I recently had a conversation with Sonny, a bartender at The Magnolia Theater in the West Village, about my beloved neighborhood Deep Ellum. It occurred to me that it’s not the perception of the neighborhood that has people down anymore, it is the simple fact that they just don’t really consider it much. So here are some of the draws of Deep Ellum.
There are 3 major galleries in Deep Ellum and a lot of alternative spaces, here are the 4 standouts in the neighborhood…
Barry Whistler Gallery // 2909-B Canton St. // 214.939.0242
Barry Whistler is the Godfather of Dallas Art Dealers, with 20 years in the game. The gallery represents mostly mid-career and established artists. It is an extremely well rounded program showing a range of media including photography, drawing, painting and sculpture. Some of the best minimalist abstract work in Dallas is shown here with John Pomara and Johnnie Winona Ross leading that charge. Lawrence Lee is also a bright young artist whose works on paper are amazing.
The Public Trust // 2919-C Commerce St. // 214.760.7170
This is the space that I am the owner and director of. Since I am biased, I will not run on about how great the work is etc. What you can expect is a lot of drawing and painting and form and content going hand in hand. I am a huge advocate of outstanding craft, and the gallery’s program reflects that. We focus on emerging and mid-career artists, with an emphasis on two-dimensional work. There is a boutique in the front of the space that offers prints, t-shirts, books and other limited edition artist products. The purpose of this is simply because paintings are not for everyone but artist products are.
Road Agent // 2909-A Canton St. // 214.749.4049
Approaching its 3 year mark in Deep Ellum, this space shows really progressive work with content being critical to the work on the walls. They recently mounted a solo exhibition of paintings and drawings by acclaimed British artist Dan Perfect. In addition to showing work by artists as established as Perfect, they also boast a stable of younger artists whose work is extremely exciting. Margaret Meehan’s exhibition which will be up through January 17, 2009, is an excellent example and should not be missed.
Deep Ellum’s Alternative Space…
Kettle Art // 2714 Elm St. // 214.573.7622
Kettle Art, “The little Deep Ellum gallery that could” is the leader in the alternative spaces category. Unlike most galleries, Kettle is keeps limited hours and is only open at night (7-10 PM Thursday-Saturday) so keep that in mind before you head over. This is an artist run space, so it’s vibe is a lot different than most commercial galleries, mainly it’s a lot less formal. The work is almost always within everyone’s price range, which is what makes going there so worthwhile. This is a great place for young artists to get their start, as their submission process is not as stringent as most other galleries. That being said some of the art can be a little green, but I have seen some incredible work in this space.
Food & Beverage
This is and will always be one of the neighborhood’s best attributes.
Local // 2936 Elm St. // 214.752.7500
I love fine dining, don’t do it nearly as often as I would like, but I have eaten at most of the finest restaurants in Dallas and Local is in the top 5. The thing about a lot of fine dining establishments is after a point they are trading on their name. I remember the first time I ate at Stephen Pyles, it was right when they opened. The food was pretty spectacular, but there has been a drop off since. Stephen Pyles can afford to do that, his reputation allows him the luxury. He’s famous, all of your friends have told you how amazing it is, therefore you will most likely think it is indeed amazing. Local doesn’t have that. “It’s in Deep Ellum, how good can it be?,” will be the attitude of most people. They will almost not want to like it, but once they take their first bite, they start to break down and it’s game over, best dinner ever.
Murray St. Coffee Shop // 103 Murray St. (on the corner of main & murray) // 214.655.2808
Everything about this place is good. The owners, Liz and Doug Davis, have a good thing going. The baristas are great, they serve Illy coffee, good food, beer and wine selection, everyone has good taste in music, the regulars are cool, the artwork is amazing, basically all of the trappings of your average coffee shop are non-existent here. It’s worth going out of your way to make this a part of your daily coffee fix.
All Good Cafe // 2934 Main St. // 214.742.5362
Give me All Good over Cafe Brazil any day of the year, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Everything is fresh and from local vendors. The chicken fried chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans is as good as it gets. Weekend breakfast and lunch daily is usually the most crowded times, unless of course you’re there in the evening when there are live music performances. Usually cafes and coffee shops are upstart music venues, but All Good has brought some serious bands in to play a set, so the music is usually on point. One of my favorite overall spots in the hood for sure. Tuesdays from 6-9 is also by one get the less expensive entrée free night.
Twisted Root // 2615 Commerce St. // 214.741.7668
Best burger in Dallas. The only downside to this spot is that it is pricey for a burger place and at lunch it is hella busy, line out the door busy. Everything is fresh and made daily. They offer all beef, buffalo, ostrich, venison, turkey and veggie burgers all of which can be prepared as one of their many signature burgers, but that will cost you an extra 2-3 bucks. If you haven’t hit this spot up, join the crowd, I’d recommend a late lunch, between 1:45-2:00 if you are going on a weekday.
Cowboy Chow // 2801 Commerce St. // 214.742.2469
Cowboy Chow is the other dining option offered by the Twisted Root people. It has now eclipsed TR as my favorite place to grab lunch. The M.O. is the same, all fresh ingredients, however the menu isn’t very big but it is good. I recommend the brisket sliders with cowboy nachos to start.
The Angry Dog // 2726 Commerce St. // 214.741.4406
Used to be the best burger in Deep Ellum, but if you aren’t down with the gourmet prices that Twisted Root charges, then the Angry Dog is a close second. I personally am a fan of their chicken spiedez (pronounced speed-ease). I am not sure how they make chunks of seasoned grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, grilled onions on a white roll something I can’t duplicate at home, but I am glad that they do.
Baker’s Ribs // 2724 Commerce St // 214.748.5433
4 sloppy joes for $5, the best potato salad ever and a damn fine bbq chicken sandwich, are what makes Baker’s ribs a solid spot to grab a bite. Their giant barrel of salty peanuts, whose shells you can discard on the floor adds that extra layer of awesome. Oddly enough I have never had the ribs, but I can bet they are pretty good, since they didn’t call it Baker’s Chicken Sandwiches.
Rush Patisserie // 2901 Elm St. // 214.749.4040
You may remember Sweet Endings, you may not, but that doesn’t matter because Rush is now there and is way better than Sweet Endings and its Greenville rival Society Bakery. I don’t have a super sweet tooth, but Samantha Rush makes some excellent sweets. So next time you are down for the sugar coma she will gladly abide.
Taco Loco // 3014 Main St. // 214.748.8226
Handmade tortillas and gigantic breakfast tacos are the signature moves for Taco Loco. Their chorizo, egg and cheese taco is insanely good. Taco Loco and Fuel City are deadlock for the number 1 spot for best taco stand tacos in Dallas. If you don’t know about Fuel City, you better ask somebody.
Deep Sushi // 2624 Elm St. // 214.651.1177
How do you stay open in Deep Ellum for 12 years? Consistency. Deep Sushi is always consistently good, that stands for everything from the food to the service and atmosphere. The selection is big and the sushi is always really fresh tasting for a landlocked sushi spot. Your dollar will go a lot further here than in other parts of Dallas and the food will most likely be on the level or better. Great spot for happy hour or lunch specials with 2 for 1 action on both occasions.
Retail, Music Venues & Bars
Where once there were a lot of the above, sadly there is very little. The biggest hole in the neighborhood for sure. Here are some spots that are still holding it down.
Club Dada // 2720 Elm St. // 214.742.3400
The last man standing. When Deep Ellum was THE spot for live music, Club Dada was there. Despite the desolate live music scene here, Dada is still cranking out the jams. New management and better booking is rebuilding their audience, and their back patio is still one of the best in Dallas.
Century Modern // 2928 Main St. // 214.651.9200
On any given day you can find something amazing here. Vintage everything, from a 1940′s neon wall clock to a red leather Barcelona chair. This is one of those, “those who know…know,” kind of spots and you will most likely leave with something on your first visit. I heard that Issac Brock (the Modest Mouse lead singer) was spotted there buying vintage microphones, a specialty of this unique retail store.
Orange Salon // 2932 Main St. #104 // 214.698.2006
I have never had my wig chopped here, but it seems like everyone else has or does, and if the doubling of their salon and the owners orange Land Rover are any indication of a healthy clientele then it’s probably a place to consider if you are in need of a stylist.
Leather Masters // 3000 Main St. // 214.528.3865
I am not a leather man, nor am I into bondage or dog masks, but I have to hand it to these guys for cornering a market in Dallas. If you are into having your fantasies fulfilled or picking up some strange, I would suggest high tailing it to Leather Masters and they’ll bring out the gimp for you.