RESTAURANTS DINING OUT

Currying flavor at Indian restaurants

INDIAN CUISINE, like Indian classical music, is based on a system of free improvisations within fixed rules. Its success depends largely on a harmonious blending of different flavors and fragrances. In Indian cooking, perhaps more than in any other, spices are the variety of life.

But there is much more to Indian food than scorching curries. Spices and herbs provide exotic variations on a familiar theme, while flaky bread, piquant vegetable combinations, rich rice pilafs and the Arabian Nights’ flavor of Indian sweetmeats provide the counterpoint to the melody of the main dish.

Regional food habits are so deeply ingrained in India that there is, as such, no “national cuisine.” What has become increasingly popular in the United States is North Indian cooking, while South Indian cooking remains virtually unknown outside India. The Family Coffee Shop used to serve South Indian snacks on weekends, but it has since changed management. The Indian restaurants in this area serve exclusively North Indian, or Moghlai, food.

With this kind of food, as a rule, you cannot go wrong if you try lamb or chicken preparations. History, religion and tradition combined to make North Indian cooks focus their attention on the seemingly endless possibilities of these meats. Pork was ruled out because the Muslims do not eat it, and beef was not very popular because Hindus consider the cow sacred. Neither geography nor habit encouraged the inclusion of seafood in the diet. So, the supreme culinary achievement of Moghlai cuisine was – and is – the inspired cooking of chicken and lamb.

In this connection, we are reminded of a poem we once read:

“All things chickeny and mutt’ny

Taste far better when served with chutney

This is the mystery eternal:

Why didn’t Major Grey make colonel?”

Although the ubiquitious Major Grey’s chutney is virtually unknown in India, Indian cuisine offers an astounding variety of chutneys that can add a great deal of relish to the blandest meal.

In a traditional Indian meal, there is no equivalent to the French hors d’oeurves, the Italian antipasto or the American fruit cup. In India, appetizers are usually eaten the way Dim Sum are eaten in Chinese teahouses-as a snack, and invariably, with a beverage. In restaurants, however, appetizers are becoming increasingly acceptable, with or without a beverage.

The question of what to drink with an Indian meal is the subject of much argument. Moderately cold water is the most authentic, although some people prefer a sweet drink such as a fruit sharbat (hence the American sherbet), which effectively quenches fiery spices. If you would prefer an alcoholic beverage with dinner, chilled lager or a wine cup using semisweet white wine or rosé are perfectly permissible, but fine dry wines and curries just do not go together. A word of warning: Carbonated or fizzy drinks tend to exaggerate the burning sensation of a really hot curry, as does ice-cold water.

Indian food is traditionally eaten with the fingers, by using a variety of breads to scoop the food. It sounds messy, but once you get used to the idea, you may feel as connoisseurs of Japanese and Chinese food do about chopsticks: The food, for some inexplicable reason, tastes better. (A really fine Indian restaurant will always follow up a meal with a finger bowl, but we saw no signs of one at any of the Dallas restaurants.) There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that the late Shah of Iran was so enchanted by this custom during a visit to India that he remarked that eating with a fork and spoon was like declaring your love through an interprete

If you want to have a hand in the making of Indian food, as well as eating it, there are a number of Indian grocery stores scattered around the metroplex that can provide you with all the ingredients. We have found Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni to be particularly useful in an American kitchen, and The Cooking of India in the Time-Life series is a culinary, as well as a literary, deligh

If all this sounds like too much trouble, you can always eat out

Sahib. This is the nicest place in Dallas to get introduced to or renew your acquaintance with Indian food. The gauze-covered lamps, the potted palms and the Victorian photographs combine to create an atmosphere redolent of the days of the British Raj

In these gracious surroundings, we began with General Montgomery Sahib’s Assorted Platter and found the appetizers on the tray fairly unremarkable. The chicken chat, too, did not live up to its glowing description and was a clammy prelude to an otherwise wonderful meal.

Captain Cavegneri Sahib’s Tandoori Mixed Grill gives you a chance to sample Indian barbecue. Chicken tandoori and chicken tikka have long been our favorites in that area, and did not disappoint us at Sahib’s. But the pièce de résistance proved to be the prawns tandoori, which were succulent and subtly spiced -a rare treat for the taste buds. The tandoori dishes, when accompanied by naans and complemented by the creamy saag panir, made an unforgettable dinner. To those unfamiliar with the joys of Indian bread, we heartily recommend (in addition to the incomparable naan) puris and parathas, which are divine with a variety of curries and vegetables.

An unusual dessert provides the grand finale to your meal; it could be kulfi (somewhat like the Italian bombe), frozen in individual molds and topped with pistachios; creamy ras malai; or crisp gulab jamuns. We opted for the light and tropical mangoes with ice cream.

The portions seemed unusually skimpy at dinner, but the all-you-can-eat lunch, featuring a marvelous variety, is one of the best bargains in town. Service has ranged from attentive to absent-minded.

India House. The illuminated miniature Taj Mahal that greets guests as they enter epitomizes the “kitsch” in Indian decor. The “sari” surroundings, however, do not reflect the quality of the food, which is very good, although it tends to be a trifle greasy and heavy. The chicken tikka ma-sala was superb and cast its counterpart at Sahib into the shade. The selection of vegetarian dishes was rich, varied and well-cooked. The daal makhani deserves special mention, since this very popular Indian lentil dish was unaccountably missing from Sahib’s menu. The biryanis were sumptuous, and pomegranate sharbat added an exotic touch to the meal.

The portions here are generous, and the prices are fairly reasonable. But India House doesn’t provide anything gratis, whether it be papads, chutney or rice to accompany the main dish. Waiters tend to hover in a friendly fashion and are always on hand to refill your water glass, an attention you are likely to appreciate if you bite into a hot chili.

Lunch is extremely popular, and is a tasty buffet.

Chacha’s. Our quest for good Indian food has taken us to some pretty strange places, but to none, perhaps, quite as unusual as Chacha’s, a tiny restaurant located on Main Street, in the booming metropolis of Springtown (just off Jacksboro Highway). Its very lack of at mosphere gave it one, and the menu was extremely eclectic. Chicken curry and rice, and prawn curry and rice jostled with chicken-fried steak and chachaburgers for our attention. The samosas were terrible, but the prawn curry we tried was worth the never-ending drive. The place is a dive, but a hospitable one.

RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS



These restaurants represent the best in Dallas and Fort Worth dining.

These listings are revised and supplemented peri-Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avec 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 (or a complete meal excluding wine andcocktails.

$$$$ Very expensive.

Unless otherwise noted, all restaurants have full barfacilities.

Credit card notations: MC/MasterCard. V/Visa.AE/American Express, DC/Diners Club, CB/CarteBlanche. “All credit cards” indicates that all fiveare accepted.

CONTINENTALCalé de Paris. Sheer lacy curtains, lots of sunshine and bright silk flowers make this a cheery and comfortably sophisticated .lunch spot; elegant service and romantic furnishings ensure an enjoyable dinner And the food: The beef bourguignonne was tender with just enough spice and sauce; the salmon béarnaise was blessed with a sauce good enough to overcome the unspectacular salmon; la poitrine de poulet au cognac (breast of chicken in cognac sauce) was a little dry and gristly for this caliber restaurant, but the French onion soup was easily one of the best in the area-big chunks of onion and bread in a rich broth smothered under a layer of gooey cheese and served steaming hot. The fruit tart, served warm with fresh whipped cream, the chocolate mousse and the praline pie were all fitting conclusions. (2800 Routh, the Quadrangle. 653-1027. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-11:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Café Royal. The surroundings here 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; a better choice than the thin, too-briny lobster soup. Classic entrées like sirloin with béarnaise sauce are safe bets; but the more adventurous nouvelle cuisine-inspired choices are the point here: among them, flavorful duckling supreme with mustard cream sauce, and tender, piquant veal steak with lime butter. Minor shortcomings are dull salads, limp vegetables (which, at $3.50 à la carte, should taste as good as they look) and occasionally burnt coffee. Service can be very slow. But all is forgiven with the extraordinarily refreshing strawberry bavaroise. (Plaza of the Americas. 650 N Pearl. 747-7222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11. Jackets required for men. All credit cards. $$$$)

The Enclave. Here you expect all the waiters to be named James and to be gentlemen’s gentlemen in their moonlighting hours. This continental restaurant well lives up to its name, which the menu defines as a place that “adheres to its own standards and customs, regardless of what may be the prevailing manner of the surrounding country ” Our tab was reasonable, considering the plush elegance in which we dined-amid crystal and gleaming silver. Our filet was a bit dry. but still very good. The pepper steak flambé was tastefully presented, as was the lightly breaded veal Oscar. We were only disappointed by the house vegetables The service was attentive, and the strawberry cheesecake with whipped cream ended the meal nicely. (8325 Walnut Hill Lane. 363-7487 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30: Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10; Fri & Sat 6-11:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)



D Revisits Calluaud’s. This restaurant should be in a class with some of Dallas’ more elegant continental restaurants. But on several recent visits, we found dining here to be a frustrating experience. The food is still delectable, but the service was absent-minded and downright unfriendly On one occasion, we had to ask our waiter to take our order Then, once we ordered, he couldn’t remember who had which entrée. For the money one can spend at Calluaud. it is not too much to assume that waiters come equipped with ESP. But once served, we concentrated on Calluaud’s fine continental cuisine. The delicate lobster soufflé and the garlicky escargots de bourgogne topped with tiny puffed pastry are excellent openers. For those with ravenous appetites, avoid the scallops in white wine and cream sauce: It can be consumed in two bites. The artichoke hearts served with a smooth mustard and honey sauce are good, with no vinegary bite. Calluaud offers an extensive list of entrées including a flaky, deliciously seasoned turbot with champagne and truffles. If your tastes run more toward wild game, the restaurant also serves a notable quail and a juicy duck steak with lime. To complete the meal, ordering the hazelnut or Grand Marnier soufflé is an absolute must, (2679 McKinney. 823-5380. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30: Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat seatings from 6-7 and at 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC. V, AE. $$$$)



Ewald’s. Less pretentious and flashy than most continental restaurants in Dallas. Ewald’s ranks in the highest echelon when it comes to the quality of its food. Those willing to forego the standard continental fixtures-tuxedo-clad French waiters and brass candelabras-will find treasures of tenderloin and veal awaiting them. One of the standouts on the menu is the tournedos St. Moritz (beef tenderloin with artichoke hearts, béarnaise and tomato concasse with sautéed mushrooms). We also found the veal steak au moulin (veal sautéed with mushrooms, cognac and cream) to be up to its usual tasty excellence. But the star of the menu continues to be the veal Pagallo (veal stuffed with Canadian bacon and Swiss cheese, covered with a sour cream sauce). Ewald’s has a creditable pepper steak and a respectable Chateaubriand; but the beef takes a back seat to some of the house specialties like shrimp du chef (broiled shrimp in a delicious barbecue-like sauce), which is available in either appetizer portions or as an entrée, or the snapper bonne femme (served in a white wine sauce with mushrooms) Desserts are superb, especially the Black Forest cake, strawberries Romanoff or the cream caramel. (5475 W Lovers Lane. 357-1622 Mon-Fri 6-10:30, Sat till 11. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V. AE. $$$)

Francisco’s. With some fine-tuning in the kitchen, this could be a very good, reasonably priced continental restaurant. But without an investment in ambiance, the place will never rival Jean Claude or Café Royal. Francisco’s is small, but not intimate, with peculiar waterlily-print wallpaper in one room and the nondescript decor of the other Photos of the owner with dubious celebrities don’t contribute to a feeling of classiness: neither do the menus, which are laminated and more suited to Denny’s than a fine restaurant. As for the food, soups are the high point. Clear mushroom soup, with mushrooms floating in consommé and topped with light pastry, was superb. Minestrone, a soup of the day, was almost as good. Entrées were more than passable, but less than perfect. Veal Norway was slightly overcooked and totally tasteless. Poulet sauté à la maison (chicken scallops sautéed with ham and Swiss cheese) was entirely edible, but lacked pizazz. Among lunchtime entrées, the chef’s salad was commendable; avocado filled with crab meat tasted too much of oversweet mayonnaise. Desserts are not great here: Homemade chocolate cake turned out to be sliced, sodden chocolate mousse, cheesecake was heavy, and neither the peach-raspberry sauce nor the ice cream in our peach melba was what it should have been. (2917 Fairmount. 749-0906- Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-11. Fri & Sat 6:30-11:30 (seatings at 7 & 9). Réservations. MC. V, AE. $$$)



Newcomer: the French Room. Nothing short of something physical and amorous could surpass the sublime quality of this food. The decor is operatic in its erotic opulence, almost to the point of being overplayed. But you will most assuredly find yourself seduced by the luxuri-ousness of it all. This is an enlightened way to spend an evening (and some money). Inside the French Room, you are visually and acoustically cushioned from the outside world. So secure is that feeling and so subservient is the service (most of the waiters have come over from the Mansion) that you’ll feel as though you’ve been recognized as royalty just for having the good judgment to dine here. You should strive for personal satisfaction by ordering your “fantasy” food, something you’ve been craving for months. One salient piece of advice: Order the specials recited by your waiter whenever they appeal to you, particularly when the dishes involve seafood. While we found the menu selections consistently delightful, the specials were superior. From the menu, we’ve tried the Pith-iviers d’Escargots (tender slivers of escargot with garlic and parsley inside an igloo-like pastry) and the Lobster Sausage with Sea Urchins, which was light and lobstery, but not nearly as exciting as the special seafood melange with langoustinos and the sweetest, most savory scallops we’ve ever eaten. The bisque of scallops with saffron had a delicate consistency and a pretty color, and was served just hot enough to force the taking of tiny tastes. (Adolphus Hotel, 1412 Main. Reservations accepted from 6 pm-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$$)



Jean Claude. The only bad thing about eating at Jean Claude is the demand it places on one’s short-term memory There is no menu; instead, the waiter recites for you first the available appetizers, then the entrées and finally the desserts. Given that there are often 10 or more entrée choices, you may feel exhausted by the time your drinks arrive. But once you’ve ordered, all is well, with Jean Claude himself chopping and sautéing in the open-air kitchen. For appetizers, we’ve enjoyed the scallops in cream and garlic sauce, the salmon mousse, and the warm crab meat and lobster salad. Only the patés have disappointed. Jean Claude is particularly successful -and imaginative-with fish entrées, among them swordfish with grapefruit sauce and poached trout wrapped in lettuce. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the intensely chocolate mousse or the fruit tarts. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sat seat-ings at 6 and 9. Reservations only. MC, V, AE, $$$) Jennivine. Thank goodness Jennivine is only “a little bit of England,” or it would be without its lovely selection of French wines, patés and cheeses from various countries A combination plate of cheese and paté makes a good lunch. (Try the English Cheddar or double Gloucester, a Cheddar flavored with chives and spices.) The cheeses are served at the proper temperature, never chilled into tastelessness We had a good cold cucumber soup and a spinach salad that had too many sprouts for most people’s tastes. The dinner menu varies according to the fresh seafood that is available. The crab meat imperial was too bland, but a filet of sole with fresh dill was just right. A side dish of mashed potatoes flavored with nutmeg was also good. The house white burgundy was excellent and modestly priced by the glass or bottle. In the evening, a guitarist played softly, sometimes accompanied by a skillful penny whistle player. Service is friendly and casual and sometimes English-accented. English bottled beer is also available. (3605 McKinney. 528 6010. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC. V. AE. DC. $$)

La Vieille Varsovie. The Old Warsaw is in danger of becoming a restaurant in which food no longer holds center stage. The waiters serve with flair and theatricality, and for the first time in many years, we heard “Malaguena” played on the piano. But something is wrong in the kitchen. On two visits we had a tough duckling with kiwi fruit and raspberry vinegar, a mushy filet of sole stuffed with crab, salads swimming in dressing, fresh asparagus ruined by overcooking and green beans with far too much garlic. The fish paté was graced with a delicate lobster sauce, but the mersault had not been properly incorporated into the other sauce, giving it an alcoholic taste. The champagne sauce for the poached salmon was better, but the fish was dry. And nothing we ate merited the expense of the high-priced wine list, which began (with few exceptions) at $25 and averaged $65 a bottle, or half the price of a dinner for two. We had been advised to try the fresh lobster. the Dover sole with lemon butter and the rack of lamb-dishes that are not the test of French cooking, but are probably more manageable. Twice, we were seated beside the huge cabinets on which the waiters perform their handiwork. Surely more of this work could be done in the kitchen, where someone should be tasting and checking the food. (26/0 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-mid-night. Reservations. Jackets required for men. All credit cards. $$$$)

Le Rendez-Vous. This is one of the most comfortable continental restaurants in Dallas. It’s not as pretentious as some of its competitors, but it’s formal enough to make you feel like you are getting your money’s worth of pomp and ceremony. We’ve long enjoyed the lunch specials, which always include a homemade soup and usually a fresh fish or veal entrée as well. Le Rendez-Vous has an extensive seafood selection, including an excellent grilled salmon with béarnaise, poached filet of sole, shrimp, snapper and trout. There’s also a good cold salmon plate served with fresh raw vegetables. This place does a good job on two dishes that have become standards in Dallas continental restaurants: veal in lemon butter and pepper steak. And for those who like to venture outside the culinary mainstream, there’s roast duck in peach sauce or rabbit sautéed in wine sauce. (If you like duck or rabbit, you’ll find the versions served here to be quite acceptable.) If you can wait until 11 am (when the place opens for breakfast), you couldn’t do better than the omelets served at Le Rendez-Vous. Were especially partial to the piperade basque (tomato, onion and green pepper omelet). Service is still consistently good. (3237 McKinney at Hall. 745-1985. Tue-Sun 11 am -2 am. Closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

The Mansion. One of the pleasures of the carefully calculated decor of the Mansion is its golden lighting, which enables the diner to see not only his perfect green salad, but also the contemporary nobility on the terrace-visiting movie stars and international financiers. Noble is the word for the Mansion’s peasant dish, tortilla soup. It should be exported to the restaurant’s parent company, New York’s 21 Club. But, we wouldn’t mind at all if theNew Yorkers took back their bland chicken hash with Mornay sauce. In other sauces, the Mansion excels. The béarnaise sauce that came with the grilled red snapper was so light, smooth and tasty you could put it on cardboard and swear you d had a good meal. The lobster sauce with chicken and the wine sauce that dressed the shrimp sauté appetizer called tor mopping up with a piece of French bread. And the duck served with a brown, not-too-strong garlic sauce was topped with a slice of duck liver paté that deserves a place of its own on the menu. A too-lemony veal sauce was disappointing, given the subtlety of the other sauces. Service is brisk, efficient and French, without annoying theatrics. If only the desserts were as good as they looked. The raspberry torte was a chaotic mixture of sour raspberries, brick-like chocolate and bland whipped cream. The restaurant encourages the smoking of fine cigars from its 21 collection, a problem if you are inhaling the enticing aroma of a juicy breast of pheasant with chanterelles, and your neighbor lights up. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Lunch: Mon-Sat noon-1:30; Brunch: Sun 11-2; Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri 6-10:30, Sat 6-11; Supper: Mon-Thur 10:30-mldnight, Fri and Sat 11-midnight. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)

Patry’s. This can be an excellent place to have a quiet and elegant continental dinner, provided you arrive when the place is not too crowded Entrées are generally reliable; on a recent visit we had an excellent pepper steak and a middle-of-the-road version of duck à l’orange. On other visits we found the lamb chops to be consistently tasty. And the old continental standby, veal in lemon butter, is well up to par Patry’s offers some fine homemade soups, including a cream of broccoli that is among the best in the city. One of the stronger points of this place is the extensive wine list, which complements the menu. (2504 McKinney. 748-3754. Sun, Tue-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

Pyramid Room. With its potted, leafless trees, high, bare brown walls and bland, green, high-backed chairs, the Pyramid Room is the most austere room in Dallas. When we visited, the staff was short-handed and apologetic for delays, but despite the strain, was courteous and thorough. The Pyramid specializes in flourishes of service and display. A huge piece of fresh matzo cracker was set in a holder made of fresh banana bread, guaranteed to set your teeth on edge if you are made uneasy by conspicuous consumption. The name of the person who made the reservations is embossed on the books of matches on the table. The captain plucks the napkin from the table and settles it on the lap of each guest. The Italian wine steward is charming and funny. The house paté of fish and lobster with two sauces was delicate yet flavorful, as was the sauce with a 2-inch thick steak au poivre. But the mushroom hors d’oeuvre, cassoulet dordonaise, was bland and flavorless, not up to the $7 charge. Perfection, of course, is what is expected at the Pyramid Room’s prices. The veal in the pauppiette de veau Bonaparte was tender, but also coarse and grainy, although again, the sauce was successful. The asparagus had been cooked to soft, baby-food texture. For lunch we had a few fine slices of Irish smoked salmon, but the oysters Kirkpatrick were cool, and our side vegetables were undercooked. Still, the cocquilles à la vapeur (sea scallops) were tender and juicy in a light wine sauce. The Pyramid is struggling and is sometimes very good, but the time has gone when it dominated continental dining in Dallas. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross and Akard. 748-5454. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; Dinner: Daily 6-10 Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)Valeriana’s. We can never understand why the venerable Valérianes, a classy newcomer to the continental food business in Dallas, is rarely crowded. Could it be that this quiet, plush little restaurant is overwhelmed by Jean Claude, which is only a cou-pie of blocks up the street? (Ironically, Jean Claude started in this small frame house ) Or maybe it’s just that the Cedar Springs area is saturated with continental restaurants. Regardless of the reason, Val-eriane’s still could be considered a relatively undiscovered restaurant, and for the discriminating diner looking for a good meal. Valérianes’ obscurity constitutes a good deal. The chef does fine work with such standards as rack of lamb: the sole with crab meat, which we’ve sampled on several occasions, is simply excellent We suggest trying the soufflé for dessert; it’s among the lightest offerings in the city. (2520 Cedar Springs between Routh and Fairmount. 741-1413. Daily 6-11 Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)



ITALIAN



Bugatti. Although the interior of this North Dallas pasta place looks like somebody’s basement rec room, the food at Bugatti is the real thing: excellent Italian cooking. If the menu looks like a Xerox of the old Lombardi’s bill of fare, that’s because it almost is. The chef at Bugatti, Setimio Carrelli, and the owner, Mario Peres, are both Lombardi’s veterans. Basically, what they are doing at their new Walnut Hill restaurant is serving up exactly what you would have found at the old Lombardi’s on McKinney And if that constitutes culinary plagarism, so what? Bugatti has not only copied the old Lombardi’s cuisine, it has done a better job of it than has been accomplished by the new Lombardi’s (La Trattoria Lombardi on Hall Street). The tortellini alia crema (called tortellini alia panna at La Trattoria Lombardi) is tastier at Bugatti and also cheaper-$6 at dinner vs. $9.50 at La Trattoria Lombardi. Saltimbocca alla romana will cost $8 at dinner vs. $13.25, and eggplant parmigiana will run you $5.95 vs. $11.95. Cost comparisons like these would be crass and useless were it not for the fact that both restaurants are offering dishes that over the broad range of the two menus taste almost identical. If you miss the crab cannelloni that seemed to disappear when the old Lombardi’s burned, rejoice; it’s back again and just as good as ever at Bugatti. (2574 Walnut Hill. 350-2470. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2, Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11:00. Closed Sun. A£. V, MC. $$)

Campisi’s. First you wait in a long line. Then you’re seated at a bare table in a dark, dingy, crowded room where you’re surrounded by photos of various Campisis and celebrities. Then you order a glass of burgundy and discover that it’s chilled. But then your food arrives and you know why this joint is such an institution. The veal dishes would be excellent even if they weren’t such bargains. The veal marsala, with its rich mushroom sauce, is one of Dallas’ best dining deals at $6.95. The pizza, crisp-crusted and packed with goodies, is justifiably famous, but best when covered with the Campisis’ excellent homemade sausage. The fettucine is likely to be a large overcooked lump, but the thick, cheesy sauce that covers it makes up for the sodden texture. The garlic toast and antipasto are run-of-the-mill, as are the desserts, Black Forest cake and cheesecake, though if you must have a sweet, go with the Black Forest. So, if you just want solid, no-frills Italian at reasonable prices, and don’t mind early K-Mart decor, Campisi’s is worth the wait. (5610 E Mockingbird. 827-0355, 827-7711. Mon-Fri 11 am-mid-night. Sat till 1 am. Sun noon-midnight. Reservations for six or more. No credit cards: personal checks accepted $$)

La Tosca. With its black-and-white checked tile floor, expansive archways and soft lighting, La Tosca exudes stark elegance. Fortunately, the food is up to par with the lovely, understated surroundings. An excellent inclusion on La Tosca’s menu is the octopus salad, tender slices marinated in lime juice and spices. Another flavorful appetizer from the ocean is the pepata di vongole or cozze (clams with tomatoes, garlic and black pepper). La Toscaoffers an extensive selection of pasta, including a spicy orecchiette all’ arrabbiata (ear-shaped macaroni with red pepper, garlic and tomato sauce). As far as veal entrées go. we relished the scaloppine al marsala-tender, buttery veal that practically melted in our mouths. The involtini nicola (veal scallop filled with prosciutto, cheese and herbs) will be appreciated by those with a taste for spicy Italian ham. which overpowered the veal. With the exceptions of the profitterol al cioccolato (a cream-filled puff pastry dribbled with chocolate) and ice cream with strega (an Italian liqueur), desserts should be forgotten. Service can be intimidating and out of sync with the elegance of the restaurant- (7713 In-wood 352-8373 Sun, Tue-Thur 6:30-11. Fri & Sat 6:30-11. Closed Mon All credit cards. $$$)

La Trattoria Lombardi. Sometimes success can ruin a good restaurant Management, intoxicated by the length of the waiting line, gets overconfident Quality plummets Prices climb beyond what is reasonable. Recent visits convince us that, while it would be premature to conclude that La Trattoria Lombardi has been ruined by its past success, the undeniable fact is that the place is slipping. The signs of culinary complacency are beginning to manifest themselves in the pasta. It is frequently overcooked; it is universally overpriced. We recommend avoiding the maleficent manicotti and the languid linguini; instead go for the veal (the veal with lemon butter, veal marsala and saltimbocca alla romana are all excellent), the homemade soups (the minestrone is one of the best in the city) or the frit-tata (great little Italian omelets with ham, cheese, mushrooms, peppers and a tangy tomato sauce). We also recommend the sole with lemon butter, although we’ve been disappointed in some of the other fish selections, such as the mussels with marinara sauce, the clams with white wine sauce and the linguini with clam sauce. Desserts can be superior, especially the homemade ice creams (there are five to choose from). And while the food has slipped a notch, the service definitely hasn’t; it’s among the most hospitable found in Dallas. (2916 Hall. 823-6040. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Sergio’s. The remodeling of Sergio’s has transformed what was once little more than a hole in the wall in a corner of The Quadrangle into an elegant, formal dining establishment. The management is to be complimented for resisting the urge to jack up the prices in order to pay for all that new carpet and wallpaper. But if the transformation is an architectural success, it was something of a culinary failure. The worst result is that the once wonderful homemade pasta is now a bit on the doughy side. Most of the chicken and veal dishes-which have always been standouts-have survived the remodeling. And Sergio’s still makes one of the better omelets available in Dallas, as well as one of the better appetizers-Sergio’s version of marinated crab claws. (Even though the crab claws are obviously only marinated for the time it takes the waiter to walk to your table after the kitchen staff has covered them with a tangy sauce, they are still excellent.) Sergio’s fine track record during the past couple of years makes us confident that the restaurant will soon get its pasta problem in order. But until then, we recommend sticking with one of the seven reliable veal selections on the menu or opting for sole saffron or chicken Florentine. (Suite 165. The Quadrangle. 2800Routh 742-3872. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2, Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards $$)



MEXICAN

Café Cancun. Among the highlights of the imaginative menu here 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 En-trées 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 tastes. Another innovation is the lunch specials-at $3.45. an ideal way to sample Café Cancun’s delights. (4131 Lomo Alto. 559-4011. Mon-Thur 11-10. Fri 11-11, Sat 5-11. Sun 5-70. All credit cards. $$)

Guadalajara. If you believe in the sleaze postulate of the Tex-Mex dining theory (that the more hell holelike a restaurant is, the better the food will be), then you’ll experience love at first sight when you enter this charming establishment. After midnight. Guadalajara can look like a cross between a biker bar and Dante’s “Inferno”. We cant make judgments as to whether there is a corollary between the border-town bordello ambiance and the fact that the food is good at Guadalajara; but it is true that the food is worth mentioning. Among the consistently good offerings are the enchiladas, tacos, tamales, chiles rellenos and frijoles. We’ve also found a good version of chicken mole, as well as some decent chalupas. If you prefer that your fellow diners be dressed in Hickey-Freeman suits instead of sleeveless blue-jean jackets and chain belts, simply go at noon, when the downtown banker crowd packs the place in pursuit of good guacamole. Service can be a bit slow, since management obviously knows it has a good thing going and loyal customers are willing to wait (3308Ross. 823-9340. Tue-Sun 11 am-3:30am. Closed Mon. No reservations. No credit cards. $) Herrera. The management of this little dump of a restaurant on Maple Avenue must have a difficult time resisting the urge to become cocky. After all. it must be a great feeling for a culinary entrepreneur to see all those gringos lined up outside, ready to sweat in the summer and freeze in the winter for an opportunity to sample some of the tasty Tex-Mex that waits inside. But despite the fact that Herrera has more customers than it can possibly serve, the food and service at the tiny restaurant have remained consistently good. Once you’ve elbowed your way to a table (expect a minimum half-hour wait at peak dining hours), we suggest you go tor one of the eclectic dishes like the Jimmy’s special or the Pepe’s special, both of which are virtual Tex-Mex smorgasbords. They include everything from chicken enchiladas to guacamole. Most of the mainline Mexican dinners on the menu are no-miss propositions, although we’ve had mediocre experiences with some of the fancier dishes like guizo de res and carne asada. If you like to drink beer with your meal, Herrera offers the classic good news/bad news situation. The good news is that you can bring beer and drink it in the parking lot while you wait in line; the bad news is that you’d better bring enough to drink with your meal: Herrera has no liquor license. (3902 Maple. 526-9427. Mon, Wed, Thur 9 am-8pm, Fri-Sun till 10. Closed Tue. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

Raphael’s. It may be that Raphael’s has slipped somewhat from its longtime position as one of Dallas’ best Mexican restaurants, or it may be that the growing competition from ambitious upstarts has simply overtaken this established enchilada outpost. Regardless, nobody’s bothered to tell the hungry hordes constantly waiting for tables. When a second location opened on Greenville Avenue, we thought it might be the answer. So far there is no waiting at the Greenville Raphael’s, but perhaps that’s because it doesn’t live up to the somewhat slipped standards of the original Raphael’s. The Greenville menu is not identical-some items, like the superb strawberry or peach sopapillas. are missing, and some, like the dry. underseasoned soft pork tacos, are present that aren’t available at the original. Therefore, we still recommend the Raphael’s on McKinney. if you have the stomach to wait. Once seated, head for the specialty dishes, many accompanied by wonderful pico de gallo. Two sure bets are the authentic combination plate, anassortment of specialties, and the tacos al carbon. (3701 McKinney. 521-9640. Mon-Fri 11:30-10:30, Sat noon-10. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. All credit cards. $$)



D Revisits Mario & Alberto. Who among us has not known Mexican restaurants at their worst: multicolored pinatas swinging low over full-masted need-some-more-tortilla-chip-flags, loud brazen Spanish music and heavy waitresses in short ruffled dresses. Mario & Alberto is none of the worst-it is a completely pastel dining experience, like a meal inside a great peach petit four. The dining room, lit by clusters of votive candles (we resisted an urge to say mass) and made cheery by paper flower arrangements and color wheel placemats, may be a tad overdone, but it’s a soothing success. Mario looks like its sister restaurant, Chiquita, but the food is much better. Strong margaritas, good chips and hot sauce, good chicken nachos and good flautas con crema set a fine mood for main courses chosen from a vast menu. It included everything from standard bean and taco plates to zucchini stuffed with ground sirloin. The tenderloin filet specials were tender, and filete a la pimienta was delicious. But the carne asada tampico-style could have been more vigorously seasoned. The pescado marinero, a white fish filet rolled with spinach stuffing and topped with a more than generous helping of oyster sauce, was good for a while, but a little too much of a good thing. The alambres, a shish kabob, arrived with a tasty soft taco ranchero and a potato de la casa (A potato? What’s he doing here?). Desserts were smooth and well-chosen for a pastel restaurant: cinnamon ice cream and kahlua ice cream pie. (425 Preston Valley Shopping Center, LBJ at Preston. 980-7296 Mon-Thur 11:30-10:30, Fri & Sat till 11. Drinks with $5 membership charge. MC, V, AE. $$)



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. Shanghai steak and diced chicken with almonds are less successful. Portions are generous. and service is extremely fast and accommodating. (15030 Preston at Belt Line. 385-7227. Mon-Thur 11-10:15, Fri 11-10:45. Sat noon-10:4S, Sun noon-10:15. Reservations. Bar by membership. AE, MC, V, CB $$)

Siam. Siam was briefly closed for remodeling, but for the life of us, we can’t figure out what they did to the place. The decor is still comfortably shabby: the Thai food is still reliably terrific. But every time we venture away from our tried-and-true list of favorites, we’re sorry. Nothing on the menu is bad. but few entrées live up to the excellence of the handful of Thai dishes we like to order. By number on the menu, they are: 103 (marinated, broiled pork on a stick, with peanut sauce and cucumber salad). 127 (rice noodles with pork, shrimp and a panoply of aromatic ingredients) and 137 (rosy chicken curry with coconut milk, green pepper, bamboo shoots and fresh mint). The limited lunch menu changes daily. (1730 W Mockingbird near Harry Hines. 631-5482. Mon-Thur 11-10. Fri & Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $)

D Revisits Fangti China 1. What’s worth men tioning about this place are the service and the hours. We’ve been by at all times of the day or night and the waitresses are always chipper and cheerful. Because Fangti is open until six in the morning on weekends, it attracts an eclectic crowd ranging in attire from sophisticated to scruffy. The issue then becomes not so much good Chinese food as available Chinese food that’s not too bad. We like the soups and fried dumplings best here. The Special Soup and the hot and sour work well at late hours after having closed your neighborhood pub at 2 a.m. The entrées, however, are inconsistent. Some look as though their components were chopped by a myopic samurai swordsman We’ve tried a couple of the beef dishes (they tasted the same) and the prawns in hot sauce, all of which were utterly unspectacular The pao-pao (pu pu) platter is no better. And yet the black and gold flocked wallpaper gives Fangti a certain sort of charm. (Twin Bridge Shopping Center. 6752 Shady Brook Lane. 987-3877. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-4 am, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-6 am.)



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) are bargains ($2.50 to $3.75), and there’s an unusually large number to choose from. Soups are not a strong point here; crab meat and corn rice soup is 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. $$)



D Revisits Yunnan Dynasty.
We like almost everything about this place except the service, which is thoroughly competent but not at all personable. Whenever we ask the waiters questions like, “What do you like?” or “Which chicken dish is particularly good?” they look at us as if wed just asked, “Who is this Confucius fellow?” or “Why are all you Chinese people Communists?” We were only curious. Thankfully, you really can’t go too wrong; the food here is different from what we’ve tried elsewhere; and the prices, considering the healthy proportions, are very reasonable. There is one hitch: If you like vegetables, order a meat specialty and a vegetable dish. The specialties will bless you with a surprising amount of meat, a handful of bamboo shoots and very little else. Watch out for the slivers of ginger (unless you truly relish the taste); they give the dishes a full-bodied flavor-fulness, but most people find them unappetizing things to chew. There are other surprises, like the lightly candied walnuts on the assorted appetizer plate, and they all add up to an unusually interesting and fulfilling meal. Our favorite main course, one that we intend to reorder the next time we go, was the scallops with garlic sauce. We’ve also tried the young duckling with hot pepper sauce, the twice-cooked pork and General Tso’s chicken, all with a good degree of satisfaction. Lunch is lighter and less expensive. There never seems to be a crowd on week nights or at lunch. (9100 N Central Expy, Suite 191. 739-1110. Sun-Thur 11:30-10, Fri & Sat 11:30-11. AE, V, MC. $$)



Taiwan. This restaurant is dressier and a bit more expensive than a lot of Chinese places in town, but it stands head and shoulders above most of themwhen it comes to food. Owner-manager Scott Sheu is said to have brought his staff to Dallas straight from San Francisco, and there is a certain sophistication and California-like vastness to the menu. The choices, particularly in terms of appetizers and soups, are more varied here. We tried the Kuo-Teh meat dumplings and found them well worth the 15-minute wait they take to prepare. Of the seven soups, we tried the hot and sour (which was a good interpretation of its namesake), and the sizzling rice soup for two. The flaming pu pu platter is among the best we’ve tried in town, and the spare ribs are unusually large and lean. The kitchen is at its best with the hot and spicy Szechuan dishes. But even our tender-mouthed friends found the unspiced entrees rather bland We liked the Peking beef and princess shrimp and chicken. We also tried the beef sizzling iron plate and a wonderful vegetable dish of crisp snow peas, water chestnuts and peerless mushrooms. The service ranges from nerve-wrack-ingly overattentive to somewhat absent-minded (during one visit we ordered steamed rice and got fried, another time we ordered sweet and sour fish slices and got a bony whole fish instead). (6111 Greenville. 369-8902 Mon-Fri 11:30-3am, Sat & Sun 10-11. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)



SEAFOOD



Charley’s Seafood Grill. Amazing, these Addison eateries. A year ago Charley’s was a vacant lot. Now it’s a first-class seafood emporium complete with everything from shrimp to swordfish on a skewer. And, as is the case with many of the new establishments along Belt Line Road, Charley’s developed an instant following: throngs of Izod-clad diners eager to sample some of the 27 kinds of imported beer (served at arctic temperatures) and munch iced shrimp while waiting a customary 15 to 30 minutes for a table. In truth, the fish is not on quite as high a par as the ambiance. Charley’s is smartly decorated in what the designers are probably calling “Old New England Lighthouse Contemporary.” And while we found the selection of char-broiled fish (red snapper, swordfish steak, trout) to be excellent, some of the fried offerings, such as the shrimp and oysters, were simply so-so. The one negative is Charley’s chowder, truly bland on numerous samplings. The overall dining experience, however, is definitely worth the minimal investment in time and money. (5348 Belt Line, Addison. 934-8501. Sunnoon-10. Mon-Thur 11-10, Fri 11-11, Satnoon-11. MC. DC, V, AE. $$)

Fausto’s. The only thing Fausto’s has going against it is that it is located in the same hotel with an expensive, bad restaurant: Antares. First-time visitors to the Hyatt Regency Hotel try Antares because of the spectacular view atop Reunion Tower and come away disappointed with the food. Hotel patrons assume that if Antares can’t serve a good meal, neither can Fausto’s. That assumption is wrong. The menu is ambitious: Tender and sweet frog legs, juicy swordfish steak, a tasty shark gumbo, poached salmon steak topped with a luscious green peppercorn sauce and an excellent version of duckling in lingonberry sauce are among the broad range of culinary triumphs available. And attention is paid to the supporting cast of items that surround the entrées: marbled black and rye bread toast with Parmesan cheese that arrives before the menu, homemade pear sorbet perched atop an orange half that is served to clear your palate before the main course, fresh strawberries stuffed with chocolate mousse served after the dessert and a fine assortment of homemade soups and chowders at lunch. All this caloric decadence is served up in a darkened dining room that is one of the plushest eating areas in the city Service is attentive but not hovering. (Hyatt Regency Hotel. 651-1234. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11; Fri & Sat till midnight; Sun brunch; 10:30-2:30. All credit cards. $$$$)

Jozef’s
. Jozef’s hasn’t made up its mind to get everything right, so choose carefully Begin with smoked freshwater trout with horseradish sauce, though you may want more horseradish in the sauce. The mushrooms stuffed with crab meat imperial are peppery enough, though, as was the fish soup The crab meat Remick was delightful. Filet of sole Grenobloise was machined into a perfect triangle-too geometrical for the eye-and the capers and croutons added little to the dish The potatoes and vegetables, sodden with butter, were awful. Avoid the shrimp in soggy beer batter with an orange sauce that resembles marmalade. You’re better off sticking with the basics, like live Maine lobster or char-broiled fish of the season. We had a seafood luncheon salad that seemed to have been prepared hours in advance and was bland from refrigeration, very much like the piece of Roquefort cheese we were served. For dessert we had a tasty blueberry cheesecake and an ordinary parfait, and were warned to stay away from the chocolate mousse by a helpful waiter who was attentive but never overbearing. (2779 McKinney. 826-5560. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; Dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-17. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Seascape Inn. The owners of Old Warsaw, Les Saisons. Mario’s and Arthur’s have acquired this admirable addition to the Dallas seafood scene housed in what used to be an unfortunate place: The Baked Potato. The best place to sit for lunch is by the geranium-garnished north windows. At night, the church pew booths with lace partitions are softly lit and romantic. We’ve yet to be disappointed by a meal here, and the service is helpful to the point of being self-effacing. Our sommelier, Johana Ewing, was the best we’ve run across in a long time. Not only was the wine she recommended superb, it was also less expensive than the one we had requested. We did, on one occasion, find what seemed to be an excessive amount of crab cartilage in the crab ramequin, an appetizer made of lump crab meat and tiny mushrooms in a white sauce that otherwise seemed just fine. Other appetizers we’ve enjoyed include the seafood gumbo, New England clam chowder, baked oyster Seascape in a tomato sauce and the ceviche. The rémoulade served with a generous serving of lump crab meat seemed more like a tiresome Thousand Island than what it was supposed to be, but the other sauces were all quite nice. We’ve sampled the salmon in puff pastry, sautéed sea trout with lemon and capers, cape scallops in lemon and butter, and a lovely fried flounder. Everything is so light here you can find room for dessert, and the homemade pies are excellent. (6306 Greenville. 692-6920. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2: Dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat till 11:30. Reservations recommended. AE, V, MC. $$$)

S&D Oyster Company. Never mind the ever-escalating number of posh seafood restaurants in Dallas, S&D could easily survive for years just on its substantial assemblage of regulars who would much rather fight the ever-present crowds than switch. And understandably so; S&D consistently provides seafood cultists with uniformly superior fare. Sure, the interior isn’t quite as snazzy as many of its newer competitors, and S&D’s desserts rank right down there with the worst of the lot. but when it comes right down to it, who cares? S&D has some of the best fresh seafood in Dallas. Period. The broiled whole flounder we had (which our waiter deftly carved before us) was light and fluffy-and most important-fresh. Even the fried shrimp, which was cooked in an incredibly flavorful batter, was worth coming back for again and again. The oyster loaf sandwich (fried oysters served on a buttered bun with tartar sauce and ketchup) is a good idea, but is almost too messy and complicated to be worth the hassle. And unfortunately, it doesn’t even come with S&D’s great sides: crunchy hush puppies and french fries and crisp coleslaw. (2707 McKinney. 823-6350. Mon-Thur 11-10. Fri & Sat till 11. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC. V. $$)

SOUTHERN SPECIALTIES

Celebration. This is the closest thing to a home-cooked meal you’re going to find in a Dallas restaurant. Entrées include old standbys like meat loaf, pot roast, baked chicken and fresh trout And the vegetables are served family style, along with a massive bowl of tossed green salad. The food has been consistently reliable on numerous visits. The only problem, however, is that most of Dallas knows about Celebration, Consequently, the crowds can be hectic, especially if you have to undergo the ordeal of being asked to wait next door in the Celebration leather shop until your name is called over a loud speaker. If you don’t have the patience for a half-hour wait, we suggest you either get there shortly after the place opens or try some of your own home cooking. (4503 W Lovers Lane. 351-5681 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; Dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-11, Sun 5-10. No reservations. MC, V, AE. $$)

D Revisits Sonny Bryan’s. Don’t let the lunch-time crowd spilling out of the greasy, fly-blown former drive-in deter you. There’s a reason all those people are standing in line for 20 minutes: They are praying to the great god of barbecue, and Sonny Bryan is their Moses. If you stand at the edge of the crowd, a waitress will find you, take your order and bring you a cold beer while you wait. And you mght as well order another one to go with the food and drink the first while you wait. You’re waiting for a generous slice of beef in the $1.80 sandwich. You’re waiting for ribs crusty and crinkled on the outside, juicy inside, with a sauce you may want to slurp out of the cardboard basket. We saw one first-timer drink his beer and eat his sandwich and then do the simple, obvious thing: He went to the end of the line and ordered up another round. You are not here for the coleslaw or the beans. You are not here for fast-food take-out (although you might try phoning in an order to delay your wait). You are not here for Formica tables and spotless floors. You are here for barbequed meat. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 7 am-5 pm, Sat 7 am-3 pm, Sun 11 am-2 pm. No reservations. No credit cards. $)



STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.



D Revisits The Bronx. Some people refer to it as atmosphere: others call it ambiance. Whatever it is. The Bronx has it. It would be impossible to pinpoint what The Bronx is reminiscent of -it’s somewhere between Soho chic and southern simplicity. But whatever it is. it works: The Bronx is a great place to sit back and relax, no matter who you are. Sure, the menu is limited, but its offerings are almost always sure bets. Entree specials and vegetable choices vary from day to day. The meat loaf plate (served with a salad, vegetable and roll) can’t be beat at $4.95. Assorted quiches, omelets and salads all bear sampling, as do the daily soups (the chowder and cream of broccoli are especially tasty). And for the thirsty crowd, The Bronx has daily wine specials: not to mention the best (and biggest) glass of spiced tea around. But be prepared to wait-there’s usually a line out the door. (3835 Cedar Springs. 521-5821. Mon-Thur 11:30-12:30. Fri 11:30-1:30, Sat noon-1 30. MC. V. $$)



Hoffbrau. Once again we’ve found the atmosphereat this delightfully Austinesque steak shop to be its primary charm. Sink into the deep vinyl (deep because the springs are shot) booths, put your elbows on the table, have a beer and listen to the genuine Texas accents of the polyester-clad cowboys (the real kind that let you know, in case you doubted, that this is a real steak restaurant). You ’II leave as full as your Levi’s can handle for less than $10. and if you’re into real and beautiful self-abuse, there’s a Haagen-Dazs two doors down for dessert (3205 Knox at Cole. 559-2680- Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri 11-midnight. Sat noon-midnight, Sun 5-11. All credit cards. $$)



FORT WORTH RESTAURANTS

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 bail-out. 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 70 cents; an 18-ounce mug of the same costs 80 cents. 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 Road. (817) 332-0357. Mon-Sat 11-10. Closed Sun. No reservations. No credit cards. $)



D Revisits Joe T. Garcia’s. Gone are the days of the honor system at Joe T.’s, when you went to the kitchen and helped yourself to a beer and then told the cashier, as near as you could remember, how many you had. Now customers aren’t even allowed to walk through the kitchen on their way to their tables. And there is something strangely clean about the place. No, it’s not the Joe T.’s we used to know, the dive where we watched tipsy members of Fleetwood Mac stack margarita glasses eight high, and then watched the glasses tumble and shatter on the table. But we will not believe fame and fortune have disfigured this Fort Worth temple to-Tex-Mex. We waited in line outside on the spooky north Fort Worth street for a full hour, but not a person in our party of 13 voiced a complaint. The industrial-strength margaritas were champions and the family-style Mexican staples (You’ve got your beans, rice, tacos, enchiladas, tortillas and, if you must, nachos. No questions. No substitutions. That’s it.) make for an inherent good time. Time after time. (2201 N Commerce. (817) 626-4356. Mon-Sat 11-2, 5-10:30; Sun 4:30-10. Reservations for 10 or more. No credit cards. $$)



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 prom ises a return to the days when this was the gathering point for the journey up the Chisholm Trail. But the interior is a letdown. There’s nothing much to see except for the pictures of blue-ribbon beeves that are displayed to document the superb quality of meat that has been devoured here. (There’s one pic ture 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 Satur day night service reminded us of the service on the Braniff flight to Oklahoma City: frantic and elusive. (2458 N Main. (817) 624-3945 Mon-Fri 11-10:30. Sat 4:30-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE. DC. $$$)

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