Butchers, Beef and Other Bull
There is only one thing I am not modest about, and that is my incredible talent with an outdoor charcoal grill. I expect no laurels – it is probably an inherited trait (my father is no smalltime steak slinger himself). I understand briquets, I know the science of bottom draft. Searing and basting are second nature. It’s an art and I’m the artist.
However, I am not a master of meat – in particular, steak. While I am aware of the rudiments of marbling (those magical white lines of “intramuscular fat” that separate the great steaks from the good ones), my meat counter selection process is usually a matter of intuition. With that shortcoming in mind, a plan formed. Go to butchers, learn the intricacies of beef; take this newfound knowledge to local steak houses, find the best steak in Dallas. Simple.
Jerry Rivers has been a butcher for 64 years. “Butchered my first cow when I was 8 years old,” he says. “Cut him up in a wash-tub.” Jerry now practices his craft at the Quality Food Market on Greenville Avenue and does so with gusto. “Had a pacemaker put in my heart last year,” he says. “So I’ve cut down to working 75 hours a week.” Jerry knows meat and I’m ready for some hot tips. We step inside the tiny cold storage room in back. Jerry points to a hind quarter hanging in the corner, nicely aged and molded. “Now there’s a beautiful hunk of beef,” says Jerry.
“How do you tell?”
“Yes, but . . .”
“C’mere and try this sausage. I just made it this morning.”
“Tell me, Jerry, what’s the best way to determine the quality of a steak you get in a restaurant?”
“I don’t know. I don’t go out to restaurants.”
Just up the street at Clark’s Fine Foods is Scott “Pappy” Sale, a butcher for 40 years. His cold storage is filled with beef stamped “Prime” by the U.S.D.A. inspector. “Prime” is the ultimate grade of beef and no longer common in either supermarkets or restaurants. “Choice” and “Good,” the second and third grades, are most often seen. Pappy’s cold storage is a beef treasure chest and his head is a gold mine of meat facts: “Most grocery customers look for all lean, thinking marble is gristle – nine out of ten pick out the worst meat in the counter.”
“Pappy, will you tell me how to select the best cuts of meat?”
“I can’t. It’s almost instinct. Here. Look at these two cuts.” He lays two sirloin strips side by side. “Without the exterior fat, they’d look just alike. Yet one is graded ’Prime’ and the other is ’Choice.’ It’s a fine line.”
“Can you taste the difference?”
“Can you tell the difference by looking?”
“Not for sure. We sent some steaks to a regular customer last week that looked beautiful. She called up and said they were tough as a boot. We took them back and I took them home because I couldn’t believe it. I broiled one. Tough as a boot. So I tied the rest together and made pot roast. Still tough as a boot. I don’t know what causes it. Nobody does.”
Entirely daunted, I proceeded with the plan. Phase two, the restaurants, included the idea that I would ask to see the steaks we ordered before they were cooked.
“May we see the steaks before they’re cooked?” I asked the waitress.
“We’d like to see the steaks raw first.”
“Well, to check the marbling and so forth.”
Abandon phase two. At any rate, it would require several visits to a restaurant to get a definitive reading on the overall quality of their steaks. Still, there is plenty of comparative data, so the search for the great steak began. The basis for judgement in each case was the sirloin strip. While admittedly the strip is perhaps the most variable of cuts, it is also potentially the best. One other cut from each menu was sampled for balance. All steaks were ordered medium rare. The results were rated on a 1 to 10 scale, giving both a steak rating and a rating for the overall meal, taking into account trimmings, service, and atmosphere.
Jamil’s, W Northwest Highway: The 14-oz. strip ($7.50) was correctly cooked and had a nice but mild flavor. A better bargain was the 22-oz. T-bone at $7.95 – a very thick cut for a T-bone. “Lebanese” hors d’oeuvres are the oddity here: Tabouli salad, cabbage roll, hummus, smoked ribs and bologna – only the hummus was interesting. Baked potato, small and in foil, with a dish of sour cream and an ice cream scoop of butter. Useless rolls. Dark plywood paneling, empty fireplace, devoid of charm. Steak rating: 6. Dinner rating: 4.
Lone Star Steak House, Mockingbird at Abrams: A new place with bargain prices (18-oz. strip $5.95, 22-oz. T-bone $6.95). However, the steaks had an unidentifiable and somewhat unpleasant undertaste-apparently not from the meat itself but from the cooking process. Salad dressings and margarine in plastic squeeze bottles and cavernous surroundings make for an unpretentious but unsettling meal. Steak rating: 4. Dinner rating: 5.
Dunston’s, W Lovers Lane: The steaks are broiled over huge, flaming mesquite logs, giving a distinctive, almost sweet flavor, not unlike the effect of hickory. The 12-oz. strip ($5.25) was a good cut correctly cooked; the 18-oz. T-bone ($5.50) was a thin cut and vastly overcooked (the second try, identical cut, was cooked medium). The salad bar is really a lettuce bar with gigantic croutons. Terrific Texas toast. Texas hokey with black velvet cowboy paintings and wagon wheel chandeliers. Steak rating: 5. Dinner rating: 6.
Cattlemen’s, Live Oak, Dallas: This famous name still delivers. The K.C. strip (14-oz., $7.95) was splendid, expertly cooked with a robust flame-broiled flavor. The “Thick Cut” rib-eye (14-oz., $8.95) was truly thick and surprisingly tender. Fair salad; a variety of breads; a nice big baked potato – without foil, for a refreshing change. Sharp service. A big, rambling, brick-walled dining room – no intimacy, but with a charm of its own. Steak rating: 8. Dinner rating: 7.
Cattlemen’s, N Main, Fort Worth: The original. Same menu, same samplings, same great results as the Dallas version. Proximity to stockyards adds an atmospheric ’’earthy” smell outside – effective on the walk in, distressing on the walk out. Smaller dining rooms, each with separate grill and chef in view, and with glass case displaying all steak cuts on ice. Pictures of prize-winning fat stock adorn the walls – we dined in the shadow of JDH Aristocrat Manso, an exceptionally ugly brute. The menu warns against well-done: “We cannot be responsible for the size or tenderness .” Steak rating: 8. Dinner rating: 8.
Kirby’s, Greenville Avenue: An East Dallas institution. As warm and comfortable as you could want, with the friendliest waitresses in town. The 10-oz. strip ($7.60) is beautiful, the 16-oz. strip is more beautiful – almost two inches thick. Ever-so-slightly charred on the outside and perfect inside – the only one to accent the “rare” rather than the “medium.” Great homemade salad dressings include a creamy garlic and an oily bleu cheese. Big potato with all the extras (bacon, cheese, chives, etc.) at no extra cost. Steak rating: 9. Dinner rating: 9. Winner and still champion.
– David Bauer
The Bronx. With all the sideshow brouhaha on Cedar Springs in recent months, it seems miraculous that this seductive little spot has gone almost unnoticed. Apparently all eyes have been on other sights, catering to a different appetite. The Bronx (the name’s a mystery) is an atmospheric place – sort of rustic, woody, country-store – but doesn’t come on too strong. The fare is simple (soups, salads, sandwiches) but stylish and hasn’t disappointed us yet: a nice light gazpacho, an excellent spinach salad, a plate of bagels and lox with red onions and cream cheese, a delightful fresh fruit salad in a half cantaloupe, and a pretty omelette with bagel and a side of terrific Italian sausage – a real surprise. Beer (lots of imports) and wine only. And it’s true that a window table provides a ringside seat for the hottest acts in town. But if you’re real lucky, like we were, you’ll get to see the old firehouse across the street swing into action. Now that’s hot stuff. (3835 Cedar Springs near Oak Lawn/521-5821 /Daily 11:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m., bar till 2/No reservations/ MC/ $$)
Blue’s Lakefront Bar & Grille. Yet another product from the Gene Street restaurant machine. He’s done chicken and eggs, ta-males and barbecue, chicken fried steak and black-eyed peas – so what’s next? Hamburgers and hot dogs. Fourteen species of hamburgers (Avocado Burger, Jala-peno Burger, Bleu Cheese ’n’ Bacon Burger, Fried Egg Burger, etc.); and if you want to, you can pick your own additional items, pizza parlor style. Mostly half-pounders; choice of sesame, onion, or dark bun. Also the strangest hamburger yet devised: the Cordon-Bleu Burger with ham and swiss cheese, battered and deep fried – incredibly filling. Nine kinds of hot dogs including a Taco Dog that’s like a giant taco with two big, meaty hot dogs inside. Don’t bother with the black bean soup served “Cuban style” – which means filled with rice and overpriced. Huge “beer-battered” onion rings. A renovation restaurant, the place is a cross between a franchise coffee shop and a lake cottage (odd, but quite comfortable) and looks out on Bachman Lake – though there is the little matter of Northwest Highway between you and the shady shores. The Street track record is remarkable and this appears to be another winner. (3407 W Northwest Hwy/351-9510/Daily 11-11, except Sun noon-11; Bar till midnight, later on weekends/No reservations/MC,BA,AE/$)
The Green Apple. Following in the long and lurid tradition of the Greenville Avenue gimmick. This time it’s the shish kebab, with eight variations on the theme comprising almost the entirety of the menu. Examples: Persian Kebab (lamb, onions, tomatoes, green peppers), Chinese Kebab (pork, mushrooms, tomatoes, green peppers), German Kebab (calf’s liver, bacon, tomatoes, onions). The concept is a little confused (why Green Apple?) and the place is a little claustrophobic, so there’s a bit of surprise when the meal is turned out better than expected. The meat is definitely a cut above the usual tough skewered product (the lamb was particularly surprising) with nice subtle flavoring; and the rice was just right (and rice can be a mess). The salad is a half head of iceberg lettuce – generous, but really too generous. Entertainment by a folk-rock (for lack of a better term) guitarist staged right in the center of things gives a touch of coffee house appeal. But how often do you get an insatiable craving for shish kebab and folk-rock? And, amazingly enough, another kebab specialist has just opened up a few doors away. If both survive, then free enterprise really is a wonder. (6848 Greenville Ave near Park/361-7586/Tue-Fri 11 a.m.-midnight, Sat & Sun 4 p.m.-2 a.m., closed Mon/Reservations/All credit cards/$$)
The Junkie and the Chicken Fried Myth
In the summer of 1951, I was first exposed to a disgusting residue called “Pot Liquor.” That summer, my last thin summer, a slippery salesman wearing a diamond horseshoe ring convinced my mother that a lack of vitamins and minerals and protein was claiming my health and leading me to rickets. His solution was for my mother to invest, at great cost, in his one-of-a-kind, stainless steel, space-age cooking system that left all natural juices in the pan after you cooked away all the natural taste: Pot Liquor.
The cooking system also included a grinding device with suction cup legs that would turn any vegetable or mineral into a sludge called “Health Salad” with a turn of the crank. My mother, who measured health in terms of poundage and regularity, became a champion of nutrition. Daily she would produce Health Salad from potato peelings, cabbage, left-overs, twine. An intense hatred for home cooking began to eat at my mind.
On my street lived a boy that none of the mothers liked – Mark the Teenager. He had the first motorcycle, the first air rifle, the first girlfriend. And his mother worked. As we hung around cussing and spitting one afternoon, he exposed me to the first real chuckhole on my road to junk food addiction: Cheez-Whiz on hot Ritz crackers, heated over a floor furnace. Of course, the first few were free.
I was hooked. I couldn’t stop there. I had to experiment. Had to try harder stuff. Entire cans of Morton’s Chipped Beef over a loaf of Wonder Bread. Six normal servings of My-T-Fine Lemon Pudding to which you had to add a lemon drop for flavor. My world was flooded with new and wonderful junk – TV dinners, Jiffy Pop, Sara Lee, Chicken Pot Pies. I spent hours after school fondling Bos-co bottles. I was hooked. Why do you think they call it junk?
Now, 20 years later, I carry a 280-pound resume attesting to the fact that I’m a fallen man, a corn syrup connoisseur. My veins full of artificial flavor, I am a pawn to Colonel Sanders and Minnie Pearl, a sucker for every low rent Squat & Gobble in the city.
But I know who I am and what I’m going to continue to be. I also know there are those of you who will follow my gravy trail into the world of sodium caseinate and potassium phosphate. I accept the role of leader in the quest for the best in junk. And to protect from the evil fanatics who would bend us from a Bonus Jack to a bean sprout supreme.
Now, having said grace, let us eat. And without hesitation, let us confront the wildfire question burning on everyone’s lips: What is the best chicken fried steak?
So, what determines the best? Taste? Even the best Chicky Fry tastes average at best. It is junk food. A delicacy it ain’t. So much for the current mystique. Ingredients? I’ve tasted Chicky Fry made with everything from the true round steak to chicken fat & sawdust. There’s just not that much difference once you coat the little devils with a layer of Southern White Gravy that would likely make a better glue. Atmosphere? Eclectic junk and country corn trinketry, church pews and cornbread, shingled walls and little old ladies do not a chicken fried steak make.
The secret to the finest in chicken fried steak is Tradition. Like the tradition of the ancient Samurai ceremony of tea service. The tradition of wine pouring to the French. The unchanging discipline of the years. Herewith, the Toomer Ten-Point Traditional Art of Chicky Fry Buying.
Two points: Eat at a cafe that has a drive-in area or a bar section that serves only beer. It’s important that you feel out of place.
Two more points if the waitress makes you wait over 10 minutes then shows up in a see-through blouse that you don’t want to see through wearing a handkerchief pinned to her shoulder with a little bitty knife and fork who then asks you if you want your Chicky Fry a la carte (Note: A traditionalist never eats chicken fried steak on a plate lunch).
Three points for presentation only if your Chicky Fry is served on a tan plastic platter with mix & match silverware wrapped in a paper napkin that is the same size as the dispenser.
One point if iced tea is served in a purple plastic glass with at least one cigarette burn.
One point if they serve only Heinz 57 Sauce or French dressing in a squeeze bottle marked Mustard with a waitress on the front.
One point if you get two-part dinner rolls with burned bottom crusts served in a plastic basket.
I realize these are very strict standards. So let me lighten your load and ease your search by suggesting a visit to Roscoe White’s Easy Way restaurant on Lovers Lane. This venerable establishment comes as close as I have ever found to purest high form in the chicken fried tradition.
– George Toomer
The Beer Facts
Next to water, beer is the single most popular beverage on earth. And this has little or nothing to do with the fact that beer is 90 percent water. Beer is the drink of the common man and, like the common man, beer is taken for granted.
The world lapped up nearly 1.6 billion gallons of beer in 1970 and will swallow over 3 billion gallons of brew in 1980. The average American beer drinker consumes almost 20 gallons of beer per year but knows next to nothing about it. For example, you probably didn’t know that American beers are at their best when chilled to 42-45 degrees; but European beers should never be served at a temperature less than 55 degrees because they tend, at colder temperatures, to lose flavor, cloud up, and drop sediment. You may not know that when pouring beer you should do so with enough vigor to produce at least a small head or the carbonation will be quickly lost, since the head serves almost as a seal.
Dallas downed over 10 million cases of beer during the first eight months of 1976. And so, in tribute to this great beverage, here follows everything you never knew or thought you needed to know but will be all the wiser for knowing about beer in Dallas.
Most popular import: By consensus of Dallas distributors, the current local favorite is Heineken. Mexico’s Dos Equis is a close and fast-rising second. And Carta Blanca is just a step behind.
Best ethnic beer drinking bar: No easy category, but it must be the NFL Lounge on Oak Lawn. Run by Greeks, with an Irish bartender, and an English pub flavor, the NFL attracts ambassadors of drink from all over the world.
Most expensive beer: Anchor Steam goes for $19.62 per case (including tax) at Marty’s Liquors. Anchor Steam, brewed in San Francisco, has a history tracing back to the Gold Rush days when, so the story goes, a brewing process was, by necessity, tried without the use of ice. The result was a rich, distinctive beer that is still brewed in the same manner in a tiny brewery with a total staff of only six people. (If you just want to taste, the Stone-leigh P. on Maple has it for $1.25 a bottle.)
Best beer garden: This vote has to go to Cardinal Puffs on Greenville. An extensive, multi-leveled wooden deck with big trees, hanging plants, music, and mugs of draft from 45￠ to 55￠.
Best beer can collection: Michael Carr, owner of the Quiet Man pub on Knox Street, has an incredible collection of some 2,300 beer cans and bottles. He keeps about 900 on display at the Quiet Man, the rest at home, and rotates the collection every few weeks. Prized items include a 740-millilitre Foster’s Lager from Australia; a bottle of Time – a Dallas brew of the 1930’s and predecessor of Bluebonnet, another Dallas beer; and a can from the Pittsburgh Brewery (makers of Iron City Beer) of their Christmas special brew called Old Frothing Slosh – the label reads “The brew with the foam on the bottom, brewed from the muddy waters of the Mo-nongahela, brewed with just a kiss of the mops.”
Cheapest beer: Day in, day out, the lowest case prices in Dallas are at Sav-Mor Oil Company, a former gas station on Greenville. Case prices (hot) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are as follows: Pabst – $5.25. Schlitz – $5.75, Coors – $5.85, Bud – $6.15, Miller Lite – $6.25, Michelob – $Y. Prices include tax; add 45-50￠ if purchased cold or on Monday-Wednesday. Another good bet are the Sigmor-Shamrock Service Stations which feature a premium beer on sale each week at $1.39 a six-pack, $5.56 a case, plus tax. Contrary to popular belief, a beer purchase does not require a gas purchase – that’s illegal.
Most popular beer: Dallas’ favorite, in a runaway, is Coors. Following behind are, in order, Schlitz, Bud, Miller, and Falstaff.
Best import beer bar: The Bronx on Cedar Springs carries fourteen imports – Kirin, San Miguel, Guinness Stout, Harp, Carta Blanca, Bohemia, Dos Equis, Tecate, Ringnes, Wérzburger light, Wérzburger dark, Carlsberg, Elephant Malt Liquor, and Beck’s.
Biggest surprise: The Dallas market area leads the nation in Malt Liquor sales with approximately one million cases per year (75 percent of which is Schlitz Malt Liquor). And nobody seems to know the reason why.
Easiest beer: The newly-opened Beer Bam on Greenville at Park Lane offers drive-thru booze. Purchases are handed to the customer or placed in the back seat or trunk by an attendant. Prices are middle of the road; cash only; no imports.
Best beer bar bargain: There may be a better one lurking somewhere, but the Pilot Lounge in Walnut Hill Village will be hard to beat with its Budweiser on tap for 35￠ a mug, every day, from 7 in the morning to 2 in the morning.
Best homebrew bargain: For serious beer drinkers, a keg at home is the ultimate answer. Prices range from a 15.75-gallon keg of Old Milwaukee for $19.50 to a 16-gallon keg of Michelob for $32.95. To get set up for regular home use, an individual would need to purchase the necessary equipment from the distributor, prices varying depending on the set-up. Is it worth it? Here’s an example. You could take your old ice box to Coors and have it tapped and readied with equipment for $117.50. Add a keg of Coors at $24.95. Six full kegs will overcome your initial investment and after that you could draw each 10-ounce glass of beer at a cost of 11 1/2￠.
Most difficult beer to find: There may not be a bottle of Urquell Pilsner for sale in the entire state of Texas. Urquell Pilsner is still laboriously brewed in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia the way it was centuries ago, in a process that takes five times as long as other brewing methods, making it the most expensive beer to brew in the world. And one of the rarest. And, say many aficionados, perhaps the very best beer made. There is, at least, one known empty bottle in Dallas – Michael Carr has it in his collection.
Largest import selection, retail: The Vineyard on Hillcrest and Marty’s Liquors on Oak Lawn each carry 33 different imports – in effect every import available to Dallas.
Best beer scientist: Dr. Robert Schoenvo-gel, resident in Urology at Parkland Hospital explains once and for all the reason behind the inevitable, shall we say, discomfort resulting from beer drinking: The alcohol in beer inhibits the pituitary secretion of a hormone called ADH, without which the kidneys have difficulty re-absorbing water into the bloodstream. The high volume of water in beer, as opposed to mixed drinks, makes the problem more pronounced. Thus the rapid build-up of fluid in the bladder and long lines in tavern bathrooms.
Best beer fact unrelated to Dallas: The inhabitants of Bavaria in West Germany are thought to lead the world in beer consumption – about 116 gallons per capita each year. Others suggest that the inhabitants of the Northern Territory of Australia drink even more. The Australians and Bavarians themselves find the matter a bit difficult to discuss.
This is all very timely, you see. November issue, November deer hunting season. So what else but a venison recipe. And, fitting in neatly with this little scheme, Heinz Prast, owner of The Chimney restaurant, agrees to share his recipe for venison tournedos, which is, we think, the only such dish in the city.
But, the hitch. You can’t just trot over to the neighborhood Safeway and pick up a few pounds of venison. Venison, in fact, is contraband. Texas state law forbids its commercial sale – for the obvious ecological reasons. There are really only two ways to get venison: be a hunter and shoot your own or be a friend to a hunter who will share his with you. Or, a third option, go visit Heinz Prast, who says he might be able to share limited amounts when he has enough surplus – which is not often.
Heinz imports his venison from an outfit in Montana, one of few legally licensed to sell it. And though the tournedos is a regular menu item at The Chimney, there are times when Heinz just doesn’t have it. But when he does, there’s a string of regular customers who want to know about it. “When I get a shipment, I get on the telephone,” says Heinz. “And most of the people will be here for dinner that night. The demand is ten times greater than the supply.” Venison is a highly seasonal trade. “Spring and summer are very difficult, fall and winter much better,” he says. “The quality varies too – summer grazing adds an undesirable grassy-green taste. Just like rabbit. At home we never shot rabbit in summer.” Home is Austria. The recipe originated with Heinz’ grandmother. “Granny had 23 children,” he says. “Granny knew how to cook.”
Venison does not have a heavy gamey taste if prepared correctly, according to Chimney chef Raul Leonel (who describes himself as a man “of Chinese and Mexican parentage, born in Texas with French habits, educated by a chef from Holland, now preparing German and Austrian cuisine”). The secret is in removing completely the “silver skin,” the shiny tissue covering the loin. “The silver skin carries the gamey flavor,” says Raul. “When it’s removed, the meat has basically a calf taste with a very slight game flavor and the texture of beef. The tissue is used in preparing the sauce where you want the gamey flavor.” Heinz recommends that you cook your venison “one step higher” than the way you like your beef (if you cook your steak medium rare, cook your venison medium). The 20-minute recommendation in this recipe results in medium.
Deer season in Texas runs from approximately November 13 through January 2 (it varies somewhat from county to county). Kuby’s, in Snider Plaza, is one of several area frozen food locker plants that will store and process deer. Occasionally someone will fail to claim their deer from storage and Kuby’s will sell it for the processing cost alone ($20 for the whole deer or $1.10/lb. if made into sausage) – a long shot, but a bargain if your timing is lucky. Here’s what to do with it – if you can just get it.
2 lbs. loin of venison
8 slices bacon
1 stalk celery
1 medium size onion
tsp. rosemary leaves
1/3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 oz. butter
salt and pepper to taste
Trim the loin of all fat and silver tissue. Place these trimmings in a 2-quart saucepan with carrot, celery, onion, and spices. Cover with 1? quarts water and simmer until reduced by about 1 1/2 quart. Cut the loin into 8 medallions approximately 4 ounces each and wrap with a slice of bacon. In a skillet, place butter and brown the tournedos on both sides at medium-high heat to seal the juices. Place in a 375° oven for 20 minutes (slightly longer for medium well). Remove the tourne-dos from the skillet. Add the drippings to the stock and reduce to about one quart or slightly less. Serve and cover with sauce. Serves four.
These restaurants represent the best in Dallas dining. It is implicit, then, that we recommend all of them highly. The star ratings serve only to point up restaurants of special significance.
★-Indicates a best-of-the-offbeat restaurant, a place with unique and unusual appeal.
★★-Indicates a restaurant worthy of special note, which has proved consistently to be one of the best of its kind.
★★★-Indicates overall excellence, one of the city’s superior restaurants.
These listings are revised and supplemented periodically. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment. Inclusion in this directory has nothing whatever to do with paid advertising.
The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise. They are intended only to indicate a general price range.
$-Generally inexpensive. Usually indicates a good value.
$$ – Middle ground and very general. Usually indicates a menu with a wide price range.
$$$ – Expensive. You can expect to spend more than $10 for a complete meal excluding wine and cocktails.
$$$$ – Very expensive.
Unless otherwise noted, all restaurants have full bar facilities.
★★Arthur’s. Once a rustic steakhouse, now a shimmering beef palace. Steak remains the pillar of the operation, but other options abound: lamb chops, veal chops, and calf’s liver to name a few favorites. American wines only – an intriguing and imaginative touch. Warm and classy with one of Dallas’ best bars. Live entertainment. (1000 Campbell Centre ’361 -8833/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Daily 6-11, Sat till midnight/ Reservations/All credit cards/$$$)
Bagatelle. The mood and the menu take their cue from rural France – an easy elegance prevails. A diverse menu; simplicity of style makes for a dependable kitchen. Highlights: fine beef tourne-dos. nice veal dishes, and an unusual roquefort pillow steak. Unpretentious but unpredictable service. The cozy bistro is filled with live jazz. (One Energy Square/Greenville Ave at University/692-8224 ’Lunch: Daily 11:30-2:30: Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat till 11; Bar till 1:30 a.m. nightly/Reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$$)
Le Bistro. A gracefully restored old house with dining rooms upstairs and down marked by a quiet, unadorned charm. The menu is classically French both in style and selection, bursting with promise. But in execution, the kitchen has proved capable of both brilliance and disappointment. Service is highly polished, efficient but not ebullient. (3716 Bowser, just oft Oak Lawn/528-4181/Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 6-10 p.m.; Sal & Sun 6-10 p.m./Reservations/MC, BA/$$$)
Brasserie. A coffee shop extraordinaire and a 24-hour-a-day outlet for the artistry of the Fairmont Hotel kitchen. Nowhere else can you eat a cheeseburger under chandeliers or snack on smoked salmon and eggs at three in the morning. Four different menus, each taking a shift; the dinner menu periodically changes its foreign focus. Splendid pastries. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross & Akard/748-5454/24 hours, seven days a week/No reservations/MC,BA,AE,DC/$$)
Brennan’s. While it doesn’t rival its illustrious New Orleans namesake, it does have its attractions. Perhaps the most extensive dinner menu in the entire city – almost any continental dish from land, air or sea. But still best tor an elegant breakfast or Sunday brunch. And undoubtedly the nicest non-private dining room in all of downtown. (One Main Place/742-1911/Breakfast & Lunch: 7-2:30 weekdays, 8-2:30 weekends: Dinner: Daily 6-10, till 11 weekends/Reservations/ All credit cards/$$$)
★★Calluaud. From this small frame house, the Cal-luaud family offers French Mediterranean cuisine at its simple but elegant best. Wonderful for lunch: superb omelettes, splendid salads, and lovely sandwiches – try the Grille au Fromage. And their fruit tarts are famous. The dinner menu is more ambitious but equally well-executed. Busy and often, unfortunately, noisy. (2917 Fair-mount off Cedar Springs/745-9571/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Mon-Fri 6:30-10:30, Sat till 11, closed Sun/Reserva-tions/MC,BA/$$$)
Chablls. Satisfying rather than sensational, dependable rather than dazzling, Chablis has quietly established a loyal clientele, particularly at lunch. A nice variety of regional French specialties with popular daily specials. Excellent quiche, salads, and sandwiches. And don’t pass up the apple pie with brandy butter. An attractive, low-key place. (120 Quadrangle, 2800 Routh/522-0910/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30: Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat till midnight: closed Sun/Reservations on weekends/MC,BA, AE/$$$)
Chateaubriand. A long-time Dallas fixture whose popularity survives in spite of a loud clash of styles including a glossy, almost garish, French provincial dining room with marble statues and chandeliers. The international menu sweeps from “Greek Veal” to “Pepper Steak – Hawaiian Style.” Many steaks and shellfish. Bargain daily hot luncheon specials. (35/5 McKin-ney/741-1223/Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m.-midnight/ Reservations/All credit cards/$$$)
The Chimney. A Swiss/Austrian style characterizes this kitchen and gives this restaurant some special appeal. The Naturschnitzel is a fine veal dish, as is the veal Zurich. For a twist, try the venison tournedos. Lunch is still served in the tearoom tradition that originally established The Chimney. The dining room is American colonial in motif – handsome but a bit lifeless. (Willow-creek, 9739 N Cen Expwy at Walnut Hill/369-6466/Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2: Dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30/ Sun brunch 11-2/ Reservations/ MC,AE/$$$)
D REVISITS The Enclave. You may be slight-ly unsettled by the entrance to this restaurant – it’s tucked away in a complex of doctors’ of-fices across from Presbyterian Hospital. But any medicinal misgivings will be cured once you step inside. The fancily-appointed dining room (in the subdued smoked-mirrors-and-chandeliers tradition), the pleasant bar and soothing music, and the attentive, well-disciplined service give promise of an exceptional dining experience. Unfortunately, the food doesn’t measure up to the surroundings. Oh, you can get a very nice filet of lemon sole, a good onion soup, and a well-dressed salad, but don’t expect the sublime. Maybe they’re simply trying to do too many things at once, for the menu is copious, reaching into all realms of continental cuisine. Lunch, because it is more modest in range and price, is a better bet than dinner. A fine wine list. This is a mood restaurant, a place for those who relish the romance of candlelight and soft music. (8325 Walnut Hill/363-7487/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11, bar till 12/ Reservations/ MC,BA, AE,DC/$$$)
Ewald’s. An inspired collection of veal dishes (Veal “Palm Beach” with Westphalian ham, hearts of palm, and béarnaise sauce) have given Ewald his loyal following. But he also serves a cognac-flamed pepper steak that ranks with the best in town. A smattering of other continental dishes (with a Swiss flavor) and a limited seafood selection. A small, plain – in fact bland – dining room. (5415 W Lovers Ln/357-1622/Mon-Fri 6-10:30, Sat 6-11 /Reservations/MC,BA/$$$)
The Grape. Cozy, congenial, and crowded, the Grape delights its loyal fans with a wonderful array of cheeses from which you create your own elegant cheese board combinations. A daily menu of light entrees, plus lovely omelettes and great soups – the fresh mushroom has a reputation of its own. A diverse and interesting wine selection. An old and unassuming little place. (2808 Greenville Ave/823-0133/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Tue-Sun, 6-10:30, open later on Fri & Sat tor wine and cheese only/No reservations/No credit cards/$$)
Marcel’s. Marcel is a charming host in the classic French tradition; it’s that French feeling that has made this a long-popular restaurant. That and a complete table d’hote dinner for only $6.50 – not the finest French cuisine in the city but certainly the best priced. Beef Wellington is the house specialty, but the real star may be the coq au vin. Relaxed, quiet dining. (5721 W Lovers Ln/358-2103/Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat till midnight. Closed Mon/Reservations/MC,BA,AE,DC/$$)
★★Mr. Peppe. Some say it’s the best French restaurant in the city. Others cite inconsistencies and argue. Regardless, there is a friendly intimacy and refreshing informality at work here – a warm, dark, and cozy setting. Wonderful rack of lamb, superb pepper steak. And the pastries – owner/chef Albert’s specialties – are almost too good to be true. (5617 W Lovers Ln/ 352-5976/ Mon-Sat 6-10/ Reservations/ MC,BA,AE/$$$)
Old Warsaw. Not always up to its glowing reputation and illustrious heritage, but the stately luxury and Old World appeal still prevail. The meal may have its ups and downs, but the entrees usually dazzle. A fine duck Bigarade and beautifully prepared seafood dishes. Service is sometimes perfect, sometimes far from it. Magnificent wine cellar. (2610 Maple/528-0032/Daily 6-11, Sat till midnight/Reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$$$)
★★★Oz. An odd location and financial tribulations have still not diminished the brilliance of the menu or the creative excellence of the kitchen – there is no finer food to be had in Dallas. A seasonal menu that sparkles with originality – rarely a disappointment, though you do pay dearly for the privilege. A slightly jarring chrome and neon decor works better in the disco where a more modest menu is offered. Extraordinary wine list. By membership. (5429 LBJ Free-way/233-5755/Dinner: Mon-Thur 7-10, Fri & Sat till 11: Disco Mon-Fri 5 p.m.-2 a.m., Sat 7 p.m.-2 a.m.; closed Sun/Reservations required/MC, BA,AE/$$$$)
Papillon. A well-balanced, well-executed continental menu including a particularly nice group of veal dishes and a good assortment of seafood. One of the city’s newer efforts in haute cuisine, but the kitchen staff is veteran and the expertise shows. Try the creme avocado soup. A contemporary design meets with traditional smoked-mirror decor to create an interesting if slightly disjointed effect. (7940 N Cen Expwy at Caruth Haven/691-7455/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat till midnight/Reservations/All credit cards/$$$)
★★Patry’s. Another contender in the “best-French-restaurant-in-town” debate. A family-run operation with an obvious personal touch is one reason. A menu of exquisite hors d’oeuvres is another (have the stuffed leeks in cream sauce). The escalope of veal is the star of the entrees. Neither luxurious nor intimate, but that doesn’t deter a very loyal clientele. (2504 McKin-ney/748-3754/Tue-Fri 6-11, Sat till 11:30/ Reservations/ MC,BA,AE,DC/$$$)
Plaza Cafe. One of Dallas’ few nice spots for dining alfresco: the terrace was built and grown from scratch, so it’s not yet a garden paradise, but still offers the pleasure of eating outdoors, with a European cafe appeal. The menu is varied and light continental in nature, all from the dependable Bagatelle kitchen. Impressive cold buffet. Terrace closed mid-winter, indoor tables only. (One Energy Square, Greenville Ave at University/692-8224/Lunch: Daily 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-midnight, Fri & Sat till 1 a.m./ Reservations/MC, BA,AE/$$)
★★★Pyramid Room. The classiest dining room in Dallas – an aura of affluence and impeccable taste. A paragon of service – absolutely professional but without pomposity, including a theatrical sommelier. A dizzying dinner menu of French specialties of the highest order (lunch is less glamorous). The Grand Marnier dessert souffle is a triumph. In sum, Dallas’ finest restaurant. But even at that, capable of disappointment because it is so expensive. Too expensive. But always a pleasure if you can pay the price. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross & Akard/ 748-5454/ Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Daily 6-midnight/ Reservations/ All credit cards/ $$$$)
★Camplsi’s Egyptian Restaurant. The best pizza in town – at least if the crowds that always line up outside are an indication. Otherwise, the Italian fare is pretty ordinary. A busy, noisy, tacky delight. (5610 E Mockingbird/827-0355/Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-midnight. Sat till 1 a.m., Sun noon-mid-night/No credit cards. Checks accepted/Reservations tor 6 or more/ $)
lanni’s, Whatever lanni’s is, it’s one of a kind. Consider the features. It’s located at the end of an older lower Greenville Avenue shopping center with an ordinary, undistinguished facade. The walls of the entry lobby are tacked with pennants and photos of Dallas sports teams and with autographed celebrity glossies (apparently Lily Tomlin has eaten here.) The hallway to the lounge is lined with incongruous Dmitri Vail portraits (Betty White doesn’t look Italian). The lounge is, well, hardly intimate; more celebs on the walls and a corner stage where a character all in black laughs and plays with his double-necked electric guitar and electronic musical gizmos. The dining room is not just decorated with the standard plastic grapes – it’s an entire vineyard of plastic grapes. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Incredibly, it’s not. lanni’s is so relaxed, so unpretentious, such a throwback, that it breeds a tun time, with lots of obvious regulars who love it The waitresses are pros – friendly, but no wasted efforts. The food is better-than-average Italian, but certainly not stunning. A separate hors d’oeuvres menu offers homemade Italian sausage as good as any in Dallas – and, true to form, it comes sliced and stuck with toothpicks. (2230 Greenville/826-6161/Daily 5:30-11 p.m./ Reservations/MC,AE/$$)
★★ll Sorrento. The best Italian food in Dallas in a marvelously hokey setting – like a Hollywood designer’s dream of Venice, complete with strolling musicians and bread vendors. The fettucine Alfredo and the tagliatelle – both prepared at your table – are standouts among the pasta dishes, and there’s a wide variety of tine veal dishes crowned by the Marsala and piccata. Classy service. (8616 Turtle Creek/352-8759/Daily 5:30-11, Sat till midnight /Reservations except on Fri & Sat/All credit cards/$$$)
Italian Pavilion. An elegant “penthouse ” restaurant atop the Le Baron Hotel. Veal scaloppine Gaetano and the Speciale di Polio e Vitello are particularly tine. The minestrone topped with parmigiano cheese is good for starters, and the coffee ice cream cake they call “cappuccino” a nice finish. Good, sometimes slow, service. (Le Baron Hotel, 1055 Regal Row at Carpenter Fwy/634-8550/Mon-Sat 6-11 p.m. /Reservations/All credit cards/$$$)
Mario’s. On a good night, this plush restaurant is unsurpassed for Italian cuisine in Dallas. The veal with mushrooms and artichoke hearts is famous, and the Frittura Delizie Romano and fried zucchini, which accompany all entrees, are terrific. Great spumoni, and a fine selection of Italian wines. (135 Turtle Creek Village/521-1135/Daily 6-11, Sat till midnight/Reservations/ All credit cards/$$$)
Pletro’s Home-style Sicilian cooking with flocks of regular customers. The standouts are the pasta dishes – manicotti, cannelloni, fettucine alla Romana, lasagna with meat sauce, and spaghetti marinara – and old standbys like pizza (order the special Sicilian style in advance) and garlic bread (baked on the premises). Giant frosted schooners of beer – or try the Segesta, a Sicilian wine. (5722 Richmond oft Greenville/824-9403/Tue-Thur 5:30-10 p.m.. Fri & Sat till 11 p. m./No reservations/No credit cards/$$)
China Inn. A dependable restaurant with a Cantonese emphasis. Standouts are the sweet-and-sour dishes, the ginger beef, and war sue har (batter-fried shrimp with a “country-style” sauce). Huge eggrolls and excellent homemade almond cookies. Low-keyed and comfortable. (6521 E Northwest Hwy/ 369-7733/ Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10:30 p.m.; Sat till midnight; Sun 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m./Reservations/MC,BA,AE/ $$)
★★Hunan. Currently Dallas’ best Chinese restaurant. The Hunan cuisine that is its specialty is milder than you’ll find in New York, but still potent. Have the “pu pu tray” of appetizers, and then you re on your own – it’s all good (though we recommend Hunan Lamb, Champagne Chicken, and Shrimp with Garlic Sauce). Small and comfortable. (5214 Greenville Ave at Lovers Ln/369-4578/Mon-Thur 11:30 am.-11 p.m., Fri. Sat & Sun 11-midnight/ Reservations/ MC.BA, AE/$$)
Peking Palace. This restaurant used to be Dallas’ most reliable for great Chinese food in a variety of styles, but something seems to have happened to it during the recent proliferation of Chinese restaurants. It hasn’t quite kept up with the competition. For the most part the Szechuan-style selections are still excellent, but the appetizers and some of the entrees billed as “Chef’s Specialties” are carelessly prepared. On a recent visit, the shrimp toast was overdone on the outside, underdone on the inside – a sure sign of something that’s come too hastily from the refrigerator – and the Crispy Smoked Tea Duck was not crispy, just scorched, and it had the tired taste of food that has been warmed over. The shredded pork with garlic sauce, however, was delicately spicy, and their Won Ton soup is still the best in town. Peking Duck, their supreme appetizer, must be ordered in advance. Service has a tendency to be too rushed – another hint that the food is not being prepared, just warmed up. Still the most pleasant dining room of any Dallas Chinese restaurant. (4119 Lomo Alto/522-1830/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5-11, Fri & Sat till midnight. Sun noon-10 p.m./Reservations on weekends/MC,BA,AE/$$)
Ports o’ Call. The greatest view (from the top of Southland Center) of any Dallas restaurant, and that almost makes up for the fact that the food – ranging from Chinese to Polynesian – is only okay. The decor is extravagant, and so are the bar concoctions (some so potent they limit you to two). A good place to take out-of-towners. (Southland Center, 2117 Live Oak/742-2334/Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Daily 5:30-10:30/Reservations/AII credit cards/$$$)
Royal China. A friendly place with a loyal clientele, a most gracious host, and some unusual menu items: Tea Smoked Duck. Golden Crown of Pork, and Dry Stir Beef. All the food is attractively presented – the chef even sculpts elegant little butterflies from carrots. Unfortunately, the appetizers are on the greasy side. (201 Preston Royal Shopping Center ’361 -1771 or 368-9692/Tues-Sun 11:30-2:30 and 5:30-10 p.m., closed Mon/Reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$)
★★Royal Tokyo. Excellent Japanese cuisine, no matter whether you sit in one of the little tatami rooms, at one of the large Teppan Yaki tables where the chefs play with knives, or in the more
conventional dining areas. Recommendations include Tonkatsu (batter-fried pork strips), shrimp tempura and shabu-shabu (a more delicately-flavored relative of sukiyaki). For the adventurous, sashimi – an appetizer of raw fish. Quiet and gracious. (7525 Greenville Ave/368-3304/Lunch: Daily 11:30-2. except Sat; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat till 11:30, Sun 5-10/Reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$)
South China. An unassuming restaurant that specializes in Mandarin cuisine. The dishes with black bean sauce are the standouts, as well as the spicy chicken with pecans, barbecued pork with vegetables, and the shredded beef with hot sauce. Excellent soups and appetizers. (5424 E Mockingbird/826-5420/Lunch: Daily 11:30-2:30, Sat & Sun noon-2:30; Dinner: Daily 5-10, Fri & Sat till 11 /Reservations/MC.BA,AE/$$)
Trader Vic’s. One of the best of a variable chain of Oriental-Polynesian restaurants, this one has excellent hors d’oeuvres (try the “Cosmo Tidbit” platter), a fine limestone lettuce salad, and well-prepared entrees. We suggest the curries, the almond duck, lobster Cantonese, or the Indonesian lamb roast. Exotic and powerful rum concoctions. (Hilton Inn. 5600 N Cen Expwy/827-3620/Daily 5-11:30 p.m., weekends till midnight/Reservations/All credit cards/$$$)
Yet Lau. A neighborhood Chinese restaurant with down-home Texas waitresses and a devoted clientele. Soups and appetizers are so-so, but the entrees – try the Chicken Long Hut – are carefully prepared. The decor is pretty awful, but the food makes up tor it. (6635 E Lovers Ln at Northwest Hwy/691-3112/Sun-Thur 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri & Sat 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m./Reservations /MC.BA/$$)
Chiquita. More than Tex-Mex – order from the authentic specialties on the right side of the menu and get a taste of real Mexican food. The usual Tex-Mex standards are no better than average, though the chiles rellenos are simple and nice. Dark, comfortable, low-key little dining room and a devoted clientele to fill it. Service has ups and downs. (3325 Oak Lawn/521-0721 ’Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m./No reserva-tions/MC,BA.AE/$$)
★Herrera Cafe. Home-cooked Tex-Mex at its best. The original location on Maple is adobe-hole-in-the-wall style, the newer Lemmon location is south-o-the-border tacky, but the nachos and burritos are elegant. At Maple you can watch them make their delicious flour tortillas while you wait in line, but at Lemmon there’s a bar. (3902 Maple/526-9427/Weekdays 9 a.m.-8 p.m., weekends till 10 p.m.; closed Tue/3708 Lemmon/528-2250/Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri & Sat till 10 p.m./No reservations/No credit cards/$)
Mariano’s. A stylish dining room with a big, festive cantina and a lively mariachi band keeps this place hopping. The menu runs the gamut, but the food is really only average and a bit expensive for Mexican food. If you’re four or more in number, go for “The Revolution” – a little of everything for $10 apiece. (Old Town. 5500 Greenville/691-3888/Mon-Thur 11 am.-midnight, bar till 1 a.m.; Fri & Sat 11 a.m.-11:30 p. m., bar till 2 a.m.; Sun 4.30-10:30 p.m., bar till midnight/No reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$)
★★Raphael’s. All in all. Dallas’ best Mexican restaurant – and oh the crowds to prove it. From puffed tacos to shrimp enchiladas you can’t go wrong, but take note that the chicken-sour cream enchiladas are the best in town. A lovely old place with warm, wooden, ranchero style. (3701 McKinney/521-9640/Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sat noon-10:30, closed Sun/Reservations Mon-Thur only/MC,BA,AE/$$)
El Taxco. Maybe the best dining value in Dallas. Dependable Tex-Mex right down to the retried beans |ust the way they ought to be – and at very low prices. A subtle style with less hot seasonings makes it an especially good spot for newcomers to Mexican food. A casual, friendly cafe. (2126 N St. Paul/742-0747/Wed-Mon 10:30 a. m.-9 p.m., closed Tue/No reservations/MC/$)
Goldfinger. In the limited realm of Greek cuisine in Dallas, Goldfinger serves some of the best. But still, this is as much a nightclub (live music with belly dancing) as it is a restaurant and the food is only good, not great. The combination dinner of souvlaki and large charcoaled shrimp is nice and rack of lamb is the house specialty. And the dolmas are great. (2905 Cridelle/350-6983/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat till midnight/Reservations on weekends/MC. BA,AE/$$)
Greek Key. A festive spot with a longstanding clientele who revel with the staff in Greek folk dances. Live Greek music and, of course, belly dancers. The menu has all the standard Greek specialties – moussaka, etc. – plus steaks and lobster. For a good Greek sampling, try the combination plate or the daily lunch buffet. (2930 W Northwest Hwy/358-5177/Mon-Sat 11 a.m-2 p. m., closed Sun/All credit cards/Reserva-tions/$$)
India House. Authentic and artistic Indian and southern Asian specialties from two talented Indian chefs. Fine curry dishes and even better specialty dishes – the chicken Tandoori is beautiful. The Shahi dinner offers a bountiful sampling of Indian cuisine. A helpful staff will guide you through the menu. The lunch specials are a bargain. (5422 E Mockingbird/823-1000/Lunch: Daily 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat till 11/Reservations/All credit cards/$$)
The Black-Eyed Pea. Three locations, but the original, on Cedar Springs, is the hot spot, with old-time Texana style. Chicken fried steak is the big item. And, of course, black eyed peas Plus big burgers, unusual sandwiches. Black-Eyed Pea Too is smaller and dry. Ill on Greenville features butterfly pork chops. (385 7 Cedar Springs near Oak Lawn/526-9478/Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat till midnight, Sun noon-11/Too, 6912 Snider Plaza/369-5011/Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m. except Sun noon-9/lll. 4814 Greenville Ave near University/361 -5979/Hours same as Cedar Springs/No reservations/MC,AE/$)
Celebration. Good ol’ homestyle cooking. Choose from five entrees (nothing fancy; the pot roast is the best). Plus bowls full of vegetables and salad served family style. Great biscuits and wonderful cobblers. Very casual. Beer and wine. (4503 W Lovers Ln/351-5681/Mon-Sat 5:30-11. Sun till 10:30/No reservations/MC,BA/$)
Mr. Chicken. Many rate it the best fried chicken in town. Small town cafe style (including TV). Chicken and dumplings and other plate lunches; grilled steaks. And luscious onion rings. Beer only. (5114 Greenville Ave near Lovers Ln/363-6969/Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m./No reservations/No credit cards/$)
Red Moon Cafe. A charming and romantic little European-cafe setting helps hide the consistently inconsistent kitchen. But when they’re on, the featured Creole cooking (more Spanish than French in influence) can be a treat. Open tor breakfasts trimmed with grits and biscuits. (4537 Cole/526-5391 Mon-Sat 7-2:30, 6-10/No reservations/No credit cards/$$)
Shanghai Jimmy’s Chill Rice. A Dallas institution that’s come and gone and come again. Now on Lemmon, Jimmy still dishes out the same great stuff: a tub of rice topped with chili and your choice of onions, celery, Cheddar, and sweet relish. Mix it all up and you’ve got a meal. Lemonade only. (4108 Lemmon Ave near Douglas/No phone/Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m., except Sun 5-10 p.m./No reservations/No credit cards/$)
★Sonny Bryan’s. Best barbecue in town? You’ll never get a consensus, but this one gets a lot of votes. Juicy, juicy stuff in a funky, funky little smokehouse. No tables – you eat on individual school desk tops. Beer, no bar. (2202 In-wood/357-7120/Mon-Sat 6 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sun 11-2/No reservations/No credit cards/$)
Southern Kitchen. An all-you-can-eat feast in the tradition of the Old South: fried chicken, smoked chicken, tried shrimp, fried trout, and deviled crab plus appetizers and many other trimmings. Nothing extraordinary (except the luscious cinnamon rolls) but the magnitude alone is impressive. (West, 2356 W Northwest Hwy/352-5220/East, 6615 E Northwest Hwy/368-1658/Mon-Sat 5:30-10:30 p.m., Sun 5-10 p.m./ Reservations for 5 or more/All credit cards/$$)
Oporto Oyster Bar. Stick to the simple things here, like the luscious oysters on the half shell, the Boston scrod, the broiled red snapper, the whole baby flounder or the broiled Maine Lobster. A predictable decor of casual-nautical – but nice. Service is the chief variable in what is, by default, Dallas’ best seafood restaurant. (2929 N Henderson/826-2553/Daily 5-11 p.m., Fri & Sat till midnight/No reservations/BA, AE/$$)
Vehon’s. An unpretentious oyster bar that grew into a shlocky restaurant, Vehon’s still serves the best oysters in town, giant red Spanish shrimp, baked (not broiled) rainbow trout, catfish, and – a rarity in Dallas – a properly black, hot gumbo. Casual to the point of crudeness, but there are lots who love it. (4844 Greenville Ave/368-8911/Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun 5-11 p.m./ Reservations /All credit cards/$$)
Arjun’s. Low-keyed and attractive surroundings for imaginative food that’s good for you. The hot entree changes daily, and it’s usually excellent, but they always have delicious, huge, unweildy avocado sandwiches, generous fresh fruit and vegetable salads, good soups, and custom-made smoothies, (4220 Oak Lawn/526-4050/Mon-Fri 11-3, 5-9; Sat 11-9/No reservations/No credit cards/$)
Black Forest. Austrian-style food – sausages, sa-lamis, coffee cakes, breads, a lovely cold cut platter, and excellent sandwiches. Try the veal sausages with hash browns and black bread, and any of the pastries. Excellent selection of German beers and wines. (5819 Blackwell off E Northwest Hwy/’368-4490/Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-6 p. m., Sat till 5 p.m./No reservations/BA/$)
★Kuby’s. Busy, bustling, with excellent homemade sausages (served with hot potato salad or sauerkraut), thick sandwiches (try the pastrami), great pastries, and a soup of the day which is a lunch-time bargain (60￠). A congenial spot with a German accent. (6601 Snider Plaza/363-2231/Mon-Sal 8:30-2:30, sandwiches till 5:30/ No reservations/MC – $15 minimum/$)
Wall’s. Dallas’ best Jewish delicatessen, with first-rate corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, good cheese blintzes, and sour cream herring. Alas, the chopped liver is only so-so. (10749 Preston Rd/691-4444/Daily 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p. m./Reservations for parties/MC,BA/$)
Steaks, Burgers, Etc.
Baby Doe’s Matchless Mine. Right out of Six Flags, this extravagant re-creation of an old silver mine is so overdone it somehow works. Perched atop Goat Hill with a panoramic, if not beauteous, view to the west. The food is secondary but quite satisfactory – mainly steaks, prime rib. Huge “underground” disco. No reservations, long waits. (3305 Harry Hines near Oak Lawn Ave/741-9771/Daily 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-11 p.m., except Sun 5-11 p.m. only; disco till 2 a.m./No reservations/MC,BA/$$$)
★Chlli’s. A handsome burger joint. Good chili, unusual soft tacos of flour tortillas, and. best of all, long, thin, greasy trench fries with the skin still on them. Always hopping – you’ll likely wait in line. (7567 Greenville Ave at Meadow Rd/361- 4371/Daily 11 a.m.-midnight, Fri & Sat till 2 a. m./No reservations/MC,BA,AE/$)
Daddy’s Money. A something for everybody menu: steak, chicken, seafood, etc. But the standout is the charcoaled rack of lamb. The Old Town location is a slick and busy place with a lively bar. The North Dallas outlet is more relaxed, more elegant. Nice Sunday brunch. (Old Town, 5500 Greenville/363-8686/Daily 11-11, Fri & Sat till 12:30a.m., Sun 10a.m.-11 p.m., bar till 1 a.m. nightly/North Dallas, 4855 LBJ Frwy at lnwood/387-3800/Daily 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Fri & Sat till 2 a.m., Sun 10 a.m.-11 p.m./Reserva-tions/MC,BA,AE,DC/$$)
★The Den. A distinctive spot in the venerable old Stoneleigh Hotel with a convivial clientele of various professional types – like a seasoned Upper East Side bar. Terrific cheeseburgers, a great prime rib sandwich, chef’s specials. Dallas’ best bartending. And free popcorn. (2927 Maple/742-71 11/Restaurant: Mon-Fri 6 a.m.-9 p. m., Sat & Sun 6 a.m-1 a.m.; Bar: Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-midnight, closed Sat & Sun/MC,DC,AE, CB/$$)
The Filling Station. The last word in motif dining. An old gas station transformed into a restaurant. Automobile paraphernalia abounds, gas pumps dispense beer at the bar, and the Mobil (lying horse hovers over it all. “Ethyl,” “Regular,” and “Low Lead” (no bun) hamburgers. No kidding. (6862 Greenville Ave near Park Lane/691-4488/Tue-Sat 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun & Mon till midnight/No reservations/MC,BA,AE/$)
Houlihan’s. If you want it, they’ve probably got it. From escargots to cheeseburgers, from crab Newburg to Belgian waffles, from omelettes to roast duck, from crepes to steak. And, considering the range, the overall quality is surprisingly good. Antique clutter motif. Often long lines. (4 NorthPark East/361 -9426/Daily 11 a.m.-1:30 a. m./No reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$)
Ichabod’s. Slick and formulaic, like so many of its Greenville Avenue neighbors, Ichabod’s is nevertheless an extremely pleasant place. Its secret is that it doesn’t try to overwhelm you with fancy dishes its kitchen staff couldn’t handle. Instead, it holds to a narrow range of steaks and seafood dishes, well-prepared, well-seasoned, and attractively presented. And some of the touches are nicely imaginative. They serve a “relish tray” of raw fresh vegetables (mushrooms, celery, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower) instead of a tired salad. Their steak and chicken teriyaki has an excellent teriyaki sauce and comes garnished with a wedge of fresh pineapple. And if you ask for your steak medium rare, that’s what you get – and with the accent properly on rare. By providing a separate entrance for the restaurant, Ichabod’s has attracted a different crowd – from toddlers to matrons – from the swingles which beset its booming bar. Not a nonpareil dining experience, just a safe and sound one. (Old Town, 5500 Greenville/691-2646/Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Daily 6-11, bar till 2 a.m. daily/No reservations/MC, BA,AE,CB/$$)
★Kirby’s. Dallas’ original steakhouse and time has only enhanced its appeal. no gimmicks, wait-resses of the old school, and good food values. The “special cut” sirloin strip is big and beautiful and the creamy garlic house dressing is alone enough tor some tans. (3715 Greenville/823-7296/Tue-Sun 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat till midnight/Reservations/All credit cards/$$)
The Pawn Shop. A smartly designed and decorated bar with balcony drinking parlors and a big bar that swarms at happy hour with swingle mingling. A basic and unspectacular menu of steaks, shrimp, chicken, etc. And it backgammon is your game, this is your bar. (5601 Greenville across from Old Town/691-2411/Daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m./Reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$)
Rall Head. Consistently the best of the steak-and-salad-bar scene. The salad bar has creative possibilities and the prime rib may be the best around. Heavy on the railroad theme and super-smile service. (6919 Twin Hills Ave at Park Ln/369-8700/Lunch: Daily 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-11, Fri $ Sat 5-11:30, Sun 5-10:30: bar till 2 a.m. nightly/Reservations (on weekends before 7 p.m. and after 10:30 p.m. only)/MC,BA, AE/$$$)
★Stoneleigh P. An Oak Lawn favorite and eclectic hangout. A restoration of what was long a pharmacy – clever but not cutesy. Provolone cheeseburgers on pumpernickel are the favorite among many goodies. Great magazine rack (browsing encouraged) and fabulous juke box (from Bach to Stones). (2926 Maple/741-0824/Mon-Thur 11:15-midnight, Fri & Sat till 1:30 a.m., Sun 12-12; bar daily till 1 a.m., Fri & Sat till 2/No reservations/No credit cards/$)
★Strictly Ta-Bu. A terrific old neighborhood bar with a mixed bag clientele. The original 1948 decor has been virtually untouched and charms with its classy-tacky effect. Great pizza, great burgers; plus steaks, sandwiches. Live jazz most nights and an occasional free flick. (4111 Lomo Alto/526-9325/Sun-Thur 11:30 a.m-1 a.m., Fri & Sat till 2/No reservations/MC,BA/$$)
T.G.I. Friday’s. A popular and dependable old standby. Once singles central, now a hangout for everybody. Steaks, burgers, shrimp, chicken – never flashy but always big portions at reasonable prices. The chef salad is gigantic – a masterpiece. Fun and comfortable. (Old Town. 5500 Greenville/363-5353/Daily 11:30 a.m. -2 a. m./No reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$)
Mainly For Lunch
Ciro’s. Great Sicilian-style pizza and an attractive array of elaborate sandwiches in an airy, old-time corner store at McKinney and Hall. The “wine bar” serves fine wines by the glass, the beers include some nice imports, and there’s a great hard apple cider with a real kick. (3237 McKinney at Hall/745-9464/Mon-Wed 11:30 a. m.-3 p.m., Thur & Fri till midnight, Sat till 1 a.m., closed Sun/No reservations/MC/$$)
La Crèperie. The lovely courtyard patio is a major attraction. A choice of some fifty varieties of crepes. Service is often slow. (Quadrangle. 2800 Routh/651-0506/Sun-Thur 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri & Sat till 11 p.m./Reservations recommended/MC,BA,DC/$$)
Gallery Buffet. An expertly catered buffet table at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, featuring hearty soups, salads, homemade breads, and desserts for only $2.50. Wine extra. (DMFA, Fair Park/421-4187/Tue-Fri 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m./ No reservations/No credit cards/$)
The Lunch Basket Tearoom. Bright and cozy. Homemade lunches with unusual salads and soups, and homemade tea breads that you can also buy by the loaf. Foreign blend coffees and teas. (6617 Snider Plaza, Studio 216/ 369-3241/ Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m./ No reservations/ No credit cards/ $)
Magic Pan. A very popular place with a delicious selection of crepes, including outstanding dessert crepes. Very crowded during the week, but nice for Sunday brunch or late night after-theatre snacks. (NorthPark – New Mall/692-7574 /Mon-Thur 11 a.m.-midnight, Fri till 1 a.m., Sat 10 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun 10 a.m.-midnight/No reservations/MC,BA,AE/$$)
Upper Crust. Homestyle specialties like chicken & dumplings and red beans & rice, plus wonderful buttermilk pie and a great buttermilk salad dressing. Also sandwiches and homemade soups. A casual “indoor courtyard” setting. (Olla Podrida, 12215 Coit Rd/661-5738/Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-3; Dinner: Thur only, 5:30-8:30/No reservations/ No credit cards/$)
Zodiac Room. A stunning effect with salads as handsome as they are tasty, and an irresistible array of desserts – including their famous strawberry shortcake. Always crowded. Wine and beer. (Neiman-Marcus, downtown/741 -6911 /Mon-Sat 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; teatime daily 3-5 p.m. except Thur 2:30-3:30; Thur dinner 5-7 p.m./Reservations/Neiman-Marcus charge card only, checks accepted/$$)
A la Carte
It’s easy to pass by Broussard’s even if you’re looking for it. Frenchy Broussard’s place is indistinguishable from the auto parts shop that shares the building here on Belt Line Road in Irving. And every expense has been spared on the inside, too. The walls are coated with business cards; a miniature moose head and a plaster parrot stand watch over rows of kitchenette tables with vinyl chairs. It’s all a somehow perfect setting for Cajun heaven.
One step inside the door and the Cajun music from the jukebox and the aroma of simmering gumbo tell any aficionados of backwater cuisine that they’re in for the real thing. Fried catfish or froglegs are served up cafeteria style with mounds of great and greasy fries – all on paper plates with plastic forks. The boiled shrimp, the spicy jambalaya (weekends only), and the picquante, a hotter and heartier version of the gumbo, are enough to bring tears to the eyes of a transplant from Thibodaux. And crayfish, the ultimate Cajun delicacy, are served in season, which begins in December. It all cries for beer, but remember this is Irving – so bring your own.
Frenchy, wearing his paper chefs hat like a crown, usually rules the cash register, where you’re charged strictly on the honor system. “Okay, dollin, what’d you have tonight, sweetheart?” You tell him and Frenchy rings it up. “Come back now, you hear?” You’ll be back.
(603 S. Belt Line Rd, Irving/259-8068IMon-Sat 7:30 a.m.-9p.m.)