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RESTAURANTS DINING OUT

The China Syndrome: an Oriental explosion.
By D Magazine |

IT SOUNDED like such a simple project: Sample every Chinese restaurant in Dallas and report to our readers where to find the most scrumptious of Szechuan, the choicest of Cantonese, and the highest of Hunan plateaus. But before long, we discovered we were in for the culinary version of Chinese water torture – our editors were darned near egg-rolled into oblivion by the almost endless legions of Oriental restaurants that have opened in Dallas in the past few years.

It is quite possible in Dallas to eat at a different Chinese restaurant every night for a month and not have tried them all. It is also quite possible to lose one’s sanity doing so. Because, as we discovered, there are not only a lot of Chinese restaurants in Dallas, there are a lot of bad Chinese restaurants in Dallas. The unfortunate state of the Oriental art in Dallas is that Chinese restaurants have been around long enough to have proliferated, but the Chinese restaurant concept is still new enough to Dallas that most diners don’t know egg foo young from applesauce. They’ll eat just about anything as long as it comes with a bowl of steamed rice and a bottle of Kikkoman. The result has been the widespread dissemination of disappointing meals. That is not to say, however, that there aren’t some excellent Oriental restaurants in Dallas. Some of the better Chinese establishments in the city would compare favorably with the best found in San Francisco, New York, and other major cities famous for their Chinese cooking. The trick, of course, is to know which is the good stuff and which is merely mediocre Mandarin. That task has been made simpler for you by a small but hardy group of critics who were willing to experience the downright awful along with the good. What follows represents the collective wisdom of those who have together been to more Chinese restaurants than Charlie Chan.

Best Chinese Restaurant: Bo Bo China. This designation is based on the assumption that you go to a restaurant for the food, not the atmosphere, the drinks, or the disposable chopsticks. From this truck stop-like little building near the LBJ Freeway, Been Fu Lee and his wife, Kuei Lan Lee, serve what is categorically and unequivocally the best Chinese food in Dallas. Several of the standout dishes are so good that there’s nothing even close offered at other restaurants. These top-of-the-line offerings include the almond chicken (which, unlike the versions in many other restaurants, has plenty of almonds), the princess prawns (served in a tangy, barbecue-like sauce), the kuo-teh, or “pot-stickers” (a Chinese version of ravioli), the sizzling rice soup (a chicken broth with shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and sizzling rice crust), and the smoked tea duck. Onewarning about the tea duck: It is not accompanied by vegetables or “sauce,” so a vegetable dish should be ordered with it in order to make a complete meal.

A second echelon of offerings-excellent, but not necessarily the best in the Western Hemisphere-includes the hot and sour soup, the Mandarin short ribs, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour pork (one of the only versions of the dish in Dallas that is not grossly overcooked), princess chicken, shrimp with lobster sauce, black mushroom chicken, beef with oyster sauce, and Bo Bo beef (sliced beef marinated in garlic sauce). The good thing about Bo Bo China is that it is consistent. There is simply nothing bad on its rather extensive menu, which is more than you can say for the vast majority of Chinese restaurants in Dallas. There are drawbacks, however. The Church Street location is usually crowded, since the loyal following has far outgrown the seating capacity. Expect to wait in line at dinnertime. Drawback No. 2: Neither the Dallas location nor the new Bo Bo in Grapevine has a liquor license. Plan to bring your own bottle if you want spirits. Most of the items on the menu are available to go, which offers one alternative to fighting the crowds. 10630 Church Rd., Dallas; 207 N. Barton, Grapevine.

Best Civilized Chinese Restaurant: August Moon. This plushly decorated Chinese palace offers some of the best of Taiwan, Shanghai, Peking, Szechuan, Hunan, and Canton-and, unlike Bo Bo China, can sell you a drink while you wait for your wonton to arrive. We’re partial to the Mongolian barbecue (beef, pork, and lamb marinated and then stir-fried with vegetables), the Kung-Po beef (beef strips sautéed with bamboo shoots and greens and served in a hot sauce topped with peanuts), the Kung-Po chicken (the chicken version of Kung-Po beef), and the Szechuan hot and spicy pork. We also recommend the Peking duck (a honey-marinated delight that must be ordered two days in advance) and the shrimp with lobster sauce. 15030 Preston at Belt Line Road.

Best Szechuan-style restaurant: Szechuan. There’s a trick to finding the best Szechuan restaurant in Dallas. Get on Interstate 30 and drive 40 miles west. Don’t be discouraged when you see the Fort Worth skyline pass by on the right. For years, the Szechuan on Lemmon Avenue reigned supreme, but now it has been eclipsed by its Fort Worth counterpart. Some of the best hot and spicy Chinese food around can be found at this upscale restaurant. We highly recommend the shredded pork with garlic sauce, the Szechuan lamb, and the moo shi pork. Even the wonton soup has a noticeable zing to it. 5217 Locke, just off Camp Bowie, Fort Worth.

Best Greenville Chinese Restaurant: Hunan. If that doesn’t sound like much of a distinction, remember that there are more restaurants on Greenville Avenue than in the entire state of Nebraska. Shredded pork with garlic sauce and Lake Tung-Tin shrimp are among the best bets, while some of the other dishes, like River Shang Pork, can be bland. Stay away from the appetizers and go for the soups and you won’t be sorry. 5214 Greenville at Lovers Ln.

Fanciest Chinese Restaurant. Taiwan. If they could only find a way to shanghai a couple of the cooks from Bo Bo China, this would be a world-class Chinese restaurant. The surroundings are plush and formal, but alas, the food needs some help. Best bets are the hot bean curd (bean curd sautéed with spicy minced pork) and the hot and sour soup. Be prepared to help the management pay for all those plush surroundings-most entrées are in the $8 range. 6111 Greenville Avenue.

Best Late Night Chinese Restaurant: Central China. On weekends, they close at dusk Peking time. The good news is, that translates to 4 a.m. our time. The food is in the average range, but it beats hell out of Lucas B & B at three in the morning. 330 Medallion Center, East Northwest Highway at Abrams.

Good, But Not Great. Szechuan, 4117 Lemmon Avenue (reliable but not as dazzling as it used to be. Soups are the strong point, with the best being the crab meat with corn rice soup.); Golden China, 7568 Greenville Avenue (OK, with decent main line Chinese dishes); South China, 5424 East Mockingbird (dependable); Szechuan Pavillion, 8409 Preston (hot and spicy dishes); Yet Lau, 6635 East Lovers Lane (lighter egg rolls than most, excellent lunch plates).

The Worst the Orient Has to Offer. These restaurants are, quite simply, bad news. Ho Wa, 10601 Church Rd. (located across the street from Bo Bo China to catch the overflow crowd, the food here is on a par with what you’s expect to receive in a Peking penitentiary); Joy Inn, 9404 Ovella (truly boring Cantonese food); Plum Blossom, 2201 Stemmons in the Loews Anatole Hotel (very expensive, very bad; let the conventioners pay those high prices -you’d do better with a Chun King frozen dinner); Chu’s, 15080 Beltway, Addison (exceptionally greasy, terribly overcooked); Sampan Restaurant, 4808 Greenville (consistently bad; we wouldn’t go back at gunpoint).

RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS



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 tor 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.



DISCOVERIES



(Serendipitous Experiences From Off the Beaten Path)

Club Schmltz. From the outside, this looks like the type of place where you could be stabbed for trying to change the television channel; once inside, however, you’ll find this place not only warm and friendly, but a virtual monument to the pleasures one can experience for a quarter. Three types of pinball machines, a coin-operated shuffleboard table, and a pool table provide diversions for a crowd of truckers, construction workers, and a smattering of preppies and downtown business types. The highlights are a good, cheap jukebox (three plays for a quarter) and the traditional giant-screen color television, both of which are on constantly. It’s a perfect place to watch the Rangers get beaten and listen to Charlie Pride do a modified play by play. The best food item is a good barbecue sandwich (which would be better if the cook didn’t insist on covering it with relish whether you want it or not); other credible offerings include decent chili, a tasty version of the ubiquitous greaseburger, and pinto beans by the bowl. If you become enthralled with the charm of the place, you can always buy a Club Schmitz T-shirt, which will doubtless cause your friends to ask the logical question. “What the hell is that?” (9667 Denton Dr, 352-0153. Mon-Sat 9 am till midnight, Sat 8 am -1 am, Sun noon-midnight. No credit cards. $)

Willie’s Lounge. Whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch obviously never met Willie Rouse, owner/proprietor of a black hole of a barroom at which patrons can help themselves to all the sandwiches they can eat as long as they buy at least one beer a piece at the humble price of $1 05. You won’t find any páté de foie gras (the place is so dark you won’t even find the sandwich counter unless you know to feel your way past the pool tables and turn left), but you will find a generous supply of the type of staples your mother used to pack in your lunch box: bologna, pressed ham, cheeses, lettuce, bread, and potato chips. Until a few years ago, this place was strictly redneck heaven, but lately, it’s funky-chic appeal has lured a few Brooks Brothers suit types. The free lunch offering is available Monday through Saturday until the cold cuts run out (usually soon after the noon hour). At night, the place is the archetypical Texas honky-tonk, complete with a small dance floor and a jukebox packed with Tammy Wynette classics. The best entertainment is Willie himself, who feels called upon from time to time to offer his services as a country/western Rodney Dangerfield. One afternoon, Willie emerged from the shadows, blew a police whistle, and announced, “Drink up, folks, it’s only 13 hours until closing time.” (1105 S. Beacon oft Samuel Blvd. 823-1221. Mon-Sat 10 am-2 am, Sun noon-midnight. No credit cards. $)

CONTINENTAL/FRENCH



Café Pacific. Dining at this classy Highland Park Shopping Village restaurant can be a good experience or a bad one, depending on how adroit you are at selecting the right entrées. We suggest you follow the cardinal rule for dealing with new restaurants: When dining in a fish place, order fish. It’s that simple. We sampled the scallops in wine, butter, and garlic sauce and found the clam chowder to be some of the best we’ve had in quite a while. The good food/bad food dichotomy seemed to follow the fish vs. non-fish line. Our cheese soup tasted of Velveeta laden with too much flour, and the pepper steak we tried was overcooked. On more than one occasion we’ve had veal Marsala that consisted of good veal covered with bad sauce-too sticky and heavy. The decor of this restaurant, with dark woods, lots of brass, and sparkling white tile floors, puts Cafe Pacific almost in a class by itself. (24 Highland Park Shopping Village. 526-1170. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30, Sun 11-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat till 10:30; bar till 1 am. Jackets required for men. MC, V, AE. $$$)



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 and 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 burned 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 again for lunch, 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 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat seatings from 6-7 and at 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations only. MC, V, AE. $$$$)



Chateaubriand. This old-line Dallas restaurant is really two establishments, one consisting of a large and attractive main dining room and bar-the other a small, garish, Fifties-looking side room. Actually, the main area is titled “Club” (it’s not one) and the smaller room is titled “Dining Room.” The difference is important at lunch, when Chateaubriand is most popular, because unless you are a regular, you are likely to end up in the side room, and this can mean very bad ambiance and service. Chateaubriand’s food is uneven, ranging from well-prepared veal, seafood, and Greek dishes to gristly pepper steak and chicken Kiev that looks and tastes like a large corny dog. While lunch in the small dining room was a bad experience, dinner in the main restaurant was excellent, with good service and live musical entertainment. (2515 McKinney. 741-1223. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-midnight. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

The Chimney. The undisputed pride of The Chimney is the veal-which ranges from the simple Weiner Schnitzel, crisply pan-fried, to the complex for-estiere. 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 remainder 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 6-70. Reservations. MC, AE, V, DC. $$$)

Ewald’s. For years the food and ambiance had made the dining experience here the closest most of us will come to having a home-cooked continental meal-served in the home of the chef. The food is still consistently good, and the service is still excellent. We’ve always been partial to the veal dishes: Veal Ibn-Saud (veal in curry sauce), veal papagallo (veal stuffed with Canadian bacon, Swiss cheese, and sour cream), and veal steak au moulin (veal sautéed with mushrooms, cognac, and cream) are all on a par with the simple veal with lemon butter, which ranks with the best in the city. Another dish that Ewald’s executes excellently is pepper steak, flamed in cognac and served with crushed white pepper. The best out-of-the-mainstream dish you’ll find is the house shrimp du chef, a broiled shrimp dish served with a tangy barbecue-like sauce. Desserts are delicious, especially the Black Forest cake and the strawberries Romanoff. (5415 W Lovers Ln, 357-1622. Mon-Fri 6-10:30, Sat till 11. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)Jean Claude. The “new” Jean Claude restaurant Is really not much different from the old: a little more breathing room, a few more tables, and a slightly glossier finish. But the kitchen still reigns. With a simple dish like lamb chops, for example, Jean Claude slices the chops thinly from the rack, pan sautes them (instead of broiling), and serves them with a fantastic baked puree of lamb. The boneless quail stuffed with liver pate is the best treatment of this bird we’ve found in Dallas. The veal Calvados is thick-sliced (3/4 inch), unlike the usual thin version- and better. Appetizers were flawless, including an unrivaled duck pate and scallops in garlic cream sauce that leave you licking the remaining sauce from your spoon, Vegetables are served generously but were unexceptional; desserts, too. were a bit of a disappointment. But the service, as always, was impeccable. Cost remains price fixed at $25 50, which still has to be considered something of a bargain. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sat seat-ings at 6 and 9. Reservations only. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Jennivine. Jennivine is the ultimate wine bar, coupling fine wine with superior cuisine. Pates, 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-Thur 6-10; Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

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. $$$)

Le 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. 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 11-5; Dinner: Daily 5-1, Fri & Sat till midnight. Reservations. MC, V. AE. $$$)

D Revisits Les 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 done 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 escargots 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 must be added to the “to be avoided” list. It’s a good concept done in by an overzealous hand with the salt jar. To finish the meal, we recommend the chocolate mousse or the fresh strawberries, marinated with just the right touch of Grand Marnier, and topped with sour cream. Service is a blend of attentiveness and a refreshing lack of haughtiness. (765 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 528-1102. Sun-Thur 11:30, Fri & Sal till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

The Mansion. Like its parent, the 21 Club 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 Club, 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 11-2:30; Dinner: Daily 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. And how can a place create a Grand Marnier souffle that is unrivaled and still not be able to produce a decent vichyssoise? However, 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 of duck a I’orange. There are 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 the most absurdly overpriced in restaurantdom. (2670 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Fri 6-10:30, Sat till 11:30. Reservations required. All credit cards. $$$$)

Patry’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 high 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-Thur & Sun 6-10:30, Fri & Sat till 11. Closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

D Revisits the 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 as easy, but no one seems shocked anymore. But the Pyramid justifies the three-figure tab. A superb array of appetizers is led by the escar-gots en papillot chablisienne, six escargots 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. But Shangri-la, this isn’t. The silver serving pieces are beginning to show their age. We found no walnuts in la salade composée as promised. And on one recent visit, they had run out of Chenin Blanc. But where else will you find a wine steward who climbs the wine rack to offer operatic arias? (Fairmont Hotel, floss and Akard. 748-5454. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: daily 6-11. 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. $$$)

Veleriane’s. If you walk into-Valeriane’s and experience a sense of déja 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 páté to the tart fresh fruit sorbets served as palate cleansers to the closing chestnut soufflé. The scallop mousse was a mound of creamy fish doused in champagne sauce. Shrimp showered with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic showed 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 soufflé was so light it nearly floated, the cappuccino mousse lacked the sting of espressp, and meringue chantilly glacée tasted like it came from Ashburn’s (2520 Cedar Springs betweenRouth and Fairmount. 741-1413. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)



INDIAN



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 ike 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 can watch the two best dishes being prepared: nan (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, spicy fork-tender chunks, 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:Daily 11:30-2:30;Dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat 6-11. MC, V, AE. $$)



ITALIAN



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. $$)



D Revisits 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 lumache (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-Fri 11:30-2. Tue-Thur 6-10:30, Fri-Sun 6-11. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

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 souffles 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 tor men. All credit cards. $$$)

Sergio’s. Having praised Sergio’s pasta before, we’ll praise it again; it’s the best around, especially the linguine, tortellini, and manicotti. We’ve had some reservations about the fettucine-a bit gluey -but none whatsoever about the veal dishes, which make up the bulk of the menu. Whether it’s the veal Giorgio (in a vermouth and tarragon sauce), the sal-timbocca, or the standard veal Marsala, all are seasoned and pounded to perfection. The cannoli is overproduced, a dessert designed by Busby Berkeley, so we usually content ourselves with something basic like cappucino pie and espresso. Lunch is less inspired-so-so salads interspersed with an occasional outstanding special like veal Marengo, a spicy veal stew. We also wish the interior looked less like an abandoned card shop and that Sergio would turn off the Muzak. (Suite 165, The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 742-3872, Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2, Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-70, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)

MEXICAN



D Revisits Caté Cancun. We’re happy to report that Café Cancun has tightened up its attention to culinary detail so that 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. MC, AE, V, CB. $$)

Chiquita. At this old favorite, the standard combination dinner offerings are fine (with the exception of the burritos, which are to be avoided). But what sets Chiquita apart from its competitors are the specialties. Nachos you can get anywhere. Here, you can get tortilla soup-rich, oniony tomato broth with tortilla strips and melted white cheese. After that, we’d advise ordering the beef, which is of unimpeachable quality: Filete de la casa, for instance, is a tender and flavorful filet mignon cooked with garlic and hot pepper. Chicken and seafood specialties are less successful, to judge from the tough broiled breast of chicken with lemon butter and the pescado mari-nero (spinach-stuffed whitefish topped with oysters and shrimp with a heavy cheese sauce blanketing all). Finish with Kahlua ice cream pie, which belongs in the Dessert Hall of Fame. (3810 Congress off Oak Lawn. 521-0721. Mon-Thur 11:30-10:30. Fri & Sat till 11. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)Escondlido. 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. (2270 Butler. 631-9912. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-9. Wo 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. 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 floss. 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 guacamole, hot sauce guaranteed to raise your temperature a few notches, refried 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 $)

Mario & Alberto. This place has the same type offerings found at restaurateur Mario Leal’s home base, Chiquita. The staples like enchiladas, burritos, guacamole, and tacos are all well above the Dallas standard, as are the carne asada and the chile relleno. As is the case at many restaurants, however, straying away from the well-worn path of entrees is a gamble that doesn’t always pay off. Try the calabacitas rellenas (zucchini stuffed with ground beef and covered with cheese) and you lose; it’s a good idea that the chef just can’t execute-our zucchini took a steak knife to cut. But the few negatives on the menu are well overshadowed by the overall high quality of the entrees and service. (425 Preston Valley Shopping Center. LBJ at Preston. 980-7296. Mon-Thur 11:30-10:30, Fri & Sat till 11. No reservations on Fri & Sat. Drinks with $5 membership charge. MC, V, AE. $$)

Raphael’s. Granted, the chicken and sour cream nachos are divine, but on a Saturday night, we’d rather be bowling than sitting around Raphael’s back room sipping lime-green margaritas out of a mixer as big as a Maytag and listening to the names of the about-to-be-seated broadcast over a microphone. Better, we think, to hit Raphael’s on a week-night, when the wait is a mere 15 minutes, not a grueling 90, and the service is unhurried. After being disappointed by some of the more complicated specialties-among them, an inauspicious flaming cheese, dried-out shrimp enchiladas, and an unlikely polio Tampiqueno-we advise heading straight for the simple and/or Tex-Mex. Our favorites include the assorted appetizers, featuring splendid nachos and flautitos; guacamole loaded with cilantro; any of the chicken or beef enchiladas; and the enchiladas with mole sauce. (3701 McKinney. 521-9640. Mon-Fri 11:30-10:30, Sat noon-10. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. All credit cards. $$)

MIDDLE EASTERN



D Revisits The Pita Place. Just in time for summer, The Pita Place has reopened in North Dallas after a hiatus following its former downtown tenancy. 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 and lettuce and tomato), perhaps accompanied by a cool tabouli salad (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 Central Expy at Walnut Hill. 987-3226. Daily: 11-10. AE, MC, V. $)



ORIENTAL



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, even of lunch specials, 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. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

Bo Bo China. No matter that this place apparently had the same interior decorator as Don Carters 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 $2.99 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. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11-2:30; Dinner: Sun, Tue-Thur 11-10, Fri & Sat till 11. 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. (Entrée 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. AS. $$)

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. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)



Slam. 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 in the irresistible range. A lunch menu offers more limited choices. (1730 W Mockingbird near Harry Hines. 631-5482. Mon-Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. MC. V, AE. DC. $)

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 combination. 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. $$)



SEAFOOD



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 souffles. (Hyatt Regency Hotel. 651-1234. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; Dinner: Sun-Thurs 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-gale. And forget the turtle soup. The hosts are gracious and obviously 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 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Daily 6-9:30. 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. 386-0122. Mon-Thur 11:30-10, Fri till 11, Sat 5-11, Sun 5-70. MC, V, AE. $$)

Ratciliffe’s. Although it’s been open less than six 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, though too large to eat easily, was worth the battle. (Ask to have it cut in two.) 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. $$)

SOUTHERN SPECIALTIES



D Revisits 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. 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-Sat 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10, 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 servedfamily-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. Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat till 11, Sun 5-10. No reservations. MC, V, AS. $$)



Crawdaddy’s. Someone finally realized how noxious cedar air freshener can be to the palate, and told the busboy to quit spraying it around. The difference is delightful-we could actually taste the crawfish and catfish and shrimp we ordered. Crawdaddy’s gets points for being the only dependable source of mudbugs in town, and for having learned to cook beignets the right way. (Now, if they’d only cut them smaller than feather pillows.) The catfish we had, as well as the crustaceans, was moist, well-prepared, and worth the money. The dinner salad, with the house dressing, was generous and crisp, as well as being lovely to look at. The help, good-natured but lackadaisical, didn’t know the difference between coffee with chicory and coffee that is simply bitter. We have never had any luck getting anything but the latter. (2614 McKinney. 748-2008. Mon- Thur 11-10, Fri & Sat noon-11, Sun noon-10. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)

Highland Park Cafeteria. HPC is the great equalizer of Dallas society, here, anyone can obtain the satisfaction of knowing they possess what others desire-in this case, a place in the front of the serving line. No small feat this, as the line can at times be monumental, inspiring whopper tales to rival those of the most braggadocious of fishermen. HPC has broken the number one tenant of cafeterias-that food must be rendered either bland or soggy, preferably both, before serving. Salads are fresh and varied (try the chopped spinach salad or tomato aspic with homemade mayonnaise). The chicken-fried steak and fried chicken are complemented by fresh biscuits and homemade gravy. Vegetables are properly cooked, not steamed into compliance. A warm zucchini muffin finishes the meal nicely, but HPC also bakes up quite a respectable buttermilk pie. HPC’s food is not memorable, but it is consistent and sets the standard for Dallas cafeteria food. (4611 Cole. 526-3801. Mon-Sat 11-8. Closed Sun. No liquor. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

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, everything is thecolor of smoke: the walls, the floors, the windows,and the flies. You either have to sit on a plank benchor in your car after you give your order to a humorless person who responds with “What initial?” asher only spoken words, leaving you to stand with agang of fellow zealots waiting to hear your namecalled. You want it? Suffer for it. Anybody who is aSonny Bryan freak will fight you to the grease-stained floor in its defense as the greatest barbecuejoint in town. The beef is excellent, with a generousserving at $1.80 per sandwich. (2202 Inwood.357-7120. Mon-Fri 7-5, Sat 7-3, Sun 11-2. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

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