In Dallas' trendy Victory Park development, the new American Airlines Center— with its modern architecture and enormous exterior video monitors that might make you think of Times Square or Tokyo— gears up for a full schedule of pro basketball and hockey games through spring 2009. A recent visit to the W Hotel-Victory Park—a high-gloss hotel whose entrance is steps away from the AA Center—made me envision a perfect weekend for a sports-loving couple willing to pull out the stops for a luxurious weekend.
On a recent visit, the hotel itself—its hip ambiance accentuated with striking, simple décor touches like perfect fuchsia irises, broad wooden bowls piled artfully with beautiful Granny Smith apples, and a whimsical curtain made of strung wooden animals—lulled me into a New York state of mind—or at least a Big D state of mind. The ubiquitous, low-decibel thumping of electronica tunes and impeccably groomed-and-appareled clientele reminded me that I wasn't in Austin anymore. (After all, in Austin, despite the popularity of the upscale Domain and 2nd Street District, you still can't turn a corner without running into tattooed hipsters in cowboy boots and cutoffs. While I spied tattoos at the W, they were usually accompanied by designer frocks and Euro-denim.)
I thoroughly enjoyed dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Craft, the all-a-la-carte restaurant owned by five-time James Beard medal-winner Tom Colicchio. The seared diver scallops made me swoon, and a delightful salad of frisee lettuce with a truffle vinaigrette tasted like nothing I've ever experienced before. (It's shockingly easy to run up a tab here—my salad alone cost $16, and the scallops cost $32. Still, for special occasions.)
A good pre-game or after-game cocktail spot would be the Havana Social Club, a cozy "Cuban-style" cigar and rum bar directly across from the AA Center. (Rums, served straight up, are the specialty here, but of course the bar offers other libations, too—mojitos are, as you might imagine, very popular.) I ordered a tumbler of aged rum from Martinique and savored it like fine chocolate.
(The W Hotel's thumpin' Ghostbar—on the 33rd floor, with a classic red velvet rope and cool-and-collected doorman, a glass catwalk offering an unparalleled view of downtown Dallas, and unrepentant scenesters—made me a little dizzy, but it's worth checking out. I would have loved this so-called "ultra-lounge" when I was 25.)
Retail spots in Victory Park continue to fill in (home dÃ©cor, denim, handbags, jewelry), and construction begins this month on the future home of the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science. Keep up at www.victorypark.com.