Texas is a big part of who I am, whether I like it or not. I went to Texas A&M University in College Station and had the best college experience you can possibly have. Then I lived in Dallas, working as a traveling admissions counselor at SMU, and all I wanted to do was leave and move to New York. Today, I love to visit Dallas - it is not a beautiful place - but I love it for the restaurants, the shopping, and (many of) the people.
I was explaining how I couldn't believe I now liked Dallas to my National Geographic editor and she referenced a Charles Dickens quote - "One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it's left behind." How true for many places - the things you hated or didn't love start to fade away and - at least for me - the positive aspects rise to the top.
My Dallas centers around the Park Cities - University Park and Highland Park - near SMU. I also love Fort Worth and Austin, of course. But I have to say - if it came down to Dallas or Austin - I'd move to Dallas. San Antonio isn't really my thing, but if you find yourself there, I found some very cool spots, notably the new Pearl district. Also - bring leggings or plan to work out, a lot (thanks Flywheel Highland Park). The food is soul-and stomach-stickin' good in Texas.
Snider Plaza - A cute, old-school Dallas shopping center across from SMU. Don't miss: Mustang Donuts, JD Chippery for cookies, Burger House for their famous fries, Bubba's for the best fried chicken and biscuits, and my favorite place in Snider Plaza, Kuby's, a German sausage house and market. #caloriebinge
Rise no. 1 - I have to come here when I'm in Dallas, located in a (nice) strip mall called Inwood Village just off Lovers Lane. The sweet (Bread Pudding!) & savory (Southwest Chicken + Jambon & Gruyere + the crab=yum) souffles are amazing, as are the wine flights, and the general French-inspired ambiance.
Highland Park Village - This beautiful, Spanish/Mediterranean-style shopping center has my favorite Starbucks in the world (for people-watching and relaxing), plus some fancy shopping and fun restaurants. You must go to Mi Cocina, packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Don't even think about it and order the sunset fajitas, covered with a delicious layer of fried onions and a secret "sunset-style" sauce. They are famous for the "mambo taxi" cocktail.
Bishop Arts District - Oddfellows is great for brunch, with perfect cappuccinos and chicken and waffles. Other notable spots: Bolsa and Hattie's.
Knox-Henderson - This Highland Park shopping street warrants a couple hours for eating and shopping. You have to go to Chuy's for the best Tex-Mex, Toulouse for a fabulous brunch, and stop in at Weir's Furniture - don't miss their classic general store in the back.
North Park Mall
George W. Bush Presidential Library
Central Market - A Texas-size (ENORMOUS) grocery store/food paradise. I used to spend hours in the Lovers Lane location shopping and wandering. Their bulk bin section is insane (stock up on chocolate-covered almonds!) and they have great cooking classes.
eatZi's - The greatest prepared & take-out food store - it's so dreamy and European (except for the giant Texas-sized samples). The original Oak Lawn location is my favorite. You will LOVE eatZi's.
Bread Winners - I love both the Uptown and Inwood Village locations. Brunch is good, but I love lunch best, with great salads & sandwiches.
It's the city of "Cowboys and Culture" - and it's a fabulous little city. You have to see the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, and have a night out at the "world's biggest honky-tonk," Billy Bob's. But Fort Worth has some really cool restaurants and attractions - the Kimbell Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (located next to each other).
Fort Worth Water Gardens (The Omni across the street is Fort Worth's nicest place to stay but can feel very corporate)
Joe T. Garcia's
West 7th District
Swiss Pastry Shop