DINING OUT A Critical Guide to Restaurants

Newcomers



La Polonaise. We suspect this restaurant will keep going a long time on the strength of its owner’s reputation. Stanislas Slawik, who founded The Old Warsaw and sold it several years ago to the small chain that runs Arthur’s and Mario’s, is back greeting Dal-lasites who remember when his restaurant offered the only respectable continental food in town. And, at the corner of Highland Park Village, La Polonaise is in a prime location to attract the clientele it is designed for.

But there are other good restaurants in Dallas now, and it remains to be seen whether the “exclusive” approach Slawik has taken in his new restaurant will draw more than the handful who remember the golden age of Old Warsaw. La Polonaise is over-priced. Nothing on the wine list is under $10, and that includes some pretty ordinary selections like Blue Nun Liebfraumilch and Krug Chablis. Furthermore, some of its pretensions are absurd: The menu is entirely in French, down to the note that informs you that the entree comes with either rice or potato; battalions of waiters attend your every whim, sometimes stumbling over each other in the process; there is “valet parking” at the door, although a whole shopping center of empty spaces is just around the corner; and a pianist jingles away too loudly at selections ranging from Beethoven to Barry Manilow (her segue from “Climb Every Mountain” to Fur Elise left us breathless).



On the other hand, the decor is fresh and pretty, if over-bright. The service is helpful when it isn’t getting in its own way. And the food – well, the food is excellent. The menu is one of those “you name it, we’ve got it” catalogues, but most of what we’ve sampled suggests they can do it well. The escargots and the hors-d’oeuvre varié – including a pleasant paté and good shrimp and crab in a rémoulade sauce – are above average, but the shrimp provencale is outstanding. Soups are very good: We tried the crème de cresson au sorrel, the French onion, and a soup du jour, cream of vegetable. The kitchen seems to have a better touch with veal than with fish: Our salmon steak was dry and the timbales de quenelles de brochet (poached fish in a very good cream, wine, and shrimp sauce) were a bit heavy, but the veal chop was excellent and the escalope de veau with crabmeat was terrific. Unfortunately, La Polonaise treats vegetables with indifference – tough green beans, dreary glops of spinach heavy with nutmeg, and bald, over-boiled potatoes do not awaken the palate.

Best of all, dessert: That old standby of classy continental restaurants, the Grand Marnier soufflé, was good; the soufflé praliné was nothing short of supernal. (2123 Highland Park Village. 522-6270. Mon-Sat 6-11. Reservations. AE, V, MC. $$$$)



Cunze’s. One thing you can say for Cunze’s is that it’s trying to be more than just a spa-ghetti-and-garlic-bread Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing you can say for it. Despite an ambitious menu, Cunze’s simply doesn’t deliver. Easily the best dish is the zuppa de pesce, a bountiful seafood soup that is imaginatively seasoned. Everything else ranges from the very ordinary (lasagne, chicken frangisca) to the downright awful (fettucine Alfredo). There are half a dozen appetizers, but only the fried mushrooms had any zip. The fried ravioli tasted as though they had gone straight from the freezer to the microwave. Cunze’s has a comfortable, laid-back quality about it. The host is very gracious, the service is attentive, and everyone seems to work hard. Yet all the good will in the world can’t make up for mishaps in the kitchen. Right now Cunze’s needs a chef equal to its aspira-tions. (6101 Greenville. 369-5747. Mon-Thur 5-11, Fri and Sat 5 till midnight. Closed Sunday. Reservations. V, MC, AE, DC. $$)



Poochie’s. Forget the name. This small stand-up hot dog and hamburger spot on Greenville brings a touch of Nathan’s to Big D. Actually, Poochie’s features the milder Chicago-style franks, but serves them with sauerkraut, grilled onions, and half a dozen other garnishes. The specialty of the house is something called a Red Hot Lover, a plump, very spicy sausage. We preferred the plain ole Poochie Dog or the Jumbo Poochie with cheese, washed down with a draft Coors. There are also several kinds of Poochie burgers, all pretty ordinary, and a homemade version of the corny dog that is a delightful surprise. The owners are lively and chatty. (5111 Greenville. 363-7616. Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 12-10. No credit cards. $)



RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS



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 Express, DC/Diner’s Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All Credit Cards” indicates that all five are accepted.



CONTINENTAL



D Revisits Arthur’s. Arthur’s is the place to mix business with pleasure, which makes for lots of dark suits, hearty male laughter, stiff drinks, and solid, well-prepared food. The chef shines at the grill: Filet, calf’s liver and onions, lamb chops, all are first-rate. (Dishes requiring a lighter touch, like escargots, baked oysters, and filet of sole, are generally ordinary or overdone, so it pays to stick with the simple things.) The service, generally excellent, has seemed harrassed lately, but that may be inevitable at the start of a new fiscal year. (1000 Campbell Centre. 361-8833. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Sun-Fri 6-11, Sat till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)



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. $$)



D Revisits Bagatelle/Plaza Cafe. The difference between these companion restaurants is more than simply night and day; it’s the difference between class and chaos. Lunch at the Plaza Cafe can be a chore – slow service, scrambled orders. Even the spectacle of all those gushing fountains isn’t always enough to calm the nerves. The food, when it finally arrives, is reasonably good, with high marks going to standbys like the Plaza omelette and the quiche Lorraine and at least passing grades to everything else, including daily specials such as pork loin and stuffed bell pepper. After six, matters improve dramatically. Bagatelle has one of the classiest dining rooms in town, and most nights the service is polished and sophisticated. On recent visits we were impressed with the veal francaise (a tender cutlet seasoned with herbs and wine), the sole véro-nique, very delicately treated, and several of the appetizers, especially the shrimp du chef and the escargots. Bagatelle is also one of the few restaurants in Dallas that serves pheasant under glass, but so far we’ve been unable to get it. Out of season? Probably more fun to talk about anyway. A solid wine list and a dark, cozy bar for an after-dinner drink or for listening to jazz. (One Energy Square, Greenville at University. 692-8224. Bagatelle: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat till 11, bar till 2. Plaza: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. Bagatelle: $$$, Plaza: $$)



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. But most of the time, Calluaud is a class operation. (2917 Fairmount off Cedar Springs. 742-8525. 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, too. We’ve had excellent onion soup, avocado stuffed with crabmeat, and chicken liver pate, as well as some exceptional desserts – try the apple cheesecake and orange-flavored double cream cheese. Service is informative and efficient. The only flaw: coffee too mild to counteract the effects of the wine. Good 1940s background music, though. (2926 Henderson. 826-2190. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Mon-Fri 530-11:30; Sat till 1 pm-1:30 am; open all day for package wine sales. No reservations. MC, V. $)

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-fashioned 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 McKinney. 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 Expwy 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 first-class 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 pate 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 crème 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’ 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 c6te 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. $$$)

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 6-11. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)



DELICATESSENS



Kuby’s. Busy and bustling. Excellent homemade 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. $$)



ITALIAN



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, Sal till 1 am, Sun noon-midnight. No credit cards, but personal checks accepted. Reservations for 6 or more. $)

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 nothingspecial. 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. $$)

Lombardi’s. No gimmicks, just a delightfully remodeled old house where they serve excellent Italian food. The lasagna (the lightest version imaginable) and the saltimbocca are standouts – maybe the best in town. The manicotti ismade with a crepe-like pasta, the pork par-migiana is an unusual delight and the richgreen-noodle fettucine is outstanding. A warning on the minestrone: it is thick and flavorful but stew-like – an appetite killer. Lunch is usually less impressive than dinner. But everyone is eager to please at Lombardi’s; the service is sophisticated and responsive. (2815 McKinney Ave. 823-6040. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat reservations at 7:30 or 9:30. MC, V, AE. $$$)



D Revisits Italian Pavilion. This overbearingly opulent restaurant atop LeBaron Hotel has its virtues: Service is attentive, tables are well-spaced and seating is comfortable; and there’s a nice selection of Italian wines. For the most part, however, the food is only so-so. Es-cargots were tough, and on one visit they had an odd undertaste resembling bleach. Fettucine alla Romana (with mushrooms, cheese, butter, cream) would have been just fine if the pasta hadn’t been doughy. Some of our entrees (broiled red snapper; veal Gaetano, stuffed with gruyère and ham; and chicken Jerusalem, with mushrooms) were prepared with good basic ingredients, then ruined by heavy sauces. Recommendable entrees are veal Fiorentino, exceptionally tender, drenched in butter and in a good béarnaise; and shrimp Fra Diavolo, four large shrimp in a tomato sauce spiked with hot peppers – the latter seemed more Mandarin than Italian in spirit, but maybe Marco Polo brought back more than just pasta. Vegetable side dishes were excellent, especially Italian squash with bits of ham and onions. Soups and salads were fair to poor; on one visit we found the house dressing to be virtually tasteless. Housekeeping was wretched: spotted glasses and silverware, unpressed tablecloths. $10 annual membership required for alcohol. (Le Baron Hotel, 1055 Regal Row at Carpenter Fwy. 634-8550 ext 7200. Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-L0:30, closed Sun. Reservations. 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 till 11:45. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Pietro’s. Pietro’s comes close to what you’d find in, say, the North End of Boston – home-style Sicilian cooking with scads of loyal patrons. The pasta dishes are the best bets, though Pietro’s veal scallopini à la Siciliano is excellent. Have the crème caramel for dessert. Friendly, brisk service though the “No reservations” policy means you’ll have to wait. It’s usually worth it. (5722 Richmond off Greenville. 824-9403. Tue-Thur 5:30-10 pm. Fri & Sat till 11 pm, closed Sun & Mon. No reservations. No credit cards. $$)

II Sorrento. Still maintaining the elusive blend of friendliness and intimacy that gives it a unique personality among Dallas restaurants, II Sorrento is competently staffed from strolling musicians to head chef. Its veal dishes are invariably superb, and the beef entrees – tour-nedos Rossini and medallions of beef frascati in particular – are outstanding. An excellent wine list and knowledgeable sommelier. And the most delightfully hokey decor in town. The only major criticism we have is that reservations sometimes get lost and you wind up waiting in the bar anyway. Fortunately, the food is worth it. (8616 Turtle Creek, north of Northwest Hwy. 352-8759. Daily 5:30-11, Sat till midnight. Reservations except on Fri & Sat. 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 till 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. (DMFA, Fair Park. 421-4187. Tue-Fri 11:30 am-11:30 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 NorthPark Mall. 692-7574. Mon-Thur 11 am-midnight, Fri till 1 am, Sat 10 am-1 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. Reservations. Neiman-Marcus charge card only, checks accepted. $$)



MEXICAN



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 and 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-Sat 11-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thurs, 5:30-9, 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. $)



D Revisits Herrera Cafe. Why are intelligent people willing to stand in line an hour or more to get into the original Maple Avenue hole in the wall when they could drive a few blocks to the newer, bigger Lemmon Avenue restaurant and be seated almost immediately? The menus and the recipes are the same – the difference is that the food on Lemmon looks and tastes as if it has been cooked for a banquet, while on Maple the food has soul: Sauces are richer, preparation is more careful, presentation more attractive, seasoning more assertive and complex. All the standard Tex-Mex fare is good on Maple, though the green chili sauce is a bit too sweet for our taste. Guacamole and nachos are exceptional. Flour tortillas, though made from a packaged dough, are magnificent: thick, fluffy, soft. 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 pm, 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 – it’s a knockout. (4912 Cole Ave. 521-4211. Sun-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat tilt 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. $)



NATURAL FOODS



Health Nut. Not everybody’s cup of herb tea, but the Health Nut continues to persuade lots of palates with their 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 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat till 10. No reservations. $)



ORIENTAL



Chinese Pavilion. They make few attempts at chinoiserie in the decor, preferring to save their efforts for the kitchen. The menu, identical to that of the parent restaurant, Hunan, has a whole array of terrific specialties, and it’s a good idea to trust the waiter’s recommendations. One recent 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 grumpy 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 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11-midnight. Reservations for 3 or more. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mihama Ya. A family-run Japanese restaurant with a grocery 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 Inwood 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. The Lemmon Avenue spinoff of Greenville Avenue’s Hunan restaurant does justice to the parent organization’s menu. 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 on weekends. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)



SEAFOOD



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 McKinney near Routh. 823-6350. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat till 11, closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)



SOUTHERN SPECIALTIES



Celebration. No-nonsense home cooking – baked trout amandine, pot roast, a huge salad, baked biscuits, three vegetables, buttermilk pie, apple cobbler. 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-Sat 5:30-11, Sun 5:30-10. No reservations. MC, V.$)



D Revisits Red Moon Cafe. Quality has been uneven at this attractive little neighborhood restaurant, but things are looking brighter lately. Chicken jambalaya, crawfish, gumbo, and the like are still the heart of the menu, and the Red Moon’s versions are good, though occasionally unorthodox – like beans and rice with black instead of red beans, and gumbo without file. (If you don’t like Creole unless it’s “authentic,” better stick with omelettes, salads, and the surprisingly good liver and onions.) The kitchen has a nice touch with salads, fresh vegetables, and desserts, especially the homemade buttermilk-pecan pie, and we hear the breakfasts are terrific. Our only complaints are with the service, which is well-meaning but very inexperienced, and the clammy, gray-blue paint job inside. (4537 Cole at McKinney. 526-5391. Breakfast and lunch: 7:30 am-2. Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 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. $$)



D Revisits T.G.I. Friday’s. Junk food palaces come and go, but Friday’s rolls on and on. It’s easy to see why: dozens of burgers; enormous portions of beef, chicken, and shrimp; thick, gooey desserts – all well-prepared and served in brisk, if occasionally scatterbrained fashion. We’re especially fond of the pocket sandwiches (made with pita bread), the steak fingers, and the crabmeat-and-artichoke omelette. For appetizers try the baked brie or the zucchini slices, with maybe a side order of fried potato skins. And for dessert, well, you get the picture. Friday’s attempts just about everything and can usually bring it off. On Sundays from 11 to 2:30 they have an excellent champagne brunch featuring eggs Benedict, omelettes, fresh orange juice, and so on. Always mobbed with singles and those who wish they were, and probably the last place you’d choose for a quiet, intimate meal. 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. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)



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 & Sal 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 a broiled boneless chicken and a 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 & Sat 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. $$)



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 White 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 unassuming 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 beerhall. 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. $$)

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, cornbread, 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. $)

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 piece de résistance.) Service is fast and folksy. (1805 Eighth Ave. (817) 924-8242. Daily: 6:30 am-10:30 pm. No reservations. MC, V. $)

Old Swiss House. Dependable but not dazzling. The veal dishes, though on the heavyside, are the recommended house specialties.The veau Zurichoise, for instance, is tasty butimmobilizing. The veau aux champignons issimpler and more delicate. Excellent filetmignon and good fish dishes, including a lovely Nova Scotia salmon appetizer. It’s a FortWorth institution, but it’s also rather stuffy,though the fresh flowers and the slice of lime ineach glass give the place a gracious air. The extensive wine list is strong in Californias and theservice 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. $$$)

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