20 Truly Local Dallas Favorites

Hand-crocheted critters sold at White Rock Local Market

There’s an ongoing gripe that I hear from time to time about Dallas that inevitably goes something like this: ”Ugh. Dallas is so unexciting, and the people are so superficial. It’s home of the ‘$30,000 millionaire.” You don’t agree? Haven’t you been to Uptown, NorthPark Mall, or Highland Park Village or SMU??” Then, with smug dissatisfaction, the person will inevitably say, “Austin is so much better. Or San Francisco. Or Chicago. Or …”

Having grown up in Dallas, I’ve been to all those places and more. Dallas does not have a monopoly on pretentiousness or even on big hair! In an effort to sing the praises of the wonderful, unique things that Dallas has to offer, I’ve put together a list of 20 of my local Dallas favorites…  Each is unique to Dallas. No big box stores or chains here.

1) East Dallas & Henderson Avenue: I have a fondness for all things East of 75/Central Expressway. Everything a little more offbeat and a little less cookie cutter.

2) The Advocate Magazine: It’s a great magazine and website for local information about East Dallas, full of lots of fun tidbits.

Nonna's authentic Italian dining room/bar

3) White Rock Local Market: This is a relatively new market unique to White Rock Lake, but it’s been a blast to attend since they typically have live music. The first spring market has already started, and I highly recommend the beer bread and some of the gluten-free baked goods! Top Photo Credit: Patti Haskins & her store Critter Center

4) Nonna: Everything I’ve had at Nonna has been wonderful. It’s very authentic Italian according to an Italian friend I brought here. He was certain that the chef must be Italian; he’s not. Try the homemade focacci and limoncello. Photo Credit: Nonna's website

5) Arts & Letters Live at the Dallas Museum of Art. It brings some amazing authors to Dallas and is considered a premier author’s lecture series. This DMA lecture series covers the gamut with respect to genre. I’ve heard Daniel Pink, Ken Robinson, Sarah Dunant, Isabel Allende, and Ira Glass of NPR are still coming this season.

6) North Haven Gardens: They provide quality plants, including great vegetables and herb plants, and they’re seriously knowledgeable and helpful staff can help you determine the source and solution for what is ailing any of your plants!

7) Veritas Wine Room: The inside of this Dallas wine bar feels like a comfortable living room. It’s a great place to spend some down time sipping red wine and tasting the cheese plate, the specialty jerky, or Wiseman House chocolates. Try the Ass Kisser Shiraz.  Seriously.

Jimmy's Food Store front

8) Jimmy’s Food Store: You might drive past Jimmy’s if you didn’t know better, but it would definitely be your loss. This market has all kinds of great Italian imports, including wine and cheeses. I’m a particular fan of the truffle cheese! We’ve been know to buy their frozen pizza dough, plenty of shredded mozzarella, and their homemade Italian turkey sausage to “make” our own pizza. It’s well worth the trip. Photo Credit: GrannyGeek.us

9) Cafe Madrid is the perfect place for a leisurely lunch. The crispy calamari, tortilla espanola with aioli, and sangria are the perfect Spanish trifecta, and they’re all are great at Cafe Madrid.

The Pearl Cup from the sidewalk

10) The Pearl Cup Espresso Bar: I love The Pearl Latte, the ambiance, and the free wifi. Next trip I’ll definitely be trying their black and white cookie too! Photo Credit: Charles Williams on Flickr

11) IgniteDallas is a new favorite. I attended the first event, and it was a great time! The second event was June 2nd at the Granada Theater.

12) Dallas Affaires Cake Co. is perfect for birthday, graduation, or wedding celebrations. My family recommends the chocolate cake with amaretto filling.

13) Kozy Kitchen: Feel like you’re among friends, come in your workout wear, and enjoy their challah bread or a veggie omelette from the produce board on weekend mornings. Free wifi too.

Produce at the Dallas Farmer's Market

14) Dallas Farmers Market is a work in progress, but they are making progress. In addition to the great farmers, I enjoy visiting Savoy Sorbet, Kurry King, and Supernatural Meats! Photo Credit: HelloDallas.com

15) Thomas Ave. Beverage Co. (a.k.a TABC) is one of my favorite bars in the city. It’s patio is the perfect place to enjoy the first sunny days of spring, the first cool days of fall, and many times in between. Also check out the Sunday “manmosas” – a bottomless mimosa in a “man-sized” pint glass.

16) York Street: I enjoy everything at York Street. Nothing disappoints.

17) Aspen Light Photography creates beautiful family portraits and also does wedding photography.

18) SMU’s Tate Lecture Series provides an opportunity to hear amazing leaders in business and politics when they come to Dallas. I’ve been a fan since I was a student usher during undergrad at SMU.

19) Dallas International Film Festival has been a great way to see interesting new movies before they hit mainstream. If you haven’t checked it out, you should.

Fabrics for your "sewing lounge" experience

20) City Craft: located right next to Paper & Chocolate! I’ve jumped the gun a little by including this one, since I haven’t taken one of their classes yet, but every time I visit Paper & Chocolate I at least spend some quality time window shopping at City Craft. It’s on my to do list! Photo Credit: City Craft's website

If you’re from Dallas, please feel free to add to the list in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your favorites!

Angela is a nontraditional lawyer living and working in East Dallas. Most days she can be found enjoying the arts, scoping out new restaurants with friends, or even digging in the dirt in her backyard urban oasis. She can be found writing online about living, learning, and growing at My Cultivated Life. Follow Angela on Twitter.

32 Responses to “20 Truly Local Dallas Favorites”

  1. I love Jimmy's! The ingredients we bought there for homemade pizza for my birthday party were a hit. Trying to "keep it local" and just because it's good, several places around town strictly use Jimmy's Food Store sausage for their pizzas.

    1. Bryan Street Tavern is one place that uses Jimmy's sausage. I can't go there without having a pie. So good.

  2. [...] 20 Truly Local Dallas Favorites | ILiveinDallas [...]

  3. What a diverse list of local favorites! There's really something for everyone. I went to see Ira Glass on Saturday - the DMA does such an amazing job with Arts & Letters Live; every year I look forward to the new line up.

    City Craft has a newsletter that goes out once or twice a month with a list of all their new classes and pricing. I haven't been to a class yet but I've been meaning to try it out. They just expanded their space, too!

  4. While we're on the subject of Jimmy's, which my wife and I love, try going next door to Urbano for lunch or dinner...you'll be very glad you did! Then, when you're ready to cook your own dinner, go down one more door to Spiceman's FM 1410. This low-key place is a haven for fresh vegetables, herbs and wild exotic mushrooms. Ask them for a $10 or $20 assortment, and you'll get a bag of delicious mushrooms. Some of Dallas' finest chefs race over to Spiceman's every morning to get some of the freshest produce available, and they'll have it on your plate within 24 hours of being picked!

  5. Jimmy's Food Store, though hard to find, is awesome!

  6. Si Tapas is another great place. Started by the same guy who start Cafe Madrid. I dig the atmosphere a little bit better

  7. You totally missed Lakewood - Cock and Bull!

    1. I used to go to the Cock and Bull at least once a week. The burgers there were the best in Dallas, before their gourmet chef left. I haven't been back in a while. Also, the "Brooklyn" sandwich on a Sunday morning is good.

      1. I forgot their gourmet chef left. It's been a while since I've been, too. They have to know that was a big draw for people so I wonder who they replaced him with.

  8. Thanks Angela! There are several places on this list that are now on my list! I run at White Rock frequently but didn't even know about the WR local market.

  9. Ohhh, love this list. Some of my favs are definitely included. One area that I think is uniquely Dallas that is left out is the Bishop Arts District. One of my favorites in the area is Bolsa: http://www.bolsadallas.com/ My husband and I love going there. Community tables on the patio and they use a lot of local ingredients, like Jimmy's sausage and ZipCode Honey. If you haven't been, you must try! :)

    1. IzzyLizzy - I like where your head's at. We actually have a post completely devoted to Oak Cliff and The Bishop Arts District coming out very soon. It mentions Bolsa, Eno's Pizza, and many of the other cool places which make the Bishop Arts the best kept secret in Dallas.

    2. What's also great about Bolsa is they have a Farmer's Market on the first Sunday of every month!

  10. I'm glad everyone's enjoying the list! I love assembling my own pizza with Jimmy's frozen dough, sausage, and shredded cheeses, and I've had a lot of fun spicing up my salad with different kinds of microgreens from Spiceman's FM 1410! Sorry, couldn't resist the pun!

    But, I'm embarrassed to say that I've never been to the Cock and Bull since it's practically in my backyard! And IzzyLizzy, you're right. The list is missing Bishop Arts. Simply an oversight! :) I'm definitely a fan too.

  11. What about Campisi's Egyptian Lounge, or the Balcony Club atop the Lakewood Theater?

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  13. Great job Angela, very good list! I love the International Film Festival!

  14. If you like Aspen light's Family Portraits, you'll love this local Dallas Photographer's work: http://portraitphotographerdallas.com/Dallas_Fami...

  15. Great list...have been to several of your picks...I have just relocated to Dallas and so far it is a simmering love affair...no consummation yet:)... but I like it much better than I would have guessed. Also many of my friends in various states (including hard to please New Yawkers like me) speak highly of Dallas...main reason we moved here.

  16. I'm so glad you mentioned cafe Madrid!! It's beautiful and homey. I stumbled on it last winter, and enjoyed the calamari and AMAZING mussels. Was by myself, but made everyone was friendly.

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  20. Si Tapas is another great place. Started by the same guy who start Cafe Madrid. I dig the atmosphere a little bit better

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  23. Started by the same guy who start Cafe Madrid. I dig the atmosphere a little bit better

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