David and I traveled to Texas over Labor Day weekend. We’d been talking about making the trip seemingly forever, since rumors started floating around that the University of Alabama and the University of Michigan might face off at the over-the-top Cowboys Stadium. The pair of tradition-rich football powerhouses had only met twice before, so it was kind of a big deal for us college football fans.
Beyond that, the game was a natural extension of an unofficial “Big 10 – SEC Exchange Program” that we’ve created with friends over the past few years. The long version of the story is that Ariel and I met and became good friends in college. Then, I married David, an Alabama fan who quickly converted my entire Californian family into Crimson Tide supporters. Ariel married a Michigan fan, and will probably never be allowed to use green or red in home decor again (due to those being the colors of Michigan’s biggest rivals.)
In 2009, Ariel and her husband came down to Tuscaloosa for a game. David and I made out first trip to the Big House last year. Couple our pattern of football weekends with the fact that Dallas is one of the few places it’s easy to fly to from Birmingham, and clearly meeting up for this game was pretty much a foregone conclusion. We joked that we may not be on speaking terms after the game, but oh yes, we all had to get there.
I didn’t take many pictures of Cowboys Stadium because I wasn’t too keen on carrying my camera around tailgates and cement in intense 100-degree Texas heat. Though this post is clearly suffering thanks to my photographic wimpiness, you can find plenty of professional shots on the stadium’s website.
Honestly, it may have been my best sports venue experience ever. I would not hesitate to go back. Unsurprisingly, Jerry Jones really knew what he was doing when he built this massive, air-conditioned airplane hangerish structure! I felt like every detail was seamless, and as though I was being hosted for the game instead of just shuffling in as a paying customer. It took me about 5 minutes to leave my seat, go to the restroom, and buy a bottle of water at halftime. The 50-yard-wide replay screen was huge and made it easy to watch the action… although the view of the field was good too, even though we were quite high up. The people operating the concession stands were friendly, knowledgeable, and able to tell Ariel what ingredients were in the popcorn so she knew if she could eat it or not. There were vegetarian nachos and I saw a sign for a “farmer’s market” concession stand. Upbeat music and many shots of the fans on the screen kept the crowd engaged and energetic. It was just a fun, enjoyable environment and we had a fantastic time.
Arlington itself is an excellent host as well. The stadium is only about 20 minutes from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, and surrounded by hotels, attractions (Six Flags and its water park, the Texas Rangers’ ballpark), and restaurants/bars/chain stores galore.
We stopped by the Whole Foods, which was only a mile away from the stadium. (The Cowboys’ online policies say that they make exceptions to the no-food rule for those with special dietary needs, and they did allow me to bring in a few things.) We lunched another day on sizable vegetable side dishes at P.F. Chang’s. After the game, Boston’s Restaurant and Sports Bar was a decent place for a late-night stop, with a gigantic menu of salads and typical chain restaurant fare. It was right next to the Wingate by Wyndham hotel where we stayed. The Wingate had free breakfast, free wireless internet, and the only hotel staff that has ever actually paid attention to us requesting that our room be close to our friends’ room.
If you’re looking for vegan food in Arlington, we traveled across the city to The Loving Hut, a 100% vegan restaurant with 40 U.S. locations, and the place where I took all the food photos in this post. There were a few gluten-free options (denoted by a GF in the corners of the menu pictures), including a raw walnut “brownie” drizzled with chocolate sauce. Portions were big, and we enjoyed our food and ate heartily, though I wouldn’t say anything knocked my socks off. The Spring Pho soup was probably my favorite: beautiful and delicately flavored. David and I liked the curry fried rice even though I don’t normally like curry; it wasn’t overpowering. Ariel ordered the rice flour Crepe De Au Lac and vegetable spring rolls, and her husband had one of the sandwiches and a smoothie. I can’t believe I forgot to photograph the brownie! It was basically big bites of walnut held together with a cocoa mixture of some sort, and drizzled with a thin, shiny chocolate sauce.
If we hadn’t been attending the game, we probably would have ventured farther afield to the Good Karma Kitchen (a vegetarian, gluten-free food truck), or Vspot Vegan Cafe. But, the Loving Hut was perfect for a casual, health-conscious meal only 10-15 minutes away from the stadium. I’m glad we went.
It was my first time in Texas other than airport layovers. There were lots of trees and big, wide roads, and most everyone we interacted with was friendly and outgoing. Just like you’d expect. However, I did not see any big hair? Maybe we just didn’t venture far enough into the major cities. Next time!