Preston Center lacks cool. It’s an unfortunate aspect of being situated between Preston Hollow and the Park Cities — two areas that exude the kind of attitude typically reserved for a Brooks Brothers’ catalogue — with an established clientele that is appreciative of quality but more appreciative of the status quo.
It’s not the Design District or Bishop Arts or even Uptown — it’s the domain of upper middle-class families, which are the least cool things imaginable. That’s not to say it’s lacking in quality food options, as Teresa Gubbins has pointed out. Preston Center is pretty good on that, ranging from Wicked Po' Boys to Spoon, with something for every appetite in between.
Hillstone's attitude is sexy. Adults are playing here.
It’s just that, well, it’s a wasteland for getting wasted (or drinking responsibly). There are no bars. There are restaurant bars, for sure, but when the clock strikes 11 pm, the doors are closed, and everyone returns to their 5,000-square-foot homes situated on half-acre lots.
So, if we’re relegated to restaurant bars, the issue then becomes, which one is the best? Of course, in this part of town, “best” is code for “where will the most and best people see me?”
For that, there is
Houston’s Hillstone, the dimly lit, richly imbued upscale American restaurant for people that like to be seen with a glass of wine or Stella — foreign means fancy — in their hands.
Hillstone is a place that, due to price point, ensures that everyone there will keep it decidedly adult, with some light conversation around the bar about IRAs, getting a round of golf in this weekend, or your upcoming trip to St. Thomas.
Considering that much of Preston Center can be overrun with private school and Highland Park kids trying to inhale their food while shouting about lacrosse or something, Hillstone’s atmosphere is sexy. Adults are playing here.
Yes, Hillstone is a chain, but it’s a chain the way that W Hotels are a chain — which is to say, you might get the same experience at each one, but that experience is of quality.
If it sounds like I’m being too hard on Hillstone, maybe I am. It’s just that I’ve known this place and these people for so long that the stories blend together, and the jokes all have the same punchline. The expectation isn’t just assumed, it’s required.
That’s why Hillstone is the most symbolic of Preston Center restaurants/bars/establishments. It trades on that attitude to a T and doesn’t waver.
It’s the quiet yet borderline-sybaritic ideal that sustains North Dallasites, which is why people still refer to Hillstone as Houston’s even though it’s been years since the sign changed. Thankfully, the inside stayed the same.