21.06.2013 - 23.06.2013
This is your brain. This is your brain in Dallas.
Dallas is one of those cities that has a BIG reputation. By that, I mean big city, big hair, big cowboy hats, big skies. I mean, even the city's moniker is "Live Large. Think Big." As soon as we landed, I couldn’t help but let the stereotypes start rolling through my brain. I had visions of tumbleweeds, Dallas Cowboys, George W. Bush, chicken fried steak, and a river of Stetsons.
All of these thoughts quickly exited as I deplaned and felt as though I had just breathed fire into my lungs. I’m pretty sure some part of my brain had just caught on fire.
It’s true. Everything is bigger in Texas. Especially the HEAT.
Dallas in the summer is not a good idea unless you have had all of your sweat glands removed. Or are a reptile.
Maybe we should have saved our visit for winter. Spending a summer weekend in the hottest city in the United States (or the 3rd circle of Hell …..I still wasn’t sure which category Dallas fell into) with Matt meant that I was going to get no sympathy or understanding. Why? Men don’t have enough hair to understand that humidity=bad. When their faces sweat they don’t look like sad clowns. They can remove items of clothing in public without requiring bail money.
I suddenly remembered reading something on the internet that you can remove armpit sweat stains with peroxide and found myself frantically wondering if our friends had any peroxide at their house.
I had never been to Texas, so I was expecting lots of cowboy hats, armadillos in the abundance that I am accustomed to seeing squirrels, and longhorn cattle. I did see an inordinate number of cowboy hats. Sadly, I did not see an armadillo. I think they were hiding from the extreme heat which I feel certain could melt one of the little suckers right to the pavement. I also did not see a Texas Longhorn.
I think they were hiding out with the armadillos.
Probably having drinks and laughing at the suckers from Tennessee who were sweating it out on the sidewalk.
Heat or no, we were in Dallas for a couple of days and it was time to peel our gummy flip flops off the pavement and get to it. This trip wasn’t as much about seeing Dallas as it was about visiting our friends and seeing their new house. We had no ambitious plans. It was just going to be some shopping, some visiting, some eating.
With me, there is always some eating.
Most folks visiting Dallas are going to be thinking two things: JR and JFK.
I was thinking one thing: Tex Mex.
Sure, you can get Tex Mex in other parts of the country, but Texans have been jacking up peoples’ intestines for at least 100 years, way before the rest of us caught onto the trend. I had heard that they do it best.
I wasn’t looking for authentic Mexican cuisine. Sure, I’m all for appreciating other cultures and sampling authentic dishes. Nothing wrong with corn husk wrapped tamales or a traditional mole. Love me some stuff wrapped in banana leaves.
But what I really wanted was processed cheese, fried tortilla chips with enough salt to melt the ice off a Canadian Highway, and gallons of salsa.
We headed into a neighborhood place near our friends’ house. Within minutes, a waiter in a crisp white jacket was brandishing a tray of salt rimmed margaritas, crispy thin chips, salsa, and bean dip.
Lunch was followed by power shopping until we were literally so hot we could do no more than slither down onto the seat of the car and head inside for the worst part of the afternoon.
In a city where the swimming pools have to be equipped with chillers lest you blister yourself upon entry….heading inside for a while seemed like a good idea.
We didn’t emerge from the air-conditioned house until it was late enough that the street didn’t burn my feet through my shoes. Before heading out, we had a shot of Patron for courage. At least if the sun scorched our faces off, it wouldn’t bother us as much.
We spent the early evening at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
An adults-only, after hours event, Social Science at the Perot Museum combines cash bars, music, and special exhibits – a dream come true for all cocktail loving nerds. I was a bit baffled by the combination of dinosaurs, alcohol, and music…but I went with it. Science hadn’t been this fun since my brothers and I blew up the chemistry set in the basement.
After few cocktails, we decided to leave before one of us knocked over the Tyrannosaurus.
It was around 9:00 p.m., but apparently, that’s a normal dinner time for Dallas. We headed to a restaurant called Dish for dinner. There were small plates to share, bottles of wine, and these amazing short ribs that I was able to talk the waiter into serving with fries instead of mashed potatoes because I didn’t feel the pile of fried onions atop my ribs adequately met my daily quota of fat.
It was a fun night catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.
We were up and at it early the next day so that we could enjoy some of the day before the extreme heat arrived.
Apparently, a day in Dallas is divided up as follows:
6:00 am – 8:00 am: Morning
10:00 am – Noon: Nearing the inferno
Noon – 2:00 pm: Inferno
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Pit of Hell
4:00 pm – 8:00 pm: Lava Cooling Period
8:00 pm – midnight: Evening
Now I know why no one eats in Dallas before 9:00 p.m.
I was starting to feel like one of those people in that Vin Diesel movie, Pitch Black, and imagined that we too were stuck on a strange planet surrounded by 3 suns and that we had to barricade ourselves indoors during daylight hours lest we go blind, turn to dust, and get eaten by aliens.
We bid good-bye to the sweet girls, Pisa, Paris, and Punkin’. Yes, those are real dogs. Only dogs with no hair or body fat can survive in Dallas.
Our friends took us to Taqueria El Si Hay, a divey little hole-in-the wall shack that’s been serving up authentic street tacos for years from a modest street corner in Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood. My closest experience with “street tacos” was at the fancy new food truck that shows up at the Knoxville Farmer’s Market. Apparently, eating gourmet food that is wrapped inside a tortilla while standing on the street does not equate to a “street taco.”
As soon as we stepped out on the street corner and I saw the simple little stand with the walk up window with the hand-made menu taped to the glass and realized we were the only people in line that spoke English, I knew we were in for something more authentic.
The menu was simple: Tacos. And sodas.
The tacos were $1.30 each and you could choose from beef, chicken, chorizo, tongue, barbacoa (a slow cooked beef), steak, or pork. I was all first-time-street-taco-scaredy-pants and that tongue and barbacoa looked frightening, so I kept it simple and I ordered a chorizo, a steak, and a chicken served on corn tortillas with an orange soda. An orange soda with REAL SUGAR.
I think the last time I had a soda with real sugar Ronald Reagan was still president.
Street tacos are typically small, served on a double tortilla, and are simply topped with cilantro, diced onions, and a wedge of lime. I saw on the menu that you could get “extra hot sauce.” I took this to mean that you could get more sauce, and since I like sauce, I ordered “extra hot sauce” thinking that I was, in fact, loading myself up with lots of sauce.
Apparently “extra hot sauce” does not mean “EXTRA hot sauce,” but means “extra HOT sauce.”
That sauce was hotter than the Dallas pavement at 4:00 p.m.
But it was delicious. The tacos were delicious.
There are no tables at El Si Hay, so I sat in the car hunched over my styrofoam container sucking down my drippy tacos like a rabid armadillo.
My tongue might have needed a fire extinguisher, but I was a street taco virgin no more.
We drove past the Grassy Knoll, our friends pointing at the “x” that marked the spot where John F. Kennedy was shot. We opted not to get out of the car, however, because we were pretty sure the asphalt was molten at that point.
We also went by Pioneer Plaza, where 40 bronze sculptures depict a cattle drive weaving its way through downtown.
We ended up at Dude, Sweet Chocolate, a funky, artisan chocolate shop in the Bishop Arts District that has a simple design and gives out amazing samples.
I instantly became hooked on the Chubby Nuts, a highly addictive concoction made with whole hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia, and soy nuts that have been tossed in egg whites, powdered sugar, and sea salt before being candied in an oven. Then they are rolled in white chocolate and finished with 72% South American dark chocolate and powdered sugar.
Oh, Chubby Nuts, where have you been all my life?
$65 worth of chocolate later, we made our way back to the house to hide in darkness before the sun became too bright and burned our eyes from their sockets.
When it was cool enough to leave the house without armpit pads, we headed to Meddlesome Moth, a funky-cozy tapas restaurant on the edge of Dallas’ design district. We ordered an absurd amount of food and wine: house made hummus, chicken skin chips with blue cheese and a sweet-spicy glaze, baby back ribs with agave glaze, bacon lollipops with maple hollandaise and funnel cake topping, seared ahi tuna, zucchini chips, and seared sirloin.
We danced it off until the wee hours of the morning.
Alas, our short trip to Dallas came to an end. I was originally dismayed that we had a 5:25 a.m. flight home, but after spending 2 days in Dallas, I realized this was a necessity.
We had to leave before sunrise. It was the only way to get home without the plane to bursting into flames upon take-off.