We stood in front of the elevator wondering where it could lead. A little nervous, we stepped inside and let the doors close behind us.
I am a firm believer that the best way to see a new city is to spend a day walking around it. My Mom and I had just landed in Dallas, Texas. We were there for American Thanksgiving to see our favourite football team, The Dallas Cowboys play one of the most anticipated games of the year. Since the game was not for another two days, we decided to explore the city and see what Dallas had to offer.
We had been walking for a few hours when we came to a strange site. In the middle of the sidewalk, with nothing else around, was an elevator. Mom and I looked at each other and without saying a word, crossed the street to investigate some more. It was made of Marble, with gold doors and a black awning. The word “Dakota’s” was inscribed on the awning in white writing. Without even thinking, I pushed the elevator button. There was no way I was leaving Dallas and not finding where this elevator led. The gold doors parted and revealed a glass panel on the back of the elevator. There was only one button to push once inside.
I felt like I was going to be taken to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory
The elevator began to descend and a beautiful five tiered waterfall was brought into view. It cascaded from the street level down to a gorgeous, secluded patio with black iron tables, covered in white table cloths, and a lava rock fire pit. I turned around to face the doors as they opened and revealed two large black doors with gold handles. What was this place? We walked out of the elevator and towards the doors; I opened one and saw shining marble floors and rows of black tables with crispy white table clothes. To the right was an elegant black bar with leather bar stools.
“Hello, welcome to Dakota’s” a middle aged, well groomed man said as he appeared out of nowhere (or so it seemed to me). He didn’t look anything like Willy Wonka.
“Oh hello”, I said trying to not show how startled I was.
“We are not open yet, but you are welcome to look at a menu” he said, handing us each a large leather bound menu.
When you take time to follow your curiosity it can lead you to places you never knew existed.
The elevator had not taken us to a chocolate factory but somewhere even better, a steak house! It was perfect, we had wanted to go out for a really nice steak while in Texas and our curiosity led us straight down to one. We made reservations for the next night.
The next night, while the maître d’ led us to our table I couldn’t help but notice we were the only ones there. I peered behind the bar as we walked by to see if there would be any Oompa Loompas making our cocktails.
Our waiter was very nice and asked us if we were Canadian.
“How could you tell so fast?” I asked.
I had not even mentioned my igloo or dog sled.
“It’s Thanksgiving here, the only people who come out to eat are foreigners”, he told us.
“Oh no, are we keeping you from your family?” I asked, feeling instantly guilty for my red meat indulgence.
“It’s OK they are all crazy, I would rather be working,” he said, laughing and pouring our wine.
Steak and potatoes is my favourite meal in the world. I have eaten it in more cities than I can even count. So when I say that the Roquefort crusted filet was the best steak I have ever had, you know that is a Texas sized compliment. It just melted in my mouth. I really had received the golden ticket.
I asked our waiter if the elevator was a marketing tool; it certainly worked on us. He told us it was not and that the owner of the restaurant had bought the land from the First Dallas Baptist Church. In the deed there was a clause that legally prohibited any future owner from selling alcohol on the former church grounds. So naturally, the new owner went under the ground, 18 feet below street level. And thus, Dakota’s Steakhouse was born. Thirty years later it remains a Dallas icon and that night my Mom and I got to privately host our own Thanksgiving dinner there.