It happens every holiday season: We head to the overcrowded malls to tackle our shopping list, and soon find ourselves exhausted and famished. We then find ourselves at the food card, settling for greasy fast food that leaves us feeling even more lethargic than before.

This year consider breaking the vicious cycle by heading to one of our Fort Worth’s many excellent shopping areas that also offer quality eating nearby. You can shop for a couple of hours, enjoy a relaxed and re-energizing lunch, shop some more, and then perhaps finish up with a coffee or early cocktail – all told, an ideal December day that doesn't need to involve McDonald’s or Chik-Fil-A.

Sundance Square:

Oliver's Fine Foods

Most longtime Fort Worth residents tend to think of downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square as a place to eat and drink, overlooking the fact that you can also make a serious dent in your holiday list here. Shops like Leddy’s Ranch and the gift store at the Sid Richardson Museum are especially good for out-of-town visitors looking to bring a little piece of Fort Worth back home. For lunch, there are numerous options, including such new favorites like Del Frisco’s Grill, and old standards like Mi Cocina  -- though your best choice might be Oliver’s Fine Foods, the gourmet deli and grocery. You can have a terrific vegan falafel wrap or voluminous Greek salad, and also pick up a bottle of wine for an oenophile on your shopping list.

University Park Village:


The Apple Store, J. Crew, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn: If you can’t find a gift here for a friend or loved one, you are not trying hard enough. (And if you’re looking for a gift for your favorite Fort Worth food blogger, consider a visit to Williams-Sonoma…) For lunch break, look no further than McKinley’s Fine Bakery and Café, with its menu of classic sandwiches, soups, and salads – we’re certifiably addicted to the “Barbi” salad, which features chicken, strawberries, walnuts and goat cheese. And once all the gifts are purchased and stored in the trunk of your car, treat yourself to a celebratory margarita at Blue Mesa Grill, which runs Happy Hour specials Monday to Friday, 4 to 7:30 p.m.

Ridgmar Mall:


For those for whom the holiday season isn’t complete without at least one trip to the mall, the stores here cover all the bases, from Sears to Macy's, Radio Shack to Motherhood Maternity. But why not bypass the food court entirely and treat yourself? Tucked away inside Neiman Marcus, the elegantly appointed Zodiac offers a true respite from the holiday crowds – not to mention menu items that you would never associate with a shopping mall, such as seared Bay of Fundy salmon, or chicken paillard Milanese. Wash it all down with a glass or two Veuve Clicquot Brut “Yellow Label,” and in no time at all you will have forgotten that it’s December 23rd, and the only gifts you’ve bought so far are for yourself.