It’s about time I created a city guide for Dallas! I’ve been here for soooo long that it’s sort of difficult to collect my thoughts (and all my old photos) from this city I call home. Dallas has a lot to offer and this list certainly is not comprehensive, but it features all of my favorites and must-haves for those of you visiting from out of town! I hope you enjoy the guide – stay tuned for more travel content coming soon! Click here to check out my previous travel guides.
PLACES TO STAY
The Joule – in the heart of downtown Dallas, this hotel is as chic as it gets. There’s a rooftop pool, world-class spa (it’s AMAZING), two great restaurants, a delicious coffee shop, and houses a couple boutiques featuring of-the-moment designers. The rooms are elegant and hip, but with a modern touch.
The Mansion on Turtle Creek – for the fancier adult crowd, this is the crown jewel in Dallas. They have a very popular bar and restaurant, and the rooms are upscale and glamorous. Definitely a cozy spot, and right in the middle between Park Cities and Uptown. Easy access to everything!
Hotel Lumen – if you are visiting SMU, I’d recommend this spot. It’s literally across the street! It’s a rather small boutique hotel, but with a lot of personality. It’s got a big pool and a great in-house restaurant/tavern.
Park Cities Hilton – if you’re wanting to be close to NorthPark Center or are visiting people who live near Northwest Highway, this is a great hotel. My mom stayed here nearly every time she visited me while I was at SMU (the Lumen didn’t exist yet!). It’s right next to Preston Center where there are tons of great restaurants and shops.
WHERE TO EAT
BREAKFAST / BRUNCH
Remedy – this place may make you feel like you stepped into the 50’s with it’s retro diner feel. The menu is all comfort food though – we’re talking biscuits and gravy, a beyond juicy burger, chili and cornbread, etc. The perfect place to take the edge off after a late night out.
Taverna – I live right down the street from Taverna, so this spot is particularly dangerous for me. They’ve got an incredible menu of Italian fare (the Gnocchi Rustica is 100), but their brunch menu is definitely worth noting too.
Bread Winners – with four locations, (the closest two to me being in Uptown and Inwood Village), it’s a close bet for anyone in central Dallas. If eggs are your jam, Breadwinners is where you need to go. So many different omelettes, benedicts and scrambles to choose from! The bread is freshly baked daily too.
Mercat Bistro – on weekends this spot features a DJ and a mimosa bar for the brunch crowd. The chic Parisian decor and the brunch menu are amazing! I love getting the green chile crepes – so flavorful and unique. They also have a number of delicious salads on the everyday lunch menu. So good!
Le Bilboquet – this New York favorite made it’s mark on Dallas a few years ago, and has been bustling ever since! Definitely on the fancier side, and a great option for after church brunch or a birthday lunch. Try the Cajun chicken!
Bubba’s – craving Southern fare? This diner is a staple, especially among SMU students. Right on the edge of Snider Plaza, you’ll find the best biscuits, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and cinnamon rolls around. Come back at lunch for tasty fried chicken, okra, and more! Regardless of the meal, get gravy.
Henry’s Majestic – this is probably the most trendy of all the brunch menus in Dallas, featuring avocado toast, shrimp & grits, and chicken & waffles. It’s got a fun, bar-like ambiance that’s perfect for the rowdy brunch crowd.
Dive – if you’re eating clean or just want some light seafood options, head to Dive. I always order the same thing: the kale salad with grilled salmon. SO GOOD! When I first ate at Dive, I ordered the fish tacos – they are AMAZING, but I’m trying to avoid tortillas and such these days.
The T Room – housed in luxury boutique Forty Five Ten, this light and bright lunch spot is nice option for lunch with the ladies. Great quiches, salads and paninis dominate the menu, but you don’t have to choose! Select a T Room Combination and choose 2 or 3 items – I usually get a slice of quiche and the Green Goddess Salad… divine!
La Duni – if you’re on the hunt for an amazing but filling salad, stop in La Duni. I often order pick-up from here too because it’s so close to my house! Try the salad trio with chicken or the tomato + hearts of palm salad. They also do a fantastic brunch!
Origin – this place has awesome breakfast too, but I always go for the Regular Salad. It features roasted brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, pecans and chicken on a bed of spinach. I sometimes ask for double the brussels and leave off the chicken. The best! If I’m more in the mood for breakfast (they serve it at lunch too!), I’ll order the Seasonal Hash Bowl with a side of chicken sausage. It’s local sausage and the flavor is out of this world!!
R&D Kitchen – this classic lunch spot can be found in Preston Center right off Northwest Highway. In addition to awesome sushi rolls, they have great salads (I love the Newporter) and other light options like roasted salmon, a veggie club and more. This is a great spot for a business/work lunch because there is something for everybody – I often have meetings over lunch here!
Celebrity Cafe – for a quick sit-down lunch or a grab-and-go, pick up a salad at Celebrity. The go-to fave is their cranberry chicken salad, but I also really love the turkey bistro salad with candied walnuts and cranberries. Grab a cookie, cake ball or coconut macaroon before you go!
Keller’s Drive In – if you’re craving a good, old-fashioned burger, drive over to Keller’s. It’s a typical drive-in style burger house with the greasiest, cheesiest cheeseburger around. Definitely worth the splurge!
Parigi – I always love going here with my mom when she’s in town. We looooove the portobello fries, and she always gets the pate. They have a variety of great dishes to choose from! One of my favorites is the pappardelle with lobster – delish!
Oishii – if you are a sushi lover, head over to this joint. The ambiance/decor is not impressive, but the second you get your order you’ll be glad you’re there! It’s great for casual dinner with friends or easy date night. I highly recommend the TriBeCa roll (my fave) and the Royce roll. Both are amazing!!
Madrina – this place is relatively new to Dallas (opened last fall), but it’s quickly become one of my favorites. In addition to a fantastic menu, the place is beautiful – even the menu design is incredible. It’s a bit on the fancier/more expensive side, so this is a good one for special dinners or date night! Definitely try the wild setas appetizer – may be my absolute favorite dish in Dallas right now!
HG Sply Co – if you have a big meat eater in your group, or you’re trying to do the Paleo thing, make a reservation at this Greenville Ave. hot spot! The menu features mostly meat and veggies, but they get pretty creative with it. I always order one of the bowls! After dinner, head upstairs and grab a drink on the rooftop patio – it gets pretty crowded + rowdy on weekends!
Cane Rosso – if you’re looking for solid pizza, look no further than Deep Ellum. I mentioned Cane Rosso back in this post – order the Honey Bastard pizza. It’s a secret, not-on-the-menu item, and will blow your mind.
The Porch – this place has been one of my favorites since college. It’s got a casual vibe, a great porch (duh) when the weather is just right, and a wonderful menu. Some menu items of note: spinach & parmesan dip to start, buttermilk fried chicken cobb for your meal, and for dessert order the ooey gooey butter cake. It will be well worth your while.
Javier’s – this is a must if you want a real Dallas experience. It’s on the fancier side and it’s ALWAYS busy, so make a res. Get a skinny marg, then order the Filete Cantinflas – it’s basically a juicy, sliced steak stuffed with Mexican cheese. It is out.of.this.WORLD. Stop in the cigar bar after dinner for a post-dinner cocktail!
Neighborhood Services – this is my mom’s absolute favorite Dallas restaurant! I try to take her every time she comes to town, but now it’s very difficult to get in. You almost always need a reservation, or expect to wait a couple hours for a table. Order the fried asparagus and the deviled eggs to start (the wedge salad is awesome too!). In addition to a set list of entrees, they also have a rotating list of “nightly plates” like chicken pot pie on Thursday and “angry lobster & grits” on Saturday.
Mr Mesero / Mesero Miguel – Mico (formerly of Mi Cocina and M Crowd Restaurant Group), launched these sister restaurants in the Knox/Henderson neighborhood a couple years ago, and more recently opened up another spot on West Lovers! The menus all feature the same great quesos, fish and brisket tacos that I love, but they do have different things on each if you look closely. I go to Mr Mesero the most because of its close proximity to my casa, but Mesero Miguel is a bigger restaurant – it’s a great spot for a casual birthday or group dinner!
Shinsei – for date night, make a reservation at Shinsei. It’s got an upscale vibe, great cocktails, fresh sushi and delicious Pan-Asian cuisine. You have to get Katina’s crispy rice, the braised pork steam buns, the Thai fried rice (it’s sorta spicy – soooo yum), the tempura spicy tuna roll (trust me – best texture/flavor combo)
Rise No. 1 – this spot is perfect for a romantic date night or girl’s night. It’ll make you feel like you’re back in Paris! The menu is primarily souffles (savory AND sweet – I get both!), but also has delicious appetizers, salads and entrees for those picky eaters. I always request to sit on the covered porch – it’s just got a more casual vibe. It’s very dark inside!
Nonna – if you love a good handcrafted pasta, make a res a Nonna. The bolognese is to die for! The decor is understated and simple, leaving the food to wow you. And it totally does.
Mi Cocina – I don’t go here very often because it’s sooooo full of children and families all the time (I’m not against it, but sometimes it’s just easier to go to Mr Mesero), but this spot must be included on this list. It’s a Dallas staple and many Dallas natives will claim it’s the best Tex-Mex around. Shop around Highland Park Village (Celine, Chanel, I’ll take it all!) before you sit down for dinner here. My friends always want to order the white queso, but I’m partial to the yellow. The brisket tacos are ridiculously good!
HAPPY HOUR / BARS
The Happiest Hour – this is my current favorite drinks spot! Sitting just beyond Uptown and right down the way from the American Airlines center, this enormous bar & grill features multiple patios and outdoor seating options, in addition to an expansive dining area and bar inside.
The Rustic – similar to The Happiest Hour, this spot has a chill vibe with a massive outdoor seating area with lots of picnic tables. The perfect place for an afternoon outside! They have a large outdoor stage and often have live music.
The TruckYard – for a more quirky experience or to try something new, spend a few hours outside at The Truckyard. This outdoor bar features a bunch of airstream trailers and food trucks, along with mismatched outdoor furniture for a funky trailer park vibe. Grab a beer and enjoy. This spot is walking distance to a bunch of the best spots on Greenville, so you won’t run out of things to do!
Saint Anne – this spot is great for dinner, but most often, my friends and I will go here and share a bottle of wine at one of the tables outside (preferably the one with the fire when it’s chilly out!). They have great food too you can share for apps, like flatbreads, caprese salads, etc. This place is on the same block as Mercat Bistro and The Happiest Hour, so it’s easy to go to before or after another spot!
The Mansion Bar – as I mentioned earlier, The Mansion houses a very popular bar featuring live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday every week. Very fun to go to after dinner for a night cap!
Bowen House – if you’re a fan of craft cocktails, grab a drink at Bowen House. They have a very limited menu, but all you need to do is tell the bartender a few of your favorite cocktail elements (I always say rose flavor/syrup and egg whites) and they will whip up something incredible.
Rodeo Goat – for a casual ice house vibe, check out Rodeo Goat. They’ve got a massive selection of local beer on tap, as well as a deliciously sinful food menu. Try the loaded fries, and if you have room, order one of their massive and creative burger concoctions.
Knox Street Pub – I’m including this one for the college kids and early 20’s-somethings. For a reeeeally fun night, take an uber to Knox Street Pub. The DJ plays music you will definitely want to dance to, and they have jello shots in syringes. Certainly not a sophisticated spot, but super fun and has a vivacious young crowd.
Standard Pour – if you happen to be in Uptown, it’s always fun to stop in Standard Pour. Great cocktails and a relaxed ambiance.
Deep Ellum – check out this post for my favorite bars in this edgy area of Dallas. Very fun for a night out! In addition to the ones I listed, there are dozens of cool bars with live music every weekend, so it’s easy to just walk around from bar to bar if you’re looking to explore!
THINGS TO DO
Klyde Warren Park – on a nice day, head outside and grab lunch or a snack at one of the food trucks lining Klyde Warren Park! There are a couple of great restaurants right on the park (Lark on the Park and Savor) too!
Perot Museum of Nature and Science – I hate to say I have not visited the Perot Museum yet, but it is apparently super cool and fun for all ages! Spend a rainy afternoon here to check out the magnificent gems & minerals hall and definitely stop in the earthquake simulator.
The Katy Trail – another great activity on a nice day is to walk on the Katy Trail. I do this at least once a week! Just grab a friend and go!
Highland Park Village – this is THE place to shop for high-end designer goods in Dallas. With boutiques like Chanel, Celine, Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney, you get that Madison Avenue feel in the heart of Dallas.
NorthPark Center – head here if you’re hoping to hit up some department stores (Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, to name a couple) or explore the bevvy of great boutiques like Diptyque, J.Crew, Intermix, H&M, Lululemon and more! Tired from shopping? Stop at the Theodore for a cocktail and bite to eat. There’s also the AMC Theatre if you were hoping to catch a flick.
Forty Five Ten features high-end avant garde designers (think Dries Van Noten, Celine and Moschino) and luxury gifts – unique pieces you’ll never find at a bigger department store.
Elements and EDIT by Elements (store within a store), is a well-curated collection of contemporary and high-end designers like Zimmermann, MSGM, Missoni, 10 Crosby by Derek Lam, and more. It’s also a great spot for gifts as well, featuring the likes of Andra Neen accessories, Fornasetti candles and a new section dedicated to personal fragrance.
Just past Elements on West Lovers is Canary, a bright little boutique highlighting on-the-rise high-end contemporary brands like Veronica Beard, Marissa Webb, Stella Jean, Roksanda Ilincic, and more – such a cute store!
Grange Hall is not for the faint of heart – it’s a luxury boutique to be sure, but features a very eclectic (some might even say dark) and unique collection of home accessories, jewelry and gifts. Grange Hall also creates the most beautiful floral arrangements and displays!
If a more inexpensive gift is what you’re looking for, I recommend hopping over to Madison or The Gypsy Wagon. Madison (located in Highland Park Village), has an amazing selection of coffee table books, cocktail napkins, candles, etc. The Gypsy Wagon is a little younger, featuring casual clothing, accessories and some of-the-moment party essentials like kitschy cocktail glasses and tumblers, party favors, decor and more.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden – another awesome place to spend a beautiful day outside is the Arboretum! Explore the expansive, flourishing grounds filled with breathtaking blooms, gardens, ponds and art installations throughout the year. In the fall season around Halloween they even have a pumpkin village! So fun.
Nasher Sculpture Center – if you’re interested in the art scene, take a trip over to the Nasher Sculpture Center to discover the impressive outdoor museum.
Fair Park – throughout the entire month of October, Fair Park is home to the State Fair of Texas. If you happen to be in town during this month, definitely go! From carnival rides and games, to rodeo shows and petting zoos, there’s something for everybody. Did I mention the food? Each year, hundreds of vendors
cook fry up the most delectable treats like like fried oreos, fried snickers, fried PB&J, turkey legs, funnel cakes, etc. You’ll gain ten pounds, but it’s totally worth it.
Bishop Arts District – just a short drive over the Trinity River will take you to Oak Cliff and the Bishop Arts District. This funky little neighborhood features a bunch of great restaurants and unique shops. The feel of this district is very different from the rest of Dallas, and trick you into thinking you’re in a different city altogether!
Dallas Design District – With a bunch of neat restaurants and bars popping up, this area is definitely the next up-and-coming neighborhood to check out. A few of the places to check out: Rodeo Goat (listed above), Meddlesome Moth, Ascension Coffee, El Bolero and Pie Tap. If it’s raining, grab a couple lanes at Bowlounge – such a cool setup for bowling! They’ve got a full bar and menu of yummy (but unhealthy) items.