Friday, March 27, 2015

Running in Richardson and Restaurant Review

Richardson, Texas was once a town of the ‘deep South’ in that it was settled by folks from
Near the now defunct Owens Country Farm
Kentucky and Tennessee in the 1840s. It was named after railroad contractor, E.H. Richardson, and although the center of town was near present-day Richland College, the city center moved closer to the railroad station. Rather than a steam locomotive, an electric railway connected Richardson, Denison, Waco, Corsicana and Fort Worth; Interurban Street in old downtown Richardson is a remnant of that enterprise. The red brick streets in downtown are also a reminder of Richardson’s past. By the 1950s, Richardson was a bustling town, but the population, economic status and land values really took off with the opening of Texas Instruments on its southern border. This once small town now has four Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail stations and the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts. It has been featured in a television series about business-makeovers and used as a model for the setting for the TV show King of the Hill. Richardson also has a vibrant ethnic population that includes about 60 Chinese cultural organizations and the India Association of North Texas along with the main Indian-American grocery store in DFW.

Top: Lakes near the bridge
Bottom: Lake and play area
To serve its diverse population, Richardson has a plethora of city parks. These parks run the gambit from natural areas to athletic playgrounds, and incorporate more than 40 miles of trails and walkways. Long ago I used to take graduate students out to these parks to do water and soil sampling and to identify trees and other plants. There are two parks in Richardson that I really like. Cottonwood Park (Cottonwood and Belt Line) has about 25 acres that are used for various purposes. I particularly enjoy the two lakes with their feathered visitors and the just over a mile long trail. In the spring this park is home to an art festival that draws artists and craftspeople from Texas and beyond. Wandering among these gifted artisans is a great way to spend a spring day outdoors.

For relaxing, eating lunch and watching all sorts of critters, I like Prairie Creek Park (Prairie
Left top: Path and trees Left bottom: Prairie Creek
Right: Walkway and trees
Creek West and Campbell). This park is about 37 acres along a small creek that meanders through some nice housing areas. It’s a peaceful place to spend some time thinking great thoughts, contemplating nature or not doing anything at all. In the spring you’ll find lots of ducklings paddling along after their mom and lots of young squirrels barking at you from the safety of tall trees. There are good opportunities to take pictures from the bridges; many times the squirrels and birds will even cooperate and let you take a snap or two of them. If you happen to have your dog with you, this is also a nice place for a romp (Richardson does have a leash law and requires cleaning up after your dog).

What we ate…
Four carrots
Richardson has some really good restaurants (for information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews); one that has been around for 30+ years is the String Bean (1310 W. Campbell Rd., Richardson; 972-385-3287). If you like Southern cooking, this is the place to
L to R: Green beans, chicken, fried okra
come. They have ‘small plates’ that are more than adequate unless you’re absolutely starving; of course, if you have a small plate you can also have dessert. There are several things I like on the menu, particularly the chicken salad, but this time I got chicken fingers (with sweet and sour dipping sauce), string beans and okra. The chicken was tender and crispy, the string beans tasted of bacon, and the okra was had a nice crunch once it was cool enough to eat; I was not at all disappointed in my ‘small plate’ but I didn’t have any room for dessert. I can’t wait to go back for some blackberry cobbler!

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