Free (or Cheap) Fun in Highland Park, Texas
It's possible to enjoy a bargain afternoon at the tony Village shopping center.
Tisa Zellers at Avant Garden will accommodate her customers — even those who can only spring for a single flower.photography by Ryan Jones
The best suburbs of Dallas are clearly great places to live, but should you want to visit them? D Magazine online editorial intern Ryan Jones was dispatched to make a day of it in each of our top-ranked cities. He's already explored Parker, Highland Village, Colleyville, Southlake, and Prosper. We had to increase his expense account a little to tackle Highland Park (No. 6 in our 2010 rankings.) But only a little.
Highland Park’s reputation as the epicenter of opulence and excess in Dallas is no lie. The average price for a home in Highland Park is around $1.5 million, a number that dwarfs figures from nearly every other city in our top 10.
The only suburb that comes close is its Park Cities sister, University Park, which still checks in nearly half a million behind. It should come as no surprise that Highland Park also ranks first in average income, with the median household pulling in a cool $149,380 a year. In other words: cash flow isn’t a problem for Highland Parkers.
As such, shopping is the city’s calling card, and the historic Highland Park Village takes center stage in that realm. Originally opened in the early 1930s, the Village is an upscale development lined with lavish stores like Jimmy Choo, Hermes, and Harry Winston — none of which are conducive to discount shopping. Sure, the Highland Park scenery is idyllic, and the city maintains top-notch park facilities — like the stunning Lakeside Park along Turtle Creek — but there’s no challenge in roaming free parkland all day long. Not to mention that it was too damn hot to stay out in the sun for any longer than necessary.
So, despite discouraging conditions, I set out to find a few time-killers in Highland Park Village that don’t cost a bundle, and anything (short of shoplifting) was fair game.
I started simple — an order of onions rings at Who’s Who Burgers ($3.50), a quick shoeshine at the Village Barbershop ($2), snagging a few jellybeans at Pockets Menswear while a friendly staffer checked on those shoes I was “seriously interested” in — before I started getting into the good stuff. I dropped by Avant Garden, the Village’s floral shop, and was immediately greeted by the smell of fresh flowers, books on exotic locales, and sweet, sweet air conditioning. Tisa, a store manager, ran down the list of their best-sellers for me, which included a few flowers that fell in my price range. Avant Garden offers single flowers from tulips ($3 each) to roses ($4 each) to Freesia, an African bulb with a long stem and a strong citrusy smell. Tisa showed me around upstairs, where the store keeps most of its colorful selection and where customers are welcome to browse before making their final selections. I settled on a single Freesia, partly because of its alluring aroma and partly because it sounded like such a nice respite from the heat. The grand total? $3.25.
With flower firmly in hand, I headed to Patrizio restaurant next, a Highland Park institution that has served up Italian staples for years.Though the plates are reasonably priced, about all you can get for under $5 is an order of bruschetta or a plate of garlic bread, but that made no difference. My sole purpose at Patrizio was to take advantage of their annual $1 baby Bellini special that runs throughout the month of July.
A light snack at Molto Formaggio.
For the uninitiated, Patrizio starts their Bellinis with a peach nectar puree, adds champagne, and tops them off with a touch of rum. The end result resembles something like a Slurpee, but with enough mind-numbing alcohol to help prevent an unfortunate brain freeze. To be honest, the serving size is modest at best (they’re labeled as “baby” for a reason), but it’s hard to argue when you’re sucking down cheap peachy goodness in the midst of a100-degree heat wave.
My last stop was Molto Formaggio, a quaint shop between Who’s Who and LAFCO New York stocked with gourmet cheeses and a wall of wines. After being assured that no order was too small, I requested recommendations from the store manager, Julie, who shaved off samples of a creamy Tomme Crayeuse, a Widmer four-year cheddar, and an Iberico made from cow, sheep, and goat’s milk. I chose the cheddar, which got me nearly a fifth of a pound for $2.20, plenty for the purposes of mid-afternoon snacking. If you’re really looking to make a charming afternoon (or a cheap date), bring a buddy, buy a $1.99 baguette — delivered fresh daily from Empire Bakery — and set up at one of the rustic patio tables just in front of the store. Molto Formaggio can’t sell wine by the glass for bureaucratic reasons, but if you buy a bottle, they’ll lend you a corkscrew and a couple of glasses to bring out front for an al fresco experience a Parisian would envy.