Appreciating the unique, fun and beautiful things our neighborhood has to offer
We trust our readers are familiar with neighborhood institutions such as Aunt Stelle’s, El Ranchito, Lake Cliff Park, Belmont Hotel and, of course, our luxurious new friend Margaret Hunt Hill, the bridge. If not, welcome! We’re so glad to have you in the neighborhood. This story is dedicated to the esoteric set, you who ask for the cold salsa at Gonzalez and know the combination to the pool’s gate at a certain hotel. We challenge you, our neighbors, to be tourists in your own backyard. Start by tackling this list of Oak Cliff musts.
The Kessler Theater
1230 W. Davis, 214.272.8346
You’ve heard of the Kessler. You drive by it. But too many people say they haven’t seen a show there yet. Is it because you’ve never heard of the band that’s playing? Go see it anyway. All of the Kessler’s concerts are lovingly curated by Jeff Liles, whom the Dallas Observer named “Best Forrest Gump.” Just trust him.
The Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson, 214.948.1546
It’s so much more than just a movie theater. There are dance parties, bar-art nights, lectures, bands, comedians, art exhibits, record-club nights. And also, movies — first-run blockbusters, repertoire films, classic films shown on 35-mm prints. The Texas has it all.
Bishop Arts Theater, 215 S. Tyler, 214.948.0716
This tiny theater is one of the only places to see plays in Oak Cliff, and they’re often written and produced by local playwrights. The TeCo theater company also brings jazz performances, produces an annual new play competition and offers a theater-arts summer camp.
Top Ten Records
338. W. Jefferson, 214.942.7595
Back in the ’50s and ’60s, music lovers could dig through LPs and 45s in more than half a dozen shops in Oak Cliff. Only Top Ten Records still stands, a relic of analog times. Former owner Dub Stark used to say that police officer J.D. Tippit used the phone at the end of the counter just before he was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald following the Kennedy assassination. Most JFK assassination experts doubt that story. But Lee Harvey Oswald apparently did buy a ticket at Top Ten Records to Dick Clark’s show at Dallas Memorial Auditorium, Nov. 22, 1963. Stark also said that Tippit and Oswald assassin Jack Ruby were regular customers. Mike Polk has owned Top Ten since about 1965. He remembers customers’ names, and has a lot of stories to tell.
Also see: The Oak Cliff Cultural Center, 223 W. Jefferson, 214.670.3777
The Texas Theatre and Top Ten Records are two historical spots on Jefferson, but the Oak Cliff Cultural Center is the new guy on the block. The center relocated to Jefferson about two years ago, and it regularly offers art exhibits and performances, plus dance and music lessons for children.
The peacocks of Beckley Club Estates
Beckley and North Shore
No one is sure how the peacocks got there, but there are a lot of them. Take a bike ride across Zang and into this charming little ’hood to peep the peacocks. There are lots of other fowl too, including chickens, turkeys and ducks.
The ducks of Kidd Springs Park, Tyler and Canty
These are urban ducks. They do not suffer non-bread-havers. Bring them crumbs, and they will be your pets.
Houston Street Viaduct
This 100-year-old bridge is closing soon for construction. The Oak Cliff streetcar will be coming across the bridge sometime in 2014. So enjoy this bit of Dallas history before it is changed. Take a sunrise walk across the bridge. Or be even more adventurous and ride a bike across the Jefferson Street Viaduct and then back across the Houston Street bridge. We suggest wearing a helmet and having a barbecue lunch at Pecan Lodge in the Dallas Farmers Market.
The Downtown view from Stevens Park Golf Course, Colorado at Plymouth
Early in the morning, the mist rises off the perfect grass, and the sun comes over the Dallas skyline. It’s one of our neighborhood’s most beautiful vistas, and it’s adjacent to the Second Christian Science Church, an architectural treasure.
413 W. Jefferson, 214.942.6806
You know the steer, but when was the last time you actually ate there? At Charco Broiler, a steak lunch with salad, baked potato, Texas toast and iced tea costs less than $12. The cafeteria-style restaurant also offers several burgers and sandwiches, with fries and a drink, for under $5.
The vampiro bloody mary at Mesa, 118 W. Jefferson, 214.941.4246
This bloody mary will melt your face off. It contains ghost peppers. If you can finish it in less than 30 minutes, it’s free.
Half-price taco Tuesdays at Café Maya, 1001 W. Jefferson, 214.948.9900
Every taco is $1.50 or less on Tuesdays at Café Maya. Try the crispy pork carnitas tacos, which come with a drop of guacamole. Ask for the habanero salsa.
The Trinity River Audubon Center
6500 Great Trinity Forest Way, 214.398.8722
This urban wildlife sanctuary is about a 20-minute drive away. It offers birding, hiking, nature classes and Citizen Science, a program in which the public is invited to help professional scientists monitor the changes in biodiversity at the center. Adult admission costs $6. Senior admission costs $4, and children ages 3-12 are admitted for $3.
Trinity River Expeditions, 214.941.1757
Once you cross the trash raft, the Trinity River has a lot to offer in the way of natural exploration. Oak Cliff resident Charles Allen offers monthly canoe trips on the Trinity River. Guided tours cost $50 per person, and renting a canoe for a self-guided trip costs $60.
Santa Fe Trestle Trail, 1837 E. Eighth
This is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the Trinity River. Ride a bike or park your car at the DART rail station and explore the trails. A trestle crosses the river and winds up near an industrial area of South Dallas. It’s worth crossing for the views of Downtown and the Trinity greenbelt.
Twelve Hills Nature Center, Mary Cliff at Kyle
Just a few years ago, this little nature center was the site of a crime-ridden apartment complex. Now it is a privately owned park that’s open to the public. The 5-acre center features a short hiking trail and is home to a host of native plants and wildlife.
LaGrange Snow Cones
400 W. Commerce
Our neighborhood’s iconic snow cone stand, Aunt Stelle’s, is an annual ritual. We’ll wait in line for half an hour, dripping
sweat, just for that fine, fine sugary ice. But old Aunt Stelle is not the only game in town. LaGrange Snow Cones opened in a trailer adjacent to the Chicken Scratch, on Commerce at Pittman, this past summer. The stand offers shaved ice with a kick — they will add a free shot of booze to any snow cone. Try the $30,000 millionaire, which contains grape syrup and mango rum.
Cool and Hot, 930A E. Eighth, 214.944.5330
It’s a taquería/snow-cone stand, with a drive-through, inside a former gas station. The menu of snow-cone flavors is long and colorful and includes sugary delights named spongebob and pimp juice.
Rainbow Snow, 5330 Singleton
This little snow-cone shack is a bit outside the neighborhood, but totally worth it for snow cones topped with fruit or even diced pickles.
Clyde Barrow’s grave
Western Heights Cemetery
1617 Fort Worth Ave.
Pour one out for Clyde and his brother, Buck, at Western Hills Cemetery. It’s traditional to leave them coins and maybe a little whiskey. The outlaws’ parents also are buried nearby.
Crown Hill Memorial Park, 9700 Webb Chapel Road
Bonnie and Clyde were never married, and they weren’t buried in the same cemetery. In fact, she was still married to her first husband at the time of her death at 23. Her headstone at this northwest Dallas cemetery reads, “As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, so the old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.”
Laurel Land Memorial Park, 6000 South R.L. Thornton Freeway
Blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan is buried at Laurel Land, but he’s not the only late musician there. Adamson High School alum B.W. Stevenson, who had several hits on the country charts in the ’70s, including “My Maria,” also is buried at Laurel Land. And so is Artie Glenn, who was known for writing the country song “Crying in the Chapel.”
The J.D. Tippit historical marker
Tenth and Patton
This is the site where several witnesses saw Lee Harvey Oswald gun down Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippit less than an hour after the JFK assassination. Thanks to the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, the Dallas school district and the Texas Historical Commission, our neighborhood now has an official tribute to Tippit. His widow, Marie, was on hand to dedicate the marker this past November.
Also see: Other JFK assassination-related sites
The rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley is where Oswald lived at the time of the assassination. The Circle Inn at 221 S. Ewing is where Jack Ruby lived at the time he killed Oswald on live television. The house at 214 W. Neely is where Oswald was photographed holding a rifle in the back yard; the photo appeared on the cover of Life magazine. The former Texaco station on E. Jefferson is where police found Oswald’s jacket.