You know the saying: "Everything's bigger in Texas." In keeping with the theme, we present a super-sized Power Weekend in Dallas. What makes this weekend bigger than all other weekends? Well, this weekend the Dallas-Fort Worth "Metroplex" is the one of only two metropolitan areas in the country where you can see NBA and NHL playoff games with a major league baseball game sprinkled in. (Note: the other is New York/New Jersey, where you can go Nets-Devils-Yankees in the "George Washington Bridge Special.")
Throw in a little golf, homage to America's Team, horse racing, Tex-Mex, barbecue, and some historical sleuthing, and the plate is already full. Let's get to it.
FRIDAY, APRIL 21
After landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) or Dallas Love Field (DAL), you can go straight to Ameriquest Field (1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington, Web site) -- otherwise known as The Ballpark Formerly Known as The Ballpark in Arlington. Start the playoff weekend with a baseball appetizer as the Rangers will be hosting the mighty Devil Rays. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. Ameriquest is located about 20 miles west of Dallas, and 12 miles south of DFW.
Try to get to the park early, so you can visit the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum (open until 7:30 p.m. on game days, Web site), which is accessible right behind the rightfield home-run porch at Ameriquest Field. In the museum, there are a number of items on loan from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and given the state of affairs of both the Rangers and the Devil Rays, this may be your best chance to see baseball greatness for the day.
After the game, head into Dallas and find your way to The Ginger Man (2718 Boll Street, Web site), a bar fashioned out of an old house with multiple levels and outdoor areas. Take your pick from over 60 beers that are on draught and numerous more that are available in the bottle. Make sure you taste a Shiner Bock at some point, so you can make all of your Texan friends jealous when you get back.
You can also visit The Old Monk (2847 N. Henderson Ave., Web site), which always has an energetic yet casual crowd. Be forewarned, however: this is one of the smokiest bars in Dallas. Still, the extensive international beer selection and pub-like design make this worth the trip, provided you have dry cleaning at your hotel.
SATURDAY, APRIL 22
If The Ginger Man or The Old Monk didn't defeat you the night before, wake up and tackle the Katy Trail (Web site) for a morning run to refresh your senses. The trail cuts through the heart of town, from the American Airlines Center to near SMU.
Breakfast should take you to Bread Winners Café and Bakery (3301 McKinney Ave., Web site), a cozy nook that features a tasty array of egg scrambles, pancakes, and French toast. On your way out, make sure you visit the bakery, so you can load up on breads, strudels, and assorted other muffins and cakes to snack on the rest of the day.
After you fill your stomach, the next stop is The Sixth Floor Museum (411 Elm Street, Web site), where you can relive one of the darkest days in United States history. Look out the window where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy (at least that part is not a mystery), and then venture down to the street where the presidential motorcade passed. There are always people milling about, especially on the grassy knoll to the right.
For a quick lunch, it's the battle of the barbecue. You have your choice of small, independent and tasty Sammy's (2126 Leonard St, 214-880-9064), or Sonny Bryan's (multiple locations, Web site), which is equally as scrumptious and heartburn-inducing, but more of a chain. Sammy's is no-frills and focuses solely on the eatin', and is a favorite of the suits who work downtown for a power lunch during the week. Sonny Bryan's should not be given short shrift because it has become a chain, as it was one of the first barbecue establishments in Dallas, opening its doors for the first time in 1910 and serving unlimited amounts of chopped beef and ribs since.
It's playoff time! Time to go to American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Ave., Web site) for Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, featuring the Pacific Division champion Dallas Stars versus the Colorado Avalanche. While the Stars enjoyed Stanley Cup glory in 1999 in a much louder Reunion Arena, the AAC can get plenty noisy as well. If you can score ice-level seats, you'll get an up-close and personal glimpse of the Stars Ice Girls (Web site), who glide around the ice during stoppages in play. Apparently, scientific studies have shown that girls in tight clothes on ice skates clean ice shavings better than anyone else.
What would a playoff weekend be without an indulgent steak dinner? Option No. 1 is Al Biernat's (4217 Oaklawn Ave., Web site), and you'll be guaranteed to be talking about your meal there for years to come. After you make a choice from the 650 wines available, order the Kobe Filet Mignon ($59.95) to treat your tastebuds.
If you're looking for steak, but in a less chichi upscale setting than Al Biernat's, try Bob's Steak and Chop House (4300 Lemmon Ave., Web site) for a more old-fashioned steakhouse experience, with the mahogany booths, the formal, 1950s atmosphere, and of course, the outstanding steak and heaping side dishes. If the Stars were big winners earlier in the day, you might even see Mike Modano, who's been known to frequent this establishment.
For something a little bit different, but still filled with steak and other red meat, try Texas de Brazil (2727 Cedar Springs Road, Web site), a Brazilian steakhouse featuring a wide variety of cooked meats that make their way to your table by servers carrying the selections of meats on various skewers. Two big advantages here. One, you get to sample as many different cuts of meat as possible (try the Garlic Picanha). Two, you don't have to cut your meat -- it's done for you. God bless Texas.
After ingesting some combination of meats, maybe you'd like to freshen up, put on your Saturday evening's best, and hit the town for some music, drinking, and revelry. First stop, Sambuca (2120 McKinney Ave., Web site), which started out in a warehouse in alternative Deep Ellum, but has now matured into a snazzier location in Uptown. The restaurant/jazz bar features live music seven nights a week, and a wide selection of wine and other drinks. Step outside to the courtyard for the ambience, or find your way to the patio area, which has a putting green.
Then, time to go people watching in "Trendy Dallas." The latest place to catch the best Dallas has to offer is Hotel ZaZa (2332 Leonard St., Web site) which features a spectacular poolside patio/bar called the Urban Oasis. Be prepared, however, as the Oasis promises to "enhance your sensuality." If you feel your sensuality is sufficiently enhanced to begin with, take a pass and head to Deep Ellum for some live music. Best bet is the Gypsy Tea Room (2548 Elm St., Web site), which isn't as tame as it sounds. Most of the latest cutting-edge rock and country bands have made their way through what is arguably the best live music venue in Dallas. Check ahead, though, to make sure you'll be able to get in -- the shows have been known to sell out in advance.
SUNDAY, APRIL 23
Big day, so let's start early. The Dream Café (2800 Routh St., Web site) offers up the best combination of brunch food/casual atmosphere in Dallas. Look out for Justin Leonard, Ryder Cup hero and Dallas native, who frequents The Dream Café on Sundays. The migas are mandatory, as they are presented with the perfect mixture of eggs, salsa, tortillas, and other goodies. Non-Tex-Mexers should sample the Monte Cristo, a wonderful French toast sandwich filled with smoked ham, turkey, and swiss cheese.
Almost two days into our journey and we haven't yet mentioned the Texas religion: football. That's going to change now. Venture to Texas Stadium (2401 E. Airport Freeway, Irving, Web site) to see the hole in the roof in person. Tours of the stadium run every hour on the hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays (Adults $10, cheerleaders not included).
Multiple options for this timeframe. The weekend hackers can take their swings to Cowboys Golf Club (1600 Fairway Dr., Grapevine, Web site), yet another marketing brainchild of Jerry Jones. While Emmitt Smith may not be there to give you golf instruction... well, having watched him on the Celebrity Golf Tour, that may be a good thing. But you can conquer golf and Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia at the same time.
Non-golfers -- and those who want to potentially upgrade their seats for tonight's Mavs game -- should hightail it out to Lone Star Park (Web site) in Grand Prairie for some quiet time with the horses. First race is at 1:35 each afternoon.
We'd be remiss if we didn't offer a tip of the ten-gallon hat to one of the top tourist attractions in the Metroplex, Southfork Ranch (3700 Hogge Road, Parker, Web site), 35-40 minutes north of town. Immerse yourself in all things Dallas, including a tour of the Ewing Mansion and a look at the gun that shot J.R. Tours cost $8.95 for adults and run throughout the day (hours are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.).
If you want to absolutely max out on the sports aspect of your Power Weekend, make a beeline going north to Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, where FC Dallas is hosting the Kansas City Wizards at 4 p.m. in a nationally televised (ESPN2) MLS matchup.
If you just want to kick back with a pre-basketball dinner, how about loading up with some Tex-Mex dinner? While there are countless options, you can't go wrong with Primo's Bar & Grill (3309 McKinney Ave., Web site). Primo's is next door to Bread Winners from yesterday morning, and is known for its loud and festive happy hours. The food hits the spot as well. For cheese lovers, you must try the queso flameado (baked cheese and chorizo served flaming). Of course, fajitas sizzle both on the plate and in your stomach.
Lovers of straight-up Mexican food should go to West Village for Taco Diner (3699 McKinney Ave., 214-521-3669), a Mexico City-style taqueria which contains a cheap array ($5 to $8) of tasty entrees ranging from the normal beef and chicken dishes to the fish and mushroom tacos.
The marquee sporting event of the weekend is back at the AAC, where the Dallas Mavericks will host the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their Western Conference first round series at 8:30 p.m. local time. Mark Cuban has done wonders with the Mavericks, creating one of the NBA's most raucous atmospheres out of what was an utterly irrelevant franchise in the '90s. However, hiring a bunch of weight-challenged men to dress up as cheerleaders was not one of his better moves. Nevertheless, it's like a car wreck -- you can't help but watch when they dance.
For the relaxing postgame drink, hit the Library Bar at The Melrose Hotel (3015 Oaklawn Avenue, Web site), where you can enjoy your favorite cocktail in a large leather chair surrounded by shelves of books. If you have too many drinks, you may find yourself singing along with the piano player.
Dial down from the playoff intensity and make sure to set that alarm so you can wake up in time for the early-morning flight out to take you back to reality.
Dan Feldman is a Dallas native who still wears his Roy Tarpley Sixth Man of the Year t-shirt.