The last time I visited Dallas, around 1988 or '89, the West End was very much a happenin' place. There was every kind of bar and restaurant one could imagine, and they were all packed, every night of the week. My, how things have changed.
I've just spent the past two nights in Dallas, and I couldn't have been more disappointed. The West End is nearly a ghost town. Tumbleweeds blowing down the streets would not have been out of place. Sure, there are still a few tourists and business travelers who've strayed a couple of blocks too far from the infamous Dealey Plaza, but they all seem to have a "what the hell are we doing here?" look on their faces.
Most of the eateries and watering holes of which I have fond memories are gone, and a few big corporate chains like TGI Fridays and On the Border have moved in. Sure, The Palm is still there and seems to be doing a decent business, but Dick's Last Resort has moved, and Dallas Alley is nothing more than, well, an alley.
Last night, I went to Hoffbrau Steaks and got a beer at the bar and headed out to the patio, since one no longer has the liberty of smoking indoors in Dallas. I figured on asking for a menu and having dinner (and maybe another tasty Hoffbrau Oktoberfest beer or two) before heading back to my hotel.
I sat down at a table on the patio at around 6:15PM, sipped my beer, and waited for one of the five or six waiters tending the patio to come my way so I could look at the menu. By around 6:45, my beer was gone and I continued to wait. At this point, I had no intention of spending another dime there, but I was curious how long it would take for someone to notice me.
Finally, at around 7:30, a gentleman who looked like he might have been the manager came to my table and asked if I needed anything. I proceeded to describe the past hour of my life to him, and explained that no, I had no desire to give Hoffbrau Steaks any more of my money. I left and went in search of more hospitable surroundings.
Rounding a corner, I came across another establishment which shall remain nameless, not because it's a strip joint or anything like that, but because they allow their patrons to smoke. More accurately, they don't actively prevent their patrons from smoking. I've come across a couple of places like this in California, but I think their proprietors have since been herded off to camps. But since the anti-smoking Fatwa is only a few months old in Dallas, there are still some foolish souls who think they can resist oppression...er, progress, that is.
So I sit down, order a beer (and light up a smoke), and start perusing the menu. After my dinner, I chatted with the bartender for a bit. He lamented how the West End had already seen a bit of a decline in popularity, but since the smoking ban went into effect, it's been dead (queue the tumbleweeds). I guess their passive defiance of the smoking ban is as much a statement as it is a bid to remain solvent.
I sincerely hope that the West End recovers, because it was once such a great place to spend an evening. But unless service improves and the whiz kids running the city of Dallas realize they're not everyone's mother, I don't see much hope.