Author Archives: LSee

Dallas’ historic Fair Park has been drawing crowds for decades

As the site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, Fair Park remains the only original, unaltered, pre-1950’s world’s fair site in the country. The architecture at Fair Park is distinctively Art Deco and home to over seven million visitors a year. The park hosts a slew of festivals and events year-round, including the ever popular Texas State Fair. The Music Hall, The Science Place, the Texas Star Ferris Wheel and the Cotton Bowl all call Fair Park home, in addition to several other museums, exhibit halls, performance venues and gardens. They also offer two historic walking tours of the grounds for those interested in the architecture and history of the park. Visit for more information.

Dine on delights by future chefs at Chef’s Gallery

Ever wanted a gourmet meal but didn’t want to drop a load of money? Check out the Chef’s Gallery at the Art Institute of Dallas. This restaurant is a working classroom for students in the Art Institute’s culinary program, so you get gourmet meals at half the price. The menu’s are seasonal and put together by the program’s instructors (in other words, no “gourmet” hot pockets) and the students spend time working each different part of a restaurant from the kitchen to the front end. They offer lunch Tuesday through Friday, dinner Wednesday through Friday and a limited menu in between lunch and dinner Wednesday through Friday. They don’t even burn the cous cous.

Find all your outdoor needs at REI

REI now has two locations in the metroplex, one in their original location just off 635 and one now in Plano by Park and Preston. They have everything you need and more for backpacking, traveling in general, hiking, camping, kayaking, and anything else you can think of that’s “outdoorsy.” They also sell Vibrams (those toe-finger running shoes) and it’s a great place to find ski supplies and down jackets for a city that is nowhere near slopes of any kind and usually isn’t below freezing. The staff is also knowledgeable when it comes to what you need and what you don’t need for just about every outdoor activity.

Find solace in an urban sanctuary at Main Street Garden

Main Street Garden is a little park right in the middle of downtown. It has a good stretch of green, a little playground and a cafe (whose operating hours seem to be “whenever the hell we want to be open”). It also has a digital art display and some pretty rad looking green walls. The park is free and open to the public, although sometimes special events are held in the space (like Dallas’ annual Homegrown Music Festival). The best thing about Main Street Garden is that it seems to be right under everyone’s radar; unless there is a special event, it’s never crowded.

Have a homegrown pint at Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Finally, the craft beer explosion has come to Dallas. May we all benefit. One of Dallas’ newest micro breweries is the Deep Ellum Brewing Company that opened in late 2011. Their bread and butter are the hoptastic Deep Ellum IPA, their Double Brown Stout and the Rye Pils. The awesome thing about a new brewery is they are constantly brewing up something new, so they have a healthy selection of seasonals available. While the brewery does n’t have an attached beer garden or restaurant or anything (what can we say, they focus on the beer), the brewery is open for tours Thursdays 5 – 7:30 and Saturdays from 12 – 3.

Dine on tacos at Taco Diner

Taco Diner is pretty much the yuppie version of a traditional Mexican taqueria, brought to us by the folks over at Mi Cocina. While the majority of the menu dons tacos in various forms, they have a few other Mexican classics and a robust seafood selection. The real draw for Taco Diner is the fish tacos, fresh ingredients, stark interiors, impeccable service and, of course, the green sauce. Like most Mexican restaurants, Taco Dine serves chips and salsas before your meal. One of the salsas is a green sauce that’s a not too spicy, oh-so-creamy nectar of Gods. It must be avocado.

Uncork a bottle of vino at Cork

Cork Wine Bar has a nice little concept for tasting, drinking and bottle-buying destination for anyone from a casual sipper to a connaisseur. Here’s how it works: you go in and pay the cashier, who then gives you a money-loaded card. You check out the featured wines “on tap,” swipe your card and choose if you want a tasting (a small amount) or a full glass. They have a spiffy little lounge in the back to sit and sip. Aside from a place to drink, Cork is also a good place to buy bottles at reasonable prices, and they have a good selection of wines that aren’t sold at every grocery store on every corner.

Accessorize and then some at Sam Moon

If you’re ever in dire need of a belt, bag, any jewelry, luggage, faux fancy flip flops or a tiara, go to Sam Moon. Sam Moon is a warehouse of every accessory under the sun and then some. Despite the openness of every store’s floor plan (or rather, lack thereof) and short shelving, it’s still somehow possible to get lost in oozits and whatzits galore. It’s like a no man’s land of cheap but nice-enough looking jewelry and accessories at rock bottom prices. Another nice thing about Sam Moon is their intolerance for ill-behaved children. They have three locations across the metroplex in Dallas, Frisco and Fort Worth.

Get a cold ass beer at Fred’s Texas Cafe

Fred’s is one of those decades-old gems that has now found itself nestled amongst a gaggle of shiny new restaurants and apartments. Despite the West 7th neighborhood growing up (literally) around them in the last few years, they still offer the same old chill atmosphere, “cold ass beer always,” arguably the best burgers in town and a down-home good time. With a quaint but tiny interior, people usually come to Fred’s for the patio. Be warned: it fills up quickly on nice days. Luckily Fred’s is the kind of place where everybody seems like an old friend and nobody thinks twice about sharing tables or letting you squat while they settle the bill.

Taste baked perfection at JD’s Chippery

JD’s Chippery in University Park is a little bakery with a big following. Their following is so big they manage to stay in business despite only selling two things: cookies and muffins. Yes folks, they are that good. They make the kind of cookie that cookie monster only dreams about: dense yet soft, chewy and often still warm. The oatmeal chocolate chip and snicker doodle are fan favorites, but really every flavor melts in your mouth. For larger orders call ahead to make sure they have enough of what you want. Please not JD’s does not accept credit cards: cash or check only.

Cool off at Paciugo

This family owned now-national chain started right here at home after the Ginatta family missed the rich espresso and gelatos of Italy after a relocation to Dallas. They opened up Paciugo to share these flavors of Italy with Dallas and have now expanded to 15 states across the country. At Paciugo’s you’ll find a healthy variety of traditional Italian gelato flavors (like Italian wedding cake, Tiramisu and Limoncella) as well as some more modern and locally inspired flavors, like Tres Leches, green tea and turtle cheesecake. There’s nothing like a spoonful of Paciugo’s melting on your tongue to cool off on a hot day or even soak in holiday spirit with seasonal flavors like egg nog and pumpkin pie.

Bob’s Steak & Chop has been pleasing Dallasites over twenty years

Calling Bob’s Steak & Chop House a traditional steak house is cheating just a little bit because they’ve been around so long they’ve practically created the traditions and set the standards. Between the dim, leathery ambiance that seems to have leaped from a different decade and a menu donning steaks no smaller 9 oz, this is definitely a manly, meat eaters paradise. The menu offers your regular steakhouse staples, including some nice “surf” selections, but where they really get props is offering roast duck instead of some boring rosemary chicken like all the rest of the steakhouses. For twenty years, Bob’s has proven that you don’t need posh interiors to sell steak, all you need is damn good steak.

Chillax with a drink or belt it out at karaoke at The Corner Bar in Uptown

The Corner Bar is a comfortable little Uptown establishment inside an old building from the 1930’s on McKinney and Monticello. The pressed tin ceiling (painted, of course) and exposed brick really brings out the old-time, vintage feel of the place and really hones in on that “neighborhood pub” ambiance. While they have a full kitchen with pizza and other bar food offerings, most patrons frequent The Corner Bar for cheap drinks and Wednesday night Karaoke (which won a “Best of” in 2010). They also have a few pool tables, with free pool on Sundays, and a good number of large TV’s considering the small size of the place.

See yourself in Sammons Park

Sammons Park is basically the large courtyard area in the Arts District that’s between the Winspear Opera House and the Wylie Theater. Nestled amongst the arts district and downtown, the park provides a serene atmosphere to view the city, relax, or have a picnic. One of the nicest features of this urban space is the large reflecting pool that’s basically a large black slab with a thin layer of water over it that creates a pristine reflection. The park hosts a variety of concerts, events and even yoga and draws everyone from families to students of nearby Booker T. Washington High School.

Make it a double at the DoubleWide

The DoubleWide, located kind of on the way to Deep Ellum from Exposition Park, is perfection in all things hipster and dive bars. The place is literally a double wide trailer that’s hard to miss because of the silver tornado that sits on top of it. The DoubleWide has cheap cocktails, cheap and col beer (including PBR, it is a hipster joint, after all), and live music most weekends and sometimes during the week. They also generally have either a DJ playing or karaoke on Mondays. The patio area is adorned with old lawn furniture and tables for when the cozy interior gets a little too cozy.

Seek a few thrills at Six Flags

Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington has a grand total of 45 rides for kids, wimps and thrill seekers alike. Dangle over 200 feet in the air on Mr. Freeze or loop upside down on Batman the Ride. Have a smoother ride on the redone Texas Giant, the classic wooden roller coaster now with new steel tracks. The Texas Giant has the steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster in the world. There are also a slew of more family-friendly rides, so you can fill up on cotton candy and spin ’til your sick on the teacup-like La Fiesta de las Tazas or go for a splash in the roaring rapids.

Bust out the Hawaiian shirt, Trader Joe’s is finally here!

Oh, Two Buck Chuck. How I pine for thee. Well pine no more; Trader Joe’s has finally made it to Texas! Get organic goods at rock bottom prices at the ever popular Trader Joe’s. The Fort Worth location opened in early summer of 2012, with the Plano location set to open September 7 2012 and two Dallas locations scheduled for 2013, one on Greenville Avenue and another at a yet-to-be-officially-released location. Leave the magnifying glass at home and shop without having to read labels, as Trader Joe’s products are never genetically modified and contain no preservatives, msg, added trans fats or artificial colors or flavors.

Buy local at White Rock Market

White Rock Market is a great little non profit farmer’s market where local farmers, ranchers and artisans come together twice a month selling locally raised, farmed or crafted goods March through December. The second Saturday of every month involves everything from food items to arts and crafts. The market is also open the fourth Saturday of every month just for farmers, producers and food artisans. The market is held at The Green Spot Market on Buckner. Shopping at the market is also a great way to just figure out what’s in season, as “they” say shopping seasonally is the way to go. It’s always seasonal, local and delicious at the White Rock Market.

Seoul Garden brings the soul of Korean cuisine to DFW

Located off Royal and I-35 (aka “Koreatown”), Seoul Garden is one of the more popular Korean restaurants in the area. The outside looks a little, dare we say, “strip mall,” however the interior and ambiance is the exact opposite: clean, nice, and almost “fancy.” They offer all the Korean favorites, including Korean barbecue, bulgogi, dolsat bibimbap, Soon Doo Bu (soft tofu soup), Pajeon (Korean pancake), and the traditional Banchan (aka, those little dishes they set out before the meal, including Kimchi) making Seoul Garden is both a meat eaters panacea and a vegetarian’s panacea. They also have the regular gamut of Korean aperitifs, including Soju (a weak-ish vodka made from sweet potato), wine and makkolli (an unfiltered rice wine).

Try authentic schnitzel at Bavarian Grill

Plano’s Bavarian Grill Restaurant and Beir Garten is one of the few places in town to get tried and true traditional German food, from the Bavarian region to be specific. Get spatzel, schnitzel, wurst, authentic German beer and schnapps in this festive setting with equally festive staff. Reservations are recommended on Saturdays when the “oompah” band plays as patrons tap silverware on beer glasses and sing along to German songs. Be wary that the oompah band may make you get up and do the chicken dance. Every spring they have a special “Weisser Spargel” (white asparagus) menu featuring these sweet and delicate white spears.

Find high fashion for a steal at the Shops at Park Lane

The Shops at Park lane (located just across 75 from North Park Center) is a new mixed-use development with retail stores and restaurants that follows the trend of an open-air shopping space with big sidewalks and apartments towering above. The retail stores all have the common theme of fashion at a bargain, with stores like Nordstrom’s Rack, Sack’s Off Fifth, Home Goods and the Bloomingdale’s Outlet. There are also a few nice little eco-conscious boutiques like Reuse Jeans and Evol Society. There is also a Whole Foods and, while there are just a couple restaurants currently open, several more are “coming soon.”

Find fresh local produce year-round at the Dallas Farmer’s Market

The Dallas Farmer’s Market has been serving Dallas with fresh local produce for 60 years. The market is open 362 days a year (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s) from 8 am to 6 pm. The vendors at the market offer all kinds of produce as well as meat, flowers and shrubs, and local honey. There are also some produce vendors from out of state (don’t worry, everything is marked if buying local is your cup of tea) in addition to eateries and gourmet food vendors. They also host all kinds of classes throughout the year ranging from cooking and fitness classes to more “how-to” classes (as in, how to pickle things).

Put a little zen in your life at the Japanese Gardens

Fort Worth’s Japanese Garden, located within the greater Fort Worth Botanic Garden network, is a little sanctuary in the city. The 7 acre garden is filled with traditional Japanese plants and flowers (like the tranquil Japanese Maple) and a water feature throughout filled with colorful Koi fish. There are little coin-op fish food dispensers throughout for feeding the Koi; toss the food pellets in one at time or all at once to watch a frenzy. They also have a meditation garden and a moon viewing deck. The Japanese Gardens hold two annual festivals, in fall and spring, celebrating Japanese art and culture.

Appreciate the arts at the Dallas Arts District

After a recent rejuvenation (or rather, a recent overhaul), the Dallas Arts District has transitioned from simply a downtown neighborhood to a destination in and of itself. The district is on the north side of downtown and encompasses Dallas’ premier art museums and performance halls that are all connected by a lovely outdoor urban space. It’s also a great areato view some of the city’s bestarchitecture, like the Meyerson and the Wyly Theater. The Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Winspear Opera House and the Dallas Arts Magnet also call the Dallas Arts District home.

Come early and stay late at Bar Louie

Bar Louie brings an urban atmosphere to the new(ish) West 7th development in Fort Worth. They specialize in handcrafted martinis but also serve a selection of craft beers, wine and other cocktails. Their menu takes upscale bar food to the next level with flatbread, a decent salad selection, or mac ‘n cheese with fried chicken in it. The interior restaurant and bar areas are spacious, but the real ambiance is on their equally spacious rooftop patio. On weekends, Bar Louie makes sure to keep the patio from getting too elbow-to-elbow by enforcing a strict one-in, one-out policy once it fills up. This is really awesome when you’re on the patio but really annoying when you have to wait in line, so plan accordingly.

See new bands at old-school Trees

Trees has been a staple music venue in Deep Ellum since 1990 that came into its own hosting grunge bands (like Nirvana, before they were super insanely popular). Despite closing a few times during Deep Ellum’s transitional period, they are back open and rocking out like it’s 1990 again. Named for the tree trunk building supports, the venue is a decent size with a second floor that has a few seats and a great view of the stage. One of the nicest things about Trees is that they post a video of each band on their event calendar, so you can check out the music without opening a million tabs on your browser. Yep, Trees always thinks of the fans.

Have a cocktail and play basketball at Grapevine Bar

Grapevine Bar is an interesting little entity with all kinds of things to keep you busy while you overindulge. It’s located right off Oak Lawn and has a rooftop deck with great views of the city. They also have a large patio with a basketball court and ping pong tables and TV’s, pool and Sony Playstations inside. Located right off Oak Lawn, but not necessarily a GLBT establishment, Grapevine is the kind of place with such diverse patronage that no one is out of place. They also have happy hour every day (even Saturday) that’s all day long Sunday through Tuesday.

Do some soul searching at Buttons

Buttons Restaurant takes the upscale approach to soul food with gourmet ingredients and regularly scheduled live jazz, R&B, blues and motown that’s netted them awards in both the culinary and music categories. The menu offers a little something for everyone, but the real deal is in the “old school” section of their menu. This is where to find all the old soul food favorites like fried green tomatoes, chicken and waffles and shrimp, fish and grits. They also have an excellent gospel brunch with live music and a breakfast buffet featuring some of the menu’s favorites and then some. Originally located in Fort Worth, they now have an Addison location and a jazz lounge in DeSoto.

Try Mexico City style tacos at Urban Taco

Looking for authentic Mexican taqueria cuisine without the bars on the windows? Then Urban Taco is calling your name. They’ve brought Mexico City style tacos and tortas to two locations in Dallas, but snazzed up their taqueria with contemporary interiors and flavored margaritas for one “modern Mexican dining experience.” The menu is chef-driven while keeping to tried and true Mexican favorites. Whether you’re there for the tacos, empanadas, or just to pick up some fresh poblano-pepita pesto, it’s all fresh food made daily. Some favorites to check out include their yucca fries, pozole tortilla soup, the mango-jicama slaw or anything in barbacoa.

Urbanize your pizza experience at Urban Crust

With more young professionals moving away from the city, Downtown Plano is moving from the down-home country atmosphere and bringing in a younger, cooler crowd. The new-ish pizzeria, Urban Crust, brings in both the family-oriented diner as well as the young drinking crowd with a big family-style interior and a rooftop bar, complete with 32 degree beers and an ice bar to keep your cocktail chilled. When it comes to the food, they serve up Neapolitan style pies with gourmet touches to either feed the whole family or soak up all that ice cold beer. Favorite pies include a four cheese pizza drizzled with truffle oil and the Urban Amore, featuring fig preserves, prosciutto, goat cheese, and arugula, as well as a slew of starters and delectable salads served family style.

Enjoy Tex-Mex favorites at the Blue Goose

The Blue Goose Cantina offers up Tex-Mex favorites at five locations across the metroplex. The menu boasts all the favorites: enchiladas, fajitas, tamales, and of course a big ‘ol bowl of chile con queso. They also have rotating weekly specials, including specials during hatch chile season. The Blue Goose additionally offers a weekend brunch menu, complete with a Bloody Mary bar and is one of the few places in town that offers Machacado con heuvos, a shredded dry beef in a scramble. It’s also not Tex-Mex without a darn good margarita, and their ritas are award winning. Try their classic house margarita or for something a little sweeter the mango and prickly pear margaritas do not disappoint.

Holy Aioli! Si Tapas serves up Spanish classics in a cozy setting

Si Tapas in Downtown Dallas is one of those house-turned restaurant gems nestled in the State and Thomas neighborhood. In addition to cozy interiors, their patio seating is exactly that: tables on a quaint house patio. Enjoy Spanish favorites such at Tortilla Espanola (a spanish tortilla omelet), fried calamari, ham croquettes and a few exotics such as veal sweetbreads or baby eels in garlic sauce, all served up with a healthy helping of Spain’s most celebrated condiment: aioli. Si Tapas’ happy hour is one of the best kept secrets in town, featuring a $3 tapas menu and $12 pitchers of Sangria. Happy hour or not, Si Tapas is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon sipping sangria and noshing on Spanish treats.

Eat, drink or catch a concert at Victory Park

Victory Park is the one area in Downtown Dallas proper to find great entertainment other than staring at office buildings. Victory Park is home to American Airlines Center and the House of Blues, bringing in sports fans and concert goers alike, and offers a whole host of activities for pre and/or post partying. Grab a pre-event meal or cocktail at the Hard Rock Cafe or Victory Tavern, or make your own post-party at the W Hotel’s famous Ghost Bar. Victory Park’s plaza also hosts a variety of events from concerts and sports watch parties during away games, to summer movie nights and the biggest New Year’s Eve party in town.

The Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre takes classic theater outside the box

The Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre is part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center located in the Arts District of Downtown Dallas. The theater was built so that their main performance hall is surrounded by three glass walls, creating a unique experience for the audience. The architecture of the building (designed by REX/OMA) in conjunction with an extensive pulley system creates a stage space that provides a lot of freedom for directors to work with many quickly changing sets. It’s like a playground for contemporary theater. The building is a work of art in and of itself with the 12-story building standing seemingly suspended three stories up with only one supporting wall. Check with the Dallas Theater Center for performances and showtimes.

Revamp your interiors at the Dallas Design District

The Dallas Design District, located just west of Downtown Dallas, consists of a series of shops, vendors and art galleries and is known as the go-to place for professional interior designers. In the past few years the showrooms have opened up their doors to the public, foregoing their former “strictly to the trade only” policies. While the showrooms have a reputation of being on the pricey side, the Design District is a great place to find that one stellar piece that brings a whole space together or to deck out a whole room or abode for the loftier budgets. The showrooms also vary in aesthetic, from classic or modern to utterly eclectic, providing high quality furniture, accents and art for all interior tastes.

The Bishop Arts District combines an indie flair with a cultural spirit

The Bishop Arts District is located in Oak Cliff, the neighborhood south of town trying to overcome its historically bad rep for being a “bad part of town.” Luckily, a little bit of gentrification has gone a long way without sucking the character out of Oak Cliff and the Bishop Arts District serves as the thriving central cohesion for this part of town. The Bishop Arts District is hands down the best area to find indie boutiques with one of a kind, hand made garments and the like. Picture a brick and mortar version of Etsy. A good collection of small, local restaurants add to this area’s charm as well as the Kessler Theater (a music venue) and the Texas Theater (an old movie theater playing flicks once again) make the Bishop Arts District one heck of a shopping destination.

The Lion and Crown is Addison Circle’s newest old English pub

The Lion and Crown at Addison Circle is a traditional English style pub. Don’t be fooled by reviews of bad service; the original concept was to create a pub just like in England, where everything (food included) is ordered at the bar. As Americans don’t exactly understand or appreciate this way of doing things they have since added some wait staff to take your orders. The draft selection offers the usuals (Guinness, Bass, etc) as well as a few others (including Strongbow), the bottle selection is a healthy selection of imported favorites and the menu dons traditional pub food. The atmosphere hits the nail on the head with the English pub ambiance, with wood aplenty and some fantastic antique pieces, like old altar seats.

At Paddy Red’s, everybody knows your name

Paddy Red’s is Downtown Fort Worth’s token Irish pub in a basement setting that’s cozy and comfortable. While the staunch regulars give this watering hole a Cheers-esque quality, new comers won’t get the stink eye upon entry; the more the merrier is the attitude here. In addition to the usual Irish pub selection on tap and over 100 bottles to choose from, Paddy Red’s also has a healthy selection of whiskey, scotch and vodka. They also have pool tables, darts and shuffleboard to complement any night out. For as “bar-ie” as this bar is, they also have extremely nice restrooms. Don’t come hungry, food does not grace their menu.

Keep it low-key at the Mckinney Avenue Tavern

The McKinney Avenue Tavern, aka “The Mat” is Uptown’s laid back sports bar that’s as unpretentious as their drink prices. The Mat is a no-nonsense kind of place with TV’s for watching any big game, a full bar and your generic (yet still tasty) bar menu with buffalo wings and pizza. Picture that old college hangout, except for young professionals. They are also big on events, hosting special events (along with food and beer specials) for big sports games, holidays, parades, the odd live show thrown in for good measure and they’ll even shuttle you to the State Fair on weekends. A nice patio space and karaoke rounds out the Mat into one dang good bar.

Become one with nature at the Heard Natural Science Museum

Getting a little tired of the concrete jungle? Head out to McKinney’s Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary for a day appreciating the outdoors and all it has to offer. The 289-acre wildlife reserve offers 6.5 miles of nature trails, a native plant garden and a butterfly garden. The sanctuary also hosts a number of science exhibits that serve as “edurtainment” for the kiddos, like a honey bee observation hive, a ropes course and dinosaur life-sized animatronics. The Heard Natural Science Museum is a great place to picnic or just enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful nature North Texas has to offer.

Get your Texas on at Billy Bob’s

The self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Honky Tonk,” Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth is the number one way to get that real Texas experience. Most locals end up at Billy Bob’s to catch a country show, but this is no ordinary venue. In addition to excellent music lineups on a regular basis, Billy Bob’s is a playground for just about every Texas stereotype. They have both a mechanical bull and live bull riding shows, dance lessons and barbecue. And of course beer. Lots of beer. With the uber western ambiance, it’s no wonder patrons randomly break out in the two-step. Seriously, it’s just like movies.

Dance without pretenses at The Slip Inn

The Slip Inn is Dallas’ quintessential unpretentious, divey-but-not-dicey dance club and bar. Their claim to fame is cheap(ish) drinks and excellent rap and hip hop music. While the DJ’s vary, the general consensus is that they all rock (and start playing at 10 pm). The Slip Inn is also known for a diverse and friendly crowd and provides a more casual atmosphere than most dance clubs. Despite the casual atmosphere, dressing up is still allowed. Located right off Greenville, The Slip Inn is the bumpin’ place for weekend post partying, although showing up early is also encouraged as the tiny L-shaped establishment is, well, tiny and L-shaped.

Put a little Austin in your taco at Torchy’s

Austin taco chain Torchy’s Tacos has branched out to Big D with a location in North Dallas, bringing its famous tacos with it. Torchy’s is a breath of fresh air, considering how few really good taco stands call DFW home. Torchy’s takes gourmet ingredients, mixes them up in clever combinations and wraps it all in a tortilla. The Mr. Pink (Ahi tuna and chipotle sauce), the fried avocado (self explanatory), and the brush fire (Jamaican jerk chicken, with mango and grilled jalapenos) are a few favorites on the menu. Torchy’s is also open for breakfast, with a special breakfast taco menu (though they will let you order off any menu whenever you want). Add to that four house-made special salsas to choose from and green chile queso that is Warning: consumption of Torchy’s Tacos tacos can lead to a condition often referred to as “taco coma.”

The Smoke Pit: 2 inch pork chops on Fridays, need we say more?

The Smoke Pit, just outside of downtown Fort Worth, is kind of the local barbecue version of Hooters. Scantily clad waitresses take your order and try to talk to you as you dine on their fine barbecue menu and guzzle down a cold one. They actually have a bikini top day. At The Smoke Pit, however, people actually do go for the food. The menu is simple: sliced barbecued meat sandwiches and baskets with various side options. It’s barbecue at it’s best, simple and delicious. What really sets The Smoke Pit apart is the Friday special, a two inch thick pork chop served with fries and beans. People can’t get enough of pork chop day at The Smoke Pit.

Pay a visit to the Neiman Marcus flagship store

No one has really had a shopping experience in Dallas without visiting Neiman Marcus’ historic flagship store in downtown. Opened in 1907, Neimans downtown location has all the latest fashions with that old-school, Chicago Mag Mile department store ambiance. In addition to their quality clothing, enjoy the classic window displays, their renowned excellent service and lunch at the Zodiac Room. Their downtown location is especially nice during the holidays, as they go all out with decorations and displays. Neiman Marcus is a staple both to Dallas and the fashion world at large, making their downtown location great for shopping and browsing alike.

Get a good dose of edur-tainment at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Recently re-opened in a brand-spanking-new building, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History offers hundreds of thousands of scientific and historic artifacts from Texas and the Southwest. They also host a range of temporary exhibitions and house a planetarium, an IMAX theater and a 6,000 square foot studio space full of interactive activities for all ages. The museum also participates in ongoing paleontological digs in the region for dinosaur fossils. Located in the heart of Fort Worth’s Cultural District, the museum makes a great addition to a day of art, culture, and history, especially for those with a couple of kids in tow.

Find out who shot JR at Southfork Ranch

What better way to get the Dallas experience than to visit the museum dedicated to the TV show that practically put Dallas on the map. Tour the Ewing mansion, check out the grounds, and reminisce about a less plastic Heather Locklear while touring the beautiful grounds. Southfork is also home to a museum featuring images and memorabilia from the filming of the internationally renowned television show while experiencing the famed theme song on a loop. Southfork is also a top destination for weddings, parties, corporate events and a murder mystery dinner. Don’t forget your Patrick Duffy postcard as you exit through the gift shop.

Feel like you’re at a discoteque at the Kismet Lounge

The Kismet Lounge, attached to cafe Izmir on Greenville Avenue, is a great little club with an international flair. At first glance the venue appears to have no dance floor, until you realize it’s just one big dance floor. They play a lot of European and Latin dance music and offer bottle service as well as hookahs to smoke for those looking to chillax it. The Kismet finishes off its ambiance with Moroccan-inspired decor and hosts various international nights throughout the week. They also have an amazing and coveted patio. This is the place to go for those looking to add a little spice to the daily bump and grind. Tables are available for reservation.

Club Dada: where cool music happens

Deep Ellum’s Club Dada is one of the best venue’s in Dallas to catch an indie show. They are one of the few music venues that has (mostly) held the fort down during Deep Ellum’s transitional period. They have a pretty good selection of beers on tap that’s always served with cool music and a cool atmosphere. It’s safe to say the folks at Club Dada are cool people. This is a great place to check out some of DFW’s best local talent or even an occasional poetry slam or old movie projected onto the wall. They also have an awesomely large patio with a stage.

Dance the night away at Plush

As one of Dallas’ premiere dance clubs, Plush is a three level Vegas-style nightclub in the heart of downtown. Plush always keeps it lush with special touches like a nitrogen cooling system for the dance floor, a 25 foot LED wall, impeccable decor and excellent cocktail service. Add to mix a lineup of talented DJ’s and a world class sound system and you have a dance floor never quite. A strictly enforced dress code means everyone is dressed to impress (so leave your Timberlands at home). For an extra special night, or if you’re just feelin’ like a baller, order bottle service or rent a private room.

Buy something fancy for someone special at the Galleria

The Galleria in North Dallas is upscale shopping at its finest. The Galleria is home to numerous designer storefronts, boutique shops, upscale department stores (Nordstrom’s, Macy’s and Sak’s) and even an art gallery. Perusing the window displays while strolling under the Galleria’s vaulted glass ceiling makes for a relaxed and enjoyable shopping experience. They also have one of the nicest ice skating rinks in town (you know, for the kiddos). After working up an appetite with a day of shopping you can then sit down to upscale casual dining or even treat yourself to some fine dining at The Grill on the Alley or Oceanaire.

Eat me at Fuzzy’s Tacos

DFW’s beloved Fuzzy’s Tacos serves the metroplex Baja-style Mexican food that’s always fresh, and with a slogan like “Eat me!” every order always comes with a small side of attitude. After gaining a following at their original location on Berry Street in Fort Worth, Fuzzy’s has since expanded with several locations across DFW, the state and even the nation. While everything on the menu is good, most patrons visit Fuzzy’s for their Baja tacos (especially of the shrimp tempura or crawfish variety). They also have ample TV’s set up for your sports viewing pleasure, keep the margaritas and beer flowing and make some of the best chile con queso in town.

Be kind to our fine feathered friends at the Trinity River Audubon Center

Recently built just south of downtown in the Great Trinity Forest, the Trinity River Audubon Center is a living classroom and nature center dedicated to education and conservation initiatives. The center’s main building (which serves as a portal to the rest of the reserve) was built with the environment in mind, using mostly renewable and recycled building materials, a vegetated roof and even windows angled just right so birds won’t fly into them. The Audubon Center is also the first LEED-certified building built by the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. Use the main building as a launch point to experience nature trails, hiking, bird watching and hands on exhibits.

Giddyup at the Roundup Saloon

Once hailed “The Best Galdanged Gay Bar in the U.S. of A.,” the Roundup Saloon off Cedar Springs has been dubbed the home of good times and good people since 1980. Scoot your boots every night of the week at one of the only remaining country and western gay bars in the nation. They have karaoke Monday through Thursday, free dance lessons every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, Friday and Saturday drink specials and and excellent dance floor for two-steppin’. Country not your thang? Check them out on Sundays for Retro Man Candy nights and dance to some oldies but goodies from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Find something funky at Lula B’s

Lula B’s is a spacious little antique mall in Deep Ellum touting “cool stuff for cool people,” and with good reason. Over 80 vendors specialize in items from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s and sell everything you need (and everything you didn’t know you needed) that’s vintage, retro, antique, collectible or just plain cool and funky. From farmhouse kitchen gadgets and designer clothes to vintage cowboy boots and vinyl, Lula B’s makes it hard to leave empty handed. A trip to Lula B’s is no “quick trip” kind of deal – make time to get lost amongst the brick-a-brack. As an added bonus, Lula B’s has expanded to two locations with another store in the Dallas Design District. Can we say oozits and whatzits galore?

Get some killer sushi at Pirhana

Pirhana Killer Sushi is a clever little local sushi chain that started up in Arlington. Pirhana always has impeccable interiors; fashionable and sophisticated yet welcoming with a keen sense of detail. While the ambiance is a nice touch, people really go there for their killer sushi. While you’ll find a few old favorites on the menu (like all the classic rolls, ie: spicy tuna, California, etc), the main attraction is in their specialty roll selection jam-packed with creative rolls, cleverly named. A few favorites are the Bullet Roll (spicy salmon mix, cucumber, shiso leaf, avocado, escolar, cilantro puree) and the Marry Me Roll (shrimp tempura & ginger cream topped with avocado, tuna & strawberry), with the Vietnamese Summer Roll to give things a twist (salmon, tuna, crab, greens, mango & asparagus wrapped with rice paper). Wash it all down with some sake or one of their specialty cocktails and make a night of it at this sushi joint that over delivers.

Experience Southwest cuisine with an upscale twist at Stephen Pyles

Long hailed as one of the founding fathers of Southwestern cuisine, Stephen Pyles in his namesake restaurant combines culinary expertise with his down-home, west Texas roots. Stephen Pyles combines the flavors of Mexican, Tex-Mex and Creole cuisine into a category of its own with international influences and even a little molecular gastronomy thrown in for good measure. (Like with his Tamale Tart with Roast Garlic Custard, Peekytoe Crab
and Smoked Tomato Sauce or anything from the “ceviche bar.”) Located in the Dallas Arts District, Stephen Pyles offers a dining experience that is big on flavors from the world over while providing gentle reminders here and there that yes, we are still in Texas.

Look at something fishy at the Dallas World Aquarium

Opened in 1992, The Dallas World Aquarium provides a little look into marine, freshwater and even terrestrial ecosystems. The aquarium itself houses a coral reef, kelp forest and even a 20,000 gallon walk through tunnel and features an array of marine life from around the world, including sharks and other marine life from the Yucatan Peninsula. The various terrestrial exhibits feature the biodiversity of wildlife from Borneo and the South American Rainforest. The aquarium also offers an educational component with hands on exhibits, touch screens and special programs for children. They’ve even been known on occasion to have a diver hold up a “Will You Marry Me” sign; you know, for the romantics.

Nosh on sushi in a casual environment at Tampopo

Sushi doesn’t always have to be swank. Tampopo at Lovers and Greenville is a great little no frills Japanese cafe that hits the spot when you’re craving sashimi but looking for a place that’s fast, casual and reasonably priced. The inside is clean and unpretentious but pleasant for an order-at-the-counter establishment. The menu is pretty simple but dons the basics: sushi, a small selection of rolls, sashimi, teriyaki and tempura. Their bento boxes make for a perfect little lunch and they always have some variety of Udon noodle soup written on their specials board. They also serve beer, wine and hot sake.

Find discounts on designer labels at the Allen Outlets

Oh, outlet malls; you’d love to hate them and hate to love them but when it comes down to it all your favorite stores and designer labels are represented and the prices are all discounted, sometimes deeply. The Allen Premium Outlets live up to all that outlet malls promise and more. Charlotte Russe, Juicy Couture, Coach, even Le Creuset calls your name and whispers sweet nothings in your ear about lower prices and the current season’s trends. You can even join their VIP club to receive special coupons and promotions for over 100 outlet stores. They also usually have big sales around national holidays that yield three day weekends.

Find foliage at North Haven Gardens

North Haven Gardens has been a plant and landscape shopping destination in Dallas for over 60 years. Whether you just need to spruce up an apartment, are looking to grow a vegetable garden or planning some serious landscaping, you can find what you need at North Haven Gardens. A friendly and supportive staff is always around to answer any questions and they offer garden coaching for those that could use a little extra help. The organic garden coaching is a particular favorite of patrons. North Haven also has a variety of free classes and talks of all things gardening every month from discovering heat hardy plants to floral design to gardening 101.

Chat with cool kids at the Chat Room

The Chat Room on Magnolia is probably Fort Worth’s coolest dive. The staff is friendly and the drinks are cheap and large (you’ll often get your cocktail in a pint glass), and they are one of the few places in DFW/Texas/the world that offers a vegan White Russian. The dance floor is small but present so people can dance to the jukebox that has better taste in music than your favorite cool-kid. The inside is smoke-friendly with little effort to ventilate, so show up early enough to grab a picnic table outside if smoking ain’t your thang. If you don’t go for the cheap drinks or the jukebox, go for the pinball machine or the free internet (it does say “internet pub” on the sign, after all).

Catch an art-house flick at the Texas Theatre

The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff is most infamously known as the place Lee Harvey Oswald was caught by police after (allegedly) shooting President John F. Kennedy. Over the years the theater has been neglected, demolition threatened, and, finally, saved by both the Oak Cliff and the film community. The Texas Theatre is now one of the only places in DFW to catch a real independent, art-house film. If obscure films, documentaries, old restored movies or just a really awful B horror movie is your cup of tea, the Texas Theatre is your kind of place. They also have bar for enjoying cocktails during the movies, as long getting up to visit the facilities in the middle of a movie doesn’t bother you.

Discover unique art and cool boutique finds in Deep Ellum

Deep Ellum was once the destination where the freaks came out at night, and folks visited for shows, drinks and to watch (or be) said freaks in scores every weekend during the 80’s and mid 90’s. After a little bad press about the safety of Deep Ellum, the neighborhood has undergone a bit of a transition. While no longer necessarily the “it” place to be on the weekends, the artists in the Deep Ellum community haven’t let a little bad press scare them away from their beloved neighborhood. Now, eclectic boutiques and art galleries still adorn the three-street strip in addition to a sprinkling of music venues, restaurants and clubs that have held their own through thick and thin. Patrons that remember the good ‘ol days can now appreciate a more laid back atmosphere, less hooliganism and free and ample parking.

Enjoy authentic South Indian cuisine at Madras Pavillion

Oft-hailed as one of Dallas’ best Indian restaurants, Madras Pavillion offers a healthy variety of South Indian (also all vegetarian) delights. While the sag paneer and ghobi mancurian never disappoint, most people show up for the dosai, a giant crepe rolled with your choice of filling (the potato onion filling is the most popular, and they offer spicy or non spicy for those with a more sensitive palate). Afraid you’ll find yourself in an Indian restaurant with no idea what to order? No worries, either order one of their sampler platters or show up for the lunch buffet any day of the week to try a variety. The lunch buffet usually even includes an order of dosai.

Get your jazz and martini fix at The Balcony Club

The Balcony club, conveniently attached to the Lakewood Theater, is one of those small and dark jazz clubs with a speak easy vibe that’s often only seen in the movies. They have live jazz every night of the week and regulars show up any night of the week to unwind and chillax. If you’re looking to be rowdy and shoot Jager-bombs, this is not the perfect joint for your night out. If quality music and a laid back atmosphere is your cup of tea, this is the place to be. The Balcony Club is also known to make a really good martini. Hey, when in Rome…

Have a fireside picnic with alcohol at Lee Harvey’s

Oh, Lee Harvey’s. While having a Pabst at Lee Harvey’s may be on the Dallas Hipster to-do list, this 50-something year old bar has been drawing all kinds of crowds to its laid back atmosphere and picnic tables for decades. This patio dive has a full bar, ample picnic table seating, and a butt-load of character. Fire pits warm patrons on chilly evenings, they usually have live music on the weekends, dogs are welcome on the patio every Sunday and the food is actually good. The menu dons tacos, burgers and paninis and changes up from time to time so there’s always something new and delicious to try. Pay a visit to old Lee Harvey’s and wax philosophical over the fact that the cool kid sitting next to you is actually younger than the neon beer signs.

Art Love Magic brings magic to the art scene

Started by three artists looking for a better way to connect with other artists, Art Love Magic is an organization in the business of connecting; connecting emerging and established artists as well as connecting viewers with the artists and their process. They host one large gallery show a month, involving both an exhibit and an event in which attendees can watch artists at work across all media, including live music, performance and spoken word. They also host Art and Coffee on the first Friday of every month, a free event with live music and art at a local coffee shop. Check their calendar for event times and locations.

The Amsterdam Bar couples a laid back atmosphere with an excellent beer selection

The Amsterdam Bar is nestled on the strip on Exposition across from Fair Park. In addition to a laid back, cozy atmosphere they also have a choice collection of craft and import beers on tap as well as a decent selection of spirits for the non-beer snobs. Artwork by local artists adorns the wall as well as a dart board, if you feel so inclined. They have a rotating door of live music on various nights, including live jazz every Monday. If the inside is feeling a little too cozy for you, check out the large patio out back. The Amsterdam Bar does not serve food aside from a few snacks, however, you can have food delivered or bring it to-go from nearby eateries.

Make a day out of shopping in the West Village

The upscale shopping in Uptown’s West Village offers a blend of boutiques and national brand stores to the tune of Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. In an afternoon of store-hopping, shoppers can come home with anything from artisan handmade accessories or a pair of cowboy boots to business attire and a bottle of wine. The West Village also has a variety of eateries to refuel after a day of hard shopping, as well as a few watering holes and the Magnolia Theater if an indie film strikes your fancy after all that shopping. A few excellent shops to stop into are Carito Caro, Cowboy Cool, Pitaya, and Club Monaco opens for Fall 2011.

Shop, eat, and catch a flick at Mockingbird Station

Mockingbird Station is a great place to shop when you’re looking for a few of those “mall” favorites but don’t want to deal with the hassle of the mall. Pick up your necessities at Bath and Body Works, Ann Taylor, The Gap or Victoria’s Secret and then find that something extra special at one of their boutiques, such as Movida or Francesca’s collections. Mockingbird Station is home to several little restaurants to get a quick bite or post-shop cocktail, as well as the Angelika Film Center, great for checking out the latest indie flicks. It’s also conveniently located just north of downtown, right on the DART Rail stop.

Give your home an exotic touch at Wisteria

Known for their extensive catalog and specializing in exotic imported furniture and decor, Wisteria has one brick and mortar in the form of an outlet store on Cedar Springs, just across from Love Field. The outlet store is a great place to look for deals and specials, or just to check out their merch in person before making a purchase. Their warehouse-esque location is a treasure trove of beautiful furniture and home furnishings from lands far away and bursts at the seams with that “world-traveler” aesthetic. From accent pieces to furniture, Wisteria is the perfect place to find that perfect piece that brings a room together. Expect exotic pieces like bone-inlaid dressers and tables from India, trunks and Buddha statues from China, and textiles from the world over.

Fine dining + diner cuisine = R+D Kitchen

R+D Kitchen has done the seemingly impossible by turning “diner” inspired cuisine into, well, fine cuisine. The restaurant offers a posh little atmosphere with quaint patio seating and a circular bar located in the center of the restaurant. The menu is short but sweet, offering home-style favorites that are taken up a notch with quality ingredients and gourmet touches. For starters, they have a handful of sushi rolls, a cold dip duo of guacamole and pimento queso, or a plate of deviled eggs to whet your palette. The mains include creative entree salads, a few fish options, a center-cut filet and a wild mushroom meatloaf that actually comes medium rare on purpose. All mains come with home-style sides such as warm potato salad or wilted spinach. They also don a special brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Grab an alien-free pint at the Flying Saucer

The Flying Saucer provides another watering hole for the craft beer aficionado, with hundreds of imports, micro brews and craft beers on draft as well as some specialty bottles. While most beers are always available, they regularly rotate seasonal and new kegs, with rare tapping and glass night events during the week (buy the beer, keep the glass). The Saucer’s real claim to fame is their UFO club, in which after trying 200 different beers participants are awarded a saucer with their name and a quote on it. Scores of saucers adorn the walls from former “beer knurds” that have achieved success in beer drinking. The Flying Saucer has two locations, one in Addison and one in Sundance Square in Fort Worth. It’s worth noting that the Addison location is one of the few good places in Addison that is non-smoking (except for a small room in the back). Also worth noting is the free popcorn. Just ask for it.

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill offers up steak house favorites cooked over a flame

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill is a Chicago-style chop house with a wood grill and impeccable service. They offer American steak house cuisine, all cooked with the rustic, smokey flavor of a wood fire. Notable starters include the wood grilled brie fondue and the Ahi tuna nachos (for something on the lighter side). In addition to the standard selection of steaks, their 16 oz pork chop is a specialty and a favorite. Kenny’s also has a great selection of surf to go with their turf, all wood grilled to perfection (try the red chili camarones or the trout). Their specials change daily and are usually creative and excellent.

Day trip it to downtown McKinney

McKinney, about 45 miles north of Dallas, has a lovely little “old town” square that makes the perfect day trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city on those not-so-busy weekend days. The town center has clothing and antique boutiques, some good restaurants (including a tapas place and a steak house), a few art galleries (like Laura Moore Fine Art) and a watering hole or two. They also have seasonal events year-round, like an Oktoberfest to give Germany a run for their money and an evening of art and music every second Saturday of the month in which most local businesses keep their doors open until 7 pm. Check their calendar for details and current event listings.

Bar hop on lower Greenville Avenue

Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas is the prime spot for your typical pub crawl. Lined with clubs, bars and restaurants, it’s situated perfectly for patrons to bar hop without having drive all over the place. Get your groove on at Zubar, try your Latin dance moves at Kismet, or fill up on cheap libations and a relaxed atmosphere at Ship’s Lounge. Lower Greenville is also host to Dallas’ famous St. Patty’s Day parade, which is basically the only street party Dallas does right. As the night winds to an end, soak up the booze with a bite at late night Mexican eatery La Casita (known to locals as “Rena’s” after the beloved owner/cook/waittress). Not a night owl? Show up earlier in the evening and check out Lower Greenville’s eclectic shops and any one of their numerous restaurants.

Relax or go for a run at White Rock Lake

Located just east of downtown, White Rock Lake is Dallas’ answer to mother nature without having to stray too far from the city. White Rock Lake provides a sanctuary with bird watching, 9.33 miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing, and picnic areas. The historic Bath House Cultural Center, located right on the shore of White Rock lake, is also a destination for viewing art by local artists and artisans. The lake is also host to Dallas’ famous annual White Rock Marathon, and is just a skip, hop and a jump from the Dallas Arboretum. For those looking for physical activity or a relaxing day with scenic views and good people watching, White Rock Lake is Dallas’ closest destination to get outdoors.

Get an authentic Neapolitan pie at Brix Pizza and Wine Bar

Brought to you by Daniele Puleo of Daniele Osteria, Brix Pizza and Wine Bar in Fort Worth serves up gourmet Neapolitan pies and classic Italian entrees with an extensive wine list at reasonable prices. The atmosphere is open yet cozy, even if you’re not sitting on the quaint little patio. For starters, the bruschetta is especially special and the hell’s kitchen fries marry tabasco and gorgonzola in a mound of starchy deliciousness. The pizza menu changes a little here and there but the pies are always inventive and tasty. A few staples include the prosciutto and spinach and the classic margherita. With two Italian chefs working the kitchen, this is about as authentic as pizza gets in America.

Get a crazy strong cocktail at The Loon

The Loon, located in the heart of Uptown, plays the role of Uptown’s quintessential “dive bar.” With an old pub-like feel, The Loon is definitely as “dive-ish” as Uptown gets. The Loon’s only drink special is a scrimpy happy hour, however, their reputation of providing a heavy handed pour means every drink is always special. They have a pretty extensive menu of bar-food staples, pizza and Italian food. Nobody really knows how good the food is because nobody eats there. Or they are already too sauced to remember. Appearance of the menu at any table usually begs the question, “They serve food here?”

Wake up to an early breakfast from the Dream Cafe

The Dream Cafe is Dallas’ quirky little breakfast spot with an inventive menu, a dog-and-kid-friendly atmosphere and excellent food. Their two locations (Uptown and Addison) serve those who live in Uptown, and those who used to live in Uptown but have now moved further from the city due to job location/kids. The Dream Cafe is also one of the few places in town to get good breakfast and brunch fare before 10 am (their doors open at 7 am daily, brunch menu is available daily). The Uptown location stays open later with a pseudo-international inspired dinner menu. A few favorites include the Santa Fe omelet, cloud cakes, the global dinner and the Mystic Pasta (think pasta tossed with brie and smoked bacon).

“Get away” from Uptown without actually leaving Uptown at the Quarter Bar

The Quarter Bar in Uptown in one of the best places to grab a pint without feeling like you’re in “Uptown.” Next door (and attached) to Breadwinners, the Quarter Bar serves the dual purpose of a waiting area for Breadwinners during their rushes. Even if you’re not waiting for a table at the neighboring bistro, the Quarter Bar has a robust beer selection at reasonable prices in a cozy, pub-like atmosphere. They also don a limited Breadwinners “bar” menu. The upstairs bar area has pool tables and video games and the rooftop patio offers a lovely view of McKinney Avenue and is also pooch friendly.

Get ‘yer western gear at the Fort Worth Stockyards

Whether you are just visiting or live in the area, spending time in DFW often warrants a need for those western, Texas-themed goods, be it leather coasters for a souvenir, over sized wooden furniture for a man cave, or Texas-shaped anything. The best cluster of western stores and boutique style shops can be found around the Fort Worth Stockyards. The various shopping establishments at the Stockyards offer western goods such as Wranglers, western antiques, furniture, boots and even saddles. While some of the merch falls into the “Texas kitsch” category, that’s kind of the point. For your more typical souvenirs, check out the giant, obvious-placed assortment of souvenir shops. For something a little more unique (like leather coasters made by a real Texas inmate), check the side roads for consignment stores and boutiques.

Ssahm BBQ: Asian fusion on wheels

Food trucks are starting to populate the streets of Dallas, and one of the first on the scene is Asian fusion truck Ssahm BBQ. Ssahm puts Korean favorites in Mexican clothing with Korean inspired tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Pick your Korean marinated meat (or tofu), pick your style (taco, burrito, or quesadilla), and they add caramelized Kimchee and fixin’s. Also available are the ever popular Kimchee fries topped with cheese. The Ssahm truck may seem elusive at first, moving locations every day for lunch and dinner, however, they have a schedule posted on their website or you can follow them on Facebook for more specifics. Come get SSahm!

Have a run at the Katy Trail

Living in the city often means you’re stuck running on sidewalks, and concrete is oh-so-hard on the knees. If you find your self Uptown, or downtown for that matter, check out the Katy Trail’s 3.5 mile track that runs from Victory Park to Airline Drive. The Katy Trail is like a tiny version of Central Park, with a tree-lined trail running right through the city offering a little sanctuary from, yet still within, the hustle and bustle of town. The Katy Trail also hosts numerous races and events through the year, check their calendar for details. Not a runner? Not a problem. Walkers, cyclers, strollers, and pets-on-leashes are all welcome to enjoy an afternoon at the Katy Trail.

Get up to 24 hours of R&R at King Spa & Sauna

King Spa and Sauna isn’t your ordinary spa. It’s a Korean style spa (aka, a spa on steroids) complete with 11 spa and sauna rooms, including an oxygen room, an ice room, and an aroma room to purify your body and rid it of toxins. Admission is $20 for a full 24 hours of sweating, soaking, and relaxation. They even offer a $3 discount for “happy hour,” 6 am – 2 pm Monday through Thursday. King Spa also offers body scrubs and massages for an extra fee. In addition to the spa rooms, their facilities include computer rooms with wifi access, pools and even a food court serving traditional Korean specialties. If you’re planning on showing up in the wee hours of the morning, check their website or call ahead as some of their facilities close during the night for cleaning and maintenance. Also note that men and women spa separately.

Chill like an expat at the Londoner

The Londoner in Addison is DFW’s go-to place for a UK style sesh. Even the outside of the building screams, “Pub!” The draft selection has UK favorites as well as a few local-ish choices for good measure and they even have a decent selection of Scotch. Their menu offers traditional English fare, including Chicken Tikki Masala, shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash. The Londoner also shows all the European soccer matches (at least all the ones that have available coverage) that area expats congregate to like flies to… well you get it. Their patio is ample and dog friendly. Who wants a pint?

Put on something vintage at Puttin’ on the Ritz

Every vintage-clothing connoisseur goes through the same weary task of rifling through racks at vintage stores in hopes of finding that one little upscale gem that’s been overlooked. This treasure hunt can be frustrating and (pun intended) wearing. Look no further, my friends. Puttin’ on the Ritz in Snider Plaza specializes in vintage collections up to a hundred years old including 20th century wedding dresses and even some classic designer labels from collections of decades passed. This is no second hand store of hand-me-downs, Puttin’ on the Ritz brings you vintage shopping at its finest. While the vintage designer clothing can cost into the thousands, you can still find some good buys in the $20 and up range to give your wardrobe a nod to those fashion trends that keep resurfacing through the test of time.

The Woodshed will smoke almost anything

Fort Worth’s beloved Tim Love recently opened his newest venture, The Woodshed: a smokehouse right on the Trinity River with an ample patio and laid back atmosphere. While the menu dons some of the regular smokehouse expectations, what takes The Woodshed to the next level is A) a few interesting proteins (to the tune of rabbit and rattlesnake sausage or “game bird”) and B) Tim Love will smoke anything. They will throw anything in that smoker at The Woodshed, like artichoke or a whole head of cauliflower in addition to all the meats, means fantastic sides or even a vegetarian’s delight. Wait, a smokehouse? With yummy things for vegetarians? But the meat stuff is also awesome? Really? No seriously, really? Yes, my good friends. Everybody leaves happy.

It’s all about the Dough

Dough, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria out of San Antonio has opened up shop in North Dallas with gourmet ingredients and an 800+ degree brick oven. Dough hand makes their own mozzarella fresh daily or give the option of buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy, all topped off with a topping list to make any foodie salivate. A few favorite pies include the Fontina (oak roasted mushrooms and caramelized onion topped with Fontina cheese), the Pork Love (red sauch, Fior di Latte, salami, sausage, pancetta & speck) or the Margherita “STG” (traditional margherita topped with Mozzarella di Bufala and Parmesan Reggiano). Ingredients aside, it’s the hand-tossed pizza dough that turns into a puffy, flat bread-like crust that brings Dough’s pizza to the next level.

Dine on fine French food at The Mansion at Turtle Creek

The Mansion at Turtle Creek has been a staple in Dallas’ fine dining scene for over thirty years. An upscale atmosphere and excellent service only add to The Mansion’s French-inspired menu. Sip a little bubbly while enjoying seared foie gras with a pineapple-raisin chutney, roasted duck breast with carmelized turnips, quince and a black current reduction, or enjoy any number of Chef Chef Bruno Davaillon’s seasonal tastings. For a switch, enjoy your meal on their picturesque restaurant terrace or reserve an intimate private dining suite for a cozy dinner for two or for a crowd. Dining at The Mansion is the perfect start to enjoying a night on the town.

Burgers take a gourmet twist at Twisted Root

Twisted Root Burger Co serves up gourmet burgers and fried hot dogs with a healthy dose of sass at six locations across the metroplex. It’s not a gourmet burger without options, and Twisted Root does not skimp on options.

The burger meat/patty choices include hamburger, buffalo burger, turkey burger, spicy veggie burger, or select wild game (Venison, Elk, Ostrich, Emu, Boar, Antelope, Lamb) on availability. The toppings are numerous and creative, offering everything from guacamole to chipotle sauce. To take decision making out of the process, they have a “specialty burgers” menu with suggested combinations. This is also a good place to find out if buffalo sauce actually goes with buffalo meat. To top off the burgers they have self-serve homemade pickles in a few different flavors. If a giant gourmet burger doesn’t fill you up, follow it up with a root beer float or milkshake made with homemade ice cream.

Fancy beer meets fancy food at the Meddlesome Moth

The folks from the Flying Saucer bring Dallas its first official “gastro pub.” The Meddlesome Moth, located just west of downtown in the design district, provides a setting that brings foodies and beer snobs together. In addition to serving a variety of specialty beers, the menu serves up creative combinations of both meals and “share plates” (think elaborate tapas).

Favorite share plates include the Five Spice Pork Belly, Shrimp and Grits (with jalapeno gravy), Hawaiin “Ahi” Tuna and the collard greens. The cayenne-lime fried hominy is great if you’re just looking for a nibble.

The beer menu is a little slice of heaven for any craft beer snob. It contains all the staples plus a variety that changes seasonally. While beer suggestions change with every palette, for something truly different keep an eye out for any of the beers aged in whiskey/bourbon/brandy barrels (like Rahr’s Whiskey Warmer).

Bar plus arcade equals Barcadia

The Barcadia off Knox/Henderson is the place to indulge in both adult libations and your inner child. For the adult in you, Barcadia has a decent draught selection as well as an extensive selection of bottled imports. They also have some killer weekly specials and Sunday Brunch, complete with Mimosas and Bloody Marys.

For the kid in you, the Barcadia has over a dozen vintage arcade games, Skee Ball, and Jenga made out of giant pieces on the patio that make a loud crashing noise whenever someone loses.

The menu consists of typical greasy bar fare with a few twists thrown in for good measure, such as fried PB&J, fried deviled eggs and a falafel sandwich. For those watching their waistline the menu has six, yes, six, salad choices. Not too shabby for a menu that’s clearly geared towards soaking up alcohol.

Pizza Lounge in Expo Park serves up creative pies in a creative setting

Exposition Park’s Pizza Lounge is the kind of place you’d expect to see in the Dallas section of Lonely Planet. The interior gives off an eclectic ambiance with purposely-mismatched couches and lounge chairs around every table. Pizza Lounge is conveniently located across the street from Fair Park, is right by a DART station and it’s only a skip hop and a jump from Deep Ellum.

The menu is an entertaining read unto itself with cleverly named dishes and pies. A few good choices are the Nickel Bag/Dime Bag (small/large spinach and broccoli rabe), the Margherita (it seems like a boring choice until you realize they throw capers on there), or the Sofa King: a pie so loaded with meat it guarantees to make you “Sofa King Full.” Pizza Lounge also loves vegans as much as vegans love animals with several vegan options and substitutes conveniently labeled with a green “v” symbol. Don’t be cruel – eat tofu.

Northpark Center is upscale shopping at its finest

Northpark Center is a staple for Dallas shopping. The store directory alone has its own bragging rights with representation from top designers such as Betsy Johnson, Versace, Gucci and the list goes on. Northpark Center also dons a collection of fine art and installations throughout the building with acquisitions by Nancy A. Nasher. Northpark’s restaurants and eateries are also better-than-your-average food court. The official food court has a Paciugo, a Which Which and a Snappy Salads, and their restaurants include fancy favorites Luna De Noche, Maggiano’s and McKormick and Schmick’s Seafood. As if all that wasn’t enough, Northpark is the future home to Dallas’ first and only H&M opening later this year. Pardon me while I squeal with excitement.

The Kimbell Art Museum provides a perfect space for viewing fine art

Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum houses a small but impressive permanent collection ranging from antiquity to modern times. The Kimbell consistently hosts excellent special exhibitions featuring some of history’s greatest artists, including Picasso, Gaugin and Murillo, to name drop a few from recent seasons. The museum also occasionally hosts major traveling exhibitions.

The Kimbell Art Museum itself is also a work of art. Designed by Louis Kahn and opened in 1972, the building is world-renowned for Kahn’s use of natural light to illuminate the artwork. As a result of the museum outgrowing this oft-describe “perfect space,” an annex designed by Renzo Piano is scheduled to open in 2013.

There isn’t a bad seat in the house at the Meyerson Symphony Center

Dallas’ I.M. Pei is located downtown in the Dallas Arts District and is worth a looksee even if you don’t have tickets to one of their events. Due to the world-class acoustics of the concert hall at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The Meyerson is home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Wind Symphony (DSO), the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. The DSO is the Meyerson’s primary tenant, presenting over 180 concerts a year. The Dallas Wind Symphony also upholds excellence in music and watching conductor Jerry Junkin is nearly as entertaining as the concerts.

Voodoo Chile is the thrift shop to end all thrift shops

This small, psychedelic thrift shop located off Greenville Ave (around the corner from the Libertine) is the place to go when you’re bored with all the other thrift shops. It’s jam-packed with curiosities galore, from artistically crazy masks to vinyl to racks of vintage clothes and anything else you would never think you needed to buy. Don’t be fooled by the small exterior; there is no lack of merchandise. You could spend hours in this place searching for objects that lurk in the shadows. The merch is also constantly changing, so each visit proves to be a new experience. It’s a true hoarder’s delight.

Order your usual at The Usual

Have you ever wanted to try an Old Fashioned? The Usual off Magnolia offers up prohibition-era cocktails in a slick venue with uber mod design. Drinks to check out include the Jimador (a spicy tequila concoction), the Old Fashioned (naturally) and their Aviation (three words: creme de violette). Drink prices are a little high starting at $6, but everything is top shelf so it’s actually a steal. The venue is also non-smoking, a breath of fresh air compared to most of Fort Worth’s watering holes. You can even order food at neighboring Nonna Tata’s and ask them to bring it to you at The Usual, a welcome relief from Nonna Tata’s extraordinarily small space. Please bring a sober driver; those prohibitionists didn’t mess around.