This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in exactly that: long-serving concierges from the swankiest hotels in town.
Housed in a 1920s neo-Gothic former bank building on Main Street, The Joule helped to revitalize Downtown Dallas when it opened in 2008. It merges the building’s history and century-old architecture with all the modern trappings that guests expect in a luxury hotel: good restaurants, boutique shops, a museum-worthy art collection, and a great spa. And when those guests need assistance or have a special request, they ask Chief Concierge Nick Rice.
Rice is new to the Joule, but he’s been working in Dallas for a decade, most recently as the concierge manager at Blue Ciel, an upscale high-rise residential building. So, he knows the city, and he’s well-versed in fulfilling the requests of discerning clients.
Below, Rice shares his tips for making the most of a stay in Dallas, from where to eat and drink, to under-the-radar museums and a couple can’t-miss experiences you’ll only find in Dallas.
What’s a unique service offered at The Joule that you won’t find elsewhere?
One of my favorite things we’ve done so far is offer monogrammed pillowcases for our guests. It’s available on the website, so you can choose that when you book your room. The upgrades and amenities list on the website lists everything we can do, including floral arrangements and balloons and special food and beverages.
What’s a fact about the hotel that most people probably don’t know?
There’s a large gear in the lobby that is constantly rotating. It’s from the set of the movie Hugo. Also, the spa is one of the best in the country. You can get a treatment and swim in the underground pool.
Where’s a good spot downtown to sit outdoors and watch the world go by?
The rooftop patio at Sky Blossom. They have amazing views of downtown and the Giant Eyeball [a 30-foot-tall eyeball sculpture located across from The Joule]. It’s a good spot for shared plates and cocktails and people watching. Uno Mas is across the street, with really good Tex-Mex and a great patio for enjoying a Margarita in good weather. And Thanksgiving Square is just a really tranquil spot to hang out and unwind.
What would you recommend for the perfect date night of dinner and drinks?
CBD Provisions has always been a special place to me. It’s easy to find a table but still has an elevated environment, with a nice ambiance. And Midnight Rambler is The Joule’s underground cocktail bar. Even before I started working here, that was my stomping ground. But if you’re feeling flashy, head to Monarch on the 49th floor of the Thompson Hotel. That’s more of a get-dressed-up experience, so you need to be in the mood for that.
How about a business dinner?
Dakota’s Steakhouse recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It was looking pretty tired a few years ago, but now it’s great and good for business dinners and groups. They have a really cool subterranean patio, so you can sit outside without having cars driving by you on the street.
What’s a bar or restaurant where only locals hang out?
I like to suggest guests stop by City Tavern down the street if they want to hang out with local people in the community. Not that many tourists are aware of it. I also like Lee Harvey’s in the Cedars neighborhood. It’s a casual bar with a big patio and live music.
What’s a neighborhood or part of town that not enough visitors explore?
I used to say Bishop Arts, but that’s an obvious spot now. So I’d say Old East Dallas. It’s close enough to downtown, but a little further out, so you can explore something different. There’s Lucky’s Hot Chicken and Trompo, which is an amazing taco place, plus Loro. All three of those spots are great, and there’s more coming and moving into that direction.
What’s an under the radar museum or other cultural attraction worth visiting?
The Perot Museum is just outside of the Arts District, so it doesn’t get as much foot traffic. I also really like a lot of these art installations that have been popping up. Psychedelic Robot is great; it’s all immersive and heavily curated, and it rotates by season.
What’s a quintessential Dallas experience you’d recommend to visitors?
Al Biernat’s is a Dallas institution, and getting dinner there will always be a good time. The owner Al is often there, so he might pop over and say hi. Also, the cocktail bar at The Mansion is worth a stop before leaving Dallas.
There’s also Dealy Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum, where you can immerse yourself in the history of JFK [and his 1963 assassination]. At the museum, you can explore by yourself with an audio tour, listening on headphones as you walk through it.
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