It's a compliment or an insult, depending entirely upon how you feel about Dallas. After taking the temperature of the city for the last few years, I've found that to describe something as "so Dallas" is usually pejorative. The highest compliment you can pay something in this city, it seems, is to say it doesn't feel like Dallas, instead drawing comparisons to Austin or New York City. The funny thing is that at this point the people who refuse to feel comfortable in the city they live in are themselves pretty "Dallas."
We thought we'd spend some time exploring things that are unequivocally Dallas. Where are the places that represent our small town big city? The middle-America insecurities? The world class city ambitions? The stereotypes of shallowness? And the way, for better or worse, the city that becomes so comfortable after a few years of life here? Here are the places we think are the most Dallas places in Dallas. Where are yours?
Trinity Groves The suburbs killed downtown Dallas and with it, the lovely urban cluster of shops, restaurants, bars and corner stores. Out in Plano, they have good schools, chain restaurants and strip malls. So as Dallas becomes a cooler place to live, what's more Dallas than to build a restaurant strip mall, filled with spaces for mediocre food joints to incubate into chains? Oh, and throw in brunch.
Mary Kay Museum She talked a bunch of women into selling makeup to other women on the premise that everyone wants to be rich and beautiful. Though technically it's in Addison, what could be more Dallas than an opportunistic businesswoman concerned with physical appearances? Mary Kay Ash understood women in Dallas and beyond, and for anyone who wants to fully participate in her commercial wonderland, the corporate office on the tollway contains a museum that's "part history, part recognition hall."
Victory Park This peaceful oasis of shops, restaurants and bars is perfectly walkable, filled with entertainment options and accessible by public transportation and the entry or exit point of the Katy Trail. But barring a sporting event, it's empty. Which in some ways makes a lot of sense. But maybe it's also because it's filled with chain restaurants befitting of, well, the suburbs.
NorthPark Center This is one of the things I like to consider as representative of Dallas culture. It has to be the loveliest shopping mall in the entire world. The rich family that financed it packed it with museum-worthy art, carved out a small greenspace in the center, included a movie theater, and filled it shops and restaurants that range from affordable to out of this world. Plus, free air conditioning.
Lake Lewisville on a Boat When compiling this list, I asked our then web editor (a lovely British man named Gavin Cleaver) for ideas. He immediately said, Lake Lewisville on a boat. I'm guessing he was speaking from personal experience, but it also makes sense. To really experience water you have to drive all the way to Lewisville, pay good money to rent a boat and then basically you just spend the day drinking and taking selfies. Dallas: Where you leave to "experience nature."
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Klyde Warren Park In Dallas, anything can happen with enough money, and there will always be enough money, even if it's building a (lovely) five-acre park on top of a freeway for $110 million. When I was working for the park, nearly everyone who came to visit would say, "This doesn't feel like Dallas." And I couldn't help but think, exactly, but that's what makes it so very Dallas.
Tony Tasset's Downtown Eyeball I'm quite the fan of this piece of public art. It's sort of absurd and is in conversation with art history, which has been obsessed with the human eye since ancient times. What's Dallas about it to me, is that its symbolism of an all-seeing, unblinking observer is interesting when placed in the context of who brought it to town and what downtown developer Tim Headington's been doing on the rest of the eyeball's block (see next item). It seems that much of the public art in Dallas quickly becomes ironic.
The Joule Hotel Because the award-winning preservation of a block of downtown includes the destruction of much of that block. We're builders of new, shiny things. History shmistry. After all, no one cared about those buildings anyway, right?
Fair Park This is one of my favorite places in Dallas. The art deco buildings are beautiful, Margo Jones Theatre is a wonderful little space with a rich history and the weeks of the State Fair are a fried food paradise. But for the most part, it's been abandoned by both the city and its citizens. Apparently through Dallas eyes, it's hard to see profitability or potential in preserving and repurposing history, so the emptiness of Fair Park is what makes it Dallasy. If we could ever figure something cool to do with the acreage then it would become unlike Dallas in all the best ways.