Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tex Mex, New Mex, and 3200 Miles of Pavement, Part 3

"I saw miles and miles of Texas, all the stars up in the sky..."
- from the song Miles and Miles of Texas recorded by Bob Wills

That's right, once we entered the Lone Star State, we still had about seven hours of driving before reaching our destination (feel free to review town names on the previous post). In addition to some quality time with the family in Arlington, we soaked up some of the good stuff that the Dallas - Fort Worth "metroplex" has to offer. That is to say we shopped, ate and even hit a couple of museums.

Like a devout member of a faith, we made a pilgrimage to one of a few Tex-Mex alters. First up: Matt's Rancho Martinez, or Matt's. Tex-Mex is not Mexican food. It is not baja-style food, it is not Sonoran-style food, nor is it the largely flavorless glop available throughout the country dispensed by large national "Tex-Mex" chains. Tex-Mex can be gloppy, but flavorless, not so. Matt's offers Tex-Mex in a pure form. Tex-Mex, as the name implies contains both Texican and Mexican influence...cowboy food meets Mexican food. Case in point: Matt's chicken-fried steak, Tampiquena style. Oh yes. Tender fried beef covered in a spicy tomatillo sauce served with creamy refried beans, rice and a couple of fresh flour tortillas. You won't find this in Mexico, but you will find it here and you will find it tasty and good.

In Fort Worth on another afternoon, we trade eating and shopping for eating and looking at art. Again - this is a land of kooky one afternoon in Fort Worth we enjoy a juicy burger and home made fries (next door to a museum that is devoted to the Leonard's department store, which once occupied seven downtown blocks in this city), then we head over to the truly world-class Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth which is housed in a stunning structure designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

First, the Burger. The M&O Station Grill resides in a nondescript and newly constructed strip center that it shares with the Leonard's Museum and a screen printing shop. T-shirt with your burger? Why yes, thank you. In addition to the tasty burger (which was your classic, hand-patty thin style on a fresh bun), the fresh and thickly cut french fries were perfect. The grill's name comes from a Fort Worth Oddity: the worlds only privately owned subway. In 1963, the aforementioned seven-block mega-department store, Leonard's, constructed the M&O subway below downtown Fort Worth to shuttle shoppers from the ample off-site parking lot to the heart of the downtown and the Leonard's empire. Walk next door to the Leonard's Museum and the golden age of retail awaits your discovery. Farm supplies and fur coats? Yup. Hair Salon and automotive parts? Check. It's all right there on one of the store directories now housed in the museum. Even better, the grand-daughter of one of the Leonard's founders walks us through the exhibits. A terrific and terrifically non-sequitur afternoon so far.

Now, the art. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth exists in a stunning setting. The concrete and glass structure is nearly surrounded, at it's base, by a reflecting pool. The soaring ceilings and smooth concrete walls provide the blank slate for a tremendous collection of modern art. The likes of Rothko, Warhol, de Kooning and other big names are represented within the warren of galleries on two floors.

On the return trip to Arlington, we forgo the interstate for a trip on Lancaster Avenue or old U.S. 80. The drive takes you through some of the forgotten areas of Fort Worth. Having once been the main east-west highway prior to the construction of the Interstate 30, the drive is a gold mine of neon hotel signs and dried-up service stations. Also along the route is a place known only to locals and Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists: Rose Hill cemetery - the "alleged" burial place of Lee Harvey Oswald. Thanks in part to Google and a smart phone we find Oswald's exact plot in minutes. A simple granite gravestone marked only "Oswald" marks the burial site. Strangely, the plot next to Oswald's is another stone marked only "Nick Beef." Wow. This is way more road trip oddness than I could have hoped for in one afternoon. Tasty hand-made burger and fries, department-store/private subway museum, stunning architecture, sublime and wonderful modern art, a side trip by Oswald's grave and now this...Nick Beef? Go figure.

Thanks, Dallas-Fort Worth for a great couple of days.

Next we head to San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country.

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