On an unseasonably cool evening, I pulled into a street-side parking spot and made the short walk to Mandalay Canal Walk at Las Colinas. The outdoors walkways are shaded and full of Old World charm. Parts of the canals reminded me of the towering alleyways of Florence, Italy. I stopped by a vendor, Stephen’s Sweet Sensations, and asked what an Italian Ice was.
“Where are you from?” a friendly lady named Mary prodded.
She went on to teach me that the icy treats are part and parcel of living in her home of Chicago. As fall settles in, she explained that the area comes to life. Dozens of vendors, ranging from fortune-tellers and artisans to taco and barbecue vendors, will begin lining the waterways as part of Mandalay Canal Street Market. The bucolic and charming canal is a beautiful bastion of peacefulness amidst the dense city surroundings. I told Mary and Stephen that I’d be back soon.
My next stop was OUTLAW Taproom at the Four Seasons Resort and Club. Parking (free with validation) was a breeze. The interior of the bar featured photos of Stevie Ray Vaughn, ZZ Top, Janis Joplin and other famous Texas “outlaw” musicians. I sat on the breezy outdoor patio and ordered a Fort Worth beer, Wild Acre Brewing Company’ Billy Jenkin’s bock. Cover band Aspen Creek kept the mood festive with tunes ranging from Billy Joel and Fleetwood Mack to the Beatles and more Beatles. A few of the tunes drew patrons to sing onstage. The #FSSoundstage features live music Thursdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
NOSH & BOTTLE MARKET
I saved Nosh & Bottle Market for dinner having seen the amazing spread they offer. I love spots that blend concepts that make sense. Cities are often de facto food deserts where grocery stores or farmer’s markets are hard to come by. Nosh & Bottle at the Toyota Music Factory is a great destination for light artisan grocery shopping. On my visit, a talented singer-songwriter lightly strummed popular tunes nearby. A cabinet of board games and a half-finished puzzle lent a communal feel to the restaurant.
I ordered the Bacon and Brie, the filling but not belt-busting sandwich came packed with hickory-smoked bacon, creamy brie, grilled onions, spinach and apricot jam on ciabatta buns. The nutty, buttery slices of brie were the perfect culinary foil to the sweet jam. I don’t usually use the word transcendent with sandwiches, but this entree was transcendently delicious, and the staff was attentive and cheerful.
TWO MULES CANTINA & TEQUILA BAR
A short walk across the street at the Texican Court, Two Mules Cantina and Tequila Bar was serving up Tex-Mex favorites, shots of top-shelf tequila and specialty cocktails. The food isn’t your typical greasy cheese enchilada fare. Diners here are treated to vintage Mexican dishes with new-age twists, like the Cochinita Pibil, Michelada Ceviche and Queso Flameado. With the quality of Two Mules Cantina, Nosh and Bottle and the other presumably equally superlative restaurants, I’d put Irving’s quality of dining as some of the best DFW has to offer.
MORE TO EXPLORE
Irving offers plenty of daytime activities as well. Visiting families will want to schedule time to visit the Jackie Townsell Heritage Center, a facility that honors the history of freed slaves who settled in the area, Ruth Paine House Museum, which became the center of investigation following the assassination of President John Kennedy and the captivating Mustangs of Las Colinas.
Admittedly, my trip only touched on part of all that Irving has to offer. Anyone traveling to DFW for a weekend or longer would do well to choose this city to stay over in. Irving is centrally located, which makes trips to Grapevine, Dallas and Fort Worth a relative breeze.