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The Charm, Sleekness & Bravado of Dallas, Texas

By Margie Jacinto

AS A HAWAI’I GAL CURRENTLY LIVING IN THE THROES OF THE WILD SOUTHWEST, I am rather familiar with the jaw- dropping vistas, cuisine prepared by award-winning chefs and tony lodgings that are commonplace throughout the islands. They are admittedly tough to beat. But while Dallas, Texas, might not ooze aloha around every corner, you will discover a city replete with note- worthy gems. This isn’t your granddad’s Texas; it’s as cosmopolitan as the Big Apple or L.A., though it possesses something that both those areas lack: Good, old-fashioned Southern charm. Consider it aloha spirit, Texas style.

Admittedly, Dallas’ sophisticated-yet-warm persona is oft over- shadowed by past depictions. The whole cast of clichés-J.R. Ewing, oil derricks, ladies with big hair and gentlemen bragging about their even bigger bank accounts have become synonymous with Dallas. But now, these stereotypes are far more amusing than they are accurate.

Here, flourishing downtown is home to some of the country’s top-rated restaurants and hotels. Our most recent nearby addition, the much talked-about Cowboys Stadium-and the biggest HD TV in the world-has invariably cast a global gaze on Dallas (you’d be surprised how many Europeans arrive here on vacation). And while there are plenty of diversions, it’s best to have good game plan. Here are a few suggestions that’ll give you a taste of the finer things Dallas has to offer.

If you’re looking for a place to hang your hat, hotel selections run the gamut, from the always-sleek W Hotel to the posh Ritz-Carlton. However, the historic Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, nestled in the heart of one Dallas’ most-exclusive neighborhoods, is a favorite for both local patrons and frequent visitors. After its recent multimillion-dollar revamp, the Five-Star, Five-Diamond hotel (the only one in Texas) now boasts 143 restyled rooms (including 16 suites) that possess ultra-modern convenience while retaining the classic grandeur. Before turning in, enjoy a nightcap at the relaxed yet urbane Mansion Bar. A would-be haunt for modern-day Mad Men, the bar is a great place for any mover and shaker to unwind.

For those of you who prefer to stay somewhere with equally sumptuous trappings and the added bonus of a hopping nightlife, check into the exotic Hotel ZaZa.

The luxury boutique hotel is yet another Texas original-complete with themed concept suites (think Orient, African safari or elegant metropolitan) and its most-exclusive offering, The Magnificent Seven Suites. Each of the seven multi-room suites also carry various themed décor throughout, in addition to private entrances, full kitchens and other choice upgrades. The hotel is also home to see-and-be-seen restaurant Dragonfly, as well as the adjoining poolside lounge, which becomes an after-hours hotspot for glam Dallasites and intrepid travelers alike. If you’re looking for the beautiful people, this is where they hang their big hats.

When it comes to dinner options, Dallas touts some of the best dining experiences around. Here, you’ll find restaurants that make use of locally grown produce, fresh seafood and ounce after juicy ounce of mouthwatering steaks, cooked to perfection.

At Uptown Dallas’ Abacus, owner and James Beard Award- winning chef Kent Rathbun dazzles with his aptly named “global cuisine.” An excellent dining option for seasoned gourmands, the highly acclaimed restaurant successfully offers flavors from different parts of the world sans sacrificing the distinction of a particular region. Sushi is on the menu-and Abacus is perhaps the only place in town that can get away with serving exceptional cuts of sashimi without being exclusively a Japanese restaurant. But you’ll also find melt-in- your-mouth fois gras; wood-grilled ono with Wagyu beef dumplings in a white soy-lemongrass broth; and Espelette pepper-seared venison served with a creamy roasted garlic mousseline. But no meal is complete without an order of Abacus’ famous lobster “shooters,” served with red chile-coconut sake. In a word: exquisite.

A recent addition to the Dallas dining scene is Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck. Located in Reunion Tower, the revolving restaurant sits 50 stories above downtown-complete with 360-degree views of the city from every table. As for the stigma that usually comes with rooftop/revolving restos? It doesn’t apply here. Spago fans familiar with Puck’s Asian-influenced fare won’t be disappointed with entrées like wok-fried sea bass (skillfully deboned tableside), grilled “Mongolian” lamb chops, and Chinese duckling served with a blood orange-port wine sauce.

Although Dallas maybe a city slicker’s dream, sister city Fort Worth likes to keep things a little more country. Less than an hour away from Big D, it’s the only place you where you’ll find cowboys, cattle drives, boot shops and some of the area’s best barbecue… all along the same strip at The Fort Worth Stockyards. If you have time for the mini-excursion, it’s worth the drive. Besides, on the way there, you’ll come across another Cowboys’ home-the NFL kind.

Located in Arlington (a mid city between Dallas and Fort Worth), the 3-million-square-foot structure can be seen from miles away. Its cutting-edge design and accoutrements continue to make headlines, from its 100,000-person capacity, to its retractable roof (the larg- est one of its kind), to that famous HD TV. Few know that within the confines of the awe-striking, testosterone-pumping stadium is also one of the finest collections of contemporary art in the country. Tours are available daily, and it’s the best way to see VIP lounges, the Cowboys’ locker rooms.

After enjoying the refinement of Uptown Dallas, the cowboy charm of its surrounding areas and you’ve tossed a few passes across Arlington’s 50 yard marker, it’ll be safe to say you’ve “ridden with the best” of Texas.

Abacus, 4511 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, TX 75205, (214) 559-311, www.kentrathbun.com | Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck, 300 Reunion Boulevard East, Dallas, TX 75207-4409, (214) 741-5560, www.wolfgangpuck.com | Hotel ZaZa, 2332 Leonard Street | Dallas, TX 75201-2020, (800) 597-8399, www.hotelzaza.com | The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. | Dallas, TX 75219 , (214) 559-2100, www.mansiononturtlecreek.com, Cowboys Stadium, 925 N Collins St | Arlington, TX 76011, (817) 892-4161, stadium.dallascowboys.com, Fort Worth Stockyards, 130 East Exchange Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76164, (817) 624-4741, www.fortworthstockyards.org