A Texas stranger no more, the town called Dallas has reinvented itself, pumping those oil dollars into a stylish new cultural precinct.
Dallas summons images of the iconic TV soap of the same name, but the Texan city has come far since the series ended in 1991, recasting itself as a captivating modern metropolis and a serious cultural powerhouse. The arts District is one of the world’s largest cultural centres and North America’s most significant cultural precinct since New York’s Lincoln Center was unveiled in the 1960s.
The project’s latest stage is the vast, glitzy AT&T Performing Arts Center, an impressive pair of venues that opened late last year. The Margot & Bill Winspear Opera House, designed by Sir Norman Foster, features a 2200-seat theatre and has won over architectural critics with its luminous ruby-red drum and glass box design. The Dee & Charles Wyly Theater, a 12-level building that holds 575 people, conceived by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus, appears slick and industrial. Smaller in scale, the highly adaptable theatre is dramatically swathed in futuristic aluminium tubes. The two buildings will be joined by an outdoor square this year and the City Performance Hall in 2011.
The Dallas Arts District, which unfolds over 19 blocks and 28ha, is home to serious architecture, including the work of four Pritzker Prize winners side by side. The city’s infatuation with the superstars of global architecture began with the 1984 opening of the Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed Dallas Museum of Art, followed by IM Pei’s Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center in 1989 and Renzo Piano’s 2003 Nasher Sculpture Center. Even though some design critics have pronounced the era of “starchitecture” over, Dallas isn’t listening. Plans are underway for the Perot Museum of Nature & Science, by Pritzker Prize laureate Thom Mayne, scheduled to open in Victory Park in 2013. Other long-running projects bound to attract international attention are three bridges designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to span the Trinity River.
The arrival of the arts points to other, less obvious changes across the city. Hearty appetites remain, but Dallas’ fine restaurants have embraced the local market-driven movement, giving rise to a world-class dining scene. Independent gallery districts add to the city’s cultural credentials and have revived once-forlorn neighbourhoods. Taking cues from Austin, young musicians have transformed the city into an alternative music hotbed; quality music can be heard any night of the week. But for all their cultural aspirations, Dallasites remain a down-to-earth bunch. No slouch when it comes to cosmopolitan spoils, the city holds on to its down-home Southern spirit.
See & Do
AT&T Performing Arts Center
2403 Flora Street.
+1 214 954 9925.
The Winspear and Wyly theatres are already beloved anchors of the city’s cultural heart, ushering in a new era for Dallas’ thriving arts community. The cultural season here is an ambitious affair with more than 500 performances a year running the gamut from visiting Broadway productions to experimental dance, stage plays and classical ballet. A picnic-friendly park designed by French landscape architect Michel Desvigne is another feature of the project.
Dallas Museum of Art
1717 N Harwood.
+1 214 922 1200.
Unveiled in 1984, this project kicked off the ambitious Arts District. Designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, the museum houses more than 24,000 works in vast galleries. Highlights include European, pre-Columbian and Asian treasures, as well as American favourites such as O’Keefe, Rothko, Pollock and Warhol. Don’t miss the Wendy & Emery Reves Collection, a Francophile’s Xanadu unfolding over five rooms reconstructed from the benefactor’s French home and filled with furnishings and art works by Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas.
Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora Street.
+1 214 242 5100.
Who better than modern museum maestro Renzo Piano to create a travertine and glass, light-filled home for the impressive 300-piece collection of Raymond and Patsy Nasher? Opened in October 2003, this is one of the few institutions in the world devoted exclusively to the exhibition, preservation and study of sculpture. www.nashersculpturecenter.org
Sixth Floor Museum
At Dealey Plaza, 411 Elm Street.
+1 214 747 6660.
Dallas remains indelibly linked to President JF Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. This museum, on the sixth and seventh floors of the former Texas School Book Depository, preserves the vantage point from where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots. The museum overflows with artefacts, original news reports, photographs and ephemera connected to the assassination – and doesn’t shy away from pesky conspiracy theories, either. www.jfk.org
900 East Randol Mill Road, Arlington.
+1 817 892 5000.
Go large or go home could be a Texan mantra. The Cowboys’ new home is one of the world’s largest domed structures with the world’s longest single-span roof structure. The engineering marvel also tips its hat to Dallas’ thirst for culture, featuring a gallery with large-scale museum-quality works from contemporary names such as Doug Aitken, Terry Haggerty and Olafur Eliasson. Behind-the-scenes tours are available year-round.www.stadium.dallascowboys.com
2121 McKinney Avenue.
+1 214 922 4848.
Dean Fearing’s lauded and exceptional Dallas flagship unfolds over seven rooms, each offering a different take on fine dining. The food here is about exuberant flavours, an explosion of tastes ranging from the south-western to the South Asian. Try the signature tortilla soup and follow it up with a hearty entree such as the quail with watermelon and jalapeno, or perhaps the simple surf and turf. In typical Dallas style, Fearing’s Restaurant exudes extravagance and flaunts commensurately splashy prices.www.fearingsrestaurant.com
614 W Davis Street.
+1 214 367 9367.
Translating from the Spanish as “Bag”, this restaurant, with its think-local, taste-global approach has achieved fame beyond its historic Oak Cliff neighbourhood. The regularly changing menu takes full advantage of Texas’ benevolent growing climate, using fresh local produce and meat. You need not commit to a full meal: in-the-know locals grab one of the outdoor tables and kick back with the bruschetta sampler and a glass of peach sangria. www.bolsadallas.com
2936a Elm Street.
+1 214 752 7500.
That ubiquitous food trend, upscale comfort food, informs the menu at this excellent hot spot designed to look like a slick but lived-in urban cafeteria. Chef Tracy Miller taps the diversity of Texan food traditions and gives them a modern spin in such pleasures as the slow-roasted pulled pork tacos, Niman ranch lamb chops and irresistible buttermilk fried chicken. Competition for the tables can be fierce, so call ahead.www.localdallas.com
Tei-An Soba House
1722 Routh Street.
+1 214 220 2828.
Fortify yourself for a night at the opera with a meal at this excellent restaurant located in the glassy new One Arts Plaza complex. Chef-owner Teiichi Sakurai turned his back on two successful sushi restaurants to open this slick paean to soba, the noodle most admired by the Japanese food elite. Purists have given the thumbs up to the cold noodles; another great choice is the hot version with duck and scallions. The dining room has the calm of a Shinto temple, albeit filtered through a modern prism. After a meal, escape to the rooftop bar, which offers sensational views of D-town.
3015 Oak Lawn Avenue.
+1 214 224 3152.
Timber, leather, old books and martinis – what’s not to love about such a classic den of hushed imbibery? Housed in the Warwick Melrose Hotel, this high-falutin’ bar was recently updated and remains a great antidote to Texan beer culture. Tinkling ivories, inventive canapés and expertly mixed manhattans will transport you back to classier times. JR from Dallas would certainly approve. www.librarybardallas.com
1807 Gould Street.
+1 214 428 1555.
Locals will admit that this 50-year-old bar feels more Austin than Dallas, but who cares? The place is a bona-fide crowd pleaser with its rough-hewn interiors, ice-cold beer and outdoor picnic tables surrounding fire pits. www.leeharveys.com
The Libertine Bar
2101 Greenville Avenue.
+1 214 824 7900.
Commodious, convivial and just noisy enough – exactly what a Texan bar should be. There’s more on offer than Lone Star (the cheap and omnipresent Texan beer), with a rotating range of brews from around the world. Check out the website for generous specials and the monthly beer dinners. www.libertinebar.com
On Turtle Creek, 3411 Gillespie Street.
Housed in a 1920s renaissance building, this property telegraphs the recherché elegance of a private – albeit tricked-out – residence. That means large slabs of marble, antiques and ivy filigrees; a well-coiffed setting for equally maquillaged Dallas dames. Here you can kick it like a Texan cotton baron in the wonderful restaurant (jackets required) or retire to sumptuous rooms recently overhauled to mark the 30th anniversary of the property.
2332 Leonard Street.
Celebrities such as Britney Spears go ga-ga for this riotous boutique hotel. The concept suites are lavish play dens styled with themes such as Medusa and Out Of Africa (Karen Blixen does Dallas?). These rooms, together with a foyer filled with Helmut Newton prints, create a slightly hallucinatory ambience.
901 Fort Worth Avenue.
This restored 1946 motor inn blends honky-tonk Texan charm with a retro modernist vibe. It’s also the kind of property you need not leave, housing a hearty smokehouse restaurant and a cool outdoor bar inhabited by local musicians and their margarita-sipping admirers. Rooms are full of personality, but make sure to reserve one with views of the downtown Dallas skyline.
1530 Main Street.
Within walking distance of the Arts District, this swank new property is a great jumping-off point for those sticking to the culture map. However, if partying is on the agenda, the cantilevered rooftop glass pool, which features a cocktail bar, is the preferred nocturnal haunt of the Dallas Cowboys and their fans. By contrast, the dark, art-filled lobby gives way to plush rooms overflowing with tech wizardry.
Forty Five Ten
4510 McKinney Avenue.
+1 214 559 4510.
The residential lifestyle store à la Fred Segal (Los Angeles) has become an expected feature of most cities, but this decade-old store does it better than most. Sited around a pleasant courtyard, this is the address for fashion lovers who aren’t afraid to splurge on labels such as Rick Owens, Lanvin or Marni. Cool your credit card and your heels at the store’s T Room, which is considered one of the most chic lunch spots in the South. www.fortyfiveten.com
1618 Main Street.
+1 214 741 6911.
Texan love of the shiny and expensive can be traced back to 1907, when this iconic store opened. A haven of heavyweight extravagance (it famously once featured a submarine in its catalogue) the store is synonymous with over-the-top luxury. Neiman Marcus also boasts a fifth-floor museum and a restaurant patronised by Dallas’ most stylish ladies.www.neimanmarcus.com
Urban Flower Grange Hall
Suite One, 4445 Travis Street.
+1 214 443 0600.
To encounter Miss Havisham would be no surprise at this eclectic store peddling Victorian-inspired antiques, doll’s-head candles, taxidermy mounts and Darwinian-inspired jewellery. The owners draw from a background in fashion and floral design. www.urbanflowergrangehall.com
2418 Victory Park Lane.
+1 214 754 0644.
If you find shoulder pads in this boutique, they’ll be of the highly coveted Balmain ilk. This is fierce fashion straight from the runways, racks overflowing with labels you’d find in NYC’s coolest clubs: Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant and Michelle Obama favourite Zero Maria Cornejo. www.vodboutique.com
Source Qantas The Australian Way August 2010