ENTERTAINMENT LATE DATE

Where to go in Dallas after midnight.

NEVER WILL I be the sultan of suave, the sheik of chic. I was born with a body clock that tries to run down by 10 p.m. As early as eight, it sometimes starts chiming Show Me the Way to Go Home, and I exit yawning, distressed at how old a young evening can make me feel.

Yet now and then, exuberance lingers. A youthful energy returns just long enough to tighten the springs. Ten o’clock passes, and – voila! – I do not poof into a pumpkin. Instead, 1 become hungry for an exotic or expensive meal – a reward, if you will, for enduring a work week of homemade sandwiches and fast food. I long to go to a midnight movie or to a club for relaxed drinks and a couple of hours of live jazz. In short, I want to go on a late date.

If you haven’t lately done the town after 10, if you haven’t looked closely at magazine and newspaper listings, you may be amazed at-even pleased by-Dallas’ expanding list of late-night possibilities. Now, you can dine in an intimate bistro at midnight, hear live jazz at 1 a.m., savor Goldfinger’s Greek food until 2, indulge in Guadalajara’s enchiladas until 3, dance until 4 or 5, and then collapse over an elegant breakfast of eggs Benedict.

The first thing you learn about the new Dallas late date is that it now has a plethora of definitions. Even “late” is relative. “For me, a late date is going to 1 Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt on Greenville Avenue about 10:30 at night or going to a 10 o’clock movie,” says Dallas attorney Stephen Lerer. Sales administrator Emily Walker’s favorite dates begin later and can , be as simple as going to The Bronx for amaretto cheesecake. Or they can be madcap dashes to four or five entertainment stops in one night, including after-hours clubs. “That’s fun, once in a while,” she says. “But usually, I like to go to just one place that offers dinner, entertainment, dancing and the chance to sit and talk. You can lose the party spirit sometimes if you have to get in your car and go somewhere else.”

Others say they enjoy late dates as spontaneous as watching the people and “catching the last drink” in the bars at such hotels as the Hyatt Regency and The Adol-phus. For many people, late evenings planned well in advance – dates that require reservations and dressing up at least to the level of “casual elegance” – are the essence of chic. For them, the perfect beginning is fine wine and haute cuisine – at Jean Claude, L’Ambiance, Calluaud, the Mansion, The French Room, Agnew’s or Laurent. Then dancing, perhaps. Or mellow jazz. Or live entertainment.

Whether the late date is casual or elegant, two “events” – such as dinner and a movie or dinner and enjoying the scene at an active bar – are a favored pattern. Even if you work 9 to 5, there are good reasons for waiting until late to go out: After a trying day, you still have time to unwind in solitude for a few hours and get into a better mood before you pick up your date; often you can beat the crowds that have gone early – in hopes of beating the crowds.

It’s too early to pick the “bests” of Dallas’ late-date spots. The choices, though growing, are not yet numerous; the quality of food, drink, entertainment and service still tends to sag as the hours get later. And unhappily, many of the city’s finer restaurants lock up their menus at 10 or 11 p.m., just when late-daters are starting to roll.

BISTROS

For after-10 drinks, dining and conversation, I take my late date to The Grape (2808 Greenville at Goodwin, 823-0133). Now a Dallas institution, this casually elegant wine bistro celebrates its 10th birthday October 26. The Grape stays open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and has long been a popular place to meet friends after the theater, symphony or opera. Lovers also enjoy its intimate candlelit ambiance. The service is friendly and top-notch, and the food is excellent and reasonably priced. Though I enjoy main-menu selections such as the breast of chicken with herbs de Provence, 1 also can make a satisfying meal from the bread, cheeses and appetizers that include mushroom soup, patés, salad and fresh fruit. Another favorite: Le Rendez-Vous (3237 McKinney, 745-1985), open Tuesday through Sunday until 1 a.m.

ORIENTAL

The next time your late date brags that he or she “can eat Chinese food for breakfast,” plan a surprise, pre-sunrise stop at Fangti China 1 Restaurant. Recently, Fangti (6752 Shady Brook Lane, 987-3877) was the undisputed endurance champion in Dallas’ burgeoning ranks of late-night Oriental restaurants. Its shopping center setting and red and black decor may be tough on your eyes after a long night of candlelight and romancing. And the promised “Chinese food supreme-authentic Hunan and Mandarin cuisine” occasionally tastes as if cooked by a sleepy chef. But when you’d rather have moo goo gai pan than a bowl of Cheerios, how can you refuse a chopstick palace that closes at 4 a.m.?

Late-night Oriental food is obviously a popular innovation in Dallas. The list of Chinese restaurants that stay open past midnight keeps getting longer. And they are drawing a mixture of customers that dining critics love to describe as “eclectic”: well-dressed couples, jeans-clad loners on the prowl after getting off hospital late shifts, apartment dwellers with the munchies, policemen on patrol breaks, truckers with taste.

Hunan (Greenville and Lovers Lane, 369-4578), is a longtime destination for many Dallasites. Hunan now serves its namesake and Szechuan dishes Monday through Saturday until 3 a.m.

Others open after midnight:

The Big Wong (2406 Fitzhugh, 826-2202), nightly until 3 a.m.

Central China (Medallion Shopping Center, East Northwest Highway at Abrams, 363-7428), Friday and Saturday until 4 a.m.

China Coast (2920 West Northwest Highway, 350-6282), Friday and Saturday until 4 a.m.

Taiwan (6111 Greenville, 369-8902), Monday through Saturday until 3 a.m.



MEXICAN



We can’t blame Dallas’ more prominent Mexican restaurants for keeping what some may call respectable hours, but we sure are fond of the few that stay open late. All right, it’s true that a 2 a.m. refrigerator raid is fun, but can it satisfy insomniatic taste buds the way guacamole can? Or steaming hot nachos? Fortunately, there’s Guadalajara (3308 Ross Avenue, 823-9340), which offers no-nonsense Mexican food in a no-nonsense setting. We’re talking authentic Mexican. And Guadalajara serves until 3:30 a.m. -even on week-nights (except Monday). Enchiladas, tacos, tamales – at Guadalajara it’s all good and reasonably priced. This is definitely not the place for a fancy late date, but it’s indisputably original. The 3308 Ross address is an adventure in itself.

Also: Chito’s (4447 Maple at Lucas, 526-9027), open nightly until 4 a.m.

JAZZ

One night recently at Fender’s Bar and Grill (Dallas’ largest jazz club) my late date and I ordered boiled shrimp and spinach salads – and got neither. Early daters, our waitress informed us, had eaten up both items by 9 o’clock. Such is the risk of late-dating. We tried the half pound of crab claws ($4.45) and the hamburger with fries ($3.95), instead, and settled back contentedly to enjoy a local favorite: the sometimes funky, sometimes mellow, sometimes hard-driving sounds of the Bill Tillman band.

I favor the casual sprawl of Fender’s over smaller, more traditional jazz rooms because, frankly, I am a bad serious listener. I like to eat and watch changing scenery while the music plays. And sometimes I want to talk to my late date without disturbing the head-nodding aficionados of improvisation who also flock there. So at Fender’s (2828 West Northwest Highway, 350-4240), I usually wind up out on the glass-covered patio, sprawled in a Queen Anne chair, watching the restless traffic on Northwest Highway and Southwest Airlines’ red-eye specials departing Love Field. The music is live Wednesday through Sunday until 2 a.m.

Another favorite haunt is Dallas’ most venerable jazz club, Strictly Tabu (4111 Lomo Alto, 522-8101), which has been around since the early Fifties and has the funk to prove it. Naturally, my late date and I gravitate to the restaurant area in the back, where we can eat pizza and salads (until 1 a.m. Fridays, midnight Saturdays and Sundays), talk comfortably and still enjoy the music.

Other clubs and lounges offering after-midnight jazz:

Bagatelle (4925 Greenville, 692-8225), the Paul Guerrero band until 12:30 Thursday and until 1:30 Friday and Saturday.

Cirrus Lounge (Doubletree Inn, 8250 North Central Expressway, 691-8700), until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and until midnight Sunday.

6051 Club (6051 Forest Lane at Preston, 661-3393), open Thursday through Saturday until 2 a.m.

Popsicle Toes (5627 Dyer, 368-9706), offers the Dallas Jazz Orchestra each Sunday night, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

DANCING

There are lots of places to dance in Big D and most are open until 2 a.m., but several go into after-hours (when liquor can no longer be served) for those with indefatigable feet. Here are the few that we could pinpoint:

Papagayo, disco (87% North Central Expressway, 692-5412). Open until 4 a.m. on weekends.

Confetti, pop rock and nostalgic rock (5208 Greenville at Lovers Lane, 369-6977). Open until 4 a.m. on weekends.

BREAKFAST



Any complete late date that is to last until dawn properly includes breakfast. And that doesn’t mean coffee and toast – and bleary-eyed stares – at a truck stop, or poached eggs at “your place or mine.” The Brasserie at the Fairmont Hotel (Ross at Akard, 748-5454, ext. 194) is frequently rated Dallas’ top 24-hour coffee shop. My favorite menu items: the French Toast Im-periale with Canadian bacon ($4.75) and a $2 glass (albeit small) of fresh-squeezed orange juice, served in its own little ice bucket.

The Hyatt Regency Hotel’s coffee shop, Esplanade (651-1234), also serves around-the-clock. Well- or casually dressed daters can dine comfortably there amid a scenic setting.

For something downright inelegant, investigate the Farmer’s Grill. It really can’t be considered a late-night spot because it closes at 8 every evening. But Farmer’s Grill opens at 6 each morning, which is all we care about anyway. Eggs, bacon, grits, toast – basic, no frills breakfast fare. After all, who really needs frills at 6 in the morning? (908 Park Street, downtown, 741-9361).

24 HOURS

Because a late date can happen at any time and without any warning – as the best ones always do – I hold in highest esteem those Dallas establishments that proudly, perhaps bravely, remain open “24 hours a day.” If you or your companion contract the munchies, try Hungry’s Munchateria (8446 Park Lane, 368-9793). What appears from the outside to be the junkiest of junk joints is actually a cozy little dive serving buffet-style food as well as grilled burgers and fries. But the real reason to give Hungry’s a go is their hot, gooey chocolate-chip cookies. They’re good enough to turn any first late date into a lasting romance.

Also:

The Bell Pepper, for a wide assortment of omelets and an even wider assortment of people. (3411 McKinney, 521-9035.)

Dwayne’s Coffee Shop, serving seafood, sandwiches and just about anythingyou might want. (12414 Jupiter Road, 327-9947.)

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