I spent a rainy Saturday evening in Dallas with my sister, Joan and my daughter, Lucy strolling the Bishop Arts District. Despite the soggy weather, we were able to explore many of the shops covered in the February TH feature on Bishop Arts, and then some. With its mix of modern and vintage retail wares, casual cafés and upscale restaurants, and friendly, relaxed ambiance, the Bishop Arts District felt more like Austin to us than Dallas.
But even while seeing the magazine's feature in production, I didn't realize how much the area has grown in the number of stores and cafes from my last visit five years ago. We were pleasantly surprised to find more contemporary, and even affordable styles at shops such as Ouch! Fashion, as well as the venerable Zola's Everyday Vintage, still a cut above with its designer finds (More Pucci than I've ever seen since the '60s!)
Another sign of progress: Joan had dined at Hattie's a couple of times previously, and never needed a reservation on a weekend evening, so we decided to drop in. By the time we arrived just before 7 p.m., the place was packed, and the host had to regretfully turn people away if they didn't have reservations. All of the nearby restaurants, including Tillman's Roadhouse were quickly filling up, so we walked a few blocks further to Cafe Madrid, a longtime Bishop Arts haunt, for tapas. We were astounded by the entré-sized portions of Spanish Potato Omelette and Grilled Marinated Chicken Texas-sized tapas! The calamari was more typically-scaled, but offered in a generous serving, delicately fried and slightly chewy-yet-tender.
Heavy rain cut short our time for more Bishop-hopping, so we headed to the Belmont Hotel, where Lucy and I were staying. I have heard raves about this place from friends who've stayed there, even those who have family in Dallas or are Dallas residents. They all speak of a "doesn't seem like Dallas" feel, from the hotel's hillside perch (where you'll happen to find an excellent view of the downtown skyline), to the curvy pathways and gardens meandering around the suites and the pool area, and the hip-yet-gracious staff. The BarBelmont near the lobby was packed with hotel guests and bar patrons, even more so with the steady rain keeping folks from gathering on the adjacent terrace. I managed to elbow my way in to enjoy a Belmontini and was well-rewarded by the smooth, tart concoction.
Recalling our visit to Bishop Arts earlier, browsing bottles at the Soda Gallery reminded me of an old ad campaign for 7-Up Cola: "7-Up is the UnCola." Based on my weekend, one could make the case for Bishop Arts District and the Belmont Hotel as the "UnDallas."