler months. It’s also one of the most dog-friendly spots in town.

Readers’ Pick: Truck Yard is home to frosty beverages, food trucks, live music, and a treehouse bar.

Best Dog-Friendly Bar

Mutts Canine Cantina

The burgers are a near-perfect copy of the Shake Shack burger, beloved in New York and beyond. The sizable off-leash dog parks—one for small dogs, and another for larger breeds, accessible by purchasing a single-use pass or a monthly membership—are clean and well-maintained. And here’s where the bar part comes in: there’s beer and wine. But the best thing about Mutts is that everyone who stumbles in loves dogs. Our Golden Retriever left with new friends and a hugely inflated ego.

Best Underground Bar

Midnight Rambler

Whenever we really, really want to impress someone, whether it’s an out-of-town guest or a date, we take them to this subterranean bar beneath the Joule hotel. It’s painfully cool, with its Stephen King-inspired decor, dim-but-not-dark lighting, and inventive, kooky cocktails. The drink menu is divided by taste profile: aromatic, sour, and sparkling. There’s also a selection of shots—the most elegant 44 milliliters of alcohol you’ll ever toss back. Trust us, by the time you emerge, shooting up like stars onto the streets of downtown, some of the Rambler’s shine will have rubbed off on you.

Best Wine Bar

Veritas Wine Room

The constant rotation of 350 bottles makes it easy to constantly challenge your palate. You’ll find a heavy Texas accent, not only in the wines but in the cheeses, meats, and chocolates found on the menu. Year-round promotions—half-price Mondays, lobster Sundays, taco tastings—provide extra incentive to break out of the Chardonnay-Cabernet mindset.

Readers’ Pick: The cozy tasting room at Times Ten Cellar is staffed with a sommelier and a list of Texas wines that keeps locals educated and lubricated.

Best Bar Food

Strangeways

Strangeways, beyond its amazing beer selection and whimsical styling, offers a menu that strikes a balance between grit and sophistication. The indulgent yet inspired items range from elotes, yucca fries, and goat cheese croquettes to fresh tamales made by Ma Dukes (the owner’s mother) and substantial sandwiches. It’s unlike any other bar food in town.

Readers’ Pick: Holy Grail Pub hosts special events for holidays and beer tappings, which sometimes involve a delicious smoked brisket.


View Map of the Best of Big D Winners

Editor’s Choice: Bars & Clubs

Readers’ Choice: Bars & Clubs

Credits

  • Photographer Elizabeth Lavin
  • Photographer Jeremy Sharp

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