Loew’s Anatole Hotel has opened-but it isn’t finished yet, or wasn’t when we visited in late January. Construction crews set the tone in the atrium with buzz saws, scaffolding, and “Wet Floor” signs. Unfortunately, the confusion had leaked into three of the hotel’s restaurants; we got the impression that the service and kitchen staffs weren’t quite ready for dress rehearsal. We’ll return when things have settled a bit, but here’s a first look. L’Entrecote. This appears to be the flagship restaurant of the Anatole; as a result, the general organizational and efficiency problems of the new hotel are magnified. We have visited only once, but for the record, here’s how things went. We were first seated right next to the harpist; the music provides a lovely backdrop for the place, but not at arm’s length. We were moved, not without some disgruntled looks from the staff, to an unmade table. Before we could seat ourselves, three waiters asked if we wanted cocktails; we asked for time and when we were ready there wasn’t a waiter to be found. During much of our meal, a serving cart was parked beside our table, piled with dirty dishes. Before we had been served the main course, a bus-boy began clearing our table, silverware and all. And so on. The one saving grace was the personable sommelier, who was kind enough to find us a good, unlisted wine for a reasonable price. The menu offers an impressive selection of French dishes, but its most notable aspect is pricing. A few examples, all prices à la carte: Dover sole, $17; beef filet (10 ounces) with Stroganoff sauce, $16; lamb chops, $22.50; broiled lobster, $26. Our 14-ounce pepper steak ($20) was well-prepared but began with a tough, inferior cut of meat; our veal rib was very good-as it should have been for $19. The wine prices are a joke. We hope the tactic here isn’t to prey on the Apparel Mart’s expense-account crowd. If it is, the locals will be too wise to go back. (Loew’s Anatole Hotel, 2201 Stemmons Fwy at Industrial. 748-1200. Lunch: Buffet only Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Sun-Mon 6-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
The Plum Blossom. The decor in the Plum Blossom is subdued, the food discreetly seasoned, the service polished and unobtrusive. The only jolt is the bill, which can easily hit $50 for two. The menu consists of three complete dinners, ranging from $12 to $20 per person, and a limited number of a la carte dishes representing most of the major Chinese cuisines. The best of the latter were the beef Szechuan with broccoli, unusually mild but flavorful, and the “Mandarin Gwo-Ba sizzling rice presentation,” which takes as long to say as to eat. The appetizers are thoroughly conventional-barbecued spareribs, shrimp toast, egg rolls-and the desserts nothing to shout about, except tor a delicious almond cream with fruit and Chinese liqueurs. On our next visit we tried The Emperor’s Banquet, which began well with a platter of abalone, jellyfish, and smoked oysters, and a superb sizzling rice soup. But our hopes were dashed by the spiced bok choy and shrimp, very ordinary, and the sweet-and-sour trout, which was badly overcooked and topped with synthetic sauce on a par with La Choy. And very modest portions throughout. So in the end we had to ask ourselves, what price won ton? At the moment, the Plum Blossom has more style than substance. (Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11:30, closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Chanticleer. This is the Anatole’s “coffee shop.” And so far, we haven’t tasted anything here that transcends “coffee shop” food. That would be no crime, except that the atmosphere promises more. The Chanticleer is located in a patio area in the Anatole’s main atrium. Particularly at night, this is a most pleasant version of the “indoors-is-outdoors” architectural craze, a place for comfortable eating, drinking, and people-watching. The food doesn’t add much to the experience. Our samplings included a good vegetable soup, an awful watercress soup, good standard desserts (cheesecake, cobbler, pie), fair calf’s liver with Canadian bacon, surprisingly good ravioli, and an average cheeseburger. All in all, pretty ordinary, and the menu is limited to carafes of the house wine, which is nothing to rave about. For what it’s worth, a waitress told us that breakfast was their best meal. Perhaps when the dust settles, the kitchen will do justice to the setting. (Open 24 hours, seven days a week. MC, V, AE. $$)
Sorrentino’s. Sorrentino’s brings serious Italian cooking to Dallas’ northernmost outpost, the Promenade Shopping Center in Richardson, and presents it with style at a leisurely pace. We visited twice, and found the meat dishes outstanding. The veal saltimbocca, served on a bed of sauteed escarole, was tender and delicately flavored; the fillet Sorrentino, three medallions of beef cooked in wine, garlic, and mushrooms, was positively elegant. Sorrentino’s highly touted homemade fettucine was mediocre, however (we tried the Alfredo and alia carbonara versions), and you’ll pay stiff prices for it. For an appetizer, try the mozzarella marinara (cheese dipped in batter, fried, and covered with tomato sauce); forget the hot antipasto (mushrooms, clams, and green peppers stuffed with boring bread filling). For dessert, we loved Anthony’s Delight, fresh strawberries and bananas simmered in butter, Cointreau, orange juice, and brandy, then poured over vanilla ice cream. Nice touches to every meal here are the free vegetable appetizer, served with hot dip, and the after-dinner fruit basket. A one-time $5 “club membership” is required for cocktail and wine drinkers. (2375 Promenade Center, Coit Road between Arapaho and Belt line. 699-1021. Dinner only: Mon-Thur 5-11, Fri & Sal 5-midnight, Sun 4-10. Reservations except Sat. MC, AE, DC, CB. $$$)
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.
$$$$ Very expensive.
Unless otherwise noted, all restaurants have full bar facilities.
Credit card notations: MCI Master Charge, V/Visa, AE/American Express, DC/Diner’s Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All Credit Cards” indicates that all five are accepted.
Antares. An unrivaled view of the city as featured by an average restaurant, though if you choose carefully from the menu you can have your scenery and a decent meal, too. From the limited selection of entrees, the steaks seem to be the best (with the tenderloin is the best value), though the appetizers are more intriguing: a good and bountiful salade Nicoise, marvelous onion soup, tasty fried escargots. If you don’t like these, you might as well move up one floor to the bar. (Reunion Tower at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. 741-3663. Lunch: 11-2; Dinner: 5-midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
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, Sal till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Bagatelle. One of the classiest dining rooms in town, with a solid wine list, sophisticated service, and a cozy bar. The sole Véronique and veal francaise, seasoned with herbs and wine, have been impressive on recent visits, as have the shrimp du chef appetizer and the escargots. Lunch at the companion Plaza Cafe is more chaotic than classy. Expect slow service and scrambled orders, though the food is good when it finally arrives – especially old standbys like the Plaza omelette and the quiche Lorraine. (One Energy Square. Greenville at University. 692-8224. Bagatelle: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat till II, bar till 2 am. Plaza: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. Bagatelle: $$$. Plaza: $$.
Brasserie. This elegant coffee shop still fills a local void as a late-night snack stop after a dressy evening, and some of its post-midnight treats are as wonderful as ever: sensational eggs Benedict, avocado stuffed with crabmeat, and sirloin steak sandwich. But the salads, omelettes, and sandwiches are no better than you can get at lots of other places – just considerably more expensive – and around 2 a.m. you can get the uneasy feeling that you’re keeping the place open. Still, late night is the only time to visit, and there’s really nowhere else to go. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross & Akard. 748-5454. 24 hours, seven days a week. No reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Chateaubriand. The perfect Fifties post-prom trip, complete with music, dancing, hat-check girl, and an army of tuxedoed waiters battling to light your cigarette. Nothing distinguished about the food, but considering the size of the menu, the quality is surprisingly high. We’ve had good luck with the Greek fare (pastitsa and dolma appetizers, Greek veal) and the broiled lamb chops; less than good luck with the shrimp appetizer and most of the vegetable offerings. At lunch, the menu shrinks a bit, and quality and service drop a notch. Chateaubriand is what dining meant before there was a Greenville Avenue. (2151 McKinney. 741-1223. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-midnight. 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 à 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. $$$)
The Grape. Nothing chic here. Just pleasantly tacky decor and consistently good food. You can make a meal out of a plate of cheese (the best selection in town, served with fruit and fresh bread), soup or salad, and a carafe of wine, but the entrees won’t let you down. Recent standouts include chicken and artichokes cooked in Scotch, Chateaubriand in perfect béarnaise, and a delicately prepared filet of sole. Still one of the most dependable restaurants in Dallas. (2808 Greenville at Goodwin. 823-0133. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30, open later on Fri & Sat for wine and cheese. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
Jennivine. The notion of an English wine bistro is a bit odd, but Jennivine has to be considered more than a curiosity. Lunch has been especially good recently – there’s a delightful quiche divan, packed with chicken; a nicely prepared roast loin of pork; and an excellent spinach-and-sprout salad. The dinner menu includes a perfectly cooked red snapper filet and a dish called chicken Wessex that is heavy, soggy, and downright unappealing. Great sourdough bread. The wine list lacks the offbeat selections one expects in a serious wine bar. (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Tue-Sat 11:30 am-11:30 pm, closed Sun & Mon. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
Old Warsaw. Risen from its decline. La Vieille Varsovie (as it would rather be called) is once again one of Dallas’s best restaurants. The kitchen isn’t bold or imaginative, but it is consistent. Start with the shrimp with shallots and Pernod sauce. If the $15 price tag doesn’t deter you, have the terrine de foie gras. We also recommend the roast quail in truffle sauce, the rack of lamb, or. the cote de veau. And don’t ignore the waiter’s recommendations when he suggests a dessert souffle. (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Tue-Sun 6-10:45. Sat till 11:45. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
Pyramid Room. The Fairmont has an ace up its sleeve: the Pyramid Room. The overall dining experience here is unrivaled in Dallas. That’s attributable to its charming, efficient staff and a relaxed approach to splendid food.. We’ve recently sampled the excellent veal chop baked with honey and dressed with grated carrot; even better was the lamb loin baked in a pastry shell with tarragon sauce – a lamb lover’s dream. Lunch is almost as great a pleasure – the calf’s liver with onions and baked apple is as good as you’ll ever taste, the fresh fruit salad truly is fresh, and the pastry cart incredible. We even tried the “Pyramid Hamburger.” It was, of course, superb. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross & Akard. 748-5454. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-1:30; Dinner: Daily 6-9:45. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
Three Vikings. This is a delightful restaurant, unlike any other in town. Run by a Swedish family, Three Vikings features one of the nicest fish dishes around – a perfectly cooked filet of sole with crabmeat and a light, lemony sauce. Other treats are Swedish steak, lightly steamed fresh vegetables, terrific shrimp chowder and chocolate cheese pie. Service is friendly and helpful. Our only suggestions would be a more inspired house salad and a longer, more varied wine list. (2831 Greenville at Goodwin. 827-6770. Mon-Sat 6-11. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)
Kuby’s. Some purists gripe a bit – Kuby’s gives them lean corned beef when they’d prefer greasy, plain old rye or white when they’d like an onion roll. But over the years, most of us have adjusted, and we keep on turning up at Kuby’s for good thick soups, a succulent tartar sandwich, delicious hot potato salad and sauerkraut, first-class wurst, and pastries that have caused many patrons to take up jogging in penance. Always crowded at noon, but you can slip around to the take-out window for a brown bagger that will make you the envy of the egg-salad set back at the office. (6001 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Mon-Sat 8-6, sandwiches till 5:30. No reservations. MC for purchases over $15. $)
D Revisits Wall’s. There may come a day when Dallas has a genuine New York-style deli, but we’re not holding our breath. In the meantime, Wall’s is a nice approximation. The deli section is small and heavy on pastry, but the attached restaurant is cozy and offers everything you can reasonably expect in these parts. From the extensive list of triple-decker sandwiches, we tried Tina’s Treat, a stack of egg bread (rye if you like), excellent hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and – the only major flaw in the meal – gelatinous slices of pressed turkey. The chopped liver was generous, creamy, and fresh – nothing extraordinary, but you’ll appreciate it if you’re used to Phil’s. We asked the waitress for a spicy sausage, but the best she could produce was a salty Kosher frank; the side order of sauerkraut was excellent, though, hearty and not a bit overcooked. From the soup side of the menu, the kreplach was exactly right, with just a glimmer of schmaltz on top. The deli’s desserts were disappointing, though: chocolate pie with instant-pudding filling and a Graham-cracker-and-Nilla-Wafer crust; apple crisp that was actually a cylinder of baklava with apple chunks in it. Beware of insulin shock. As a self-respecting deli must, Wall’s serves Dr. Brown’s cream soda. (10749 Preston Road, south of Royal Ln. 691-4444. Daily 7 am-7.30 pm. Reservations. MC, V. $$)
Calluaud. We’ll miss the homey old place on Fairmount, but Guy and Martine Calluaud have brought a great deal of warmth to their new quarters on McKinney, and the new bar and the spaciousness are welcome. Better yet, Guy’s kitchen is back in action. The lunch menu is essentially the same – divine omelettes, soups, pates, and salads, marvelous filet of sole and steak Parisien. The one new addition is the excellent calf’s liver, done with onions and a touch of vinegar. The dinner menu now includes treats like pheasant and squab, though if you’re in the mood for exotic fowl, the best we’re tasted is the quail in gar-lic-and-cognac sauce. Another new item, the filet mignon en croute in Madeira sauce, bears the Calluaud trademark of elegant simplicity. For dessert lovers, the legendary fruit tarts are still available, accompanied now by fine souffles. We know we’re raving, but Guy Calluaud is quite possibly the best chef in town. (2619 McKinney Ave. 823-5380. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
D Revisits Jean Claude. This was one of the city’s best restaurants when it opened its doors, and judging by our last visit, it may now top the list. Jean Claude is an exquisite restaurant, intimate, relaxed, with care taken at every point of preparation and service. The menu is not large (the point seems to be to achieve excellence in a few things), but it changes every night and always offers the diner the opportunity to try something new. We started with a marvelous duck liver pate and a shrimp appetizer prepared with walnuts and curry sauce; the latter would have been unspeakable almost anywhere else in town, but Jean Claude started with perfect shrimp and kept the sauce light and the curry mild. For entrees, we chose veal tournedos with green peppercorns, thick and tender, and the knockout of the evening, fresh Maine lobster in a light cream sauce – again, a rare instance of seafood actually improved by a sauce. For dessert, a perfect chocolate souffle. It’s hard to think of anything bad to say about the place; the prices, while high, are by no means the highest in town, and when the food is this good, who cares? Just about the only criticism is that the tables closest to Jean Claude’s open kitchen leave the diner feeling a bit exposed, as if he’s part of the show rather than the audience. But don’t let it bother you. If you don’t want to watch Jean Claude at work, don’t – just sit back and enjoy the extraordinary results. (2520 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Dinner: Tue-Sat 6:30 & 9:30. Reservations only. MC, V, AE. $$$)
La Cave. Great for a light meal and good wine in pleasant surroundings. The gimmicks are the wine bar and open wine cellar, which allow a wide sampling of foreign and domestic wines at bargain prices, but La Cave succeeds on culinary grounds, too. We’ve had excellent onion soup, avocado stuffed with crabmeat, and chicken liver pate, as well as some exceptional desserts – try the apple cheesecake and orange-flavored double cream cheese. Service is informative and efficient. (2926 Henderson. 826-2190. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Mon-Fri 5:30-midnight; Sal 1 pm-1 am; open all day for package wine sales. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $)
Le France Co. A bustling little place with some of the flavor of a French cafe and some of the quality, too. Lunch is a small selection of soups, salads, omelettes, and sandwiches that vary in quality-the standout being the onion soup. Dinner is much better: several well-prepared entrees, including recently an émince de capon à l’ Indienne in a delightful light curry sauce. The crème caramel is a knockout for dessert. The wine list is short and over-priced. Cheery and casual, a good spot for a light meal. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 742-2276. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11-2:30; Dinner:6-10; closed Sun & Mon. MC, V, AE. $$)
D Revisits Patry’s. Patry’s has aged better than many of the city’s other old-line continental restaurants because it acknowledges its limitations; the kitchen has the basic, textbook dishes down pat and doesn’t take many liberties. For openers, try the stuffed leeks, delicately seasoned and covered with a superb cream sauce, or the vichyssoise, as good as any in town. The coq au vin, a bore at many restaurants, is excellent; ditto for the escalope de veau with cream sauce. The only flop among the entrees, which include the obligatory lamb chops and peppered steak, was the Dover Sole meunière. Nice sauce, lousy fish. For dessert there’s a crème caramel and a Grand Marnier souffle topped with apricot sauce; it’s more pudding than souffle, but delicious anyway. Rather chilly decor but warm and polished service. Overall, a dependable if not necessarily adventurous restaurant. (2504 McKinney. 748-3754. Tue-Sun 6-11, Sat till 11:30; closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Mr. Peppe. Once one of the best restaurants in the city, though by today’s standards both decor and menu could use some new life. Mr. Peppe covers the old French standbys, from pate to chocolate mousse, and delivers competent versions in most cases – recent strong points were surprisingly good beef Wellington, nicely cooked fresh vegetables, and an excellent crème caramel. With the exception of its charming waiters, however, whatever gave Mr. Peppe an aura of elegance and excitement has faded. (5617 W Lovers Ln. 352-5976. Mon-Sat 6-10, closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
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 I 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 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. $$)
Italian Pavilion. An almost overbearingly opulent restaurant atop the Le Baron Hotel, which nevertheless has its virtues, including attentive service, comfortable seating, and a good selection of Italian wines. Unfortunately, much of the food is only so-so. Recommended dishes are the veal Fiorentino with butter and béarnaise and the shrimp Fra Diavolo with peppery tomato sauce. Vegetable side dishes are excellent. Somebody should take a cloth to the glasses and silver, though – housekeeping was wretched on a recent visit. $10 annual membership required for alcohol. (Le Baron Hotel, 1055 Regal Row at Carpenter Fwy. 634-8550 ext 7200. Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11:30, closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Lombardi’s. Servizio con brio. That’s one reason Lombardi’s has become one of the most enjoyable restaurants in town. Another is the food. 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 langostinos when they’re available. The pasta dishes can be uneven, but with so many unusual choices, why be mundane? The more limited lunch menu includes roast veal and peppers, 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 & Sat 5:30-11, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Mario’s. Elegant but not stuffy (though they do require men to wear jackets). While you wouldn’t choose Mario’s if you were in the mood for hard-core Italian food, the fettucine is excellent, and the manicotti appetizer comes with a perfectly balanced tomato sauce. The menu ranges from a simple veal with green peppers (in which the veal can be tasted, for a change) to an elaborate Tournedos Heloise – artichoke hearts, pate, and mushrooms atop the filet. A solid but not exceptional restaurant. (135 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Daily 6-10:45, Sat till 11:45. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Paisan’s. A deceptive place, whose unengag-ing exterior hides a splendid kitchen. We’ve never had anything but masterly meals here (though we’ve heard of occasional off nights). The best opener is the zuppa pavese, beef broth with a poached egg and parmesan, but it’s with the entrees that this menu shines. A few favorites: veal Siciliano, topped with eggplant and green peppers in a wonderfully rich tomato sauce; and sausage alla Turiddu with black olives and green pepper, surely the best sausage dish in town. For dessert, you need not look past the cheesecake with white raisins and pine nuts. (9405 Overtake. 352-2765. Daily 5:30-11. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Pietro’s. High spirits prevail here – on a good night, spontaneous toasts, crying babies, and a hearty Muzak rendition of “Santa Lucia” blend into one of the most pleasantly chaotic atmospheres in town. The food seems secondary, though it’s pretty good – creamy tagliolini with salty ham slices, fresh lemon veal, tremendous crème caramel, and a nice wine list. The minestrone, spaghetti, and salads are ordinary, but it’s a big menu. Expect crowds on weekends. (5722 Richmond off Greenville. 824-9403. Tue-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sal till 11, closed Sun & Mon. No reservations. MC, V. $$$)
II Sorrento. Closed by fire in December, II Sorrento was expected to reopen in late February. We’ll report the outcome in a future issue. (8616 Turtle Creek, north of Northwest Hwy. 352-8759.)
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 6-1:30 am, bar till 2, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V. $$)
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. $)
Casa Dominguez. It happens all the time: Family opens small Mexican cafe, serves great food, attracts the crowds, so family moves into larger location, builds a second restaurant on Greenville, a third on Bachman Lake, a fourth in Farmers Branch. . . and so on. And the tacos get soggier, the plates hotter, the lettuce limper. Fortunately, there’s an exception to this rule: Casa Dominguez was the flagship in the Pete Dominguez chain of Tex-Mex enterprises. But the tacos didn’t get soggy: They’re still crisp, with perhaps the best-seasoned filling in town. Over the years, the menu has expanded into some specialties: an excellent carne asada, fine tacos al carbon, a good chile relleno. In addition to the standard bowl of hot sauce, with your tostados you get a delightful pico de gallo-a spicy vegetable mixture with carefully seeded jalapenos. There are some weak spots: the cheese on the con queso items is gluey-apparently a pasteurized process cheese “extended” with flour-and the tasty guacamole comes in stingy portions. The other Dominguez restaurants are pleasant -especially the cheerful Los Vaqueros in Highland Park Village-but the food is best at Casa Dominguez. (2127 Cedar Springs. 742-4945. Tue-Thur 11-10, Fri 11-11. Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. No reservations. AE, DC, MC, V. $)
El Taxco. This place made its reputation with generous, delicious, cheap Tex-Mex, though it’s no longer as consistent as it was. Stick to the standards – enchiladas, tacos, rice and beans – and you’ll probably find it satisfactory. But the more ambitious the item, the more unpredictable the results. Watch out for the chile relleno, a flaming capsule loaded with seeds, each a tiny dynamite charge; the cheese enchiladas, topped with a pleasant tomato and onion sauce, are a better bet. El Taxco now has a full bar, but the drinks are pretty bad – especially the bilious Kool-Aid margaritas, mostly syrup with a drop of tequila. Service can be hassled and surly. (2126 N St Paul at McKinney. 742-0747. Sun-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sal till 10. closed Tues. No reservations. MC, V. $)
D Revisits Chiquita. Mario Leal is a conscientious man, very proud of his restaurant. Conscientiousness pays, for Chiquita has been one of the city’s most popular restaurants for years, largely because Leal is usually on the spot to see that things go right. Popularity means crowds, however; there seem to be too many tables for Chiquita’s dining room, so the comings and goings of customers, waiters, and busboys can be annoying. But once the food arrives you probably won’t care. Stick to the specialties here, especially the pescado marinera, a white fish fillet in a lemon-butter-tomato sauce that defies description, and the chicken alla parilla, boned chicken breast grilled and seasoned with a light lemon-butter sauce. The standard fare of Mexican restaurants – enchiladas, tacos, rice and beans – is only fair-to-good at Chiquita, and the portions tend to be small. Avoid anything with their ranchera sauce, a sweetish tomato-based concoction that tastes like Campbell’s tomato soup (it’s undoubtedly fresh, but if you’ve ever made tomato soup from scratch you know it tastes exactly like it came from a Campbell’s can). Better are the appetizers and dishes made with Linares cheese, like the queso flameado. On a recent visit, the often-praised sopapillas suffered from deflation and tired grease, but we had been put in such a good mood by our entrees, the bright and charming surroundings, and a waiter who was a model of restrained at-tentiveness, that we didn’t mind at all. (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 atn-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. $$)
Raphael’s. This standby lacks some of the pizzazz that once set it apart from Dallas’s other Mexican restaurants, but there’s still plenty to like here, from the cozy ranch-style decor to the attentive service and occasionally wonderful food. The queso flameado appetizer and the flautitas are excellent appetizers, and among the main dishes, we especially enjoyed the flounder Veracruzano and the carne asada. You probably won’t enjoy the crowds, though; the dinner rush is being handled more efficiently than before, but there’s still a good chance of sitting on somebody’s enchiladas or having somebody sit on yours. (3701 McKinney. 521-9640. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Sal noon-10:30, closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. MC, V, AE. $$)
Health Nut. Not everybody’s cup of herb lea, 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. (4536 W Lovers Ln. 692-1411. Mon-Thur 11-9, Fri & Sat till 10. No reservations, MC, V. $)
Bo Bo China. Don’t let the plastic food on display in the front entryway scare you, because good Mandarin cooking waits inside. The Peking duck, with its honey-crisped skin served as a separate course, is outstanding (a day’s notice is required on this order), as is the Mo Shu Pork, delicately seasoned and served with four paper-thin pancakes and plum sauce. (Two weaker entrees are the shrimps with lobster sauce and the Bo Bo Beef.) The appetizers are a real treat, especially the Pot Stickers – deep fried meat ravioli. The service is attentive and friendly. There is one drawback: no liquor. (10630 Church Road at LBJ Freeway. 349-2411. Lunch: Daily 11-2:30, except Sun & Mon: Dinner: Tue-Thur 11-9, Fri & Sat till 10, Sun till 9. Reservations. MC, V. $$)
Chinese Pavilion. They make few attempts at chinoiserie in the decor, preferring to save their efforts for the kitchen. The menu has a whole array of terrific specialties, and it’s a good idea to trust the waiter’s recommendations. One recent standout has been the ambitious spicy, crispy whole fish, which comes with an ample and delicious sauce with shallots, all served on a huge platter. Lunchtime service can be grumpy and slow, and the dining room is too bright with too-loud Muzak. (2829 W Northwest Hwy. 357-5777. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat till midnight. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
Fuji-Ya. Possibly the best Japanese restaurant in town, and certainly the most reasonably priced. You have to work to spend $10 and can usually eat like an emperor for considerably less. Start with the sashimi (raw fish), especially if it includes tuna or yellow-tail. The egg rolls, shaped like ravioli and deep-fried, are delicious, as is the suimono soup, a chicken broth with pieces of shrimp and chicken added. Among the entrees, only the Yosenabe (a vegetable and seafood stew) was below par: It tasted cooked out. The shrimp tempura and the sukiyaki are both excellent, but if you prefer something less ordinary try the yakisoba (a pan-fried noodle with beef and vegetables) or the Tohkatsu (pork cutlet in special sauces). For dessert there’s only sherbet and a Japanese bean cake, which our waitress said Americans don’t like. She was right. Fuji-Ya has also begun preparing sushi on Thursdays, though they haven’t got that act together yet. Give them another month. Lunch is limited to a few teriyaki dishes and a daily special. Ours was a delicious chicken cutlet tempura. Club memberships required for alcohol. (13050 Coil Road. 690-8396. Tues-Sun 11-10; lunch 11-2. Closed Monday. Reservations. MC, V. $$)
Hunan. Where the Szechuan boom began, and still some of the best in town. A current favorite is the San Shien (pork, shrimp, chicken), and the abalone with chicken is a strong second place. Everything except champagne chicken and crab velvet-bad ideas to start with-seems to be top-notch. On its way to becoming a Dallas institution. (5214 Greenville al Lovers Ln. 369-4578. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm; Fri & Sal till midnight; Sun till 11. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
Mihama Ya. A family-run Japanese restaurant with a gift shop up front. Terrific shrimp tempura and chicken teriyaKi; delight-ful 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 lnwood 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-lo-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 & Sal till 11:30, Sun till 10. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
South China. Its competitors waver and topple, but South China continues to produce consistently excellent Chinese cuisine. Sweet and sour shrimp doesn’t come any better in Dallas, nor ginger beef more delicately seasoned. Recent discoveries include the moo shi pork, with a delicious filling, and the white mushrooms with crisp broccoli. South China sometimes fumbles the appetizers, but the shrimp toast, beef strips, fried wonton, and sizzling rice soup are fine. Not to be missed: Saturday and Sunday at lunch the chef prepares Chinese delicacies not on the regular menu for bargain prices. (5424 E Mockingbird. 826-5420. Lunch: Daily 12-2:30, Sal & Sun noon-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5-10, Fri & Sal till 12. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
Szechuan. A dependable neighborhood restaurant with the menu shared by most of the town’s Szechuan-style restaurants. A few of the “Chef’s Specialties” really are special: Try the house chicken with scallions, celery, and green peppers. One of this restaurant’s virtues is a dependable take-out service. The moo-shi pork is an old take-out favorite that is sometimes sensational. Very friendly, ever-smiling staff. (4117 Lemmon near Douglas. 521-6981. Sun-Thurs 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sal till 12. Reservations on weekends. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
S & D Oyster Company. You take no chances at S & D: The menu is limited to the few broiled and fried items they can handle. The oysters are plump and juicy, the shrimp sweet, the red snapper broiled to the point of perfection. And the gumbo is the real thing, full of shrimp. There are some weak points: dense, dry hush-puppies, too-sweet desserts, a bar limited to beer and wine, and deafening clatter when the place is crowded – as it always is. Fortunately, the pleasures outweigh the pains. (2701 McKinney near Routh. 823-6350. Mon-Thur II am-10 pm, Fri & Sat till 11, closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
Broussard’s. In a new location, it still has a raucous hoarding house atmosphere and superb oysters, fresh or fried; sweet catfish; outstanding piquante and gumbo; and the best crawfish this side of Baton Rouge. The only weak spots are tough and tasteless frog legs and the jambalaya, which frequently suffers from over-exposure to the infra-red lamps. A no-nonsense restaurant. Bring your own liquor. (707 N Belt Line Rd, Irving, 1 mile S of Rte 183. 255-8024. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2. Dinner: 5-10. Closed Sun. No credit cards. No reservations. $$)
Celebration. No-nonsense home cooking – baked trout amandine, pot roast, a huge salad, biscuits, three vegetables, homemade pies and cobblers. Dark and cozy, with agreeable background music, so that a lot of people make themselves at home. Beer and wine only. (4503 W Lovers Ln. 351-5681. Mon-Thurs 5:30-10, Fri & Sal till 11, Sun 5-10. No reservations. MC, V. $)
Pittman House. We’ve had some disappointing lunches here, but the dinners have been wonderful. Standouts include jumbo broiled unshelled shrimps in butter, file, and other seasonings; red snapper Veracruz, with tomato, onion, and garlic; brace of quail sauteed in white wine, topped with cherries. The vegetables are firm and fresh, and the desserts consistently excellent: light pound cake with baked apples, lightly whipped cream, and rum sauce; ice cream with pecans and dark, buttery hot fudge. Service ranges from fair to excellent. (2911 Routh. 745-1149. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; Sat & Sun 12-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thurs 6-10; Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Reservations evenings only. MC, V, AE.$$$)
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 Knox. 526-5391. Breakfast and lunch: 7:30-2. Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat till 11. Sun brunch: 10-2. No reservations. MC, V. $$) Sonny Bryan’s. A down-home barbecue joint furnished with old school desks and picnic tables – a distinctive Dallas institution. The 800 pounds of meat they’re reported to cook every day is usually gone by late afternoon. Don’t pass up the onion rings or the fries, and the crisp fresh cole slaw is great. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 8 am-6 pm, Sat 11-3, Sun 11-2. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.
Chili’s. Not ambitious, but expert. The Old Timer (mustard, lettuce, tomato, etc.) and the Terlingua Pride (everything in the kitchen plus chili) are the best of the burgers, the soft tacos the best of the other items. You’ve probably tasted better chili, but never, never better French fries. Pleasantly casual atmosphere and quick and friendly service once you get inside. There’s usually a long waiting line. (7567 Greenville at Meadow. 361-4371. Daily 11 am-2 am. No reservations. MC, V. $)
Cork ’n’ Cleaver. Despite the cute name and the fact that this is a chain restaurant, the prime rib is excellent- and you can have seconds of it at no extra charge. The steaks are equally good, and the salad bar is varied: spinach, mushrooms, cottage cheese, cauliflower, sprouts, grated cheese, and assorted other goodies-a lunchtime meal in itself for $3.25. The only annoyance is a phony Colorado motif, especially in the bar. The current leader in the steak-and-salad-bar sweepstakes. (8080 Central Expwy at Caruth Haven. 361-8808. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-11, Sal till 12, Sun till 10. Reservations for parly of six or more. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
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. $$)
Kirby’s. Step inside and you’re back in the Fifties, when dining out meant sitting in a very dark place and eating a huge piece of meat. It’s still great. Kirby’s steaks are tender, among the best in town, and priced to compete with the chains’. You might want to order rarer than usual, though – our steaks were left on the fire a bit too long. Kirby’s offers all the salad you can eat (though it’s just iceberg and cherry tomatoes) and fine baked potatoes topped with everything. (3715 Greenville. 823-7296. TuesSun 5:30-10, Fri & Sat till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)
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 & 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. $$)
T.G.I. Friday’s. Dozens of burgers; enormous portions of beef, chicken, and shrimp; thick, gooey desserts – Friday’s menu rolls on and on. We’re especially fond of the pocket sandwiches, steak fingers, and crabmeat-and-arti-choke omelette. For appetizers, try the baked brie or the zucchini slices, and for a treat, a side order of fried potato skins. Always mobbed with singles, but there are compensations – Mexican pizza, for instance, and those fried artichoke hearts. (Old Town, 5500 Greenville. 363-5353. Daily 11:30 am-2 am; Sun Brunch 11-2. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)
FORT WORTH RESTAURANTS
D Revisits Carriage House. We tried for three nights to stroll in reservationless, but that doesn’t work at the Carriage House. There’s hardly a lull in the throngs of people, no place to wait, and limited parking. Finally, we did the right thing, and we are pleased to report that the Carriage House’s reputation for excellence continues to be deserved. This time we selected pepper steak and veal Milanese – both were done to perfection. The salads were crisp and cold, and the house’s avocado dressing a tasty addition. To be picky, the asparagus was slightly overdone, and the menu is still lopsided toward beef; but the Carriage House knows its customers. Service remains slow – over 10 minutes passed before a waiter appeared with menus – but our irritation was soothed by the food. (5136 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2873. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: doily 6-11, Sun 6-11; Sun brunch: 11-3. Reservations. AE, MC, V. $$$)
Angelo’s. A rambling patchwork shack with sawdust on the floor and patrons wearing gingham dresses or shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons. The atmosphere is right, and so is the barbecue. You’ll never find better spare ribs or more tender beef. The prices are a bit steep, though the beer is a bargain (have the medium – the large looks like more glass and less beer). Beer prices double after 10 pm, so they must know the beer is a steal. (2533 While Settlement Rd. (817) 332-0357. Mon-Sat 11-10. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
The Balcony. It will never be mistaken for a great restaurant, but it’s a pretty good one, and the place for Ridglea society matrons to meet for lunch. The trout amandine was too dry on a recent visit, and the beef oriental is probably called beef stronganoff in other restaurants, but there was a very good vegetable soup. The service is brisk, competent, and friendly, and the house white wine excellent. (6100 Camp Bowie. (817) 731-3719. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sal till 10:30, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Cattlemen’s. Smack in the middle of the old stockyards, surrounded by more false fronts than the back lot at Warner Brothers, Cattlemen’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 Cattlemen’s forte. Service is a delight – more fun than a 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. $$$)
Edelweiss German Restaurant. The attraction here isn’t the food – it’s the Gemullich-keit, the infectious good humor that fills this huge West Side beerhall. Bernd Schnerzinger, with a voice big enough to be heard from the mountaintops, sings nightly with an oom-pah band; singalongs and dancing are encouraged. Service is better than good, and so is the food, as authentically German as one finds in Texas. Although the schnitzel sometimes resembles thinly battered chicken-fried steak, the sausages, sauerkraut, cabbage, and potato pancakes are tasty, and the Black Forest cake excellent. (3801-A Southwest Blvd. (817) 738-5934. Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10:30. Reservations. MC, V, DC. $$)
Hedary’s. The food is pure Lebanese, 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. We’ve tried the Hummus Bit-Tahini, a salad of garbanzo beans, pine nuts, spices, and ground beef – the combination was fresh and delicious – and the Frarej entree, baked chicken and vegetables basted with olive oil and lemon juice. Finish up with Arabian coffee, brewed bitter and black for sad occasions and sweet for good times. Ours was sweet. (3308 Fairfield in Ridglea Center. (817) 731-6861. Sun-Thur 5-11; Fri & Sat 5-midnight. No reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Joe T. Garcia’s. Garcia’s is Fort Worth’s fa-vorite Mexican restaurant. The food is southern Mexico-style, less spicy than Tex-Mex, and the menu is limited, a set meal at a set price. But most people don’t care – they come mainly for the atmosphere. You can eat in the old house or alfresco beside the pool. The service is often slow, crowds overflow, it’s noisy, confused and very friendly. (2201 N. Commerce. (817) 626-4356. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2; Dinner: Mon – Sun 5-10:30. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
Kincaid’s. The best hamburgers in Texas, maybe the world. Kincaid’s is a gourmet burger joint cleverly disguised as a neighborhood grocery store. The burgers come from behind the meat counter and they are huge, juicy and freshly made, with meat patties the size of small sofa pillows. Kincaid’s has Texas deli items, too, for takeout – the chicken-fried steak, cornbread, and barbecue are excellent. The crowds are huge: You wait for your order, and eat standing up. But no one cares. (4901 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2881. Mon-Sat 10-6:15. No reservations. No credit cards. $) London House. An old-line favorite for steak lovers, London House has the basics down pat – salad, beef and potato. The decor is ersatz-Tudor English, but a less obvious forgery than those beef-and-ale chain operations. The steaks come in rather large sizes for the price. If there is a criticism, it could be that the lettuce is not always as fresh as it should be on the heavily stocked salad bar. (4475 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-4141. Dinner only. Sun-Thurs 5-11 Fri & Sat 5-midnight. Reservalions. AE, MC, V. $$)
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 piece de resistance.) Service is fast and folksy. (1805 Eighth Ave. (8I7) 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. $$)
Old Swiss House. Dependable but no) dazzling. The veal dishes, though on the heavy side, are the recommended house specialties. The veau Zurichoise, lor instance, is tasty but immobilizing. The veau aux champignons is simpler and more delicate. Excellent filet mignon and good fish dishes, including a lovely Nova Scotia salmon appetizer. It’s a Fort Worth institution, but it’s also rather stuffy, though the fresh flowers and the slice of lime in each water glass give the place a gracious air. The extensive wine list is strong in Californias and the service is quick and polished. (5412 Camp Bowie. (817) 738-8091. Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sal till 10:30, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
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. $)
Willow Garden. The menu claims Chinese, Thai, and Mongolian dishes, and who’s to argue? To an American taste, the food is Oriental, good, and inexpensive. To begin with there is an excellent Moo Goo Gai Pan (breast of chicken with vegetables and mushrooms), a benchmark for Chinese restaurants. The Mongolian Barbecue, chunks of beef and pork in a vegetable sauce, and Hung Sui Har, eight jumbo shrimp with a mix of scallions, tomatoes, and ginger, are highlights from a lengthy menu. All is served in booths with beaded curtains. A good buy. (6712 Camp Bowie. (817) 738-7211. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; Dinner daily 5-10, Fri & Sat till 11, closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V, DC. $)