Photo courtesy of Smilebooth

We can’t even remember a time when there were no photo booths at parties. And some of the best memories are captured when people let loose for these digital cameras.

There was a lot of fun to be had at the inaugural CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, when hundreds of Dallas foodies invaded Seven for Parties in the Design District to sample culinary creations from the best restaurants in the city. Diners joined restaurant industry insiders and Tastemaker Award nominees to honor the leaders of the local food and beverage scene.

Smilebooth was onsite to document the Herradura tequila-fueled revelry. Flip through the slideshow for a taste of the good times.

Photo courtesy of Smilebooth
Photo by Sylvia Elzafon

Foodie fans worship Dallas restaurant royalty at CultureMap Tastemaker Awards

Chefs & Scenesters

Hundreds of hungry guests made their way to Seven for Parties in the Design District to raise a glass to the 2014 CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners — and to savor creations from the best restaurants and bars in Dallas.

To get warmed up, attendees — a mix of foodies, restaurant industry insiders and award nominees —stepped into the SmileBooth to snap a few party pics before heading into the food-and-drink extravaganza. Is this what heaven is like? We’d like to think so.

For drinks, partygoers got to choose between Herradura tequila cocktails created exclusively for the event by the Best Bartender nominees; a selection of wines from the Abigail Adams portfolio; and craft beer from Alaskan, Odell Brewing Company and Real Ale. Event partner Herradura even had its own tequila tasting lounge.

DJ Sober and DJ Tony Schwa kept the party hoppin’ while an artist from Pinot’s Palette created custom portraits of each Tastemaker Award winner. But let’s get to the food already, shall we?

Participating restaurants included award nominees Dive Coastal Cuisine, The Grape, Barter, Bite City Grill, Chino Chinatown, Sundown at Granada, The Rustic, Meso Maya, Savor and Kate Weiser Chocolates. Among the talkers were Barter’s deviled egg with micro stick of bacon and truffle-infused baby pancake topped with whipped cream and maple syrup, beef carpaccio on toast from Bite, Sundown’s vegan gumbo, and Weiser’s almost-too-pretty-to-eat creations. FluffPop Gourmet Cotton Candy and HotPoppin Gourmet Popcorn also helped with the sweet stuff.

Spotted in the crowd were judges Kent Rathbun, Jon Daniel, Beth Adams and Chad Houser; nominees John Tesar, Barbara Werley, James Tidwell, Laurel Wimberg, Andrew Dilda, Patrick Stark, and Tiffanee and Richard Ellman; and industry types Jack Perkins, Lucian LaBarba from sponsor FreshPoint and Scott Gottlich.

And as if anyone could still manage to eat one more morsel, guests were gifted Hypnotic Donuts and Noble Coyote coffee on their way out the door — a combo that made for the perfect morning-after breakfast.

Like any CultureMap party, we were sad to see it end. But because we are glass-half-full kind of people, we choose instead to look ahead to the next event. We will see you there.

Karl Siebert, Louise Siebert, Linda Snorina, Sinan Gurman

Photo by Sylvia Elzafon
Karl Siebert, Louise Siebert, Linda Snorina, Sinan Gurman
The Grape

Tastemaker Award winners represent the absolute best in Dallas dining

Meet the Tastemakers

For weeks we have been introducing you to the nominees in our first CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards, a celebration of the talent in the local food and drink community. Our mission is to shine a spotlight on the people making the city's restaurant scene special and honor their innovation, energy and creativity.

Our editors selected the nominees, and a panel of experts chose the winners — except for Best New Restaurant, which was determined by our readers — whom we toasted at our big event on May 6.

Join us in congratulating the 2014 Tastemaker Award winners:

Best Rising Star Chef: Brian Zenner and Eric Dreyer (tie)

Fearing's chef de cuisine Eric Dreyer worked at a number of luxury hotels prior to his arrival at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, in 2007. He also holds the crown of Dallas' Hottest Chef, as bestowed by Eater in 2013. Dreyer shares this title with Brian Zenner of Belly & Trumpet, who also spent time in a luxury hotel kitchen, at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. He was on the opening crew at sister restaurant Oak before taking the helm at Belly & Trumpet.

Best Pastry Chef: Nicolas Blouin

Nicolas Blouin, who started working at a bakery in his hometown of Toulouse, France, when he was 15, has bounced back and forth between America and Europe, from a series of Michelin-starred restaurants in Switzerland and France to the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He currently presides over pastry at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.

Best Brewery: Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Rahr & Sons (tie)

Founded by John Reardon in 2011, Deep Ellum Brewing Company snagged a spot in the historic neighborhood ahead of its current revival. DEBC brews about a dozen different beers a year, including seasonal selections such as chocolate cherry stout. What's fun about this category is brewers on both sides of DFW earned the distinction. DEBC is joined by Fort Worth's Rahr & Sons Brewing Company, which is nothing less than legendary. Opened by Fritz and Erin Rahr in 2004, the brewery showed how it's done, with good beer, epic tours, and mentoring to local brewers such as Lakewood and Martin House.

Best Bar: The Mansion Bar

Like the hotel and restaurant in which it resides, the Mansion Bar is a class act. It has an intimate, European feel, which makes it a wonderful spot for a nightcap or an illicit rendezvous. It also appeals as much to visitors as it does to the locals — both of whom appreciate its people-watching opportunities.

Best Bartender: Michael Martensen

Michael Martensen has had a hand in many of Dallas' great cocktails bars — Cedars Social, Smyth — and he prides himself on his ability to "sift through the BS" to help cultivate talent in the local restaurat scene. The guy who favors vermouth on the rocks with a twist of orange is at it again with Proof + Pantry, the new concept going into One Arts Plaza.

Best Sommelier/Beverage Director: Barbara Werley

Barbara Werley is one of only 17 female Master Sommeliers in North America. As wine director for Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, she's responsible for its world-class collection of more than 33,000 bottles of wine. The Culinary Institute of America grad began her career in such notable kitchens as the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, so she has a unique knowledge of both food and beverage.

Best Neighborhood Restaurant: The Grape

The Grape not only graciously serves its neighbors, but it also draws crowds from well beyond its Greenville Avenue address for its creative bistro-style fare and legendary brunch-time burger. A longtime Dallas favorite for its romantic ambience and impressive wine list, The Grape feels both familiar and fresh, thanks to owners Brian and Courtney Luscher, who know how to appeal to everyday and special-occasion diners.

Best Chef: David Uygur

When he opened Lucia in late 2010, David Uygur not only became the local critics' favorite, but he also attracted the national spotlight for his interpretation of Italian food. Although his specialty is charcuterie — in particular the nduja crostini — rustic, hand-made pastas and hearty meat dishes should never be missed. Uygur is serious and a serious artist, making robust pleasures on the plate.

Best Restaurant: Lucia

Lucia is the kind of restaurant everyone wishes he had: small and personal, with a quaint atmosphere, excellent wine list and exciting seasonal menu. While husband David Uygur creates his masterpieces in the kitchen, wife Jennifer solidifies the dining experience with her sophisticated wine selections. Even years after opening, there is still a month-long waiting list for a table. No diner complains about it, and no other Dallas restaurant can claim it.

Best New Restaurant: Barter

Owners and brothers Patrick and Michael Halbert consulted with Fort Worth star chef Tim Love for the menu, but Rising Star Chef nominee Andrew Dilda is the one behind the wheel at this Uptown hot spot. With its emphasis on snacks, pick-up items like tacos and a tiki-themed Sunday brunch, Barter skews younger than its predecessor, Private Social. And it works.

Best Neighborhood Restaurant: The Grape

The Grape
Best Neighborhood Restaurant: The Grape
Lucia Dallas/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucia-Dallas/118749384831092]

Best restaurants in Dallas rule Tastemaker Awards with glory and style

Tastemaker Best Restaurants

The final hour has arrived for our first CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards. After weeks of celebrating the talent in the Dallas food and beverage industry, we've reached the last and most dynamic category of all: best restaurant.

These are the classics that have proven over time that they're the cream of our crop. They join an exhaustive survey of all manner of F&B pros: pastry chefs, most promising rising stars, top breweries and most charming bars. We've chatted up the best bartenders, lauded the best sommeliers and bowed to the area's best chefs. We've visited a spell with the best neighborhood restaurants.

And, thanks to your votes, we've narrowed down the contestants in our best new restaurant tournament. We'll reveal all the winners at our big event on May 6.

Here are the nominees for best restaurant in Dallas:

Chef Kent Rathbun's first restaurant, where he made his mark as an important chef, has it all going on: a smart location in the Knox neighborhood, chic decor, nifty bar, Pacific Rim-accented cuisine, stellar desserts, progressive cocktail program and fun cooking classes. It was years ahead of its time when it opened in 1999, which is why it remains meaningful 15 years later.

Belly & Trumpet
What initially seemed to be nothing more than a trendy stepsister to the critically lauded Oak in the Dallas Design District has emerged as one of the city's most liked restaurants. A casual yet upscale atmosphere plus an address in the center of Dallas' Uptown district give Belly & Trumpet an edge, but it's the excellent globally inspired food of chef Brian Zenner that draws them in.

The impeccably appointed Ritz-Carlton, Dallas wisely provides a platform for chef Dean Fearing to showcase his tooled leather cowboy boots, incredible charisma and, most important, his elegant yet down-home menu. Fearing knows Dallas diners, and he knows great food.

Rocketing to the top of Dallas' dining scene in a year, FT33 is the foodie pick du jour, from its Design District address to its au courant food. Colorful, tattoo-sporting chef Matt McCallister approaches his food with intensity and has brought to Dallas such international culinary trends as the messy-plate look and molecular gastronomy.

Bishop Arts gem is the restaurant that everyone wishes he had: small and personal, with a darling atmosphere, diligent attention from the owners (husband and wife David and Jennifer Uygur), excellent wine list and an exciting seasonal menu. No wonder there's a month-long waiting list for a table.

Mesa is like the Mexican version of Lucia, another family-run operation with its carefully crafted food, creative cocktails and beautifully fabricated decor. Raul and Olga Reyes have devised a menu that feels familiar yet new, with the best surprise being how uniformly excellent it all is.

Mot Hai Ba
Though intentionally casual, Mot Hai Ba is no less serious than its fellow nominees. Chef-owners Colleen O'Hare and Jeana Johnson have brought a new style of authentic, Hanoi-style Vietnamese food not seen elsewhere, and they're doing it with all of the care you'd expect from their 4-star backgrounds.

Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek
Despite changes in ownership and changes in chef (Bruno Davaillon is currently in charge), the Mansion has stayed the course. Grand, elegant but not stuffy, well-mannered, unflinchingly perfectionist, the Mansion has not simply prevailed, but hewed to a standard of excellence that's unique.

Spoon not only represents the taming of fiery chef John Tesar, it has also brought a new level of seriousness and acceptance of seafood to our steak-happy town. Comparisons to New York's classic seafood restaurant Le Bernardin are on the mark, in more ways than one.

Tei An
However you describe Tei An – Japanese restaurant, noodle house, sushi spot – it doesn't begin to get to the profound creativity and refined culinary sensibility of chef Teiichi Sakurai. Soba noodles made onsite are a good starting point. If you're a regular, he'll treat you to hand-made dishes designed expressly to your taste. A Dallas treasure.


Come celebrate the Tastemakers with us on Tuesday, May 6, at Seven for Parties in the Dallas Design District. To learn more about the event, including information about our beneficiaries, judges, participating restaurants and ticket sales, visit our Tastemakers website.


Lucia Dallas/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucia-Dallas/118749384831092]
Photo by Robert Bostick

Best neighborhood restaurants in Dallas bring comfort to Tastemaker Awards

Tastemaker Best Neighborhood Restaurants

We're counting the days until the climax of our first CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards, where we celebrate the movers and shakers of the local food and beverage industry.

We hope you've enjoyed getting to know the city's sharpest sommeliers, best pastry chefs, brightest rising stars, buzziest breweries and friendliest bars. We've talked shop with the best bartenders and worshipped the best chefs. We've encouraged readers to cast their votes for the best new restaurant.

All of the winners will be announced at our big event on May 6.

Now we get to one of our most favorite categories: neighborhood restaurants. These are the places that win your heart not only for the fine meal they dish out, but also for their dependability, non-judgmental mien and comforting familiarity. It's like being at home — but better.

Here are the nominees for Best Nneighborhood Restaurant:

Supremely practical Italian deli-restaurant comes from Julian Barsotti, chef-owner of Nonna, as an homage to his ancestors' sandwich shop in New York. His goal is to celebrate Italian-American food traditions and to make as many items in-house as he can. The neighbors love: spaghetti with Italian meatballs.

Dive Coastal Cuisine
Casual but upscale restaurant in Snider Plaza from Franchesca Nor fits into the neighborhood perfectly, with its fresh, healthy vibe. Menu offers turkey burgers, seafood, salads, light sandwiches and vegetarian options. The neighbors love: ahi tuna wrap.

Pioneer in Bishop Arts helped set the stage for ensuing gentrification. Refined and distinctly Southern, the restaurant does homey dishes such as shrimp and grits, mac and cheese, and chicken and waffles. The neighbors love: prosciutto-wrapped figs stuffed with walnuts and blue cheese.

The Grape
Dallas' original neighborhood restaurant with impressive wine list manages to draw a clientele from beyond its Greenville Avenue address. Owners Brian and Courtney Luscher have done more than merely keep the flame alive; they make it burn brighter than ever. The neighbors love: Sunday brunch burger and mushroom soup.

Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House
With original chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare no longer involved, this East Dallas burger bar is less about the food and more about the stellar beer list. But perhaps no restaurant on this list is more revered by the folks nearby. The neighbors love: Pepper bomb burger with harissa sauce and chipotle cheddar.

Le Bilboquet
Transplanted bistro from New York does fancy French classics such as steak au poivre, not always well, in Travis Walk. But hello, this neighborhood's not about eating; it's about being seen on the patio. The neighbors love: fish with fennel and tomato.

Neighborhood Services
Chef Nick Badovinus' mini-chain even has "neighborhood" in the name of his upscale rendition of a neighborhood restaurant. Between the glossy-yet-hip scene and robust food, Badovinus has his finger on the pulse of Dallas diners. The neighbors love: chicken liver mousse.

R+D Kitchen
Little sibling of Houston's is smaller and less proper, with a streamlined California ambience and vaguely healthy menu that fits its Preston Center address to a T. Nicely lit bar serves its pretty clientele well. The neighbors love: Asian chicken and noodle salad.

Urban Crust
Upscale pizzeria was an early settler in old downtown Plano. Good wine list, above-average pizzas and an unfussy atmosphere keep 'em coming, despite new competition such as Lockhart Smokehouse. The neighbors love: Black and Blue pizza with sirloin, caramelized onions, blue cheese and basil pesto.

Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House

Photo by Robert Bostick
Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House
Photo courtesy of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

Tastemaker Best Sommelier nominees fill our Dallas wine glasses to the brim

Tastemakers Best Sommeliers

The anticipation continues to build for our first CultureMap Dallas Tastemaker Awards, where we celebrate the movers and shakers of the local food and beverage industry.

We've covered many categories so far, from the city's pastry chefs and rising stars to the best breweries and bars. We've profiled the best bartenders and paid homage to Dallas-Fort Worth's best chefs. We've asked readers to help determine the best new restaurant, and we'll reveal all the winners at our big event on May 6.

This next category celebrates the elegant sommeliers, who've wowed us with their mastery of the noble grape. Like wise matchmakers, they assess our preferences and budget, then cross it with our dinner orders to find just the right complimentary sipper.

Meet the candidates for Best Sommelier/Beverage Director:

Michael Flynn, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek

Having served nearly 20 years as a wine director or sommelier for fine-dining restaurants across the country, Flynn came to the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in 2007. He's been nominated three times for the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Wine Service Award, and he has an advanced diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. He oversees the wine lists and beverage menus in the Mansion restaurant, chef's room and bar, and he is also responsible for wine service, staff training, wine pairing menus and wine tasting events.
Makes his mark: He's successfully demystified the wine process by hosting informal wine chats at the Mansion every Thursday night at 6:15 pm. They're $35 and require no reservations.

Hunter Hammett, Pyramid Restaurant

Prior to joining the Pyramid, Hammett was sommelier at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and Fearing's at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas. He currently directs the wine program for Pyramid Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont Dallas hotel, where he seeks out unique varietals, orchestrates menu pairings and familiarizes the staff with the extensive wine cellar. His Grape Expressions series explores underrated varietals and growing regions from around the world.
Makes his mark: He creates his own liqueurs, which are now prominently featured on menus throughout the Fairmont Dallas.

Gina Gottlich, Bijoux and Second Floor by Scott Gottlich

Gottlich earned her bachelor of arts from the University of North Texas while working in restaurants, including a stint at the Capital Grille, where she began to refine her talents in pairing wine with food. She and her husband, Scott, opened Bijoux in 2006, and Second Floor at the Westin Galleria Dallas in 2008. In addition to helping run the restaurants and oversee the wine programs, she also hosts sessions spotlighting wines from different regions paired with canapes from the chef.
Makes her mark: She has always been a champion of French wines, even when they weren't in vogue.

Courtney Luscher, The Grape

A native of Highland Park, Luscher is renowned for her skills as a manager and hostess, honed at restaurants such as Dakota's and Routh Street Brewery, where she met husband Brian, chef and co-owner at The Grape. In addition to running the front of the house, she is also a Level I Sommelier and handles the Grape's long-legendary wine list.
Makes her mark: She has established an incredible wine-by-the-glass list whose scope and boutique appeal has almost no peer.

James Tidwell, Four Seasons Resorts

A graduate of Louisiana State University as well as a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Tidwell is beverage manager and sommelier at Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving. After much study, Tidwell passed the Master Sommelier examination in 2009. He's a published wine writer and a popular participant in judging competitions.
Makes his mark: In 2005, Tidwell co-founded the Texas Sommelier Conference, an annual event that draws wine professionals from around the country to participate in seminars by leaders in the wine industry.

Barbara Werley, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse

One of only 17 female Master Sommeliers in North America, Werley has been beverage director at such prestigious institutions as The Greenbrier luxury resort. In 2007, she joined Pappas Bros. Steakhouse as wine director, where she's responsible for its world-class collection of more than 33,000 bottles of wine, including one $70,000 3.0L bottle of Romanée-Conti Grand Cru, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Makes her mark: As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who began her career in the kitchens of such notable places as the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago and the Jockey Club at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., Werley has a unique knowledge of the food part of F&B as well as beverage.


Come celebrate the Tastemakers with us on Tuesday, May 6, at Seven for Parties in the Dallas Design District. To learn more about the event, including information about our beneficiaries, judges, participating restaurants and ticket sales, visit our Tastemakers website.

Barbara Werley

Photo courtesy of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
Barbara Werley
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Stunning Latin restaurant El Carlos Elegante makes Dallas Design District debut

Opening News

The latest super-chic restaurant from Dallas-based Duro Hospitality has arrived. Called El Carlos Elegante, it's their Mexican-inspired restaurant in the Dallas Design District, at 1400 N. Rivertfront Blvd., just a taco fling from its sibling restaurant The Charles.

According to a press release, El Carlos aims to capture the essence of Latin culture, in food, cocktails, and interior design.

Diners can expect large cuts of Argentinian-style wood-fired meats and fish, crudo, house-made tortillas, traditional masa-based dishes, seasonal craft cocktails, and a standout Mezcal program, including no-additive natural Mezcals for true enthusiasts, as well as a global list of wines and champagnes.

Menu highlights include:

  • Surf & Turf One-Hitter: A5 Wagyu, Ostera Caviar, Crispy Shell
  • Beef Aguachile: Charred Onion, Soy, Fresno
  • Mole Negro Masa: Ricotta Tamale
  • Chorizo Molotes: Refried Beans, Salsa Roja
  • Mayan Hummus: Sikil Pak, Baby Carrots, Pepitas
  • Pork al Pastor: Pork Blade Chop, Pineapple, Adobo
  • Osso Bucco Carnitas: Veal Shank, Costeño Rojo
  • Whole Fish: Mint Mojo, Fennel, Herbs

Duro Hospitality Group has become one of the hottest entities in Dallas restaurants right now, with a portfolio that includes The Charles, Bar Charles, Sister, Café Duro, and Casa Duro.

Duro's Benji Homsey says in a statement that on this one, they "colored outside of the lines."

"Each one of our concepts possesses unique personalities, and El Carlos represents a new character in our portfolio, whose story is told throughout the design of the space as well as represented on the menu," Homsey says. "The entire experience at El Carlos is unlike any other in Dallas, and we hope everyone loves it just as much as we do."

El Carlos Elegante The space is designed to feel multi-generational and cozy.El Carlos Elegante

Rendered by Corbin and Ross See of Sees Design, the inspiration for the restaurant's design came from the idea of a Mexican hacienda handed down through multiple generations. Decorative elements include midcentury modern pieces, unexpected color combinations, eclectic textiles, and furniture sourced almost exclusively from Mexico.

A front courtyard contains an oversized fireplace and retractable roof, while the interior features a second fireplace, plus colorful custom wallpapers, ironwork, and a tableau of El Carlos "Family Portraits."

A private dining room houses a custom Pierre Frey mural and opens to the back courtyard, which also includes a retractable roof.

Ross See says they started with four walls and built from there: front and back courtyards, fireplaces, and fountains. Corbin See says their vision was similar to Sister in some regards.

"We wanted it to feel multigenerational and cozy," Corbin says. "The space has a residential feel, and we aimed for the pieces to feel collected and added over time. The dishes, for example, aren’t all matching. It’s an eclectic mix so it feels replaced over time."

Check it out at dinner: El Carlos is open Sunday-Thursday from 5-10 pm and Friday–Saturday from 5-11 pm.

These are the 10 best food & drink events in Dallas this week

This week in gluttony

Tacos and margaritas come with a motorcoach-led Christmas light tour this week, but tickets are going fast. Also on the menu is a whiskey pairing dinner, release of a popular bourbon barrel-aged beer, the launch of holiday afternoon tea service at a five-star hotel, and one of those silly but festive Christmas-themed bar crawls. But don’t sleep on the mezcal pairing dinner happening Monday.

Monday, November 28

Meet and Greet with Pastry Chef Molly Wilkinson at Bisous Bisous Pâtisserie
Mentioned on NBC Today as "Instagram's answer to Julia Child," Molly Wilkinson is a Dallas native and pastry chef currently based in Versailles who's been published in the Wall Street Journal and other media. She was one of the very first employees at Bisous Bisous, the award-winning bakery known for its macarons, cruffins, croissants, tarts, eclairs, and custom cakes. Wilkinson will be selling and signing her 2021 cookbook, called French Pastry Made Simple, from 5-7 pm.

The Pinky Cole Experience: Eat Plants B*tch Tour at Echo Lounge
Aisha "Pinky" Cole is the celebrated owner and operator of Slutty Vegan, a plant-based burger restaurant chain based in Atlanta, with a big following among non-vegans as well as vegans. She's launched an extremely limited five-city tour in celebration of her first cookbook, called Eat Plants, B*tch, which includes a stop at Echo Lounge (owned by the very vegan-friendly Mark Cuban). The show includes celebrity moderators, DJs, chefs, and Slutty Vegan food trucks. Tickets are $70. Doors are at 6 pm and the all-ages show begins at 7 pm.

Tuesday, November 29

Central Market Feast of Sharing at Fair Park
Central Market/H-E-B brings back its annual Feast of Sharing after a two-year hiatus. This free holiday celebration typically serves 10-15,000 residents with a traditional holiday meal paired alongside a celebration with live music, kids' zone, and Santa & Mrs. Claus. The event takes place in the Automobile Building at Fair Park, at 1010 1st. Ave. It runs from 3-7 pm and is open to all.

WhistlePig Pairing Dinner at Whiskey Cake Plano
Indulge in blue cheese fondue with tortellini, cream of mushroom soup with crispy pancetta, pot roast with gristmill polenta, and more during this five-course whiskey pairing dinner featuring WhistlePig whiskey. Save room for bacon cannoli with butter pecan filling. Dinner is $100, plus tax and gratuity, and begins at 7 pm.

Friday, December 2

Lakewood Brewing Co. Bourbon Barrel-Aged Temptress X Release Party
Lakewood Brewing will release the 2022 edition of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Temptress during an exclusive VIP Party. The brew is the 10th iteration of Lakewood’s annual barreling project. Tickets are $65 and include an eight-beer sample card, box of the brew, limited-edition glass and knit beanie, and private brewery access with samples of past editions. There’ll also be live music, and the event begins at 6 pm.

Tacos, Margarita, and Christmas Lights Tour
See the radiant Christmas lights of Park Cities and other posh Dallas neighborhoods during this motorcoach tour that starts with tacos and a marg. Guests will get a taco dinner and margarita at Desperados Mexican Restaurant then board the bus to a secret dessert stop before embarking on the light tour. Tickets are $86 and the event will run from 6:30-10 pm.

Saturday, December 3

Holiday Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas
The Las Colinas hotel and golf resort will begin its weekend holiday tea service starting Saturday. Guests can enjoy fine hot teas paired with sweet and savory bites at the hotel restaurant LAW while overlooking the resort pool and manicured grounds. Reservations are $50, plus tax and gratuity, and tea service will run on Saturdays and Sundays through December 18, and on Thursday and Friday, December 22-23. Also, Santa will make appearances during breakfast on Saturdays through December 17 and Sunday, December 11 from 8-11 am.

Fifth Annual 12 Bars of Christmas Crawl
Holiday onsies, Santa suits, ugly sweaters, and elf costumes are encouraged for this Christmas-themed bar crawl, which will guide participants to Dallas bars for drink specials and holiday cheer. The $18 ticket ($16 each for a group of four or more) includes a color-changing Santa stadium cup, Christmas light necklace for the first 50 at registration, Santa hat while supplies last, and a wristband good for free entry and drink specials at participating bars. Start at Playground Uptown – registration is from 12-2 pm and all specials run through 8 pm.

Monday, December 5

Del Maguey Mezcal Dinner at Te Deseo
The downtown Dallas Mexican restaurant will showcase mezcal during this prix-fixe dinner from chef Ryan York. Dinner will be paired with Del Maguey mezcal cocktails. Dinner is $140 and will run from 6-9 pm.

Repeal Day Prohibition Party at Bourbon & Banter
The Statler’s underground speakeasy celebrates the day the 21st Amendment was ratified – December 5, 1933 – with a big party. Guests are encouraged to don flapper garb and zoot suits to enjoy traditional Prohibition-era cocktails (Pisco Sours, Harvey Wallbangers, Sidecars) for $10 all night, plus Osadia Tequila specials from 7-9 pm. The party starts at 4 pm; reserve here.

Texas parks beckon throughout 2022 holidays with festive events and peaceful escapes

Silent nights

If roasting s'mores and hiking in the great outdoors sounds fun, pack up your family and visit one of Texas’ state parks this holiday season.

Texas state parks and historic sites are ringing in the holidays with a number of festive events. There are drive-thru light tours, special holiday hikes, arts and crafts for the kiddos, and more.

Reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to visit an individual park's website before you head out. And check the Holidays in the Parks page for many more fun options, pricing information, and more information.

Dallas-Fort Worth-area parks

Tyler State Park
Enjoy Reading Ranger Campfire Stories around a cozy campfire at 3 pm December 3. Head back December 9-10 for A Pineywoods Christmas, when you can stroll or drive through the Lakeview and Big Pine campgrounds to take in campers' elaborately decorated sites and take a Winter Wonderland Hike.

Lake Tawakoni State Park
Drive through or stay at the park and decorate your campsite with your favorite Christmas decorations to receive your second night of camping free during your stay. There will be a decorating contest, complete with awards, as well as a reading of The Night before Christmas — all part of Twinkle Tour 2022, 5-8 pm December 3.

Daingerfield State Park
Drive through the park lit up like Santa Land during the 10th annual Christmas in the Park drive thru lights tour December 14-17 (times vary). Marvel at the decorated campsites and lights, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while waiting for a chance to visit with Santa.

Eisenhower State Park
Help those in need and spread holiday cheer — and as a bonus, get free entry to the park — by bringing one unwrapped donation item to the park’s Holiday Donation Drive through December 19. Visit December 9-10 to visit the Light Up the Park drive-thru lights event, featuring milk and cookies with Santa. This year, the park is taking unwrapped toys to donate instead of collecting entrance fees for the event.

Cleburne State Park
Enjoy Pancakes With Santa and make pinecone bird feeders 9-11 am December 10.

Cedar Hill State Park
Search for birds taking their winter break at the park during their Winter Birding Walk, which takes place 7:30-8:30 am December 13. Explore Christmas on Penn Farm on December 17: Learn about the history and pioneers of the Penn Family and the farm they built 150 years ago.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Experience Christmas, cowboy style, at Cross Timbers Cowboy Christmas, December 3. Park ranger and cowboy poet David Owens will gather guests around a campfire at the Lone Star Amphitheater for an evening of cowboy culture through songs, stories and poems.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
In partnership with Toys for Tots, the park is hosting Christmas in the Valley, a full day of ranger-led events, programs, family friendly activities, arts and crafts, food and more. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for free admission for the whole family. The event takes place 1-4 pm December 17.

Austin/San Antonio-area parks

Bastrop State Park
Follow ornaments with clues through the park every day in December during the annual Fa La La Through The Forest Scavenger Hunt. Enjoy the Lost Pines Christmas Parade, a collaborative event with Bastrop and Buescher Parks, at 6 pm December 10. Tour the inside of the historic Refectory and see how the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated Christmas away from home during A Lost Pines CCC Christmas 9 am-12 pm December 17.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
Visit the popular attraction during December to learn how the farm staff get ready for das Weihnachten (Christmas). Return to the park at 5:30 pm December 18 for the 53rd Annual Tree Lighting, a holiday tradition started by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Garner State Park
Join the Buffalo Soldiers program and friends as they stop into Garner State Park before leaving for Christmas break during the Marching Towards Christmas event 10 am-2 pm December 10. Christmas activities will include hand-dipped candles, frontier Christmas painting, Christmas-themed hard tack in Dutch ovens, and stories of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buescher State Park
On the Fa La La in the Forest Scavenger Hunt, you can follow ornaments with clues through the park to secure a prize at the end, December 1 to January 1. Enjoy the Smithville Festival of Lights and Lighted Parade, a collaborative effort between Buescher and Bastrop parks, on December 3.

Hill Country State Natural Area
See how art, history and state parks are connected; learn some basic watercolor techniques and paint a card or two to take home during the Watercolor Christmas Cards event 2:30-4 pm December 3. Come back for Horses in History & Ornament Craft from 2:30-4 pm December 22 and learn how horses played important roles in the lives of vaqueros, native people, ranchers and more. Then, play a round of horseshoes and paint a horse ornament to take with you.

South Llano River State Park
At Christmas at the Ranch, 2-5 pm December 3, guests can warm up with hot chocolate and cider, listen to live entertainment, enjoy crafts and cookie decorating, and anticipate Santa's visit while taking in the twinkling lights and Christmas decorations at the historic Ranch House that now serves as Park Headquarters.

Houston and Gulf Coast-area parks

Brazos Bend State Park
Holiday in the Park is an all-day affair on December 10. Events include a self-guided "Elf Hike," Christmas crafts, "Pup Parade," s'mores, and more.

Goose Island State Park
See the park in lights, enjoy holiday activities, and camp for free when you decorate your campsite during Christmas in the Park on December 17. Guests are invited to "Santa's Village" at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.

Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Get in the holiday spirit with the second annual Holiday Light Drive Thru, 6-9 pm December 10. Visitors can enter the park for a drive through the lighted areas of Javelina and Opossum Bend camping loops, plus the Old Pavilion.

West Texas and the Panhandle-area parks

Franklin Mountains State Park
On December 3, make ornaments and holiday cards with recycled materials as part of the Art in the Parks series. During Cookies and Cocoa, you can decorate and take home your own Christmas treat while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate 2-4 pm December 23. Come back on Christmas Eve for a guided, two-mile Santa Hike at 11 am.

Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
Bring your family out for Home for the Holidays guided family hike on December 10 and moderate hike on December 17.

San Angelo State Park
Enjoy a drive-thru tour of lights and optional pictures with Santa and Smokey Bear during Holly-Days in the Park, 6-8 pm December 10.