Friday, March 28, 2014

Let's Do Dallas - Part Three - Where to Eat!

I’m going to preface this by pointing out, yes Dallas has a lot of food, a lottttttttttt of restaurants.  Maybe not as many as Houston, but we are the birthplace of the frozen margarita and we eat out almost every night.
That being said, you can find a bunch of fine dining establishment, steakhouses, trendy ramen noodle spots, Thai places with white tablecloths, sushi experiences costing almost half your paycheck and the like, which seems to be the norm in most major cities. 

I will not point these out to you.  You can read all the “foodie” reviews on Yelp.  Dallas has spawned its own foodie base and you can see what they recommend if fine dining is what you want.  I have never been to those places and so I will  recommend great tasting, cheap and and/or beloved Dallas food institutions.

You’re gonna be SO HUNGRY after this!

Like Part Two, we will move through this list from North to South. 

Knox/Henderson Area


First up is Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill.  There are a few locations around the Dallas – Fort Metroplex.  There are also a few Mediterranean Restaurants located in DFW, usually in a strip mall, close to a church or a Home Goods store, they are pretty common.  Fadi’s however is not common.  You can get all your favorite things like hummus, falafel, kebabs, pita bread and stuff ala carte like in a cafeteria but my favorite item is their schwarmas.    They fill you up just like an Avenger (from the movie….did you see the part at the very end?) and you’ll be moaning because it’s just too delicious to put down.

The Porch

Across the highway you’ll find The Porch.  They do signature cocktails, and American style comfort food like brisket sliders, fries, smoked ham and cheese, gooey butter cake and more.  With its dim lighting and cozy booths, this place good for a date or a group. 

This place is a touch fancy but not too nice, you can show up in jeans, but the parking is valet.  Which allows you to get a very tasty appetizer or meal, then walk across Henderson Street to The Old Monk.

The Old Monk

The Old Monk serves craft beers, cocktails, wine, snacks and good pub food too.  I would recommend coming here after the Porch though and getting something to nosh on later in the night, because the parking here is tight, plus a full meal at the Porch including appetizers and dessert can be a little steep, like $20 to $45 per person.

The pub atmosphere inside is warm and inviting.  The little patio section outside allows you to take in the scenery.  I highly recommend this place, it’s laid back Dallas, not douche-y Dallas.

Upper Greenville Area

Café Brazil

Café Brazil is an institution in these parts.  Everyone remembers their first time, leaving a concert that ran into the late night, looking for someplace close to eat good food.  Kind of like IHOP or Denny’s but better. 
Again there are multiple locations but my favorite is located of off Highway 75 close to the SMU campus.  Not that I went to SMU (oh hell, nah) but the SMU McFarlin auditorium hosts a lot musical acts, including Sufjan Stevens, of which I have attended from time to time.

Café Brazil does breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Brazilian twist.  You will never have better crepes, stuffed with savory fillings like, chicken, cheese and chorizo.

You can also buy and take home the coffee they serve in about a dozen flavors.  It’s pretty decent but if you are from Seattle or Portland you won’t be blown away.  Still is makes a better souvenir than a postcard.

Arts District Area

El Fenix

El Fenix is a staple of Dallas.  Home of the classic Tex-Mex where you can get the two cheese enchilada plate with rice and beans under $10.  It’s not authentic Mexican cuisine and it’s not better than whatever Rick Bayless whips up but it’s our food, and has been this way for decades.  For a town that’s always planning it’s next facelift, El Fenix is tried and true and remains standing.  If you’re from anyplace in Texas you know what you’re getting here.  A warm, deliciously cheesy, gooey enchilada served with a smile.  The ole stand byes of complimentary chips and salsa, frozen margaritas, and fluffy sopapillas covered in cinnamon sugar.

The particular location off of 75 and McKinney Avenue is across the street from the Perot Museum and two blocks down from the Nasher Sculpture Garden and the Dallas Museum of Art.  It’s easily the cheapest, fastest and tastiest meal within miles.  You should go.

Downtown Area

Fuel City Tacos

Fuel City Tacos is located inside a giant gas station where the corners of Downtown meets North Oak Cliff.  It is located very close to the Reunion Tower and also the Lew Sterrett Justice Center aka Dallas’ Jail.  Now I’m not trying to scare you.  I have never had any troubles at Fuel City Tacos and there are always many cops dropping by here to buy tacos.

If you told me, “quick Marg! I’ll be in Dallas for one hour! Where should I go?”  I will tell you Fuel City Tacos.  If you asked me where to go if you had a whole week in Dallas and a million dollars to spend, I would still tell you to go to Fuel City Tacos first.

Fuel City does street style tacos with meat, corn tortillas, a little bit of onion, cilantro and lime.  My favorite is the beef barbacoa and I always stop by the elote cart to get some boiled corn with sour cream, cheese, and hot sauce.  It’s a Mexican thing so try it, even if sour cream with corn sounds gross.

This is the type of food that crosses racial and economic barriers.  This is the place that shouldn't be in Dallas, if you believe Dallas is a soul-less, money obsessed, superficial town.  I know better and I couldn't be prouder that this place exists.  Dallas is it’s people and we love food, we love our home, and we try to get along with each other.

Deep Ellum Area

Twisted Root

Twisted Root, like El Fenix, has many locations in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, but the best location is usually close to downtown Dallas.  In this case I recommend the location located in Deep Ellum.  Twisted Root does your basic burger, your basic cheeseburger,  exotic burgers like bison meat, and creative burgers like the Frito Bandito topped with chili, guacamole, cheddar cheese and Fritos chips.  The staff does try to give you attitude and bust your balls about ordering.  To pick up your order, they give you a cutesy tag with name like Borat or Courtney Love, and then call your order saying, “Borat your order is ready! Verrrry nice”.

It’s not the best burger I've ever eaten in my life, because I’m weird and think that the Fuddrucker’s by my work has like the Will Hunting version of a grill cook, but only the Fuddrucker’s location by my work.  However, Twisted Root does everything and I mean EVERYTHING with a creative twist.  You will not be disappointed, plus you will get some good grub in your belly before witnessing an awesome music show in Deep Ellum.


Now I know right about now you are thinking, “but wait!  Isn’t Texas renowned for barbeque?”  Yes it is and I’ve eaten in various barbeque joints in the metroplex.  Good barbeque but currently Dallas is experiencing a BBQ Snob phase.  I blame Franklin’s in Austin, frankly. (I love my puns….don’t judge)  Right now the trend is to wait hours in line for THE BEST bbq in the area.  We have Pecan Lodge here, but it’s a trend that I don’t subscribe too.  I don’t approve of tracking the best bbq in spreadsheets or scoring systems.  I don’t approve of waiting hours in line for a cuisine that is every Southerner’s birthright.  I don’t approve of the growing elitism in barbeque.

In short if you are craving BBQ? Check the suburbs.  There are a million good places.

Food Trucks

A trend that I do approve of is food trucks.  Who doesn’t love food trucks?  There are few that appear at all the good music festivals and outdoor events that I absolutely love.  They usually appear in the above areas that I have described on a pretty frequent basis.

Easy Slider

Yeah they do burgers, mini burgers, you may also know them as sliders but did you know they top them with stuff like goat cheese and raspberry preserves?  Or peanut butter and bacon?  Yes, Margaret if God owned a food truck this would be it, because no matter how drunk you are or how wild the night has been, Easy Slider is there to cradle you in a warm bed of delicious sliders.  Plus the ladies inside the truck are ALWAYS hella nice.

Ssahm BBQ

Two words: Kimchee Fries.  Okay, no wait….uhh….a few more words.  Here we go. Fries topped with Korean barbeque beef, monterey jack & cheddar cheese, caramelized kimchee, spicy mayo, cilantro and onion.  You…you’re hungry now, right?


Nammi serves Bahn Mi and huge rice bowls.  At $8 a pop I was not thinking you would get so much yummy food with rice bowl option with the barbequed meat.  Vietnamese is such a refreshing choice when you frequent the park or the outdoor music festivals in the height of the Texas summertime heat and cannot survive eating something fried. Nammi loads their food with tons of good veggies, so you get full with the good stuff.  Sometimes I loves me a cheeseburger but sometimes you just need to go with a healthier option, amiright?

So….what are you waiting for?  Come out to Dallas!  There’s plenty of friendly, interesting people eager to show you the hidden stuff.  The parts of Dallas that feel like home.  Drop me a line if you are ever in the area.  I would love to show you around! Texas people, what places would you add to this list?

Let me know!


Image Sources - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20

Monday, March 24, 2014

Let's Do Dallas - Part Two - Where to Stay and What to See

If you missed Part One, I discussed the best time to come visit Dallas but really Dallas has events and festivals year around to show you a good time.

Now let's go over where to stay and what to see.

Where to Stay

I'm gonna level with you amigos, if you want to stay in a nice hotel, Dallas is full of them but it's also the best opportunity to rub shoulders with the rudest people in Dallas.  Sorry.  Dallas is still a culture of money, and while there is many, many, cool people, we still have MORE than our fair share of a-holes.

I don't recommend staying at the fancy places, but if that's your thing, you will be pleased.  There is the Palomar, the Joule, and the Omni.  I haven't stayed at any of these places myself because I never go above $50 per night.  Yes, I'm cheap like that.

Instead I would recommend staying with friends, family or a more modest hotel in the suburbs, or nearby towns like Arlington or Carrollton.  Arlington is where the Cowboys Stadium, the Rangers Ballpark, and Six Flags Over Texas are all located.  It's where my family would do a staycation more than once.  You can find great, cheap hotels all over the Metroplex, most close to a DART rail system station, where for $2 bucks you can ride the rail into downtown Dallas.

Kick up your feet and ride the Dart into the Big D.

What to See

Lower Greenville Area - Granada Theater and Good Records

The Lower Greenville Area has great restaurants, good bars, and shopping for local music.  One of my favorite music venues, the Granada Theater is located here and brings an eclectic mix of national musical acts like Bombay Bicycle Club, Sufjan Stevens, and Sleigh Bells for $25-$40 per ticket.  Parking can be found on nearby neighborhood streets, so you can often park for free.  Granada also has the Sundown next door which is a good place for grub and has many of the local brews on tap.

Sleigh Bells on stage!
Further down Greenville, you can find Good Records, which is my favorite place to find and buy local music. The surrounding area has a Trader's Joe, several coffee shops, more bars, more restaurants, indie shopping, and a tattoo parlor.  It's not quite Austin, but it's not quite Dallas either.  It's just AWESOME.

This place has vinyl, CDs, memorabilia, posters and more!

I'm slightly obsessed with the cool graffiti everywhere!
Arts District - Klyde Warren Park and the Nasher Sculpture Center

Many people assume Dallas has no natural landmarks or attractions, that every available surface is covered in concrete.  This is, of course, false but my favorite outdoor space in the city is still relatively new.  The Klyde Warren Park was constructed within the median of a busy highway within the Art District, but it has quickly grown into a favorite destination with the locals.  There are yoga classes offered on the weekends, local music all week long, and other free events taking place year-round.  Food trucks are permitted to pull up to the side and offered good eats while the kiddos play on the outdoor gym or you play a game of Frisbee with your friends.  

Since the park is located across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art, it often plays host to the museum's year round Art Social events and even features an ice rink in the winter time.

In addition to the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center is located a block away from the Klyde Warren Park and also hosts many free outdoor events for the public in it's outdoor garden space, such as outdoor screenings of popular movies such as The Artist and outdoor block parties. Inside, they have rotating sculpture exhibits, some you can even crawl inside to experience.

Ernesto Neto's Cuddle on theTightrope
The West End - Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the Reunion Tower

The Perot has five floors of exhibits that include Astronomy, Dinosaurs, Engineering, Animal Life, Human Anatomy, Earth Dynamics, Energy Sources and more.  You don't have to like science to like this place.  The architecture itself is enough to give design nerds a wet dream.  It's too much to absorb everything in one visit but you find something to interest and entertain you.  Personally my favorite is the Gems and Minerals exhibit and the astronomy presentation narrated by Owen Wilson.....AND the dinosaur bones excavated locally in the Dallas area.  It's amazing, appropriate for all ages, just go now!

View from the glass elevator.

Gem and Minerals Exhibit

The Human Body Exhibit
The Reunion Tower has one of the best views of the city and it's one of the most iconic features of the Dallas Skyline.  The ticket is not super cheap but the interactive displays allow you to learn more about the history of Dallas.  You can also control cameras at the top to see even more of Dallas.
View from the top of the Reunion Tower
There is no additional fee to enter the rotating Tower restaurant, and although the Wolfgang Puck created menu is pricey and not really worth it, you can get one of the craft-created cocktails as the view slowly rotates.  It's great people watching as well, to see who throws down the big bucks on an expensive date.

Deep Ellum - Trees

To me, Deep Ellum represents the best of Dallas, removed from the money and glam that Dallas gets a negative reputation for.  Deep Ellum was the birthplace of Dallas Blues and Jazz in the 1930's, essentially cultivating Dallas' soul.  Dallas is not always pretty, not always clean but it's a hell of a place to live.  

Deep Ellum has the most interesting restaurants, the best bars and the best music venues.  It plays to host to several street and music festivals year round and is home to the Deep Ellum brewing company.  You want to eat Dallas? You want to breath Dallas?  You want to feel Dallas?  Then come here.

My favorite place to frequent in Deep Ellum is Trees.  Like the Granada, the musical acts are eclectic but lesser known, like Haim, the Joy Formidable and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.  Many of the local music acts perform here, the venue is pretty small but you see the best people in Dallas here.  Everyone's polite and is just here for the music, man! This is the place I've seen the best shows and celebrated life's special moments like birthdays and the day I became an aunt.  

Local band Ishi performing at Trees
So there ya'll have it.  Have I convinced you Dallas is worth stopping by?  If you want more travel tips, drop me a line, I'd love to help.  Stay tuned for the last installment, the BEST installment!  Let's Do Dallas - Part Three - Where to EAT!!!!!!!!!!!!



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hello Spring! How to create the best Outdoor Space Ever!

Hello my peeps!

Today is the first day of spring!  Woo-hoo!  My neck of the woods has seen bi-polar weather resulting in 40 degree lows and 80 degree highs the very next day.  It's been murder on my seasonal allergies but better than the ice and snow still plaguing the North and the Mid-West.  Hopefully the weather will calm down soon and we can enjoy the sunshine on our faces.

As spring approaches, I'm looking forward to enjoying my backyard with a nice cool drink and public radio playing the Black Keys and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and such.  Right now my backyard and lawn are a complete mess.  Tree branches fallen everywhere due to the high winds, dandelion weeds popping up out of control, and my outdoor string lights destroyed by the insects and squirrels.

This weekend I'll need to pull out the lawn mower and get to work, hard work.  Which is not fun.  For motivation, I've combed through Pinterest looking for inspiration in having the best outdoor space ever!  Let's take a look shall we?

Outdoor Seating

Quick, what is an outdoor space without any seating?  It's just a field, really.  Outdoor seating tops my list for any must have.  I do have a random assortment of outdoor furniture already occupying my covered patio and front porch.  I got some white plastic Adirondack chairs on sale last Fall but they are ill-suited for my porch.  They are too big, do not match my 1960's house, and don't pop with color.  So I will relegate them to the backyard with all the green foliage.  

I love the two DIY ideas below for additional seating and to bring some color in the mix.   

I feel like I could create this colorful bench with cinder blocks, home-made cushions and wooden beams.  The geometric shape is a better profile for my front porch and those cushions are so cute.

I also love re-painting old furniture and this idea to paint a wooden bench in stripes seems really fresh and interesting.  Any stripes really, are always a good idea.  I'm really digging the yellow, white and aqua combo.

Outdoor Lighting

I had a combination of rope lighting, outdoor cafe lighting and twinkly white Christmas lights going on last year.  Unfortunately the bugs and the squirrels took out the outdoor cafe lighting.  The squirrels had a great time using it as their own highway through my backyard.  Most of the rope lighting and all the twinkly lights survived.  This year I need to think outside the box in setting up my outdoor lighting.

I like this concept of placing the twinkly lights together in a basket like so.  It makes a bigger impact that just a small strand.

I also like the twinkly lights dripping of the trees.  Seems like that may be a better alternative to draping the cafe lights horizontally.  The effective is rather romantic and dramatic.

Outdoor Chandelier

I had also put up a DIY Outdoor Chandelier to bring a lil' sparkle to my backyard last summer.  I made it with colored plastic gems, a little Ikea octopus dryer with the eight arms, and some strands of beads.  The wind actually caused the beads and gems to get pretty tangled and ruined.  So I've found some new chandelier DIYs to try for this year.

 I could attach the plastic gems to base made from chicken wire or wire mesh.  This way the gems or beads wouldn't be long enough to tangle and I would still keep the sparkle.

I could try to make a chandelier using nautical floats for a pretty pop of color.  I know the nautical floats can be found in some antique shops but they are not cheap.

I like the simplicity of this grapevine wreath with mini mason jars hanging from it.  Really rustic, lovely and super easy to do.

Planter Love

The aloe vera and succulents I've been keeping inside are almost ready to come outside.  Some of my plants have grown and need to be re-potted into larger pots.  I want to spruce up my plain terra cotta pots before then and found some really cute, color-blocking ideas.

This seems simple enough.  Just paint a coat of yellow paint, then free hand the lines in white.

I like that the inside is painted a contrasting color as well.  Really cute and again there's my new favorite color combo of yellow, white and aqua!

This seems perfect for my skill level and my tendency to get really lazy, just paint the rim and you're done!


Lantana plant
Here in Texas, there are parts of your outdoor space that will totally get absolutely fried by the sun.  I have a few trees that provide some much needed shade.  But there are some spots that I have trouble getting anything to grow because of the heat.

My mama plants lantana plants in the un-shaded places in her garden.  They will thrive in the brutal sun and are absolutely gorgeous.  They also attract butterflies so WIN all around.  I'll be stocking up on these to plant in my planter box outside.  

How cute is this planter box?

So tell me, mis amigos, are you excited to get started creating your own little backyard oasis or are you dreading the spring cleaning?  What tips or DIYs do you have to share?

Tell me!  I would love to know.

Later gators,

Image Source - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Let’s Do Dallas - Part One

If you hadn't heard, there was a tragic event last week in Austin, TX during the South by Southwest Music Festival.  You can probably find the details online.  It was so scary to hear something like that happening in Austin, of all places.  Austin is known for many, many things but it is not, in my estimation, one of those big scary cities.

I lived in Austin for two years by myself after college and I remember the bars, the coffee shops, the bats under the bridge, the Texas Chili Parlor, the breakfast tacos, the water, and of course the music.  Every time I would go back to my hometown in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, the weather would be just a little colder, and the crime reports on the news, harsher.  Dallas can be one of those scary cities.  Mention the Oak Cliff neighborhood or the JFK assassination and people visibly tighten up.

Add caption
Dallas loves Austin but Austin does not return the love.  Austin views its neighbor in the north as the very antithesis to being.  Austin is light and Dallas is dark. 

Since I've moved back, I've come to understand Dallas better.  See no one moves to Dallas for the atmosphere, the night life, the food, the life style.  In fact it repulses many, and I can definitely understand why.  People move to Dallas for job opportunity.  Plain and simple.  It brings many, many diverse people together into Dallas.  I moved back for a job.  Everyone has a story of what brought them to this place.    And you know what?  It makes the city better.

There is a way to visit Dallas that will expand your horizons, appeal to your senses, and reveal to you good, down to earth people.  Austin has live music but Dallas got soul.

When to Come –

I would definitely recommend coming during the spring or fall if possible.  Winter is usually quite mild but the summer can be a little too hot, albeit not as hot as Austin and not as humid as Houston.  Spring is our music festival and film festival season. 

The Dallas International Film Festival in April is great for film buffs. You can catch celebrities stopping in, catch great industry panels taking place in the Arts District and party in the filmmakers Lounge in Uptown and probably even see me volunteering for the transportation team, shuttling film goers to and from venues.  The program spotlights awesome documentaries, student films, animated shorts and feature length movies from Latin America, Europe, Japan, etc.

My favorite music festival in Dallas is the Homegrown Music Fest in May.  It takes place downtown, in a city park a midst all the skyscrapers.  Local acts perform and you can get the sense that Dallas truly has soul.  The line-up is usually very eclectic and included the Divine Fits, The Relatives, and the Polyphonic Spree last year.  It’s truly one of Dallas’ bests.

The Relatives

Fall is awesome for two things; Oktoberfest and THE STATE FAIR OF TEXAS! Sure you can come down for football season but the Cowboys are usually shooting themselves in the foot and none of us locals can afford tickets.  Plus, sporting events here are year round.

I covered the State Fair in my first ever post but there are so many things to see and so many things to eat.  It's basically everything that makes America great and is held annually at Fair Park, which holds a large number of beautiful Art Deco buildings.

Fall also sees not one but two popular Oktoberfests!  There is the Addison Oktoberfest, just north of Dallas, and the McKinney Oktoberfest, in a northern suburb.  Now, I know the suburbs get a negative reputation pretty much everywhere but not here.  The suburbs is where the cool people are at and we have festivals pretty much all the dang time but Oktoberfest is one of the best.  The weather is perfect, the beer is plentiful and Texans honor the extensive German heritage found all over the state.

Prost, ya'll.

I'll have more Let's Do Dallas tips soon, including where to stay, what to see and what to eat in the Big D!  

What is your opinion on Dallas?  Feel free to let me know.


Image Sources - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-mine, 7, 8-mine, 9-mine, 10, 11