Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts—the Brooklyn of Texas
Over the coming year, Natural Awakenings DFW and GreenSourceDFW.org are partnering in a new series, “Green Neighborhoods,” exploring the eco-friendly neighborhoods in North Texas with Green Source DFW reporter Amy Martin, who will cover communities where green retail, green venues and green folks intersect. If there’s a green neighborhood we should know about, email Publisher@NADallas.com.
Oak Cliff has been called the Brooklyn of Texas, the cradle of Lone Star blues, and the hipness capital of Dallas. It’s wrapped in history and abundant with green, holistic and natural options. Oak Cliff is big, sprawling south and west from I-30 and I-35E, so it will take a few Green Neighborhoods articles to cover it.
We’ll start in the center with Bishop Arts, the ultra-hip entertainment district with heart, and the lovely parks and offerings to its north, including the Sylvan area on the other side of I-30. Next installment, we’ll wander to the west and explore the grassroots community vibe of West Davis/King’s X and a bit south to the vibrant Jefferson Avenue strip. We’ll conclude our Oak Cliff series with the Wynnewood area to the south, plus the high-vibe areas of adjacent Duncanville, both boasting the most beautiful natural areas in Dallas County.
Community With a Heart
Bishop Arts pulls off the difficult balance of being an entertainment district while remaining a community. You can enjoy a gourmet French meal, buy holistic food for your dog, pick up a homemade pie for dessert and stop by a corner bar to catch up on neighborhood news. Man buns and hipsters beards rub elbows with shopanistas from North Dallas. Tattoos everywhere and always a drummer pounding for tips on a corner.
It takes strong organizations to keep community vibrant: Bishop Arts District Merchants Association (BishopArtsDistrict.com) keeps tabs on the area and stages community building events. Go Oak Cliff (GoOakcliff.org) pulls out all the stops for a few big festivities each year including the ultra fabulous Mardi Gras Parade. Old Oak Cliff Conservation League (ooccl.com) ensures the area historical structures are preserved and held in esteem.
Green Retail: Find Your Funky
The most concentrated part of Bishop Arts spreads from Zang for six blocks or so west along West Davis, 7th and 8th, with Bishop as a north-south center point. It’s one of the few truly walkable neighborhoods in Dallas—or by skateboard, which are plentiful.
Right in the middle is Green Pet (GreenPetDallas.com), a fun and whimsical shop with eco-friendly supplies for dogs and cats. Next door is We Are 1976 (WeAre1976.com), formerly Make. Oak Cliff is all about creativity, and this is its temple, with housewares and more from local arts and crafts people, plus classes to make your own. Love lives at Laughing Willow (TheLaughingWillow.com), with its doulas, women and children’s clothes, and giant HOPE mural on its outside wall.
DIRT Flowers (DirtFlowers.com), reaches nature lovers with cut flowers and unusual live plants and handcrafted gifts. For serious supplies for yard and even small farms, venture north to SylvanThirty and Trinity Haymarket (TrinityHaymarket.com), which also carries local produce and food products.
Resale/reuse is the ultimate green retail, and Bishop Arts excels. Design on a Nickel (Facebook.com/designonanickel) will trick out your house with all the profits benefitting Hope for the Homeless. M'Antiques (dfwmantiques.com), which sells old stuff that guys love, is tied to Antiques on Bishop; both are filled with fun vintage oddities.
The non- resale shops are curated with creative flairs. Opportunity Market (OpportunityMarket.com) moves the world forward with their fair trade goods and products from people working their way out of poverty. Fête-ish (Facebook.com/fete-ish-168667020259) is hyper-colorful and basically an engine for Oak Cliff attitude.
Hip Holistic Food & Beverage
Bishop Arts is chock full of dining; mighty tasty but not always the healthiest stuff. The Mesoamerican offerings of Vera Cruz (VeraCruzCafeDallas.com) to be light and healthy. Same with Oddfellows (OddfellowsDallas.com), which makes a real effort at local sourcing and farm freshness.
Most holistic dining is further down West Davis or to the north. The vegan delight Spiral Diner & Bakery (SpiralDiner.com) has been holding down its corner near Methodist Medical Center since 2002. Nearby newcomer Local Press + Brew (LocalPressBrew.com) dispenses cold-pressed, organic juices and superb coffee drinks, and hosts community happenings.
Across I-30 at SylvanThirty is Austin legend JuiceLand (Juiceland.com), going beyond juices to include smoothies, hot drinks, and grab-and-go vegan meals like soba bowls. In the industrial district nearby is the plant for Oak Cliff Beverage Works, makers of Real Sugar Soda (RealSugarSoda.com), available at bars, restaurants, and hip retail places. Bishop Cider Company (BishopCider.com) still maintains a tasting room in Bishop Arts, but now does its production in the Design District where it has a second bar and along with a way-cool old-fashioned arcade.
On the cliff above SylvanThirty resides the historic and hip boutique Belmont Hotel (BelmontDallas.com), whose lounge has an impeccable view of downtown over the Trinity River. The hotel hosts Smoke (SmokeRestaurant.com/dallas), a chic meat palace with an emphasis on locally sourced food.
Holistic Health: From Crown Chakra to Toes
Bishop Arts was home to the first Ya Ya Foot Spa (YaYaFootSpa.com), which offers the real deal in Chinese foot reflexology. But rising rents have moved most holistic efforts west and north.
Green Bounty: Charming Historic Parks
Coombs Creek carves its way through north Oak Cliff’s hills and rocky ravines, a major source of parks and natural beauty running from the Trinity River, along I-30, and down to Stevens Park Golf Course. Its historic parks and a select few others flourish under the wise shepherding of Friends of Oak Cliff Parks (FriendsOfOakCliffParks.org).
Graced by a lovely, though short, paved trail, this gorgeous hilly Kessler Park section has its own Facebook fan page (Facebook.com/coombscreektrail). Plans are to link it to Trinity Groves and the Trinity Skyline Trail (TrinityRiverCorridor.com/recreation/trinity-skyline-trail), where Cliff dwellers who seek more lengthy, dog-friendly trails go. Bike lanes will someday extend on to downtown and also connect it further west into Oak Cliff.
Lake Cliff Park has been vital to north Oak Cliff since the late 1800s. It began as an amusement park and entertainment district complete with casino. But the 1908 floods wiped out the bridges to Dallas, cutting the Cliff off from customers. Through its various incarnations the park has cycled in and out of disrepair, but its rose gardens persisted. It features landscaped pastoral paved paths.
Founders Park to the north tumbles down rugged hills toward to the Trinity and affords fabulous views of downtown Dallas. It’s one of the few places where you can sense the tree-covered chalk-rock cliffs that give Oak Cliff its name. Tucked deep into a residential area, tiny beloved Kidd Springs Park is a jewel, with a true spring-fed lake, Japanese garden, and new butterfly garden.
Eco Mobility: Streetcars and Bicycles
Consider coming to visit Bishop Arts via the new yet historic Dallas Streetcar (dart.org/riding/dallasstreetcar.asp) that links with DART at Union Station in downtown.
Oak Cliff is mad for bicycles, a cause aided by Bike Friendly Oak Cliff (bikefriendlyoc.org) and their sincere commitment toward bikes as viable alternative transportation. Even the police are on bicycles!
Helping riders from beginners to pro, Oak Cliff Bicycle Company (ocbicycleco.com) helps you get around in style. If you’d like to go a little faster, check out the electric bicycles and scooters at Small Planet E-Bikes (SmallPlaneteBikes.com).