On February 6, the USA's greatest sporting event's coming to Dallas – Arlington, actually – when Cowboys Stadium hosts Super Bowl XLV (that's Roman for 45, we had to look it up too) between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. But locally there's a bigger smack-down, eternally played and never quite settled, between the D and FW of DFW. Which is better? Dallas, smart and oil-moneyed, or Fort Worth, its country cousin with cows and westward saunter?
We thought we'd let you settle it. Here's our nominees for why both are worth stopping by.
Dallas. Just outside downtown, the Belmont Hotel is a stylish 1940s bungalow-style hotel that works in Moroccan-blue tile, B movies and the look and feel of a Marlene Dietrich hangout.
Fort Worth. Open since 1907, the Stockyards Hotel wears full-on Western digs, complete with a Bonnie-and-Clyde suite with bullet holes in the shuttered windows and Bonnie's (apparently real) gun encased by the bed. Best place to stay if you're itching for honky-tonk. And who isn't?
Top timeless eat
Dallas. In The Highland Park (they don't use the distinguishing defining article, though residents have acted like it was there for 50 years), the Highland Park Pharmacy (3299 Knox St; closed Sun) is a soda fountain wearing its 1912 birthday on its sleeve. Eternal bliss for a lunch-time malt and grilled cheese. Don't let any drip on your Gucci socks though.
Fort Worth. Some say the Paris Coffee Shop, a couple miles east of the TCU campus, is North Texas' best diner breakfast. It's been attracting a cross-section of Fort Worth since 1927. Owner Mike Smith told me their French toast is so special because we use 'real French toast, not the gummy Texas toast you see elsewhere.'
Dallas. Downtown is forever linked with JFK's assassination, and you can fill the bulk of a day bouncing between JFK sites, including the JFK Memorial (on N Market St), the Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza, and especially the Sixth Floor Museum, made from the old Book Depository. The museum offers a minute-by-minute detail of what happened, using eyewitness photo, video and audio clips, along with chilling views of the white 'X' that marks the spot on Elm Street where the president was shot in 1963.
Fort Worth. Part of its surprising Cultural District (on Bowie Ave, west of downtown), the Kimbell Art Museum is, some say, the best 'small' art museum in the US, with a lovely naturally lit space for its Cezanne, Michelangelo and Caravaggio pieces. Its buffet lunch in its tranquil courtyard is one of Fort Worth's favorite dining pleasures. Plus entrance is free!
Dallas. The city MIGHT be named for James K Polk's forgotten vice president, George Mifflin Dallas, a Pennsylvanian who joined the Tennessean Polk's support of Texan statehood.
Fort Worth. Originally settled in 1849 as Camp Worth, the fort came when more military presence was needed on the Texas frontier. It was so saucy by the end of the 1800s (bars, brothels, gunshots del noche), that Texas Christian University uprooted its campus to less sinful settings until Fort Worth put the 'worth' back into 'worthy.'
Something wild (sort of)
Dallas. OK, it's not that wild, but it's a bit of a hoot. Atop the Landmark Theater, the Balcony Club in La Vista is a (not that) mysterious bar with a tiny stage that stages nightly jazz shows that draw cocktail-drinking locals ready to mingle. Well worth a night.
Fort Worth. The city's not known as Cowtown for nothing. And the place to be, near the Stockyards, is the world's largest honky-tonk, Billy Bob's. Its 40 bars can serve up to 6000 visitors, complete with country music concerts, live bull riding on weekend nights, and plenty of beer. Well worth a lifetime.
Uh, are we still in Texas?
Dallas. Just northeast of town, Garland offers some of the best Vietnamese food in the country. The place for pho (beef noodle soup) following a strict Saigon formula is Pho Bang (3565 W Walnut St, Garland), snuggled into a nondescript strip mall. Seriously, it's really good, as lines out the door on Sundays attest.
Fort Worth. Cowtown often plays up to its name – its spur-jangled offerings could fill a guidebook – but few visitors realize how that Fort Worth's Cultural District isn't joking around. Other than the Kimbell, the Modern Museum of Fort Worth is the real looker, a shimmering glass sculpture with reflecting pools and packed with a real-deal modern art collection including Andy Warhol's Twenty-Five Colored Marilyns.