Welcome to the Taco Street Guide to Deep Ellum! We’re going to be your best-friend spirit guide to Deep Ellum today. By the end, we will have laughed, cried, and learned together. And you’ll be an expert in all things Deep Ellum. It’s going to be great. Maybe you’ll be all like “I’m going to hire them to help me find a place to live!” Then double great!
You could call Deep Ellum the “soul” of Dallas. Established in 1873, “Deep Elm” the original name of the district, became one of Dallas’s first commercial districts for African-American and Eastern European immigrants. Not only that, but it was home to plenty of other major firsts as well: the first cotton gin factory, and an early automobile plant for Henry Ford.
But really, what defines Deep Ellum has always been its music. In the 1920’s, jazz and blues musicians from Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas, including Blind Lemon Jefferson and Bessie Smith, used to make their way to one of Deep Ellum’s 20 jazz clubs to entertain throngs of music aficionados. The area decimated in the 1950s as Dallasites made roots in the northern suburbs, but found a second life in the 1980’s. Then, local Dallas bands like the Old 97’s, the Toadies and Tripping Daisy helped breath more musical life in the area with the help of noted music venues Trees, Deep Ellum Live and the Bomb Factory.
Today, Deep Ellum continues to undergo a resurrection from solely a music scene to a truly 24/7 district as plenty of businesses are continuing to make residence there. While there may be new bars, restaurants and kitschy fashion businesses opening up every day, you can still catch a classic funk band at a Deep Ellum watering hole on a random Tuesday night.
The Main Attractions
It’s pretty likely that if you’re in Deep Ellum, you are probably going to a music show. There’s over 30 live music venues to choose from! Probably the most famous of the live music venues is Trees, a recently reopened venue which has hosted international acts like Nirvana (read a story from the early 90’s about how Nirvana caused quite a scene at a Deep Ellum show), The Roots, and Radiohead. Other famous venues that have reopened include The Bomb Factory (formerly Henry Ford’s automobile plant) and Canton Hall (formerly Deep Ellum Live) and all have hosted some amazing national acts. Club Dada (punk, rock) and Adair’s Saloon (country) are also great music venues.
In the past fifteen years, Deep Ellum has also heavily expanded its arts scene. The Deep Ellum Arts Festival features over 100 bands over a weekend in the spring (the next one starts April 3rd). While the multitude of artists showcase their work on Friday art strolls in the district, there’s plenty of cool graffiti art plastered in the area. Being a sports fan, some of my favorites include the famous Nolan Ryan punch and the classic Dirk Nowitzki mural at 2979 Taylor Street. Fun fact: the Mavericks corporate office is also in Deep Ellum, so you might get a chance meeting with Mark Cuban as you go to your lunch meeting.
The bars and restaurants are really where Deep Ellum shines. Prophet Bar is a classic and its open mic night is one of the best in the city (and I’d venture to say the Southwest. Every Wednesday, if you want that soulful feeling that we alluded to earlier, famed R&B singer Erykah Badu and her band perform and just about bring down the house. Sports fans might enjoy the Twilite Lounge– it’s a bar with a huge patio and beer selection owned by Ty Walker of the sports radio station 1310 The Ticket, the top sports station in Dallas, and probably the South (I will fight anyone on this).
Polling my friends and I, we all agree that the cocktails at Armoury D.E. are pretty good, and Dot’s Hop House and Cocktail Courtyard definitely puts a challenge to Katy Trail Ice House in Uptown for best overall outdoor atmosphere in Dallas.
Debate me if you want, but the food crown jewel in Deep Ellum is Pecan Lodge. That is the top ‘cue in the city, and long lines at lunch and on the weekends only confirm my statement. The “Hot Mess” will fill you up, or give you a second meal depending on your stomach size. You can follow it up with the banana pudding or get the “Honey Badger” pizza at Cane Rosso. If wood-fred pizza isn’t your thing, there’s also Serious Pizza. Some day, I’m going to try their 30-inch pizza challenge, but the grease on that pizza may take me 30 minutes to eat by itself.
A classic Deep Ellum restaurant is always Angry Dog, with its chili cheese fries, and Deep Sushi (I actually had my 26th birthday party there) if you desire fresh (well, as fresh as it comes from a city not near an ocean) fish.
If you were afflicted with the meat sweats at Pecan Lodge, Braindead Brewing provides the perfect compliment to cool down after. Either that or you could cholesterolify your Sunday Funday with a bacon flight BEFORE going to Pecan Lodge. I just pray for your arteries…
If you’re not an eater, a music lover or a drinker, there’s still plenty to do. As Deep Ellum has continued to grow, so have the amount of jewelry and fashion boutiques. There’s plenty of cool clothing and knick knacks in those stores if you’re into the trendiest designers of Dallas (hey, The Real Housewives of Dallas are totally into it). If you’d rather get a different type of art, Tigger’s Body Art- the oldest running Dallas tattoo shop, is near all the fashion action. If high-end trends don’t suit your wallet, Deep Ellum has plenty of seasonal flea markets.
Residents looking for future schools for their kids have slim pickings: Residents of Deep Ellum north of Commerce Street are zoned to Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary School, Alex W. Spence Middle School and North Dallas High School.and residents south of Commerce Street are zoned to City Park Elementary School, Billy Earl Dade Middle School, and James Madison High School. There’s also a free charter school as well.
I’d say one of the more kid-friendly activities is taking kids and their pups to Bark Park Central– it’s got just about anything you need when it comes to your dog. You could even stop at Uncle Uber’s for a sandwich after. I love their smoked turkey sandwich… not that anyone is asking my opinion.
Oh, wait, Did I forget the biggest event in Deep Ellum (though some people don’t realize Fair Park is in Deep Ellum…). The STATE FAIR! Who could go a year without eating fried twinkies, Deep Fried Mexican Mole, Deep Fried NUTELLA CRUSTED STUFFED FRENCH TOAST (a real thing for 2019) or fried Southern Bourbon Bread Pudding? And… there’s a big football game on the second Saturday of October (there’s a few football games, but this one gets the most coverage…). The Texas Longhorns face off against their most hated rival
*looks around for any angry Aggie fans*
the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Shootout… or Red River Rivalry… or AT&T Classic. Whatever. Longhorns- Sooners. Eleven a.m. Fried food. What could be better?
Like every other Texas city, Dallas is car dependent. While Deep Ellum itself is walkable (for the most part), you’ll find it easier to commute around with automobile. However, there are plenty of options for commuting. For those Dallasites who might work in Uptown, Downtown, M Streets or even as far as Knox/Henderson, scootering might be an option, though the great scooter debacle of 2019 slowed the matriculation of scooters to the Deep Ellum streets.
For those who commute, Deep Ellum has the luxury of being near 345 (demolish it please), US-75, I-30, and I-45, so you won’t ever have to channel your inner John Denver and get taken home on those country roads. An added bonus of being a major cultural hub is that there’s also three DART station in the middle of Deep Ellum (Deep Ellum, Baylor Medical and Fair Park Station), one stop away from one of the main DART transfer stations. DART is fairly consistent as it relates to a schedule, but the frequency is lacking, especially after 5 pm.
There is a free bus, called D-Link, that takes you to all the cool cultural and entertainment districts around Downtown Dallas and Oak Cliff. The only problem is that it only runs 11 am- 1130pm Monday-Saturday. So if you’re looking for something fun to do on Sunday and don’t want to Uber all over the place…. you’re out of luck. The D-Link is really cool if you have visitors in town and want to show them the whole downtown scene.
Being a continually growing area, there are apartments going up every day in Deep Ellum. Some of the one bedroom apartments (the Camden at Farmers Market comes to mind) will run you $1100, while one bedrooms closer to the city center can get up to $1,700-$1,800. Dallas does a decent job with historic preservation so there are some really cool loft style apartments, like at the Case Building where you can rent a one or two bedroom from $1,300 up to around $3,100. Overall, most of the new Deep Ellum apartments will rent from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the amenities. Living in Deep Ellum is actually a bargain compared to living Downtown, Uptown or Knox/Henderson, as you’re still only half a mile to a mile away from the action (a short bike ride) for $250- $500 less per month than others might pay.
Townhomes are continuing to rise in cost in Deep Ellum. While you can still find a townhome here and there for $250,000, many 2 bed/2 bath and 3 bed 3 bath townhomes are selling at close to $400,000- $500,000 as the district continues to grow. However, many of these townhome developments are new- many have been built after 2005, when Deep Ellum was slowly rising from the ashes.
A Day in The Life
Deep Ellum itself is a walkable neighborhood on a day to day basis, but for the essentials, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
The closest major grocery store to Deep Ellum (you don’t exactly shop for produce at 7-11) is the new Tom Thumb in Uptown- Dallas’s first true downtown grocery store. It’s got a pretty cool restaurant inside of it too. Technically, you could walk there (it’s a 40 minute walk from the center of Deep Ellum) but it’s much more feasible to bike. A Whole Foods in Uptown is also a great place to go shop for groceries- you could even hit the bars beforehand.
One awesome place to get groceries in Deep Ellum is the Dallas Farmers Market on Saturdays and Sundays when more vendors are there (its open Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, though the Friday hours are pretty lengthy as well) , it’s a great place to really take in the past, present, and future of a growing area of Dallas- the Farmer’s Market has been around since 1941!
November Project Dallas meets three times a week near Deep Ellum (closer to downtown) if you’re into the free and more social side of fitness. Being someone who doesn’t spend much money in the way of fitness, I can tell you November Project Dallas tribe has been a great place to meet a wide array of people- and there’s an awesome worldwide network to boot (I’ve been to Dallas, Austin, San Diego , Los Angeles, Boston, and Milwaukee tribes).
November Project runs the Cotton Bowl stairs at least once a quarter
One of my favorites you won’t see mentioned in the normal “things to do around Dallas” is Sandbar Cantina. I played in a league there in my early 20’s, and went almost every Sunday to play pickup. It’s a great bar/sand volleyball combination smack in the middle of Deep Ellum, yet also not really surrounded by anything else, so you feel like you’re in an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle.
Deep Ellum is a fantastically awesome area to go out and explore. There’s so much history, and it definitely provides a welcome respite from the homogeneity of Uptown Dallas. As much as the area is changing, underlying issues still persist. Crime is still a problem. Noise pollution is a 7-day-a-week occurrence. There is constant traffic. Walkability and lighting/safety issues still persist.
(As you can see, parking and driving can be a bit of an issue in Deep Ellum…)
But I see a lot of potential for those who want to live in the Deep Ellum neighborhood. Uber just announced plans to lease a huge amount of space in Deep Ellum. The Common Desk continues to grab small tech companies to work out of their coworking space. Snap officed out of Deep Ellum for a bit. Heck there’s going to be a 20,000 square foot esports facility being built for the Dallas Mavericks eSports team in Deep Ellum.
Deep Ellum is a great place for a wide variety of people. Those who want an active nightlife literally seven days a week, want to get the benefit of Downtown Dallas without living downtown and who are ok with a little bit of quirkiness to their lifestyle might consider Deep Ellum.
If you’re concerned about parking, crime (especially at night), and noise pollution, Deep Ellum is not for you. Additionally, if you desire being near nature or running trails, Deep Ellum might not be the place for you either.
If you’re considering Deep Ellum as a place to live, you might also consider the Bishop Arts District. Additionally, the Design District is a neighborhood that’s slowly resembling Deep Ellum when it comes to restaurants and activities to do.
To sum up:
- More major businesses moving in every day
- Food scene and bar scene keeps getting better- several key restaurants anchor the scene
- Decent mix of cultural activities to entertain a wide net of people
- Generally ample transportation issues
- For renters, the cost is not too bad for living less than 2 miles from the city center
- Crime is still an issue. Safety and lighting need work
- Noise pollution 7 days a week
- Parking issues persist, though they are improving
- Uniqueness is slowly eroding- might be no different than the stereotypical “Dallas” neighborhoods in 5-10 years.
- Affordability for the creative class is fast declining
Deep Ellum is a changing neighborhood. It’s got its quirks. It’s got a cool history. There are real issues that the Deep Ellum neighborhood is grappling with. I think if you’re young, and willing to try out a few areas to live in Dallas before you make the move north to suburbia, Deep Ellum is a great place to experiment with. But I, like everyone else worry- will Deep Ellum still be a fun place to live for professionals five to ten years down the road?