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WESTERN TRAVEL

Bohemia In The Big D

World-class art, chic hotels, funky shops and fine dining reveal Dallas' other dimension.

February 18, 2007|Andrew Bender | Special to The Times

Dallas — I love relying on the advice of friends, but not this time.

For a recent trip to Dallas, my friends here told me to see the downtown skyline, but we have one of those in L.A. Ditto for massive malls like Northpark (Angelenos excel at retail therapy) and the place where President Kennedy was shot. (We have our own Kennedy tragedy.)

I wanted the real Dallas, the counterintuitive Dallas, the Dallas of the fringe -- and I found it in three neighborhoods, plus a worthwhile side trip to Fort Worth.

I considered Deep Ellum, the crucible of music from early jazz to the Dixie Chicks, but it felt scary at night -- poorly lighted and filled with vagrants. The West End historic district near the Texas Schoolbook Depository had been touted too, but it didn't feel ready for prime time (though I did visit the Dealey Plaza's Sixth Floor Museum, where the Kennedy assassination exhibit was moving).

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday March 07, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Dallas hotel: An article about Dallas in the Feb. 18 Travel section said hotel rates for doubles at the W started at $599 a night. That is the top rack, or brochure, rate. The hotel said doubles started at $299 a night.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 11, 2007 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Dallas hotel -- An article about Dallas in the Feb. 18 Travel said hotel rates for doubles at the W started at $599 a night. That is the top rack, or brochure, rate. The hotel said doubles started at $299 a night.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 11, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Dallas hotel: An article about Dallas in the Feb. 18 Travel section said hotel rates for doubles at the W started at $599 a night. That is the top rack, or brochure, rate. The hotel said doubles started at $299 a night.

Instead I rented a car and found a Dallas of Degas and Borofsky downtown, Goya at Southern Methodist University and artists nobody's heard of -- yet -- in the Bishop Arts District. There was fruit soap, fruit sorbet and fruit still lifes -- all served with a heaping dollop of Texas charm.

Some of the biggest pleasures were the unexpected moments of kindness; lots of other cities could take lessons. Here are some places to spend half a day exploring, eating, shopping -- or even to stay the night.

Knox-Henderson/SMU

Why go: This district northeast of downtown is named for two streets straddling U.S. 75. Knox Street, west of the freeway, is the more polished, where such chains as Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware are mixed with local faves like Froggie's 5 & 10 (3211 Knox St., [214] 522-5867), selling classic toys and novelties, and Forty Five Ten, 4510 McKinney Ave., [214] 559-4510; www.fortyfiveten.com), a high-end fashion spot founded by local models.

Down the block is the entrance to the Katy Trail, a jogging and cycling path through the city. You can't miss it: Motion sensors at the entrances to the trail activate stockyard noises -- think mooing and cowbells -- from speakers.

East of the freeway, Henderson Avenue is more homegrown and hippie. No big chains here; look instead for small antiques shops, vintage clothing stores and gift boutiques such as Emeralds to Coconuts, whose name about says it all. Side streets house historic bungalows, and the Old Monk beer hall (2847 N. Henderson Ave., [214] 821-1880, www.oldmonkdallas.com) has a generous patio and dozens of beers from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

One exit north, on the manicured, Georgian-style Southern Methodist University campus, I found the world's largest collection of Spanish art outside Spain at the Meadows Museum (5900 Bishop Blvd., [214] 768-2516; www.meadowsmuseumdallas.org): 15th and 16th century religious art, portraiture and works by Goya, Picasso and Miro.

Eats: Knox-Henderson is full of local spots that won't break the bank or make you feel like you're slumming it. The Latin cafe La Duni is typical; it serves renowned cakes, dozens of coffees, teas and cocoas, and the ABCs of Caribbean and South American cuisine: Argentine, Brazilian, Cuban ....

My Argentine sausage sandwich called choripan came with avocado, tomato, chimichurri sauce and manchego cheese on a cone-shaped roll. I was glad I had saved room for the Venezuelan chocolate cake: Each of the three layers of chocolate icing had a different flavor.

Cool hotel: The former down-at-the-heels Mockingbird Hilton near SMU emerged from its shell as the Hotel Palomar in September. Its mid-century structure has been enhanced with geometric, 21st century decor and $2 million worth of art on the first two floors alone.

Unexpected act of kindness: A friend recommended Fireside Pies (that's "Fahr Sahd Pahz," in Dallas-speak) on Henderson Avenue, noted for its fabulous pizzas made in pecan-wood-burning ovens. When I couldn't decide among white peach or red passion fruit sangria or a prickly pear margarita, the waitress brought me samples of all three. I didn't like them (too sweet) but chose a Stella Artois, which paired perfectly with a chicken sausage pizza.

Bishop Arts

Why go: Across the Trinity River from downtown, this is the city's most bohemian neighborhood. Even if "arts" is pushing it -- there are more cafes and shops than galleries -- it still makes for a fun and funky afternoon.

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