1611 McKinney Ave., Oak Lawn
Appropriately set inside a former tortilla factory, this restaurant mixes Oaxacan- and Mayan-style dishes from chef Nico Sanchez. The Budin Azteca, something of a tortilla lasagna, and Cochinita Pibil (braised pork) are absolutely transporting, and the serrano-berry margarita is incredible (hell, try the avocado one, too). The lush patio is perfect for an afternoon cocktail, and there’s a cute, casual small taqueria, La Ventana, where you can get street tacos and drinks.
The Grapevine Bar
3902 Maple Ave., Oak Lawn
There are many reasons to visit the Grapevine: potent Tangaritas (frozen margaritas mixed with Tang), pickup games on the basketball half court, and the rooftop with amazing views of the downtown skyline. The laid-back dive bar straddles a few neighborhoods, so it’s almost always busy with an interesting crowd—perfect for people watching.
3912 Cedar Springs Rd., Oak Lawn
A gay country-dance club where everyone is welcome, this is one of the best places to dance in Dallas, whether you’re in work clothes or drag. Early in the evening, there are very serious two-steppers on the floor, but the moment it’s 10:30 p.m., contemporary music comes on and the dance floor is flooded.
4115 Lomo Alto Dr., Oak Lawn
Luckily it’s not on Mars, but even if it were, fans of chef Julian Barsotti’s trattoria would tell you it’s worth the trip. Tucked away in a nondescript Highland Park strip mall (which locals will describe as “across from Whole Foods”), the upscale Italian joint is one of the city’s most beloved destinations for salumi, perfectly crisp thin-crust pizzas, and classic bolognese, with a terrific wine list to round out the meal.
1628 Oak Lawn Ave., Oak Lawn
While we hear that Oak has had its fair share of upheaval with three different chefs in the span of three years, it seems to have finally hit its pace with chef Brian Zenner and his elegant, ever-evolving menu—we’re fans of the Jidori Chicken and his perfectly spiced, slightly Indian-influenced veggie mains. Beyond the food, what makes this Design District spot so popular among the locals is its comfy-meets-classy vibe: With its friendly but on-point service and elegant but cozy decor—big leather couches for seats—it’s perfect for every occasion, from romantic dates to business lunches.
Maple & Motor
4810 Maple Ave., Oak Lawn
For anyone who thought that fried baloney sandwiches were pure fiction, this roadside pit stop—where they are served either with mayo, lettuce, and tomato or “cowboy-style” with chili, cheese, and chopped onion—will be a revelation. For everyone else, there are flat-top brisket sandwiches, grilled cheese, BLTs, and quite possibly the best burger in town (but in a town like this, we know these are fighting words).
4714 Maple Ave., Oak Lawn
We may have found the home of the chimichanga. With a menu that features a mix of old family recipes and local flavors, Avila’s is a must for authentic Tex-Mex. Tacos, tamales, and quesadillas will satisfy any hankerings for Mexican, but if you want to get into the local realness, then go for the chili relleno, chicken mole, and guisado de puerco (pork stewed in a rich pepper sauce) served with rice and beans. Just give in to the queso and order extra chips. This is one hole in the wall you won’t want to miss.
3707 Cedar Springs Rd., Oak Lawn
Union is a major gathering place for the community in Dallas—it hosts performances, volunteer events, and more. What's really cool for nomadic workers is that no matter what is going on in the space, there is always a conference room or other area reserved for work and study: a lifesaver when you need a place that's reliably quiet. But regulars will remind you that this place is so much more than a coffee shop—it donates 10 percent of its proceeds to a rotating group of community causes and rallies its customers as volunteers and donors to multiply the effect.