There’s a pervasive itch that the always-busy scratch at around the holidays: Sometimes you just want to disappear from it all. You want to disappear into the mountains, carrying nothing but a grill fork, a thermos of whiskey and beef jerky. Become Gollum! Eat raw fish and whisper into the trees! Sit with a steam bath of pho and a good book. It’s especially hard to be anti-social over the holidays; Between "white elephant" gift luncheons and brunch with the in-laws, you’re booked solid. Here’s a list of what you can do around Dallas to salve those anti-social tendencies. To put it another way: Here are Dallas’ best food-things-to-do when you need some damn peace and quiet for yourself and your mind. Here’s how to Forever Alone in Dallas, comfortably:
Street food it: Grab a Concrete Table at ¡C. Señor! (above)
C Senor is street food heaven. Get there at night, and the Miami-tropic lights cut into the night. You can hear the hum of the place, if there’s no traffic. In the rectangular hut, sandwiches are being pressed to melty perfection, and Yuca fries — crispy, hot and salty on the outside — are dropped into a paper sack. Wait with a cold Topo Chico at one of the concrete tables outside. You don’t have to talk to anyone because everything’s to-go. There’s no waiter or bread service or anyone to say, “Can I take your plate or are you still working on it?” The Cuban is particularly special, and their burger is one of the most interesting in Dallas.
Be a Lakewood Landing Regular
There are few things that match the healing power of a good dive bar. Not a gastropub; a bar — one with disturbingly imaginative graffiti on the walls, ice cold Miller High Life, and cheeseburgers that haven’t been tweezered. A jukebox with the Stones and cracking faux-leather booths is preferred. With Ships Lounge, one of the best places to drink alone, gone to the wind, Lakewood Landing is the best in the East Dallas galaxy for simple, achingly beautiful solo drinking. Grab one of those booths, or a tucked-away seat at the bar, get a cheeseburger with onion rings, and crack that book you’ve been meaning to read. You’re safe and sound here, and it feels right.
5818 Live Oak St.
Mini Road Trip to Bachman Lake for Trompo Tacos
You’ll never forget these tacos. The pork is deep red, buzzed off of a spinning cone of pork (the Ron Swanson in you is pleased). Nestled into a gas station near Bachman Lake, this taco stop is a real-deal (quick) trompo journey. Panes of marinated pork are stacked into a beautiful tornado, spinning until the fat melts and the meat crackles. The cooks throw the sliced pork on the griddle when your order’s up, and they drop it, lightning hot, into some tortillas. Cilantro and diced onion come on the side, plus their trumpet-bright salsa in a little container. Take the drive and eat it standing up. Some food is better when you're standing.
3311 W. Northwest Highway
Jump Into the Sundae Sack at Eno’s
What is this thing? It’s a building filled with ice cream. It’s a sundae hotel. If George R.R. Martin wrote about a sundae, this is what he would have crafted. You can stay the night in Eno’s Sundae Sack with a security deposit. Seriously: You deserve to eat the Sundae Sack ($13), which is a tempered chocolate sack filled with layers of ice cream, chopped nuts, biscotti bits, local fruit, marshmallow and whipped cream, and you’ve earned it. Grab a patio seat. Ignore the server’s warnings that it’s too huge for one person. Who cares. Life is short and rarely blissful. This sundae is a fat slab of bliss.
407 N. Bishop Ave.
Restaurant Hop in Richardson’s Chinatown (Jeng Chi Dumplings)
One of my personal favorite forever alone activities in Dallas is to catch a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. Beforehand, I like to skip the Drafthouse's addictive menu (for the love of Krampus, I love their popcorn) and head to Richardson’s Chinatown, where I load up on steamed dumplings at Jeng Chi (pork or lobster will do you right). Maybe try some sashimi nearby? Either way, there’s nothing quite like sidling up to a sushi bar solo, or a spot where fresh dumplings are being steamed, and taking a day off from the grind.
99 Terrace Village Center, Richardson
Martini Dive at the Inwood Theatre
I know it sounds weird, but there’s something perfect and delicious about the martinis at the Inwood Theater. Bowls of crispy bar snacks dot the tables. The lighting is mercifully dim. It's all unpretentious and come-as-you-are. '80s-like frosted glass tiles, like something out of Terminator, run around the perimeter of the bar, so you're separated from the Star Wars lines a bit. It’s a great place to exhale and have a drink in the dimness — even if you’re not catching a film. Pro tip: Ask the bartenders if they’ve heard of any hauntings — you might just hear a few good answers.
5458 W. Lovers Lane
Create-Your-Own Home-Cooked Feast at Slow Bone
Yeah, there’s a lot of stress that comes with home cooking for the holidays. You’re juggling times and temperatures, and it can suck the humor right out of you. A botched holiday meal, I’m pretty sure, is on the DSM-5’s list of Reasons Why People Go Insane. Slow Bone has your mind covered. They’re churning out a cafeteria line of heart-warming sides and slug-a-stranger-good meats (and fried poultry). Actually, meandering through the Slow Bone’s food line results in one of the fastest assembled, most delicious feasts in Dallas. Go alone so no one has to watch you chow down.
2234 Irving Blvd.
Spend a Morning (or Afternoon) at Kuby’s
Clear your mind; head to a sausage house early. Don’t be fooled by the suburbia trappings of Snider Plaza — Kuby’s is one of Dallas’ authentic treasures. Work up an appetite by browsing the market connected to the restaurant. There’s always good people watching at Kuby’s. Kuby’s breakfast Kartoffel Pfannkuchen (potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce) are rich and absurdly addictive. From the counter, you can take in the vivid beer steins lining the bar. There are actual newspapers floating around. You could also just relax with a simple Reuben with German potato salad at lunch and ask a bar-stool neighbor if you can borrow his paper.
6601 Snider Plaza
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BYOB to 20 Feet Seafood Joint
Avoid this question from a restaurant's house manager: "Just you tonight?" There's no cumbersome table service at 20 Feet Seafood Joint, just damn good seafood. Bring a few cold ones, order a plate of mussels or briny oysters, and you can nearly imagine the high-altitude floating seagull (alongside chilly ocean air) that should come with it. Roasted garlic and fresh rosemary is tossed with french fries. Fried fish is a doughnut of the ocean. They're serving stellar seafood, modestly. It's a spot made for the solo eater — order up front and grab a seat and some tabasco. BYOB.
1160 Peavy Road
Pho (or any soup) at Mot Hai Ba
One of the best things you can do for yourself is lean into a piping hot bowl of pho. At Mot Hai Ba, the experience is damn-near spiritual. The restaurant is homey and tiny, enough to calm those frayed, overstimulated nerves. The service is spot on and hands off. Sit at the bar. Ask questions if you want. Otherwise, you’ll just get, “Have you been here before?" and be left to enjoy your meal. Grilled duck hearts are soul pleasers. The pho is a spa of the gods, laden with explosively fresh herbs. Get an icy Tiger beer to complement the spice and salt of your pho, and you’re on your way to being soothed of all troubles. Enjoy the holiday.
6047 Lewis St.