City: Dallas, Texas
Foodie: Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com
Venue: American Airlines Center
Address: 2500 Victory Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75201
Teams: Dallas Mavs (NBA), Dallas Stars (NHL)
Dallas is not LA and Dallas is not New York and Dallas is embarrassed by that fact. We fancy ourselves that sort of "entertainment destination," though, and in order to delude ourselves we elevate our sports personalities to movie-star strata. Roger Staubach is our Clint Eastwood. Dirk Nowitzki is our Elvis. Emmitt Smith is our Samuel L. Jackson. Mark Cuban is our George Clooney. Nolan Ryan is our John Wayne. Terrell Owens is our Andy Dick. Jessica Simpson and Angie Harmon get so much gossip/society-page burn around here, you’d think they were Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren. Skip Bayless is our Anthony "Psycho" Perkins, or maybe our Nora Desmond, or maybe our Rosie O’Donnell, I don’t know.
So we worship these sporty sorts. And we eat and drink. What else do we have to do here? God screwed us out of mountains and oceans, leaving us to build billion-dollar monuments to our team owners. (Bow to Jerry.) But the highways meet here, so the food and the booze can be hauled in. As a result, it is said that Dallas has per-capita the most eateries of any city in the United States. We invented the Margarita and the Corny Dog (we also invented the sickness resulting from mixing the two), we re-invented Mexican food (Tex-Mex!) and barbecue, and if we leave any scraps on the table, we brush them to the floor where a waiting Nate Newton appreciatively gobbles them up.
I’m buyin’. You leave the tip:
AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER Two key points about the grub at the home arena of the Mavs and Stars. One, Mavs owner Mark Cuban long ago made a point to be personally responsible for making sure the nachos has enough cheese. Two, at least one Mavs player has developed a superstitious habit of eating an arena hot dog before every tipoff.
Gerald Green has a famous food association with the cupcake; he’s a past winner of the NBA Slam-Dunk Contest for having blown out the candle on a dessert while slamming one home. But he also slams hot dogs. 82 of them a year. He says one before each game. And if an American Airlines Center hot dog is good enough for a professional athlete – and is personally supervised by a billionaire – it should be good enough for you.
CAMPISI’S EGYPTIAN RESTAURANT There’s a lot of history here. Some Italian stuff. (I don’t know where the “Egyptian’’ comes from.) Some sexy stuff. One of the kids, Amber Campisi, is a recent Playmate of the Month. Nice girl, too. More curves that a NASCAR race at the Texas Motor Speedway.
Thin-crust pizza. Phenomenal. David Campisi is the muscle here. But Amber might be around here somewhere.
CLUB DRAGONFLY at HOTEL ZAZA This is as close as we get to a Beverly Hills Hotel-type scene. The hotel itself is unique and boutique, with expensive “theme’’ rooms. Downstairs is a beautifully-appointed bar, lush with curtains and candles.
And it’s beautifully–appointed with beautiful people, too. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Outside is where it gets a little rowdy; the pool is open most of the year, except when it gets chilly, when they put a plexiglass floor over the pool and erect a tent (with chandeliers) and the party goes on.
Jock regulars include NBA folks like Spud Webb and Erick Dampier, and ex-NFL standouts like Winfred Tubbs and Ray Crockett and Fox broadcaster Joe Buck. And when real-live stars are in town to perform, they often stay here … and then roam down by the pool, behind velvet ropes. Hey, there’s Christina Aguilera with her unnaturally large boobs!
You can look, but don’t touch. … unless you’ve got enough game to buy Christina Aguilera a very expensive drink.
Oh, and say hi to Andrew the bartender. If you want something fancy, do the calamari, specially imported. Me? I order the sliders. They’re affordable, and not as dainty as the rest of the place.
MO & HULLY’S Mike Modano took me into his home some years ago when I got a divorce. Brett Hull took Sean Avery onto his team some months ago with no knowledge of his views on “sloppy seconds.’’
A perfect team to start a new restaurant, right?
They’ll get guidance from hockey friend Bob Sambol of the legendary Bob's Steak & Chop House and from Eddie Cervantes, who will help run the place after years of overseeing Primo’s, an affordable see-and-be-seen Mexican food hangout on McKinney Avenue.
Modano tells me the goal for the soon-to-open joint is “an upscale sports bar with a special room in back for the guys to just hangout.’’ By “guys,’’ I assume he means “Stars teammates from past and present.’’ But go ahead on back there, assuming you’re not scared of getting crosschecked by Craig Ludwig.
MILO BUTTERFINGERS This is where your drunk grandpa can sit at the bar and ogle SMU co-eds, where Oliver Stone filmed part of “Born On The Fourth Of July,’’ where cheap pitchers and patty melts rule, and where the charming bartender who used to play minor-league hockey before falling due to a bout with mononucleosis is nicknamed “Mono.’’
LEE HARVEY’S You’ll go for the controversial name. You’ll stay for the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, the burgers and the atmosphere – which includes dog owners bringing their pets to hang around in the yard. A dump. A delightful old-fashioned dump.
THE OLD MONK Want something more affordable, more earthy, a little more "alternative?" Let’s go to "the Monk," a hangout for beer connoisseurs, budget-minded consumers and journalist types. (And in this day and age, journalism types – who have always been beer connoisseurs – are now very much budget-minded consumers.) The guys and girls of D Magazine (a glossy chronicler of the city) hang out at the Monk with such frequency that they have their own designated table at which they seem to conduct nightly “staff meetings.’’
And they will quite possibly invite you on over.
SAL’S PIZZA It’s just Sal. And Pizza. Big, greasy, fold-it-over-like-in-New York pizza.
And Sal. I did see former Cowboys receiver Kevin Williams in here once. But mostly, you get Sal.
SONNY BRYAN’S “Since 1910.’’ Barbecue. There are other locations now, but the original is on Inwood, and here’s the deal: Get the affordable dinner plate, with a big pile of brisket and a big pile of sausage. Throw some Texas-sized onion rings on there. Find yourself a Corona bottle full of BBQ sauce and then squeeze yourself into your seat – which is an old-timey schoolkid’s desk. It’s all pretty comical, people from all walks of life trying not to spill on themselves while squatting in a chair built for a third-grader.
VICTOR TANGO Tristan Simon is a brilliant restauranteur who has created a kingdom of bars, clubs and restaurants in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood. Some of it’s a little pricey, but if you want to watch as a visiting Tracy McGrady try to picks up chicks – and struggle on the night a few years ago when I watched him -- it’s worth the price of admission.
ADAIRS SALOON Beer in cans, jalepenos on the burgers and country music on the jukebox. The wooden walls are covered with years and years of customers’ drunken scribbles. Cowboy hats are optional, but you should definitely bring a Sharpie.
NICK & SAM’S Bill Parcells loved this place, and little wonder: This is old-fashioned, men’s-clubby, dark-wood-and-leather East Coast class. The boss is Joe Palladino, who is always impeccably dressed and impeccably mannered and if you have a wallet-full and want to big-time it at Nick & Sam’s, I’d advise you to mind your dress and your manners, too. And when you order that big-ass steak, make sure they bring the mac-and-cheese. Everybody orders the mac-and-cheese.
THE LODGE It’s a gentlemen’s club. I’ve got to include it, though – even though I never go to such establishments because I’m too busy at church and all – because it is unusual in four different ways. 1) It just won an award for Best Gentlemen’s Club In America. 2) One of the managers is long-time Dallas newspaper guy Michael Precker, who is the last guy you’d expect to be a manager in a strip club; 3) The Lodge is owned by a woman, Dawn Rizos, and you wouldn’t expect that, either; and 4) the lunches are extraordinarily good and yes I’m talking about the food.
On a recent business visit – for the purpose of this article, actually, though I am somewhat hesitant to submit my rather large expense tab to FanFoodie – I had the buffalo burger (real buffalo meat) and one of the other guys had the tilapia. Terrific, all of it, and at prices like you’d spend at IHOP or something.
The idea, of course, is to get you and the many jocks who populate the place to spend your money on stuff besides the buffalo burger and the tilapia. But let me make it clear to you – and to my girlfriend, who is reading this over my shoulder – that I went all the way with the buffalo burger and I only flirted a little bit with tilapia and then I left.
Says Precker: “Coming to The Lodge for the food sounds like the old Playboy magazine line, when people say, ‘I read it for the articles.’ But it’s true. Our food is way, way better than it has to be.’’
DAIRY QUEEN This is the one located in Coppell, not far from the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch headquarters. If you’re not a Texan, you may not fully understand this, but Dairy Queens here are part of the old-school fabric of the community. In smaller towns, the DQ is still the congregating place, right there alongside the school and the church and the old lady who lives with 500 cats and tells you to get off her lawn. Now, this Dairy Queen in this town? It’s the one used as a stage for Mark Cuban to laugh at himself after his early 2000’s anti-ref rage. The owner had said that NBA officiating boss Ed Rush “couldn’t manage a Dairy Queen.’’ Cuban then demonstrated his marketing genius by arranging to show up at this fast-food locale, donned a DQ uniform (complete with a nametag that read “Tony’’ and we’ve recognized his alter ego of “Tony Cubes’’ ever since), and labored to get the trademark swirl atop the cones just right.
TEN SPORTS GRILL Nothing is more irritating to a “sports fan’’ than visiting a “sports bar’’ and discovering that it’s not a “sports bar’’ at all but rather just a fern bar with TVs. And you know how so often you’ll go into one of those places and the TV will be on ESPN by rote. … because the manager knows that ESPN means “sports’’ but the manager doesn’t know that right now on ESPN they’re showing a billiards tournament and somebody ought to wake the fuck up and turn it to the Duke-UNC game over on CBS?
They don’t do that at Ten. They’re on the ball, these guys. They’re on the ball the way you’d have to be if, say, you were the former strength-and-conditioning coach for the Dallas Mavericks.
Which co-owner Chad Lewis is.
His employment with the Mavs allowed him to build friendships with a number of NBA players, and even now, when Steve Nash is in town, he knows which bar will be able to find a soccer game for him to watch. (Chad thinks soccer is the reason he and Eddie Najera and some fellas called the joint “10.’’ The best soccer player wears jersey No. 10. But he’s clearly only guessing that’s the origin.)
You can get a 2-for-10 deal here, two lunches for 10 bucks. Fish tacos. I recommend the fish tacos.
CAPITAL GRILLE NBA teams come to Dallas and often stay at the fancy Crescent hotel. That makes for a convenient lunch just around the corner at the Capital Grille, where they are hosted by the extraordinarily mustachioed managing partner Greg Cavanagh. At night, it’s a “Wall Street’’ sort of place. Power brokers. They can buy and sell guys like us. But at lunch? You’re likely to see Shaq or Phil Jackson or KG eating alone, steak and a salad.
Come to think of it, Shaq and Phil and KG can buy and sell guys like us, too.
WILD ABOUT HARRY’S Because it’s located in hoity-toity Highland Park near downtown, it draws neighborhood locals like Mark Cuban, Jerry Jones, Tom Hicks and T. Boone Pickens. Because it has the best hot dogs in town and the most uniquely delicious frozen custard on the planet, it draws Troy Aikman and his daughters in from the suburbs, draws loaded of Sooners during Texas-OU Week, and draws high-school kids made to feel like grandchildren of the warm and personable proprietor Harry Coley. The walls are filled with photos and newspaper clippings. Nothing fancy, no custom framing or anything; it’s like the whole low-key joint is one huge refrigerator, with family keepsakes magnetized to it.
You can’t miss it when you drive away from downtown a few miles north on 75 and then a couple blocks east on Knox: Wild About Harry’s storefront features pink awnings, a 6-foot-tall statue of a smiling hot dog, and a line of smiling customers.
There’s no booze here – believe me, the hot dogs and the custard are a high all by themselves – but Harry’s no prude. Our friendship began in the mid-90’s, when he called into my radio show to brag about his sidewalk tables being “the best place in Dallas to look at the women.’’
“In front of a hog dog diner?’’ I wondered.
“Yessir,’’ the avuncular Harry told me and the audience with a wink that was almost audible. “The post office is right across the street. And this is the post office where all the ‘kept women’ in town do their business. Dallas has the most beautiful women in America, and they all come to this post office. I can sit out there all afternoon and girl-watch the day away.’’
CHAMPPS Now, it’s a little fern-bar’y, I know. A little chain’y, too. But the Champps in Las Colinas – near the Cowboys headquarters, near where they play the PGA’s Byron Nelson – has personality. Ask for Will the Waiter – he’s a savant who, when you tell him your birthday, will regale you with stories of every single thing that ever happened on that day. Sports, news, the weather, you name it. After you order the chopped salad and the pulled-pork sandwich and a very cold, very tall beer, Will will dish about the customers, too. All the beefy Cowboys come in here, as does Dallas’ First Couple (at least until George and Laura get here and establish their new home and the Bush Library, the world’s only library its living namesake will never use). Yes, Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson might be right over there, in a private corner. And when they leave, watch as Cowboys-crazed dinners rush Will the Waiter and beg for some of Jess’ leftover buffalo wings and a sip of Tony’s backwash beer.
“I want to taste greatness!’’ one of the scrap-beggars recently exclaimed.
Of course, that was before the Cowboys failed to qualify for the playoffs. So “greatness’’ is a slight exaggeration.
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