The Big Deal

If you've never been to Dallas, you might think that oil wells, cattle ranches and the grassy knoll adjacent to where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated are the only attractions. But take it from a local, there's more to see than what appears on "Dallas" reruns.

Dallas was founded in 1841 with the establishment of John Nealy Bryan's trading post on the upper Trinity River. According to legend, the town was named Dallas two years later as a tribute to a male resident with that name. Thereafter, the city built a reputation as a commercial hub, home to some of the nation's most well-known business success stories.

The city also is the site where an eager inventor at Texas Instruments (TI) created the microchip. And, the world's largest operator, franchisor and licensor of convenience stores - the Southland Corporation - started in Dallas in 1927. The company's first store stood on the corner of Edgefield and 12th Street. That store, along with others in the chain, now is known worldwide as 7-Eleven.

Dallas Got Games The Big D's spirit of success has carried over to sports, with just about every major sport represented. While the Dallas Cowboys are renown - they managed to win three Super Bowl titles this decade - the locals also are proud of their Texas stadium and baseball, hockey and soccer teams.

The Texas Rangers (baseball) hold their own. And both the Dallas Stars (hockey) and the Dallas Burn (soccer) competed in playoff games in recent years.

The Dallas Mavericks (basketball) play at downtown Reunion Arena, but aside from a playoff berth in the 1980s, the team never has been much of a contender. In fact, the Mavericks were so bad a few years ago that one sports writer nicknamed them, "The Titanic of basketball."

The Cowboys won't be playing during WasteExpo, but the Rangers and the Burn will be. The Rangers play at the new ballpark in Arlington, located at the junction of Texas Highway 360 and Interstate 30.

A Tale of Six Nations While Dallas may be well-represented by sports teams, there is a lot more to see than just another game.

One of the main attractions is the The Sixth Floor museum located downtown. Situated on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, this is the site where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the shot that killed President Kennedy. The museum offers films, photos and original documents examining the life and death of Kennedy. Museum-goers also can examine the grassy knoll and debate whether conspirators once stood there.

Another downtown historical treasure is the Old City Park Museum. Operated by the Dallas County Heritage Society, the museum sits on a 13-acre park and features restored buildings from the city's early days.

There's also Six Flags Over Texas, one of the only amusement parks to have earned every word in its name. Texas was ruled by six different nations: France, Mexico, Spain, the Confederacy, the United States and The Republic of Texas, the name Texas called itself when it was an independent nation prior to joining the Union.

Where's the Beef (Barbeque)? Dallas also is home to excellent local cuisine, which in Texas translates to good barbecue. The most famous local eatery is Sonny Bryan's, a long-time staple for hickory-smoked barbecue. With several locations, Sonny Bryan's specializes in beef brisket, pork ribs and a beef-stuffed baked potato. Try to hit the restaurant early, though - cooks reportedly prepare just enough fresh food to last the day. If they run out, the place closes.

Dickey's Barbecue is another local favorite, serving up a thick, red sauce on beef brisket and smoked sausage. There also is a buffet where diners can feast on "healthy" vegetables, such as fried okra and mashed potatoes with gravy.

Also, Peggy Sue BBQ is worth a meal. Just across the street from the Southern Methodist University Law School Library in University Park, Peggy Sue serves oak-smoked beef brisket and chicken in a 1950s setting. University Park is a dry community, so diners must purchase a club membership for a small fee to drink alcoholic beverages.

Where's the Beef (Steak)? Texas is well-known for its historic cattle drives and ranches, and the beef shows it.

A favorite Texas chain is Hoffbrau Steaks, a no-frills eatery that offers thick steaks and delicious chicken salads. A huge glass of sweet tea or a Texas beer, such as Shiner Bock or Lone Star, will go well with your dinner.

Another legendary steak place that's unlikely to break your budget is the Trail Dust Steak House. It's a drive from downtown, but the barn atmosphere and communal tables can be fun. Be sure not to wear your favorite tie because the restaurant is famous for cutting off patrons' ties and pinning them to the wall with a business card.

If you prefer a more formal eatery, Bob's Steak and Chop House is slightly more expensive. A favorite with all, Bob's tasty steaks and racks of lamb have won the hearts of food critics.

If you're not looking for local flavor, Dallas also offers well-known steak houses such as Morton's of Chicago and Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Tex-Mex Anyone? The city also is home to Tex-Mex, a spicy Mexican food that's the state's original flavor.

Perhaps the most famous local Mexican restaurant is Joe T. Garcias, located 30 miles west of Dallas in Fort Worth. It has made a name for itself as a no-frills, family style eatery that does not even provide a printed menu for guests.

The food is excellent, but guests need cash because Joe T's doesn't accept credit cards. While in Fort Worth, visit Billy Bob's, where you can see a mini-Rodeo, try a mechanical bull, drink longnecks and do the two-step.

If you're looking to stay closer to the Expo hall, try Casa Dominguez. Be sure to order the chili con queso - a great complement to practically anything on their menu.

For something with a more upscale flair, try Mi Concina, where the fajitas and tamales are tasty, followed by the flan for dessert. The nicer decor adds to the price, however, Mi Concina still is affordable.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Herreras, which serves meals on plastic plates. The enchiladas and the bright green margaritas - called "neon green zap juice" by one local - are worth the experience.

Bring on the Nightlife There are at least two great neighborhoods in downtown Dallas with a lively nightlife.

Although not a typical hangout for locals, the West End Historic District on Lamar Street is a fun place to relax after a long day on the Expo floor. Alley Cats, which features two "dueling" pianos, provides an environment where it's easy to unwind and get caught up in the show.

If you're looking for a rowdier time, stop by Dick's Last Resort for a burger, a bucket of beer and live local music. It's also great for Sunday morning brunch, complete with a rock gospel group.

A few blocks east of the West End is Deep Ellum, an old warehouse district at Commerce and Hall streets. In the past few years, Deep Ellum has been reborn as the "alternative" area of town, featuring hip clubs and interesting bars with up-and-coming artists.

To get a taste of the local flavor, try the Art Bar & Cafe. Here, you can sip on a beer or a cup of coffee, and view the latest work by local and regional artists.

Whatever you decide to do, Dallas will welcome you with open arms, offering lots of fun and local flavor.WA