Dallas Is So Much More Than A Stop-Over – Here’s Why
Your guide to Dallas' best neighbourhoods, smokehouses and coffee shops.
Without Austin’s international cultural appeal, the historical significance of San Antonio (home of The Alamo), and the pride of being Beyoncé’s hometown (looking at you, Houston), it’s easy to overlook Dallas when you’re planning a trip to Texas.
But with a burgeoning literary and art scene; a fresh crop of young people graduating from nearby universities and sticking around in the city; scores of locally made food, brews and crafts; and direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne, there’s never been a better reason to make Dallas more than just a stop-over. Here’s an itinerary to help you get started.
With locations all over the city, local institution Norma’s Cafe is known for its massive all-day breakfasts and legendary Chicken Fried Steak.
Be sure to grab a souvenir “Kiss My Grits!” mug or t-shirt on your way out.
Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse
Sonny Bryan’s nickname is “The Original” for a reason. This classic BBQ spot has been serving ribs and brisket by the pound for almost 60 years, and was the direct inspiration for a lot of the pitmasters who have opened more contemporary smokehouses around town, like the top-rated Lockhart Smokehouse and 18th and Vine, which has more of a fine-dining feel.
Sixth Floor Museum
Located in the building that once housed the now-infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository is a vast and detailed museum tracking the historical context and minute-by-minute events surrounding the assassination of JFK. Pierce Allman was the first reporter to call in the news of the shooting, which took place outside the building in Dealey Plaza, and provides helpful audio narration of the chilling artefacts.
Factor in a few hours to take everything in before venturing outside to see the Grassy Knoll, the Triple Underpass and the “X” on the road – all key locations in the decades-long conspiracies surrounding the gruesome event.
The museum is one component of what’s now called the Dallas West End Historic District, which also contains an aquarium, the Dallas Holocaust Museum and The Old Red Museum, which is an educational archive of the city’s broader history.
A Night Out
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Since its first location opened in Austin in 1997, the Alamo Drafthouse has become beloved throughout Texas for the way it combines cult classics with new release movies, and serves them all up with curated companion brews. Order a drink at the bar before your film or follow the simple steps inside the cinema to get drinks, snacks and full meals brought to you throughout the feature.
The Wild Detectives
Set in Dallas’ Bishop Arts District, this bar/cafe/bookshop has plenty of room to browse, read, or work on your laptop, as well as being a venue for plays, poetry readings and other literary events.
After just a few hours in Dallas you begin to understand how discrete its retail, arts and food hubs are – you might have to drive a few miles on a highway with frequent pauses to consult Google Maps between grabbing a cup of good coffee and visiting a good record store. The good news is, when you find a place you like, it’s generally clustered with a few like-minded stores.
That’s certainly the case in the Oak Cliff neighbourhood, where one tiny stretch of W Davis Street contains Set&Co, a curated store filled with handmade homewares, pottery and magazines; Spinster Records, run by a guy that looks like the opposite of every record store bro you’ve ever encountered; Glass Optical, specialising in chic, handmade frames; and the local outpost of Dallas Bike Works, which will set you up on two wheels in no time.
Traveling from Australia to America is equal parts exciting and terrifying as far as caffeine procuring is concerned. Anything foamed and frothed and close to our familiar styles of coffee is out of the question – you’ll never hear steamed milk quite as loudly or regularly in your life as you will in the States. But sometimes you want a step-up from a weak diner-style brew, no matter how bottomless the cup it’s served in. That’s where Houndstooth’s cortado comes in.
A favourite on this Texas chain’s menu (they also have two cafés in Austin), a cortado falls somewhere in between a flat white and a macchiato. It’s a short glass of espresso that is “cut” with warmed milk – more milky than a mac, and without the density or foaminess of a flattie. Houndstooth makes a great cup of coffee, and it’s located near the Lower Greenville neighbourhood, which has a healthy blend of old staple restaurants, and newer cafés and gastropubs that are keeping the local university students fed and watered.
(Lead image: elisafisherphotography/Instagram)