Walking In The 'Burbs

Not that I socialize much, but when I returned from my stint in Europe, two questions--approaching from different perspectives, but essentially the same--kept popping up in conversation: "are you glad to be back?" and "do you miss it?"

Neither is easy to answer. Every city has its own set of positives and negatives, after all. But I think what I miss is walkability.

The city of Dallas gives lip service to street life, hoping to invent it at Victory Park or reinvent it downtown. Yet it's near impossible to live in (or park in) a part of town where you have a lot of dining and drinking options--both upscale and down--along with shops, within a safe 10-minute walk. Instead, you must drive to Plano for a real taste of this kind of life.

Yeah, I know--West Village. But the Uptown development is rather compact, limiting one's options. And a multi-lane trough slashes Knox-Henderson in half, forcing you to drive between...unless you want to sprint for a spell. McKinney Avenue also has promise, but lacks a little in ease and diversity.

Off the top of my head, these represent the most "walkable" (as I'm defining the term) inside the figurative loop. Lower Greenville just doesn't have the range of places thanks to the emphasis on low end drinking, you can't work up a sweat around Mockingbird Station and Deep Ellum, forget it.

Hate to say this, but Plano's Legacy development may be the area's best example. The buildings have a modern, flimsy brick facade look about them, I know. Inside Legacy's blocks, though, you find apartments, hotels, restaurants at various price points, a burger joint, a sports bar, multi-plex theater, patios, wine places (to drink and to shop), a book store hosting cooking demonstrations...and plenty of free parking.

Five years ago I was convinced it would turn into a haven for chains--and it indeed hosts Benihana and Starbucks. Many familiar names, however, are branches of local operations: Bob's, Cafe Istanbul, Cru, Jasper's (part of Rathbun's growing empire), and my "favorite," Mi Cocina. Yet the area also supports Naan, Samui, Coast Global Seafood, RA Sushi (for better or worse) and other one-off marquees.

Good wine shop--Vin Classic--and rumors of a gourmet grocery, too.

I find myself becoming an advocate of this place lately. It has no real outward character other than 'planned development' and I don't really get up there enough to vouch for a particular vibe. I just know that you can walk for a good 15 minutes or more and run across a number of different places to kill an evening, and I miss that.

Either Gambrinus killed too many brain cells or Legacy is the most walkable stretch of DFW.