Whenever people ask me if I’ll ever move back to Dallas, I tell them Texas will always be home. After all, my dad named me after my birthplace, Carrollton, a suburb 20 minutes north of Dallas, basically branding me with an “I heart Texas” stamp.
Dallas — no longer known for just its big hair and big portions — has evolved into a destination city. To really explore each neighborhood, you’ll need a car. A car is your best friend. It’ll also help you cross all the ethnic eats and assorted enclaves off your list.
After all, there’s a reason why people stay, settle and name their children after cities here.
Built on top of a freeway, Klyde Warren Park is more than just a symbol of green in Dallas: It also connects Uptown with the Dallas Arts District and downtown. Food trucks, yogis, kids and movie-watchers gather here for regular programming. 2012 Woodall Rogers Fwy.
Pecan Lodge is a must for Texas barbecue. The lines are long on weekends, so go during a weekday lunch if you can swing it. Order brisket, pork ribs and the signature “Hot Mess” (a loaded sweet potato with shredded brisket, chipotle cream, cheese and butter). Traditional Texans take pride in foregoing barbecue sauce, but it’s still available. 2702 Main St.
Top off your super-Texas trip with a pit stop at Stampede 66. Chef Stephan Pyles serves “modern Texas cuisine” in a kitschy space. (It’s where I usually take all my visitors.) The deviled eggs with candied jalapeños and chicken-fried steak — lying in a bed of mashed potatoes and chorizo gravy — are just a few favorites. 2203 N. Akard St.
During fall, the Dallas Arboretum transforms into a verified pumpkin patch, with over 90,000 pumpkins, squashes and gourds. With blooming Chrysanthemums to match, it’s a visual buffet of autumn color. 8525 Garland Rd.
Crispy edges of suadero — mixed with tender bits and heaped with finely-chopped onions and cilantro — give Tacos La Banqueta, a chain, its loyal customer base. Each plate comes with palm-sized, two-ply corn tortillas and fresh lime wedges. It’s no-frills, super fast and $1.50 per taco. A steal. 1305 N. Carroll Ave.
In its past life, Granada Theater screened movies. Now it’s one of the best live music venues in Dallas, with bands like the Avett Brothers, CHVRCHES, Wilco and The xx gracing its stage. Its adjoining restaurant, Sundown at the Granada, is also a popular brunch and dinner spot among vegans and vegetarians. 3524 Greenville Ave.
The restaurant scene in Lower Greenville’s been buzzing for years, with new restaurants coming and going all the time. A sweet hangout spot and Greenville staple is the Truck Yard, where there’s a medley of seating and even a treehouse bar. When the weather’s cooperating, there’s live music, food trucks and easy-going folks nursing their beers under string lights. 5624 Sears St.
The Bishop Arts District is one of the most charming and walkable neighborhoods in Dallas. For premiere window shopping, find street parking and give yourself three to four hours to explore. Drop by my favorite family-owned gift shop, We Are 1976, for unique prints and artwork. Bishop Arts District: 419 N. Bishop Ave.; We Are 1976: 313 N. Bishop Ave.
Across the street from We Are 1976, at the most serendipitous address — 314 N. Bishop — is Emporium Pies. Its tagline, “Fine Pies for Fine Folk,” rings true in every sense. Here, you’re treated as family, and each slice is made with care. Smooth Operator, a French silk pie, is always on the menu. Get this chocolate-based treat with a salty pretzel crust shipped directly to your door, wherever you are. Emporium Pies’ shipping department is up-and-running. 314 N. Bishop Ave.
If you’re on a budget and able to sleep in any environment, skip an Airbnb or hotel. Stay at King Spa, a giant Korean bathhouse. Admission is only $45 for 24 hours (Groupon often has deals too), and you can sleep on mats or armchairs overnight. There’s a hot shower, hot and cold pools, saunas, a movie theater, water park, Korean food cafeteria and everything you’d want in a jjimjilbang2154 Royal Ln.. Here, you’ll see people of all shapes, sizes and colors. And definitely, definitely get the body scrub.
Those who love views and elegance will want a spin inside the 560-foot Reunion Tower, a twinkly green ball in Dallas’s nightscape. For happy hour or dinner, guests can ride the elevator up to Wolfgang Puck’s rotating restaurant, Five Sixty, which boasts an extensive wine list and modern interpretations of Asian dishes. 300 Reunion Boulevard E.
Rent a car. You can’t survive without one.
The DART, Dallas’s light rail system, is convenient when you’re downtown, but a car is best for everywhere else. Dallas is a sprawling city that’s gradually becoming more walkable. Luckily, traffic isn’t too bad.
- If you’re willing to drive to the ’burbs, join the rest of Dallas’s Asian population at Carrollton’s H-mart area. It’s the new Korea/Chinatown, and it’s got a smattering of cafes (including a Caffè Bene, 85°C Bakery and Kung Fu Tea). Basically, Asia’s most popular food and grocery chains wanted to expand into the United States, so they chose to open in California and Texas, first. H-mart:2520 Old Denton Rd., Ste. 200., Carrollton.
- In-N-Out to California is Whataburger to Texas. Needless to say, Texans are pretty fiery when it comes to defending their favorite fast food burger joint against criticism. This chain, started in 1950, has a Honey BBQ Chicken Strip sandwich that induces involuntary saliva. Various locations.
- It’s no landmark, but the warehouse-sized Half Price Bookstore is, by far, the best place to browse for bibliophiles. This flagship store has an attached coffee shop and plenty of tables for board game-playing. It’s a local favorite. 5803 E. Northwest Hwy.
Designer, illustrator and letterpress printer at Lilco Studio
How long have you lived in Dallas? What made you want to move there?
I was born and raised in Dallas, and in 1999 I moved away for seven years — college plus three years in New York. My partner and I moved back to Dallas in 2006. I returned to Dallas following my mother’s death. At the time, I just wanted to be home. Now, I remain in Dallas because of my family, my amazing group of friends and my business. Plus, Dallas today is way different than when I grew up — or maybe it’s me — but, I’ve found the parts of Dallas that speak to me and are diverse, scrappy and full of possibility.
How did you come up with the illustration?