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Cities in the Spotlight: Dallas, USA

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

In today's installment of Cities in the Spotlight we are taking a look at Dallas, Texas.


Dallas City Information

Dallas, colloquially referred to as Big D, is a city in the U.S. state of Texas and the largest city in and seat of Dallas County, with portions extending into Collin, Denton, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. With a 2020 census population of 1,304,379, it is the ninth most-populous city in the U.S. and the third-largest in Texas after Houston and San Antonio. Located in North Texas, the city of Dallas is the main core of the largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States and the largest inland metropolitan area in the U.S. that lacks any navigable link to the sea. It is the most populous city in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country at 7.5 million people.

Dallas and nearby Fort Worth were initially developed due to the construction of major railroad lines through the area allowing access to cotton, cattle and later oil in North and East Texas. The construction of the Interstate Highway System reinforced Dallas's prominence as a transportation hub, with four major interstate highways converging in the city and a fifth interstate loop around it. Dallas then developed as a strong industrial and financial center and a major inland port, due to the convergence of major railroad lines, interstate highways and the construction of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. In addition, Dallas has DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) with different colored train lines that transport throughout the Metroplex. Dominant sectors of its diverse economy include defense, financial services, information technology, telecommunications, and transportation. Dallas is home to nine Fortune 500 companies within the city limits while the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex hosts twenty-two Fortune 500 companies, the second most in Texas and fourth most in the United States. Over 41 colleges and universities are located within its metropolitan area, which is the most of any metropolitan area in Texas. The city has a population from a myriad of ethnic and religious backgrounds and one of the largest LGBT communities in the U.S. WalletHub named Dallas the fifth most diverse city in the United States in 2018.


Dallas Historical Significance

Preceded by thousands of years of varying cultures, the Caddo people inhabited the Dallas area before Spanish colonists claimed the territory of Texas in the 18th century as a part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Later, France also claimed the area but never established much settlement. In all, six flags have flown over the area preceding and during the city's history: those of France, Spain, and Mexico, the flag of the Republic of Texas, the Confederate flag, and the flag of the United States of America. In 1819, the Adams–Onís Treaty between the United States and Spain defined the Red River as the northern boundary of New Spain, officially placing the future location of Dallas well within Spanish territory. The area remained under Spanish rule until 1821, when Mexico declared independence from Spain, and the area was considered part of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. In 1836, Texians, with a majority of Anglo-American settlers, gained independence from Mexico and formed the Republic of Texas.

Three years after Texas achieved independence, John Neely Bryan surveyed the area around present-day Dallas. In 1839, accompanied by his dog and a Cherokee he called Ned, he planted a stake in the ground on a bluff located near three forks of the Trinity River and left. Two years later, in 1841, he returned to establish a permanent settlement named Dallas. The origin of the name is uncertain. The official historical marker states it was named after Vice President George M. Dallas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, this is disputed. Other potential theories for the origin include his brother, Commodore Alexander James Dallas, as well as brothers Walter R. Dallas or James R. Dallas. A further theory gives the ultimate origin as the village of Dallas, Moray, Scotland, similar to the way Houston, Texas, was named after Sam Houston whose ancestors came from the Scottish village of Houston, Renfrewshire. The Republic of Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845 and Dallas County was established the following year. Dallas was formally incorporated as a city on February 2, 1856. In the mid-1800s, a group of French Socialists established La Réunion, a short-lived community, along the Trinity River in what is now West Dallas.

With the construction of railroads, Dallas became a business and trading center and was booming by the end of the 19th century. It became an industrial city, attracting workers from Texas, the South, and the Midwest. The Praetorian Building in Dallas of 15 stories, built in 1909, was the first skyscraper west of the Mississippi and the tallest building in Texas for some time. It marked the prominence of Dallas as a city. A racetrack for thoroughbreds was built and their owners established the Dallas Jockey Club. Trotters raced at a track in Fort Worth, where a similar drivers club was based. The rapid expansion of population increased competition for jobs and housing. In 1910, a white mob of hundreds of people lynched a black man, Allen Brooks, accused of raping a little girl. The mob tortured Brooks, then killed him at the downtown intersection of Main and Akard by hanging him from a decorative archway inscribed with the words "Welcome Visitors". Thousands of Dallasites came to gawk at the torture scene, collecting keepsakes and posing for photographs.

In 1921, the Mexican president Álvaro Obregón along with the former revolutionary general visited Downtown Dallas's Mexican Park in Little Mexico; the small park was on the corner of Akard and Caruth Street, site of the current Fairmont Hotel. The small neighborhood of Little Mexico was home to a Latin American population that had been drawn to Dallas by factors including the American Dream, better living conditions, and the Mexican Revolution.

During World War II, Dallas was a major manufacturing center for military automobiles and aircraft for the United States and Allied forces. Over 94,000 jeeps and over 6,000 military trucks were produced at the Ford plant in East Dallas. North American Aviation manufactured over 18,000 aircraft at their plant in Dallas, including the T-6 Texan trainer, P-51 Mustang fighter, and B-24 Liberator bomber.

On November 22, 1963, United States President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Elm Street while his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Downtown Dallas. The upper two floors of the building from which the Warren Commission reported assassin Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy have been converted into a historical museum covering the former president's life and accomplishments. Kennedy was pronounced dead at Dallas Parkland Memorial Hospital just over 30 minutes after the shooting.


Travel to Dallas

*taken from Lonely Planet*

Dallas, the 'Big D', is Texas' most mythologized city, rich in the stuff of which American legends are woven. For a time, the eponymous TV series Dallas served to define the USA to the world, while the Cowboys and their cheerleaders remain iconic. Unlike many Texan cities, Dallas has avoided the boom-and-bust cycle of the oil industry, to the point where this is the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan area. There’s money here a-plenty, and conspicuous consumption is very much the norm. Excellent museums in the massive, recently developed Arts District downtown offer world-class displays of art and sculpture, while unmissable sites commemorate the city’s rendezvous with history in 1963, as the site of President John F Kennedy's assassination. For the quintessential Dallas experience, explore its distinctive neighborhoods, like down-and-dirty Deep Ellum, pivotal in the stories of blues and jazz, or contemporary hipster hangouts like Lower Greenville or the Bishop Arts District.


Must See Sites

Dallas Museum of Art; The city's major art museum offers a high-caliber world tour of ancient and contemporary art. Founded in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art is an impressively cosmopolitan endeavour, with a collection that spans the history of creativity in Europe as well as the Americas. It put Dallas firmly on the national culture map when it opened, and it still attracts a healthy crowd of visitors today.

Pioneer Plaza; For a Texas-sized photo op, or simply a sight of what claims to be the largest bronze monument on earth, head to Pioneer Plaza in the heart of Dallas. Multiple strands of American history come together at this downtown tourist site – the plaza's famous monument commemorates the epic cattle drives that followed the Shawnee Trail across the West, and it borders the Pioneer Cemetery, last resting place of multiple Dallas mayors and numerous participants in the Texas revolution and the American Civil War.

Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens; Spreading northeast of Dallas along the shores of White Rock Lake, this gorgeous 66-acre arboretum is a rainbow-colored wonderland of plants and flowers, plus dotted artworks and sculptures, man-made waterfalls, mock-up forest brooks and more. Just six miles from downtown, it's one of the city's loveliest green spaces, and a great place to escape Dallas' motor city vibe and breathe clean, plant-filtered air.

Klyde Warren Park; This innovative 5.2-acre park is an urban green space built over the recessed Woodall Rodgers Freeway. It has its own programming and, besides outdoor areas for chess, yoga, croquet and other activities, it offers performances and many more special events. It gets very crowded with families on weekends.


Must Try Food & Drink

Breakfast Tacos; This Lone Star culinary treasure is quite simple – a tortilla stuffed with traditional breakfast ingredients, depending on personal preferences: processed yellow cheese, pork, and eggs are just some of the most common ingredients used in the preparation of breakfast tacos. However, there is a huge food fight regarding this taco variety, with Austin and San Antonio both claiming the dish as their own. It is speculated that breakfast tacos were a staple in San Antonio a long time ago, but locals used to simply call it breakfast, while Austin had given the dish its current name. With a dish so simple and delicious, shouldn’t we agree that breakfast tacos are simply and truly Texan?

Fried Okra; A popular side dish called fried okra is a must-have at any Southern festivity, and almost every Southern cook has a favorite recipe. Okra is usually coated with cornmeal or flour and shallow-fried in oil. It is sometimes served with ranch dressing, used for dipping the fried okra in it.

Chicken Fried Steak; One of the staples of the Southern U.S. cuisine called chicken fried steak contains no chicken at all, contrary to what one might think upon seeing the name of the dish. It consists of a thin, breaded, and fried cut of beef that is traditionally served with a side of mashed potatoes and drizzled with cream gravy. The dish got its name due to the fact that the method of preparation is very similar to that of fried chicken. Originally, the first recipes for batter-fried steaks had appeared in Southern cookbooks during the early 1800s. In the old days, the cut of beef was inexpensive and tough, usually round steak, but today many restaurants use more expensive cuts such as tenderloin and rib-eye. It is believed that the dish stems from German immigrants who brought an Austrian dish called Wiener schnitzel to Texas, a meal that is quite similar to chicken fried steak. What started as making use of meat of questionable quality evolved into a unique Texas delicacy, a perfect combination of meat, grease, and batter.

Texas Style BBQ; Texas-style barbecue is an American barbecue style that can be divided into 4 separate subcategories: Central Texas, East Texas, South Texas, and West Texas barbecue. The best-known variety is the Central Texas-style that originated in the Czech and German meat markets in the late 19th century. This barbecue style is typically associated with cooking brisket (the fattier portion is called point, while the leaner portion is called flat) low and slow, usually over post oak fire. The meat is seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of cayenne or garlic powder. It is then cooked in offset smokers, while the heat and smoke from the fire go across the meat, adding an irresistible smoky flavor to the brisket (although shoulder clod, chuck short ribs, and larger short ribs are also popular). The meat is carved in front of the customer, and it is traditionally served on butcher paper (as an homage to the meat markets of yore), most often without any type of barbecue sauce on the side. The East Texas-style is characterized by the acceptance of pork and an emphasis on barbecue sauce. Pork ribs and smoked boudin are staples of East Texas-style barbecue, and the sides include some interesting things such as greens, fried okra, and banana pudding. In South Texas, it's all about barbacoa and cow heads – they are cooked in a pit lined with stones or bricks, and then a mesquite fire is started in the bottom of the pit.

Pecan Pie; One of the hallmarks of traditional American cuisine is the classic pecan pie. It consists of a thin pastry crust that is topped with a mixture of eggs, butter, flour, a sweetener such as brown sugar, syrup, or molasses, and a handful of halved or chopped pecans. When baked, pecan pie should have the consistency of a thick, silky custard with a pronounced caramel taste. When it initially appeared in written form at the end of the 19th century, it was mostly associated with the American South, but today it represents an authentic American dessert, traditionally prepared on Thanksgiving Day.

Shrimp & Grits; What started as a simple fisherman's dish made with shrimp cooked in bacon grease, then served over creamy grits is today a cult Southern dish due to the fact that Craig Claiborne mentioned it in the New York Times in 1985, after he tried the dish at Crook's Corner, a restaurant in North Carolina. That version of shrimp and grits was made by a chef called Bill Neal, who also added mushrooms, bacon, and cheddar cheese into the dish. Today, there are numerous variations of the dish found throughout the South, with added hot spices, barbecue sauces, tomatoes, and fried eggs. The dish is so popular that each September, there is the annual Shrimp & Grits Festival held on Jekyll Island in Georgia.

Puffy Taco; Best described as something between a funnel cake and a tostada, puffy taco is a crispy, fried snack that was invented in San Antonio by brothers Ray and Henry Lopez. The dough for puffy taco consists of ground corn masa, water, and salt. The dough is pressed in a tortilla press, deep-fried, and then a spoon is pushed into the middle until the taco curls around it. The taco is then filled with ingredients such as carnitas or fried avocados. Eating a puffy taco is a messy deal, since it is believed that a true puffy taco should be greasy and falling apart.

Ranch Water; Ranch Water is a light tequila cocktail hailing from Texas. It incorporates tequila, lime juice, and sparkling mineral water—preferably Topo Chico, which is ubiquitous in Texas. Some variations also opt for a splash of orange liqueur. This Texan cocktail has a long and rather vague history. Presumably, it has a decades-long tradition, but its popularity skyrocketed in the last ten years, surpassing the borders of its native state. It most likely originated among local ranchers, who enjoyed it as a refreshing afternoon drink. The story says that the ranchers would pour out or drink some Topo Chico and then add tequila and lime juice to the bottle. The name is mostly associated with The Gage Hotel in Marathon and Ranch 616, a local hangout in Austin, though it is not clear who was the first to implement it on the menu. The Texans and the purists argue that the use of Topo Chico water is what makes Ranch Water unique—its mineral character and lively effervescence are said to complement tequila exceptionally well. Ranch Water can be made in a cocktail shaker or by adding tequila and lime juice to a glass filled with ice and then topping it with Topo Chico.


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