Friends, laughter, and tall glasses, chilly with condensation. If there's a better way to cool down than hitting a really great bar, we don't know it. Here are a few of DFW's hottest watering holes.
The Usual (1408 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-810-0114; theusualbar.com)
Care for a Manhattan? A sidecar? A Moscow mule or a martini? Thanks to the likes of bartender/cocktail maestro Brad Hensarling, hipsters and happy-hour regulars alike pack this cool place that pours the old-school cocktails. The vibe is refined without being stuffy, relaxed without being divey. And the drinks -- well, never has racking up a bar tab tasted so good.
Barcadia (816 Matisse Drive, Fort Worth; barcadiabars.com)
The latest nightspot to hit Cowtown is so brand-spanking new that it'll be having its sneak-peek this weekend (starts at 4 p.m. Thursday; open at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday). But Dallas already has a Barcadia, and, trust us, it's pure retro fun. Part bar, part nostalgic playground where the hook is "vintage" 25-cent video games (think Q*Bert, Frogger, Tron, Ms. Pac-Man, and ... Dolly Parton pinball!). Can the chill vibe of the Dallas Barcadia be replicated in Fort Worth's trendy West 7th district? Time will tell, but our guess is that it's on like Donkey Kong.
Bar Belmont (901 Fort Worth Ave., Dallas, 214-393-2300, belmontdallas.com)
The balcony of this bar at the Belmont Hotel in Oak Cliff has one of the best views of downtown Dallas. Go when there are bands, art shows or film screenings, and you'll be sucked into a cluster of cool.
Katy Trail Ice House, 3136 Routh St., Dallas, 214-468-0600; katyicehouse.com
Yes, the Ice House is a very loud room, but this comfortably sprawling bar with a huge outdoor patio, set right along the tree-lined Katy Trail, is a great place to grab something refreshing after running or cycling the trail. Or, better yet, skip the exercise and just ogle the beautiful people of Uptown.
Frankie's in downtown Fort Worth is cool enough with its wall of flat-screens and its mammoth 3-D screen (dig those groovy glasses), but add better-than-average-sports-bar grub like the lip-smacking Walter Payton wings, and it's a sports fan's paradise. Frankie's, along with Ojos Locos Sports Cantina, which brings a Latin twist to the breastaurant concept, have electrified the downtown sports bar scene.
Beauty Bar (1924 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas, 214-841-9600; thebeautybar.com/dallas)
It's no shock that the Beauty Bar chain of bar/lounges -- with locations in Manhattan, L.A., Austin and more -- decided to open its first North Texas location on the busy Henderson end of the Knox-Henderson strip. The concept is late-night-at-your-grandma's-beauty-shop, hence the old-fashioned hair dryers and all-around retro interior. A DJ spins Thursday through Saturday.
The Cedars Social (1326 S. Lamar St., Dallas, 214-928-7700; thecedarssocial.com)
Chef John Tesar and head barkeep Michael Martensen (both formerly of The Mansion)created this bar -- or self-described "cocktail den" -- to be a comfy place to hang. While the Cedars neighborhood has yet to really take off, maybe that will change now with the Cedars Social in the 'hood.
Durty Crow, (2801 Crockett St., Fort Worth, 817-878-2882; thedurtycrow.com)
Tucked away in the shadow of the West 7th development, it's easy to drive right by the Durty Crow. But don't dismiss the joint just because it's not right in the thick of things. Spawned from beloved downtown drinkery Durty Murphy's, Durty Crow -- a blessedly smoke-free establishment -- offers plenty of TVs and affable service that'll put a smile on your face and beer in your belly.
The Kessler, 1230 W. Davis St., Dallas, 214-272-8346; thekessler.org
This once dilapidated former movie theater has been reborn as arguably North Texas' best small performance venue. Booking everything from hot locals like Sarah Jaffe to cult movies like Paris, Texas and art events, the Kessler -- which also sports a cool little bar in the lobby -- is at the nexus of upstart businesses along Davis Street that also includes the BBQ restaurant Luckie's Smokehouse and Urban Acres organic grocery.