RESTAURANTS NORTHERN STARS

A galaxy of new restaurants north of LBJ.

CHECKING OUT restaurants north of the Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway was frustrating. Every time we drove north to visit one, we discovered two more that had just opened. Where we defined our territory – between LBJ and Belt Line Road between 1-35 and Central Expressway – we found almost 50 eating establishments we thought were worth talking about. (We covered those north of Belt Line a couple of months ago, but we missed a few, so you may find one or two here that are outside our limits.) The range of their offerings and prices is wide: from continental to Cajun, from under-$5 bargains to $50 extravaganzas.

We decided that the best way to tell you about dining in far North Dallas is the same way we tell you about dining in the rest of Dallas: by category. If you find that your favorite spot isn’t mentioned, it might be because we simply missed it. Or it might be because we didn’t like it. If we found a restaurant that we didn’t think we would return to, we didn’t list it.

There’s only one Cajun restaurant on our list, Broussard’s (63 Richardson Heights), though there’s another Brous-sard’s out in Irving. Cayenne is the key word here; the restaurant must use almost as much of the fire powder a week as do the Mcllhenny folks in New Iberia, Louisiana, who produce that ubiquitous juice known as Louisiana Red, the Tabasco sauce found around the world. Try Broussard’s sampler, which features just about everything on the menu and about a pound of cayenne. Gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice -all the basics of Cajun cooking are found here. The atmosphere is standard bayou fish camp -not fancy but fitting.

If it’s Chinese you’ve a yen for, there are 10 or so spots from which to choose, from Richardson to Addison. Our top choice is an unassuming little restaurant that has been around for a while: Lee’s Chinese Restaurant (5635 Alpha Road). Lee’s is small and intimate, with a quiet atmosphere that belies the traffic outside. Both hot and less-spicy dishes are featured. We weren’t disappointed in anything, from the pu pu tray to the shrimp with pine nuts. The chef obviously knows his craft and is proud of his product. In fact, Lee’s doesn’t have to take a back seat to any of Dallas’ Chinese restaurants.

Chu’s, a newer spot (15080 Belt Line), features some of Dallas’ hottest dishes, with an excellent hot-and-sour soup leading the menu. Over in Richardson, there’s Hunan Garden (Belt Line and Coit), another place whose fresh, prepared-with-care food belies its shopping-center-bland outward appearance. Szechuan (800 North Central Expressway) serves up good basic Chinese in the manner of its name-sake area of China. Chungking (8036 Spring Valley) features dishes both fiery and not. Nothing outstanding, but good and solid.

We were disappointed in one of North Dallas’ fanciest Chinese eateries, August Moon (15030 Preston). Its menu is an ambitious one, but we found an assembly-line flavor to many of the dishes: The vegetables looked and tasted like they had come from cans. The fried rice, however, was a winner, loaded with egg and meat. Also worth trying are the lamb dishes.

For continental dining, we recommend Laurent (502 Sakowitz Village). The atmosphere is elegant, and the dishes are well-prepared and frequently innovative. The sauces, especially, are delectable. For dessert, we recommend the chocolate pastry. CAFE RIVIERA, (Carillon Plaza) does okay with its seafood offerings, though the chefs a bit more haphazard with the beef. Try the shrimp Riviera.

KEBAB-N-CURRY (401 North Central Expressway), one of two new Indian! restaurants north of the LBJ, is another! little oasis stuck in the middle of a row of | shopping-center offices. The owner-chef will be more than happy to explain the i menu to you, as well as help you select. Be i sure and try the chicken chat and the ] samosas. The curry, too, is commendable. Like most Indian restaurants, Kebab-N-Curry deserves several visits so you can try everything. Tanjore (5409 Belt Line) is different. Lunch is served cafeteria-style for a set price. It’s a great deal-you can stuff yourself for very little money -and the food is straightforward and filling but not as fancy or as subtle as that at Dallas’ other Indian establishments.

If it’s pasta and other Italian offerings you crave, there’s Lurtino’s in Carillon Plaza and Sergio and Luciano (4900 Belt Line). Both are in elegant settings and offer standard Italian fare: pasta, veal, seafood and chicken. We preferred Lurtino’s, though neither are in the class of Bugatti or Sergio’s. The fettuccine Alfredo at Lur-tino’s was credible, if not really noteworthy.

Fun Ya (13050 Coit) holds the distinction of being the only Japanese restaurant within our geographic limits. Fuji Ya has a relaxed, family-style atmosphere without being all Formica and fake leather, like most such places. The food is basic and workman-like; nothing fancy. But the sushi is good, and the teriyaki is spicy and complex -not watered-down for Texas tastes, as is so often the case. And the prices are reasonable.

At Boston Sea Party (13444 Preston Road), the specialty is seafood in prodigious quantities and respectable varieties. The Party is an all-you-can-eat place, with hot and cold buffet tables where you can gorge on seafood Newburg, oysters Rockefeller, crab claws, shrimp, etc. Most of the fare tastes like it was prepared aboard ship for the homogenous palates of an Allied navy. But there is caviar (all-you-can-eat caviar!) and when you’ve had your fill of all the other stuff, you can order a steak or Maine lobster. The set price for this is $22.95. But don’t save room for dessert; it’s not even worthy of hungry soldiers.

The best seafood we found was at Charley’s Seafood Grill (5348 Belt Line). The atmosphere is New England boathouse: airy and light. The fish is fresh and prepared simply. We had broiled salmon that was tender and flaky and delicious.

At Oyster’s, just up the road (4560 Belt Line), there are a half dozen or so entries daily, as well as some basics. The basics are generally frozen, we were told, but the daily specials are fresh. We had an excellent salmon with capers. For an appetizer, try Audrey’s shrimp dip, an admirable mixture of shrimp and a perfect complementary sauce.

That venerable Fort Worth outpost of Old Mexico, Joe T. Garcia’s, recently opened its first branch, at 4440 Belt Line. It’s a faithful copy of the original, and the menu follows, too. You pay your money and you get Joe T.’s basic Mexican plate. It’s good, uncompromising Tex-Mex, and it may even be worth the wait in that long line.

But if you want a little more for your Mexican dollar, try Don Miguel’s (5280 Belt Line). It, too, is part of a small chain, and it suffers somewhat from having that interior-designed look, but the chile rel-leno is one of the best we’ve ever had. Alaman’s (Carillon Plaza) has an extensive menu that features all the basics of Tex-Mex as well as more substantial en-tries. The two grande plates, which include a bit of everything, are great samplers. And the dessert basket is a huge helping of pastry-fruit selections. Villa Placita, not far away (13020 Preston), is long on pseudo-Mexico atmosphere, but there are some noteworthy offerings, including a kind of Mexican pizza that makes a great appetizer.

For steak lovers, both Texas-style and otherwise, North Dallas offers a good selection. There are two Japanese-style, Kobe (15000 Quorum) and Benihana (12700 Park Central Place). Both feature production dining, with a chef who is as long on showmanship as he is on culinary skill. The meals are substantial, with the combinations -steak with chicken or shrimp or scallops – getting the nod simply for the variety.

Our last category is a catchall. These are the places that offer a bit of everything or that specialize in hamburgers and sandwiches. The best of the lot, and, in fact one of North Dallas’ best restaurants overall for quality of food and preparation, is Andrew’s (14930 Midway), a branch of the McKinney Avenue spot. Andrew’s menu features everything from New Orleans-style seafood to bleu-cheese burgers. The nachos are among the best around, and the barbecue shrimp sets the standard for Dallas.

TGI Friday’s (5150 Belt Line) and its sister, Dalt’s (5100 Belt Line), are similar in that their menus are extensive and their food well-prepared. Friday’s, of course, is always crowded with singles and would-be singles; Dalt’s is crowded with families. We like the malt-shop atmosphere of Dalt’s and the Cobb salad and the mud pie. At Friday’s, we like the Sunday brunch and the burgers and the nachos and the Mexican pizza and the big salads and the …

Poppa’s Porch (in the Promenade Shopping Center) is patterned after the chain steakhouses, but the atmosphere – except tor some awful oil paintings-is better. There’s an extensive salad bar, homemade ho-hum bread (served with margarine) and a few non-steak entries. The steaks are righteous enough, but the non-steak entries are erratic. Stick to the beef.

For those who still haven’t gotten over being in Texas, there’s Texas Tumble-weed (14775 Midway). The steaks are flavorful and tender, but everything else is too-gol-durned hokey. The seats are at long, communal-dining tables, the waiters have names like “Stud” tooled on their belts, and a mediocre country band does ersatz Waylon and Willie on stage. If you can put up with all that for a good steak, then Texas Tumbleweed is your place. The side dishes aren’t worth bothering with.

Memphis (in the Quorum) offers a quiet, relaxed atmosphere; a limited but varied menu; and jazz. The food is burger-salad-quiche, the service is friendly and casual, and the music is marvelous. If you can catch Louis Ginzberg on the piano, do; he’s a great stylist with a book that is as extensive as the menu is limited.

Judge Bean’s (14920 Midway) is a branch of the Greenville Avenue place of the same name. The nachos are credible, and their mud pie is sinful.

Dovie’s (14671 Midway) features basic American fare-fish dishes, meat loaf, baked chicken -but they’ve kept it too simple. Everything was bland when we tried it. Too bad, because the homey atmosphere is a welcome change from the newness of most North Dallas eateries.

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