Saturday, June 3, 2023

Dallas Y'all

Trip date: March 2023

I hadn't been to Dallas since the early aughts, and that was was for an overnight work trip when I use to pitch potential clients for a startup tech company I worked for. So when the bestie said she would be heading to East Texas to visit her family, and we realized Amtrak runs between Mineola (where her parents live) and Dallas, I suggested a quick weekend/meet up.

I had a direct SEA->DFW Alaska Air flight and got to check out the newly opened American Express Centurion Lounge in SeaTac. It is so spacious and lovely; you can read a good review here. You can see it if you look up when in the central terminal as they built a 2nd story and it is perched like a loft! Excellent addition to the local airport lounges!

Because of flight schedules I flew down a day early and spent my first night at the Hilton Arts Hotel. It's a beautiful hotel and even without getting an upgrade based on my Gold status, I had a huge and very pretty corner room.

I was feeling lazy and tired so I decided to have drinks and dinner in the hotel restaurant Ellie's. I can say the martinis and tacos were both great!

The next morning I checked into The Joule Hotel, where Forest and I also had a big beautiful corner room. Before she arrived I walked to the Sixth Floor Museum since she'd already been in the past. It was an easy walk since Dallas is flat as a pancake! 

The museum is located on the 6th floor of what was the Texas School Book Depository, the location from where Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President Kennedy from one of the windows. It does a great job of laying out the history of the Kennedy presidency, the political worries of the time, and of course how the tragic day of November 22, 1963 unfolded.

It was very odd to me to look out the same window, and down onto the road running through Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was killed. Thousands of people drive past the exact spot daily as it is a major thoroughfare in Dallas.  

I spent some time walking around the plaza afterwards, and to the JFK cenotaph which is just a few blocks away. Nearby is also the oldest remaining log cabin in this area, built in the 1840s by settlers to Dallas. 

I walked back to the Joule and met Forest at their casual restaurant, CBD. We had a great lunch here, so much so that we ate there twice in our 4 days! After lunch (the first time) one of the front desk people offered to take us across the street to see the sculpture Eye up close. The Joule owns the piece and it was fun to be given access to the grass right in front (closed to the public even though we saw folks squeeze through the fence).

During our stay we also visited the Dallas Museum of Art. They have some impressive collections from all over the world, especially Latin American, but I think my favorites were the Design and Decorative Art collections and the Postwar Art collections. 

But most of the time in Dallas was spent catching up with my friend over lots of food and drinks. Here's the report...

Drinking:

We read that the views of Dallas were great from the rooftop bar of Hide in Knox Park. Not only was there nothing to get excited about as far as the view goes, but my cocktail was so bad I actually couldn't drink it. We left and went next door to HG Sply Co and had some very good margaritas and delicious nachos. A much better rooftop and views of the Dallas skyline in the distance.

The best rooftop bar by far was Waterproof at the Statler Hotel. WOW! It is a stunning location, right in the middle of the city, with a cool Miami vibe. To be honest we just had a couple of margaritas served in plastic cups but I loved the surroundings here so much!

The French Room Bar at the Adolphus Hotel was a wonderful surprise. I just wanted to check out the hotel as it is quite historic and a real beauty! But then I saw the cocktail bar so we went in and had a couple. Gorgeous modern glassware, very interesting ingredients, fancy atmosphere... basically an A+ for me.


Casablanca is absolutely beautiful, but I thought the drinks were just ok. We didn't eat here but they have a full menu and the neighborhood of Bishop Arts seems very cute.

Midnight Rambler gets the most press of Dallas' cocktail bars, and as it is located in the Joule we had no problem finding it! Best to make reservations as it is very popular. When you check in you will be led downstairs where there are some good tunes and cocktails waiting. 

We were seated at the bar and had a great time with the bartender who walked us through the very fun menu of creative cocktails and also shared a lot of info about the different areas of Dallas and other places to check out. 

Las Almas Rotas was high on my list and did not disappoint. Except, be warned, it is a bit of a haul to get to. This self-described shrine to the spirits of Mexico carries smaller, lesser known agave spirits. We had a few cocktails, I had a wonderful flight, and we also had some tasty bites. Fantastic spot!!


I was also very excited to try out Neon Kitten for some Japanese inspired drinks and bites. This bar is in the Deep Ellum neighborhood which many people told us not to go to on account of being dangerous. It was busy with barhoppers and cruisers, but we didn't feel unsafe at all. Not sure if this area is just getting a bad rap or if it was warranted, YMMV.

We ordered some Japanese tater tots and fried chicken bites and paired them with some pretty good Japanese spirit forward cocktails. 

In the back of Neon Kitten is Blackbird Society, their Japanese inspired speakeasy. It's very tiny and very cute. You should definitely reserve if you want to check it out.


Eating: 

We had a fun and delicious brunch at Ellen's in Dallas' downtown. This is the place to go to for old school southern comfort food. Almost all the tables seat 8-10 as the spot attracts a lot of families. And it's busy but they turn the tables pretty quick; we waited on the patio with drinks until our table was ready. 

Our pimento cheese was excellent and I loved my chicken fried steak with sides!

As previously mentioned, we ate at CBD in the Joule twice! The first time I had a delicious fried chicken salad and the second time I really enjoyed their burger. Great spot even if you aren't staying at the hotel.


We also had tacos for lunch at Salsa Limon one afternoon. This is fast and cheap and delicious! It was pretty much all locals on their lunch break when we were there. Also my margarita was the size of my head. Good stuff!


James Beard nominated Restaurant Beatrice is a little piece of Louisiana over in the Bishops Arts area. It's small and super pretty with linen tablecloths and fleur-de-lys wallpaper. Everything on the menu sounded amazing, I wish we could have ordered more to try! But my duck confit with truffled potato cracklins and housemade Luxardo cherry gastric was fantastic. Highly recommend.

The Joule hosted us for dinner one evening at Sassetta, which is their modern Italian restaurant. We had lovely cocktails to start and salads that were probably better to share than take solo as they were huge! My main of lobster spaghetti with pistachio and herbs was very luxurious!

Before leaving Texas, I took Amtrak down to visit Forest's parents in Mineola. Amtrak seems to consider schedules optional down here, the train was quite late both going and returning to Dallas, so keep that in mind if you have other things planned. But it was relaxing and cheap and the station in Mineola has a super cute museum on the history of the railroad in Texas. 

*Although we were hosted by The Joule Hotel, all opinions are my own*

All photos of Dallas here.

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