I am in the land of the Free, the home of the Brave… My second home, or so I would like to think! We have been very fortunate that for the past 4 years we have been to a state somewhere in the USA every year, some years two trips and other years more than one state in one trip.
This time we are away for a business trip (not me, my husband), fortunately working in Oil & Gas has it’s perks and when Texas literally has it running through the ground like its veins it made sense for his next bi-annual conference to be here. I had been hoping since November when we went to Abu Dhabi that the next one would be in Texas, and low and behold it is, so this is why I am happily writing away in 30c sunshine with an iced coffee. The perks.
I will try to consolidate this post, but having been to so many wonderful places so far I feel it may be lengthy and split by location… also it may seem like I am just talking about food but when my life typically revolves around where my next meal will be or a caffeine fix it is hard not to share all the best places. You will thank me later!
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
Return flights from the UK to IAH with Delta start at £380, which if you look at how far you are flying I think it is great value for money. Also Delta is partnered with Virgin so again a tick!
Texas is big. The largest state. Home to the 4th largest city in the US. So my advice, hire a car as soon as you land as it will be so much easier to get around!
I highly recommend Alamo- this is the second time we have used them and they are by far the best. Quick self service machines, no feelings of being conned into additionals like at the counter, you simply insert your card and name used at booking read the T’s+C’s, print and go. Plus, they let you pick whichever model you want from the parking garage within your tier! A nice touch to make you feel like you haven’t just been lumped with any old car.
We decided to add on a few days holiday prior to my husband’s conference to explore and one of the places we both wanted to see was Dallas, it was a approximately a 3 hour drive from Houston so doable with a mid point stop. We stayed in downtown which is the centre of everything and I guess what you would call the main street/tourist area for ease of getting around to all sights. One thing we always try to do when we go away is explore other areas within cities to see the real culture and where the locals go; Deep Ellum in Dallas is the most amazing place and only a 15 minute walk from Downtown. It is thriving at weekends and in the evenings, full of great restaurants, bars and stores to explore all night and not get bored.
We set upon Revolver Taco Lounge and I kid you not, these were the best tacos I have EVER eaten, little mouthfuls of pure indulgence and at such a great price from $3-6. A simple menu with only 9 options but all equally as good as the next and why we decided to go for it and try 5 different ones! Also to add, they have amazing margaritas and craft beers to wash it all down with. Next up was dessert so we sampled a Apple Cinnamon monstrous sized slice at Emporium Pies, this is where you got for some serious home baked goods and an array of flavours to really hit the spot.
Lastly, we sampled a local bar called Armory because after all it was a saturday night and we were on holiday so it would have been rude not to. This was such a cool place with a great hidden patio where you can sit on bleachers and watch live music or take in the cool wall art. They did a mean Margarita and by that it literally was the strongest one I have ever had, it was like taking shots of tequila but with an amazing lime aftertaste- no stinginess with alcohol content here!
Next up we took a drive out to Greenville Avenue. I had read that there was a spot which did a good selection of gluten free items on there menu and that happened to include pancakes (my one true food love)! Company Cafe and Bar really lived up to my expectations which were of course high because if you put a GF pancake on the menu you have to know what you are doing, they are not easy to get right. So I ordered a stack of chocolate chip ones and my husband got the Deep Bowl which was a dream boat of beef, sweet potato hash, eggs and avocado with a salsa- yum! But back to the pancakes, yes they were amazing and yes I devoured them, I even asked for the recipe because they were that good.
Intertwined between breakfast and lunch we went to the JFK plaza which is where he was shot and they have I think rather distastefully put ‘x’s in the road and people spend all day dodging traffic to give a thumbs up on them. Surely it is better to mount a sign or statue in the garden next to it with some facts? Anyway, we took a walk around the historic district and stumbled upon a huge Wild West store called Wild Bill’s which was amazing, everyone there in full get up; stetsons, checked shirts or dresses, boots and all with a southern drawl. I of course fell in love, in case you didn’t know I am obsessed with country music and this was therefore like my utopia for my inner cowgirl.
Lunch was a treat, the famous Pecan Lodge BBQ in Deep Ellum. This is so popular it has queues every night and day, expect to be waiting at least 30 minutes! We had made a bee line to go on our first night but when it was starting to back up around the building we decided to go at lunchtime to avoid the madness. Now in midday heat and after a lot of walking this queue certainly felt like an eternity, especially when you wait in line watching everyone else eat, but boy was it with the wait. This is true Texan BBQ food; brisket, beans, slaw, sweet potatoes, a basic menu but all because the meat does the talking, smokey and mouth watering making you go back in for more even when you are overly full! I opted for the Hot Mess, a salt baked sweet potato loaded with barbacoa beef, spring onions and slaw while my husband went for the Brisket which is the real deal.
Fun Fact: This started off as a small stand at a local farmer’s market but became so popular they had to find brick and mortar premises, and then casually got voted No.2 BBQ of 100 in the world. Just go now.
After a lot of BBQ goodness we strolled back towards the car which we conveniently left 10 minutes from Deep Ellum at the Local Farmers Market. Knowing that by the time we walked back we would have some room for pudding or a nice drink to explore the stalls. This is a great area of Dallas, full of local vendors both food and retail goods to rob you of your money (if you are me and want to buy ever homeware item you see). The main building consists of several food vendors all as good as the next and even after a BBQ will make you want to eat more, we gave into the urge and I decided to treat myself at Dallas Antique Company. This store was just a treat for the eyes, I wanted everything in there, half way round the store my husband even remarked ‘you have touched everything and said this is nice to it all’ Which may or may not be true, but it was full of gems which I really wish you could buy easily at home in the UK. I settled upon a great Texas map tea towel and fridge magnet because you can never have too many of those!
For our final evening we wanted to go back to Deep Ellum, because clearly we hadn’t spent enough time there already… We went to Easy Slider which again started as a food truck and expanded to a full restaurant come bar due to popularity. This again was like the Taco bar in that there was only a few options of burgers but all unique and a real treat for the tastebuds with unique pairings…strawberry jam and goats cheese or black bean dip and fritos (all amazing)! Add a large bowl of tater tots alongside some craft beers and this makes for a great evening.
With a heavy heart we were sad to leave Dallas after a great weekend of beautiful blue skies and soulful food but next up was Fort Worth which was sure to be a real taste of old Texas. Read more on my next post including a trip to Waco.