Our annual Best of Dallas issue is basically Spark Notes. We try out all the places in Dallas to eat, play, drink and shop, so you don't have to, and can simply walk into your next date ready to impress. Now you really have no excuse for bombing. If the Best of Dallas issue is Spark Notes, this is the one page of notes your teacher allows you to take into the test. It condenses the whole issue into nine foolproof dates. Go get 'em.
For the sophisticate
In the late afternoon, stop by Design District museum Dallas Contemporary (161 Glass St.) to take in one of their whimsical and edgy exhibits of sculpture, photography and paintings. A recent favorite, Pia Camil, sewed together second-hand T-shirts from Mexican markets to create interactive fabric sculptures the size of parachutes. The shirts' neck holes begged for onlookers to poke their heads through and experience the installation from the other side.
When the museum closes at 6 p.m., drive to nearby Italian restaurant Sassetta (1617 Hi Line Drive, Suite 390) for an early dinner. Order an arugula, mushroom and shaved Parmesan salad with lemon vinaigrette and one of their pizzas. They have a crisp, bubbly thin crust. Complement your meal with a bottle of wine from an all-Italian wine list loaded with interesting varietals and neat bargains.
For the laid-back art lover
Meet one weekday afternoon at the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art in Uptown (3109 Carlisle St.), an off-the-map, quirky, small museum dedicated to midcentury geometric moving sculpture. The artform has its origins in Buenos Aires in the 1940s. Dallasites Dorothy and Bill Masterson opened their personal collection to the public in 2003, and you can see it for an optional donation. The museum also has rotating shows.
When you've taken in the fairly small museum, make the seven minute walk to enjoy Dallas' best happy hour at The Standard Pour (2900 McKinney Ave.) This Uptown food, drink and nightlife mainstay has seasonal cocktail menus and intriguing new flavors. During the happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, many drinks are just $5. Oh, and it offers some of the food from its scratch kitchen for the same low price.
For the health-conscious
Grab dinner at HG Sply Co. (2008 Greenville Ave.), which offers clean eats that still feel indulgent. Whether you're paleo, vegetarian or slogging through your first Whole30, HG can accommodate.
When you've finished, walk across the street to Rapscallion (2023 Greenville Ave.) and order a cocktail or two from Dallas' best bartender, Ravinder Singh. The weekly tiki night created at Rapscallion became so popular that Singh rebuilt the menu to focus largely on tiki-inspired drinks, putting Rapscallion at the forefront of the tiki movement that finally took hold in Dallas this year.
For the music lover
Start your evening with a few tacos at Dallas' best new restaurant, Revolver Taco (2701 Main St.). The Fort Worth taqueria opened its first Dallas' location in Deep Ellum this year, and it's setting the bar high. Dine in the more casual front room and order tacos filled with octopus and fried leeks, and frog legs tossed in Thai curry paste.
Afterward, catch a show at Armoury D.E. (2714 Elm St.) In the last year, the bar and restaurant has started hosting shows on its patio several nights a week, booked by local talent buyer Jeffrey Brown. You'll see up-and-coming local bands like Polystarra and buzzy national acts like A Giant Dog, all on one stage.
Once the last notes have rung out, walk down the street to Dallas' best new bar, Hide (2816 Elm St.). While the bar uses chemistry-heavy drink prep, most of the necessary equipment — such as centrifuges, roto-vaporizers and lasers — is kept in the back to prevent it from coming off as gimmicky. The bar has an impressive selection of prebottled cocktails, and carbonates others right in front of you.
For the beer snob
Shopping at Shake Rag Music Store (4112 Live Oak St.) is more like attending a music nerd's estate sale than visiting a traditional record shop. Meet there late one afternoon, and browse through crates full of records at reasonable prices, as well as just about any kind of music equipment or memorabilia you can imagine, from amps to guitars, clothes, record players, old concert posters and more.
When you've spent your allowance, drive to nearby Strangeways (2429 N Fitzhugh Ave.) to sample a few brews from their well-curated selection. Strangeways is a bit of a dive compared with the city's other craft beer heavy-hitters, but this underdog should not be underestimated. Visit is during one of its epic themed weeks, like Sour Week, if you can.
For the old-school
When a restaurant makes just one thing, that thing better be damn good. And at Rice Chicken (2558 Royal Lane), it is. The fried chicken is perfectly crisp, the almost crunchy batter covering ever-so-juicy, tender meat — indulgent but not the least bit greasy. Order the drumstick sampler and choose your glaze: sweet and spicy or honey-garlic sauce.
You'll want a pitcher of beer and a good stretch when you're done, and USA Bowl at 10920 Composite Drive can offer both.While some Dallas bowling haunts have become more club than alley, with wait times and prices to match, USA Bowl's four dozen lanes stick out for their simplicity.
For the bargain hunter
Start with a cup of joe from Cultivar Coffee (1155 Peavy Road), a roaster opened in 2009 by two young former White Rock Coffee baristas. Eight years later, Cultivar is the most tenured roaster in town and still has what it takes to be the best: an outstanding product with unparalleled consistency.
When you're good and caffeinated, head out for a late morning or afternoon of treasure hunting. Your first stop is Garland Road Thrift (10030 Garland Road). This East Dallas thrift haven is equal parts dingy and charming with less-than-cheap additions to any movie, Hawaiian T-shirt or tacky holiday glassware collection available.
If you don't find a keepsake at Garland Thrift, you're sure to find one at Lucky Dog Books (1152 N. Buckner Blvd., Suite 105), in nearby Casa Linda Plaza. Its collection of rare and unique used books, such as zines, comic books, graphic novels, trade paperbacks, cookbooks, biographies, novels and nonfiction long-form stories are what make this place special. Even more special is its running selection of free books and other various media.
For the exhibitionist
On a Thursday or Saturday, meet for a late dinner at retro-chic Nova in Oak Cliff (1417 W. Davis St.), and order two of the best BLT's in Dallas. The components that make this sandwich shine include toast that is sturdy without being tough, a generous slather of ranchy mayo and an entire Okja's worth of applewood-scented, thick-cut bacon that's cooked just right — a little crisp, a little chewy. Spring for a fried egg to push this BLT into full-on sandwich orgasm territory.
Afterward, head to Barbara's Pavilion (325 Centre St.) to partake in karaoke night. Barb's is technically a gay bar, but the only universal descriptors for its karaoke clientele are laid back and supportive. The song choices tend to be pretty inoffensive here (think Adele, Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles). Your ears might bleed a bit, as they should at any karaoke night, but it won't be due to a cover of Papa Roach.
For the eccentric
Make an appointment to visit Dallas' own Little Shop of Horrors, the Texas Triffid Ranch, at its new location (405 Business Parkway, Richardson). Paul Riddell's gallery is full of custom-built terrariums of carnivorous and exotic plants to observe and, in some cases, buy.
Once you're thoroughly spooked, grab a bite at Dallas' best Mediterranean restaurant, Bilad (850 S. Greenville Ave., Richardson), an outstanding Iraqi-owned bakery and grocery. Order a falafel or shawarma sandwich with veggies and pickles on samooon, a pillowy Iraqi bread with pinches of dough at the end, made onsite and available to take home. Finish with baklava, the best we've found anywhere near Dallas.