Sunday, July 11, 2010

Where to Get Your Final World Cup Fix

This is it.  Your last chance to come down with World Cup Fever until 2014.  Just watching these matches is a better scene than being at some live sporting events.  While in Paris recently, I took in a two matches at the FIFA Fan Fest in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  AMAZING.  In Barcelona, I watched a few at a beach side bistro, one in a tapas bar and one from the rooftop of a Gothic Quarter hotel.  All experiences of a lifetime.

There are a few places in Dallas that can give you that real European soccer experience.  I traipsed all over North Texas and found two fabulous options.  Whether you're rooting for Spain to win its first World Cup or hoping that for the Netherlands the third time is the the charm, these places will almost transport you across the pond.

If you bleed Oranje, Henk's European Deli and Black Forest Bakery is where you need to scream "Hup Holland!!".  It's a little slice of the Groningen cake in North Texas.  From the painted canal scenes on the walls to the authentic wooden clogs for sale, Henk's can give you a crash course in Dutch culture.

Henk's serves traditional Dutch foods: kassler, blintzes, broodje herring and the like.  Its store sells breads, sweets and a variety of beer and wine.  On any Friday night, families celebrate the end of the week while accordion players make you feel like you're in Amsterdam (sans the coffee shops).  For the World Cup, they have a big tv set up for matches and the Grolsch flows freely.  Actually, the Grolsch is flowing on any particular night. 

For those of you ready to jump, cheer and shout "ESPANA! ESPANA!", head to Si Tapas in Dallas' wonderful State-Thomas neighborhood.  They serve authentic Spanish tapas and wine in a beautiful old home.  From their gambos al ajillo (shrimp in garlic) to their traditional tortilla Espanola, everything is authentic, superb and light enough for a warm summer day.

This place will be standing room only crowded.  Girls, don't bother doing your hair jam-packed.  Spain lovers flock here for the Estrella and cava.  Owner Idelfonso Jimenez has four tv's set up in various parts of the restaurant and fans will be wearing Spanish jerseys, draped in flags and cheering nonstop.

Wherever you decide to go, be forewarned: you might be hoarse from cheering so much.  The fans who watch games at both Si and Henk's are passionate, knowledgeable and voracious.  Many of them are Dutch and Spanish natives and they know every traditional chant and native tongue expletive.

There's nothing like the scene surrounding those European soccer games.  Si and Henk's can you give you a taste of the real thing.  Who knows, they might just motivate you enough to actually cross the Atlantic and witness them yourself, which is truly the experience of a lifetime.