The origins of Deep Ellum are both industrial and artistic. The East Dallas neighborhood was always a mix of residential and commercial spots, home to cotton factories and jazz clubs. Today, it’s considered one of the hippest neighborhoods in Dallas. The mixture of cultures and the diversity is unmistakable, and everything in Deep Ellum is sort of unique: fusion restaurants, sweet pies, barber shops, and street art. With the Deep Ellum jazz and music history deeply rooted into the neighborhood’s penchant for alternative cultures.
It’s an easy-to-explore neighborhood as well, though probably best accessed via taxi or with a car from the city center. To make the most out of a visit through Deep Ellum, prepare yourself with the following tips:
How to Visit Deep Ellum
Bring your camera for the street art
Deep Ellum is covered with all sorts of graffiti and murals. While some of the works have been commissioned, others are more spontaneous transformations of the public space. Even if Deep Ellum is the best part of town to be in each night for the parties and clubs, try to visit the neighborhood during the daytime so you can walk around – or bike. It’s the best way to fully appreciate and capture the many images on the walls.
Some art galleries are located in the neighborhood, so remember to check the exhibtions at the Umbrella Gallery or the Kettle Art Gallery. A little bit farther away from Deep Ellum, the gallery 500x follows the spirit of innovation and design with exhibitions of contemporary art in a renewed 1916 tire factory.
But most importantly, bring your camera for the street art. And a cute outfit for those Instagram likes.
Show up hungry
No matter whether you’re a gourmet foodie or you love fast, greasy food. If you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or a BBQ expert. Everyone is welcomed in Deep Ellum’s restaurants and snacks bars. Find great pizzas in both the Stonedeck Pizza Club and Serious Pizza, or leave Texas behind and try the international, Lebanese cuisine from Zatar (with its popular cocktails…served with a Lebanese twist). For sandwiches and craft beer, visit the AllGoodCafe, a Texas inspired restaurant with music events and really local atmosphere.
For coffee and cake, the small-yet-cozy Emporium Pies is great any time of the day and any time of the year, given that the menu changes constantly according to seasons.
Wear your dancing shoes
Music is at the heart of Deep Ellum. From the many bars and restaurants with live events to the local shops with indie records, there’s no such thing as a silent night in this neighborhood. Following the tradition with jazz bars, and with the county music of Texas, there’s no surprise that Deep Ellum is home to a fusion of music styles.
From reggae and hip-hop to pop, you can tour the bars and the clubs and sing, dance or just relax with a beer. The High & Tight Barbershop is now a classic, with its barber shop integrated into a bar with live music, great cocktails, movie screenings and affordable beer. Some doors away, the Off the Record also specializes on craft beer, but gives you the change to expand your vinyl collection while hanging out in the bar, with a record store located next to the patio. Other cool venues include Black Swan Saloon, Armoury D.E. and Twilite Lounge, or the Dada Dallas for live rock music shows.
Shop for the weird and wonderful
The experience of shopping is frequently overwhelming because it’s hard to find something special or to be happy about prices and variety. However, Deep Ellum has changed this and shopping is more like a treasure hunt for eclectic, rare items. A lamp in the form of a cactus, vintage jewelry, fresh cheese, organic fair-trade coffee. Yep, all of this is available in Deep Ellum and even if you’re not in the mood to spend money, just walking around the stores can foster your imagination and surprise you in a lot of ways.
Some stores like Jade & Clover or Life of Riley specialize in mixed items, from big pieces of furniture to small candles. Deep Vellum Books is an addictive place and you’d have a hard time leaving this store without buying anything, with classic and emerging authors waiting for you in the shelves. Mozzarella Co. is perfect for handmade cheese, and they also offer tours and classes. (Did someone say CHEESE CLASSES?!) But if what you want is to reinvent yourself, Deep Ellum also is home to the most amount of tattoo shops in Dallas, including Taboo Tattoo, Elm Street Tattoo and Lucky’s Tattoo.
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For both locals and tourists, Deep Ellum is a trendy, hectic neighborhood with lots to offer, but once a year the whole area is a paradise of creativity and talent. The Deep Ellum Arts Festival highlights all the good things of the neighborhood, turning Main Street into an enormous street festival, attracting a variety of people. Music and food are part of the menu, but the main dish of the Festival is the art, in all forms: from sculptures to wood crafting, from performance to street art. Each edition is a three-day experience of free and accessible cultural events. And like everything else in Deep Ellum, the festival makes sure to stay weird and unusual with its annual Pet Parade…so be ready to take pictures of cute dogs wearing hats and hipster pigs (literally, pigs).