IIf English accents make everything sound sophisticated, Texas accents make everything sound sexy. Part of that’s because, enter any Dallas or Fort Worth eating or drinking establishment and you’re more than likely to be greeted with a “What can I get for you, Darlin’?” or “How’s that cocktail workin’ for you, Honey?” Since the Southern-meets-Midwestern accents uttering the phrases are often male, gay, and hotter than tight jeans on a bull-riding cowboy who’s just dusted the dirt off his well-rode ass, it’s fair to say the center of Texas is also one of the hottest gay spots in the country.
Unlike Miami or New York or Los Angeles, gay life in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is neither pretentious nor forced—it’s just there, big and proud, like the football team. Over half a million gay people are estimated to live in the cities, and for the gay tourist it’s like a day at the ranch. I spent five days in May in both cities and came back to Manhattan with a little extra kick in my step. (Dallas Pride is in September; now’s the time too book!)
In Dallas, there’s a gay section on Cedars Springs Road, in the Oak Lawn neighborhood, that has a good 20 bars lined up for the taking—like single girls at the high school dance. They’re all fun and they’re all different, but my personal favorite was the Round-Up Saloon, mostly because you can mosey on over to the sidelines and watch the men line dance. The Dallas Eagle, off the strip, should make you feel right at home, provided your home has lots of leather and chaps . Jr’s has a strong Cheers vibe, and just about every other bar on the strip has, well, strippers. I haven’t seen this many sexy, pole-sliding, scantily clad bodies since I last checked out Showgirls. Twinks, hunks, bears, if you’re not happy with the meat in front of you, hit the next bar.
Speaking of meat, eat it. I ate steak each night I was in Dallas and Fort Worth, and my arteries have forgiven me. Yes, it’s better than the meat on the East Coast, and, depending on where you go, cheaper. My, er, gut tells me that you’re going to find choice meat anywhere, but I loved Sam Tucker, for the food and the elegant atmosphere. Also nice was Eddie V’s, as much for the people watching as the, yep, delicious steak.
Dallas is not all beef and bars and boys and blue jeans, though. Them folks got culture! The Dallas Art District is home to a sprawling entertainment complex that makes New York’s Julliard look like rehearsal space … seriously. I didn’t get a chance to see a show, but I did make it to Barbara’s, a juke-box casual bar that looks like something out of the East Village, with a bartender as hip as the atmosphere. I also toured Dallas Cowboys Stadium, which I was convinced was the stupidest idea I’ve ever had until I found out you get to go inside the locker rooms. None of the guys were there, but you could almost smell the cups. And get a burger at Hunky’s Old Fashioned Burgers—the food’s as good as the name.
Hotel-wise, there are two great options. You can go subtle, with the Crowne Plaza Market Center, and you won’t be disappointed. Rooms are simple and sleek, there’s a pool and gym, and a restaurant bar that was always hopping with either business people or locals—I couldn’t tell. The bigger choice is Hilton Anatole, which only seems like the largest hotel complex in the world. The rooms are nice, but it’s the space, and space, and space that rocks you like a hurricane. Olympic-size pool, massive gym, a spa that’s as big as New York in a heat wave, and so many shops and restaurants you don’t really need to leave.
I did, leave, however, as I’d never been to Fort Worth, and, being from these elitist New York parts, had pretty much assumed it was just part of an airport name. On the contrary, it’s a full city, smaller than Dallas but equally as fun. The number of gay bars is much limited, and I adored the hunky bartender at the Rainbow Lounge, who passed himself around for body shots like a liquid hors d’oeuvres tray. Before you hit either, hit Grace, for cool cocktails, and, the night I was there, cool outdoor seating. The only thing that separates Grace from any SoHo hotspot is the friendly service—can we get some of these Texas dudes to teach New Yorkers about politeness?
As for food, have the good graces to hit Woodshed Smokehouse, with a huge outdoor dining space, and what can only be described as a “Pork Fountain”—you slice it off the dinosaur-size bone. It was about my third day in Texas that I noticed that everything is bigger; the restaurant and hotel spaces are huge, and there always seems to be a pond or grassy plain next to you. In the case of Bass Performance Hall, even the angels are bigger. Two 48-feet-tall angels hover over the spectacular opera house, and it’s worth taking a tour just to hit the Through the Looking Glass bathrooms—trust me on this one.
Another Fort Worth must is Billy Bob’s Texas,the largest honky-tonk in the world. There’s an actual bull-riding arena, along with 100,000 square feet of bars, restaurants, and cowboys galore. I half expected to see Jake Gyllenhaal enjoying beer and buds, but when he didn’t materialize I settled for a checking out a different breed of wild animal—the cattle drive that takes place twice a day at the nearby stockyards. After the parade passes by, everyone heads over to White Elephant Saloon, the closest thing you’re going to find to a Wild West Saloon without feeling as if you’re in a tourist shop.
For accommodations, I was thrilled with the Omni Hotel Fort Worth. The rooms and amenities are as sophisticated as the city is Western, so don’t expect to see cowboy hats or deer heads on the walls. Don’t expect outrageous prices, either. That’s the thing with us New Yorkers; we’re so cocooned in what we believe is the Best Apple, we often forget to take a bite out of the rest of our gay undiscovered country.