There’s an ongoing gripe that I hear from time to time about Dallas that inevitably goes something like this: “Ugh. Dallas is so unexciting, and the people are so superficial. It’s home of the ‘$30,000 millionaire.” You don’t agree? Haven’t you been to Uptown, NorthPark Mall, or Highland Park Village or SMU??” Then, with smug dissatisfaction, the person will inevitably say, “Austin is so much better. Or San Francisco. Or Chicago. Or …”
Having grown up in Dallas, I’ve been to all those places and more. Dallas does not have a monopoly on pretentiousness or even on big hair! In an effort to sing the praises of the wonderful, unique things that Dallas has to offer, I’ve put together a list of 20 of my local Dallas favorites… Each is unique to Dallas. No big box stores or chains here.
1) East Dallas & Henderson Avenue: I have a fondness for all things East of 75/Central Expressway. Everything a little more offbeat and a little less cookie cutter, including the funky snow man (or snow woman) above who appears a few blocks down from my house during our record snow storms this year!
2) The Advocate Magazine: It’s a great magazine and website for local information about East Dallas, full of lots of fun tidbits.
3) White Rock Local Market: This is a relatively new market, but it’s been a blast to attend since they typically have live music. The first spring market has already started, and I highly recommend the beer bread and some of the gluten free baked goods!
4) Nonna: Everything I’ve had at Nonna has been wonderful. It’s very authentic Italian according to an Italian friend I brought here. He was certain that the chef must be Italian; he’s not. Try the homemade focacci and limoncello.
5) Arts & Letters Live at the Dallas Museum of Art. It brings some amazing authors to Dallas and is considered a premier author’s lecture series. It covers the gamut with respect to genre. I’ve heard Daniel Pink, Ken Robinson, Sarah Dunant, Isabel Allende, and Ira Glass of NPR are still coming this season.
6) North Haven Gardens: They provide quality plants, including great vegetables and herb plants, and they’re seriously knowledgeable and helpful staff can help you determine the source and solution for what is ailing any of your plants!
7) Veritas Wine Room: The inside of this wine bar feels like a comfortable living room. It’s a great place to spend some down time sipping red wine and tasting the cheese plate, the specialty jerky, or Wiseman House chocolates. Try the Ass Kisser Shiraz. Seriously.
8) Jimmy’s Food Store: You might drive past Jimmy’s if you didn’t know better, but it would definitely be your loss. This market has all kinds of great Italian imports, including wine and cheeses. I’m a particular fan of the truffle cheese! We’ve been know to buy their frozen pizza dough, plenty of shredded mozzarella, and their homemade Italian turkey sausage to “make” our own pizza. It’s well worth the trip.
9) Cafe Madrid is the perfect place for a leisurely lunch. The crispy calamari, tortilla espanola with aioli, and sangria are the perfect Spanish trifecta, and they’re all are great at Cafe Madrid.
10) The Pearl Cup Espresso Bar. I love The Pearl Latte, the ambiance, and the free wifi. Next trip I’ll definitely be trying their black and white cookie too!
11) IgniteDallas is a new favorite. I attended the first event, and it was a great time! The second event is planned for today (June 2nd) at the Granada Theater.
12) Dallas Affaires Cake Co. is perfect for birthday, graduation, or wedding celebrations. My family recommends the chocolate cake with amaretto filling.
13) Kozy Kitchen: Feel like you’re among friends, come in your workout wear, and enjoy their challah bread or a veggie omelette from the produce board on weekend mornings. Free wifi too.
14) Dallas Farmers Market is a work in progress, but they are making progress. In addition to the great farmers, I enjoy visiting Savoy Sorbet, Kurry King, and Supernatural Meats!
15) Thomas Ave. Beverage Co. (a.k.a TABC) is one of my favorite bars in the city. It’s patio is the perfect place to enjoy the first sunny days of spring, the first cool days of fall, and many times in between. Also check out the Sunday “manmosas” – a bottomless mimosa in a “man-sized” pint glass.
16) York Street: I enjoy everything at York Street. Nothing disappoints. –> Update: York street has closed. It was sad news!
17) Aspen Light Photography creates beautiful family portraits and also does wedding photography.
18) SMU’s Tate Lecture Series provides an opportunity to hear amazing leaders in business and politics when they come to Dallas. I’ve been a fan since I was a student usher during undergrad at SMU.
19) Dallas International Film Festival has been a great way to see interesting new movies before they hit mainstream. If you haven’t checked it out, you should.
20) City Craft: Modern Fabric Boutique & Sewing Lounge, located right next to Paper & Chocolate! I’ve jumped the gun a little by including this one, since I haven’t taken one of their classes yet, but every time I visit Paper & Chocolate I at least spend some quality time window shopping at City Craft. It’s on my to do list!
If you’re from Dallas, please feel free to add to the list in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your favorites!
Update: Apparently this post caught the attention of the great people behind I Live in Dallas, and I’ve given them permission to re-post it over there. If you don’t already know about this site, please check it out. It’s one of my favorites!