Things to do in Dallas: Weekend Trip!

I went to Dallas in the beginning of March for a long weekend and the weather was absolutely stunning. It was the perfect time of year to escape the Chicago chill for sunshine and jean jacket weather down south.  We were able to check out many of the different neighborhoods in Dallas and I highly recommend bouncing around to discover the different areas.

Best Places To Stay In Dallas

South Side Dallas

Our first night we stayed at the Nylo Dallas South Side. A friend mentioned they had one of the best rooftop views of the city, and we thought, why not take advantage? Oh they did indeed.  The rooftop SODA bar was a great way to introduce ourselves to the city views. The bar includes an indoor/outdoor patio and a pool that closes at sunset.  The other great part of this boutique hotel was the lofty and industrial feel along with bright artsy inspiration. The staff was more than accommodating and seemed to really enjoy their jobs.

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Downtown Dallas

The rest of the weekend we stayed in The Adolphus Hotel downtown. Rated among one of the top hotels in Dallas, this is quite the opposite of where we stayed our first night.  The Adolphus was dreamed up by Anheuser Busch founder Adolphus Busch as a luxury hotel back in the early 1900s and while the lobby maintains the historic feel, the rooms were up-to-date and well designed. I had some major envy for the hotel room mirrors! The hotel also has a great rooftop pool to relax in during the day and apparently a bar, but we didn’t’ get a chance to see it while we were there. Good news is there is a bar right in the lobby area that is hopping during happy hour and late evening.

Things to Do in Downtown Dallas

There are some great things to do in Downtown Dallas within walking distance of the Adolphus Hotel.

Food & Drink

  • Frankies Bar: This fun underground sports bar was right around the corner from the hotel and is great late night hang. The bar plays 90s music videos you can watch late at night when your eating their pizza or chicken wings!
  • Crafty Irishman: We stopped here for a quick snack and drinks. They had good appetizer options – we chose the corn beef and cabbage egg rolls.  The drinks were also really good. The restaurant is known for its Crafty Coffee which is an Irish Coffee with Baileys. My favorite was their Gun Powder which is crafted with Hendrick’s Gin, Elderflower, Lime, and Cucumber. I think this is going to be my new summer drink – refreshing!
  • Flying Horse Cafe: This is located in the Magnolia Hotel, directly next door. They make great lattes, power smoothies and breakfast tacos!

Sites

  • Klyde Park: Every time I passed this beautiful park it was loaded with food trucks, and people dancing, playing games, picnicking or just relaxing!
  • Eye: It’s always watching you!
  • JFK Assassination Tour: While I didn’t get the chance to do this, I heard great things about this historical experience.
  • Reunion Tower: Also on my list – another great way to see the skyline!

Things to Do in Dallas South Side

The South Side is a growing area and has some newer top-rated Dallas restaurants.  Here are some of the hot spots we visited while we stayed at the Nylo hotel.

  • Melted: This was our first stop, and home to some great cocktails and an abundance of cheesy sammies! I ordered The Beach, a chicken, bacon, avocado, cheddar and cream cheese sandwich. *Melted* in my mouth! The bar also opens up to an outdoor picnic area, so everyone’s happy.

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  • Mac’s Southside: A late night win on my part.  This neighborhood bar had a friendly bar staff and even better pizza menu.  I took a risk and ordered a margarita pizza with pepperoni and can’t believe I waited 33 years to try this invention! Delish!
  • Opening Bell Coffee Shop: This cute coffee shop and live music venue has been well received by both locals and Dallas visitors.  We went here for breakfast and got the avocado toast, breakfast tacos and a mocha latte. All food was well presented and yummy!

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Places I want to check out next time I’m in South Side: Industry Alley Bar, Checkered Past Winery, Full Circle Tavern, and Midnight Rambler.

Things to Do in Uptown Dallas

When you have a chance, check out a Dallas Stars or Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center. Otherwise, here are some great outdoor bars and Dallas restaurants to hang out:

  • Happiest Hour: A bit closer to Downtown, this bar is top rated for its large rooftop and patio area. It’s within walking distance to the American Airlines Center, so a perfect pre or post game hotspot! 
  • Nickel & Rye: An outdoor Whiskey bar with other creative cocktails
  • Blackfriar Pub: A casual doubledecker pub perfect for people watching
  • Parliament Dallas: A small cocktail bar with a speakeasy feel

Place I want to check out next time I’m in Uptown: Quarter Bar, The GingerMan.

Things to Do In Dallas – Deep Ellum

One of our favorite places in the city was Deep Ellum and artsy area chock-full of fun bars, restaurants, murals and sculptures!

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  • The Backyard: An extremely large bar full of games and dog art!
  • Pecan Lodge: This Dallas restaurant is known for its lines that wrap around the corner. We got in around 4:30 with no wait on a weekend for this Texas BBQ joint. The brisket was fantastic!

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  • Stirr: Another great rooftop bar with amazing sunset views of the city. Their drink specials were on point – $5 for your choice of a handful of their craft cocktails.

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  • Anvil Pub: We hit this place up for a few drinks and had the best time talking to the bartender. Apparently it’s a must for bloody’s and brunch on the weekend! Next time!
  • IdleRye: A hip restaurant with Polish and Louisiana roots.

We heard great things about Idle Rye, Brick & Bones, Frank, Hide Cocktails, and Truck Yard, which we will be sure to visit during our summer trip.

If you are going to try to drive around the outskirts of Dallas, my number one recommendation is to go into Highland Park.  The most beautiful mansions are built here and fun to cruise through! Who knows, you may run across a celebrity!

Would I go back to Dallas?

Of course I would. The weather was perfect, people were friendly, and bars and restaurants were all a great experience. I’m just getting started!

Looking for more things to do in Texas? Check out my post on Austin!

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The Best Food & Drinks in Portland

After an amazing experience in Seattle, I had to go back West. I took a week long summer trip to Portland, Oregon in July. With the perfect amount of time to explore I took advantage of both the city and the hot spots in surrounding areas!

Portland is a beautiful clean little city with amazing things to do within a short distance whether you are interested in eating, drinking, exploring, hiking, relaxing, shopping – you name it.

It is also a foodie city, so my first post about this trip is centered around foods and libations! Below is a snapshot of the great places to go within the city.

Portland Happy Hour

I’d say the biggest thing I learned in Portland is that happy hour is a thing.  Almost all the restaurants participate in happy hour from around 4-6 pm and then after 9 pm.  Definitely take advantage of this staple if you are looking to try out a new hot spot restaurant or looking for a good deal.  Most restaurants list their happy hour menus on their website so you can get a feel for what you are getting into.

  • Departure was one of our favorite spots to hit because it has an amazing rooftop for both happy hour and outdoor dining with some great views. It’s also a top place to eat thanks to Top Chef finalist Gregory Gourdet and his Asian fusion cuisine.  We chose to focus mostly on the happy hour menu when we ate there. We got the happy hour white wine of the day which was a delicious Chardonnay (and I’m not typically a Chardonnay person).  We then split the Pork Belly & Kimchi Fried Rice, Chicken Skewers, Vegetarian Maki, Spicy Tuna Bowl and BBQ Shortrib Buns. Do not leave there without the fried rice and dim sum buns!

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  • Another great spot we were recommended was Portland City Grill. This is a classy spot and an incredible way to take advantage of the views of the city from inside (it feels like a 360 view of the city).  The list of happy hour specials is endless there.  We did a 9 pm happy hour and got the Poblano Mac N Cheese and Crab & Avocado Rolls.  Both delicious.
  • Clyde Common has also been on the top restaurants in Portland list and we were able to take advantage of their happy hour. They have great cocktails (I went with the Pacific Standard) and a nice selection of food specials including hamburgers, french fries, spring rolls, and skewers.  My boyfriend went bananas over the skewers so I would suggest those as a must for this stop.

Great Portland Restaurants

  • Apizza Scholls was mentioned repeatedly to me as the very best pizza in Portland. New Haven style, I can agree that this place is fantastic. Go with your gut. You will be happy with whatever toppings you choose.

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  • The Good Earth Café was my favorite breakfast spot because it was fast and delicious with fantastic service. I got the bacon, egg, and guacamole sandwich.

Fun Bars and Breweries in Portland

Portland offers a variety of places for fun libations and bar eats, including:

  • Barlow – A1920’s inspired cocktail spot with amazing drinks.

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  • The Independent – This place deserves a shout out due to its great service, all American music, shuffle board, and pool.
  • Deschutes Brewery – Probably one of the most popular breweries in Portland. The restaurant itself is huge with great outdoor seating and plenty of bar space. Their food is great – especially the grilled cheese and french fries!
  • Kelly’s Irish Pub & Brewery is right by the riverwalk so you can hit this place up on your way. They have outdoor seating and a solid menu full of drinks and eat – including fish & chips!
  • Portland is known for its brewery offerings including:
  • Teote is noted as one of the best outdoor patios in the city

Voodoo Donut Portland

Voodoo Donut is a fun touristy place to stop by and get your sweet fix. They have a crazy selection of donuts in flavors you can’t even start to imagine.  I stopped by on a morning jog during the week so I wouldn’t have to wait in lines and got the Portland Creme, Voodoo Doll, Bacon Maple Creme, and Apple Cruller. Although I’m not a big donut person and I thought they tasted just as good as other donuts, my boyfriend and I agreed the Portland Creme was the best! The fun part is their designs and the range of flavors.

Restaurants and Bars People Can’t Stop Talking About

If you’ve read my blog previously, you know there is always an ‘if I went back’ list.  Although I covered a ton of food territory, we stayed mostly in the downtown area and Pearl District and didn’t make it across the river often. Here are some places that I’d recommend testing out.  I definitely will when I go back!

 

D.C. Airport Dining: Kapnos Taverna

I was in my hometown of D.C. for work this week and I arrived at Reagan National Airport to come back to Chicago a few hours early with some time to kill.  I was wandering along the airport corridor and was surprised to stumble upon a new location of Kapnos Taverna!

The restaurant, its first location situated in the heart of Ballston, Virginia, is a local favorite and hot spot for many of my friends and family who live right outside of D.C. in Arlington. I’ve been to the Arlington location previously and enjoyed the meal tapas style with my family – everything we ordered was perfection with great, attentive service.

At Reagan, the menu is designed more for individual orders which is helpful for the business traveler. However, I still wanted more people with me so I could try it all! There were plenty of amazing options.

I got a crisp glass of the Greek white wine and pondered over my decision for awhile.

I ended up ordering their fried brussel sprouts and a chicken gyro this time around. I can’t even describe the brussel sprouts.  I wish I had Mike Isabella in Chicago every day is all I can say.

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Speaking of, Mike, when are you going to open up a Chicago location!?

 

Chicago Restaurant Week Dinner: Nando Milano Trattoria

I think Italian was on my mind for restaurant week this year.  I checked out another restaurant in Wicker Park off of Division Street called Nando Milano Trattoria for dinner.  As soon as I walked in I knew I was in for a treat.  The owner, who opened up the restaurant a few years ago is from Italy, and he greeted me immediately and took a few minutes to get to know me. He asked, Was I Italian? How did I hear about the restaurant? Was I celebrating any special occasion? His charismatic and personal demeanor set up for a true Italian dining experience.

The restaurant itself was beautifully decorated, dim-lit with Italian wine decorating the walls.  The bar only fits a few people and there are about a dozen or so tables, making for a very intimate dining experience.

I started with some fine Italian wine which was recommended by the owner.  I am not well-versed in Italian wine, so if you are in the same boat as me, they’ll help you decide what you might like if you aren’t familiar.

There were multiple (versus typically about three) options on the restaurant week menu for both the appetizer and the main meal. To me this is more ideal so someone can really experience a new restaurant their way.  Their portions for restaurant week were also very good –  you may even have leftovers to take home to your sweetie!  I started with a polenta cake covered in prosciutto. Yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.  I could have it every day (while eating lettuce for every other meal).  For my main course I got the seafood risotto, which was creamy and had a variety of shrimp, octopus, and clams.

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For dessert I ordered the ricotta cheesecake.  Can you say slap you in the face, melt in your mouth fantastic?! I would say one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had.

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Overall, the dining experience was top-notch and I’ll definitely be back….with my Italian boyfriend.

Chicago Restaurant Week Brunch: Bar Siena

Chicago Restaurant Week is from January 22-February 4 this year.  I’ve been a fan of restaurant week since I’ve lived in D.C.  It’s always an excuse to check out new hot spots I’ve been wanting to get to as well as test out my palate to new cultural experiences.

A place that has been on my list to try for both brunch and dinner is Bar Siena.  Sister to I might say my favorite place downtown, Siena Tavern, this gem is situated in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop.  A more rustic, casual feel than its counterpart, the Italian restaurant has two floors with a round robin bar downstairs and a very large leafless tree covered from head to toe in lights.  As the branches expand up into and throughout the top floor they help add a romantic feel to the industrial decorations.  I also like that this location has TVs everywhere, so its a great place to watch sports at any time of the evening while you are hanging out with friends.

I’ve seen plenty of tempting instagram posts of Bar Siena’s bloody mary, so my first visit was of course for restaurant week brunch! As far as the bloody mary goes – it was delicious.  A bit on the spicy side, but it stays cold throughout your meal in metal tumbler and is topped with celery, candied bacon, and a piece of their stracchino cheese fingers (yum).

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Their restaurant week brunch menu was also totally worth it.  I started with an appetizer of the Stracchino cheese fingers, moved on to some of their infamous pizza, this one in particular was their Fireball Pepperoni, and ended with my choice of their multiple gelato flavors – I went with smores.

I can safely say my restaurant week brunch of 2016 was a success!

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Spicing Up The Standard Diner: Dove’s Luncheonette, Wicker Park, Chicago

The hip new diner in Wicker Park has been on my list for up-to a year now – Dove’s Luncheonette.  A wildly popular breakfast and Chicago brunch nook, Dove’s Luncheonette has been known for it’s long (but worth it) wait.  I lucked out when I had some visitors arrive early on a Saturday morning from out of town before the rest of Chicago was up.  We took advantage of the quiet morning and got to Dove’s right before it opened up at 9 am.  We weren’t the only early doves – even though we sat right down, the adorable small diner filled up within 15 minutes.

We started with Dove’s House Blend Dark Matter Coffee and the staff kept our delicious cups filled to the top throughout our experience.

Dove has it figured out with its menu of Southern-inspired Mexican options.  It only offers a handful of choices and for the most part they all have a spicy twist on a standard menu item. It’s a great way to get people to order outside of their comfort zone and try something new. Think fried egg with brisket, or onions, eggs, and queso.

I ordered the Avocado Toast  on multigrain bread with smoked ham and something called an almond-ancho vinaigrette with a side of grits. Perfection!

I will definitely be back!

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The Duck Inn, Bridgeport, Chicago

One of the most talked about new restaurants in 2015 was The Duck Inn situated in Bridgeport. A hop, skip, and a jump from the Chicago White Sox field, The Duck Inn was one of the three Chicago restaurants named to Esquire’s Best New Restaurants List and we had the opportunity to hit the quaint, cozy spot up towards the end of December.

The relaxed, homey atmosphere and attentive staff create a dining experience where time stops and you can forget anything other than the company you are with and truly enjoy your meals.

I’m a sucker for any Lychee drink, so when I saw the Lychee Chuhai cocktail on the menu, I couldn’t have just one. Other drink orders from friends ranged from beers to whiskey on the rocks, and everyone was happy and relaxed.

For dinner, I ordered the Gyros Plate and everything was seasoned and cooked to perfection with all the fixings placed perfectly so you can enjoy your lamb chop, pitas, hummus, and tzatziki both separately and together.  The Chicken Thigh and Pasta Carbonara were other popular orders at our table and everyone enjoyed their meal.

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My one critique is that I noticed with both my meal and the others was that the portions are pretty small for what you order and pay and you don’t leave full.  I’d suggest ordering an appetizer or extra side and dessert to even out the meals.