Moon Dallas & Fort Worth author Jonanna Widner was born in Fort Worth and raised on a steady diet of Tex-Mex, barbecue ribs, and the Dallas Cowboys. She still calls the Dallas-Fort Worth area home, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. We asked her to share some of her Texas pride and her best DFW-area travel advice. Herewith, her answers. Enjoy!
Dallas & Fort Worth with Jonanna Widner
1. What are your top three favorite things to see in Dallas and Fort Worth?
Oh goodness--this is a tough question, because there’s so much to do. If I have to narrow it down to three, I’d say:
1. Attending a Dallas Mavericks game. The team has been so great the past several years, and the games always sell out. The energy is tremendous in the American Airlines Arena, and afterward you can pop across the street for a drink at the W Hotel.
2. Attending the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. This is one of the most elaborate, incredible rodeos in the world. Of course, its grown into quite a spectacle and now is as much a social event as it is a true working stock show, but it’s a truly unique, Western experience. The festivities last for days, and the whole town gets into it--in fact, when I was growing up, we used to get the day off from school and a free ticket to go.
3. Eating! Dallas and Fort Worth have so many choices for dining, from food carts to fine dining. You will never lack for choices here.
2. Football’s a big deal in Dallas. Tell the truth—are you taking your life in your hands if you wear a Redskins shirt?
Yes. Yes you are.
3. Where do the Dallas locals go to shop?
Highland Park Village has always been a classic destination for Dallas denizens, but in the past several years, the Uptown area has provided ever-increasing numbers of cute little boutiques and locally owned shops. Also, North Park Center is one of the best malls in the country.
4. Downtown Dallas is filled with tons of hip shops and restaurants. What are a few of the best?
Wild Bill's Market in the West End is an awesome place to get boots, belts, pearl-snap shirts, etc., at surprisingly un-touristy prices. Label-lovers will freak at Benji's Collezioni's selection of fine Italian name goods like Fendi, Gucci, etc. As far as restaurants, Fuse may be the hippest of them all. This hot Asian fusion spot is located on an upper level of a hip loft building and shares its space with the building's pool deck. After dinner hours, the place is filled with dance music that rebounds off the buildings on the streets of downtown (I know, since I used to live across the street!).
5. What’s the best music venue in Dallas?
Another tough choice. I'm gonna go with the Granada Theater for its history, locally owned charm, and a funky vibe. It can't be beat.
6. Where’s the best place to stay on a budget in Dallas and in Fort Worth?
The area is not known for its B&Bs, but if you do some digging, you can find some great places to lay your head for less than many of the admittedly wonderful luxury hotels around the area. Miss Molly's B&B, a former brothel in the heart of Cowtown in Fort Worth, is filled with character (caution: it's haunted!). For super-cheap near Dallas, try the Dallas Irving Backpackers Guesthouse. There are also hundreds of discount hotel chains in the area--if you have transportation, try the mid-cities like Arlington, where rates are usually lower.
7. With every restaurant claiming to have the best barbecue in town, it’s hard to know who to believe. What’s your personal favorite in the Dallas-Fort Worth area?
I have to go with Railhead in Fort Worth, but I might be prejudiced because it is very near my house. But when I crave BBQ, it's not just random BBQ--it's always Railhead BBQ. Sonny Bryant's might be the most famous in the area, and it is awesome too, but suffers from being a bit touristy. Still SB's gets extra points because they actually catch the drippings from the smoked meat and then use it in the sauce.
8. Where can a vegetarian get a great meal?
The Spiral Diner, with locations in both Dallas and Fort Worth, has awesome veggie and vegan food. I'm a meat-eater, but I still frequent the place.
9. What’s the best dive bar in the area?
Ships, in Dallas, is a hole-in-the-wall inexplicably laden with random nautical accouterments. Cash only, and no cursing!
10. How does Fort Worth differ from neighboring Dallas?
Fort Worth is more laid-back, has a slower pace, and displays its Western heritage more noticeably.