Les Saisons. We eagerly awaited the opening of this restaurant because it marks the return to Dallas of chef Jean La Font. La Font was the original chef at the now legendary Oz, the ill-fated North Dallas palace of haute cuisine, which failed to survive its managerial problems but never had to apologize for the La Font kitchen. This time around, La Font is doing it differently; whereas Oz was geared to the sensational, Les Saisons is geared to the simple. And whereas Oz was extraordinarily expensive, Les Saisons is amazingly inexpensive. The menu is the same for lunch and dinner, which makes for one of the most attractive lunch menus in town and one of the most reasonably priced dinner menus we’ve seen in a long time. The food is not showy, the portions are not particularly large, and in a few cases the results have not been entirely satisfactory. But the La Font magic shines through. A few examples: The soups (a valuable gauge of any kitchen) are wonderful – a rich chilled cucumber, an intriguing chilled fresh fruit soup, a perfect cream of celery, and the best mushroom soup we’ve ever tasted. Our favorite entree is the calf’s liver in a garlic-and-shallot sauce – finally, an imaginative approach to liver. The tournedos béarnaise is simple and right; likewise the chicken with garlic sauce; the chicken “supreme” in a mustard and cream sauce is delightful; but the veal Normande was a disappointment – there are better versions around. The fish entrees we sampled were a bit disappointing too (the halibut provencale, for example, was mushy in texture and more bland than subtle); however, remembering some of La Font’s past achievements with seafood, we suspect that the fish dishes will eventually become the highlights of the menu. At least, we hope so. A few other tidbits: The pate maison was excellent, the casserole of escargot would have been if it hadn’t been served lukewarm, and the str’awberries in fresh thick cream were luscious. Les Saisons has an oddly charming atmosphere done in pinks and pastels suggesting French rural leisure of bygone days (“kind of like Toulouse-Lautrec’s bathroom,” remarked one patron admiringly). Service has been up and down, but that’s never surprising in a new and ambitious place, and they seem to have the basics right. One last note – when you make your reservation, ask for a table near the windows for a nice Turtle-Creek-to-downtown view. (165 Turtle Creek Village. 528-1102. Daily 11:30 am-1 am. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)
The Paradise. This is the classy restaurant in renovated Union Terminal, and it’s an ambitious project. A special award goes to the designer for creating an atmosphere of warmth and intimacy in what is, after all, a big old railroad station. Other strong points include a decent wine list and, out of nowhere, terrific fresh sourdough bread. But there are problems. The Paradise has chosen a small, manageable menu, but raises the stakes by making more than half its entrees and appetizers seafood – a risky proposition in these parts. The chef did well by the escargots, crab-and-shrimp sandwich, and prawns sauteed with wine, butter, and garlic, but the bluepoints on the halfshell were so large and veined they would have made nice lab specimens. Worse yet, the 2-pound New Brunswick lobster (the only real knockout among the entrees) was overboiled and tough – a heart-breaker at $16. On the beef side of the menu, steaks were thick and tender but not particularly flavorful. The other main weakness was the service – our waitress was obviously well-intentioned but new on the job, uninformed about wines and the preparation of various entrees (not to mention bookkeeping – as we left, she chased us across the Union Terminal lobby and confronted us with a $12.50 miscalculation in our tab). The restaurant had been open only nine days when we visited, so perhaps some of the ragged edges have been smoothed off. We hope so, since this end of town could use a real winner. (Union Terminal, 400 S Houston. 741-6385. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30. Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-11. Sun noon-11. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)
Marcel’s. Marcel’s is back. It would be nice to report that some of the old quality has returned as well but, alas, not so. Although new owners Ben Young and Michel Rothschild (of Chez Michel) have taken some of the gloom out of the dining room, they haven’t done much for the menu. It’s strictly textbook Continental fare – coq au vin, veal Cordon Bleu, beef Wellington, filet of sole meuniére. Only the beef Wellington and the ribeye steak topped with grilled onions showed much character. The coq au vin arrived floating on a lake of brown goo, and the sole was dry and tasteless. Not much to say about the hors d’oeuvres except that most were canned and emphatically uninspired. A good wine list and polished, responsive service, yet right now there’s nothing to distinguish Marcel’s from half-a-dozen other thoroughly predictable Continental restaurants in town. (5721 W Lovers Lane. 358-2103. Luncheon Buffet: Tue-Fri 12-2; Dinner: Tues-Sun 6-11, closed Monday. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
These restaurants represent the best in Dallas and Fort Worth dining. It is implicit that we recommend all of them highly.
These listings are revised and supplemented periodically. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment. Inclusion in this directory has nothing whatever to do with paid advertising.
The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise. They indicate only a general price range.
$ Generally inexpensive. Usually indicates a good value.
$$ Middle ground and very general. Usually indicates a menu with a wide price range.
$$$ Expensive. You can expect to spend more than $12 for a complete meal excluding wine and cocktails.
$$$$ Very expensive.
Unless otherwise noted, all restaurants have full bar facilities.
Credit card notations: MC/Master Charge, V/Visa, AE/American Exprsss, DC/Diner’s Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All Credit Cards” indicates that all five are accepted.
Arthur’s. The place to mix business with pleasure, which makes for a terrific bar with stiff drinks and some solid, well-prepared food. The chef shines at the grill with a good cut of meat: Filet, calf’s liver and onions, lamb chops, all are first-rate. The seafood dishes tend to be ordinary or overdone, so it pays to stick with the simple things. Service is generally excellent. (1000 Campbell Centre. 361-8833. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Sun-Fri 6-11, Sat till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$>
Bagatelle. One of the classiest dining rooms in town, with a solid wine list, sophisticated service, and a cozy bar. The sole Véronique and veal francaise, seasoned with herbs and wine, have been impressive on recent visits, as have the shrimp du chef appetizer and the escargots. Lunch at the companion Plaza Cafe is more chaotic than classy. Expect slow service and scrambled orders, though the food is good when it finally arrives – especially old standbys like the Plaza omelette and the quiche Lorraine. (One Energy Square, Greenville at University. 692-8224. Bagatelle: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner Sun-Thur 6-10. Fri & Sat till II, bar till 2. Plaza: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. Bagatelle: $$$, Plaza: $$.
Brasserie. This elegant coffee shop still fills a local void as a late-night snack stop after a dressy evening, and some of its post-midnight treats are as wonderful as ever: sensational eggs Benedict, avocado stuffed with crabmeat, and sirloin steak sandwich. But the salads, omelettes, and sandwiches are no better than you can get at lots of other places – just considerably more expensive – and around 2 a.m. you can get the uneasy feeling that you’re keeping the place open. Still, late night is the only time to visit, and there’s really nowhere else to go. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross & Akard. 748-5454. 24 hours, seven days a week. No reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Calluaud. The secret of this first-class restaurant is restraint; just enough items on the menu for the kitchen to handle with care, light and delicate sauces, lightly cooked fresh vegetables, and an overall reverence for the subtle pleasures of fish and veal. It’s hard to make a wrong move at dinner, but be sure to start with the red snapper pate when it’s on the menu. Lunch features superb omelettes and some fine light entrees: coquilles St. Jacques, filet of sole, and a steak accompanied by the best French fries in town. Noisy when it’s crowded, and service sometimes goes astray when things get too busy. Opening in its new location early in December. 2619 McKinney. 823-5380. lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Fri 6:30-10. Sal till 11, closed Sunday. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)
La Cave. A light meal and good wine in pleasant surroundings. The gimmicks are the wine bar and open wine cellar, which allow a wide sampling of foreign and domestic wines at bargain prices, but La Cave succeeds on culinary grounds, loo. We’ve had excellent onion soup, avocado stuffed with crabmeat, and chicken liver paté, as well as some exceptional desserts – try the apple cheesecake and orange-flavored double cream cheese. Service is informative and efficient. (2926 Henderson. 826-2190. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Mon-Fri 5:30-12; Sal 1 pm-1 am; open all day for package wine sales. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $)
Chateaubriand. A wide-ranging menu, with everything from sweetbreads to frog legs to lobster to veal parmigiana; and a high percentage of it is quite well-executed. The standouts, interestingly, are the Greek specialties: Try the pastitsa and dolma appetizer and the “Greek veal” in a pleasant lemon-butter-oregano sauce. Chateaubriand’s old-fashinoned overdressed style is not to all tastes, but service is attentive and the place is comfortable. Dine early, however, for about 9 p.m. the place gets nightclubby, with noisy, mediocre “entertainment.” Lunch is nothing special. (2515 McKin-ney. 741-1223. Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m.-midnight, closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
The Chimney. Service at the Chimney has been uniformly splendid, with waitresses who can knowledgeably explain each dish and tell you whether it’s worth ordering that day. Better yet, the kitchen is careful, dependable, and innovative. Top honors go to the veal, especially the veal Zurich and veal Oscar, and a variety of wonderful desserts, from bananas Foster to Black Forest cake. Lunch is first-class, from the light and flaky quiche to the tasty squash fritters. The wine list includes some interesting Austrian wines. Apart from some recent unevenness in the appetizers, this is a comfortable, unpretentious, dependable restaurant. (Willow Creek, 9739 N Cen Expwv at Walnut Hill. 369-6466. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2; Dinner: Tue-Sat 6-10:30, Sun 6-10; Sun brunch: 11:30-2. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Ewald’s. Loyal regulars flock to this old standard, whose menu has changed very little over the years. The style is sort of continental home-cooking: more hearty than delicate, more homey than classy. The veal is excellent, though some preparations are over-embellished. Try the veal Papagallo with Canadian bacon and Swiss cheese or the veal Picatta-Milanese. Excellent pepper steak and “Tenderloin a la Ewald.” And a rarity – well-prepared fresh vegetables. Have a side order of spaetzli if your entree doesn’t come with it, and conclude with the Black Forest cake. No frills, but few disappointments, either. (5415 W Lovers Ln. 357-1622. Mon-Fri 6-10:30, Sat 6-11, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V. $$$)
The Grape. Nothing chic here. Just pleasantly tacky decor and consistently good food. You can make a meal out of a plate of cheese (the best selection in town, served with fruit and fresh bread), soup or salad, and a carafe of wine, but the entrees won’t let you down. Recent standouts include chicken and artichokes cooked in Scotch, Chateaubriand in perfect béarnaise, and a delicately prepared filet of sole. Still one of the most dependable restaurants in Dallas. (2808 Greenville at Goodwin. 823-0133. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30, open later on Fri & Sat for wine and cheese. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
Jean Claude. A unique restaurant in that it provides culinary instruction along with firstclass continental cuisine. The constantly changing menu features three hors d’oeuvres, three entrees, and three desserts each evening. Jean Claude Prevot “performs” in an open kitchen and is eager to explain his procedures. Portions are small, but their preparation is consistently excellent. The fixed price is high, and the reservations-only policy means you may have to wait as long as two weeks for the chance to enjoy Jean Claude’s splendid fare. (2520 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Dinner: Tue-Sat 6:30-9:30. Reservations only. MC, V, AE. $$$)
Mr. Peppe. Once one of the best restaurants in the city, though by today’s standards both decor and menu could use some new life. Mr. Peppe covers the old French standbys, from pǎté to chocolate mousse, and delivers competent versions in most cases – recent strong points were surprisingly good beef Wellington, nicely cooked fresh vegetables, and an excellent créme caramel. With the exception of its charming waiters, however, whatever gave Mr. Peppe an aura of elegance and excitement has faded. (5617 W Lovers Ln. 352-5976. Mon-Sat 6-10, closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Old Warsaw. Risen from its decline, La Vieille Varsovie (as it would rather be called) is once again one of Dallas’s best restaurants. The kitchen isn’t bold or imaginative, but it is consistent. Start with the shrimp with shallots and Pernod sauce. If the $15 price tag doesn’t deter you, have the terrine de foie gras. We also recommend the roast quail in truffle sauce, the rack of lamb, or the cǒte de veau. And don’t ignore the waiter’s recommendations when he suggests a dessert souffle. (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Tue-Sun 6-10:45, Sat till 11:45. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
D Revisits Jennivine. The whole notion of an English wine bistro is a bit odd (name one good Lancashire red), but Jennivine has to be considered something more than a curiosity. Lunches have been especially good recently. There’s a delightful quiche divan, creamy and packed with chicken, along with a nicely prepared roast loin of pork and an excellent spinach and sprout salad. In the evening, the menu includes a perfectly cooked red snapper filet and a dish known as chicken Wessex that is heavy and soggy and, well, downright unappealing. Great sourdough bread and a solid wine list, though lacking in the kinds of offbeat selections one expects in a serious wine bar. Service is quick and friendly. If the food continues to hold up, Jennivine will make a pleasant addition to the growing wine-bar circuit. (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Tue-Sat 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m., closed Sun & Mon. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$).
Patry’s. When the Patry family is at work, you can’t go wrong. Start with the poireaux farcis (stuffed leeks) or the delicate, light, near-perfect vichyssoise, then have any of the superb entrees: a wonderful coq au vin, a filet in a flawless béarnaise, or their splendid escalope of veal. The place itself is a bit sterile except for their terrific – and very French – little bar. (2504 McKinney. 748-3754. Tue-Sun 6-11, Sat till 11:30, closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Pyramid Room. Hyatt-Regency or no, the Fairmont has an ace up its sleeve: the Pyramid Room. The overall dining experience here is unrivaled in Dallas. That’s attributable to its charming, efficient staff and a relaxed approach to splendid food. We’ve recently sampled the excellent veal chop baked with honey and dressed with grated carrot; even better was the lamb loin baked in a pastry shell with tarragon sauce – a lamb lover’s dream. Lunch is almost as great a pleasure – the calf’s liver with onions and baked apple is as good as you’ll ever taste, the fresh fruit salad truly fresh, and the pastry cart incredible. We even tried the “Pyramid Hamburger.” It was, of course, superb. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross & Akard. 748-5454. Lunch: 11:30-1:30 Mon-Fri; Dinner: Daily 6-9:45. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
Three Vikings. This is a delightful restaurant, unlike any other in town. Run by a Swedish family, Three Vikings features one of the nicest fish dishes around – a perfectly cooked filet of sole with crabmeat and a light, lemony sauce. Other treats are Swedish steak, lightly steamed fresh vegetables, terrific shrimp chowder and chocolate cheese pie. Service is friendly and helpful. Our only suggestions would be a more inspired house salad and a longer, more varied wine list. (2831 Greenville at Goodwin. 827-6770. Mon-Sat 6-ll. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)
Kuby’s. Busy and bustling. Excellent home-made sausages (served with hot potato salad or sauerkraut), thick sandwiches (try the pastrami), great pastries, and a soup of the day that’s a lunchtime bargain (80*). A congenial spot with a German accent. (6601 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Mon-Sat 7-6, sandwiches till 5:30. No reservations. MC. $)
Wall’s. A small deli with a whiff – but only a faint one – of the New York style it emulates. Fortunately, the kosher delicacies are good, but stick to them – other items, like quiche Lorraine, are inferior. The gefilte fish is good, and the chopped liver on rye bread is excellent. The cabbage soup is hearty, well-seasoned and served piping hot, and the cheese blintzes are delectable. Unfortunately, the service is alternately pushy and martyred. (10749 Preston Rd near Royal Ln. 691-4444. Daily 7 am-7:30 pm. Reservations. MC, V. $$)
Campisi’s. Everyone’s fantasy of the neighborhood Italian restaurant – small, dark, and bustling, with family portraits on the wall and an army of no-nonsense waitresses. Unfortunately, the food is pretty ordinary – the kitchen does well with staples like pizza, lasagna and ravioli (the last is homemade), but tends to manhandle mildly sophisticated dishes like veal scaloppine marsala and scampi. So stick to the basics and enjoy the atmosphere. At its best on a Friday night. (5610 East Mockingbird Ln. 827-0355. Mon-Fri 11-midnight, Sat till 1 am, Sun noon-midnight. No credit cards, but personal checks accepted. Reservations for 6 or more. $)
D Revisits Lombardi’s. Servizio con brio. That’s one reason Lombardi’s has become one of the most enjoyable restaurants in town. You feel good just waiting in line. Another reason, obviously, is the food. The menu is long and ambitious so that most times it’s difficult to pick a favorite dish. The saltimbocca is right at the top, along with the veal limone and the zuppa de pesce, which is now served at lunch every Friday. And don’t pass up the mussels and the langostinos when they’re available. Good enough to make a New Englander weep. The pasta dishes can be uneven (good canelloni, so-so linguini and ravioli), but with so many unusual choices, why be mundane? The more limited lunch menu includes roast veal and peppers, terrific frittatas (an Italian omelette shaped like a pancake) and excellent spinach salad. (2815 McKinney. 823-6040. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri and Sal reservations at 7:30 or 9:30. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
D Revisits Paisan’s. A deceptive place whose unengaging exterior hides a splendid kitchen. In an odd backstreet location near Bachman Lake, Paisan’s is surrounded by a vast concrete parking lot, and looks more like a hacienda-style motel than an Italian restaurant. But looks don’t count. We’ve never had anything but masterful meals here (though, to be fair, we have had reports of occasional off nights). The kitchen, manned by two Italian brothers, is most impressive for its imagination – the menu is spiced with dishes you won’t find elsewhere. There isn’t much exciting among the appetizers (though the fried zucchini is better than most); the best beginning is the zuppa pavese, a beef broth with a poached egg and parmesan cheese (some nights much better than others). It’s with the entrees that this menu shines, however. A few favorites: the veal Siciliano, topped with eggplant and mozzarella, more subtle than it sounds; the Piato Misto, meatballs, sausages, mushrooms, and green peppers in a wonderfully rich tomato sauce (though once this dish was marred by badly overcooked meatballs); and the sausage alla Turiddu, Italian sausage with black olives and green pepper, exquisitely prepared, surely the best sausage dish in town. On the pasta side, the lasagna is first-rate, but a more interesting selection is the spaghetti alla Ciociara, with garlic, tomatoes, and green peppers – great stuff. For dessert, you need not look past the Italian cheesecake with white raisins and pine nuts. The surroundings are less than charming and the service is shaky, but you’re either here for the food or not here at all. (9508 Overtake. 352-1765. Daily 5:30-11. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
lanni’s. A family-run restaurant with excellent pasta – try the baked ziti with eggplant and mozzarella or the buttery, thick fettucini Ianni – and terrific appetizers. The “house specialties,” on the other hand, are nothing special. Good desserts and coffee; tacky decor. (2230 Greenville. 826-6161. Mon-Thur 5-11, Fri & Sat 5:30-11:30, Sun 5-10:30. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
D Revisits Pietro’s. A cornball Italian sort of place, complete with handpainted statues and ancient travel posters. We’d just as soon ship them all back to the factory, except that at Pietro’s they work. High spirits prevail here – on a good night spontaneous toasts, crying babies, and a hearty Muzak rendition of “Santa Lucia” blend into one of the most pleasantly chaotic atmospheres in town. The food seems secondary, but it’s pretty good – creamy tagliolini with salty ham slices, fresh lemon veal, a tremendous créme caramel, and a nice wine list. The minestrone, spaghetti, and salads are ordinary, but it’s a big menu. If you have any questions, just ask for Vince, one of the most energetic restaurant managers in town. (5722 Richmond off Greenville. 824-9403. Tue-Thur 5:30-10 pm, Fri and Sat til 11, closed Sun and Mon. No reservations. No credit cards. $$$.)
D Revisits II Sorrento. Things don’t change much at good old II Sorrento; in the ever-changing world of Dallas restaurants, II Sorrento remains a steady friend. It isn’t always an entirely peaceful retreat, however; the place has long been known to take on the air of an Italian street carnival with its strolling musicians, wandering bread vendors, and general bustle. To some, that’s part of the charm, but sometimes it can be a little too much. We discovered recently that you can have the quiet side of II Sorrento if you visit on a Sunday night-the violinists are off-duty and the crowds are down. Ask for a table in the back room (called the Gondola Room) where it’s a little darker and out of the traffic flow. The food is as good as always, with the veal dishes continuing to reign as the specialties of the house. We tried the veal Sorrento this time, a straightforward presentation with tomato, peppers, and mushrooms over a very generous portion of perfectly textured veal. We were also impressed with the sausage alla Calabrese, a circular link of excellent homemade Italian sausage served in a bowl with tomatoes and green peppers, almost like a sausage stew. Finish off your quiet night with the profiterole al cioccolato and a snifter of brandy. (8616 Turtle Creek, north of Northwest Hwy. 352-8759. Daily 5:30-11, Sat till midnight. Reservations except on Fri & Sat. All credit cards. $$$)
Italian Pavilion. An almost overbearingly opulent restaurant atop the Le Baron Hotel, which nevertheless has its virtures, including attentive service, comfortable seating, and a good selection of Italian wines. Unfortunately, much of the food is only so-so. Recommended dishes are the veal Fiorentino with butter and béarnaise and the shrimp Fra Diavolo with peppery tomato sauce. Vegetable side dishes are excellent. Somebody should take a cloth to the glasses and silver, though – housekeeping was wretched on a recent visit. $10 annual membership required for alcohol. (Le Baron Hotel, 1055 Regal Row at Carpenter Fwy. 634-8550 ext 7200. Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11:30, closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$) All credit cards. $$$)
Mario’s. Elegant but not stuffy (though they do require men to wear jackets). While you wouldn’t choose Mario’s if you were in the mood for hard-core Italian food, the fettucine is excellent, and the manicotti appetizer comes with a perfectly balanced tomato sauce. The menu ranges from a simple veal with green peppers (in which the veal can be tasted, for a change) to an elaborate Tournedos Heloise – artichoke hearts, pate, and mushrooms atop the filet. A solid but not exceptional restaurant. (135 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Daily 6-10:45, Sat tilt 11:45. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
MAINLY FOR LUNCH
The Bronx. Quick and friendly service makes lunch at the Bronx a treat. Try the inventive chef’s salad, with all the usual ingredients plus guacamole, black olives and red onion, the omelettes, and the hearty, homestyle mushroom meatloaf. The dinner menu, posted on a chalkboard, changes nightly. Don’t miss the creamy, rich chocolate mousse, with whipped cream and nuts – if you can’t finish it on the premises, they’ll give you a doggie bag. Finish up with coffee, a blend of French roast and mocha. (3835 Cedar Springs near Oak Lawn. 521-5821. Mon-Thur 11:30-12:30 am, Fri lilt 1:30, Sal 6-11:30, bar till 2, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V. $$)
Ciro’s. An unpretentious spot with bountiful fancy sandwiches, excellent quiches (try the artichoke or the asparagus) and tasty soups. Definitely a lunch spot, though the nights they’re open for dinner they add a few entrees. Service has been spacy lately, but when it’s on the ball you can have a pleasant time sampling a selection of fine wines by the glass. Try the homemade pastries, especially anything with dates in it. (3237 McKinney at Hall. 745-9464. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3; Dinner: Tues-Thurs 5-10, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight, closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $)
Gallery Buffet. One of the best lunchtime bargains around, the Gallery Buffet in the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts features a hearty soup of the week, with salad, homemade bread, dessert, coffee, tea, and wine if you want it. The dining room is airy and spacious, with prints from the museum’s collection. Note: Gallery Buffet will be closed between December 15 and April 3, during the Pompeii A.D. 79 exhibit. (DMFA, Fair Park. 421-4187. Tue-Fri 11:30 am-1:30 pm. Reservations for 6 or more. No credit cards. $)
The Magic Pan. Yes, it’s a chain restaurant, and sometimes it shows. Fortunately, the crepes themselves are very good, even if the soups and salads that precede and/or accompany them are thoroughly ordinary. Try the creamed chicken crepes with a sprinkling of parmesan. And for dessert, have the Chantilly – banana slices in a stunning sauce topped with real whipped cream and toasted almond slivers. That alone explains why there’s always a line halfway down the NorthPark mall. (434 NorlhPark Mall. 692-7574. Mon-Thur 11 am-midnight, Fri till 1 am, Sat 10 am-I am, Sun 10 am-midnight. No reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
The Zodiac Room. A local institution that has begun to lack luster, though loyalists still flock there. Lunch is better than the Thursday buffet. When things are going right, the hot popovers, the cream of spinach soup, the sea and garden salad, and the vanilla ice cream ball with phenomenal hot fudge sauce are stunning. But things don’t always go right, so you’ll have to decide for yourself whether the Zodiac is a tradition worth observing. (Neiman-Marcus, downtown. 741-6911. Mon-Sat 10:30 am-2:30 pm; teatime daily 3-5 pm except Thur; dessert Thur 2:30-3:30; Dinner: Thur 5-7 pm. Reservalions. Neiman-Marcus charge card only, checks accepted. $$)
Adelante. In the local Mexican food sweepstakes, Adelante is a leader. We’re partial to the praline cheesecake (in a class by itself), guacamole, flautas, chiles rellenos, and a special dinner called Guadalajara that consists of nachos, beef strips simmered in wine and the makings for roll-your-own tacos. Not too many exotic dishes here, just delightful variations on traditional ones. Service can be very, very slow on weekends, but it’s usually worth the wait. Bar by membership. (5934 Royal Ln at Preston. 691-8301. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thurs, 5:30-8:30, Fri & Sat till 10, closed Sun. Reservations for 6 or more. MC, V, AE. $)
Chiquita. The cheeriest dining room in town, and some of the best dining, with swift service and excellent food, particularly the specialty dishes. Try the carne asada, the chiles rellenos, and the magnificent “Aztecs in a blanket.” The seafood dishes are also highly recommended. Leave room for the sopapillas. Lunch tends to be noisy and a bit rushed – the price of popularity. (3810 Congress, off Oak Lawn. 521-0721. Mon-Thur 11:30-10-30, Fri & Sat till 11. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $)
Herrera Cafe. Forget the Lemmon Avenue location and head straight for the Maple Avenue hole in the wall. You’ll probably stand in line, but the food has soul. All the standard Tex-Mex fare is good, especially the nachos, guacamole, and magnificent thick flour tortillas. Portions are large: Two people can stuff themselves for well under $10. No alcohol served, so bring your own. (3902 Maple. 526-9427. Mon, Wed, Thur 9 am-8 pm, Fri-Sun till 10, closed Tue. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
Javier’s. One of the most attractive dining rooms in town, and some of the most interesting food. It pays to be adventurous here – Javier’s eschews standard Tex-Mex in favor of steaks, seafood, and chicken dishes from Mexico, like shrimp broiled with lots of fresh garlic and chicken in the best mole sauce we’ve had. The thin flour tortillas wrapped around baked Linares cheese, green pepper, onion, and sausage make a wonderful appetizer. Save room for the crepes topped with cajeta (caramel sauce) and flamed with Amaretto and brandy – they’re a knockout. (4912 Cole Ave. 521-4211. Sun-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat till 11:30, bar till 2 am. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
Raphael’s. This standby lacks some of the pizzazz that once set it apart from Dallas’s other Mexican restaurants, but there’s still plenty to like here, from the cozy ranch-style decor to the attentive service and occasionally wonderful food. The queso flameado appetizer and the flautitas are excellent appetizers, and among the main dishes, we especially enjoyed the flounder Veracruzano and the carne asada. You probably won’t enjoy the crowds, though; the dinner rush is being handled more efficiently than before, but there’s still a good chance of sitting on somebody’s enchiladas or having somebody sit on yours. (3701 McKinney. 521-9640. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Sat noon-10:30, closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. MC, V, AE. $$)
El Taxco. No frills as far as ambience is concerned, but what they don’t spend on decor they must spend on food, for El Taxco serves some of the best Tex-Mex in town at prices low enough to cause a double-take. The standard stuff is excellent, but the more adventurous dishes, such as the Carne Tampiquena and the wonderfully named Tostadas a la McCaffrey, are well-seasoned, ample, and delicious. Go when you feel laid back. (2126 N St Paul at McKinney. 742-0747. Sun-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat till 10, closed Tues. No reservations. MC, V. $)
Health Nut. Not everybody’s cup of herb tea, but the Health Nut continues to persuade lots of palates with its famous, filling smoothies, salads, soups, and a few hot dishes. The soups – lima, lentil, herb vegetable, German potato, and gazpacho are served alternately – are hearty and nourishing, and their salads outstanding: Jerusalem artichokes and crisp fresh bean sprouts, red cabbage, lettuce, tomato, and carrots; or apples, oranges, melons, strawberries, bananas, grapes and pineapple in a generous fruit salad. Try a cup of spearmint-flavored tea and you may go home converted. (4356 W Lovers Ln. 692-1411. Mon-Thurs II am-9 pm. Fri & Sal till 10. No reservations. $)
Chinese Pavilion. They make few attempts at chinoiserie in the decor, preferring to save their efforts for the kitchen. The menu has a whole array of terrific specialties, and it’s a good idea to trust the waiter’s recommendations. One re-cent standout has been the ambitious spicy, crispy whole fish, which comes with an ample and delicious sauce with shallots, all served on a huge platter. Lunchtime service can be grum-py and slow, and the dining room is too bright with too-loud Muzak. (2829 W Northwest Hwy. 357-5777. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat till midnight. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
Hunan. Still the best Szechuan restaurant in town, though there have been off-nights and the service is sometimes inattentive, even surly. If you get a pleasant waiter, ask him to make recommendations; if not, we have a few: Hunan lamb, pork and shrimp Hunan, sliced chicken with orange peel, and the vegetarian Buddhist delight. The pu pu tray is a reliable appetizer sampling, but we also like the hacked chicken, a dreadful name for a delightful cold chicken and cabbage dish. The San Shien soup – shrimp, peapods, noodles, etc – is practically a meal in itself. (5214 Greenville Ave. 369-4578. Sun-Thur 1 l:30am-l 1 pm, Fri & Sat 11-midnight. Reservations for 3 or more. MC, V, AE. $$)
Mihama Ya. A family-run Japanese restaurant with a gift shop up front. Terrific shrimp tempura and chicken teriyaki; delightful yakiniku, a beef and vegetable dish; and wonderful chicken kara age, marinated and deep fried. The only weak spots are the soups and salads. An off-beat, thoroughly delightful place. (7713 In wood Rd. 351-9491. Lunch: Mon-Thurs 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5:30-10, Fri & Sat till 11, Sun 1-10. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $)
Royal Tokyo. This restaurant has always tended to be stronger on theatrics than on performance, and the situation hasn’t changed. In the Hibachi Room, for example, the chefs like to juggle salt shakers and chip vegetables onto your plate while preparing hibachi shrimp (very good) and teriyaki steak (ordinary). Skip the special dinners (they’re overpriced and undistinguished) and try one of the sashimi (raw fish) dishes, the shabu-shabu (beef and vegetables cooked in broth), the yakitori, or the kani-crab fingers. Everything else is fair-to-middling, and you may have to wait an hour or more to be seated, even with reservations. All in all, Royal Tokyo needs to do some tightening. (7525 Greenville Ave. 368-3304. Lunch: Daily 11:30-2 except Sat; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat till 11:30, Sun till 10. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
South China. Its competitors waver and topple, but South China continues to produce consistently excellent Chinese cuisine. Sweet and sour shrimp doesn’t come any better in Dallas, nor ginger beef more delicately seasoned. Recent discoveries include the moo shi pork, with a delicious filling, and the white mushrooms with crisp broccoli. South China sometimes fumbles with the appetizers, but the shrimp toast, beef strips, fried wonton, and sizzling rice soup are fine. Not to be missed: Saturday and Sunday at lunch the chef prepares Chinese delicacies not on the regular menu for bargain prices. (5424 E Mockingbird. 826-5420. Lunch: Daily 12-2:30, Sat & Sun noon-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5-10, Fri & Sat till 12. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
Szechuan. Like Chinese Pavilion, Szechuan has a menu nearly identical with Hunan’s, and does it justice. The first page of “Chef Specialties” is special indeed. Try the Hunan Beef, River Shang Pork, House Lamb, or House Chicken. The more traditional items, such as hot and sour soup, moo shi pork, and lo mein, are also recommended. The dining room is on the stark and sterile side, but it’s still a pleasant oasis in the fast food desert. (4117 Lemmon near Douglas. 521-6981. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat till 12. Reservations weekends. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
S & D Oyster Company. You take no chances at S & D: The menu is limited to the few broiled and fried items they can handle. The oysters are plump and juicy, the shrimp sweet, the red snapper broiled to the point of perfection. And the gumbo is the real thing, full of shrimp. There are some weak points: dense, dry hush-puppies, too-sweet desserts, a bar limited to beer and wine, and deafening clatter when the place is crowded – as it always is. Fortunately, the pleasures outweigh the pains. (2701 McKin-ney near Routh. 823-6350. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat I ill 11, closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
Celebration. No-nonsense home cooking – baked trout amandine, pot roast, a huge salad, biscuits, three vegetables, homemade pies and cobblers. Dark and cozy, with agreeable background music, so that a lot of people make themselves at home. Beer and wine only. (4503 W Lovers Ln. 351-5681. Mon-Thurs 5:30-10. Fri & Sal till II, Sun 5-10. MC, V. $)
D Revisits Pittman House. Although we’ve had some disappointing lunches here, dinner has been wonderfully orgiastic. Some standouts among the entrees: jumbo broiled un-shelled shrimps in a spicy bowl of butter, file, and other seasonings; a perfectly done (but tiny) serving of red snapper Veracruz, with tomato, onions, and garlic; a brace of quail sautéed in white wine, topped with cherries. Vegetables are firm and fresh, and the au gratin potatoes probably the world’s best: firm slices, red skins still on, with just the right amount of cheese and seasoning. And desserts – Oh, God, the desserts – an ice cream ball with pecans and dark, buttery hot fudge; a light pound cake with baked fresh apples, lightly whipped cream, and rum sauce. The restaurant is light, roomy, airy; on busy nights, though, it could benefit from some sound-absorbing materials. Service ranges from fair to excellent. (2911 Roulh. 745-1149. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; Sat, Sun 12-2:30. Dinner: Sun-Thurs 6-10; Fri, Sat 6-10:30. Reservations evenings only. AE, MC, V. $$$)
Red Moon Cafe. Things are looking up at this attractive little neighborhood restaurant. Creole specialties are the heart of the menu, and the Red Moon’s versions are good (if occasionally unorthodox). But don’t stop there: The liver and onions, omelettes, salads, and vegetables are terrific, as are the homemade desserts (especially the buttermilk-pecan pie). Early risers should check out the breakfast menu, which runs from grits and pancakes to fresh croissants and some of the best coffee in town. Already a neighborhood resource; with a little more polish in the service and a cheerier decor, the Red Moon could be a real contender. (4537 Cole at McKinney. 526-5391. Breakfast and lunch: 7:30-2. Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sot till 11. Sun brunch: 10-2. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
Sonny Bryan’s. A down-home barbecue joint furnished with old school desks and picnic tables – a distinctive Dallas institution. The 800 pounds of meat they’re reported to cook every day is usually gone by late afternoon. Don’t pass up the onion rings or the fries, and the crisp fresh cole slaw is great. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 8 am-6 pm. Sat 11-3, Sun 11-2. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.
Chili’s. Terrific enormous hamburgers, great spicy chili, and wonderful French fries at wonderful prices. The Terlingua special, embellished with everything in the house, shows you what they can do. If you’re feeling more conservative, have the Old Timer. You’ll have to wait, day or night, but it’s worth it, and once you’re inside, the service is speedy. (7567 Greenville Ave at Meadow Rd. 361-4371. Sun-Thur 11 am-11:30 pm, Fri & Sat till 1:30 am. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $)
Houlihan’s. Unlike some of its Greenville Avenue neighbors, Houlihan’s takes itself seriously as a restaurant. For starters, have the fried zucchini strips or the boiled spiced shrimp with red sauce. Try the gazpacho, which is available with gin and vermouth as a sort of Spanish martini. You’ll fare best among the burgers and omelettes and steaks, but the roast duck with orange sauce is surprisingly good. Desserts look tempting but are mediocre. Since you’ll probably have to wait in the bar, it’s nice that the drinks are excellent. (4 NorthPark East at Park Lane and Central. 361-9426. Sun-Thurs 11-11, Fri & Sat till 1 am. No reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Kirby’s. Step inside and you’re back in the Fifties, when dining out meant sitting in a very dark place and eating a huge piece of meat. It’s still great. Kirby’s steaks are tender, among the best in town, and priced to compete with the chains’. You might want to order rarer than usual, though – our steaks were left on the fire a bit too long. Kirby’s offers all the salad you can eat (though it’s just iceberg and cherry tomatoes) and terrific baked potatoes topped with everything. (3715 Greenville. 823-7296. Tues-Sun 5:30-10, Fri & Sat till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)
Stoneleigh P. A made-over drugstore, with two very popular items on the menu – lentil soup and a cheeseburger on a dark rye bun with provolone cheese. Other standouts include broiled boneless chicken and sausage sandwich. The Godiva chocolate pie is great for dessert. Check out the eclectic jukebox – everything from classical to country – and the marvelous magazine rack. (2926 Maple. 741-0824. Mon-Thur 11-midnight, Fri & Sat till 1:30 am, Sun 12-12; bar daily till 1 am, Fri & Sal till 2. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
Strictly Ta-Bu. Old and intentionally tacky, but nice. Basically, it’s a neighborhood bar, with fair to excellent food – especially the pizza (which is, however, small and expensive) and burgers. For a change try the Ta-Bu special, a ham, turkey, bacon, and cheese sandwich with thousand island dressing on a rye bun. But most people come here for the jazz and the beer and the pizza, so don’t expect more than that. (4111 Lomo Alto. 526-9325. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3; Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5-12, Fri & Sat 6-1. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
T.G.I. Friday’s. Dozens of burgers; enormous portions of beef, chicken, and shrimp; thick, gooey desserts – Friday’s menu rolls on and on. We’re especially fond of the pocket sandwiches, steak fingers, and crabmeat-and-arti-choke omelette. For appetizers, try the baked brie or the zuchini slices, and for a treat, a side order of fried potato skins. Always mobbed with singles, but there are compensations – Mexican pizza, for instance, and those fried artichoke hearts. (Old Town, 5500 Greenville. 363-5353. Daily 11:30 am-2 am; Sun Brunch 11-2. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
FORT WORTH RESTAURANTS
Angelo’s. A rambling patchwork shack with sawdust on the floor and patrons wearing gingham dresses or shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons. The atmosphere is right, and so is the barbecue. You’ll never find better spare ribs or more tender beef. The prices are a bit steep, though the beer is a bargain (have the medium – the large looks like more glass and less beer). Beer prices double after 10 pm, so they must know the beer is a steal. (2533 While Settlement Rd. (817) 332-0357. Mon-Sat 11-10. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
The Balcony. Perched in the second story of a shopping center. The Balcony serves well-prepared but not extraordinary food. Standouts are the onion soup; a red snapper prepared with crab, lobster, and a subtle mushroom sauce; and a pleasant veal dish served with Wisconsin cheese, (6100 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-3719. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat till 10:30, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, DC, AE. $$$)
Carriage House. What a restaurant this would be if every dish were as good as some of the beef dishes, especially the excellent Chateaubriand and the fork-tender filet mignon. A lack of finesse mars everything else, especially the seafood and the desserts. The service is un-assuming and expert. (5136 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2873. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Sun brunch 11-3; Dinner: daily 6-11, Sun 6-10. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)
Cattleman’s. Smack in the middle of the old stockyards, surrounded by more false fronts than the back lot at Warner Brothers, Cattleman’s is a Fort Worth Institution with a large and loyal following. Steak is the specialty here: We’re partial to the ribeyes and the Kansas City strip. The calf and lamb fries are also terrific, though something of an acquired taste. Don’t stray into the spaghetti or lobster; they’re just not Cattleman’s forte. Service is a delight – more fun than dinner theater, and there’s no cover charge. (2458 N Main. (817) 624-3945. Mon-Fri 11 am-10:30 pm. Sat 4:30-10:30 pm, closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Edelweiss German Restaurant. The attraction here isn’t the food – it’s the Gemutlich-keit, the infectious good humor that fills this huge West Side beer hall. Bernd Schnerzinger, with a voice big enough to be heard from the mountaintops, sings nightly with an oom-pah band; singalongs and dancing are encouraged. Service is better than good, and so is the food, as authentically German as one finds in Texas. Although the schnitzel sometimes resembles thinly battered chicken-fried steak, the sausages, sauerkraut, cabbage, and potato pancakes are tasty, and the Black Forest cake excellent. (3801-A Southwest Blvd. (817) 738-5934. Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10:30. Reservations. MC, V, DC. $$)
D Revisits Hedary’s. Once, in another location, this was called “Hedary’s Lebanese Pizza” because war refugee Antoine Hedary believed “pizza” was American English for “restaurant.” Pizza was never served, nor is it in Hedary’s new restaurant. The food is pure Lebanese, cooked in a specially built brick oven, prepared and served by Hedary, his wife, and seven of their nine children. The result is a long roster of exotic dishes served in a mildly erratic fashion. One recent evening we began our meal with Hummus Bit-Tahini, a salad of garbanzo beans, pine nuts, spices, and ground beef. The combination was fresh and delicious. For an entree, we selected Frarej, which was baked chicken with potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables, all basted with olive oil and lemon juice. The olive oil was slightly heavy but otherwise a perfect dish. We finished off the evening with Arabian coffee, which the menu explained was brewed bitter and black for sad occasions and sweet for good times. Ours was sweet. (3308 Fairfield in Ridglea Center. (817) 731-6961. Sun-Thur 5-11; Fri-Sat 5-midnight. No reservations. AE, MC, V. $, $$)
Joe T. Garcia’s. Garcia’s is Fort Worth’s favorite Mexican restaurant. The food is Southern Mexico-style, less spicy than Tex-Mex, and the menu is limited, a set meal at a set price. But most people don’t care – they come mainly for the atmosphere. You can eat in the old house or alfresco beside the pool. The service is often slow, crowds overflow, it’s noisy, confused and very friendly. (2201 N. Commerce. (817) 626-4356. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Sun, 5-10:30. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
Kincaid’s. The best hamburgers in Texas, maybe the world. Kincaid’s is a gourmet burger joint cleverly disguised as a neighborhood grocery store. The burgers come from behind the meat counter and they are huge, juicy and freshly made, with meat patties the size of small sofa pillows. Kincaid’s has Texas deli items, too, for takeout – the chicken-fried steak, corn bread, and barbecue are excellent. The crowds are huge: You wait for your order, and eat standing up. But no one cares. (4901 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2881. Mon-Sat 10-6:15. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
London House. An old-line favorite for steak lovers, London House has the basics down pat – salad, beef and potato. The decor is ersatz-Tudor English, but a less obvious forgery than those beef-and-ale chain operations. The steaks come in rather large sizes for the price. If there is a criticism, it could be that the lettuce is not always as fresh as it should be on the heavily stocked salad bar. (4475 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-4141. Dinner only. Sun-Thurs 5-11; Fri-Sat 5-midnight. Reservations. AE, MC, V. $$)
Massey’s. More properly known as Herb Massey’s Dinner Place, this red leatherette-booth cafe is always crowded. The reason is chicken-fried steak – the very best, served with salad, French fries, cream gravy and homemade biscuits. (Massey’s menu ranges from Mexican to seafood, but chicken-fried steak is the pièce de résistance.) Service is fast and folksy. (1805 Eighth Ave. (817) 924-8242. Daily: 6:30 am-10:30 pm. No reservations. MC, V. $)
Merrimac. This restaurant/disco sprang to life beside the Trinity River and instantly became a crowded weekend favorite. The food is nothing spectacular (although the Alaskan king crab legs are delicious and well-prepared) and service could be better, so it must be the ambiance, which is cozy and somewhat romantic. The disco is upstairs and evening diners are shielded from the music, but you may be happier with everything at lunch when the Merrimac is less frenetic. Without reservations on Friday and Saturday evenings, expect an hour’s wait. (1541 Merrimac Circle off University Dr. (817)332-9306. Lunch, Mon-Fri 11-2; Sun Brunch 11:30-2. Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11; Fri-Sat 6-midnight. Reservations. AE, MC, V. $$)
Old Swiss House. Dependable but not dazzling. The veal dishes, though on the heavy side, are the recommended house specialties. The veau Zurichoise, for instance, is tasty but immobilizing. The veau aux champignons is simpler and more delicate. Excellent filet mignon and good fish dishes, including a lovely Nova Scotia salmon appetizer. It’s a Fort Worth institution, but it’s also rather stuffy, though the fresh flowers and the slice of lime in each water glass give the place a gracious air. The extensive wine list is strong in Californias and the service is quick and polished. (5412 Camp Bowie. (817) 738-8091. Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat till 10:30, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Rangoon Racquet Club. Even if this weren’t the best singles bar in town, a visit would be required to sample the hamburgers, which are large and packed with all the trimmings. Other luncheon items include ham hocks and lima beans. The atmosphere is dark and cozy in this nicely re-done old mansion, the service cheerful and quick. Singles begin arriving right after work, and the most popular drink seems to be an exceptionally good house Chablis. (4936 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 737-5551. Mon-Sat 11-10. No reservations. V, MC, AE. $)