Wednesday, May 29, 2024 May 29, 2024
70° F Dallas, TX


Four-alarm delights for the asbestos-tongued.

EVEN THOUGH it’s only May, the heat wave’s already begun. Served up in refrigerated restaurants, it’s cuisine as hot as the Texas sun in deepest August, as fiery as a four-alarm blaze, and as spicy as a Judith Krantz novel. We’re talking about all those entrees marked on the menu with a red circle signifying hot and spicy.

He who chooses that red dot must wear a red badge of courage, for the food it denotes is guaranteed to clear your sinuses, bring tears to your eyes, and sear every last taste bud. We’re talking about food for the macho-mouthed: Sahib’s lamb masala in a sauce as hot and thick as molten lava; August Moon’s bean curd with pork and its sudden, sharp kick in mid-swallow; or Lucy’s chili, which will have even the most asbestos-mouthed reaching for the nearest longneck. That’s not to mention Kobawoo’s spike fish with hot seasoning, which the management, sincerely concerned, begged us not to taste (that was before they realized our satanic addiction to things hot and spicy) for fear they’d have to call an ambulance.

Whatever the cuisine, it’s a chile pepper that’s causing your throbbing pulse. Since native chiles are often difficult to import to Dallas (Sahib, for instance, can only ship Indian peppers in summer and fall), most restaurants settle for the serrano chile. This tiny Mexican pepper -it’s only about an inch and a half long-is a devil. Just cutting it open may cause the cook to cough and cry. It’s even too hot to handle. Chefs must wear rubber gloves when working with fresh chiles. Chile oils can even cause third-degree burns.

It was Christopher Columbus who misnamed the chile -a member of the capsicum family and really a fruit -a pepper, says Jane Butel in her book Chili Madness. During his first voyage to the Caribbean, the intrepid captain sampled the red and green pods the Indians added to their food to raise the heat. The singeing sensation reminded him of Spanish dishes spiced with black peppercorn. So he picked a peck of chile pods and called them peppers. The misnomer stuck.

Downing hot and spicy food, like running marathons, requires some basic training. But beginners need not worry. Many of the restaurateurs we queried said they deliberately turned down the heat so Tex-ans new to the cuisine wouldn’t be felled by heatstroke. Those with fireproofed palates can certainly forge ahead. One word of advice to all who want to avoid pain: Keep your eyes peeled. Eating a whole red pepper is a suicidal course.

Here is our five-Rolaid tour of Dallas’ hot and spicy food.

Texan. The best place to embark on this hot and spicy odyssey is right at home. At Lucy’s (3136 Routh), diners lunch amidst the calculated clutter of the antique stores of Chelsea Square. The menu is on a colorful blackboard strategically placed at the beginning of the cafeteria line. We dare you to try a bowl of the smooth but red-hot chili. The meat is finely ground, and every last drop of grease is removed. Like mai tais, the chili goes down easy, but hits you afterward. It’s served with a chaser of cheddar cheese to cool down the fever. The burritos are also topped with this fiery blend. Both dishes come with moist hunks of cornbread and fresh yeast rolls dusty with flour.

Thai. Siam (1730 W. Mockingbird) serves a rich and subtly spicy curry called gang ped that is addictive. Best with chicken, it includes bamboo shoots, bell pepper, hot peppers, and mint leaves, all in a rosy curry sauce made with coconut milk. Or try the Thai version of salad: Yum nuo is sliced broiled steak with red onion, hot and sour sauce, and mint -all of which compose a refreshing counterpoint of hot and cold. Hot and sour soup fans should not miss Siam’s version, which is tart with lemongrass.

Korean. Kobawoo (3109 Inwood) stir-fries some of the sultriest dishes of our search. The hot soup (there are many varieties; we chose the bean curd) turns vegetable soup into a fire pot. The red-hot broth is the color of tomato soup. It is heavy with fresh vegetables -long whole scallions, zucchini, and cabbage, fish – clams and octopus, plus beef and eggs, all of which you must eat with chopsticks. A must, but only for those with palates in shape. The spike fish in hot seasoning was almost our Waterloo. We approached this one with some trepidation since the entire staff made sure we knew just how hot it was. The fish is served cold. The first taste is one of refreshing sweetness. But then those telltale flecks of dried red pepper take over. Our lips tingled for hours.

Indian. The pyrotechnics cool down at Sahib (9100 N. Central in Caruth Plaza Shopping Center), an excellent slice of North Indian cooking. Except for the masala dishes, the food here smoulders instead of flares. The meal starts with papads, lentil wafers pounded thin and sizzling with crushed black peppercorns. Hotheads should head straight for the tandoori items. Marinated in yogurt and spices for two days before they’re skewered and grilled in the clay tandoori oven, these items offer the tenderest meat with potent garlic overtones. Owner Earl Chawla says using yogurt is the age-old way of tenderizing meat in India; the panoply of spices acted as a preservative in the days before refrigeration. Firebrands, order the fish masala, which means “spicy” in Hindu. The torchy sauce, made only with green peppers (Chawla says red peppers upset the stomach), is as fierce as a Bengal tiger. Indian cuisine relies heavily on yogurt as a cooling ointment. Chawla says it coats the stomach and prevents the spicy repast from literally burning a hole in the inner lining. So try the mango lassi, a milk shake-like concoction, or raita, a yogurt salad made of cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions spiced with cumin and coriander. Both will cool down the heat.

Chinese. Szechuan cuisine has maximum searing power because of the wide variety of flammables in its pantry: The Chinese employ vinegar and fermented brown and black beans as well as chiles to get the blood rushing. August Moon (15030 Preston Rd.) serves some of the hottest Chinese food around. Many of the dishes are handled with caution, so this is a good place to start your spice training. Begin with a bowl of hot and sour soup, a veritable sea filled with Chinese mushrooms, wood ears, tofu, and pork slices, laced with vinegar and hot sauce. The first spoonfuls seem mild, but as you increase the dosage, the kindling begins to ignite. The bean curd with pork brought tears to our eyes, but we polished off the platter. The creamy texture of the tofu is deceiving; the huge flecks of red pepper give the dish its shock effect.

Mexican. When it comes to orchestrating a chorus of chiles, the Mexicans are maestros. The hot and spicy dishes at Café Cancun (4131 Lomo Alto) hit a high note. The restaurant has adopted the scorched-mouth policy for its picante sauce -a landmark signifying we had definitely arrived in chile territory. We had to order jicama, a crunchy Mexican melon-like fruit bathed in reviving lime juice, to serve as Solarcaine. The tacos à la Lupita, with pork filling marinated in chile ancho sauce, simmered, but the chicken enchiladas verdes in a tomatilla sauce reached a rolling boil. It was served with sour creamto douse the flame. Don’t leave withouttrying an order of jalapeno French fries.Fresh potatoes are deep-fried with thosepotent peppers to make an inspired dish.Japanese. Known for its understatement and simplicity, Japanese cuisineshuns the brashness of spicing that impartsthe heat to most other cuisines. The sushibar, however, is an exception. At Sakura(7402 Greenville), diners can order slicesof approximately a dozen different varieties of the freshest raw fish called sashimi.The razor-thin slivers rest on a bed of coldrice dotted with wasabi, a green horseradish paste that ranks up there with theserrano chile for pure heat. The hot andcold are deliciously juxtaposed.


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/Diner’s Club, CB/Carte Blanche. “All credit cards” indicates that all five are accepted.


Arthur’s. Arthur’s is two, two restaurants in one. To the right is a swinging jazz bar with a parquet floor for dancing cheek to cheek To the left is a quiet dining room of understated elegance The filets are a cut above steaks served elsewhere The meat is so buttery and soft you can slice it with a fork. The best entrée-mignons of beef Stanley-is also the most bizarre. Who would imagine a prime filet, topped with a dollop of creamy horseradish and a glazed banana, all in a béarnaise sauce, would taste good? Watercress and endive salad looked like a Cezanne still life and tasted even better. But if the main courses put you in orbit, the desserts will send you crashing back to earth. The cheesecake was as dry as plasterboard and the chocolate velvet a turnoff. So large it needs an index, the wine list is a compendium of the finest California has to offer. (1000 Campbell Centre. 361-8833 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Fri 6-11, Sat till midnight. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

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 entrees. 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 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat till 11; bar till 1 am. Jackets required for men. MC, V, AE $$$)

Cafe 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 11-3; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30, Fri & Sat till 11. All credit cards.

D Revisits 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 11-2: Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat seatings at 6-7 and 9:30. Closed Sunday. Reservations only. All credit cards. $$$$)

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, and 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 ambience 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. (2575 McKinney. 741-1223. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-midnight. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

The Chimney. The dining atmosphere conjures up an Alpine ski lodge; we keep waiting for the von Trapp family singers to show up in aprés-ski boots. The undisputed pride of The Chimney is the veal- which ranges from the simple Weiner Schnitzel, crisply pan-fried, to the complex forestiére, 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 6-10:30. Reservations. MC, AE, V, DC. $$$)

Ewald’s. For years the food and ambience 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 (54/5 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 sautées 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. Dinner: Tue-Sat seatings 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 fillet 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. $$)

Newcomer: 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 Envay. 747-2222, ex 1706 Daily: 24 hours. No reservations. All credit cards $$$)

Le Boul’ Mich. Le Boul’ Mich makes a pleasant first impression that, unfortunately, fades from memory once the food arrives. It isn’t so much bad as boring, like a bowl of TopFrost vanilla ice cream. The best dishes are usually the most conventional and straightforward-quiche, red snapper meunière, steak Parisien. But as a rule the chef has a dietitian’s contempt for seasoning, and complete indifference to stylish presentation. Imagine sitting down to cream of mushroom soup, scallops au gratin, haddock bonne femme and a glass of Chablis. The experience could easily be confused with snow blindness. But the bread is still good, the wine list is reasonably priced, if limited, and the atmosphere cheerful and intimate. Le Boul’ Mich is at its best late at night, when all you really want is a light meal and a relaxing view. (2704 Worthington. 826-0660. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-5; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sal till midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

Le Rendezvous. 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 -2; Dinner: daily 6-11, Fri & Sat till 1 am. Reservations. MC, V. AE. $$$)

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 tor 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. 526-2121. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-1:30: Brunch: 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 ol’ 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. (2610 Maple 528-0032. Sun-Fri 6-10:45, Sat till 11:45. Reservations. 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. 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. Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11, closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V. AE $$$)

Valeriane’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 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 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 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. Mon-Sat 6-11 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 me tandoonri chicken and beet, 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. All credit cards. $$)

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 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 fillet 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 ot the restaurant’s specialties, is an untouchable bargain. (9100 Caruth Plaza. 987-2301. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11 MC, V, AE. $$)


Camplsl’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. (5620 E Mockingbird. 827-0355, 827-7711. Mon-Fri & Sun 11 am-midnight. Sat till 1 am. Reservations for 6 or more. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

II Sorrento. There are better Italian restaurants in Dallas than II Sorrento, but none can match the overall dining experience The setting is a Hollywood back lot version of Venice, complete with canals, fountains, and strolling violinists. Everything is so outrageously overdone that the only appropriate response is applause The same kind of bravura is apparent in the menu, which offers a dozen dishes in each of a dozen categories, some excellent, others very ordinary. On recent visits we had superb scampi Giovanni (shallots, mushrooms, and bread crumbs) as well as excellent veal Sorrento and braciola. In the very ordinary category was a pro-volone marinara appetizer heavy enough to crack a plate, and a fettucine Alfredo that had a delicate sauce but rubbery noodles. Our hot antipasto was indeed hot, but only the stuffed eggplant merited more than a polite nibble. So, definitely an unpredictable restaurant for food, but a plus for fantasy. (8616 Turtle Creek, north of Northwest Highway. 352-8759. Daily 5:30-10:30, Sat till 11:30. Closed Sun. Reservations except Fri & Sat. All credit cards. $$$)

La Tosca. This starkly appointed black and white restaurant has adventurous, almost avant-garde food. Like the cream of snail soup, a velvety broth brimming with meaty slivers (which actually tasted like mushrooms). The linguine and fettucine are homemade and pasta-tively perfect. Try the paglia e fino, green and white noodles intertwined in a creamy Parmesan sauce, or the meaty and mountainous lasagna. Other main courses could use some work, and a few should be given the boot. Veal roll was fatty, and chicken forestiére. a tender breast buried under a pile of al dente mushrooms, was bland As for desserts, the chocolatey profit-erole was a dentist’s dream, while orange slices soaked in Grand Marnier needed some spike. The all-Italian wine list is reasonably priced; try the Bretani Soave. One major complaint: the blaring Italian arias that are piped through the restaurant. Opera buffs can get their fill at the DCO. (7713 In-wood. 352-8373. Tue-Fri 11:30-2, Tue-Thur 6-10:30, Fri-Sun 6-11. MC, AE, V, DC. $$)

D Revisits Mario’s. About as far from the spaghetti-and-meatballs, red-checked-table-cloth 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 lor male customers. 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 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)


Café Cancun. Café Cancun has so much going for it-attractive surroundings in peachy hues and a Mexico City-style cuisine that’s lighter and brighter than standard Tex-Mex-that we hesitate to cavil about its small failings The main dishes, especially the unusual pork tacos. with or without chile ancho sauce, are reliably good, but the attention to detail that made the place such a joy when it opened seems to be waning: On our last few visits, the tortillas had lost their fresh chewiness, the salsa its cilantro. and the meat its succulence. Even so. nothing here is a bad bet (with the possible exception of the shaving cream-like coconut ice cream), and this variation on the theme of most Mexican restaurants in town is still a winner (4131 LomoAlto. 559-4011. Mon-Thur 11-10, Fri 11-11. Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. MC. AE, V. DC. $)

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. Ho reservations. MC. V, AE. $$)

D Revisits Escondido. 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 Herrera 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. $)

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 tamaies, 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 3 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-3:30 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 tilled 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 Ave. 526-9427. Mon. Wed, Thur 9-8. Fri-Sun till 10, closed Tue. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

La Esquina. Mexican food designed for the tourist. Although much is ordinary-from the soups (black bean and tortilla) to dessert (cottony sopapillas)- and all is expensive, La Esquina is no tourist trap. The quality of ingredients is generally high, as evidenced by that rarity, a margarita stout enough to banish comparisons to a 7-Eleven lime Slurpee. The atrium-like area inside of the Anatole is also the only place in town, as far as we know, to try taquitos, tasty fried tortillas stuffed with sweet and spicy beef. (Loews Anatole Hotel, 2201 Stemmons Fwy. 748-1200. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-3: Dinner: Daily 6-10:30. Reservations for 10 or more. All 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. Ordering these old standby dishes from the menu is like investing your money in Exxon stocks; you know you can’t lose. 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, Fri & Sat till 10:30. 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 unhurried. After being disappointed by some of the more complicated spe-cialties-among them, an inauspicious flaming cheese, dried-out shrimp enchiladas, and an unlikely polio Tampiqueno-we advise heading straight for the simple and/or TexMex. 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. MC, V, AE. $$)


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-Fri 5:30-11. Sat 11-11. No reservations. MC, V. DC. $)


Asuka. If you prefer your Japanese food without culinary juggling acts and the clanging of steel blades, Asuka is a pleasant surprise with its atmosphere of traditional understated Japanese elegance. We suggest sharing a la carte items, since the quantity and variety of food in the dinners is overwhelming. Try the Sashimi (raw fish) for an appetizer: The tuna and salmon tasted pure and satisfying; only the mackerel lacked the freshness essential to sashimi. In addition to offering typical dishes such as teriyaki, shabu shabu, and sukiyaki, Asuka does a fine job of preparing Japanese specialties such as roasted pompano. For those still desiring a show with their meal, the ami yaki provides a tasty pyrotechnic least: Lean strips of beef are cooked at your table and then dipped into a garlic and soy barbecue sauce. The fish and vegetable tempura in crispy deep-fried batter is also a good choice. Dessert is tried ice cream, and ice cream was never meant to be fried. (7136 Greenville between Park Ln and Walnut Hill. 363-3537. Lunch: 11-2; Dinner: 6-11, closed Mon. Reservations. MC, AE, V. $$$)

D Revisits 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. (Preston at Belt Line. 385-7227. Mon-Fri 11-10:30; Sat 5-11; Sun 12-10:30. Reservations. Bar by membership. MC. V, AE, DC. $$)

Bo Bo China. No matter that this place apparently had the same interior decorator as Don 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 last but tasty lunch, try one of the half dozen lunch specials, (like bell pepper beef), which at $2.75 a plate, have to rank among the best buys in the city. Most of the main dishes include a superb won ton 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. 3492411. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11-2:30;Dinner:Sun, Tue-Thur 11-10, Fri & Sat till 11. No liquor license, brown-bagging allowed. No reservations. 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. $$)

Sakura. What with the geisha dancing in the tatami room, the schmaltzy piano bar music downstairs battling the koto music played 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. Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat till 11:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

D Revisits Sztchuan. 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 $375. 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. (4711 Lemmon near Douglas. 521-6981. Sun-Thur 11:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 11:30-11:30. MC. V, AE, DC. $$)

Slam. If your forays into Oriental food have been confined to Chinese and Japanese restaurants, exploring Siam should be high on your list of priorities. 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 Mines. 631-5482 Mon-Sat 11 am-11 pm. closed Sun. MC. V. $)


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, Sun5-10. No reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

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 halt 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: daily 6-11:30: Sun brunch 10:30-2:30. 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 11-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat till 11. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

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 10:30-10, Fri till 11, Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. MC, V, AS. $$)

D Revisits Ratcllfle’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 McKin-ney. 748-7480. Daily: 11-11. No reservations All credit cards $$$)

S&D Oyster Company. The line is usually long; the dining room is too noisy for romantic conversation; the desserts are consistently bad. II 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 mat 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 kind and professional 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. MonThur 11-10. Fri & Sat till 11. closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)


Broussard’s. The name may sound fancy, but the place isn’t Expect disposable dinnerware and a cafeteria-style line Between the down-home service and the Cajun music on the jukebox (not to mention the excellent food), you can’t help feeling you’ve somehow stumbled into a transplanted Louisiana back-roads eatery We especially relished the spicy étouffée and generous plates of boiled shrimp. The French fries, with their skins still on, were as good as French fries can get; the fried oysters, supreme. If you go early, about 5 or 6 pm, you can catch the line at its low point. Incidentally, this is a good place to stoke up before traveling the nether reaches of the turnpike between Hampton Bulk Mail Center and the first glimpse of the Fort Worth skyline. Bring your own liquor, in brown bag, of course (707 N Belt Line In Irving, 1 mile S of Rte 183. 255-8024. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2; Dinner: MonSat 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, meatloaf, 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. MonThur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat till 11, Sun 5-10. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)

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 al times be monumental, inspiring whopper tales to rival those of the most braggadocious of fishermen. HPC has broken the No, 1 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 buttered zucchini muffin finishes the meal nicely, but HPC bakes up quite a respectable buttermilk pie and good brownies. HPC’s food is not memorable, but it is consistent and sets the standard for cafeteria food in Dallas. (4611 Cole Ave. 526-3801. Mon-Sat 11-8. Closed Sun. No liquor. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

Newcomer: 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 to 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 cornbread and yeast rolls accompany all daily specials. The dessert choices are pasty, sodden apple pie or pecan pie. Service is cafeteria-style. (3736 Routh. 742-5517. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; Dinner: Wed-Sat 6:30-10:30. MC, V, AE. $)

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 want 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 of 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. $)


Hoffbrau. Nestled in the center of the fern-bar belt, this salute to steak’n’taters is a welcome haven for the carnivore. We notice, with some delight, the absence of any healthy green stuff: No bizarre presentations of fried mushrooms, 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 longneck boxes 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 the tasty gravy. (3205 Knox at McKinney. 559-2680. Mon-Fri 11-11. Sat noon-11, Sun 5/0. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

Newcomer: 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 sautées, offer all the privacy of a bus station. (Quorum Plaza at Belt Line off Dallas Pkway. 934-8150. All credit cards. $$$)


Angelo’s. If Chrysler could turn out autos the way Angelo’s assembles and delivers lunch-hour sandwiches, there would be no need for a bailout. The coordinator takes your order, dabs sauce on a bun, and spins the bun onto a precise spot in front of the cutter. The cutter loads the bun with juicy tender meat, crowns it, and passes it back to the coordinator, who wraps it without looking. The counter help hands you your sandwich, takes your money, and yells “large.” A 12-ounce frozen mug of draft Budweiser costs 65¢; a 24-ounce mug of the same costs 85¢. That’s why the counter keeps yelling “large.” There is no better barbecued beef in Fort Worth than at Angelo’s. And there are a couple of sleepers here, too, known only to the regulars. There hasn’t been a bargain around like the $1.20 hot link sandwich with sauce, pickles, and onions since the demise of the nickel Coke. And the chili (steaming in temperature but not seasoning) is the best west of Tolbert’s. (2533 White Settlement Rd. (817) 3320357. MonSat 11-10. Closed Sun. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

The Carriage House. This old standby offers a refreshing retreat from area steakhouses that are big enough to accommodate basketball tournaments. The atmosphere in the two small crystal-laden dining rooms is not quiet, but is relaxed nevertheless. The steaks are still the safest selections, and ours were prepared exactly as ordered. The tenderloin was the best of show. The South African lobster tail was indeed large, as advertised, as was the price ($21), which was not advertised. Asparagus and broccoli were fresh, crisp, and boring, the kind we used to eat to obtain permission to leave the table. The sautéed mushroom appetizer was delicious, but the entry on the menu should have included a warning label alerting hungry diners that consumption of the item would involve only two bites The brandy ice, a successful blend of brandy and ice cream, is a nice winder-upper, especially for those who have difficulty choosing between dessert and after-dinner drinks. (5136 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2873. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: daily 6-11, Sun 6-10: Sun brunch: 11-2. Reservations. MC. V, AE. $$$)

Cattlemen’s. There are ups and downs here, but the prime steak is; definitely an upper. First-time visitors are usually excited at the rustic Texas-style setting in the heart of the old Stockyards area. The restaurant exterior with its weathered facade promises a return to the days when this was the gathering point for the journey up the Chisolm Trail. But the interior is a letdown. There’s nothing much to see except for pictures of blue ribbon beeves that are displayed to document the superb quality of meat that has been devoured here. (There’s one picture of a horse that is undoubtedly displayed for some other reason.) But when the steaks arrive, all else becomes incidental. The prime cuts of rib eye and K.C. sirloin are delectable, and the 18-ounce prime boneless strip is a third-degree sin. The Saturday night service reminded us of the service on the Braniff flight to Oklahoma City: frantic and elusive. You wouldn’t miss anythng if you ate nothing but steak, though the lamb fries will likely appeal to those who are psychologically attuned. (2458 N Main. (817) 624-3945. Mon-Fri 11-10:30. Sal 4:30-10:30. closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Edelweiss. Edelweiss is a big, joyous beer hall with food. It’s ersatz Texas German food, but who cares? It sounds German and comes in portions large enough to please any aspiring Burgermeister. And always, on the tiny center stage, is Bernd Schner-zinger, with an Alp-sized voice and the proper oom-pah backup. Hokey, no doubt, but Bernd is a charmer-he kissed seven ladies during one song while we were there. Of course, there are German wines and beers, and a cheese soup as thick as we’ve ever tasted. For entrees, we tried sausages in mushroom sauce and cordon bleu Kartoffein (schnitzel stuffed with ham and cheese), which is reputed to be the house specialty; it wasn’t sensational, although the potato pancakes spiced with onion made a tasty side dish. (3801-A Southwest Blvd. (817) 738-5934. Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10:30. closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, DC. $$)

Hedary’s. Hedary’s, which has opened and closed more often than the neighborhood Dairy Queen, may be Fort Worth’s best restaurant, and it is certainly its most unusual. Where else can you sit down to a meal of hummus bit-tahini (chickpea dip seasoned with lemon and garlic), khyar bil-laban (sliced cucumbers in fresh yogurt), and a plate of magdoos (pickled eggplant stuffed with walnuts), followed by some kibbi mishwiyyi (crushed wheat and ground sirloin charbroiled with pine nuts and spices), and frarej (chicken and vegetables baked in olive oil and lemon juice), topped off with a slice of baklava and a cup of qahwi, a thick, aromatic Lebanese coffee brewed bitter or sweet depending on your mood. Hedary’s is intimate, a bit idiosyncratic, and thoroughly old-fashioned in its methods. “No hot table, freezer, chemicals, or can opener,” says the menu, and we believe it. The bread is baked while you watch, and the service can be fast or slow depending on how many Hedary children are on the premises. (3308 Fairfield, Ridglea Center off Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-6961. Tue-Thur 5-11. Fri & Sat 5 till midnight. Sun 5-11. No reservations. All credit cards. $$)

Jimmie Dip’s. Jimmie died, and for a long time, it was easy to forget this longtime Chinese restaurant. But Jimmie Dip’s is still in business: The food remains excellent, the service superb, and the decor unassuming and tasteful. We began, of course, with tried won ton all around, and then opted for the Chinese vegetable soup. Both were supreme appetizers. Our main dish was the almond gai ding, diced white chicken meat with snow peas, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms-so good, we hated sharing. Other dishes we sampled included the war sui har (breaded jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon), the sweet and sour pork, the ginger beef, and the Jimmie Dip special, which is a mixture of chicken, chicken livers, Virginia ham, and vegetables, sautéed in chicken broth-an unlikely dish that was the best of the evening. This restaurant knows what it’s doing. (1500 S University. (817) 336-4333. Dinner: Tue-Thur & Sun. 4:30-10:30. Fri-Sat 4:30-11:30. closed Mon. No reservations. MC. V. AE. $)

Newcomer: J & J Oyster Bar. New Orleans comes to Fort Worth. At least that’s where the oysters served here come from. The fried oysters are rather small for the price ($4.75 for seven), but ours were flavorfully prepared in a very agreeable batter. The light batter doesn’t overpower the oyster, but is spicy enough to draw your attention, reminiscent of Captain Benny’s Half Shell in Houston. The best buy on the menu is the cup of “home-cooked Cajun gumbo” for $1.25. Ours was brimming with oysters, crab, and shrimp. A dozen oysters on the half shell, also small, cost $3.95. The location is the former site of the old Topsy’s Cafe. If things don’t go well, they can add wheels to the tin building and haul the customers to the coast. (929 University Dr. (817) 332-0238. Mon-Fri 11-10, Fri & Sat 11-11. No credit cards. $)

Joe T. Garcia’s. Joe T. Garcia’s lush patio reminds us of a Mexican hotel courtyard, with its old-fashioned swimming pool and well-manicured vegetation. (Patrons are not encouraged to swim.) The obvious family connection between most of the employees and the boss, who constantly directs the help in Spanish/English, lends atmosphere you won’t find elsewhere. The Dinner (no questions, no substitutions) matched item tor item the No. 1 special at every pseudo-south-of-the-border joint in the Southwest: cheese and jalapeno nachos, tacos, cheese enchiladas, retried beans, a side of guaca-mole, soft tortillas, and the usual hot sauce. To its credit. Joe T.s is good at what it does. Everything was fresh. and portions were generous. Worth particular notice: The margaritas were strong, not too salty, and not sweet. The beauty of the surroundings is worth one visit to Joe T’s. especially it you live in Fort Worth. But until the menu shows a little more variety, this will remain the Mexican restaurant to take your uncle from New Jersey to, not the fine addiction a Mexican restaurant can become (2201 N Commerce (817) 626-4356. MonSat 11-2. 5-10:30; Sun 4-10:30. Reservations lor 30 or more. No credit cards. $$)

Kincaid’s. In this grocery-cum-hamburger-stand, there’s no seating, no fountain soft drinks, and very little air conditioning. But hamburger aficionados crowd in tor the right stuff: real meat, real thick; just-sliced tomatoes, generously distributed; pickles that crunch resoundingly; and grilled buns. Diners sharing the counter top with us swore the other choices, including fried vegetables, catfish, salads, and cake, are just as good as the hamburgers But how anyone can muster the will to order cauliflower amid those hamburger smells is a mystery. Adding to the satisfied air of the patrons are the attentiveness and good cheer shown by the counter help and the neighborhood air of the place. 1200 meat patties a day sizzle on the grill, but there’s nothing mass-produced about the greetings regulars get (4901 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 732-2881. Mon-Sat 10-6:15. closed Sun. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

London House. Time was. the London House was the place to take your wife or prom date for a big steak dinner. Times change, and so did this favorite, into a dumpy, dusty-cornered, old restaurant with unreasonably high-priced, tough steaks. However, fortune smiled upon London House and sent the former manager of Mac’s House (another fondly remembered Fort Worth steak restaurant) to help out. The improvement is enormous, from the spruced-up surroundings to the better cuts of meat. Prices have risen with the quality. The steaks and chicken we had were tender and flavorful. The crab, too, was tender and moist, unlike the dried-out lobster tails served with another diner’s steak. The soup and salad bar, always a strong point here, has gotten even better with the addition of items like watermelon chunks among the greens. Avoid the broccoli, served with what looks like microwave-melted Cheez Whiz over it. London House will probably never return to its former splendor, but the food has regained its former virtues. (44 75 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-4141. Mon-Sun 5:30-midnight. Reservations. MC. V, AE, DC. $$$)

Massey’s. Warning: Don’t order the a la carte chicken-fried steak for lunch unless you have time for a siesta. The portions are huge, and it tastes too good to leave any behind. From the outside, Massey’s could easily be mistaken for a hardware store or a second-hand shop. You won’t be distracted by frills here. The menu advises that in the interest of conservation, water will be served upon request. There are no pepper shakers; tables are stocked with the original pepper cans. At lunchtime, you get chicken-fried steak, salad, two vegetables, and homemade biscuits. The tender meat is cooked with a heavenly breading and topped with yellow creamed gravy, just the way they do it on that great spread beyond the sunset. The French fries are the kind you eat and then begrudge the lost space. The assembly-line salad consists of wilted lettuce and bulk dressing. Massey’s offers seafood and Mexican dishes, but to go here for something other than chicken-fried steak would be like going to the Grand Canyon to see the chipmunks. (1805 Eighth Ave. (817)924-8242. Daily 8 am-10 pm. MC, V. $)

Old Swiss House. An oasis in Fort Worth’s heavy-beet desert, thanks to Walter Kaufmann, the only local chef who can be trusted with sauces more complicated than red-eye gravy. He’s deft in the opening courses-a light touch of garlic in the escargots (not on the menu, though he occasionally prepares them as a specialty) and excellent salads, although we would prefer a choise of dressings. Then the entrees: goulash with mushrooms swathed in Burgundy sauce, and from Walter’s extensive bag of veal tricks, escallopes aux champignons. Both were excellent. One complaint: the waiters. They’re competent enough, but just once, we’d like to catch one smiling. (5412 Camp Bowie. (817) 738-8091 Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat till 10:30. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

Rangoon Racquet Club. Even if this weren’t the best singles bar in town, a visit would be required to sample the hamburgers, which are large and packed with all the trimmings. Other luncheon items include ham hocks and lima beans. (4936 Collin-wood at Camp Bowie (817) 737-5551. Mon-Sat 11:30-9, bar till 2 am, closed Sun. No reservations. MC. V. AE. $)

Szechuan. Some like it hot. but Szechuan likes it hotter. The local Hunan/Szechuan boom has led to some inevitable backsliding in seasoning, as some restaurants slip in a pinch of Lawry’s seasoning salt to appease the more delicate American palate. Not so at Szechuan, where “hot and spicy” means exactly what it says. Our chicken with garlic sauce and shredded beef Szechuan style arrived smoking, and superbly prepared. The Szechuan lamb was equally good, and even the broccoli in oyster sauce, ordinarily a fairly bland dish, had a little extra zip. Even though Szechuan has a large menu, the chef is able to accommodate individual preferences without difficulty. If you want moo shi chicken rather than pork, or a bit more Szechuan pickle in your sautéed green beans, just ask. The decor is typical off-the-shelf Chinese, but service is cheerful and reasonably prompt. (5712 Locke Ave, off Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 738-7300 Sun-Thur 11:30-11, Fri & Sat till midnight. MC, V, AE. Reservations tor 5 or more. $$)