The commercial, cultural and culinary hub of Texas
Story and photographs by Debbie Tuma
Dallas is a cosmopolitan city with a Western flavor, known for its oil, its Dallas Cowboys football team, its famous TV show of the same name and its history with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But as a well-known mid-western destination, it is more than that. As the headquarters of American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, Dallas is a major convention and business hub, a mecca for a myriad of restaurants, a shopping paradise and a cutting edge center for the arts.
Many people may not realize that this spread-out city of over 1.5 million has numerous sections and neighborhoods, including the biggest arts district in the country – 17 blocks on 61 acres. On a recent 3 1/2 hour trip from La Guardia on American Airlines, I decided to check into the Fairmont Dallas Hotel, since it is located in close proximity to the arts district. This 545-room hotel is steeped in art itself, having original sculptures and paintings throughout by resident artists who stay there to create works in a studio provided to them. The huge lobby, many convention rooms and the famous Venetian room, are all artistically decorated with a flair of elegance. The third floor has an enormous swimming pool, surrounded by beautiful gardens and flowers where they grow their own herbs and vegetables for their dining rooms. The Dallas Fairmont even makes and sells its own honey, gathered each day by local beekeepers.
Just a short walk from the hotel are top restaurants and museums. Within the arts district, there is the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and Garden and the Crow Asian Center. Adjacent to them is the beautiful, tree-lined public Klyde Warren Park with a huge, glass-enclosed restaurant named Savor Gastropub. Owner John Coleman said he created this new restaurant to bring the community together under one roof and taste the eclectic food prepared by himself and Chef Matt Hanks, which was fresh and innovative.
Dallas has a thriving culinary scene with a variety of restaurants from the Western-themed Stampede 66 created by famous chef Stephan Pyle to the new, warehouse-themed Filament, a former machine shop with graffiti on the brick walls, created by chef/owner Matt McAllister in the artsy section of Deep Ellum. Stampede 66 is casual, Southern hospitality with steer horns and horse art. Executive Chef Mike Matis cooked up some tasty short ribs, Southern fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and their classic Heaven and Hell cake. At Filament, which means “an idea,” we tried some delicious, eclectic cuisine of Texas Gulf barbecued shrimp, oysters, great steaks and berry cobbler. Deep Ellum has a hip, young and thriving music and nightlife scene.
A new concept called Trinity Groves is taking off in Dallas – a complex of numerous pop-up restaurants of all kinds that rotate chefs every six months. It is an incubator project to “grow new restaurants,” created three years ago by Phil Romano of Fudruckers and Macaroni Grill. Included are Asian-Fusion (Chino-Chinatown), Mediterranean (Souk), Spanish (Casa Rubia), seafood (Amberjax), and even Cake Bar with 40 flavors of cake!
For great Texas souvenirs, what better place than Wild Bill's Western Store for real cowboy hats, boots and accessories? The Rolling Stones, Jon Bon Jovi, Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman have all shopped there. Ask for owner John Dewbre, whose grandfather, Bill Dewbre, started it 60 years ago. He will tell you great stories!
You will find no end of great attractions in Dallas, which you can see with the CityPass – a booklet of passes to such things as the famous Geo-Deck at Reunion Tower, a 561-foot tower with an observation deck to view the city. Also visit the George Bush Memorial Library, the Dallas Aquarium, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the famous Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to view the site where JFK was shot in 1963. There are two floors of photos and footage of that fateful day's events.
For more information, visit the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau at visitdallas.com.