To outsiders, Dallas can seem like a monolith. A stereotype. A big city with big hair and oil and all the other tropes that went out the window with the eponymous TV show in the early-90s. But locals know that Dallas is distinct, complex and diverse, thanks in part to the new locals — transplants from Southern California, the Midwest and much further afield who are increasingly calling Dallas home.
The city’s international sensibilities are mirrored not just by its population, but also by its varied economy, creative culture, world-class art (Dallas has the largest urban arts district in the nation) and exciting culinary scene. Its reputation for glitz has been well-earned over the years, but high/low is a more accurate representation of the city today, with barbecue joints and gas station tacos drawing the same fervor as luxury hotels and tasting menus.
And while eating and shopping are basically competitive sports here, there’s no shortage of things to do in Dallas — and that extends to the outdoors. Because while we acknowledge that the city’s conspicuous lack of mountains and beachfront might preclude it from winning any natural beauty awards, it’s still home to urban green spaces, lakes, forests and myriad running and biking trails, several with bars just off their paths.
All in, there’s a little something for everyone. These are some of the best places to check out when you want to experience Dallas like a local.
What to Drink
Best Craft Brewery: Community Beer Co.
Crowning the city’s best brewery would’ve been easy a decade ago, when the nascent brewing scene was limited to a handful of options. But now, with dozens of breweries across Dallas and its surrounding suburbs, the area is a beer-drinker’s paradise. Community Beer Co. gets the nod for its reliably great lineup of beers, including the fan-favorite Mosaic IPA and Texas Lager, plus its unique Small Batch Series and fun seasonals. The taproom and sprawling beer garden are top-notch places to hang out with groups (and pets), and the food menu is a few steps above what you expect from a brewery.
Honorable Mention: Peticolas Brewing Company, Manhattan Project Beer Co., Celestial Beerworks
Best Cocktail Bar: Apothecary
Clarified citrus and sous vide-infused spirits only matter if the resulting drinks are good. At Apothecary, they’re great. Because while the bar leans into modernist techniques, they still ensure each cocktail is perfectly balanced. So even if you don’t understand the mad chemistry taking place behind the bar, you can still enjoy drinks like the 20th Century Fennel with fennel-laced gin, toasted fennel seed, white cacao, blanc vermouth, lemon and pollen, or the Pekin Tom with duck confit-washed bourbon, lapsang tea-infused peach liqueur, absinthe and peach smoke.
Honorable Mention: Midnight Rambler, Jettison, Ruins, Hide
Best Whiskey Bar: Whiskeys
This aptly named Expo Park bar stocks the best whiskey selection in town — and maybe in the state. With more than 600 bottles, you’ll never run out of options. But lest you become paralyzed by indecision, try one of the thoughtfully curated flights. Those range from brand-specific, like a Michter’s flight with four different pours, to country-based options highlighting key bottles from Japan and Scotland. Prefer a cocktail? They’ve got those, too, including classics like the Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Whiskey Sour.
Honorable Mention: The Standard Pour, Rye, Billy Can Can
Best Dive Bar: Cosmo’s
Stiff drinks: check. A VHS movie playing on a small TV in the corner: you bet. Friendly staff who remember your name and drink order: of course. These are all hallmarks of a good neighborhood dive, but the Vietnamese food menu of Jackson Tran’s family recipes — well, that’s an unexpected bonus. Sit at the bar or find a seat at one of the mismatched tables, and you can pair your ice-cold beer with oxtail pho, steamed dumplings in a vinegar-spiked broth and crispy egg rolls. It’s the combo you never knew you needed.
Honorable Mention: Adair’s Saloon, Lakewood Landing, Lee Harvey’s
Best Hotel Bar: Midnight Rambler
Step into the Joule Hotel lobby and look for the lightning bolt. Follow it downstairs, and you’ll find a subterranean cocktail den serving some of the best drinks and spinning some of the best music in the city. The place is, as the kids say, a vibe, with moody lighting, a vaulted wood ceiling and mid-century styling. But stop taking photos for a minute to peruse the menu. It features drinks by award-winning bartender Gabe Sanchez and his talented staff, who are mixing up creative concoctions you won’t find anywhere else. You can’t go wrong with the in-house originals, but like all the best hotel bars, the team here prizes comfort over pretension — so they’re equally happy to dole out a whiskey shot and a High Life.
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Where to Eat
Cheap Lunch/Local Specialty: Cattleack BBQ
You can’t — well, you shouldn’t — come to Dallas without eating some barbecue. And Cattleack deserves to be the first stop on your citywide tour. It’s only open on Thursdays, Fridays and the first Saturday of each month, and people line up early to get in, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. But that first bite of perfectly cooked brisket is worth it. Throw in a dino-sized beef rib and a snappy sausage, and you’ll be in meat nirvana, a higher plane of existence that’s usually followed by a meat nap. So, just to be safe, it’s best to clear your schedule for the rest of the day.
Honorable Mention: Terry Black’s, Slow Bone
Best Tacos: Revolver Taco Lounge
Again, there’s a lot to choose from, but the city’s embarrassment of taco riches can only serve you well. Cheap street tacos are available all over town, including inside several gas stations, but Revolver Taco Lounge in Deep Ellum goes the maximalist route, serving Michoacán-style tacos by James Beard-nominated chef Regino Rojas. The menu features al pastor, carne asada and other favorites, but you’re here for baby goat birria, Wagyu beef tongue and octopus carnitas. Once the tacos have won you over (it won’t take long), you’re ready for Purepecha, the seven-course chef’s tasting menu served in the back room.
Honorable Mention: Maskara’s Mexican Grill, Resident Taqueria, Trompo, José
Best Burger Spot: Sky Rocket Burger
Dallas is littered with good burgers, so only eating one is an affront to the category. But when it’s decision time, you can’t go wrong with Sky Rocket. This casual spot serves a menu focused on core competencies: burgers, fries and shakes. The burgers are available in four sizes — junior, single, double or triple — so you can choose your own fullness adventure. And the fries are available standard, smothered in cheese, or smothered in cheese, grilled onions and secret sauce. If you really need to branch out, there’s also a grilled cheese sandwich, but come on now, let’s not go crazy.
Honorable Mention: Burger Schmurger, Keller’s Drive-In, Maple & Motor
Nice Dinner: Meridian
Chef Junior Borges serves modern Brazilian cuisine in a good-looking space that’s planted, unexpectedly, in the middle of Dallas’s residential Village community. The menu focuses on seasonal ingredients, with dishes inspired by the chef’s upbringing in Brazil. That’s evident in playful items like the grilled “beach cheese” on a stick that’s drizzled with hot honey, as well as the dressed-up tilefish moqueca, fresh pastas and picanha steak. If you want to leave the decisions up to the chef, choose the tasting menu, and you’ll get a multi-course dinner inspired by seasonal ingredients from the on-site garden. Add the wine pairings, and you don’t have to lift a finger — except to eat and drink.
Honorable Mention: Lucia, Gemma, Petra and the Beast
Nicer Dinner: Tatsu
Dallas’s recent run of omakase sushi restaurants has produced some of the most exciting dining experiences in town. The best of the bunch is Tatsu, an intimate 10-seat counter where chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi meticulously prepares Edomae-style sushi in a serene setting. Watch the chef work across 15 to 18 courses, including a couple light appetizers, lots of nigiri, a soup and dessert, all presented with care in a space that exudes hospitality. In a city where it’s easy to drop several hundred dollars on dinner, this is one place where the food and overall experience are worth the price of admission.
Honorable Mention: Georgie, Tei-An
Best Coffee Shop: Ascension Coffee
Founded in 2012, Ascension has expanded to seven locations across Dallas-Fort Worth. They take coffee seriously, which is important when you’re dragging in the morning or need an afternoon upper to get through the rest of your day. The talented baristas are just as adept at espresso shots, pour-overs and Kyoto-style cold brews as they are at making fun signature drinks like the shroom latte with adaptogenic mushrooms, almond milk, maple and spices. Over the years, Ascension has morphed into an all-day cafe where you can eat real meals like breakfast power bowls, filling salads and sandwiches with a glass of beer or wine, so there’s no rush to leave once you’re done caffeinating.
Honorable Mention: Cafe Duro, Fiction Coffee, La La Land Kind Cafe
Where to Shop
Best Menswear Shop: Stag Provisions
This Austin import came to Dallas in 2014, bringing its timeless style to fashionable Knox Street. The small space out-punches its size, with racks and shelves full of top-notch denim, shirts, jackets, boots and apothecary goods from great brands like RRL, Red Wing, Alex Mill, Faherty and more. The tightly edited selection means you don’t have to look far to find items that work together, so you can leave with a cohesive game plan, and the helpful staff is always ready with suggestions if you need a second opinion.
Honorable Mention: Rye 51, DLM Supply
Best Vintage Shop: Lula B’s
Some vintage shops specialize in furniture and home goods, while others focus on clothing, so the best vintage shop is entirely dependent on what you’re looking for. But when you want to browse through an endless collection of curios, from mid-century sideboards and lamps to gilded artwork that turns any wall into a conversation starter, Lula B’s is the place. Stroll through the space slowly, browsing through each curated section, and you can unearth unique items that will add life and character to your home. If you’re overwhelmed by the options, you can always just grab a set of vintage glassware. Cocktails look great in vintage glassware.
Honorable Mention: Dolly Python
Best Record Store: Josey Records
More of a superstore than a specialty shop, Josey Records is a stay-all-day destination for music lovers. The massive space is loaded with vinyl, both new and used, modern and classic, so you can find records covering every genre. There are also CDs, 45s and cassettes, as well as apparel, band merch and posters. Carve out a few hours and dig in, or plan your visit around release parties and in-store listening events featuring local bands.
Honorable Mention: Good Records, Spinster Records, Top Ten Records
Best Book Store: The Wild Detectives
The Wild Detectives doesn’t have the most books. If you’re only interested in variety, you’ve got Barnes & Noble or Amazon. What The Wild Detectives does have is one of the more interesting selections you’ll find, with literature, poetry and graphic novels, plus books dedicated to music, art and culture. Beyond books, there’s a bar serving coffee, beer, wine and cocktails, so that’s a draw independent of literacy. The comfortable, bohemian shop also features regular readings, DJ sets, movie screenings and wine tastings, so it’s become a reliable hangout for the Bishop Arts neighborhood.
What to Do
Best Gallery: Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the DMA is now one of the largest art museums in the country. Inside its walls is a collection that encompasses more than 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of human history, so you’ll have plenty to ogle when you visit. The general collection features artwork from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, including work by masters like Monet, Van Gogh, Rodin and Cézanne — and it’s regularly supplemented by special exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see. Best of all, general admission is free.
Honorable Mention: Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas Contemporary
Best Running/Hiking Trail: Katy Trail
There are lots of great places to go for a run or walk in Dallas, including around White Rock Lake. But given its central location, the 3.5-mile Katy Trail is one of the most popular spots to take a stroll. The well-maintained path crosses through dense neighborhoods like Knox/Henderson, Uptown and the Harwood District, providing easy access to residents. And it also passes by a couple bars, including the Katy Trail Ice House, so you can end your exercise session with a refreshing beer.
Honorable Mention: White Rock Lake, Trinity Skyline Trail
Best Place for Live Music: The Granada Theater
The Granada Theater is the ideal music venue in a city full of great music venues. Opened in 1946, it still features much of the original art deco design, plus original murals and the exterior neon lights. With a reasonable 1,000-person capacity, it’s big enough to draw good touring bands but small enough to keep things intimate and fans close to the stage. Stop in for shows from Portugal. The Man, the Polyphonic Spree and Dogstar — yes, with Keanu Reeves slappin’ the bass.
Tourist Spot That’s Actually Worth It: The Sixth Floor Museum
The JFK assassination wasn’t our finest moment. And the actions of one man (or the machinations of a well-coordinated conspiracy, depending who you ask) are a dark cloud on the city. But still, the Sixth Floor Museum is a must-visit site for history buffs. Located within the former Texas School Book Depository building, which served as the primary crime scene following the assassination, the museum chronicles that fateful day in 1963. Peruse the collection of 90,000-plus items to learn more about 1960s culture, the assassination, its aftermath and the legacy of President John F. Kennedy.
Honorable Mention: Reunion Tower Geo-Deck, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Where to Stay
Best Luxury Hotel: Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
Rosewoods are always nice, whether you’re in Europe, Mexico or your own backyard. The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is no exception. Originally built as a Renaissance-style private residence, Rosewood took over the property and opened the luxury 143-room hotel in 1981, along with the Mansion restaurant, which sports one of the most iconic dining rooms and bars in the state. In 2021, timed to the hotel’s 40th anniversary, the Mansion completed an extensive renovation to update the guest rooms, suites and common spaces, and today the hotel remains one of the best places to spend the night. Pair your stay with dinner, cocktails and a trip to the spa for the ideal luxe weekend.
Honorable Mention: The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Crescent Court
Best Boutique Hotel: The Joule
Downtown looked a lot different in 2008, when the Joule opened on Main Street in the 1920s-era Dallas National Bank building. It helped to kick off a revitalization of the area that has since seen additional hotels as well as residential buildings, restaurants, bars and retail shops flock to the neighborhood. The Joule’s rooms and suites are primed for comfortable stays, but the hotel is more than just a place to rest your head. It’s a gathering space, with two good restaurants — CBD Provisions and Sassetta — a coffee shop, Taschen bookstore, retail shops, a gorgeous spa and our favorite hotel bar, Midnight Rambler. There’s a lot happening under one roof, and trying to experience it all is a worthy endeavor.
Honorable Mention: Hotel Swexan, Hotel Zaza
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