One doesn’t usually consider fun synonymous with the police department. But in the Cedars neighborhood of Dallas, a small set of streets just south of downtown, people fill businesses and offices during the day, and flock to restaurants, bars, and music venues at night—all a stone’s throw from the authorities.

At the intersection of South Lamar Street and Belleview Street sits the headquarters for the Dallas Police Department, a sprawling building that opened in 2003 to house the operations for the city’s 3,000-plus police force.

DPD Sgt. Warren Mitchell noted that the development was slow moving for a while, but it’s great to see the new restaurants, businesses, and condos give new life to the area.

“The development is definitely good for the economy, it’s a good feeling to see this kind of growth,” Mitchell said.  “We enjoy having somewhere to go grab a cup of coffee, and see people out walking their dogs or going to one of the local businesses. It’s great seeing people out and to be a part of it all.”

At the other three corners of that block, just across from the DPD headquarters, sit great opportunities for food, drink, and fun, signaling the area’s continuing rise as one of the city’s destination neighborhoods.

A hotel with a view

Situated diagonally from the police headquarters, The NYLO Dallas South Side is one of five locations of the Dallas-based NYLO Hotel chain. The building that houses the NYLO was built in 1919, and the hotel still sports exposed brick and cinderblock walls, pairing nicely with the space’s ultramodern décor and vibe. At the front of the lobby sits Terrace Bistro, where diners can enjoy a full breakfast buffet for $19, or Belgian waffles, steak and eggs, and huevos rancheros for less. At lunch and dinner, choose from a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and full entrees such as herb-roasted chicken and grilled salmon. Atop the five floors of the hotel lies one of the best pools with a view in the city. The SODA Bar is a must-see just for the panoramic spread of the Dallas skyline. Visitors can sit next to the rooftop pool, enjoy a cold drink, and take in one of the best views of the city.

downtown Dallas view from SODA bar pool lounge

Angela Patterson

Distribution center turned neighborhood jewel

The SouthSide at Lamar, now a location well-known for its spacious traditional lofts, was the original home of the first Sears & Roebuck warehouse built outside of Chicago. Constructed in 1910, the Sears Catalog Merchandise Center underwent several expansions over decades to eventually boast 1.2 million square feet, covering an entire city block. The building was the cornerstone of a neighborhood that was once home to wealthy and middle-class families, but like so many urban neighborhoods across the United States, saw increasing blight as the decades passed.

The last Sears package was shipped from the Merchandise Center in 1993, and developer Jack Mathews started to build out his vision for the Cedars neighborhood by converting the old Sears location into lofts. The complex opened in 2000, and ever since has been home to hundreds of residents and a couple of hidden gems for food and drink.

Opening Bell Coffee sits closest to the corner of S. Lamar and Belleview, and is a busy spot for those looking to take a break or work away from the office. However, the real draw here is the live music–Opening Bell has one of Dallas’ longest-running open mic nights on Tuesdays. Music fans from around the city come by to enjoy a coffee or a beer from one of Dallas’ local breweries to see up and coming talent.

Tucked behind Opening Bell is Checkered Past Winery, a modern space housing one of Texas’ newest wine labels. Sandro DiSanto and his brother-in-law, Scott Relyea, purposely designed the interior so the building’s giant cement columns could be part of the wine pub’s décor, rather than something to be hidden.

And as winemakers, they take that same approach to their wine offerings, keeping a carefully-curated list of 60 or 70 wines where the Checkered Past and other Texas labels get top billing.

“Other wine bars (in town) might have 300 wines, but how many of them are Texan?”, said DiSanto. “Texas wines are good, and others curating aren’t necessarily looking to showcase them. Our specialty is Texas wine. We’ve thrown the traditional model on its head–we’re featuring our wine, then Texas wine, and then wines around the world.”

DiSanto said the goal was to create a wine bar that was accessible—a neighborhood spot where everyone can find something they like. For those not fond of the grapes, the small plates and 20 local beers on the menu can please the palate.

“One of the house rules is to drink what you like, and support local,” DiSanto said.

Dallas Checkered Past Winery house rules

Angela Patterson

A new take on Mexican food

Monica Greene came into the Cedars Social on a slow night and sat at the bar. As the 22-year restaurant veteran looked out onto downtown Dallas, she wondered why it wasn’t busy. Retired for eight years, she thought the location perfect for an idea she had.

“I could buy this and make it great,” she said. Just days later, she was the new owner of the space.

Along with her group of investors, popular bar manager Leann Berry and rising star chef Anastacia Quinones, Greene set out to offer a new concept: a style of Mexican food that paid homage to her native Mexico City.

“Our team here–our goal—is good food and good service,” Greene said. “We’re not looking to create another Mexican restaurant in the Mecca of great Tex-Mex. We’re here to create a unique, sustainable, responsible approach to food with fresh ingredients, made from scratch by hand, using local growers and purveyors so this can be recognized as a place to get good food and drinks.”

“I’ve been in town 40 years–you have to go to Mexico City to get this food in this environment we’ve created. If you want a real modern Mexican food experience, this is your option,” Greene said.

The clean, minimalist décor is a foil to the upscale Mexican dishes. Greene pointed out the Cochinita pibil as a signature dish, a braised pork shank served with Achiote lentils, arugula, and Xni-pec salsa, a fresh, chunky blend of tomatoes and onions resembling pico de gallo. The ceviche, full of snapper, coconut, pineapple, lime, cilantro and serrano peppers is another standout. The wine list and menu of craft margaritas and cocktails are not what you’ll typically find in most Dallas Mexican restaurants.

upscale Mexican food at Cedars Social in Dallas

Angela Patterson

Greene loves the diversity of this area, and the collective awareness of how important it is to grow together. She realizes this part of town is still a destination for Dallas residents and visitors alike, but she chose this area because it’s full of dreamers who want to follow their passions and make something great.

“The people in the city of Dallas who are adventurous in the cities where they travel should be just as adventurous in the city where they live,” Greene said. “We put up these imaginary barriers. People will walk on a dark street alone in Madrid, but won’t drive the 15 minutes on the freeway to go to a different part of town. This is one of the last bastions of our city. (Coming here) is a chance to be part of the growth-to be able to say in 10 years ‘I remember the Cedars when’”.

More to Do in Dallas

You Only Have 4 More Years to Visit One of Dallas' Last Community-Focused Bars
New Culinary Delights Come to Historic Jefferson Boulevard
These Dallas Wine Bars Specialize in Wine By-the-Glass

Header image courtesy of Pixabay.

See more articles