Recently, I ditched the party bars in Uptown for another part of Dallas -- y'know, the kind with houses and backyards. But Uptown has plenty of its own charm. Here are 12 places worth driving to Uptown for:
For sports watching: the Nodding Donkey
So you've got some feelings about your favorite football team. Head to the Nodding Donkey, where you can yell at the many TVs with new friends. I'd stay away from this place if you're wanting to casually watch a game. It's best for rowdy afternoons where shots are involved.
For date-night cocktails: Tate's
This place can get slammed later in the evening, so the best time to grab a drink is right after dinner. Pull up a chair on the patio if the weather's nice (and you can even bring your dog!) or grab a seat inside at the sexy, dark-wooded bar. The bartenders are happy to whip up a special cocktail if you steer them towards spirits you like, but they're not annoying about it. Whiskey-cokes are totally allowed.
For dinner with out-of-towners: Urban Taco
Your friends say they want Tex-Mex. Try Mexican restaurant Urban Taco instead. The patio is one of many great spots on McKinney Avenue to watch the pretty people go by. Lunch or dinner has to start with a salsa sampler. (Three cost only $3.50, and you can add more salsas for $1 each.) If your friends are into food, you'll likely launch into a spirited debate over whether the jalapeño zucchini is better than the guajillo piquin. But there's no question on the drinks pairing: margarita on the rocks it is.
For out-of-towners' second meal: Chuy's
Maybe you're hungover. Or maybe you're just hungry. Chuy's at Knox/Henderson is a chain restaurant I keep as my Cheat Meal. You'll find occasionally greasy, always cheesy Tex-Mex dishes like "big as yo' face" chicken burritos, beef enchiladas and chile rellenos. It'll be the cheapest meal you buy all weekend.
For bachelorette parties: Trophy Room
There's a mechanical bull on the patio. Eww? Tons of people saddle up, pardner, for a spin. It's fun for a big party night.
For late-night grub: CrushCraft Thai Street Eats
Late-night food in a late-night 'hood is a must, and oftentimes that means mediocre pizza covered with jalapeños and too much ranch dressing. Not here. The khao soi (chicken with curry sauce and egg noodles) is a favorite.
For sunny days: Katy Trail Ice House
It is weird to valet park your car, then go sit outside on a picnic table. But that's just how it works at Katy Trail Ice House, easily Uptown's most popular patio, and we're not here to mess with a good thing. Bring your dog and 12 of your friends for backyard boozing. It's a quintessential Uptown experience.
For terrible karaoke: the MAT
If you're a good singer, you're welcome to perform at the McKinney Avenue Tavern on karaoke nights (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays). But if you're a bad singer, that's when the real fun begins. It's a stay-all-night kind of place.
For brunch: Bread Winners Cafe and Bakery
Brunch is a way of life in Uptown, and Bread Winners Cafe and Bakery is one of the legendary spots. It's appropriate for a bite after church, or a good meal while mom's in town, but it's plenty fun for a group of girlfriends recovering from last night, too. Waiting for a table at Bread Winners is also a way of life in Uptown. You can't knock a place for being consistently popular.
For the cheapest happy hour maybe ever: Si Tapas
If you're not choosy about what you drink, you can eat and drink your way through Si Tapas on weekdays from 4-7 p.m. for 10 bucks. A select number of tapas such as fried calamari and shrimp in garlic are $3 each. Bottles of house wine and pitchers of sangria are $12 each. By my calculations, your $10 per person will get four people two bottles of wine and four appetizers. Deal.
For doggie play dates: Mutts Canine Cantina
The owners of Mutts came up with the brilliant idea to put a bar in a dog park. Fido plays, Mom drinks a beer. It's just as popular as it sounds.
For an anti-Uptown experience: Stoneleigh P
So you didn't curl you hair. You don't want gosh-darn bone marrow on your burger. Stoneleigh P is a comfy spot in Uptown that doesn't come with any pretense. Save it for drinks with good friends.
Follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.