This year, the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting will be held in my hometown of Dallas, TX. I won’t be attending, but I thought I’d help out some of my colleagues by providing a guide to cool, fun, and bookish things to do when you’re in the Dallas area. In this 4-part series, I’ll give you the lowdown on Dallas from the point of view of a very nerdy librarian and long-time former resident of the city.
In part 2 of our 4-part series, we explore the myriad dining options in Dallas. I assure you, I could easily make my list ten times longer. Dallas has so many excellent options for fantastic food and libations, whatever your mood. I’ve tried to focus here on spots that are unique to Dallas, close to where you’ll probably be staying, or so stellar in their offerings that you just shouldn’t miss them.
- For a delicious whoopie pie or other tasty baked treat: Society Bakery
My friend Monica works here and introduced me to possibly one of the best dessert’s I’ve ever had: a bread pudding whoopie pie. It was one of those “I’ll just have a taste of this while I’m driving home” moments that turns into an “I just downed an entire whoopie pie in under two minutes because it was too good to stop” moments. They have lots of tasty baked goods and have been on the Food Network a couple times, so you can pretend you’re a food or travel show host while you get your treat from Monica.
Updated to add a special offer: mention “FRBR” on Jan 21/22 to get 20% off your food order at Society!
- For an awesome, locally-source pizza: Fireside Pies.
Pizzas topped with herbs grown on the rooftop garden, homemade sausages from local Italian market Jimmy’s, mozzarella from local artisan Paula Lambert – you can’t go wrong with any of the ones you pick. There are several locations in Dallas, but the most convenient for ALA-goers would be the uptown location on Henderson, a block east of I-75. Be ready for a wait.
- For a great glass of wine: Mercy Wine Bar
If you don’t have a car, you probably won’t be able to do this, but if you’re able to, head about 15 minutes north on the tollway into Addison (exit Beltline) to check out this great wine bar that has tons of wines from around the world by the glass at reasonable prices. Full disclosure: I used to be their event coordinator. 🙂
- For a cool fine dining experience: Stephan Pyles Restaurant
Dallas is definitely a foodie town, so there are lots of places you can get a fantastic meal, but one of my favorite is Stephan Pyles, located just east of the art museums. For a more casual and fun dining experience, sit at the communal table or even better, at the ceviche bar, where you can watch them cooking. If you’re at the ceviche bar, strike up a conversation with one of the chefs, and you’ll probably get to try some interesting stuff when they have a little extra of something.
- For an impromptu journey to France: Rise No 1
It’s not far from downtown, but if you come to Rise, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Parisian cafe. Fantastic onion soup, a delicious house salad, and the souffles…well, I am not a talented enough writer to convey how phenomenal these souffles are. I am being absolutely serious when I say that if I have to choose a last meal, it would be the Rise salad, the jambon et gruyere (ham and cheese) souffle, a nice crisp Sancerre (a French white wine), and a bread pudding souffle for dessert.
- For an impromptu journey to South America: La Duni
I’m not sure which of their multiple locations would be closest to where ALA is being held, but you’ve got to try La Duni’s fantastic South American-fusion food. Their restaurants are beautiful, with fresh roses everywhere, the food is great, the tres leches cake is to die for, and the berry mojito will change your life. Ever had a yucca fry? They’re like big, thick french fries made out of yucca root, and La Duni has the best I’ve tried. If you can make it for their Sunday brunch, you’re in for a real treat – try the enchiladas montadas, a pair of delicious chicken enchiladas topped with a fried egg and two different kinds of delicious sauce.
- For an impromptu journey to Spain: Cafe Madrid
You can find several tapas restaurants in Dallas, but my personal favorite is definitely Cafe Madrid. They have a fantastically broad menu with choices for any taste, from the adventurous to the meat-and-potatoes. Don’t miss the garlic shrimp, and be sure to order a basket of bread to mop up the sauce. Well worth the $1 or whatever nominal fee you pay for it. The classics are also hits: albondigas with almond sauce, Spanish tortilla, some nice chorizo dishes. Their wine list is extensive, plus they have a nice selection of sherries, if you want to get really authentically Spanish. You should do yourself a favor and give it a try – it’s not your grandma’s sherry! Be forewarned that they’re often out of half their wine list. Be prepared to have a backup or two when you make your order, or just ask your waiter to help you with your selection.
Please note that this is a mere smattering of the many, many good places to eat and drink in Dallas. I could go on, but I don’t imagine that people really want to hear my take on every single restaurant in Dallas. So if you have a food craving and would like to know how to fulfill it in Dallas, or if you’re thinking of a place to go and want to get a local’s take, let me know about it in the comments, so I can help make your dining dreams come true.
Image credit: Monica Waterston (the same one who works at the Bakery. She’s multi-talented!)