After two weeks driving across America, Belinda and I finally arrived in our final stop on our American road trip: Dallas, Texas. We met up with Barbara from Barbara Bakes, my adopted "mum" and the three of us had fun exploring what many regard to be Texas's most cosmopolitan city. And did our first day hold some surprises with upmarket sweet pies, a fabulous meal at Sweet Georgia Brown, delicious tacos from a gas station and a stay at the stunning Rosewood Crescent Hotel.
The world is a different place today. Nowadays, it's very normal to have a friend halfway across the world that you've never met and you can still call them a friend. You know a lot about them and you can interact with them every day. Yes you can call them friends or sometimes you call them "mum."
That's the case with Barbara from Barbara Bakes. From the beginning she told me that I reminded her of her Harry Potter obsessed daughter so I called her mum (not mom). We send each other Christmas gifts and read each other's blogs and when I mentioned to her that I was going to be travelling around the U.S. but unfortunately not to Utah where she lives, she booked a plane ticket to meet us in Dallas. See? That's what mums do - if they're fabulous that is :)
In Dallas, we meet for the first time in person. We probably regarded each other for an second and then hugged tightly and slipped into conversation just like family. And when Barbara, Belinda and I were exploring Dallas she forgave us and laughed along when we would do silly things like go through a car wash the wrong way and run over some plants in the process. Even the Fuel City car wash employees were laughing by the time that we drove up to them after criss crossing around the circuit ignoring the important "entry" sign. Oops!
"Mum, I promise we're much smarter than this!" I would say to her more than once.
Having eliminated all of the dead bugs on the car windscreen, we enter the main shop area of Fuel City. Here you can order a range of tacos for the princely sum of $1.49 each. They are made fresh to order and can be collected from the window outside or from inside the shop.
We peer inside watching as they are being made from the grill covered with meat and onions. There are only five tacos on the menu (somewhat of a change from the "and the kitchen sink" menus that we've encountered) and we order three to share. For Barbara or mum, this is a fast baptism into the last two weeks for me and Belinda. We eat, share and go and repeat the process over and over. Thankfully Barbara is amenable to this and she is interested in trying them all too.
The tacos can be made on either corn or flour tortillas and we all prefer the flour ones. They come with a milder green chilli sauce or a spicier red chilli sauce. The Picadillo is an award winning combo of ground beef and potato while the Barbacao or steamed roast beef is all soft and yielding goodness. The Pastor or spicy pork meat sings with flavour and we can see why there is what seems to be a permanent line of people queuing both inside and outside for their taco fix.
Right outside the gas station is a stand for Ricos Elotes. "I wonder what that's like?" I ask aloud and a gentleman walking past interjects. "It's great, get the corn regular or if you don't like spicy, get mild." We need no further convincing and order a small cup for $1.50.
We watch as the woman spoons in corn and layers it with lime juice, crema Mexicana, chilli and shaved cheese. It's sweet, spicy, sour and creamy all in one spoonful and the perfect adjunct to the meaty tacos.
We get back in the car. Seeing some signs for gun clubs as ask Barbara if they have a gun. She tells us that her husband does but she doesn't and the gun is kept at her father in law's house in a gun safe. Which seems all the more relevant when we head to to Sweet Georgia Brown which we have been told by a few sources is in a slightly dangerous neighbourhood.
The sign on the door to Sweet Georgia Brown tells diners that "No weapons allowed inside on the premises." It's not the sort of neighbourhood where one lingers, you are advised to use street sense and caution. It's absolutely fine once you are in the restaurant though and people are friendly and I can't say that we ever felt in danger during our visit at around 6pm.
There's a system at Sweet Georgia Brown. It is a cafeteria style set up and you take a tray, silverware and line up and tell the gentlemen behind the counter what you want to order. We are a bit lost and the menu is slightly confusing so we decide to try a variety of bbq and some sides. The sides are said to be the standouts here and they look fresh and good. When we add a couple of orders of sides the man looks up. "Ya'll hungry huh?" and we nod although hungry is probably not the right word. Curious is probably better.
Everything is ladled out on polystyrene, compartmentalised containers with lids. You then pay at the cashier who is standing next to a security guard and take your tray to a booth.
There are three types of barbecue: ribs, sausages and brisket. They're all good, particularly the soft ribs and sausage but here the sides really steal the show as promised. The mac and cheese is creamy while the broccoli rice has big chunks of cheese in it. The black eyes peas are spicy and the collard greens good, albeit a tad salty. The potato salad has large slices of capsicum or pepper in it but my favourite morsel is the crunchy edged cornbread, all eggy, milky goodness.
And for dessert, there's free soft serve!
The south has a dessert culture all of its own and a large part of that culture has to do with pie. We head to pie specialist Emporium Pies on trendy Bishop Avenue among the picturesque Bishop Arts District and neighbourhood where boutiques and restaurants line the paths.
Emporium Pies is located in a beautiful converted house and there's a small carpark nearby. We dither over the sweet pies on offer - there are no savoury pies. If you thought that that might limit opportunities the steady stream of customers indicates otherwise. We go with the recommendations as well as some personal preferences. All pies are $5 for a large slice except for the "Lord of the Pies" high apple pie which is $6.
The Smooth Operator $5USD
As a whole pie, it resembles a chocolate rose. The Smooth Operator is a French silk chocolate with pretzel crust which gives the smooth, rich chocolate filling a salty, rubbly crunch to it.
The Nannerz $5USD
The Nannerz pie has bananas layered with house made vanilla custard, whipped topping and maple caramel. I really like the maple caramel with its gorgeous maple aroma. The crusts on the bottom of the pies were good although there were a bit too thick on the sides of the wedges.
The Buttercream Gang $5USD
Described as "buttermilk pie, just like grandma makes it", it's a relative to the Momofuku crack pie only lighter in colour with a very sweet filling to it. It's Belinda and Barbara's favourite of the lot whereas I find the variety of flavours and complexity in the Cloud Nine pie below.
Cloud Nine $5USD
The pies are sweet and by the time you hit your third or fourth as we did, you may find yourself hitting a wall of sugar. My cheeky advice is to walk through it because at the end the reward is a spoonful of the Cloud Nine, a three layer cream pie with house made caramel, butterscotch custard and brown sugar meringue. Magic.
It's with full tummies that we settle into our suites at the Rosewood Crescent, one of the grandest hotels in Dallas. When we pull in through the gates, the first thing that strikes me is how palatial it looks. The lobby is airy, light and spacious with floral centrepieces and marble.
In the centre of Uptown Dallas, its location is ideal for those wanting to go to nearby nightclubs or to get around easily. There are plenty of beautiful hotels but the main point of difference for the Rosewood is the staff. Everyone is helpful, deferential and thoughtful - when we looked parched we were offered water and a tea kettle was brought to my room along with milk and tea. It's also the place for a bit of celebrity spotting - Mohamed Hadid from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was spotted in the lobby and Belinda shared an elevator with former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his wife Janette.
When I needed to change rooms because of a smoking smell that had wafted from the smoking rooms, it wasn't a problem at all and I was moved swiftly. When we inquired about the distance to a nearby meeting the concierge quickly offered their hotel car, a Mercedes, and booked it for us. It is these details that we also overhear being offered to all guests that defines Southern Hospitality.
My room #500 is a spacious Metropolitan suite and decorated in neutral tones with hints of seafoam blue (I know, but it really is a shade). The Metropolitan suites are large between 880 to 935 sq. ft.The sitting room is roomy and there are four Juliet balconies in the suite, the first in the sitting room with the remaining three in the bedroom. The writing desk is large and there is a good mini bar located in the suite with good quality snacks including Dean & Deluca nibblies and artisan popcorn.
There are also two bathrooms in the suite, the first containing a toilet and sink. The bedroom has a king sized bed, television and two comfortable plush chairs.
The bedroom has two closets, a dressing table with mirror, makeup mirror and plenty of water and turning left there is a bathroom. This is somewhat compact in comparison to the rest of the suite but still well appointed with amenities in large pump size which I always prefer to squeezing those tiny bottles to get the product out.
The only negative (apart from having the cigarette smoke come into my previous room) was that the nightclubs are near the room so the ambiance late at night filters into the hotel so bring earplugs if you want to work in the sitting room. There is less noise in the bedroom although I'd recommend ear plugs if you are a light sleeper as I am. Also internet is $9.99USD per device per day.
Still at the end of the day, my clothes are a little tighter, I'm craving salad, fruit, bread and cheese and my right arm sports a farmer tan from sitting in the car with the sun shining down on it. But I wouldn't change a second with my "mum" and I can't wait for the next day to start. Stay tuned because next up, it's the world famous Dallas State Fair and the very reason why we ended our trip in Dallas!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you had friendships that started online? Did you end up meeting them face to face? Was it awkward or comfortable? And when you travel, do you bring ear plugs?
All meals in this post were independently paid for. NQN stayed as a guest of the Rosewood Crescent Hotel.
Want to read the other road trip posts? Here they are!
Rosewood Crescent Hotel
400 Crescent Ct, Dallas, TX 75201, United States
Fuel City Tacos
801 Riverfront Boulevard, Dallas, Texas
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Sweet Georgia Brown
2840 E Ledbetter Dr, Dallas, TX 75216, United States
Open 7 days 11am-9pm
314 N Bishop Ave, Dallas, TX 75208, United States Phone:+1 469-206-6126 Closed Monday & Tuesday Sunday 11:00 am - 8:00 pm Wednesday & Thursday 11:00 am - 9:00 pm Friday & Saturday 11:00 am - 10:00 pm emporiumpies.com/