NOTHING SHORT of a frozen marga-rita or a cup of cubed canteloupe can refresh you more than a cold, lightly dressed salad of fresh garden vegetables and greens. When your instincts direct you toward a salad instead of your habitual hamburger or piece of quiche lorraine, trust them. Eating light little meals, particularly at lunch and dinner, will help you shake off that lethargic feeling induced by summery humidity and heat. Salads will also quench your body’s thirst for fluids and grant you sustained energy that some foods don’t produce. And salads are no longer reserved for the womens’ bridge club luncheon or the newlyweds’ late supper of Caesar salad for two. If you walk into any one of the salad-oriented joints in town around noon, you’ll see businessmen and women chomping on carrots, spinach, and cauliflower like happy rabbits in a hospitable hutch. These are the people most apt to put in a productive office afternoon.
If conscientiously dressed, a salad is inherently high in fiber, low in calories, and low in fat. These last three characteristics are most responsible for aggrandizing the salad’s status from the appetite-stimulating course of a continental meal to a meal-in-itself, all-you-can-eat, California type of health-food fad.
The thing to be careful of when eating large salads in restaurants or when preparing them at home is the dressing. You can play the martyr and pretend to diet by ordering a meager salad of leafy greens, but when you ladle on the Thousand Island or blue cheese dressing, you’ve made a mockery of your meal and your muscles. You’ve blown your dietary wad at a rate of about 80 calories per tiny tablespoon. If you find an oily puddle of dressing at the bottom of the bowl, chastise the responsible party for heavy-handedness. Lettuce leaves should be moistened with dressing, not doused in it.
We whisked through the city on a salad taste-test and didn’t lose a pound because salads, as served in restaurants, are hardly salads anymore. They’re submarine sandwiches in big bowls, embellished with shredded cheddar cheese, croutons, cold cuts, cottage cheese, and bacon bits. Not only that, they’re enormous. Many restaurants seem to seek your satisfaction by serving more than you can bite off and chew. In spite of all this, we found that no simple summer meal surpasses the basic spinach salad, or chef salad de la maison. You can have your coq au vin or veal mar-sala. Give us rabbit food. Let us munch in peace and prosper from the consumption of green things.
If you aren’t too proud to tool into a fast-food establishment during daylight hours when friends can catch you in the act, Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers has an impressive salad bar well-worth sampling for $1.75. Their Dallas-area supervisor says the salad bar makes up 12 per cent of their total sales and each Wendy’s unit goes through 60 pounds of lettuce a day. The bar includes 18 condiments and seven dressings. The lettuce is a mixture of iceberg and romaine.
Most North Dallas fern bars with turn-of-the-century art nouveau decor serve what we’ve decided to call the North Dallas salad; it’s big, showy, and a perfectly fine meal for the body-conscious, but after we ate (and couldn’t finish) a number of them, we began to perceive them as intolerably dull. The salads at Biffs and T. G. I. Friday’s are in this group, as are some of the smaller salad bars. Cork ’N Cleaver still has the prettiest salad bar of them all, and it casually presents expensive ingredients as though preparation was no trouble at all.
Quite a few downtown lunchtime eateries thrive upon the business of hungry dieters. At their worst, they’re like a place that’s called Drake’s Salad Bar which doesn’t feature a salad bar any more. We tried a chef salad there, and found it akin to something served in an all-night pancake house. At their best, downtown salad places are like Tossed Greens and Things in the basement of Thanks-Giving Square. This restaurant is a salad shrine, and the only objectionable part of a dining experience is the poor ventilation that stores salad odors and makes the whole place smell like a bottle of vitamin B supplements. Once you get past that, you can’t lose with any one of the outrageously generous salads the best of which we think is “The Works, ” a fun salad with literally everything on it. They even include expensive condiments that we rarely buy for ourselves at the grocery store, things like artichoke hearts and real ham. The house dressing is genuine Hidden Valley Ranch. For $3. 95, you can’t buy a better balanced meal, but don’t fool yourself into believing you’re within the limits of a strict diet.
“I compiled the calorie counts of our salads one time, ” says Tossed Greens and Things owner Bill Lacy, “and then I decided people wouldn’t want to hear about it. By the time you compute the meat and cheese alone, you’ve got about 400 calories right there. “
Lacy also says 50 per cent of his customers don’t finish what they’re served, and even though cutting back on proportions would save in labor intensive preparation time, Lacy is afraid of the complaints such a change would solicit.
Our spinach salad at Natural Eats was a disappointment. We knew we weren’t going to like it much when we saw that the whole thing was prefabricated and wrapped with all the air already squeezed out from between the leaves.
But Marvins Garden, a health food restaurant that doesn’t put on airs, serves the best chef salad of the lot. The ingredients are, by and large, bought fresh every morning, and on one occasion we had tomatoes reminiscent of those we used to take for granted back when tomatoes had taste. On another visit we were less enthralled with the tomatoes, but everything else seemed consistently fresh. The greens are a mixture of leaf lettuce and spinach, topped with a fluffy serving of sprouts and chopped scallions. The tofu, which we chose instead of cheese, is flown in from Austin. All three salad dressings -tahini, creamy garlic, and olive oil and wine vinegar-are terrific and the serving is large, but not ridiculously huge.
These restaurants represent the best in Dallas and Fort Worth dining.
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 $15 for a complete meal excluding wine and cocktails.
$$$$ Very expensive.
Unless otherwise noted, all restaurants have full bar facilities.
Credit card notations: MC/MasterCard, V/Visa, AE/American Express, DC/Diners Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All credit cards” indicates that all five are accepted.
(Serendipitous Experiences From Off the Beaten Path)
Black-Man Bar-B-Que. The sign outside insists, “Try Me Once And I Gotcha. ” No, this isn’t a finance company. Among the hundreds of contenders for the title of best barbecue joint in Dallas, Black-Man would have to rate in anybody’s top five. And, depending upon personal taste, maybe even the exalted number one. Black-Man prepares its meat with the loving and painstaking care the more commercial outlets claim to provide, but don’t. The $4. 00 rib plate provides the genuine barbecue connoisseur with that lascivious rush that happens maybe once a year. Order a chopped beef sandwich carry-out and you can drive to Waco before you finish it. This is definitely a no-frills deal, too, as the “No Loitering” sign inside indicates. (3503 E Illinois. 375-6080. Mon-Thur 10-midnight. Fri & Sat 10-5 am. No credit cards. $)
Café Royal. The surroundings are as exquisite as the Mozart played by the pianist on duty during dinner. As for the food, scallops in pepper sauce are a fine opener, and a better choice than the thin, too briny lobster soup. Classic entrees like sirloin with béarnaise sauce are safe bets; but the more adventurous nouvelle cuisine-inspired choices are the point here: among them, flavorful duckling supreme with mustard cream sauce and tender, piquant veal steak with lime butter. Minor shortcomings are dull salads, limp vegetables (which, at $3. 50 a la carte should taste as good as they look), and occasionally burnt coffee. Service can be very slow. But all is forgiven with the extraordinarily refreshing strawberry bavaroise. (Plaza of the Americas, 605 N Ervay. 747-7222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11: 30-3; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6: 30-10: 30, Fri & Sat till 11. All credit cards. $$$$)
Calluaud’s. Calluaud’s is open for lunch, and that’s good news for connoisseurs of class, since the place effectively defines class for Dallas restaurants. The lovely terra-cotta and cream-colored surroundings and the service are as quietly elegant as always. And the food continues to hold its own. While the entrees are never less than good, it is in the areas of appetizers and desserts that Calluaud’s truly shines. Two equally fine openers are scallops in white wine and cream sauce and mellow tomato soup that banishes all memories of the Campbell’s version. To finish, you can’t go wrong with any of the souffles or fruit tarts. (2619 McKinney. 823-5380. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6 10:30, Fri & Sat seatings from 6- 7 and at 9: 30. Closed Sun. Reservations only. MC, V, AE. $$$$)
The Chimney. The undisputed pride of The Chimney is the veal-which ranges from the simple Weiner Schnitzel, crisply pan-fried, to the complex fores-tière, a thin cutlet bathed in a woodsy mushroom and cream sauce. But the appetizers are overpriced and, although the seafood pancakes in hollandaise were tasty, the rest were uninspired. Even though the desserts were homemade, they tasted as if they had been baked at home several weeks earlier. The wine list is spotty and has markups of up to 300 per cent. Overall, if you don’t order veal, you’ll see your money go up in smoke. Service is lackluster-we waited an hour to be seated on one visit. (Willow Creek Center, 9739 N Central at Walnut Hill. 369-6466. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2; Dinner: Tue-Sat 6-10:30, Sun 6-10. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
D Revisits Ewald’s. Less pretentious and flashy than most other continental restaurants in Dallas, Ewald’s ranks within the highest echelon when it comes to the quality of its food. Those willing to forgo the standard continental fixtures -tuxedo-clad French waiters and brass candelabra-will find treasures of tenderloin and veal awaiting them. One of the standouts on the menu is the tournedos St. Moritz (beef tenderloin with artichoke hearts, bearnaise, and tomato concasse with sautéed mushrooms). We also found the veal steak “au moulin” (veal sautéed with mushrooms, cognac, and cream) to be up to its usual tasty excellence. But the star of the menu continues to be the veal Pagallo (veal stuffed with Canadian bacon and Swiss cheese, covered with a piquant sour cream sauce). Ewald’s has a credible pepper steak and a re-spectacle Chateaubriand; but the beef takes a back seat to some of the house specialties like shrimp du chef (broiled shrimp in a delicious barbecue-like sauce), which is available in either appetizer portions or as an entree, or the snapper bonne femme (served in a white wine sauce with mushrooms). Desserts are superb, especially the Black Forest cake, strawberries Romanoff, or the cream caramel. (5415 W Lovers Ln. 357-1622. Mon Fri 6-10: 30, Sat till 11. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)
Jean Claude. The only bad thing about eating at Jean Claude is the demands it places on one’s short-term memory. There is no menu; instead, the waiter recites for you first the appetizers, then the entrees, and finally the desserts available. Given that there are often 10 or more entree choices, you may feel exhausted by the time coffee arrives But once you’ve ordered, all is well, with Jean Claude himself chopping and sautéing in the open-air kitchen. For appetizers, we’ve enjoyed the scallops in cream and garlic sauce, the salmon mousse, and the warm crab meat and lobster salad. Only the patés have disappointed Jean Claude is particularly successful -and imaginative-with fish entrees, among them swordfish with grapefruit sauce and poached trout wrapped in lettuce. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the intensely chocolate mousse or the fruit tarts. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sat seat-ings at 6 and 9 Reservations only. MC. V. AE. $$$)
Jennivine. Jennivine is the ultimate wine bar, coupling fine wine with superior cuisine. Patés, which can be ordered a capella or as a prelude to dinner, were uniformly excellent and ranged from a creamy salmon to a coarse poivre Jennivine was one of the first Dallas restaurants to swim in the rough waters of fresh fish. Catch the New England halibut, a juicy, sweet filet bathed in a garlic, dill, and butter sauce. And just when you thought it was safe to eat in a Dallas restaurant again, Jennivine has begun to feature shark. It was, well, chewy. Carnivores can devour the lamb curry, escorted by chunky mango chutney and fresh coconut and raisins. Chicken mirepoix, an Oriental-style saute with vegetables, is, however, oddly flavorless. Desserts are the restaurant’s Dunkirk. The cheesecake was plastery, the trifle trifling, and the rhubarb cream tasted like the fuel for the V2 rocket. (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11: 30-2: 30; Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10: 30. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
L’Amblance. This may or may not be in the ranks of the best continental cuisine in town, but it is definitely the best you’ll ever eat in a converted gas station. Inside the uninspiring exterior is a first-rate restaurant that could well be characterized as “full-service. ” The hosts greet patrons at the door as if welcoming house guests. And although the surroundings are standard cut-glass-and-starched-linen, the atmosphere is easy. Salads are impeccable, and soups are fresh and flavorful. Of the entrees we tried, we especially liked the tender medallions of veal with mushroom puree and the pepper-sauced filet mignon flamed with cognac (an exception to our usual rule of avoiding flamed dishes, which tend to be long on flash and short on flavor). The pastry selection is varied and gorgeous. (2408 Cedar Springs. 748-1291. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11: 30-2: Dinner: Mon-Sat 6: 30-10. All credit cards. $$$)
Le Relais. This 24-hour glorified coffee shop is a welcome addition to the short list of local around-the-clock establishments. Although it certainly outdoes the competition at 4 am-Denny’s, 7-Eleven, the Brasserie-one expects more, considering the hefty tab. We haven’t had anything truly bad at Le Relais, but we haven’t had anything really good, either. Offerings range from pedestrian soups and sandwiches to more ambitious offerings (tasteless veal piccata, bland ham and mushroom crepes). Desserts-oversweet ice cream sundaes, over-liqueured chocolate mousse, and uninspired fruit tarts-look a lot better than they taste. (Plaza of the Americas. 605 N Ervay. 747-7222, ex 1706. Daily: 24 hours. No reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
La Rendez-Vous. The expansion and refurbishment of this once-small bistro is the best thing that could have happened to the place Before, it was small and intimate. And even though the size has doubled, the intimacy is still not lost. What’s new, in addition to more tables, is an air of formality that makes the place seem like exactly what it is-a first-class French restaurant. The kitchen delivers consistent quality with a number of veal dishes and one of the better pepper steaks around. The cold salmon platter is excellent, although on more than one occasion we’ve been baffled to find that the salmon with béar-naise was a bust because the salmon was too dry. The shrimp Pernod, which has long been excellent, still is. Le Rendez-Vous excels in service; waiters are efficient but not hovering. (3237 McKinney at Hall. 745-1985. Lunch: Daily 11-4; Dinner: Daily 5-1. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Las Saisons. Les Saisons is a study in contrast-the French country inn decor of the window seating (with a splendid view of Turtle Creek and downtown) contrasts with the lush main eating area in the style of a Viennese boudoir. The menu also reflects this theme of contrasts. The shrimp Les Saisons and the leeks with crab meat are both succulent appetizers of seafood morsels served in light piquant sauce, but the gamey-tasting escargot are to be avoided. The simple and superb cold smoked trout with horseradish sauce and cucumber salad is the best choice Salads are ho-hum, but the hearty onion soup is good of its kind. Among the entrees, we liked the rack of lamb and the grilled swordfish. But the veal chop with chanterelles is a good concept done in by an overzealous hand with the salt jar. To finish the meal, we recommend the chocolate mousse, and the fresh strawberries, marinated with just the right touch of Grand Marnier, and topped with sour cream. Service is attentive, with a refreshing lack of haughtiness. (765 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 528-1102. Sun-Thur 11: 30, Fri & Sat till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Tre Mansion. Like its parent, 21 in New York, the Mansion is a place to see and be seen-no restaurant in Dallas can match the class and elegance of its decor The soups and salads are high society; as for the entrees, while the breast of pheasant smothered with chanterelles was perfectly juicy and sweet, and the thick filet arrived charbroiled on the outside but pink on the inside as ordered, other entrees need some refurbishing. The chicken hash, a staple of the 21, tasted disappointingly canned As for the veal with goose livers, well. God probably never intended them to mingle on the same china. Desserts, though gorgeous, were a disaster. The chocolate souffle was chemical and pasty, the chocolate and tangerine mousse resembled unflavored gelatin, and the pot de chocolate came out ponderous and bitter. The service is brusquely French, but grows friendlier the more you frequent the place. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11: 30-2: Brunch: Sat 11-2, Sun 11-2: Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri-Sat 6-10 30: Reservations. MC. V. AE. DC. $$$$)
Old Warsaw. A sense of quiet know-how accrued from three decades of experience pervades this restaurant. That’s not to say the place is without its eccentricities of character-it boasts pink flamingo paintings and is capable of serving a side dish of potato chips in a little basket sculpted of french fries. You can always get a meal of the traditional continental sort without a flaw: for example, start with the escargots. then a little steak tartare, followed by an entree of good ol’ duck à I’orange There is a multitude of more exotic offerings, but a meal of old favorites somehow seems most fitting to this favorite old place. But don’t forget that you will pay the price, especially when you venture into the wine list which, despite some beautiful selections, ranks as one of: he most absurdly overpriced in restaurant-dom. 2810 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Fri 6-10: 30, Sat till 11: 30. Reservations required. All credit cards $$$$)
Patty’s. Your appreciation of this restaurant may ultimately center on how much you believe in the axiom that good things come to those who wait. On a recent visit we spent half an hour waiting in the bar for a table-even though we had reservations-and then spent 25 minutes anticipating the arrival of our waiter after we had been seated and given menus That type of treatment is not totally extraordinary for Patry’s. which has a loyal following and a tendency to be cold and forboding to newcomers. But if you have a nigh tolerance for indifferent service, you can eventually dine in high style at Patry’s. The food is consistently good. The best entree on the menu is the leeks stuffed with milk sausage cooked in cream; and the pepper steak is among the best in the city. We also like the crab Nantua and the grilled lamb chops. Patry’s entrees are complemented by an excellent selection of fine desserts and one of the better wine lists in Dallas. (2504 McKinney. 748-3754. Tue-Sun 6-10: 30. Closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
Pyramid Room. Five or six years ago, Dallas was buzzing over the fact that an evening for two at the Pyramid Room could easily cost $75 to $80. Now $100 to $150 is just as easy, but no one seems shocked anymore. Luckily the Pyramid justifies the three-figure tab. A superb array of appetizers is led by the escargots en papillot chablisienne. six escar-gots nestled in tender chunks of chicken breast and sautéed with herbs and white wine. For a more subdued beginning, try smoked salmon accompanied by a glass of aquavit. Filet of sole, baked in a flaky pastry and served with lemon butter and bisque sauce, is a dependably delicious main course. Our beef tenderloin with bordeaux wine sauce was a quality cut, but was slightly undercooked. Veal sautéed in butter was, however, prepared to perfection. For a spectacular conclusion, you won’t regret selecting cherries flambés, if you can take your eyes off the silver cart laden with pastries. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross and Akard. 748-5454. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11: 30-2; Dinner: Daily 6-10. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)
Three Vikings. If Vikings could eat this well at home, why would Leif Ericson want to go to America, anyway? At Three Vikings, the quality of the entrees is among the best in town, and it’s hard to go wrong: There is crispy roasted duck with almond slices, served with a slightly sweet, piquant sauce; grilled salmon, properly moist, glazed with an amber sauce and topped with a dollop of dilled sour cream; filets of veal Norway, stuffed with mushroom filling and covered with a savory brown sauce. Appetizers are almost as good, with shrimp Erika and shrimp chowder the standouts. One would think that such obvious talent in the kitchen could produce creditable salads and desserts, but one would be wrong: Three Vikings’ salads are feeble and desserts disappointing. (2831 Greenville at Goodwin. 827-6770. Mon-Thur 6-10. Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V. AE, DC. $$$)
Valeriane’s. If you walk into Valeriane’s and experience a sense of déjà vu, the feeling is understandable. The intimate restaurant used to be the home of Jean Claude. The new chef-proprietaire serves the same high-quality cuisine that characterized its predecessor. Everything is homemade, from the pate to the tart fresh fruit sorbets served as palate cleansers to the closing chestnut souffle. The scallop mousse was a mound of creamy fish doused in champagne sauce Shrimp showered with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic proved you don’t have to be Chinese to turn out an authentic Oriental dish Rack of lamb racked up points, and fish lovers should reel in the Dover sole, piled to the gills with crabmeat Only the sweets struck a sour note. Although the chestnut souffle was so light it nearly floated, the cappuccino mousse lacked the sting of espresso, and meringue chantilly glacée tasted like it came from Ashburn’s. (2520 Cedar Springs between Routh and Fairmount. 741-1413. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11: 30-2; Dinner: Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
India House. Let’s face it: Not that many Dallas diners know the difference between alu tikki and tan-doori chicken. Selections like these are not exactly part of the American culinary mainstream. But even if you don’t know what you are eating at India House, you’ll discover one thing quickly: It’s very good. Both the tandoori chicken and beef, marinated delights served with a shovel-sized portion of fluffy rice, are tasty, if extremely filling. And the appetizers, such as chicken chat-chunks of chicken served with mint chutney-are superb. Abundant fresh-from-the-oven breads are excellent. India House also offers a lunch buffet, which sometimes gets a little unorganized when the crowd starts to outnumber the waiters by too large a ratio. Dinner service, however, is extremely attentive. Save room for dessert; the cheese balls in sweet milk are delightful. (5422 E Mockingbird. 823-1000. Lunch: Daily 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat till 11. Reservations. MC, AE. V, DC. $$)
Sahib. You don’t have to wear a sari or own a Nehru jacket to like Indian food. If there is one place that curries our flavor, it is Sahib. The interior in shades of forest green and peach is striking in its simplicity. Canopies of airy gauze float over the window-side tables. In the back are tandoors, clay ovens where you car watch the two best dishes being prepared: naan (fresh bread) and tandoori chicken (lobster-colored marinated chicken of extraordinary succulence). Dinner begins with papads, spicy lentil wafers served with homemade chutney. Try the cold chicken chat as an appetizer. Fish masala is a tender filet served in a four-alarm hot tomato sauce. The puréed spinach was a perfect foil for the coriander and pink-to-perfection meat in lamb sagwala. The all-you-can-eat lunch, which features a dozen of the restaurant’s specialties, is an untouchable bargain. (9100 Caruth Plaza. 987-2301. Lunch: Dally 11: 30-3; Dinner: Daily 5: 30-11. MC, V, AE. $$)
Campisi’s. A Dallas institution whose charm may be lost on the uninitiated. Count on standing in line to gain admission to the dark, dingy interior attended by harried waitresses. Most of the veal, pasta, and pizza entrees are in the ordinary-to-tasty range. (Avoid, however, the overpriced, sorry crab claws. ) The best bet is the mostaccioli (tube-shaped pasta) with outstanding homemade Italian sausage. Dessert is either Black Forest cake or cheesecake, two equally bad options. (5610 E Mockingbird. 827-0355, 827-7711. Mon-Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat till 1 am, Sun noon-midnight. Reservations for 6 or more. No credit cards: personal checks accepted. $$)
Newcomer: La Trattoria Lombardl. To label this restaurant a newcomer is a mild misnomer; this place is the reincarnation of what for years was one of the culinary mammoths of McKinney Avenue. And though the name of the place is longer and fancier and the prices seem to have risen in concert with the nomenclature, we’re happy to report that this is essentially the same old Lombardi’s we’d grown to love in the past. They still do good things with fish, veal, and chicken, even though the kitchen has moved to a Hall Street storefront that is slightly less opulent than the majestic old mansion on McKinney. We’ve sampled the veal with lemon butter and the veal marsala and found them up to the old Lombardi’s high standards. And the eggplant parmigiana, long a Lombardi’s standout, is still stellar. No reunion with Lombardi’s would be complete for us without tasting two other old standbys: the minestrone (still tasty after all these years) and the frittata, the Italian omelets that have been a house specialty for several years The bad news is what you won’t find among the pasta selections. The crab meat cannelloni, one of the tastier dishes at the old Lombardi’s, didn’t make it to the new location, and the cannelloni verdi tricolore (green cannelloni stuffed with meat and spinach and served with a red or white sauce) doesn’t make much of a substitute. One of the high points that survived the move is the excellent service. The maitre d’ still greets each customer with a handshake and gushes salutations like “so good to see you again” (even if you’ve never been there before). It’s a nice touch that makes the new restaurant seem like an old friend. (2976 Hall. 823-6040. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2, Dinner: Mon-Thur 5: 30-10:30, Fri-Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sunday. All credit cards. $$$)
La Tosca. It’s obvious that this relative newcomer to the Dallas restaurant community is quickly becoming a tradition. Reason: La Tosca offers one of the most reliable and extensive Italian menus in town. The appetizers, for instance, include selections like cozze gratinate (broiled mussels with bread crumbs and garlic) and crespelle fiorentina (small crepes with spinach, ricotta, and cream sauce). La Tosca is one of the only places in town to offer an octopus salad, although at this writing we’ve yet to sample it. We liked the zuppa di lu-mache (escargot soup) and found the minestrone to be perfectly suited to our taste once we added some of the extra Parmesan the waiter brought with it. The best pasta dish is the paglia e fieno aurora (so-called “hay and straw” spinach and regular noodles in a tomato and cream sauce). Other strong points include the high-quality veal dishes like saltimbocca alla romana. The dessert menu is also filled with delicious surprises, like the superb strawberry tarts. (7713 Inwood. 352-8873. Tue-Thur 5: 30-10: 30. Fri-Sun 5: 30-11. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)
Mario’s. About as far from the spaghetti-and-meatballs, red-checked-tablecloth stereotype as an Italian restaurant can be, Mario’s is elegant and, of course, expensive. Appetizers are somewhat disappointing: minestrone is boring, escargots are heavy, and sautéed shrimp is bland. But the main dishes- especially the many variations on veal and the homemade green lasagna-are consistently excellent, and served in generous portions. And the soufflés equal those at any French restaurant in town. Service is friendly and efficient. (135 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Daily 6-11, Sat till midnight. Reservations. Jackets required for men. All credit cards. $$$)
Sergio’s. The pasta’s the thing at Sergio’s-it’s homemade and the entree of choice. Top honors go to the ravioli-small pockets stuffed with spinach and topped with sausage and delicate tomato sauce. (Unhappily, the ravioli is not available at lunch. ) We like the fettucini della casa with ham, mushrooms, and cream sauce almost as well. And the seafood bellezza (available only at lunch) would be delightful if it weren’t quite so oily. Sergio’s also makes great omelets and quite respectable veal dishes. The only problem is the limp salads covered in bad white house dressing; opting for soup instead to accompany your entree is always a wise decision. For dessert, the cannoli is overwhelmingly rich; a more virtuous choice is the strawberries Grand Marnier. (Suite 165, The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 742-3872. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11: 30-2, Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10: 30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)
Café Cancun. We’re happy to report that Cafe Can-cun has tightened up its attention to culinary detail, and the food is once again the equal of the lovely tropical surroundings. Among the highlights of the imaginative menu are jicama (a crunchy apple-like appetizer), tacos filled with pork and cooked in chile ancho sauce (be sure to ask for the avocado and tomato salsas), and chicken enchiladas mole. Entrees are accompanied by the best rice and- black, not pinto-beans in town. Two soups have been added to the menu, a wonderful chicken-vegetable soup and a corn soup that’s a bit too reminiscent of canned creamed corn for our taste. Another innovation is the four lunch specials now available-at $3. 45, an ideal way to sample Cafe Cancun’s delights. (4131 Lomo Alto. 559-4011. Mon-Thur 11-10, Fri 11-11, Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. All credit cards. $$)
Chiquita. With its tablecloths, candles, and white-suited waiters, Chiquita is out of the ordinary compared to most Tex-Mex places in town. Therefore, it’s appropriate that Chiquita excels with its out of the ordinary specialties. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the standard combination dinner oflerings; it’s just that you can do as well or better elsewhere. But when it comes to dishes like carne asada tampico style (filet mignon with sautéed green pepper and onions) or filete de la casa (filet mignon with garlic and hot peppers), you can’t match Chiquita’s combination of top-quality beef and skillful preparation. We’ve found that chicken and seafood specialties have not lived up to the standard of the beef dishes. And don’t miss the tortilla soup, a rich, oniony tomato broth with tortilla strips and melted white cheese. (3810 Congress off Oak Lawn. 521-0721. Mon-Thur 11: 30-10: 30, Fri & Sat till 11. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. AE. $$)
Escondldo. Although there is also an Escondido on Maple Avenue, it is kin in name only to the Butler Street location. What tastes fresh and spicy on Butler tastes tired and bland on Maple. True, the Butler location is so sleazy in appearance that Her-rera and Guadalajara look plush in comparison. But the dedicated Tex-Mex fan will happily overlook the surroundings in order to try the fiery picante sauce, fresh tostadas, sour cream beef enchiladas, and exemplary rice and beans. (2210 Butler. 631-9912. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11 -2: Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-9. No credit cards. Closed Sun. $)
Guadalajara. If you’re into culinary hedonism, one level of nirvana has got to be to plant yourself in one of the red leatherette booths of this raunchy-chic palace and enchilada your way into oblivion. This is truly great Tex-Mex: The staple items like tamales, enchiladas, guacamole, chiles rellenos, and frijoles are all superior, as are some of the semi-esoteric Mexican dishes like chicken with mole sauce. But we’ve had enough bad experiences with some of the more expensive dishes (like carne asada) that we discourage venturing too far from the mainstream of the menu. One of the best things about Guadalajara is its hours-the place is open till 4 am. And although after midnight it can look like a haven for Alcoholics Anonymous dropouts, Guadalajara is one of the only places in Dallas where you can get quality food after hours. (3308 Ross. 823-9340. Tue-Sun 11 am-4 am. Closed Mon. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
Herrera. The waiting lines are long, the surroundings cramped, the decor tacky; and Herrera doesn’t take credit cards or serve liquor What Herrera does serve is basic, down-to-earth Tex-Mex. In fact, some of the standard touches are the best-creamy gua-camole, hot sauce guaranteed to raise your temperature a few notches, retried beans and rice that are spicy and satisfying. Herrera does suffer from a few minor problems. The beef enchiladas, for example, are filled with a bland beef paste, and some dishes are accompanied by a floury, uninspired cheese sauce. Other dishes (including the nachos) are marred by a rubbery overlay of greasy, congealed Cheddar. With the closing of the somewhat Anglicized Herrera on Lemmon. the original cafe can perhaps concentrate on what it does best: satisfy diners’ taste for good, no-frills Tex-Mex. (3902 Maple. 526-9427. Mon, Wed, Thur 9-8, Fri-Sun till 10. Closed Tue. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
0 Revisits Mario & Alberto. The average Dallas family eats out three times a week, and if you’ve elbowed your way through the throngs at this North Dallas enchilada emporium lately, you’ll swear the average Dallas family eats at Mario & Alberto three times a week. The dinner ritual at this place includes a 30-minute wait which is made somewhat more pleasant by the tangy goodness of the frozen margaritas that are purveyed by the pitcher in the waiting area. The secret to this place is that Mario Leal has taken a proven Mexican menu from his other restaurant (Chiquita) and transported it intact to Preston and LBJ. Leal is literally miles ahead of his competition North Dallas diners obviously don’t mind queuing up in crowded quarters to wait for a sample of the reliable staples like enchiladas, guacamole, tacos al carbon, and carne asada. They are all essentially the same as the high-quality items you find at Chiquita. But in addition to the standard Tex-Mex, Mario & Alberto offers some more unusual delights like pescado marinero (fish filet filled with spinach and topped with oysters and shrimp), calabac-tias rellenas (zucchini stuffed with sirloin and covered with white cheese), and carnitas ado-badas (thin pork strips marinated in a piquant sauce and skillet fried). (425 Preston Valley Shopping Center, LBJ at Preston. 980-7296. Mon-Thur 11: 30-10: 30, Fri & Sat till 11. Drinks with $5 membership charge. MC, V, AE. $$)
Raphael’s. It may be that Raphael’s has slipped somewhat from its longtime position as one of Dallas’ very best Mexican restaurants, or it may be that the growing competition from ambitious upstarts has simply overtaken this established enchilada outpost Regardless, nobody’s bothered to tell the hungry hordes constantly waiting for tables. When a second location opened on Greenville Avenue, we thought it might be the answer. So far there is no waiting at the Greenville Raphael’s, but. perhaps that is true because it doesn’t live up to the somewhat slipped standards of the original Raphael’s. The Greenville menu is not identical- some items, like the superb strawberry or peach sopapillas, are missing, and some, like the dry, un-derseasoned soft pork tacos, are present that aren’t available at the original. Therefore, we still recommend the Raphael’s on McKinney, if you have the stomach to wait. Once seated, head for the specialty dishes, many accompanied by wonderful pico de gallo. Two sure bets are the “authentic combination plate, ” an assortment of specialties, and the tacos al carbon. (3707 McKinney. 521-9640 Mon-Fri 11: 30-10: 30, Sat noon-10. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. All credit cards. $$)
Khalil’s Beirut. It you can negotiate the obstacle course that is Belt Line Road in the vicinity of Quorum Plaza, you will be well rewarded. Khalil’s Beirut is definitely the top of the line for fans of Middle Eastern food. Its competition admittedly is limited: The Pita Place is equally fine but has a more limited menu, and Hedary’s in Fort Worth, though good, is not up to Khalil’s quality Khalil’s is a more formal place than either of its competitors. On Friday nights there is a belly dancer (in case you require entertainment to induce you to venture into the unfamiliar territory of mahshi warak areesh, malfouf mahshi. and baba ganouj). Order the “extra special’ appetizer tray, and you will get the aforementioned and 10 or so more dishes; at $14. 95, this is more than enough for an entire meal for two-and the best introduction we know of to Lebanese food. Other choices include Lebanese lamb and beef dishes and, tor the unadventurous, standard steak and seafood entrees. (Quorum Plaza. Belt Line west of Dallas Parkway. 934-3100 Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5: 30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)
The Pita Place. After a hiatus following its former downtown tenancy, the Pita Place has reopened in North Dallas. The food is still fresh, tasty, and inexpensive; and now the surroundings are pleasant and bright. (Its previous incarnation could be charitably described as dingy. ) We can think of no better lunch for a sweltering day than a falafel sandwich (fresh pocket bread stuffed with deep-fried ground chickpeas and fava beans with lettuce and tomato), perhaps accompanied by a cool tabouli salad (chopped cracked wheat, chopped parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, and mint, all marinated in lemon juice and olive oil) and hummus (a dip of chickpeas and sesame seed paste seasoned with lemon and garlic). The pita burger of ground sirloin with chopped onions and parsley is, however, not unlike munching on a charcoal briquet. Steering clear of the acrid chocolate mousse is also advisable. (The Corner Shopping Center, 9820 N Cen tral Expy at Walnut Hill. 987-3226. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11-2: 30. Dinner 5: 30-10. Sat & Sun 11-10. Closed Mon. AE, MC. V. $)
Marvins Garden. If natural food restaurants bring Annie Hall visions of plates of mashed yeast to mind, take heart Marvins Garden offers a variation on two common restaurant themes: pizza and Mexican food. Pizza, you say: That’s junk food. Could Mr Jim’s pizza, a garden of fresh vegetables and cheese on a whole wheat crust be considered junk food? Mexican food, however, is the real forte of this intimate cafe. Starting with outstanding creamy garlic dressing over a dinner salad, we had a most satisfying meal. Quesadillas filled with flavorful soft white cheese are covered with a ranchera sauce Cheese enchiladas come filled with the same cheese and are covered with bean chili sauce or ranchera sauce, which we prefer Good Mexican food can usually be judged by the quality of the rice and beans it keeps. We weren’t disappointed here: The black beans, though short on garlic, are well prepared, and the brown rice is the best we’ve tasted (6033 Oram at Skillman. 824-5841. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2: 30: Dinner: Sun-Thur 5: 30-10: 30. Fri till 11. Sat 11-11. No reservations. MC. V. DC. CB. $)
August Moon. As the lines at dinner time attest, North Dallas has an appetite for high-quality Chinese fare Large and lavishly decorated, August Moon fills the bill with a vast menu featuring specialties of Taiwan, Young Chow, Shanghai, Peking, Szechuan, Hunan, and Canton. Soups are nothing special here, but the pu pu tray of assorted appetizers makes for a good start. Mongolian barbecue (marinated sirloin, pork, and lamb stir-fried with vegetables) and kung-po chicken are two of the best choices for main courses. Shredded pork in garlic sauce, diced chicken with almond, and Shanghai steak are less successful. Portions are generous, and service is extremely fast and accommodating. (15030 Preston at Belt Line. 385-7227. Mon-Fri 11-10:30; Sat 4-11; Sun noon-10:30. Reservations. Bar by membership. AE, MC, V, CB. $$)
Bo Bo China. No matter that this place apparently had the same interior decorator as Don Carter’s All-Star Bowling Lanes; on food alone, this may be the best Chinese restaurant in Dallas. We’ve yet to find a disappointment on a rather massive menu. If you want haute cuisine, try the excellent Peking duck (which must be ordered a day in advance). If you want a fast but tasty lunch, try one of the half dozen lunch specials, which at $2. 75 a plate, have to rank among the best buys in the city. Most of the main dishes include a superb wonton soup although we suggest trying the sizzling rice soup, which is even better. Another standout is the “pot stickers, ” Chinese-style dumplings filled with pork. Servings are large enough that you’re likely to need to take part of the meal home, which management is happy to facilitate. (10630 Church Rd at LBJ Fwy. 349-2411. Daily 11-10. Setups available, brown-bagging allowed. No reservations. AE, MC, V. $)
Hunan. Selecting from the large menu of this restaurant specializing in the spicy cuisine of the province of Hunan is like throwing darts: You may hit, and leave thinking you have dined splendidly, or you may miss, and leave feeling thoroughly dispirited. On one recent visit, our food wasn’t even on the dart board. Appetizers were among the worst we’ve ever had. (Entree portions are extremely generous, so appetizers can easily be skipped. ) Diced chicken with peanuts was tender, with crunchy peanuts, but the pieces of gristle were unforgivable. River Shang pork was blandly forgettable. On another visit, we were in luck. Shredded pork with garlic sauce was inspired, with black mushrooms, chopped scallions, and julienned water chestnuts in a delicious, garlicky sauce. Lake Tung-Tin shrimp was tasty, although we could have done without the limp, overcooked celery. (5214 Greenville at Lovers Ln. 369-4578. Sun-Thur 11: 30-10: 45, Fri & Sat till 11: 45. MC, V, AE. $$)
Monkok. Monkok won’t change your life, but it offers reasonably priced Chinese food that, if you order well, can be very good. We tried the pu pu tray of assorted appetizers and found the butterfly shrimp and egg rolls to be the best components. Both can and should be ordered a la carte, in order to skip the overcooked rumaki, tough spare ribs, and too chewy cho cho beef on the pu pu tray. Wonton and hot and sour soups are respectable versions; skip the egg drop, which is exceptionally bland. Among the entrees, Monkok Delight (juicy chicken, shrimp, and ham with mushrooms and vegetables). Chicken with peanuts (marked with a star as hot and spicy) is a more passable but pallid version than usual; it doesn’t earn its star. Cantonese roast duck is a tasty version. Only pork lo mein with vegetables and homemade noodles is irredeemable; it’s greasy and. worse, a strange orange color. (2150 N Collins Blvd, Richardson. 6440404. Lunch: Sun-Fri 11: 30-2: 30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Sakura. What with the geisha dancing in the tatami room, the schmaltzy piano bar music downstairs battling the koto music playing in the rest of the place, and the slashing, clanging, and sizzling of the chefs upstairs, the diner at Sakura feels transported to a three-ring Japanese circus. The only trouble is if you want a table at a restaurant, not a seat in the big top. But for feats of skill and daring, the sushi chef didn’t disappoint us. With the deft hands of a master, he sliced perfect pieces of impeccably fresh raw seafood and served them atop rice We were disappointed only by most of the more standard Japanese offerings, with the exception of chicken kara-aga, deep-fried sesame-coated morsels. The sushi bar is definitely the center ring at this circus; the side shows are best avoided (7402 Greenville near Walnut Hill. 361-9282. Sun-Thur 6-10: 30, Fri & Sat till 11: 30. Reservations. All credit cards $$$)
Newcomer: Sawatdee. Being second in a field of two can mean number one is too firmly entrenched to be overtaken Or, in the case of Sawatdee, Dallas’ second Thai restaurant, it can mean you’re simply not in number one’s league. Compar sons with Siam may be unfair, but they are inevitable Most of the news is discouraging: Although the skewered, broiled pork appetizer here is spicy. the accompanying sauce is floury. Deep-fried crab claws tasted frozen and resembled mutant corny dogs. Entrees tend to be pallid: we tasted shrimp with chili paste, roast duck country-style, chicken with hot sauce, and fried pineapple rice; while nothing was bad. nothing was memorable. There are some encouraging signs: fine, unusual calamari salad and lively hot and sour soup with shrimp. (4503 Greenville at Yale. 373-6138. Daily: 11: 30-11: 30, Lunch special Mon-Fri 11. 30-2: 30. AE, MC, V. $$)
Siam. At its best, Siam offers the bright, clear tastes of Thai food at prices that afford extensive reconnaissance; even at less than its best, it offers more than passable versions of standard Oriental dishes. But it is foolish to eat anything other than the extraordinary Thai dishes available here. Since the help is Thai and the dinner menu extensive and confusing, it is wise to order by number Among the best choices are 103 (marinated and broiled skewered pork with peanut sauce and cucumber salad), 110 (hot and sour soup tangy with lemongrass), 127 (rice noodles sautéed with pork, shrimp, and a multitude of aromatic ingredients), 137 (a rosy chicken curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and fresh mint), and 154 (perfectly juicy roast duck). The location and decor are funky, and service is often slow, but Siam’s food is well within the irresistible range. A lunch menu offers more limited choices. (1730 W Mockingbird near Harry Mines. 631-5482. Mon-Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $)
Newcomer: Yunnan Dynasty. By virtue of its illustrious pedigree, Yunnan Dynasty is an automatic contender for the title of Dallas’ best Chinese restaurant. As a sibling of the Austin restaurant of the same name, Yunnan Dynasty does its heritage proud Unlike most Chinese restaurants in town, where you can get good soup, appetizers, or main dishes, here you can have an entire meal that is peerless. Egg rolls are delicate and fresh, and soups are a no-miss proposition, though the mellow crab meat and corn soup is particularly noteworthy When it comes to the entrees, the only caveat is simple: order the spicy dishes marked with a box on the menu. The standout is steamed whole fresh fish with garlic and black bean sauce This is a low-cal dinner that Weight Watchers never dreamed of The contemporary surroundings are a pleasant change from the standard Chinese restaurant decor (9100 Park Lane in Caruth Plaza. 739-1110. Sun-Thur 11: 30-11: 30, Fri & Sat 11: 30-1 am. AE, V, MC. $$)
Szechuan. This oasis in the Lemmon Avenue fast-food strip offers reliably good, if never great, Szechuan and standard Chinese dishes Lunch specials (served Monday through Saturday), at $2. 50 to $3. 75, are bargains, and there’s an unusually large number to choose from. Soups are not a strong point here, with crab meat with corn rice soup the best choice. Main dish standouts include shredded pork with garlic sauce, moo shi pork, chicken with cashew nuts, and the chicken and shrimp comb ation. Sliced beef with orange flavor, however, tastes too strongly of anise for most western tastes (4117 Lemmon near Douglas. 521-6981. Sun-Thur 11: 30-10: 30, Fri & Sat till 11: 30. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Newcomer: Charley’s Seafood Grill. Amazing, these Addison eateries. A year ago Charley’s was a vacant lot. Now it’s a first-class seafood emporium complete with everything from shrimp to swordfish on a skewer. And, as is the case with many of the new establishments along Belt Line Road, Charley’s has developed an instant following, throngs of Izod-clad diners eager to sample some of the 27 kinds of imported beer (served at arctic temperatures) and munch iced shrimp while waiting a customary 15 to 30 minutes for a table. In truth, the fish is not on quite as high a par as the ambience. Charley’s is smartly decorated in what the designers are doubtless calling “Old New England Lighthouse Contemporary. ” And while we found the selection of charcoal-broiled fish (red snapper, swordfish steak, trout) to be excellent, some of the fried offerings like the shrimp and oysters were simply so-so. The one negative is Charley’s chowder, truly bland on numerous samplings. The overall dining experience, however, is definitely worth the minimal investment in time and money. (5348 Belt Line Rd. 934-8501. Sun-Thur 11-10, Fri & Sat 11-11. MC, DC, V. AE. $$)
Crazy Crab. The standout of the menu is definitely the Dungeness crab, served with a tangy sauce and a large wooden mallet, which is the only instrument that will allow you to extract the tender and tasty white meat from the shell. Hammering your way through a course of Dungeness crab is more than just filling; it gives you a certain sense of accomplishment after you’ve smashed those formidable-looking crab claws into a pile of harmless shells. About the only unsuccessful medium for crab meat here is the crab chowder, which is pasty and under-seasoned. A good choice is “Too Much, ” an eclectic sampling of oysters, clams, shrimp, sole, and scallops in various states of fried, broiled, and boiled. No one could eat it all and still have room for the excellent Key lime pie. A staple with almost every order is the “seaweed, ” a dumb name for some of the best thin-sliced onion rings you’ll find in Dallas. (3211 Oak Lawn at Hall. 522-5310. Mon-Thur 11-10, Fri till 11. Sat 5-11. Sun 5-10. No reservations. All credit cards. $$)
Fausto’s. Fausto’s is a restaurant of nice touches. There’s marbled black and rye bread toasted with Parmesan cheese that appears before the menu. Homemade pear sorbet perched atop an orange half to clear your palate before the main course Fresh strawberries stuffed with chocolate mousse after dessert. In between, you can enjoy one of the finest meals in Dallas if you navigate the menu carefully The best catch is the poached salmon steak topped with a luscious green peppercorn sauce. And be sure to sink your teeth into the shark gumbo. Frog legs were tender and sweet, swordfish steak juicy, and duckling with lingonberry sauce crisp and crackling. But the seas turned rough with the bago bago, a seafood potpourri in a cloying sauce, and we got mired down in the soufflés (Hyatt Regency Hotel. 651-1234. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11; Fri & Sat till midnight: Sun brunch: 10: 30-3. All credit cards. $$$$)
Jozef’s. Jozef’s is to Dallas seafood restaurants what Calvin Klein is to jeans-chic, expensive, and when it is on, absolutely top of the line. It’s difficult to imagine a simpler yet more elegant meal than smoked freshwater trout with horseradish sauce, followed by charbroiled fish-perhaps scrod or swordfish-with fresh strawberries and cream for dessert. Jozef’s also serves an outstanding ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice and spices) and an even better boiled Maine lobster, seasoned only with lemon and butter. The fancier dishes, on the other hand, are less dependable. The sauce on our shrimp Pernod was bland and gluey, and our bouillabaisse (a fish stew) was unseasoned and overstocked with a peculiarly tasteless variety of sea scallop, an odd turn since Jozef’s serves excellent scallops proven-cale. Forget the turtle soup. The hosts are gracious and obvicusly run a tight ship because the service is quick and cordial. But the wine list is still too aristocratic, with the majority of bottles in the $15-$25 range. (2719 McKinney. 826-5560. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11: 30-2; Dinner: Daily 6-10. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Oyster’s. Oyster’s remains successful by offering a limited but very adequate seafood menu. The interior is pleasant, and although no reservations are accepted, the wait is not long, even on a Friday or Saturday night. The fresh fish, which includes red snapper, scrod, flounder, and sole, is good, with flounder the best. The raw oysters and the fried shrimp are excellent, but the best part of the meal may be the appetizers, including outstanding fried zucchini and eggplant, as well as “spicy shrimp dip” and gumbo. The coleslaw, “natural” french fries, and hush puppies that accompanied the meal were very good, but desserts-lemon chess pie and carrot cake-were disappointing. A tip for those who don’t like seafood-the hamburgers are delicious. With friendly and efficient service, Oyster’s is a pleasure. (4580 Belt Line. 3860122. Mon-Thur 11: 30-10, Fri till 11, Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. MC, V, AE. $$)
Ratcliffe’s. Although it’s been open only eight months, Ratcliffe’s may well have earned the title of best seafood restaurant in Dallas. The menu is easily as impressive as the handsome surroundings. Shrimp remoulade. Dungeness crab, shrimp and crab in white wine sauce, scampi Mediterranean, lemon sole, salmon with hollandaise-all are unsurpassed. Only the tasteless fisherman’s stew and the laughable house salad (a vinegary quartered head of romaine lettuce) disappoint Don’t miss the apple hazelnut tart for dessert (1901 McKinney. 748-7480 Daily: 11-11. No reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
S & D Oyster Company. The line is usually long; the dining room is noisy; the desserts are consistently bad. If these minor hitches will keep you away from S & D, that’s fine with its fans, who swelter, freeze, and get drenched, depending on the season, waiting in line You can find places where it costs more, you can find places that are more tony, but you can’t find a better plate of fresh fish Even fried shrimp, the child’s greasy delight, was the best we have ever had Boiled shrimp and red snapper are also good choices. And the oyster loaf sandwich, while not as big as it used to be, was still a good choice when we last visited. The dining area is comfortable and charming, with waiters and a lone waitress bustling about in traditional black and white uniforms. These people give S & D class. However, nothing so complimentary can be said of the desserts. There was something fishy about the ice cream, and the cheesecake could have been retitled cheese and egg cake (2701 McKinney. 823-6350. Mon-Thur 11-10. Fri & Sat till 11. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
Turtle Cove. Here is a restaurant with a gimmick that is simple and valid. Turtle Cove serves fresh Texas seafood cooked over mesquite wood (a roomful of which deliciously scents the air). Steak is also available, but coming here for steak is like going to elan for a deep philosophical discussion. Mesquite-grilled whole fresh fish is available daily; when we visited, there was perfectly prepared salmon. The fried seafood platter, with fish, shrimp, and oysters in beer batter was also commendable. With entrees, you get two “extras” from the menu. The best one is the grilled vegetables (zucchini, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions). The fresh-cut fries and sautéed mushrooms are also tasty. Pass, however, on the iceberg lettuce salad and dull wild rice. Don’t miss the superb strawberry shortcake for dessert All in all, a welcome addition to the growing ranks of good seafood restaurants in town. (2731 W Northwest Hwy near European Crossroads. 350-9034. Daily: 11-11. MC, V, AE $$)
Broussard’s. “No oil shortage here” should read the sign in front of Broussard’s, a backwoods Louisiana Cajun diner that just happens to be located in Irving. The specialties of the house are all fried: oysters, shrimp, catfish, frog legs, hush puppies, and potatoes with the crunchy skins left on. All attest to the expertise of chef “Frenchy. ” They are very simply prepared with lightly spiced coatings and properly fried, complemented nicely by the tangy homemade red sauce. Broussard’s bats. 500 with its rice dishes. The picante and jambalaya were pleasing versions, but the étouffée and gumbo were foul balls-one can get much better from a can. At all costs avoid the coleslaw. It is just an excuse for someone to abuse a defenseless head of cabbage. The food is served cafeteria-style, but the wait is shortened by the great jukebox featuring various Cajun bands and Willie Nelson. (707 N Belt Line in Irving, 1 mile S of Rte 183. 255-8024. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Fri 5-10. Sat 11-10. Closed Sun. No reservations. No credit cards. $$)
Celebration. Returning to Celebration is like visiting an old friend. The limited but dependable menu stresses home cooking: fresh trout, meat loaf, pot roast, baked chicken, and spaghetti. The meals are served family-style, with a large bowl of salad and side dishes of vegetables shared by each table. The best things about Celebration besides the food, which is predictably good, are the generous portions, backed by frequent offerings of second helpings, and the service, which is efficient and friendly, without being cute. With all this going for it, you might expect to wait at Celebration-and unless you come early, you will. Celebration is an excellent family restaurant, with reasonable prices for children. (4503 W Lovers Ln. 351-5681 Lunch: Mon-Sat 11 -2; Dinner: Mon-Sat 5: 30-11. Sun 5-10. No reserva-tions. MC, V, AE. $$)
D Revisits Crawdaddy’s. What with the rough-cut wood interior and the ever-present noxious cedar air freshener, eating at Crawdaddy’s can feel like being trapped in cedar closet But if you can ignore that and the uneven service (the help ranges from superb to incompetent), you can get a terrific whole catfish dinner here. The catfish is moist and tasty and accompanied by the best, lightest hush puppies you’ll ever have. The beignets sprinkled with powdered sugar make a perfect finish. Every time we go to Crawdaddy’s, we try to order some form of crawfish, the place’s namesake. But the vagueness of crawfish season being what it is, we’ve never had any luck. But with catfish this good, who needs mud-bugs, anyway? (2614 McKinney. 748-2008. Mon-Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-11 pm. No reservations. AE, V. $$)
Lucy’s. Located in Chelsea Square, a down-at-heel arts and crafts shopping center, Lucy’s offers “Texan and Mexican cooking. ” What this translates into is good Southern home-style offerings and passable Mexican food. Lucy’s chicken-fried steak is tender and tasty, and the accompanying vegetables include good, skins-on mashed potatoes and fresh green beans Pot roast is also tasty, if a little on the greasy side. Good corn bread and yeast rolls accompany all daily specials. The dessert choices are pasty, sodden apple pie or pecan pie. Service is cafeteria-style. (3136 Routh. 742-5517. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; Dinner: Wed-Sat 6: 30-10:30. MC, V, AE, DC. $)
Sonny Bryan’s. At Sonny Bryan’s, the entire interior is color-coordinated to remind you that the room is a giant flue. Everything is the color of smoke: the walls, the floors, the windows, and the flies. You either have to sit on a plank bench or in your own car after you give your order to a humorless person who responds with “What initial?” as her only spoken words, leaving you to stand with a gang of fellow barbecue zealots waiting to hear your name called. You wan: it? Suffer for it. Anybody who is a Sonny Bryan freak will fight you to the grease-stained floor in its defense as the greatest barbecue joint in town. The beef is excellent, with a generous serving at $1. 80 per sandwich. The place is grimy, the clientele strange, the staff surly. But the beer is cold and the barbecue is at its earthy best. Just like the good ol’ days-1910 to be exact-says the barely visible sign, when the first Bryan barbecue was served up. Probably the same year they washed the windows. (2202 Inwood 357-7120 Mon-Fri 7-5, Sat 7-3, Sun 11-2. No reservations. No credit cards. $)
STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.
Hoffbrau. Nestled in the center of the fern-bar belt, Hoffbrau is a welcome haven for the carnivore. We notice, with some delight, the absence of any healthy green stuff: No bizarre presentations of fried zucchini, or the infamous fresh spinach salad. The Hoffbrau sits directly across from Highland Park Cafeteria: The parking is the worst, the atmosphere one of the best. Smacking of Austin, the interior offers rough-cut wood beams, neon beer signs, and Texana to the tenth power including stacks of long-neck bcxes full of return deposit bottles. The menu touts a top-end price of $9. 95 for a 24-ounce cut of meat as big as a hubcap and goes down to a chopped sirloin for $3. 95. These dishes come with giant-cut steak fries and a no-nonsense salad. The steaks are pan-broiled in a lemon butter sauce that evades detection until you dip your sliced white bread in it. (3205 Knox at McKinney. 559-2680. Mon-Sat 11-11, Sun 5-11. All credit cards $$)
Kobe Steaks. This plush Japanese steak house offers combinations of steak, seafood, and/or chicken. Beef is the featured attraction, and it is of the highest quality. Dinners come with delicious beef broth, a piquant shrimp appetizer, and smooth green tea as well as salad and rice The seating arrangements, with groups of diners around the surface where the cook chops and sautes, offer all the privacy of a bus station (15000 Quorum Plaza at Belt Line off Dallas Pkwy, Ste. 600. 934-8150. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11: 30-2; Dinner: Sun-Thur 5-11. Fri&Sat till midnight. All credit cards. $$$)
Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The stunned looks onthe faces of your fellow diners mean that they’veopened the menu. The unprepossessing no-frillssteakhouse appearance of Ruth’s make the pricesan unexpected shock. The entrees (sirloin strip, filet,ribeye, and porterhouse) are $17 (and no cheaper atlunch). With that, you get bread. Period. No salad, nopotato, no vegetable Those will run you from $2. 25to $3. 75 each. One keeps finding new financial affronts: You want Roquefort dressing? That will beanother dollar. And this is to dress a characterlessiceberg lettuce salad. The steaks, pan-broiled in butter, are good, but not good enough to justify the dentthat a meal at Ruth’s will put in your bank balance.(6940 Greenville. 691-6940 Daily: 11: 30-11: 30. Allcredit cards. $$$)