Dallas is a city vaulting headlong into its own reinvention.
Those who’ve been observing Dallas over the last several generations have seen the metropolis work tirelessly to rehabilitate its image from JFK’s assassination site to the home of “America’s team,” the Dallas Cowboys. And yes, while there is a George W. Bush presidential library and museum at the SMU campus, it’s also a county that hasn’t voted for a Republican to occupy the oval office since he ran in 2004.
Visiting Dallas during Gay Pride Weekend in September (they celebrate Pride after the summer’s heat has largely abated), it’s easy to see how the LGBTQ community is no longer in the shadows, but everywhere Out and Proud — even though their presence still stirs members of the religious right and others to show up with placards, banners and crosses to either protest their presence or save their immortal souls.
Southerners take it in stride. This is one place where the conversation about equal rights is far from over. At the same time, the interactions between gays and those who abhor the “lifestyle” they’ve chosen have actual conversations about their differences. Sometimes there’s shouting, and minds are seldom changed on either side, but the discourse remains cordial. In an America that truly values an exchange of ideas, that’s a good thing.
As a city in flux, Dallas could use a fresh look from outsiders, because what the city has to offer is a wide variety of options for nightlife, including country bars where two-stepping same-sex couples boot scoot at the Round-Up Saloon, leather-clad Daddies and boys dance the night away at the Eagle, and JR’s provides one of the most relaxed mix-and-mingle spaces south of the Mason/Dixon line. On Sunday, the day of the Pride parade, the throngs of LGBTQ revelers take five city blocks of Cedar Springs like an occupying Army with nary a protester in sight.
Even on an off-week, the city has a thriving culture that includes the Dallas Museum of Art, the World Aquarium, an Arboretum and Botanical Garden, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Cavanaugh Flight Museum. Yes, you can visit Dealey Plaza, where the course of history was changed in a moment when President Kennedy was shot there. But Dallas is too big a city, and too much time has passed to use a single event to define a city or its people.
For openers, Dallas is a foodie’s paradise — and the more bold you like your flavors, the more you’ll find. The Tex-Mex is without peer, but beware. They don’t call it “salsa” here. It’s hot sauce, and they call it that for a reason. Anyone expecting lightly seasoned enchiladas will be in for a full-flavor immersion, as they come covered in a sumptuously rich carne gravy that comes automatically with spanish rice and often a choice between pinto and black beans. You’ll also want to be careful: the margaritas here are everything a margarita should be. They’re neither sweet nor sour, but seem to be served from an agreed-upon recipe across town; they’re sharply tart, refreshing — and addictive. Of course, when each glass is rimmed with salt, you’ll eat more tortilla chips. Don’t be surprised if your meal shows up 15 minutes into your visit and you find yourself asking, “how am I going to eat all of this?”
Likewise with their barbecue. Texans take pride in their ability to slow-cook brisket, sausage and ribs to perfection, and if the Mexican food packs too much heat for your palate, a plate fresh from the nearest grillmaster might be precisely what you’re looking for. Often served with warm cornbread, potato salad and cole slaw with multiple beer options, you’re going to want to bring leftovers back to the hotel or loosen your belt a notch or two.
Since Dallas is part of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, it’s also a surprising hotbed of musical activity. There are gay dance clubs aplenty (most of them in the Cedar Springs area), but also opportunities to see, of all things, live jazz. The University of North Texas has one of the strongest jazz programs in America, and many graduates who fell in love the city have found that the city loves them back.
Don Bell, a local musician who’s been gigging around the city for decades explains, “the Dallas jazz scene is actually the DFW jazz scene, because it spans roughly four counties. There are restaurants and wineries and bars and art houses everywhere. — all as likely to have jazz as any other style of music. Since the University of North Texas is spitting out musicians so quickly and the technology and social media has made promotion so much easier, gigs are easier to generate and more musicians are staying in the area.”
Not a city known for its modesty because everything done there is done in such a big way, Dallas nonetheless modestly wants to know: Have you given them a chance to turn their Lone Star charm on you lately?
Last modified: November 8, 2017