If there's one thing the coronavirus makes clear, it's how dearly we miss our Dallas bars. As part of our Tastemaker Awards, CultureMap's annual event honoring the best in local food and drink, we pay tribute to the bars in Dallas that do things right, serving as a place where you can meet friends and be wowed by a cocktail or cold beer on tap.
One thing that hasn't changed is our editorial series highlighting this year's nominees. We'll announce the winners at our July 30 event.
Here are the 10 finalists for Best Bar of the Year.
Black Swan Saloon
This is not the first time Black Swan has been a nominee. No surprise, as it remains one of Dallas' most highly regarded bars, thanks in no small part to the doting hospitality of bartender-owner Gabe Sanchez. The bar was one of the first in town to take cocktails to the next level when it opened in 2010, so it was a trailblazer, and it serves magical drinks. Despite all this, the bar has a modest demeanor. It's a small space, not too glitzy, that surpasses first impressions and sneakily wins you over.
Lounge in Bishop Arts is a new craft cocktail destination, with acclaimed bartenders and an ever-changing menu of botanical drinks. Ingredients include flowers, herbs, and house-made infusions. Cocktail examples include the Bob Ross, with jalapeño-infused beet tequila, lime juice, agave, and dry Curaçao; the Chrysanthemum, with Fernet-Branca, Bénédictine herbal liqueur, turbinado sugar, absinthe spritz, and a chrysanthemum garnish. There are bites, too, including oysters, shrimp cocktail, caviar, and charcuterie.
After closing their longtime Henderson Avenue staple Capitol Pub, Irish pub veterans Peter and Cheryl Kenny (they own the Dubliner) made the leap to East Dallas with Lochland's, a prototypical neighborhood bar boasting everything the area wanted: a good selection of beer, a place to congregate for the community, good pub food a la fish & chips, with a patio, brunch on weekends, and a welcoming spirit.
Mike's Gemini Twin
"We are a bar with a pool table, a dart board, and no windows," says this deliberately constructed dive bar in the Cedars District. It's a shotgun space with a cool, moody vibe, that feels like it could have been there for decades even though it's only a little over a year old. Named for an old drive-in theater on Northwest Highway called the Gemini Twin, Mike's is a collaboration between two young bar veterans: Sam Wynne, co-owner of Braindead Brewing, and Pasha Heidari, who owns acclaimed Uptown bar Bowen House and Las Palmas restaurant.
Irish pub from Alan Kearney, a native of Ireland who also owns The Crafty Irishman pub in downtown Dallas, took over the vaguely doomed One Arts Plaza space that was most previously occupied by Proof + Pantry. It offers hundreds of whiskeys and scotches, plus 50 beers on tap, including a healthy Irish selection. Kearney spent a lot of time and care making sure it was a traditional pub like one might find in his hometown Dublin.
Truthfully, Te Deseo is a restaurant first, with an ambitious menu of Latin American food and even an acclaimed chef, Ty Thaxton. But this is a Harwood Hospitality Group concept, whose restaurants always have a big bar component. Te Deseo's space runs 14,000 square feet with multiple social and dining spaces, each with differing personalities and design, including a tiled courtyard, four bars, and a rooftop with city views. It also hosts lively entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Clover Club
This venture is from award-winning bartender Eddie "Lucky" Campbell and his business partner Brad Woy, who also own The Standard Pour. Their goal was to bring a Big Band vibe and a unique supper club experience that might appeal to an older demographic than the usual Uptown crowd. The vibe is 1960s supper club, with a New American restaurant, bar, dance floor, and live-music stage. There's also a rooftop patio with a more casual atmosphere and views of the downtown skyline.
Three Links opened in 2013 and stands as a reminder of Deep Ellum in its '90s punk-rock heyday as a destination for live music. They're now the go-to place to see up-and-coming national bands on tour as well as local and regional bands. They also function as a neighborhood bar, opening early every day with a full bar including 16 beers on tap. Their front facade is a garage door, which they keep open most days, creating a welcoming vibe that makes you feel instantly part of the family.
Cozy neighborhood lounge in North Oak Cliff comes from This & That (High Fives, The Whippersnapper, Ferris Wheelers). By bar standards, it is tiny, at about 1,000 square feet, not counting the small patio. It's just a great place to have a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail — particularly a cocktail, since they take their craft pretty seriously, aspiring to educate by listing the date their cocktails were invented, IE the 1927 boulevardier.
Having patio in the name is no misnomer. This half-sibling to Hide in Deep Ellum has a massive patio as part of its 15,000-square-foot footprint and is notably dog-friendly; it's named after the Tolling Retriever dog breed. They do fun cocktails on tap, along with beer, wine, and a small menu of snacks such as chips & queso, hummus, and wings.