I might be having a forbidden love affair with Dallas, Texas. OK, quick, I need to say this: Houston is far superior to not just Dallas, but the rest of America — and know that I really, really, really mean that. But y’all… I had a blast and a half in Dallas when I visited for the first time as an adult. That’s right. I honestly think the last time I went to Dallas proper was when I was 16 years old. Insane.
Safe to say I knew nothing about Dallas (or even what to call it — Big D, D-Town???). I didn’t know the neighborhoods or where to shop, eat or drink. And in this one circumstance (literally ever), Pinterest kind of let me down. Planning Dallas without a paddle was… interesting. I followed a lot of Instagram accounts (@DallasLoveList and @Dallasites!!!) And, well. this is what I did. Spoiler: I had a freaking blast!
After a five hour drive, rolling up to The Magnolia Hotel in downtown Dallas was spooky because almost 300 miles away, we felt like we were right back in downtown Houston. The hotel, which definitely seemed related to its sister in Houston, is one of the oldest buildings in Dallas. When it was constructed, it was the tallest building — not only in Dallas — but west of the Mississippi River. The lobby was a tad smaller than the Houston Magnolia, but its second floor bar and meeting space almost was identical! No rooftop pool unfortunately, but what was lacking in the common spaces was 100% made up for in the room. I am obsessed with our room.
We headed for the elevators after checking in and literally were overwhelmed by the beauty of the ceiling (just a dumb ceiling, right?!) near the elevators. Y’all, pure artwork. After getting to the 24th floor, we realized that this building was probably at one point an office building. The wood walls and doors with windows over it — and it all was preserved! Then, we walked into our suite and confirmed that.
We had a cute full-sized kitchen, living room with kitchen table and couches, two-bed suite and bathroom with a full-sized tub. It was super spacious, and had hardwood floors and walls. We joked that it was our law office because everything from the decor to the art felt office-y. But we quickly became obsessed with the windows and our views! Some of the windows had wood strong enough to sit on and, while we had trouble getting the backlit photo, we took quite a few shots.
Other major perks at Magnolia were their homemade cookies! Magnolia has Milk and Cookies every evening from 8 to 10 pm, so one night we skipped dessert at dinner and headed back to the hotel! They were scrumptious. Equally tasty was the breakfast we had at the same table 12 hours later! No cereal assortment or make-it-yourself Texas waffle here! There were tons of yummy breakfast options!
After exploring downtown Dallas all weekend, it was so great coming home to our home away from home. My friend actually got sick so nights were early, and I didn’t mind at all because it meant watching the sunset from my window perch drinking wine and wondering why the heck I didn’t come to Dallas sooner!
Eat + Drink
When Pinterest failed me, I asked my best friend who went to grad school in Dallas for recommendations. Both her and her old roommate told me The Rustic could not be missed. (I actually got several more recommendations to go there after that too!). It was decided: We shall go for brunch.
The Rimy Rita is the most magical thing: Frozen margarita with a sangria popsicle. Basically two drinks in one. And it’s huge. At $13, it’s def the priciest cocktail but so worth it. The brunch menu also has a few sharable drinks like mimosa and bloody mary pitchers.
Brunch is served family style, so you get enough food for how many people are in your party. So, there were two of us, so we got two donuts, two chicken strips, two grit cakes, two bacons/sausages, two french toast stacks, and a smattering of salad and cheese and crackers. It all comes out at once — and very quickly, since the whole restaurant is eating the same things! I don’t remember the actual food being anything remarkable, though nothing disappointed! The concept was just SO cool. I love family style and this was an interesting way to approach it!
If you can’t make it for brunch, I would highly recommend The Rustic for a happy hour or night out. They have an awesome patio with a stage, so chances are you’ll get some live music!
Water Grill in Uptown felt like walking onto the set of Big Little Lies. We had just driven 5 hours north of the beach, but this seafood restaurant felt so coastal — probably because of the decorations. We asked to go outside and the decor just got cuter! There was a mix of tables and couches, so it’s definitely a good spot for drinks and sharables alone. We got dinner: Texas snapper and the tuna burger. I knew immediately that I had ordered wrong when I saw my friend’s tuna burger. It was SO good and came with onion rings in the burger!! I also think I missed out by not ordering the fresh oysters or some of the cold seafood they sell by the pound — the crab looked amazing! Heads up: This is a nice restaurant and entrees were around $25-$30.
Seemed appropriate to me to get some good Texas BBQ while in Dallas. Ten50 was the pick. The plan was to pick up some ‘cue then go to Klyde Warren Park to eat it, which we did and it was super fun and pretty there, but make no mistake: Ten50’s restaurant is much cooler than your usual BBQ place.
When we were walking up right at opening, we wondered why the restaurant opened at 10:50 a.m. 99% of restaurants open at 11 a.m. right? But I do know of a few that open at 10:30. 10:50 seemed so random! I literally said this sentence: “Why do you think Ten50 opens at 10:50 a.m. instead of 11 a.m.? Seems weird. 10:50. So random. 10… OMG.” Ten50 opens at 10:50 a.m. because… well… Ten50. I feel so dumb.
We each got a two-meat plate and tried the brisket, sausage and turkey. We loaded up on sides: Corn, mac and cheese, green beans, potato salad and two slices of pie (yolo). The brisket fell apart and the sausage was deliciously spicy (only thing I was able to eat all of!). The mac wins the side award— it was almost like cheese soup, in a really delicious way. Honestly now that I’m thinking of it it was all so amazing.
We actually had a good amount of leftovers — a whole other serving. We, being the kind people we are, walked around for literally 30-40 minutes trying to find a homeless person to share our BBQ with. Dallas, where do you keep your homeless people?!?! They were no where to be seen on a gorgeous Sunday.
Deep Ellum Brewery
I didn’t even research any other breweries because I super wanted to go to Deep Ellum Brewing Co.. When we went, there was a huge crawfish boil going on. Having just ate the largest brunch ever, they thankfully let us just purchase drink tokens. I tried the Dallas Blonde and Deep Summer. I wish I could have tried them all!
The space is pretty cool. It’s huge and there were TONS of people there. It’s dog-friendly and there was cornhole, etc.
Katy Trail Icehouse
The second-most recommended place I got was Katy Trail Icehouse in Uptown. Walking from dinner to the icehouse was… interesting. It was kind of a cross between Midtown and Washington here in Houston. All the bars were new, and we saw some familiar names: Clutch and Kung Fu! And the ice house was very Little Woodrow’s-y. It was dog friendly and HUGE! Actually reminded me a lot of Cedar Creek! But, definitely much more suited for a bigger group of people, rather than two girls on cinco de mayo.
We found Emporium Pies on accident! After Deep Ellum, we went to the Bishop Arts District (a good 20 minutes away) and immediately had to pee and caff up. This was the solution! Two iced coffees and a Smooth Operator was everything we needed, and the place was so cute! Amazing pies too!
So, the first shopping stop we did in Dallas was around Deep Ellum. We were mural hopping before hitting up the brewery, and found some super cute stores! I can’t even remember all of the shops we went into. We mainly just walked up and down Main Street — did a little loop around. My favorite shop was Jade and Clover! I found this spot on Instagram! They have a succulent station and regularly host yoga classes. Plus, they have a plant wall that is so epic for photo opportunities.
Knox-Henderson was the last thing we did in Dallas before hitting the road. As far as Houston comparison goes, it’s pretty much Highland Village to a T. I was a little tired and shopped out, so I skipped a lot of the stores that have multiple locations (Kate Spade, Lululemon, etc.). But we made it to The Gypsy Wagon, which I feel pretty confident in saying is the cutest boutique in all of Dallas: Texas necklaces, cactus rings (bought one), home decor, you name it. It throws off my Highland Village comparison a little, because I don’t think Houston has anything like this store! It’s definitely priced like a boutique — maybe even on the high end. Still, had no problem spending my last Dallas dollars here.
Bishop Arts District
Whereas Knox-Henderson is Highland Village, the Bishop Arts District is 19th Street in the Heights. I wish I would have taken more photos, but I literally went to a dozen stores! All so cute, mostly boutiques or gift shops. There was this one store, House of Dirt, that sold plants all fixed up in cute hanging pots or little planters. My friend tried to buy a plant, and they were like, “No sorry, it’s not ready yet.” It has to be in one of their boxes and have little stones and everything — the works! I’d probably make a succulent arangement at Jade and Clover before buying at The House of Dirt, but if you want it picture perfect and ready, it’s your store!
Nasher Sculpture Museum, Klyde Warren Park and the Dallas Contemporary Art Museum
We ate our delicious BBQ in Klyde Warren Park and walked around for a bit. It’s pretty much like Discovery Green: In the heart of downtown, street parking only, food trucks and benches and tables to relax. There’s a kid section too, in case you want to avoid/visit that.
Nasher Sculpture Center was on my list (thanks, Instagram), and, while a lot of Dallas museums are free, this one costs $10 ($5 with a student ID, which we had!!). It’s a very small museum and the main attraction is the outdoor portion. I loved the fountain area — it was all so calming. There were these funky, spinning top chairs that were super fun to try and sit in. I really felt like I was going to fall right out of it, but TG I did not. We literally spent less than 30 minutes there (had to get going), but I think it was $5 worth for sure.
I have to talk about the Downtown Eye. The 30-foot-tall sculpture is off Main Street and Elm and has been around for 5 years or so. Oh, and before you think of any conspiracy theories, it’s not anything meaningful. Just a big eye.
We were walking around downtown when we saw it (hehe) and it looked like there were people setting up for an event. I had seen people posing with the eye before, so I asked one of the ladies setting up if we could pop in to take a quick photo. She seemed hesitant but let us. Apparently that was not allowed and right after we left, they closed the gate. Ooops. All this to say that my only advice for getting in is asking nicely!
Deep Ellum Murals
If you hadn’t noticed, we love murals here at It’s Not Hou. I only stopped to take a photo with maybe 1/5 murals we saw — there were SO MANY! Deep Ellum’s murals were everywhere, probably because most were painted for 42 Murals. These were my favorites — they were all in Deep Ellum and around Main Street.