DALLAS IN LUXURY: TEXAS ADVENTURES
In Dallas, you won’t find any cowboys loitering around any intersections. After spending the day in the heart of Dallas, I see that the sole female wearer of footwear is a modest individual sporting a pair of patent-leather, calf-high boots in the style popularized by the city’s namesake, the prominent department store chain Neiman Marcus. Dallas has never been about that cowboy chic, and it never will be. Dallas conjures visions of the newly wealthy, thanks to its oil industry. Decades have passed since my formative years in Dallas, when the “Flying Red Horse” atop the Magnolia Oil Building was the city’s most recognizable landmark. Even though Pegasus has been obliterated by tunnels of glass and steel buildings, the Dallas aesthetic is unchanged.
The Velvet Elvis Tavern is a cool place to hang out in Dallas, a city known for its tuxedos, fine dining, art museums, and high-end boutiques. Everything from $1,000 silk suits to $1 airbrushed t-shirts can be found within a square mile of this shopping district. You can spend a fortune at Neiman Marcus, or you can haggle with street merchants whose English is less than perfect.
Dallas is best summed up by two numbers: the city has more restaurant space per resident than New York and more retail space in shopping malls than any other city. Dallas is known for its innovative spirit, which resulted in the world’s first strip mall, Highland Park Village (Mockingbird Lane and Preston Road; 214-559-2740; www.hpvillage.com), as well as the frozen margarita and chicken fajitas.
Central Dallas is where you should start exploring the city. Since 1912, the French Room Restaurant at the Adolphus Hotel (1321 Commerce Street; 214-742-8200; www.adolphushotel.com) has been considered the pinnacle of hospitality. Both are highly recommended by the American Automobile Association (AAA). One block away is the original Neiman Marcus Department Store (1618 Main Street; 214-741-6911), where you may window shop, buy a pound of chocolate truffles for $20, and enjoy a five-star meal in the Zodiac Room.
Antares, located in the rotating dome atop the Hyatt Regency’s 48-story Reunion Tower (300 Reunion Blvd, 214-712-7145; www.dallasregency.hyatt.com), is the quintessential Dallas dining experience. At dusk, the glass skyline takes on a watercolor quality as rays of golden light wash across it. Try the finest seafood, grilled wild game, and homemade breads and desserts at Dakotas Steakhouse (600 N Akard St, 214-740-4001), a popular restaurant among Dallas’s creative class. In order to get to the restaurant, you need to use an elevator from a pedestrian island directly in front of the luxurious Fairmont Hotel (1717 N Akard St, 214-720-2020).
Downtown Dallas is also a haven for art enthusiasts. The Museum of Art (1717 North Harwood, 214-922-1200; www.dm-art.org), noted for its collection of modern Abstract Expressionist paintings and pre-Columbian and African art, crowns the 11-block Arts District. Across the street from the museum, the Trammell Crow Center (2010 Flora St, 214-979-6430) features a sculpture garden with 22 French bronzes and works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Just two blocks away, the glass dome of the futuristic Morton E. Meyerson Symphony Center (2301 Flora St, 214-670-3600), designed by I. M. Pei, arches over the skyline. Dallas also entertains theater lovers. The renovated Majestic Theater (1925 Elm Street, 214-880-0137) built in 1922, presents ballets and Broadway shows, while local actors perform at the Arts District Theater (2401 Flora St, 214-522-8499).
The historic brick and granite structures downtown have been dwarfed by the modern towers. But even with all the glitz, Dallas takes great care to protect its heritage. The sculpture at Pioneer Plaza is a perfect representation of the Wild West. A herd of fifty longhorns being led down a grassy hillside by three mounted cowboys. These little steers are meant to evoke a familiar sight during the late 1800s cattle drive era.
Dallas, just a few blocks away, gives a little wood cottage the most valuable square block in town. Historical Plaza in Downtown Dallas features a replica of the cabin where John Neely Bryan, who founded Dallas on the banks of the Trinity River in 1841, once inhabited.
Located in present-day Dallas, Texas, the John Neely Bryan log cabin dates back to 1841. Photographed by George Oxford Miller
The John F. Kennedy Memorial across the street is a somber reminder of lost loved ones. There are four bare walls surrounding a marble slab with the name of the generation’s fallen icon engraved on it. I found myself immersed in nostalgia as I read heartfelt letters buried within beautiful arrangements of flowers, many of which had been written by people who had been born years after the assassination.
A little walk away, my homecoming tour resumes. My thoughts turn sombre as I contemplate the square windows of the Texas Schoolbook Depository (411 Elm St, 214-747-6660) from where I stand by the Dealey Plaza reflecting pool. Tense events leading up to Kennedy’s murder are chronicled in The Sixth Floor Museum. Photographs, films, and documentaries are used to recreate that time in history. I join the other tourists in staring out the window at the busy street below as the motorcade rolls past the grassy knoll and then speeds off beneath the triple underpass.
As I leave the museum, I take a stroll along Market Street, admiring the Victorian lamp posts and red brick sidewalks of the West End Historic District. Time seems to have stopped as a horse-drawn carriage passes by. The district’s frontier saloons and brothels, which earned it the nickname “Froggybottoms” in the 1870s, attracted a boisterous clientele. The focus has returned to amusement today, completing the cycle.
Dixieland jazz and the tantalizing scent of cooking barbeque accompany us wherever we go. Fast food joints and restaurants serving Tex-Mex, Southern, Chinese, and Cajun cuisine may be found at nearly every corner. Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse (2202 Inwood Road; 214-357-7120; www.sonnybryansbbq.com) serves some of the greatest BBQ I’ve had in Texas. About five minutes from Love Field, the original restaurant has been a Dallas institution since 1910.
Seven stories tall and red brick, the West End MarketPlace (603 Munger Avenue; 214-748-4801) is the tallest building in the historic district. In 1922, the Brown Cracker & Candy Company called this warehouse home. Inside, a five-story atrium with skylights brings the outdoors in while the original maple floors and yellow pine beams evoke the Roaring Twenties.
Don’t go to the West End MarketPlace expecting to find New York-style clothing or romantic restaurants with candlelight. Find the joy. With over seventy shops, this four-story pizzeria features pizza sold by the slice. There are a hundred different video gaming machines, a miniature golf course with 36 holes, a dance club, a live music venue, a movie theater, a gift shop selling Texas wines, and a card shop selling baseball cards.
I’ve spent the day visiting the city and am ready to get away from the concrete tunnels by hopping on a trolley. More than a hundred art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants are connected by the free McKinney Avenue Trolley (214-855-0006; www.mata.org), which operates on vintage streetcars from 1906. The trolley departs at the Museum of Art and travels for about three miles (4.8 km), passing such popular destinations as the Hard Rock Cafe (2601 McKinney Avenue; 214-855-0007) and the Hotel Crescent Court (400 Crescent Court; 214-871-3200; also home to stores, restaurants, and galleries).
If you’re a dedicated shopper, the first shopping mall complex will test your credit limit. In 1907, Neiman Marcus became the go-to store for the jet set. NorthPark Center (8687 N. Central Expressway; 214-363-7441) and the Galleria (I-635 LBJ at Dallas North Tollway; 972-702-7100) are two examples of the venerable Dallas shopping malls that carry on the motto “Veni, vidi, VISA.” Teenagers in Dallas feel like slobs when they visit shopping malls in other places.
Dallas is a hip city because it combines the modern look of glass and steel with the appearance of a log home. Dallas, a city with a complicated past that includes both triumph and tragedy, cows and culture, is not hesitant to pair the two.