A walking tour of Knox/ Henderson

The Knox-Henderson area has been described as some of the hottest real estate in the city. Yet, unlike other successful development projects in Dallas, the laid-back sophistication of Knox-Henderson does not rely on towering glass structures and multi-lane thoroughfares. In fact, most of the buildings consist of a single level, all are directly on the two-lane street, and there are actually pedestrians using the paved sidewalks, somewhat of a rarity in Dallas these days.

Perhaps the biggest attraction is just that, the “pedestrian-friendly quality of the area. As many of the street’s shop owners agree, Knox-Henderson is the closest thing to a European street that Dallas has to offer.

Families can be seen having dinner at Highland Park Cafeteria or nursing ice cream cones from Haagen-Dazs, friends gather at On The Border for fa-jitas and margaritas, and couples walk hand in hand beneath the trees. There is plenty of street activity during the day with shoppers and diners milling about. At night, the many restaurants and bars continue to draw a crowd after the stores have closed.

Knox-Henderson was not always so popular. Pat Kellum, president of Ed Kellum & Son Appliance Company, practically grew up on the street between his father’s business at one end of Knox and his grandfather’s Texaco station at the other. Ed Kellum & Son Appliance and Weir’s are the oldest tenants on the street followed by J.G. Boyd and Highland Park Cafeteria which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The biggest change seen by Pat is in the variety of restaurants now available. Some years ago, he remembers there being only HPC, George’s, and Red’s Cafe. “There wasn’t much as far as food was concerned. The quality has really sky rocketed, now it’s restaurant row,” he says.

Pat sees the area blossoming even more in the future. One development that will soon be completed is Travis Walk (at Travis and Armstrong) due to open March 1986. Developed by Chip McCarthy of Roblee Company, the three-story stucco structure will house retail, office, and dining facilities in a 100,000 square foot space with three levels of underground parking. McCarthy, who also renovated the strip of buildings from the now defunct 4500 McKinney around the corner to L’Entourage (except for Atlantic Cafe which owner Mel Holland did himself), sees the Knox Henderson area appealing to four market segments; Highland Park, SMU, downtown, and CityPlace when that is completed in the next two years. According to McCarthy, the area is not only popular because of its scale and the charm of its older buildings, but because of the people it attracts.

A visit to the Knox Henderson area calls for comfortable walking shoes and casual attire (Atlantic Cafe and Chez Gerard tend to be more dressy than the other restaurants). Park your car wherever you find a space and start to explore at leisure. If you get tired, there should be a bar or restaurant in front, behind, or to either side of you.

Beginning on the south side of Knox near Central, L’Entourage offers complete hair, beauty and nail care all under one roof. It’s a salon that will tempt you to spend the entire day- and why not? Atlantic Cafe is just around the corner where you can take your new look. Polished brass, rich mahogany, and marble provide an elegant atmosphere for fresh seafood, pasta, and veal entrees at the Atlantic Cafe. The bar is always a crowded place in the evening and customers don’t seem to mind the wait for a table since there is always an attractive crowd to keep them company.

To side-step just a bit, we can’t possibly forget Chip’s with some of the best hamburgers in town. Located on the access road off North Central (1 block south of Knox), Chip’s Old Fashioned Grill may be off the beaten Knox/Henderson path but it’s certainly worth a visit for the food. Also located on this stretch of North Central is Ray Tidwell’s salon. Although known primarily for its expertise in hair coloring, the salon offers complete hair and nail care.

Now, back to Knox and right on McKinney, where you’ll find Shuckers, another seafood restaurant that’s more casual than Atlantic Cafe. The hi-tech interior of neon pinks and blues is also equipped with three large televisions tuned in to sports events, daytime soaps, and other popular video events. The menu features charbroiled and fried fish along with chicken fried steak and different Cajun specialties each day. A walk to the end of the block yields Futonium on Monticello. No, it’s not a mineral nor a plant, but you will feel more human after sleeping on one. Futons, Japanese mattresses used as beds and seating, are the main product sold. There are also bed and couch frames, handpainted pillows, clay rattles, Japanese papers and fabrics, kimonos, and more.

Crossing back on Knox again to the other side of McKinney leads you to yet another eatery, Tolbert’s Chili Parlor, the perfect place to kick back with a longneck in hand. Frank X. Tolbert’s award-winning bowl of red is still available along with burgers, fa-jitas, chicken fried steak, salads, and donkey tails. What better way to cool off after a hot bowl of chili than with some homemade ice cream. Andrees Cookies and Cream is an attractive little shop serving such yummy flavors as black raspberry, cookies, nuts, and cream; and pear sorbet in vanilla or chocolate homemade cones. There’s even homemade cookies to go along. And if your appetite still isn’t whetted, wander down to Crystal Pagoda for Chinese food in a very un-Chinese setting. The refreshing, stark elegance is a fitting setting for the mostly Hunan and Szechwan cuisine served. For French fare try Chez Gerard, offering simple French food in a bistro setting. Discovery Gallery calls itself a total concept gallery offering something for everyone. There is sculpture from Israel, handblown glass, estate jewelry, wonderful paper sculpture, even wearable art that includes handpaint-ed vests, coats, and jackets.

Back on Knox, turn left to the next string of shops starting with Peregri-nators (meaning world travelers). Two sisters, Billie and Jean Thompson, travel the world to hand select their shop’s items of mostly Oriental and English antiques. Next door, The Old Wicker Garden carries antique wicker furniture as well as American brass beds. You’re sure to find a special ornamental box or something to add to your collection of blue and white porcelain at Highland Park Antiques. In addition to furniture, they also carry linens, Marseille spreads, and lace-edged and hand-embroidered towels.

Sport New Zealand attracts your attention with a bright neon sign and wonderfully comfortable looking casual and sport clothes such as sweatshirts, funky sneakers, and selected items from the Patagonia line. Turn left down Cole and walk down to Modern Toys. Even if you’re not a child, this store will intrigue you with its collection of Japanese robots and space toys.

Return to Knox Street once again, turning past Hoffbrau where a weekday lunch will find a plethora of men in business suits anxiously anticipating steak in lemon butter with cottage fries. Country music and Lone Star beer fill the restaurant that’s always crowded with blue-jean clad diners in the evening, but no one ever has to wait very long for a table. There’s no dessert on Hoffbrau’s menu because Haagen Dazs is just a few steps away where you can indulge in the traditional flavors and some Famous Amos cookies. If it’s home-style food you’re looking for, cross the street to Highland Park Cafeteria, a neighborhood institution. Let your eyes roam over the food lines of salads, entrees, vegetables, breads (zucchini muffins are great) and desserts. Back across the street, stop in at the Great American Coverup where quilts of all types can be found or made with materials and lessons available at the shop. Weir’s furniture is next, complete with an old-fashioned country store in the back, then Highland Park Pharmacy. This spot is worth a trip inside if just for nostalgia’s sake. The high-ceilinged space features a long grill and magazine stand where grilled cheese sandwiches and thick chocolate malts can still be ordered at the marble counter.

Turning left down Travis, another toy store beckons children and adults alike, Toyworks. The store sells only high quality European toys that are bought with children in mind (considering practicality and durability, that is). Piaf’s, just down the street in a red brick building, serves an eclectic menu in atrium-like surroundings accented with green plants. A fish and pasta of the day are always featured and the restaurant and bar are open seven days a week. Next door, the River Cafe has taken on a Cajun theme in the former location of Joe’s. Cajun-style shrimp, crawfish, seafood gumbo, oyster stew, poboys, and blackened redfish are the highlights here. A bit further down, Travis Street Market and Deli offers sandwiches and salads to go or eat in among an array of fresh coffee beans and other gourmet items. Just as luscious is Bon Bon, though this shop won’t add a single calorie to your diet. It’s a specialty clothing store for children featuring designer labels for boys and girls.

Returning up Travis, cross Knox and walk down to the Fan Man whose collection of nineteenth century fans, cash registers and juke boxes are also for sale. Feel like getting into shape at last? A session at Jenny Ferguson Exercise is a great start. It’s the preferred workout haven for many women who follow Jenny’s aerobic, toning, and stretching routine religiously. Back on Knox, stop by the incredibly popular On The Border for a margarita and sizzling Anitas. There always seems to be a youngish crowd here and the noise level is high, but it’s one of the best people watching locations in town. Two other eateries on Knox include Dessert Dreams, featuring healthy foods and desserts that are made with sweeteners other than white sugar. One door down, Soup To Nuts throws caution to the wind to indulge in hearty soups, piled-high sandwiches, and desserts. And across the street, Rugs, Rugs, carries the largest selection of rugs in the Southwest, ranging from inexpensive rags to pricey Orientals with dhurries and zapotecs in between.

Antiquing is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon and one need look no further than across Central Expressway to Henderson Avenue for some of the finest shops in the city.

Beginning on the south corner of Henderson at Central, enter William Ferrel Antiques, selling fine period furniture, silver and porcelain. Three elegantly furnished rooms immerse you immediately into an appreciation of the decorative arts. Next door, a ring of the bell at Les Antiques grants you entry into the most beautiful shop on the street. The shop goes for one-of-a-kind pieces, handling a lot of large country French armoires and chests, important Chinese and Japanese porcelains. Russell O’Neill’s In Good Company projects a much more casual look with English and French country furniture. They also carry a variety of informal china and glassware that is displayed on various dining tables throughout the store. Silkz, so named for the extensive collection of potted blooming plants and ficus trees made of silk, also carries a casual country look in pine furniture; chests, farm tables, and Welsh dressers along with baskets are found throughout the store. Robert Powers Antiques pride themselves in English and Oriental furniture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and carry a good range of Staffordshire and ironstone as well. Dallas and Tipperary are the two homes for Irish Manor Antiques, sporting appropriately green walls. The small shop offers beautifully grained and inlaid wood pieces along with antique silver and estate jewelry. Cross the alcove to enter B. Brock, an eclectic mix of old and new pieces. The store makes custom pine furniture and sells antique oak and Southwestern style furniture from the floor.

Stewart Antiques catches the eye with bright red walls surrounding the collection of English and continental furniture. A pair of large tusks on shiny black doors herald the entrance to East & Orient Company, emphasizing pieces from the Orient. A stroll through the quietly dramatic interior will make you an instant fan of the far Eastern look. Continue down the block to Monday’s Antiques, a crowded shop smelling of sweet potpourri and exhibiting quite a bit of oak, elm and pine English furniture along with interesting boxes, lamps, and accessories.

Cross the street to The Wooden Gate Antiques. A cozy, New England style room that displays both formal and country pieces together with samplers, silhouettes and checkerboards. Potter Square Gallery offers unusual lamps in his collection and neighboring Golden Egg Gallery specializes in unusual matting and framing techniques. Last on the street is the Ice House (so named because it once was an ice house years ago), which is filled with contemporary lighting fixtures, occasional furniture, china and crystal.

By now it should be dinner time and Henderson offers two choices at its end of the street. Bohemia with its charming, lace-curtained windows, offers sauerkraut, weiner schnitzel, and other old world delights. Savino has a menu of authentic Italian food served in its charming blue and white interior. The chefs learned their craft in Italy and came to America after working at the Gritti Palace and the Pope’s summer residence. A family run business, everyone takes pride in the final product and so, there is not even a microwave on the premises.