Darling Dallas

After Austin, Greece, Spokane, and a trip to the Washington Coast within four weeks, I was ready for a short break…but my suitcase wasn’t. Being a part of the amazing team at The Riveter, we have been expanding fast and furiously around the U.S. with one of our newest locations being in Dallas. A last minute decision to send a team member down was an easy ask for someone who jumps at the chance to visit anywhere new. Twelve hours after coming back from the Washington coast on Memorial Day, I quickly unpacked and repacked my bags to jump on a flight the next morning to spend a week in Dallas helping our team out, and of course doing all the things in Soleil travel fashion.

Something I learned at the New York Times Travel Show was to write your impressions of a place before you get there, to think about the preconceived ideas and perspectives you have about a place. With about a four day notice before leaving, I didn’t really think much or know much about Dallas except for the Dallas Cowboys so… Go Seahawks.

When I arrived, I chose to forgo a car because I planned to get around solely by walking or Bird scootering (I can’t help it, I’m a fan) but if you’re staying for more than a weekend, you should definitely rent a car because everything really is bigger in Texas, including the distance between things. When people say they “live” in Dallas, that encompasses the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area meaning the total 386 sq. miles of surface area, which is more than 4.5x larger than Seattle, which makes sense as Dallas is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country.

Thursday

I chose a cute little Airbnb in the Oak Lawn area and grabbed lunch near work at Eatzi’s, a little European style market that started in Dallas and now has a few locations throughout Texas. Convincing myself I would do things other than eat my way through Dallas, I decided to go on a run—a very short run because the humidity in Texas is no joke—through Turtle Creek Park that follows Turtle Creek. Whether a play in the park or a stroll over quaint stone bridges, Turtle Creek is a mini-green oasis for the surrounding neighborhoods around and yes, there are even turtles.

I’m a sucker for Mediterranean tapas especially when it’s executed well and my first delicious Dallas dinner was at Satchet. Husband and wife duo Stephen Rogers and Alison Yoder opened Satchet as a sister restaurant to their Italian-inspired Gemma, combining a light, airy design aesthetic to match their light, modern yet mellow Mediterranean food. Skip the tables and hang out at their stylish high-top bar, order their pillowy-soft pita with dukkah which I would sleep on if I could and make sure you add charred octopus to your plate, it’s a game changer.

Friday

Spend a day walking around downtown and you’ll find a world-class mix of attractions, restaurants, shopping, and a giant eyeball statue. Hop in and out of elegant coffee shops like Otto’s at the Adolphus or Weekend Coffee at the Joule Hotel, and then stay a while in the Joule and grab a style lunch at CBD provisions or from the rooftop at Mirador. Hang out at Klyde Warren Park, visit a few museums like The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the sight of JFK’s assassination, Perot Museum of Nature & Science, or Dallas Museum of Art, one of the country’s largest art museums.

At the Dallas Farmers Market, there are 26,000 square feet of a multitude of vendors, craftsmen, shops and food hall that highlight the best Dallas produce and local farmers. Check out their website as they have different chef demos, live music and special events for everyone to enjoy all year round.

Across the street from Dallas is Mudhen Meat and Green’s, one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in Dallas. Their rustic country barn aesthetic and chalkboard with rotating seasonal veggies heightens their “beautimous bowls” (the buddha is BOMB) and allergy-friendly entrees so that you can eat your crispy fried brussel sprout leaves and enjoy your vegetables too.

Deep Ellum is the Dallas’ mecca for music. Best known for jazz and blues but now includes every genre imaginable, this neighborhood east of downtown is where you want to be on a weekend night, or any night for that matter, to experience Dallas’ best music and nightlife scene. Deep Ellum’s musical history dates back to the 1920’s with the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bessie Smith. Over the last couple of decades it has developed into one of the biggest entertainment districts with over 25+ music venues. Quirky murals and small local shops like Jade & Clover or pop-up The Candle Bar are interspersed among casual breweries like Braindead Brewing and Deep Ellum Brewing Co, but it’s truly the grit and grime mixed with guitars that makes Deep Ellum the place to find the kind of music you’ve been looking for.

If you’re hungry jumping from venue to venue, try to snag a seat at the popular and famed Pecan Lodge, home to Dallas’ best BBQ, or Revolver Taco Lounge for some gourmet but still great tacos. And if you need a sweet to end your night, grab a big ol’ slice of pie at pie specialists Emporium Pie or a popsicle at Picole Pops.

Saturday

Saturday started with brunch at Overeasy, a retro-chic diner in the Statler Hotel. Opened in 1956 during the height of Elvis Presley and the Jackson 5, the Statler Hotel was and still is a Dallas icon for business, music and entertainment. Recognized as the first modern American hotel, the Statler boasts of retro-forward amenities like bowling, billiards, and all day diner that hotel guests and even live-in Statler residents can enjoy .

The perfect afternoon was spent in the historical Bishop Arts neighborhood on the southwest side of the Trinity River that is filled with funky shops and lively stores. It reminds me a lot of the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle except with a Texan flair. Bricked walls and streets pave the way for independent retailers and is a sweet spot of town where anyone can find their fancy.

Walking down N. Bishop Ave. and the cross streets, you’ll find an array of cute boutiques like Marcel Market and Shop Beatnik, vintage shops like Rare Heart Vintage (great denim jacket finds) and fun, curated stores like {neighborhood}, Oasis Plant Shop, All Good Things Paper, Society by Jackson Vaughn and so much more that will keep you busy all day perusing one of Dallas’ most adorable neighborhoods.

Take a caffeine break at indie bookstore and cafe Wild Detectives or local roaster Davis Street Espresso, and then fill your lunch craving with thin-crusted pizza at Eno’s Tavern or with a healthy bowl at Tribal All Day Cafe. If you stick around until evening, gorge at Lucia, Macellaio Dallas, or Boulvardier for dinner. To top off the night, spend it at Revelers Hall for cocktails and live music.

For a relaxing afternoon, I decided to treat myself at Verbena Nail Parlor & Salon, a toxin-free organic nail bar that serves artisan coffee, craft beer, and premium wines. For a girl that isn’t really into the whole hair-and-nail glam routine, Verbena was the treat of all girl treats. If not for the coffee at Verbena, a few other favorite coffee shops I would recommend for an afternoon pick me up is Fiction Coffee or Mudsmith Coffee. Walking out of the parlor, I got legitimately washed away in my first Texan rainstorm which is nothing like Seattle rain. In comparing Seattle to Dallas, Dallas actually gets MORE rain than the Emerald City known for rain, though in less than half the number of precipitation days i.e. in short, MASSIVE storms so plan for that if you are there during the rainy season like I am.

Though I stayed in this night, one of my favorite dinners later in the week was at Homewood in the Oak Lawn area. Executive Chef Matt Mccallister (also former chef with Executive Chef Brady Williams of Canlis), celebrates the ingredients of the southwest and presents them in simple but flavorful presentations. I’m not a big pasta person but per the waiter’s recommendation, the ricotta gnocchi was a must and if I could take all the gnocchis in the world, I would choose this one. Who knew seared gnocchi is what I have been missing in my life? And since the first pasta left me speechless, I decided to order a second pasta dish of cappelletti in PARMESON BRODO, and that was the moment my life changed.

Sunday

Sunday makes me think of two things: brunch and church. I started my Sunday off with a fat salmon and potato hash at Ascension Coffee, a hip, elevated coffee shop/wine bar that has quite a few locations around the city and showcases its high quality ingredients and coffee. After a filling breakfast, a last minute Google search led me to Fellowship Church a few minutes away from Ascension. I really enjoyed the sermon but I have to say, my favorite part was running into my favorite Bachelor couple of ALL TIME Sean and Catherine Lowe (who is from Seattle woot woot). Oh and if you don’t watch the Bachelor, skip over the following flashback:

Circa 2013, two of my best friends, Derek and Taylor, and I were heavily invested in Sean’s season and we all happened to look like the final three. When it came down to the final episode, we had a final rose replication ceremony of my friend in his tuxedo and me in a Forever 21 maxi dress with a $2 rose from Alberston’s that signified the celebration of Catherine (me) winning Sean’s (Derek) season and heart, leaving Lindsey (Taylor) heartbroken. I rarely fan girl but I can tell you while I was calm on the outside, I was NOT on the inside. Plus they are even more genuine in person and have the cutest little card business, LoweCo.

In the afternoon I headed to Lower Greenville, another delightful area of town with a strip of stores and restaurants perfect for a leisurely look and linger. From refined Southern fare at Rapscallion to no-frills diner John’s Cafe, Lower Greenville has reinvented itself in the last few years to be a trendy strip full for restaurants and nightlife. I noshed on a late lunch at clean eatery HG Sply Co. (don’t forget to check out their rooftop!) and then wandered over to La La Land Kind Cafe, the CUTEST old house-turned-coffee shop straight out of the actual named movie with mega 50’s vibes. Apart from busy lines and delicious drinks, they also have a non-profit We Are One that strives to employ foster youth to teach them necessary life and job skills, which makes sipping on a campfire latte that much sweeter.

Later in the day I took my speedy scooter over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to Trinity Groves, another culinary center for foodies to feast with everything from the freshest seafood to BBQ to traditional southern style cake along with entertainment and retail shops to browse. (Side note: I actually ended up dragging the scooter over the bridge because I didn’t realize the scooter city limits ended at the bridge so it kept beeping at me to stay within the scooter boundaries so don’t do what I did.) I’ve come to realize my biggest issue with traveling apart from being sleep deprived is that there I have too many places I want to eat, and not a big enough stomach. Though I didn’t make it over all the way to Trinity Groves, I would say add it to your list anyways.

Monday

For my last lunch, my dear friend Rachel took me around the corner to her favorite spot Mille Lire. With the owner being from Italy, we had fun little chiacchierata and Chef Giuliano Materese treated us like le belle ragazze we know we are. Call it for what it is, but I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to having pizza outside of Italy, but Materese’ quattro formaggi pizza took me back to my self-proclaimed Italian roots, in addition to his porchetta which was definitely fat and divine. Though Italians are known for a slow and long lunch, take advantage of their 2-course pre fix lunch menu for only $21 and remember to thank Materese with a ‘bravo’!

While Dallas is no Seattle in terms of outdoors, they do have a few outdoors activity spots like the Katy Trail that the girls and I took a stroll down after work. The Katy Trail is a long jogging, biking, cycling path that many know go back as far as 2000, but it really goes back more than a hundred years to 1865 when it was originally a railroad track that Union Pacific Railroad built called the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, the Southern Branch as K-T route for short, thus the Katy Trail. Whether starting or ending a walk, you’ll come across Katy Trail Ice House which is the perfect place to plop down for drinks outside and share a basket of fries with friends.

Tuesday

Though I am not much of a museum person, it just so happened I was in town for the Dior: From Paris to the World exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, which showcased the revolutionary designer’s couture collections featuring an incredible collection from the house of Dior’s over 70-year legacy. It brought back my pre-college dreams to be a fashion designer and if you are traveling to Dallas in the next few months, best-dressed or Walmart sweats can appreciate the fine work (and you can even see dresses that icons like Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga wore).

At the end of my very long week in Dallas, my favorite part was meeting our Riveter Dallas team that welcomed me with warm hospitality, fantastic recommendations, and are now new friends that I can’t wait to return to. So thank you Dallas for making my pants and heart that much bigger.

Something I get commonly asked is “How do you have time to travel so much?” and my answer is that I MAKE time. I understand that not every job is as flexible as mine and not everyone can take time off, but in this case where my work required me to travel, I take it upon myself to make time in the moments I am not working to explore, adventure, eat and see new things, even if I am completely dead at the end of it. Because when I look back, I can say I made the most of my time there, wherever I am.

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