From food trucks to fine art, Dallas is the rising star of the Lone Star State

Austin is getting overhyped. Head to Dallas, where a rising cultural hub retains its Texas twang

Truck Yard, a food truck gathering spot, in Dallas

Dallas’s Truck Yard is food truck heaven. (William Joseph Neal Jr.)

The fruits of the American laissez-faire ethos—brought to such sour ends by the right to bear arms—can be found at their sweetest in a giant backyard bar a few blocks north of downtown Dallas. At Truck Yard, where a trio of food trucks surround a grassy enclosure of picnic tables and lawn chairs, everyone has the right to eat cheesesteak, drink microbrews and hang out with their dog—health codes and hygiene best practices be damned.

A city long known to tourists as a place to shop, watch football and contemplate a grassy knoll, Dallas has emerged in recent years as a surprisingly interesting and sophisticated travel destination. But unlike its much-hyped neighbour, Austin, Dallas remains distinctly Texan. And at Truck Yard all those Texans mingle in unlikely ways.

On a recent Friday afternoon, preppies from nearby Southern Methodist University—with their sorority hair and big white American teeth—shared tables with Brooklyn-style hipsters, young lawyers and a cadre of punk lesbians playing cards. The dining is standard, if creative, food-truck fare—crawfish, gumbo, gyros and sliders. But the real attraction is the beer. There are 24 taps at Truck Yard, pouring local, or otherwise microbrewed, gems like Revolver Bock, and Milk Stout, from Colorado’s Left Hand brewery.

The city offers more than just fancy beers. Buoyed by oil money and an evolving population, Dallas has emerged as perhaps the most important fine arts hub in the American South. In March, New York’s renowned Public Theater chose Dallas to debut its highly anticipated musical adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel Fortress of Solitude. Meanwhile, the city’s beaux-arts architecture is an attraction unto itself: in a single block in downtown Dallas, you can admire both the Adolphus, once called “the most beautiful building west of Venice,” and the Magnolia, an old oil company headquarters restored in the late 1990s and reopened as a boutique hotel. (Be sure to look up and check out the spinning neon Pegasus—once the symbol of Magnolia oil—on the roof.)

Walk several blocks north and you’ll find the city’s sprawling arts district and its jewel, the Nasher Sculpture Center. There, you can wander through the Renzo Piano–designed garden home to reveal a jaw-dropping collection of modern and contemporary sculpture, including pieces by Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning. When you’re done there, you can go next door to the Dallas Museum of Art, where pieces by mid-century masters like Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko alone justify the visit.

Even the BBQ scene, long decried by much of the state as second rate, is gaining attention. Last year, Texas Monthly’s BBQ editor, Daniel Vaughn, named Pecan Lodge, a barbecue pit launched by a pair of Accenture management consultants in the Dallas Farmers Market, the second best in Texas. “There’s really no better time than right now to be coming to Dallas to eat BBQ.”