Northern Exposure

Several times in the past we've alluded to urban provincialism, a mindset that narrows Dallas or other cities to a series of exclusive "neighborhoods." People living in, say, Lakewood or Uptown rave about the virtues of their domain and refuse to explore anything beyond Interstate 635.

Granted, there are a few places on earth that evoke feelings of dread when mentioned in a conversation. No one wants to hear, "You're being traded to Cleveland," "Welcome to Amarillo" or "Let's grab a pizza at Chuck E. Cheese." But in this part of the world, nothing provokes more rebuke than that listless sea of rooftops spread between the Dallas North Tollway and Central Expressway.

Yes, we're talking about Plano.



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"What the fuck do I know about Plano?" blurts William Chappell, bar manager at Old Republic, in a typical response. "I don't get that far north."

Neither did we, at first. To answer this week's Burning Question we spent several days gathering insight at several institutions. Scholars at The Gingerman, Primo's and other destinations pretty much refused to discuss the matter further at our place but did offer up some disturbing images of the northern 'burb.

Those who grew up within its bounds and escaped for hipper climes speak of soulless monotony. Life revolves around family events and unchallenging meals at chain restaurants, or so they say. Frisco hosts two professional sports franchises and cool stadia; rows of bars and restaurants line the thoroughfares of Addison; and no one really cares about Carrollton. Plano, however, is the physical expression of Malvina Reynold's sardonic "Little Boxes," where well-compensated professionals lead predictable lives and everything looks the same.

"It's dull other than this area," agrees Carlos Aguayo of Nicola's. "I think there are only two bars, neither of which I've been to."

The "this area" he refers to is Plano's Legacy development, a popular string of shops, bars, restaurants and flats set alongside the Tollway. We staggered through the area on a Thursday night and found young professionals and numerous single blondes carousing along Bishop Street. Legacy's environs contain Bob's Steak and Chophouse, Sal's Pizza, Mi Cocina and other familiar names, so it mirrors West Village. But Nicola's is one of the better Italian spots in the DFW area, and the bar area offers plenty of sightseeing. Down the block sits Jasper's, where bartender Johanna Egert claims to shake 250 martinis each night, Thursday through Saturday (and close to 300 during our visit for some reason). "You still have families, but young professionals are moving here," she says of the area. "They want to have fun."

Consider this part of Plano a tamer version of Sunday night at Nikita. We remember a conversation at Nicola's with a guy named Heinz who asked why roads in France are lined with trees (so German invaders can march in the shade) then addressed the topic at hand. "Everybody asked me, 'Why did you move to Plano?'" he says. At the time, soccer moms watched their kids engage in organized play in the neatly manicured city parks. "I'd say, 'Hey, in five years all these women will be divorced.'" Dubious blondes filled bar-side tables at Jasper's. At Cru we spent most of our time trying to catch a free moment with the head of an agency specializing in swimsuit models because...uh...she lives in Legacy and could, you know, be a valuable source.

We mean for our story.

Oh, and from what we can discern from our notes, we spoke with a bartender with another perspective on Plano nightlife. "Honestly, I think I see a lot of swingers," he said, adding an extra "s" to swingers and spelling think t-i-n-k. "I'm guessing, but I'm a pretty good judge."

Judge came out in our notes as "juje." We suspect he'd been drinking quite a bit.

So this is nightlife in Plano: free-flowing martinis, good-looking professionals, friendly regulars, possible swingers and a decent probability of hooking up. Crowds of cleavage-packing babes descend on Naan later in the evening, particularly on Saturday nights. Fox Sports Grill just opened, drawing massive crowds and a performance by Third Eye Blind.

Sure, it's a more relaxed atmosphere than one finds in Dallas hotspots, and crowds include older couples. Otherwise it's much the same.

So there it is, our answer to this week's question.

One side note: Residents of the apartments and townhomes on Legacy grounds claim downtown Dallas is a mere 25-minute drive. We tested their assertion, barreling down the Tollway, looking neither left nor right, pausing only for a quick drink at Maguire's, then Mercy in Addison, followed by a stop at Oceanaire's bar and, finally, a brief detour at Candle Room.

They lied. By our calculations, it's a two-day trip.

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