Deep Ellum has long been revered as the music capital of Dallas with iconic venues like Trees, the Bomb Factory and Club Dada serving generations of concertgoers. As the neighborhood has evolved, newer clubs have come on the scene, too, including a recent wave of small- and medium-sized venues welcoming local, regional and nationally touring acts.
Here's your guide to five new juke joints and what you can expect when you step on the dance floor.
Fans of Merle Haggard’s 1968 record, Mama Tried, will feel right at home at this new honky tonk, where country music is always on rotation over the speakers and on the stage. The bar, which is also a restaurant, is set up shotgun-style, so when guests walk in the front door they see a long bar serving craft beers and spirits along one wall and tables spread throughout the rest of the space. Bands perform from an elevated area against the front window, which means the dance floor is somewhat narrow, but folks here know to boot-scoot or bow out of the way.
Because of the stage’s positioning, sound projects aptly throughout the venue, too, so attendees can enjoy the show from seats at the far end of the bar. When the weather is nice, there might be a stage on the outside patio where you can kick up some dust. And don’t forget to snap a picture in front of the larger than life “Don’t Mess With Texas” mural.
215 Henry St., Dallas. 214-258-5573. mamatrieddeepellum.com.
Located at the east end of the neighborhood, Deep Ellum Art Co. might be one of Dallas’ best kept secrets. It’s a hub for jam bands and electronic music, with a calendar that has included in Kyle Hollingsworth of the String Cheese Incident, indie band Wye Oak, and beloved Grateful Dead tribute band Forgotten Space. Music is a big draw, but the 500-person venue lives up to its commitment to art, too, with murals and installations covering the building's every blank space, and an indoor gallery wall that regularly rotates work from featured artists. During special events, vendors often set up in the massive outdoor patio and beer garden among fire spinners and hula hoopers. Grab one of the 30-plus beers and cocktails on tap before you walk around and explore.
3200 Commerce St., Dallas. 214-697-8086. deepellumart.co.
The Free Man has been a pillar of jazz, funk and soul music since its inception in 2011. But in late 2018, the tiny Cajun restaurant expanded into a space next door that's more than double the size of its original location, complete with a new kitchen, patio and large stage for live music. The small side is cleverly referred to as “Frenchman” and the big side is “Bourbon,” as an ode to the Free Man’s New Orleans roots. Though the amenities sound promising, the Bourbon venue lacks the intimacy of its sister, Frenchman. With tables inhabiting the majority of the space, it’s a restaurant first and music den second. Also, patrons can’t easily travel between venues without going outside - the door connecting the two spaces is marked “staff only” - so choose where you buy a drink wisely.
2626 Commerce St., Dallas. 214-377-9893. freemandallas.com.
Open since 2018, this Deep Ellum newcomer is equal parts bar/restaurant and live music venue. Unlike other spots on this list, you can't enjoy those aspects simultaneously - but nothing stops you from enjoying them both in one trip. Use the entrance on Commerce Street to bite into Mexican delicacies such as beef rib and oxtail soup, tripa (beef intestines) and an array of tacos, then head to the entrance off Pryor Street to catch a show. The 200-person venue is wonderfully warm and inviting, thanks in part to the moody Moroccan-style lamps that illuminate the space. There are spotlights directly on the stage, but Ruins, with no windows and a single garage door on the wall opposite the stage, feels like a hidden alcove shielding patrons from the bustle of Deep Ellum on a weekend night. Bonus: The kitchen serves food until 1:45 a.m. every night.
2653 Commerce St., Dallas. 972-707-0607. ruins.business.site.
The Blue Light in Lubbock has been described as an “almost-holy institution,” having hosted country artists like Wade Bowen, William Clark Green, and Flatland Cavalry. The legacy extended to Big D last fall when its second location, Blue Light Dallas, opened on Main Street. It’s a no-frills environment with a stage that juts out from the wall opposite the bar, offering attendees sightlines from nearly every spot in the venue. Like its predecessor, country music is the backbone of Blue Light Dallas, but in its short life so far, it’s hosted acts across genres, including freestyle-electronic producer Marc Rebillet and roots-rock artist Jonathan Tyler. The drawback here is the lack of outdoor space. Smokers are relegated to an alley way out back, though they could also likely smoke out front during non-ticketed concerts.
2811 Main St., Dallas. 214-989-4252. thebluelightdallas.com.