An Open Letter to These Travel Writers Who Keep Ending up in Dallas
It's a strange pleasure to be a Texan, and then a Dallasite. Like everyone else these days, I hail from a multi-ethnic family. When asked about my ethnicity my favorite response is, "Puerto Rican and Texan." It feels the truest. Recently, and it seems throughout this year specifically, Dallas has had the pleasure of a few travel writers visiting to share with the world their experiences in the Dirty, Dirty D. They mostly made out OK, but I thought I might send out a little letter to writers following in their footsteps. If you insist on coming down and exposing our ill-kept secrets, let a sister help you round out the experience:
No, really, we are so glad you are here. Southern hospitality is a real and wonderful thing and even if you didn't mean to be here or you wound up here on some sort of long weekend vacation experiment, we love for visitors to come here and then publish nice things about our fair hamlet. Especially when you say we are better than Austin. We love that shit. So, thank you. And please note that many, nay most, of us do not want to secede from the country, although an afternoon spent with the Texans who do is sort of its own social experiment that I can't altogether discourage.
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The cowboy hats are somewhat of a myth. The boots, however, are not.
Also, the Texan reputation for bragging has some truth, so recommending our favorite watering holes, dance floors and feeding troughs can sometimes take on a competitive spirit. Which I suppose is why I'm bothering to write an open letter. But I digress: If you only have 48 hours or so to spend here, I suggest you work in the extremes Dallas does so well.
First, your initial arrival at The Old Monk is getting a tad predictable. I understand that you all have a contact from D Magazine who you are meeting at their satellite office, and it really is an excellent bar at which to be a regular. However, if you only have 48 hours to swill booze, we are going to have to get more niche than pubs allow. To properly understand that breadth of Dallas, someone really should have taken you right to The Mansion's luxurious and seductive booths and then directly to Pastime Tavern's plastic and brightly lit ones. Sometimes the condensation from the window unit air conditioner will drip right on your table. It's a wonderful detail.
Other pairings representing this delightful contradiction of the Dallas personality include The Library at The Melrose and Ships, and for the new-money version of the high and the low, The Ritz Carlton's Rattlesnake Bar and The Loon. You must have the Loon's frighteningly colored neon margarita; it is a rite of passage in the 214.
Related to your traveling liver (and if we are using skill and ambiance as a criteria), it is a crime that some kind stranger didn't send you to Smyth or Black Swan Saloon, two sides of the same very alcoholic and refreshing coin in many ways. In fact, I am going to just assume that someone took you there, visiting stranger, and then you decided not to write about it out of discretion. It is far too sad to assume otherwise.
Now that you have a handle on the schizophrenic drinking scene, let's get you a cheat sheet on where you might engage your ears. Monday, you'll want to enjoy some Bad Ass Jazz at The Amsterdam in Exposition Park. This will also give you the chance to explore Fair Park a bit -- the Art Deco is worth an Instagram but sneaking in for a run down the field in the Cotton Bowl might make for a nice memory. Oh, your flight gets in on a Tuesday? More jazz at Sandaga 813, where the jam session has moved for years from Dallas private residences to art galleries and finally landing in a space where the public can enjoy it too.
Underground at the Travis last Thursday night.
Grantland's Rembert Browne got Wednesday night right in his Texas "Rembert Explains America" piece. All signs point to RC Williams and The Gritz Band's jam session at the Prophet Bar. Thursday, you will want to check in on the hype surrounding DJ Sober's recently moved residency at The Travis' Basement. For the weekend, you are looking for RL's Blues Palace's nightly blues showings. Other random places to wander in for a show include The Balcony Club, The Rose Room's drag shows, Twilite Lounge's growing impressive mix of near-nightly comedy and music and The Foundry. Please avoid the cover bands. I don't care if they do have a mysterious name -- that's how you will end up in the suburbs.
The Dallas Arts District is the North Texas ex nihilo of beauty and architecture now housing one of the largest contiguous districts of its kind. It's breathtaking when you take the time to visit its scope, and it makes us say words like "world-class city" and "Pritzker Prize-winning" projects. While we are uncertain about what those words mean, we are certain that it makes us important.
The Nasher Sculpture Center lives up to every ounce of its hype and The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art will surprise you. You won't have to travel far for more off-the-beaten-path galleries throughout the Design District. An Oak Cliff trip to Dallas graffiti collective Sour Grape's studio was good enough for Jay Z and Beyoncé. Make time for a show if The Undermain or The Ochre House have something on the boards. See, totally world-class. (Did I use that term right?)
Lastly, many of you haven't even mentioned sports or shopping, both of which play into Dallas stereotypes for a reason: They are the beacon many intentional tourists follow to our village. Mav-hunting in the Cedars or Troy Aikman-hunting in the Highland Park Mi Cocina are fine Dallas pastimes. If the athletes bore you, make your way to the semi-secret third-level Monkey Bar at that same Mi Cocina. It's your one-way ticket to the son of an oil tycoon. They exist and they buy drinks.
I mean, did you even go to Neiman Marcus? Did you even drive a Lexus? Did you even do any cocaine at all?
That beloved Dallas icon Larry Hagman once said, "I liked Dallas better because it was more deceptive, you could do more with it." He was talking about the show, not the city, but it feels true of life as a Dallasite. This shiny, shallow exterior is tricky enough to keep you at bay so that only the hunters are rewarded. Tricky, indeed. Ya heard, Austin?
Welcome, travelers. Enjoy the big hair; we keep our secrets in there. Enjoy the malls and the stadiums; we keep our art in there. Enjoy the tacos; we keep our souls in there. Enjoy the traffic; we keep our anxieties in there. Enjoy the Texas sky; we keep our dreams in there.
Truly, welcome. Stay as long as you like. Move here, even. But if anyone blesses your heart, see your way out. Thou may have offended.
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