Situated two hours south of my childhood home on the Red River and home to the world's tenth largest economy, Dallas is the gateway to Texas, ushering both natives and visitors into their first glimpse of the Lone Star State's diversity, magnitude, and obsession with itself. At first, Dallas feels uninspired, a hodgepodge of dominating skyscrapers and imposing traffic that, when mingled with the oppressive Texas sun, concoct a recipe for homicidal road-rage. It's not until devoting time to the metropolis that you unearth more and begin to witness Dallas' many shades.
This was C&C's second time in the city, the first coming at the tail-end of our honeymoon, a tour of some of the South's most charming cities (Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans). Dallas doesn't share the same romance and mystique as the others, but I'm a Texpatriate and worked on a campaign in Dallas, so I wanted to visit and show my new bride around. Both of us hated it and decided to give it another shot, in large part due to a close friend having a loft in the old Sears' catalog building on Dallas' up-and-coming south side. As such, here's a breakdown of our time in DFW and a potential itinerary for your next visit to the North Texas metro, inspired in part by the New York Times' 36 Hours column.
1) Breakfast at Oddfellows
With a food-scene growing in both size and reputation, there's something to be eaten by everyone in Dallas, and you'll probably order main courses as sides to go with your other main courses, as we did at Oddfellows. Situated in the Bishop Arts District, this Dallas eatery lives up to its name, assembling a staff of oddballs to serve the eclectic people who eat there. No breakfast is complete without a carb covered in syrup, and Oddfellows doesn't disappoint, turning out a different "pancake of the day" for each breakfast serving. Mrs. C&C had the hipster-esque granola pancake, which tasted like Portland (in a good way) and looked more like a State Fair funnel cake than something vaguely healthy. I opted for the pork belly benedict with a side of biscuits & gravy, as I'm a southerner on a quest to find the world's best gravy; this wasn't it. The gravy was bland and the biscuits dry, but I dismissed these transgressions against all gravy because the benedict was incredible, a perfect concoction pairing smoky, crunchy pork belly with avocado (is there a dish that doesn't come with avocado these days?) and a poached egg.
2) Nap & Netflix
We're pretty sure you're never supposed to admit to napping on a trip, but it's one of our favorite past-times, and this trip was no exception. It didn't help that the place we were staying had snuggly puppies (all dogs are puppies. These puppies are old and enormous) and it rained most of the first day, so we napped, pet puppies, and binge-watched Parks & Recreation. We always recommend napping, especially in a place like Dallas, which comes with oppressive Texas humidity, pop-up thunderstorms, and some of the worst traffic known to man (except for Atlanta. Screw Atlanta traffic).
3) Order In
Yes, we had breakfast out and spent the rest of the day napping. That's what happens when you drive 12 hours and get woken by puppy noses seemingly minutes after falling asleep. For cities like Dallas, we love to use Caviar, which provides near limitless access to delivery from most local restaurants. Mrs. C&C opted for a massive brisket grilled cheese from Dallas Grilled Cheese Company and I a mediocre pho that was far more work that it was worth. I believe she would highly recommend that grilled cheese to anyone.
1) Breakfast at AllGood Cafe
Clearly the brainchild of a Janis Joplin impersonator, Chuck Norris, and a rusted out van, AllGood Cafe, situated in Dallas' funkiest arts district, Deep Ellum, provides a bohemian take on breakfast classics. The restaurant is next to a fetish shop called Leather Masters (no-judgement if you click the link), which is all you really need to know about the place. All ingredients are sourced locally (should I put this as the follow-up to the sex shop detail?), so enjoy the freshest food while people-watching and marveling at the friendship between someone fresh out of a Woodstock Time Machine and a bearded individual in a several thousand dollar suit. While I had breakfast tacos, which were mediocre but really popped when dipped in salsa, Mrs. C&C opted for giant buttermilk pancakes and some peppered bacon that I ate the majority of. The pancakes were fluffy and perfectly made, while the bacon was thick, savory, and possessed the nearly-impossible-to-achieve cruchy/soft texture. Not to mention my (obvious) side of biscuits & gravy, which was well-made and nicely salted. Almost as good as my homemade gravy!
On our first trip to Dallas, Mrs. C&C decried the lack of "real cowboys," so we made the trek down to Fort Worth (yes, it's a trek for us Iowans who're used to 15 minute Des Moines traffic) and watched the daily 11:30 cattle drive. We found it far too touristy, not to mention our general ethical concerns with the treatment of the animals. That being said, it was a unique aspect of the trip and we're happy to check it off the list and never go back. If you're looking for a one-time thing to do in the area, the Stockyards might be right up your alley. There are several museums dedicated to Texas Rangers, the stockyards, cowboys, etc.
3) Get Lost Looking For Lunch
I, being the amazing husband that I am (and newfound lover of urban gardens thanks to my trip to London), tried to plan a lunch at Marie Gabrielle, an allegedly up-scale lunch restaurant featuring beautiful gardens in downtown Dallas. In reality, it appeared to be a place for tired business people to escape for a few moments and get a meal served to you college dining hall style, which doesn't inspire much confidence in the quality of the food; we could certainly be wrong about that! The gardens around the restaurant are astounding, though, providing a well-manicured respite from banal skyscraper design.
4) Explore Bishop Arts District
Once Dallas' busiest trolley stop, Bishop Arts was almost killed by shopping malls and buses replacing trolleys but found salvation in a nostalgic real-estate developer with long-term vision. Now home to artisans, small-businesses, and an impressive restaurant scene, this lovely neighborhood is the perfect place to pass a few hours roaming around. Pop in and out of shops, chat with the locals, and be impressed by the warmth emitted from these city blocks surrounded by urban decline.
5) Dinner at Stock & Barrel
Intrigued by its place among producers of Dallas' best burgers, we rounded out our day in Bishop Arts with dinner on Stock & Barrel's covered patio, nursing craft cocktails and relaxing after a day of adventure. Mrs. C&C's hanger steak was one of the tenderest pieces of meat ever consumed by a human, and my burger, which I included on our own list of Big D's best burgers, was nothing short of exceptional. Being the sweet tooth (and regular procurer of larger pants) that I am, I managed to eat the Warm Toffee Croissant Bread Pudding for dessert. Another delicious offering by Stock & Barrel, though you can slather anything in ice cream and salted toffee and it'll be good.
1) Breakfast at Oddfellows
I'm typically against repeat visits to a place on vacation, but when you offer an ever-changing "pancake of the day," you have my attention. I enjoyed the Fried Green Tomato BLT, but the real star was the Rocky Road pancake. A rather large contrast to the healthy-ish granola pancake, the Rocky Road pancake was basically a giant s'more and I imagine one of the largest contributors to America's battle with diabetes.
Housed in the old Texas School Book Depository, this museum, which is dedicated to the assassination of President Kennedy, sits on the floor where Lee Harvey Oswald (allegedly) fired the fatal shots on that fateful day. As a life-long JFK obsessor, I was excited to visit the museum but ultimately disappointed. At $16 a ticket (same price as the nationally acclaimed WW1 museum and only slightly less than The Louvre), we expected an expertly crafted area with several exhibits and artifacts. In reality, it's more or less a glorified Wikipedia page, with large walls of generalized text and almost no artifacts to be found. It was momentarily exhilarating and deeply saddening to look out the window to the spot on Elm street where Kennedy was hit, but that's the only substantive thing you're paying for. If you want a better experience, walk Dealey Plaza and look for the two Xs painted on Elm that mark where bullets struck JFK. It's free, more intimate, and you won't be rushed or cramped by crowds.
3) Dinner at Off-Site Kitchen
Delightfully blue-collar and the perfect antithesis to some of Dallas' spendier dinner options, Off-Site offers award-winning burgers for dirt-cheap prices. Add in the local beer options (on-tap and canned) and the shaded patio, and this was the perfect dinner to close out our Texas trip and beat the searing heat. You won't be let-down by any of their burgers, but you're certain to enjoy the Do It Murph-Style, which you can read more about here.
Blue Bell is the best ice cream in the country, and that's saying something. As someone who consumes only slightly less ice cream than Joe Biden, I know what I'm talking about. No trip to Texas is complete without a pint (or several) of the Lone Star staple. On our last night, we engorged ourselves on a couple of pints and basked in the dissipating warmth of the Texas sun as it set over Dallas from the comfort of the roof of the old Sears building. Since you won't have access unless you're a tenant or know one, check out these rooftops instead.
On Day Four, we departed DFW and ventured out to Waco and Magnolia Market before making the long drive home, which we made without incident minus my 1:00 a.m. "Bigfoot sighting" when I realized I was far too tired to continue driving safely and made Mrs. C&C finish the last leg.
Though a lot of our trip was taken by napping and petting puppies, we enjoyed our second go at a Dallas adventure and are excited for our next trip to the expansive metropolis. Do you have any Dallas tips? Let us know in the comments!