Travel and the winter holidays go hand in hand. And some times this involuntary travel can take us to places we deem less than exciting — like Dallas. I have nothing against Dallas, and I always have a great time when I go, but it’s not Honolulu, Paris, New York... you get the idea. So, if the holidays take you to Big D, check out a few of my favorite shopping, eating and coffee spots below for an atypical Dallas experience.
The Pearl Cup Espresso Bar & Coffee Shop - For a break in your usual Starbucks routine, check out The Pearl Cup and its Pearl Latte, voted best latte by D Magazine in 2009. In 2007, owners Carlene Saelg and Rita Davis moved from Austin to Dallas. Longing for a coffee shop with a unique coffee community and culture, they created The Pearl Cup. Dedicated to great tasting coffee, you won’t find over-sized coffee beverages here — the cappuccino is the traditional five to six ounces and the largest latte is 16 ounces. (750 North Saint Paul Avenue and 1900 Henderson Avenue)
Society Bakery - The “society” in this bakery’s name doesn’t refer to “high society” as you might suspect, but to giving back to society, which it does through donations to schools, charities and non-profit organizations. Voted by AOL and the Ellen Degeneres Show as one of the top 10 bakeries in America, the old-fashioned, yet innovative bakery is known for its fanciful cupcakes — peanut butter chocolate chip, pink champagne and pumpkin to name a few. Other delectable treats include the first-ever bread pudding whoopie pie and festive and delicious cookies. (3426 B Greenville Ave. and 7777 Forest Lane, Suite A066)
SMOKE - Recognized by Bon Appetit, Forbes, Food & Wine and Southern Living, there is no doubt that Chef Tim Byres and his restaurant SMOKE are on fire. Pun intended. Byres’ homegrown, handmade, local eats include the EB&D Loaded Up & Truckin’ Burger with house-made bacon, cheddar and a farm egg fritter with BBQ fries on the dinner menu and, for brunch, Heavy Handed Blueberry & Ricotta Cheese Pancakes with vanilla poached apricots and cream, and a smoked brisket cornbread hash. To wash all that down — a Double Barrel Bloody Mary with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Tim’s Roasted Tomato & Chile Mix, olive juice and pickle relish. (901 Fort Worth Avenue)
The Mansion Bar at The Mansion on Turtle Creek - To soak up some Dallas history in sophisticated style, there is no alternative to the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. Originally the residential estate of a cotton baron Sheppard W. King, the boutique hotel has housed such figures as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Tennessee Williams. In the last few years, this iconic Dallas place underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation to bring modern design elements to the classic structure. With its cognac-colored leather walls and contemporary art, The Mansion Bar is the perfect place to sip an original cocktail — like the Dallas Sarsaparilla with house-made honey sarsaparilla, vanilla and Texas rum — in old-meets-new style. (2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard)
The Meddlesome Moth - A true gastropub puts just as much emphasis on the food as the libations, and such is the case with The Meddlesome Moth in Oak Lawn. The establishment’s amazing beer selection has over a hundred beers from all over the world. IPAs, Red Ales, Scottish Ales, Barleywines and even gluten-free brews — there is a beer here for everyone. The menu includes mussels, pot pies, small plates of blue crab fritters, bangers and mash, pork belly, proscuitto and pear, shrimp and grits and meats including Nueskes bacon lollipops served with funnel cake and a maple hollandaise. For brunch try the eggs creole or Mother and Child Reunion consisting of fried chicken and breast tenderloin, peppered grits with poached eggs and jalapeno gravy — dangerous. (1621 Oak Lawn Avenue)
Neiman Marcus Downtown Dallas - Dallas wouldn’t be Dallas without Neiman Marcus, and the flagship store in Downtown Dallas is stamped as Texas Historic Landmark. The legendary store, at the corner of Main Street and Ervay, is known for its holiday decorations — lights, a gorgeous Christmas tree and festive window displays. And don’t forget to make time for the legendary popovers and strawberry butter at The Zodiac, the store’s iconic lunch restaurant. (1618 Main Street)
Katy Trail - And now, to counter all that eating and drinking, and also get in touch with nature, the 3.5-mile Katy Trail winds along the greenbelt that the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad used to travel through Dallas. The pedestrian and bike trail has 12-foot wide concrete paths for cyclists and skaters — an 8-foot wide soft-surface is in progress — going through Oak Lawn and Uptown. After some exercise, treat yourself to a cold drink at the self described as an “Austin-style beer garden and restaurant,” Katy Trail Icehouse.