Every semester, many girls at SMU have the pleasure of attending 2+ pre-event dinners. Though these should be stress-free nights of fun and dancing at date dashes or formals, planning these dinners have become a more unique challenge. Restaurant repetition is frowned upon, reservations are always expanding, and time is often an issue. With that being said, here is an SMU student's guide to formal dinners that can help inspire some ideas.

1. Cedar Grove

vodka, cheese, sauce, pasta, penne
Nicole Cohen

Since opening this fall, Cedar Grove has become the quintessential SMU pregame restaurant. Whether you're going for pre-boulevard brunches or birthday dinners, their cheap and plentiful food options and tasty, giant punches can't be beat. An ideal pregame restaurant for groups, Cedar Grove is the perfect spot to start your night. 

Nicole Cohen

2. Villa O

sauce, chicken, vegetable, pasta
payton white

Villa O is a classic among SMU students with delicious Italian food that can provide the carbs you need for a long night of dancing. Their pasta dishes are all crafted in-house, with gluten free options available as well. 

3. Blue Mesa Grill

Blue Mesa was the site of my very first sorority pre-formal dinner, and the largest I've been a part of. We showed up with over 40 people, including dates, because people kept asking to be added to the reservation. Our group took up multiple rooms upstairs, and somehow the service was still quick (and the drinks strong).

4. Sushi Axiom

lime, tequila, juice, vodka, alcohol, martini, cocktail
Nicole Cohen

If you manage to score the private glass-front room, Sushi Axiom is the perfect place to bring your pre-event dinner group. Split a few rolls with your date and try their nice, strong take on an appletini— you won't be disappointed.

5. Knife

brie, cheese
Nicole Cohen

Knife, just a quick trip across 75, was recently voted best steakhouse in Dallas, but is much more than that. It boasts a higher price tag than some other restaurants on this list, but with that comes amazing food and a unique drink menu. The bacon tasting appetizer, with 5 different types of bacon, is always a favorite, as is their stunning cheese plate.

Nicole Cohen

6. Meddlesome Moth

Nicole Cohen

Meddlesome Moth, though slightly further from campus (it's in the Design District), boasts a long list of fun, inexpensive appetizers that can be shared. The drink menu matches the personality of the servers, who will often sport well-groomed facial hair. Ask them any questions you might have, from my experience they are very knowledgeable about both the drinks and the food served.

7. Mesero

sauce, meat, vegetable
Kailey Goerlitz

Mesero is a great choice for delicious Tex-Mex, plentiful drinks, and my favorite part— lots of free salsa! They are very accommodating for big groups, and the service is still quick. They also won't glance over twice if you are in costume— I showed up with broccoli glued to my body one time, and our server didn't bat an eye. 

8. Common Table

chocolate, cake
Nicole Cohen

Something about Common Table's small plates (see: the pretzel bites) makes this spot great for before a dance. Their skittles sangria gets a lot of press as well, but don't be afraid to try some of their fishbowl style punches—they are some of my favorites in the area. Also, the variety in the menu is great for keeping it healthy or opting for something heavier— all while avoiding breaking the bank.

SMU students learn quickly how hard it can be to plan a pre-event dinner, with timing, price, and reservations to worry about. Hopefully this SMU student guide to pre-formal dinners can help, if not with restaurant ideas, then with a nudge in the right direction. Don't feel limited either— there are new restaurants opening constantly, and with a little luck and some research, it's easy to stumble upon something great.