Friday, August 12, 2022 Aug 12, 2022
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Pud Thai, prime beef and egg foo yung
By D Magazine |

Le Panier. By day, this small, familiar Snider Plaza restaurant is not highfalutin. It uses its Anglicized title, The Lunch Basket, and it allows customers to write their own orders, checking off sandwich, soup and salad selections with colored pencils provided at each table. But the p.m. version of the restaurant, which opened for the first time September 21, is a cheval of a different color. At 6 p.m., the lights go down and The Lunch Basket becomes Le Panier. The candles are lit and the tuna salad (which we’ve always loved) makes way for a limited sampling of first-rate cuisine from six countries. The escargots Rockefeller were described simply as “something new” among the hors d’oeuvres, all of which cost a mere $3. When the “something new” arrived, we discovered that it was mostly spinach (albeit tasty spinach) livened with thyme and cream. We thought that the snails were somewhat overshadowed, but the taste combination was delicate and perfect for upscale Popeye-types. Another hors d’oeuvre, shrimp sardis (a combination of tiny bay shrimp, onions, capers and spices) was equally overshadowed by the large slab of avocado that accompanied it.

Among the entrées, the polio Barcelona and the red snapper Veracruz were good, but they were hard to distinguish because the fish and chicken were disguised by elaborate tomatoey toppings. But the chef should have no trouble evening out the balance of power; his Oklahoma Burn, obviously the North American entry in the pageant of entrées from Greece, France, Mexico, Denmark and Spain, was a perfectly cooked strip loin steak. The roast leg of lamb was rich and tender. All entrees are served with three fresh vegetables and a hot, flaky croissant (why don’t we see them more often?) or French peasant bread. Le Panier is the kind of tiny, romantic hole in the wall of which there can never be too many-a perfect place for popping questions followed by diamond rings. (3404 Rankin. 369-3241. The Lunch Basket: Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Le Panier: Tue-Sat 6-10 p.m. Reservations. MC, V. $$)

Rheun Thai. The genealogy of the first Thai restaurant to hit Dallas’ affluent northern suburbs is rather complex. Siam, the place that was long our favorite among the city’s Thai restaurants, was recently sold and its name was changed to Siam Orchid. The former proprietors of Siam are planning to open a new location sometime next year, but meanwhile, several members of Siam’s old staff have ventured out on their own to open Rheun Thai. No one could call its location (a former barbecue joint next to the Department of Public Safety offices in Keystone Park) fancy. But at least you don’t fear for your life, as you might in the neighborhood of the old Siam.

The important thing about Rheun Thai is that the food, at its best, is at least as good as that served by its honorable ancestor, which immediately places Rheun Thai in the inner circle of Asian restaurants hereabouts. Many of Siam’s specialties are reproduced intact, from the pork sate (skewered strips of roasted meat served with a miraculous curry-and-ground-peanut sauce) to pud Thai (a delicious Siamese noodle dish that defies description). The chef, who may look familiar from his time as headwaiter at Siam, obviously learned well from his apprenticeship, and he and his old boss seem cordial since the former proprietor of Siam occasionally drops by to stir up a sauce for him.

News just as welcome to fans of Thai food is the selection of unfamiliar dishes available here, including a fabulously spicy Thai sausage spiked with the flavor of lemon grass. The puffy, deep-fried stuffed chicken wings are great fun as appetizers, and the chicken roasted Thai-style is a succulent main dish. Best of all is one of those off-the-wall Thai meat salads; one, of minced porkand slivered ginger, is a powerful rival to ourformer favorite, a mixture of sliced broiledbeef with mint and fresh peppers. But atRheun Thai, even a simple dish like chickencooked with mushrooms and onions is astandout. In addition to all this wonderfulfood, the service is warmer and friendlierthan at any other Asian restaurant we know.But be forewarned: Not all the new dishesare on the menu yet, and you shouldn’tjudge this place by its luncheon buffet,which waffles on the restaurant’s ethnicheritage by offering Chinese dishes alongwith Thai ones. Go in the evening and revelin one of the best Oriental meals around.(13929 N. Central Expwy. in Keystone Park,Suite 400. 427-2484. Mon-Thur 11 a.m.-10p.m., Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun 5-10 p.m. AE,DC.$$)

Ho Ho. Americans are gradually learning that Cantonese cooking has two faces: One is the Chinese-American style that many of us grew up with-the comforting world of sweet-and-sour sauces and egg foo yung, which can be very good (even though it is distinctly unchic these days). The other is the real, indigenous style of the southeastern part of China. It, too, has been popular in America for years, but mostly among the Chinese immigrants living in the Chinatowns of the larger coastal cities.

Ho Ho, the new restaurant occupying the redecorated site of the old House of Gong, brings this lesson home, because it is trying hard to offer outstanding Cantonese cooking of both types. There are two menus, one devoted to each Cantonese style. The friendly proprietor, Tai Quon, has brought in chefs from California (and previously from China) who handle both jobs. Most Americans who venture into this pleasant but not overly fancy restaurant will order from the “American” menu. They will be pleased because nobody else in town does a better job with the old favorites. Sweet-and-sour pork is crisp and chewy; egg foo yung, light and rich. Food is taken seriously here, as can be determined from the properly maintained lobster tank, stocked with dozens of the luscious crustaceans. At $16.95, the price of the lobster dinner is a bit steep for a casual evening out, but the other prices at Ho Ho are low for what you get, so splurge.

“Chinese people are very picky about what they eat,” says Quon, and the numerous Chinese patrons attest to Ho Ho’s quality. The Chinese menu (on which most dishes also have English translations) runs to dishes that most Occidentals will shy away from. Quon will make suggestions for experimental dishes, but some of the waiters (although more pleasant than in many competitive places) are less encouraging. Sometimes, the differences in dishes are not that great. The shrimp in black bean sauce is similar to lobster Cantonese, only it’s more robust, with lots of ginger instead of the garlic found in the Americanized dish. A few dishes crop up in both places; the Qui Fee Har, a shrimp dish named after a famous Chinese empress, is a subtle creation that will please everyone. (3726 W. Northwest Hwy. 351-4316. Daily 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m. All credit cards. $$)

Stetson’s. We first heard some discouraging reports about Stetson’s (one of the restaurants at the new Registry Hotel), so we waited awhile before checking it out. Some of its problems remain, but the most important thing about this pricey, determinedly masculine place is that it serves the best steaks in Far North Dallas. The menu is a bit coy in describing its “prime beef; when a restaurant procures real USDA prime, it usually spells that out with legal precision. We won’t vouch for the official grade of the meat, but we can certify that it is of excellent quality and that it is certainly aged well and properly. Many people have never tasted a steak that has been cut off a side of beef hung for 21 days under controlled conditions. You can buy that kind of meat at Stetson’s. It is a little chewier-perhaps a tad less juicy than steaks of lower rank. But its flavor is beyond comparison. Stetson’s offers these hunks of heaven in various cuts and a wide range of sizes; they’re cooked over an open flame.

Stetson’s flaws are not all that grievous, but when you pay these prices (which are steep, indeed), you expect perfection. Service is harried and disorganized-not particularly helpful or friendly. The restaurant’s other specialty is seafood, and it has its ups and downs. The boiled shrimp is pleasant but bland; the broiled salmon, so full of bones that it is almost impossible to eat. But Stetson’s does recover a lot of lost ground in the quality of some of its side dishes. The split-pea soup is smooth, creamy and very delicate in taste; the salads and dressings are all remarkable; the potato selections are interesting. Even the desserts are good; the pecan pie boasts a full, rich flavor and hand-fuls of oversized nutmeats. The bar also serves several varieties of estate-bottled wine by the glass. Apparently, there are enough big spenders who can forgive Stetson’s its peccadilloes in order to taste its bounties because the place is often crowded. If you want to join the high rollers in taking a chance on having a great steak and a good time, be sure to make a reservation. Even ifyours is lost, as ours was, your conviction inclaiming that you had one will probably getyou a table. (Registry Hotel, 15201 DallasPkwy. 386-6000. Lunch: 11:30-2:30; dinner:5:30-midnight; seafood bar 11:30 a.m.-midnight. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

Tours. This place reminds us less of Fort Worth than any other restaurant in town. Sitting inside the pastel-colored room, we could have been sitting in San Francisco, Chicago or Washington, D.C. (we spied nary a cowboy hat nor heard even a trace of a Texas drawl the entire evening). Although Tours has a long way to go before becoming a truly well-run continental restaurant-with distracting lighting, tables too large for intimate conversation and a still-evolving menu-we found that the staff tries hard to please. Fresh, homemade sourdough rolls were constantly before us, along with ample supplies of sweet butter. The salmon was fresh, with a light hollandaise sauce that was neither overpowering nor too lemony (as is often the case with fish dishes). The veal, likewise, was cooked simply but well, witha light tomato and wine sauce, and the accompanying green beans were crisp. Fordessert, there’s a chocolate cake that willsatisfy even the most die-hard chocolatelover. The lemon mousse is less rich andended our meal with a light touch. Despiteits strip shopping center location on SeventhStreet and its limited space (there’s justone room and virtually no waiting area),Tours-if it remains ambitious-will joinFort Worth’s dining mainstream. (3429B W.Seventh Ave. (817)870-1672. Lunch: Tue-Sat11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30 p.m.Closed Mon. Reservations recommended onweekends. MC, V. $$$)


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 to do with paid advertising.

The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise. They indicate 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. Expect to spend more than $20 for a complete meal (excluding wine and cocktails).

$$$$ Very expensive.

“Reservations” indicates that the restaurant will take reservations.

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

indicates a restaurant located on or north of LBJ Freeway.


Dickey’s. We talkin’ lean, high-quality meat heah, boy,and good sweet slaw and plenty o’ beans, plus juicycorn on the cob that’ll squish butter right over on yourlady if you don’t watch out. Around noon, this place iscrawlin’ with good ol’ boys and bidnissmen, but theydon’t keep ya standin’ long. You may need a little extrysauce on the meat, ’less you like it dry, but this ain’t theFrench Room, so just git on up ’n’ git it. These ol1 boys’llgive you some ambiance, too: They got signs up withthe words spelled like real people say ’em, like “coldslaw” and “sandwitches.” It’s a hoot And look for the littleproverbs on the chalkboard, like: “Girls, be sure you’reright, then ask your husband.” Shoot, that’s tellin’ ’em.Just one hitch: That banana puddin’ tastes like it’s beencozyin’ up to a test tube. No way that’s homemade.(4610 N Central Expwy, 821-1571; 13613 Dallas Pkwy,233-3721; 7770 Forest, 361-6537. Mon-Sat 11 am-8pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

Peggy’s Beef Bar. If you’re looking for a place to grab a quick barbecue sandwich in comfortable but modest surroundings (by Park Cities standards, this is a dive), don’t waste any more shoe leather. Peggy knows how to dish up some super beef, but she serves stingy portions. And the old gal knows how to make some incredible onion rings and tasty homemade pies, but somebody ought to tell her to stop charging 20 cents for iced tea refills. Guess the rent in the Park Cities is getting high these days. (6600 Snider Plaza. 368-9422. Mon-Fri 7 am-6 pm. Sat 10 am-4 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

The Rib. This may be the fanciest barbecue place in town, what with its tuxedoed waiters and candlelight, but the touches of old-plantation elegance don’t interfere with the business here: lip-smacking barbecued chicken, brisket and (drum roll, please) ribs. Everything we tasted was good – the family-style beans and sweet German potato salad, the soft, hot garlic bread, the ice-cold beer – but nothing compares to ribs at The Rib. Our waiter warned us at the beginning of our meal not to fill up on the appetizer of smoked sausage, but we couldn’t hold back. By the time we had finished the main course, we were bursting at the seams. The only things we lacked were soap and water to wash the remainder of our meal off our hands and faces. Then our waiter brought us a bowl of hot water with lemon to do just that. (5741 W Lovers Lane. 357-8139. Daily 5-10 pm. Carryout available daily 4-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Roscoe White’s Easy Way. You don’t just happen upon what has been affectionately referred to as ’The Greasy Way” by a generation of Highland Park residents who were weaned on Roscoe’s barbecue sauce. With an atmosphere of sights and smells from a grade-B truck stop and service reminiscent of “Laverne and Shirley” (without the laughs), there’s little on the surface at this place to entice you to stay. But persevere: There’s some decent home-style barbecued beef, ribs and chicken-fried steak to be had. And the sandwiches are a better bet than the combo plates. Most dishes are accompanied by a fresh (if unimaginative) salad, good tries and a basket of rolls and corn bread. In true truck-stop tradition, desserts are mostly of the fruit- and meringue-pie variety. (5806 WLovers Lane. 526-5044. Daily 7 am- midnight. All credit cards. $)


Sonny Bryan’s. This disreputable-looking joint is nigh onto world famous because it serves some of the best barbecued brisket and spareribs anywhere. But can you stand the commotion while hanging around to get your order taken and the discomfort of waiting for it? Can you stand the rickety old school desks if you want to eat inside? Can you stand the mediocre trimmings and the crush of the wildly disparate types who crowd this place? Can you stand the litter that never seems to get picked up? If you care about first-rate barbecue, you don’t have much choice but to brave the difficulties, shut up and eat. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 7 am-2:30 pm, Sat 7 am-3 pm. Sun 11 am-2 pm. No credit cards. $)

Salih’s Bar-B-Que. Salih’s is a longtime Dallas institution that moved north to the Addison strip a few years ago. We cam brag about the beet brisket, which is rather ordinary, but Salih’s smoked ham and chicken andthe sausage poor-boys are great. The extras are a bitbetter than at most barbecue |oints, too. The unusualboiled cabbage is strongly flavored with garlic, and thesmoked beans are home-cooked pintos, not canned.In a city where better-than-average barbecue is all tooscarce, Salih’s stands out. (4801 Belt Line, Addison.387-2900. Mon-Sat 11 am-8:30 pm. Closed Sun. Nocredit cards. $)


Adelina’s. Where else in University Park can you make do-it-yourself burritos of chorizo and eggs or retried beans for breakfast? A sturdy meal like this will brace you for a chilly day of hard work. Adelina’s also serves lunch, but the ordinary Mexican food doesn’t compare with the fare that made the proprietor’s former establishment, Adelante. so special. (6027 Berkshire Lane. 363-8680. Mon, Tue & Thur-Sat 9 am-3 pm. Wed 6-9 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)


Cindy’s. From early Saturday morning until lunch time,when most restaurants shut down for lack of business,Cindy’s is hopping with sporty types just off the tenniscourt or the logging path, as well as families and little oldladies. Sunday mornings are even busier. We’re notsure that we’ve figured out the appeal of this place- itmay |ust be that there’s something for everybody here.Cindy’s bills itself as a pancake house and delicatessen.The pancakes we had were too cottony and flavorlessfor our tastes, but the blintzes (although unrecognizableto a New Yorker), the fat corned beef and pastramisandwiches – even the hamburgers – are fine.(11111N Central Expwy, 739-0182; Coit Road at Belt Line inDai-Rich Village, Suite 385, Richardson, 231-3660.Sun-Thur 6 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6 am-midnight. MC, V.$)

The Hungry Jockey. It doesn’t have the clout or the cachet of the Mansion, but it’s a power hangout nonetheless. This modest little restaurant near Preston Road and Forest Lane has been hosting pre-work business breakfasts and Saturday outings with Daddy since it opened 11 years ago. The Jockey serves solid, standard coffee-shop fare with a few outstanding twists: pecan waffles, blueberry pancakes and great biscuits with cream gravy. And if it’s close to lunch time, you might want to try the chicken-fried steak. (In our book, you’re better off making your own eggs at home.) Service is superior by any measure, but it shines in the only area that really counts at breakfast: The coffee arrives right after you do. (1417 Preston Forest Square. 661-0134. Mon-Sat 6:30 am-2 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

Little Gus’. This lower Greenville landmark is the perfect spot for breakfast, the day’s least pretentious meal. Justly famous for its greaseburgers (lunch) and Greek specialties (dinner), Little Gus’ also whips up a fine basic breakfast and serves it any hour of the day. The food comes hot and in a hurry; usually, even on a busy morning, you’ll hear your name called before you’ve scanned the headlines. The cook – no chefs here- can distinguish between eggs over easy and eggs over medium, a gift too rare in the age of Denny’s. (1916 Greenville. 826-4910. Mon-Thur 7:30 am-4 pm & 6-9 pm: Fri & Sat 7:30 am-4 pm &6-10 pm; Sun 9 am-1:45 pm. No credit cards. $)

Lucas B & B. Who says reasonable breakfast prices and waitresses with beehive hairdos went out with the Fifties? The decor here is early greasy spoon, the service is fast and courteous, and the atmosphere is bustling. Were it not for an occasional Oak Lawn punk rocker seated in one of the orange booths behind you, you might mistake Lucas’ for a West Texas café. The eggs are as fresh and tasty as the menu hypes them. but the rest of the food is average. This is a good place to get served quickly while reading the morning paper. (3520 Oak Lawn. 526-8525. Daily 24 hours, except 1:45-3 pm. MC, V.$)

The Mecca. Welcome back to the land of marbled Formica, orange vinyl booths and – if you ask for it-speed-of-light service with a smile. The price of two eggs, hashbrowns or grits, bacon or sausage and biscuits hasn’t changed in years, and the heaping portions and heavenly taste can’t be topped. The Mecca missed the age of Texas chic (thank goodness), but the biscuits are still light and just right for dunking, the eggs are hot and the grits (with a little salt) are divine. (10422 Harry Mines. 3520051. Mon-Fri 5:30 am-3 pm. Sat 5:30 am-2 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $)


The Bay Tree. During the first 10 minutes of our visit to the Wyndham Hotel’s gourmet restaurant, we twice heard waiters apologize for its minuscule size. But despite that dubious beginning, we enjoyed a beautifully prepared rack of lamb that was artistically arranged in small slices around a tomato stuffed with eggplant. The lamb was cooked to perfection: crisp on the outside and juicy toward the middle. We also tried the special New York sirloin, wonderfully presented in a red wine sauce topped with tender morels. For dessert, the double-fudge cake served with orange sauce was rich and creamy. (The Wyndham Hotel. 2222 Stemmons. 631-2222. Lunch: Mon-Fh 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30: Sun brunch: 11-3. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Belvedere. Cozy as an Austrian country inn, with a fireplace that blazes year round, Belvedere may be one of the best kept secrets in town. With a less-than-ob-vious location (it’s upstairs in a Lomo Alto apartment hotel), this Teutonic cousin of The Chimney is easy to miss. But don’t: The service is pampering; the atmosphere, romantic; the food, top-notch; the prices, fair. Veal lovers will rejoice at the variety of preparation available, from simple medallions sautéed in lemon and butter to a piquant veal steak in Dijon mustard sauce and capers. Veal Oscar with crab and asparagus is good, but it would benefit from a less liberal dousing of hollandaise. Other standouts: the house wine, the vichyssoise, the Belvedere salad with bleu cheese and the ’Austrian snowball,’ a vanilla ice cream ball rolled in almonds and laced with chocolate sauce. (4242 Lomo Alto in Crestpark Hotel. 528-6510. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30 All credit cards. $$$)

Bohemia. We’d give up dining at a hundred North Dallas continental palaces for a single meal at this tiny, family-owned Bohemian restaurant with its frilly lace curtains, flickering votive candles, warm bread and soft butter. The atmosphere is undeniably romantic, dinner is served by descendants of the Czechoslovakian babushka who works wonders in the kitchen. We tried boiled beef and were wholly content with the stout serving of beef, sour-cream gravy and dill sauce. The sauer-braten was prepared in the Czech manner (with cream) and arrived with a side dish of cranberries. Although the entrees here are plenty filling, don’t skip the soup (the potato soup has a hearty, beefy taste). The chocolatemousse is laced with |ust the right amount of orange liqueur, and the giant slab of strudel is scrumptious.(2810 N Henderson.826-6209. Tue-Thur 530-10 pm,Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards.Reservations recommended on weekends. $$$)

Blom’s. Cool pastels mix well with Gershwin tunes inthis Westin Hotel restaurant. The food is, for the mostpart, excellent. The lobster, salmon and scallop terrineprepared with dill and tarragon was smooth; each seafood flavor was distinguishable. The artichoke bottomsfilled with crab were fresh and were served with a light,buttery sauce. The cream of watercress soup wassmooth, rich and chilled perfectly. Delightful tart sorbetsin five or six different flavors are offered before the entree, and a tree of complimentary petit fours appearsafter every meal. (The Westin Hotel, 13340 DallasPkwy. 934-9494. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm: Sun brunch:10:30-2:30. Jackets and ties required. Reservationsrecommended. All credit cards. $$$$)


Agnew’s. Any problems Agnew’s may have had in the past were blessedly temporary: Our last meal here was perfect All of the dishes we sampled were so beautifully cooked that we can’t even single out favorites The appetizers come in great variety (quail salad, delicatelysauced shrimp, tiny scallops in puff pastry), while theentrees tend to follow a formula. Perfectly grilledmeat – crusty, juicy salmon and steaks of veal orbeef – sit atop the subtlest sauces in town and are surrounded by bouquets of whittled vegetables. The desserts on the menu were so tempting that we orderedone of each, and the sublime raspberry and chocolatecakes lived up to every sinful expectation. (15501Dallas Pkwy in Adelslein Plaza. Suite 300. 458-0702.Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Fri 630-10 30. Satseatings at 6:30 & 9 30 Closed Sun Reservationsrecommended. All credit cards. $$$$)

Café Capri. Café Capri is another of the Old World-style, standardly continental new kids in town. The parking lot is full of expensive cars, the cloak room overflowswith luxurious fur coats, and diners here leave happilyfilled with high-quality cuts of beef. veal, fish or fowl. ButCafe Capri is better than most newcomers of its genre.The sauces on our entrees were prepared at the table,and although we were a bit nervous as we watched ourwaiter submerge a beautiful steak Diane in thick brownsauce, we were relieved and delighted to taste the lightblend of red wine, cream, mushrooms, shallots, Dijonmustard and Worcestershire sauce. The strawberriesflambé alone made the drive to Addison worthwhile.The mixture of fresh berries, orange rind, brown sugarand Grand Marnier topped with whipped cream wasspectacular. (15107 Addison Road, near Belt Line.960-8686. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$)

Café Moustache. This is a sweetly melancholy Eastern European restaurant at lunch time on weekdays and on Thursday and Saturday evenings, and It becomes Indonesian on Friday nights. During the week, stuffed cabbage rolls and peppers are offered, along with chicken Kiev and hearty beef stews. On Friday nights, a different cook comes in to make rijstaffel, an Indonesian specialty, which is the entire menu for the evening. The dish is assertive and peppery-well worth a try. (9454 Marsh Lane. 350-9314. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 -2; dinner: Thur-Sat.5-10. MC, V, AE. $$)

Café Royal. With so many elegant new restaurants in town, it’s easy to forget about Cafe Royal. The place has settled quickly into a kind of matronly middle age. The food, too, can be a bit dowdy (no more of those nou-velle touches that seemed so chic when Café Royal opened), and there are lapses: strong-smelling crayfish and butter that tastes as if it had been sitting in the fridge for days. But there can still be magic in this kitchen, especially when the dish prepared is a classic one with a little zing to it. The chevreuil sauce adds a delightful touch to a tender filet of beef, and the thick veal steak and accompanying shrimp are ideal in texture and taste. The kitchen also serves some of the best souffles in town. (650 N Pearl in Plaza of the Americas. 747-7222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11:30. Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

Calluaud’s. It’s just like old times now that Martine and Guy Calluaud have resumed their lunch service at the home location on McKinney Avenue. The luncheon salads are as elegant as ever, and the lamb chops with trench fries have also returned intact. Dinner here is still one of Dallas’ most sensual experiences. Everything from the expertly assembled champagne cocktails to the excellent after-dinner liqueurs is orchestrated with quiet perfection. We began our meal with pheasant paté with pistachio and truffles en croute. followed by a house salad (asparagus, tomato, artichoke hearts and avocado on a bed of lettuce with a Dijon mustard dressing). Next came the entrees: duck with two sauces (mushroom and béarnaise with tomato), grilled sea bass in tomato sauce with basil, tournedos and filet en croute in madeira sauce with truffles. All were impeccably prepared and artfully served. For dessert: souffles-what else? (2619 McKinney 823-5380. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat seatings at 7& 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. MC, V, AE; personal checks accepted. $$$$)

Carat. This isolated corner of the downtown area has been transformed into a true French outpost. Ceret tries to bring authentic bistro food to Dallas at popular prices ($20 for two for a four-course dinner) and is mostly successful. The chefs specialty is a simplified feuilleté (puff pastry) that reaches optimum crispness and tenderness. Other items vary in quality from excellent to fair. Among the appetizers, the pate of duck liver and the terrine of duck breast were first-rate, but the salmon mousse had a tinny aftertaste. The outstanding seafood offering was the sautéed scallops. The steak, although cut too thin to be cooked truly rare, was preferable to the duck breast, which was tough. All the desserts we sampled were scrumptious. (703 McKinney. 720-0297. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

The Chimney. This Swiss-Austrian restaurant has acquired quite a following in Dallas since it opened in 1968. Regulars are greeted by name, but newcomers are made to feel no less welcome. We were charmed by the friendliness of the waitresses, the soft classical German recordings and a meal we enjoyed from start to finish. A light beginning is The Chimney appetizer: scallops, shrimp and shallots in a white wine and cream sauce, rolled in a crêpe and topped with hollandaise sauce and a touch of Dijon mustard. We also enjoyed the chunky cream of mushroom soup, the imaginatively dressed salads and plenty of The Chimney’s black bread (owner Heinz Prast’s own recipe). Veal is the specialty of the house (10 varieties are offered), and the veal Oscar is excellent. The veal colonial, however, was not: The natural flavor of the meat was smothered by a mediocre curry sauce, broiled bananas and coconut. Next time, we’ll stick to basic veal or lamb. (9739 N Central Expwy at Walnut Hill. 369-6466. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)


Chide. Nestled in the middle of a shopping center is a small burst of pizazz: Chloe. The decor of this continental dining establishment is pleasant, with a large window at one end of the dining room that overlooks a gentle fountain outside on the restaurant’s patio. The food is good: basic fish, fowl and beef. The smoked salmon appetizer was fresh; the portion, generous. The heart of palm salad lacked excitement, but the veal and sole entrees were superb – definitely the menu’s shining stars. The veal, served in a gentle wine sauce, was tender and pink, and the sole was baked in a light lemon butter For dessert, pass on the souffle and head straight for the creamy white chocolate mousse. (8854 N Central Expwy in NorthPark East. 361-9996. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:15; dinner: Mon-Thur 7-10; Fri & Sat 7-11. All credit cards. $$$$)

Clair de Lune. The menu at this breezy Quadrangle restaurant offers an interesting, rich assortment of entrees such as Cornish hen, trout, breast of chicken with artichoke hearts and minute steak with french fries. We were disappointed with our onion soup au gratin; it lacked cheese, and the hunk of soggy French bread floating in the middle didn’t redeem it. But the salad Clair de Lune was huge and fresh, with a collection of mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes, green pepper and bacon arranged on top with little or no dressing. (2800 Routh in the Quadrangle. 871-2288. Mon-Thur 9 am-12:30 am, Fri & Sat 9 am-2 am. Sun 11-11. All credit cards. $$)

Crackers. Owner Gus Katsigris takes great pride in the meals he serves in this charming 80-year-old house. The specialties are Greek dishes: Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), ouzo meatballs (deep-fried with lots of onions and spices) and Greek salads are a few exceptional examples. Hamburgers, quiches and sandwiches are also offered. Don’t forget to order the soup: It’s always a creamy delight, and it’s served with one of Crackers’ famous cheese crackers. A light menu (consisting of a number of small portions of Crackers’ specialties) is now offered, and a charming front patio has been added. (2621 McKinney. 827-1660. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30, Sat 11-3, Sun 11-5; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11:30 MC, V, AE. $$)

The Enclave. We thought the excellence of this Old-Guard continental outpost with flocked velvet walls and “Hello, Dolly” atmosphere had faded a bit the last time we visited. The salad was soggy and the vegetables were butter-soaked. But the Enclave’s chef, Mark Chef-fins, continues to serve picture-perfect, giant-sized slabs of beef, and the chandeliers and solicitous service still sparkle. The Enclave remains an appropriate place for a satisfying business lunch. (8325 Walnut Hill. 363-7487. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-11:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Enjolie. The atmosphere here is reminiscent of a lavish resort: The decor is subtly sophisticated, but many male diners don’t bother to wear ties. The food, at its best, is wonderful, but it is at its best when it isn’t quite so fancy. Simpler dishes such as the mussel soup (brimming with saffron) and the homemade pistachio ice cream (rich with nuts) work better than the more intricate ones, such as the quail that is boned and stuffed and wrapped in a crepe. The pampering service here extends to three complimentary courses: delectable puff-pastry bou-chees served with aperitifs; a wide selection of cheeses after the entree; and fabulous petits fours and candies at the finish. The house wines here are French and are better than those you buy by the bottle at many restaurants. (Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel, 221 S Las Colinas Blvd, Irving. 556-0800, ext. 3155. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

Francisco’s. This is a perfect romantic hideaway: It’s dark, pleasantly musty and intimate. Service is tremendous-efficient but not hovering-and the food is exceptional. The champignons farci (mushrooms stuffed with ground veal) are delicious starters, as are the elegant veal crêpes in a smooth hollandaise sauce. The sirloin steak with crushed green peppercorns is the shining star among the numerous beef offerings; several poultry and fish specialties are also available. For dessert, the peach melba is a nice, light selection. (2917 Fairmount. 749-0906. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11-2:30: dinner: Mon-Fri 6-10:30, Sat 6-11. Reservations recommended; required on Sat. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Frenchy Café. This sunny Parisian lunch spot has hardwood floors and several glass cases in view to tempt you with baked goods, meats and cheeses. The hot roast beef sandwich on a butter croissant covered with melted cheese is light, yet filling. The chocolate mousse a I’orange-creamy and rich with whipped cream on top-can foil your attempt at a low-calorie lunch. Quiche, soup and fabulous pates are also offered. (5940 Royal. 369-1235. Mon 11 am-3pm, Tue-Fri 11 am-7 pm, Sat 11 am-5 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V. $)

Gallé. Seated in this Lincoln Hotel restaurant, we saw flickering candlelight illuminating the mauves and pinks of the dining room and dancing off the mirrored pillars and etched-glass room dividers that surrounded our table. We settled back to enjoy all the best of what we’ve grown to expect from the fancy continental restaurants in Far North Dallas hotels. The Chateaubriand for two was succulent, as was the generous tenderloin served with goose liver and topped with a truffle. The scampi, served with a delicate crab sauce, were tender. But Gallé’s best offerings are its side dishes. We enjoyed an unusual assortment of stuffed squash, asparagus and carrots as well as a light potato fritter with all of our entrees. The appetizers were good, too, but you’ll want tosave room for dessert. The spread is lavishly displayed,and the desserts taste as good as they look. But theservice was efficient to the point of being sentrylike. Wefelt as though we had a reputation for pocketing flatware. (Lincoln Hotel, 5410 LBJ Frwy in Lincoln Center.934-8400. Mon-Fri 6-11 pm, Sat 6-11.30 pm. Reservations requested. Jackets and ties required. All creditcards. $$$$)


The Garden Court. We’d love to love the Garden Court. We can’t think of a prettier place to dine. For Sunday brunch, the Melrose’s main dining room offers one of the brightest, breeziest locations in town. Fresh flowers are tucked everywhere, and the marble floors gleam. The price ($10) is one of the best in town, too. But the spread (buffet style) was unforgivably picked over (the salmon was reduced to a pile of tiny bones). The desserts were bland – no better than those you might find in a cafeteria. The fruits, however, were fresh; the veal cordon bleu, tender. And we enjoyed our complimentary pre-brunch coffee in the Melrose’s bar, The Library. (3015 Oak Lawn. 521-5151. Breakfast: Mon-Fri 6:30-11; lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10, Fri & Sat 6:30-11, Sun 5:30-9; brunch: Sat 7-3, Sun 11-3. Reservations recommended for dinner. All credit cards. $$$)

The Grape. Quaint, cozy and European is the best way to describe this small, neighborhood establishment. The atmosphere is casual and intimate; the tables are close together; and the lights are dimmed. The European cuisine is exceptional, whether you’re ordering a cheese and fruit board, a vegetable and dip platter or a meal. The Grape’s homemade cream of mushroom soup-buttery and full of fresh mushrooms and mild onions – is a must. Several daily specials are displayed on chalkboards; chicken en croute is a specialty, and the fish is always fresh and almost always cooked to perfection. As could be expected from the name, the wine list is extraordinary. (2808 Greenville at Goodwin. 823-0133. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11. Fri & Sat 6-midnight. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)


The French Room. The rococo gaudiness of the French Room would be laughable if the food and service didn’t live up to the pretensions of the decor. But you won’t be able to giggle for long: The staff here is as dignified and efficient as a group of young stockbrokers, and the food is remarkable. Our entire meal, from the introductory fish mousse to the final puff pastry with raspberries and hot caramel sauce, overwhelmed us. No other kitchen in town could have brought off the complex combination of duck, partridge and stuffed quail with such delicacy. Only one complaint: The chef likes his sauces saltier than we do. But for a meal at the French Room, we’ll cheerfully risk apoplexy. (Adolphus Hotel. 1321 Commerce. 742-8200. Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30 pm, Closed Sun. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

Jean Claude. There is an obvious explanation for the incredible popularity of the pleasant, “terribly French-Jean Claude restaurant. Quite simply, it is Jean Claude himself. Besides being a consistently gifted chef, Jean Claude exudes a warmth that spreads from his open cook station throughout the tiny dining room, engendering good will and cleansing the air of any pretension. Our selections were light, beautiful to look at and practically flawless. The hot crab and lobster salad with vinaigrette and fresh dill and the scallops en casserole proved wise beginnings, especially with hearty helpings of hot, homemade wheat bread. Our next indulgences were duckling in ginger and soy sauce and fresh Dover sole in a white wine sauce with mushrooms. The duck was superb, and the sole was good, if a little dull. After cleansing our palates with slightly tart greens, we launched into the chocolate mousse and hot chocolate souffle. At a fixed price of $37.50 per person, Jean Claude’s meals are worth every penny. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sal seatings at 6 &9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)

Jennivine. You know you’re in for a treat when the first thing that greets you is a larger-than-life-sized poster of Prince Charles and Princess Diana grinning toothily at you. Welcome to Jennivine, “a little bit of England in Dallas.” It is that and more, offering patés ranging from lobster to smoked herring, imported cheeses (English and otherwise), hearty French and German wines, European cuisine and typically British touches of humor. There’s a strolling guitar player on weekdays, a wandering long-stemmed-rose seller daily and, most importantly, superb food. During the week, the menu is presented on a chalkboard, but on weekends you get a real menu. Entrees worth trying include the filet of snapper sautéed with baby shrimp and mushrooms in a white butter sauce (so flaky it fairly crumbled when cut), the veal scallopini and the beef tenderloin (also incredibly tender). For dessert, the strawberries amaret-to were a bit disappointing, but the rich white chocolate mousse almost made our quibble seem irrelevant. No wonder Chuck and Di were smiling. (3605 McKinney. 528-6010. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)

L’Ambiance. Forget that this building formerly housed a gas station. The important thing is that the kitchen is one of a handful in Dallas that does almost everything right. From the opening lobster bisque to the closing Concorde cake, every dish we sampled was awe-inspiring. We couldn’t decide which one we liked best: the veal topped with mushroom puree, the fish soup or the crisp duck with green peppercorn sauce. (2408 Cedar Springs. 748-1291. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2: dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)


L’Entrecote. The French fare here is well-prepared, if not remarkable, but we were struck by the highly attentive and pleasant service, something perhaps indigenous to restaurants in better hotels. Oysters, salmon and snails dominate the hors d’oeuvre selections, but we enjoyed a very rich, light terrine of pheasant with pistachios. Our Salade de Petit Pois Chinoise of snow peas, endive and Boston lettuce was a success of separate flavors rather than one taste, and it was attractively presented. The baby salmon entree was somewhat dry, but the mousse of scallops with dill and fennel on top had great flavor. A standout: the special of medallions of veal covered with scampi in wine sauce. The low lights, harpist and fresh pink rosebuds made L’Entrecote romantic, but the overzealous wine steward did not. (Loews Anatole Hotel. 2200 Stemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Lunch:Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: daily 6-10:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

La Champagne. La Champagne, the French dining room of the new Registry Hotel, looks smashing (rumor has it that it was decorated and redecorated five times before it opened). But we’ve found it difficult to have a good meal and a good time here. The appetizer of scallops with seaweed boasted perfectly steamed, silkyscallops; and the galantine of wild duck was marvelous-ly rich with foie gras and truffles. But there was an offnote in each of the sauces, and similar disharmonieshave marred many dishes. It seems churlish to complain about La Champagne in the lap of so much luxury, but all the fancy touches can be wearying if themain attraction – the food – does not excite. (RegistryHotel, 15201 Dallas Pkwy. 386-6000. Mon-Sat.6-11 pm.Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$$)

Laurel’s. This is another of the beautiful new North Dallas hotel restaurants in which palate-cleansing sorbets and bottled sparkling water are standard fare. Floor- length windows offer wide-angle views of downtown, nearby skyscrapers and everything in between. Each course easily held our interest. We enjoyed fresh, artfully arranged vegetables, a tartly dressed salad and tenderloin in blueberries (just one of the interesting fruit-sauced entrees offered). We were equally pleased with the scallops in grapefruit sauce; they were tender andfresh, and the fruit flavor was deliciously subtle. (Sheraton Park Central Hotel, 12720 Merit. 385-3000. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

La Vieille Varsovie (The Old Warsaw). With all itsplush elegance, this old-line dining establishmentboasts a few charming eccentricities in its decor. Notethe pink flamingos dancing gaily across the forest-green walls. Hear the gentle blending of violin andpiano as the music drifts delicately across the spaciousroom. Watch the multitudinous captains and waitersweave in and out of tables, attending to napkins thatneed placing, cigarettes that need lighting, pheasantsthat need carving. But in the midst of all the theatricshere, it can be extremely difficult to keep one’s mind onone’s meal. The artichoke heart appetizer with shrimpand raspberry vinaigrette tasted a trifle boring, with narya hint of raspberry. The fresh seafood soup fared better, as did our entrees: poached Dover sole with shrimpin lobster sauce, and veal with mushrooms. Strawberries in fresh cream and a chocolate souffle were perfectendings. (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Thur 6-11 pm,Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Reservations. Jackets required.All credit cards. $$$$)

Le Boul’ Mich. A glimpse at Le Boul’ Mich’s sparse menu is hardly surprising: paté maison, quiche Lorraine and omelette after omelette. Each of these items is well-prepared, particularly the omelette Boul’ Mich, which is filled with every variety of garden vegetable. A light, romantic dinner here is delightful, and the indoor porch of this little white house makes it an irresistible luncheon spot as well. (2704 Worthington. 8260660. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE. $$)

Le Louvre. Nestled in the Corner Shopping Center between Wilderness Adventure and No Whar But Texas is this elegant restaurant, which has absolutely nothing in common with its neighbors. We relaxed in a loveseat beneath a glittering chandelier in a room with enough old master-style paintings to remind us of the restaurant’s namesake. But the art became incidental after the arrival of a bowl of creamy onion soup topped with Swiss cheese and a lobster bisque sweetened with cognac. The waiter deftly tossed our salads tableside and brought perfectly cooked beef and veal with three varieties of plump wild mushrooms. (9840 N Central Ex-pwy in the Corner Shopping Center. 691-1177. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11.30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11. Fri 6-11:30, Sat 6-midnight; Sun brunch: 11:30-2:30. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Le Rendez Vous. What a compliment to our city that we can eat a romantic, candle-lit dinner at a pleasant French bistro and deem it only average. Such is the case at Le Rendez Vous. The service was a little too lax, and at times the waiters seemed more interested in talking to each other than in waiting on tables. The menu is ambitious, with unusual selections that include cream of green bean soup and a tantalizing selection of five dessert souffles. The restaurant also offers a sidewalk cafe, but for the money, we’ve had better food. Our scallops were inexcusably tough and tasteless, and the shish kebab with rice was so salty that we could feel our arteries squeezing shut. The crab au gratin appetizer was perfect, and the vegetables were tender and fresh, but the souffles were disappointing-they looked gorgeous but lacked taste and soul. (3237 McKinney at Hall. 745-1985. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Tue-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat 5:30 pm-1 am, Sun 11-11. Closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

La St. Tropez. The cozy blue room of this out-of-the-way French bistro with nautical motifs and personal photographs promises much; so does the charming and personable service. But the food fails to deliver. On a recent visit, not one dish we had was up to standard. The cucumber soup was bitter and zestless;the pate, bland and textureless; the snapper, fishy; the apple tart, burned. We hope that the kitchen was just having an off night, but with so much wrong it’s hard tojustify an outlay of $50 for a meal for two. (8030 SpringValley at Coit in Northwood Hills Shopping Center.231-6181. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Fri5-10:30, Sat 5-11. Closed Sun All credit cards; personalchecks accepted, $$)


The Mansion. More than any other place in town, the Mansion can make you feel to the manor born. Ostentation is not stinted, but it is all accomplished in a rather muted, tasteful way, and the food is likewise elegant. No one will ever complain about the lavish ingredients or the competence of the chefs. Pieces of freshly cooked lobster are strewn over pasta, and medallions of excellent lamb, veal and beef sit next to each other and share a sauce. But there’s no effort to astound with innovative recipes or with startling tastes. The object here is just to soothe and pamper with as much hauteur as possible. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Main dining room (jackets and ties required, except at brunch) -lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2:15: brunch: Sat noon-2:15&Sun 11-2:15: dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10. Fri-Sun 6-10:30: supper: Mon-Thur 10:30-midnight, Fri & Sat 11- midnight. Promenade Room – breakfast: daily 7-10:30 am; lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; tea: Mon-Fri 3-5:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

Les Saisons. A pretty restaurant that is a bit more casual than other French dining spots, Les Saisons offers most enjoyable food. Among the entrees, the Dover sole, the entrecote steak and the duck (with a very gentle orange sauce) are all satisfying. At $3 50, the Caesar salad – one of the best in town – is a bargain. A word of caution: We find the back room of the restaurant noisy and less desirable than the front. (Oak Lawn at Blackburn in Turtle Creek Village. Suite 165. 528-1102. Sun-Thur 11:30am-11 pm, Fri&Sat 11:30 am-midnight. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Maple Street East. The elegant decor of this restored Victorian house near downtown provides an excellent atmosphere for anything from a business lunch to a romantic dinner. The fettuccine Alfredo (offered either as an appetizer or as a luncheon entree) is rich and smooth, the lamb chops are tender and grilled to perfection and the white chocolate mousse is worth the calories. An elegant private dining room, complete with a picture window overlooking the downtown skyline, is offered for special occasions, though service is sometimes stow. (2508 Maple 698-0345. Lunch: 1130-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11:30: Sun brunch: 11:30-2:30 MC, V, AE. $$$)

Mozart’s. We kept hearing tales of meals gone awry at Mozart’s, so we went back for another look at this too-cute but pleasant imitation of a Viennese café We found the Austrian-German specialties a bit Americanized but still appealing. The cold appetizer cart held a generous selection of everything from shrimp and salmon to eggs stuffed with liver paste. Both the wienerschnitzel and the veal cordon bleu were lightly fried andcrisp, accompanied with crunchy fresh vegetables inaddition to the bread dumplings or spatzle No Viennese person would recognize the Sacher torte – thecake was light and airy rather than dense and choco-latey-but with the topping of whipped cream, it wastasty all the same. (Sheraton Park Central. 12720 Merit.385-3000. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat6-10:30. All credit cards. $$$)

Manhattan. This continental restaurant in the northwest corner of Preston Forest Shopping Center can’t decide whether to be formal or relaxed. The heavy curtains and the tuxedoed waiters portend pretension, but the logo of skyscrapers and other stark details don’t quite fit. The food, too, falls betwixt and between. The veal is of good quality and is cooked well, but it sits on canned asparagus; the chicken Kiev is juicy but bland. The menu doesn’t contain much adventure, either (anybody for another round of overpriced stuffed mushrooms and vichyssoise?). We have no major complaints about Manhattan – the quality of the cooking is generally good – we just wonder if it will ever find its identity. (1482 Preston Forest Square. 385-8221. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 -2:30; dinner: daily 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$$)

Patry’s. Patry’s was the second French restaurant in Dallas when it opened in 1968. Although splashier establishments have since come on the scene, a Patry’s waiter couldn’t have spoken more accurately when he said. “You know, you come here when all you want is good food and conversation.” Some people might miss the pomp and circumstance – the carpet can only be described as durable, there’s not a harpist in sight, and the crowd is establishment rather than chic. But it’s nice to unwind at Patry’s in the evening, when the chef and the house staff have time to perform. Try the leeks stuffed with veal and pork; they’re just spicy enough, and the small dish is topped with a slightly sweet cream sauce. The pepper steak and the filet mignon. both served with heaps of fresh wild mushrooms, were tender and delicious. For dessert, we indulged in crepes suzette. Here the results were worth the table-side theatrics: The dessert was sweet and smooth, without a trace of bitterness from the orange rinds. (2504 McKinney 748-3754. Sun & Tue-Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Closed Mon Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Pyramid Room. This is an old fave of Dallas’ elite, and try as we may to be impudent and critical, we’re speechless with admiration for this flashy Fairmont Hotel restaurant that reminds us a little of both Frank Sinatra and King Tut. The best thing about the Pyramid Room is that even amid all the posh surroundings, there’s real comfort and gorgeous, delicious food that creates a mood all its own The roast pheasant cooked with mango that we enjoyed on our previous trip would be hard to top. The vegetables – wonderful, tender asparagus and some artichoke bottoms stuffed with celery – were top-notch. The tree of glazed cakes and fruits served before we ordered dessert was a charming follow-up to a very fine meal. (Fairmont Hotel. Ross at Akard. 748-7258. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$)

Restaurant Silvano. This place, which occupies a ground-floor corner of an old brick building in downtown’s West End warehouse district, has an understated elegance that blends well with the warm welcome. Among the appetizers we sampled, the oysters in saffron sauce and the scallops with kiwi were expertly cooked and the lobster salad had tender, succulent meat; but the lobster bisque was unbelievably salty. Among the entrées, the steak was well-aged and exceptionally flavorful, and the venison was perfectly rosy, without a trace of gaminess Our Grand Marnier souffle tasted only of egg, but the fresh fig tart is one of the best desserts in the city. (311 Market Street. 74 7-0322. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. All credit cards. $$$$)

Rolfs. This elegant new German restaurant in Ca-ruth Plaza combines authentic specialties with standard continental dishes, and it accomplishes both with flair. Among the appetizers, we sampled an excellent smoked eel with dill sauce. A wide assortment of entrées is offered: tender schnitzel paprika and a racier rinds roulade (braised beef), which come with good German side dishes like spatzle (sautéed noodles) and potato dumplings. The salads are complex marvels: and the apple strudel with vanilla sauce cant be beat. (9100 N Central Expwy in Caruth Plaza. Suite 117. 696-1933. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Three Vikings. Valkommen to Fjord Country on lower Greenville. We cant swear that this place is authentic, but we promise it has character, from the potato pancakes to the maps of Scandinavia taped to the rough wood walls. Lovingly tended by its owners, Three Vikings has a bustling, neighborhood feel – it’s the sort of place where people come in all sizes and shapes. The food is |ust as diverse and. generally, is very good. Steaks are every bit as tasty and tender as your best backyard filet, and who can argue with a full quarter-pound of lump crab stuffed inside? Veal Norway (pounded thin, stuffed with crab and topped with a white cream sauce) is a winner, and so are the potato pancakes. But the real standout here is a Finnish shrimp chowder (the smoothest, heartiest chowder we’ve ever had. including Boston’s best). Chocolate cheese pie. the dessert Three Vikings “is famous for.” is a cool, melt-in-your-mouth blend of cheesecake and chocolate mousse. (2831 Greenville at Goodwin. 827-6770. Mon-Thur 6-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm, Sun 5:30-10 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)


The Blue Nile. Don’t be intimidated by the names of the menu items here; almost everything is stewlike, spicy and good. Expect the unexpected: The food is served on pizza pans, and no silverware is provided. In Ethiopia, one eats with the right hand, and injera (spongy, slightly sour Ethiopian bread) is used as an eating utensil. For the newcomer, The Blue Nile’s combination plate offers an extensive sampling of traditional dishes including minchet abesh (finely chopped spiced beef), zilzil tibs (beef strips fried with a tangy sauce) and misser wott (lentil stew with herbs) (7242 Gaston. 3240471. Tue-Sun noon-midnight. Closed Mon. MC, V, AE. $)

The Red Sea. The Oak Lawn area has just about everything, including one of Dallas’ Ethiopian restaurants. Here you can dine on such exotic-sounding items as doro wott (chicken spiced with hot pepper), yebeg wott (lamb stew with spiced butter and herbs) and potatoes and carrots cooked in curry. (2926 Oak Lawn. 528-8476. Daily 11-11. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)


Marty’s. Some people dream of being stranded on a desert island; we’ll settle for being stranded inside Marty’s, the Oak Lawn gourmet takeout and grocery that is “essential to the epicure.’ Marty’s is a mouthwatering wonderland of sweets, cheeses, fresh fruits, meats, vegetables and wines. Choose a picnic basket and fill it on your way to the checkout line. If you have trouble putting it all together, get a copy of Marty’s weekly menu. We enjoyed some delicious cold lettuce soup, mushroom a la Greave, roasted stuffed squab and some heavenly banana-nut cheesecake at home with our own candlelight and crystal. Our only complaint: Don’t count on Marty’s promise that “containers are oven- and microwave-safe.” (3316 Oak Lawn. 526-4070. Mon-Sat 10 am-6:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Mirabelle. Stepping into Mirabelle evokes an agony of indecision: How to choose among the dozens of things on display? We can’t do without a paté (the duck paté with walnuts is divine). Shall we get the black-eyed pea salad or the one with roasted peppers? After taking our pick of French cheeses, quiches and meat pies, breads and sandwiches, we break down when confronted by all the desserts and take home one of each: peach and frangipani tarts, bran and zucchini muffins, chocolate chip cookies and heavenly light macaroons. Now all we have to decide is how to work off those delicious pounds. (Preston at Mockingbird in Highland Park Village, Suite 74. 528-7589. Tue-Sat 10:30 am-7 pm; Sun & Mon noon-6 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

The Winery. Amid the vast wine stock at this shop adjacent to Jean Claude restaurant is a display case full of edible goodies perfect for eating in or carrying out. The emphasis is on freshly prepared salads and desserts and home-baked breads and cheeses, including hard-to-find varieties such as mozzarella rolled with prosciutto. Caterer rneresa Magee will make sand-wich or cheese trays, antipasto plates, dips and hors d’oeuvres for parties, or you can sample her hearty soups and sandwiches on the spot with a glass of wine. (2404 Cedar Springs at Maple. 749-0250. Mon-Sat 10 am-7 pm, Sun noon-6 pm. MC, V, AE. $$$)


Kebab-N-Kurry. This plain little place serves the best food of any sort for miles around. The specialties cooked in the tandoor (a clay barbecue oven) are juicy and delicately spiced, and the sauces in the various curries are rich and piquant. Lunch is a special bargain here. On weekdays, there is a nice array of entrees (kebabs and curries ranging from chicken in a spicy spinach sauce to shrimp with tomato and yogurt), all served with soup or salad, a vegetable curry and rice.On weekends, the buffet is a feast (it even includes anIndian dessert in its low overall price). At the new location on Walnut Hill, the food seems to be just as good,and the place is less crowded. (407 N Central Expwy,Suite 300, Richardson, 231-5556; 2620 Walnut Hill,350-6466. Lunch: daily 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10,Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat&Sun 11:30-2:30 atRichardson location. Lunch: daily 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat&Sun11:30-2:30 at Walnut Hill location. Reservations. MC,V, AE. $)

Sahib. Every time we go to Sahib, we’re delighted by how pretty it is; the green, peach and bamboo decor and the gentle Indiam music relaxes us. Our favorite dish is Maharaja Sahib’s mughlai biryani (lamb cooked with herbs and mixed with long-grain Indian rice, saffron, nuts, raisins and eggs). It tastes even better with some sweet mango chutney and an order of tandoori roti (Indian whole-wheat bread). Service at Sahib can be aggressive, so remember that you can turn down the “Elephant’s Memory” (a pina coladalike drink) and the mango ice cream, but enjoy the advice- the waiters will tell you exactly what to expect from each dish. (9100 N Central Expwy in Caruth Plaza. 987-2301. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sat & Sun 11:30-2:45: dinner daily 5.30-11. All credit cards. $$)


Tanjore. The atmosphere at this small, graceful Indian restaurant permeates all the senses. The soothing Hindi music and the smells of curry, cinnamon, cumin and coriander float around the breezy green gazebo and leave diners too relaxed to worry much about food definitions. But that’s okay because service here is friendly and helpful. A waiter will be glad to explain that tikka a aloo is an ethereally fried potato patty and that chapati is a wonderful whole-wheat bread. We wereoverwhelmed by the enormous portions but were happy as a charmed snake with the shahjehani biryani(chicken and nuts topped with boiled eggs and servedwith spiced saffron). (5409 Belt Line in PrestonwoodCreek Shopping Center. 960-0070. Lunch: Mon-Fri11:30-2:30. Sal 11:30-3; dinner: daily 6-10; Sun brunch:11:30-3. All credit cards. $$)


Adriano’s. At last, Dallas has a chichi pizza place. Adri-ano’s, just north of Theatre Three in the Quadrangle, serves pizza of the most outré sort. How does a combination of goat cheese, smoked salmon and capers grab you? Or a vegetable pizza, heavy with thickly sliced carrots and eggplant? Or a topping of chicken and cream sauce? Most of the pizza combinations work surprisingly well, especially the one with pancetta (Italian bacon), tomatoes and mushrooms. The decor of Adriano’s is highest tech, with lots of pipes and vents showing. (2800 Routh in the Quadrangle. 871-2262. Mon-Sat 11 30 am-2 arn. Sun 6-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Alessio’s. The service is a little slow but very friendly, and the atmosphere lends itself well to long dinner hours and another bottle of wine. The list of specials is tempting; we tried the linguini pescatore (a colorful mix of mussels, shrimp, scallops and snow-crab claws served with a sauce that would be worth eating alone with a spoon). The sole is less rich, sautéed in lemon butter and topped with mushrooms and baby shrimp in a white wine sauce. Alessio also offers an impressive list of veal. (4117 Lomo Alto. 521 -3585. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. MC. V, AE.$$)

Alfonso. It just wouldn’t seem right to dress up for a meal at Alfonso. This is a true old-style family pizzeria and Southern Italian restaurant, with Formica table tops and top-40 music. The meals are very filling: Veal par-migiana was heavy on the cheese and light on the veal and was smothered in a slightly sweet, chunky tomato sauce. Pizzas here are lavish and so big that they’re presented on a tray set up next to your table. Piping-hot rolls that are pizza-dough chewy and topped with garlic salt are served with every meal, as is a large salad with a very garlicky Italian dressing. Nobody leaves this place hungry. (Buckner at Garland in Casa Linda Plaza, Suite 328. 327-7777. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11 -2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-9:30, Fri & Sat 5-10:30. Closed Sun. AE. $)

Bugatti. One always fears that when a restaurant opens a branch, the original establishment will suffer. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Bugatti. A recent lunch showed no change from our previous visits: formidable crowds and the same great tortellini and exemplary crème caramel as ever. One welcome new twist is the special of the day: shrimp parmigiana. The tomato sauce and cheese were much better accompaniments to the fresh-tasting shrimp than one might expect. (2574 Walnut Hill. 350-2470. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 530-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

Campisi’s. This is the stuff of which institutions are made: good food, reasonable prices and great atmosphere. Dine in one of two dimly lit rooms lined with celebrity photos and crowded with vinyl benches and plastic tables. The scampi is some of the best around, and the veal marsala with rich mushroom sauce, the fet-tuccine and the garlic toast are all delectable. The pizza, of course, is a Dallas legend. Campisi’s is casual, and the service is very good, but expect to wait in line almost any night after 7:30. (5610 E Mockingbird. 827-0355 or 827-7711. Mon-Fri 11 am-midnight. Sat 11 am-1 am, Sun noon-midnight. Reservations for six or more. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

Ciao! Spicy, thick pizza, calzones. pasta and a wide variety of other Italian fare are mainstays in this tiny hi-tech haven. Our pizza was well-laced with oregano and garlic and was layered with homemade sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and Italian red peppers. The crust was thick, chewy and meant to be eaten with a fork. A couple of non-pizza selections are also included on the menu and are offered as daily specials if you’re in the mood for something more substantial. (3921 -B Cedar Springs. 521 0110. Daily 11:30 am-midnight. MC, V, AE $$)

Cremona. Often, the best Italian restaurants can be spotted not by how they look but rather by how they feel. In this sense. Cremona is very Italian. Based on location alone, you might not even find this hideaway, let alone go in (it’s at the end of a dead-end street near the Quadrangle, across from the Snakepit bar and in the same complex with several eccentric little shops). But do go in; your visit will be an enjoyable one.

Cremona is a mixture of romance and surrealism (charming ladder-back chairs and candle-lit tables share a room with a boisterous accordion player and a painting of a man peeling up the Venice canal -gondolas and all). Cremona’s menu is a limited one: several pastas (including a rich, creamy tortellini. lasagna. ravioli and fettucine) and a few meat dishes. The pace here is Italian, too: It ranges from slow, easy and potently romantic to loud and rambunctiously chaotic. (2600 Woodrow between Cedar Springs and Routh. 742-4330. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$)


Cunze’s. We couldn’t quite put a finger on it. but this is the kind of place you leave thinking that something isn’t quite right. The veal scallopine. smothered in a rich mushroom sauce, is excellent. The manicotti, on the other hand, is nothing to write home about. The service is very attentive, but the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired: There is something incongruous about waiters decked out in tuxedos placing rather expensive entrees onto vinyl tablecloths. (6101 Greenville. 369-5747. Mon-Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

DiPalma. It’s still hard to resist this festive restaurant/food store and its wide array of pastas, despite spotty service and inflated prices. DiPalma features several flavorful dishes not found at other Italian establishments (such as chicken lasagna and lemon garlic chicken) as well as the more traditional Italian fare. For an adventurous and rewarding lunch, try the pasta salad sampler. And the incredible assortment of Italian pastries is as good as it looks. (1520 Greenville. 824-4500. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30. Sat 11-3: dinner: Mon-Thur6W, Fri & Sat 6-1030. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)


Da Piccolo. This handsome little hole in the wall is the kind of place that could have a line backed up all the way to Highland Park Cafeteria if the food were un piccolo better. Nothing is bad. mind you; it just isn’t that good. You get the feeling that the ubiquitous fresh tomato sauce lies in wait at the rear: sauced snails, doused tried mozzarella. smothered eggplant and veal all seem to have taken the plunge into the same pot. The antipasto plate, however, is first-rate, and the fried seafood platter is better than a traditional fish house’s best Lightly seasoned and breaded, just barely deep-fried calamari. shrimp and bite-sized bits of sole arrive piping hot and heaped on an oval plate. But hard-liquor fans beware: Da Piccolo serves only beer and wine. (4537 Cole. 521-1191. Daily 5:30-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Fabio’s. If Fabio’s isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of Italian restaurants in Dallas, it may be because of its awkward location in the Corner Shopping Center. But that shouldn’t be a concern, because Fabio’s offers fine Italian fare and highly attentive service. Tagliarini belleza (pasta tossed in a combination of mushrooms and seafood) and tagliarini al salmone (pasta in a salmon sauce) make it tempting to stick with the pasta, but the veal and seafood dishes – particularly the sole mugnaia (filet of sole in lemon and butter sauce)- make Fabio’s well worth a detour. (9820 N Central Expwy in the Corner Shopping Center, Suite 504. 987-3226. Sun & Tue- Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE. $$$)

La Tosca. This is neither the fanciest nor the most expensive Italian restaurant in Dallas, but it is one of the best. The elegant black-and-white tiles and the waiters’ black-and-white striped shirts give the restaurant just the right touch of class. The rest is left to the food, which is deftly prepared and served. We enjoyed fine, tender beef and red snapper as well as several different kinds of delicious, piping-hot pasta. The cheesecake is more cakelike than most Dallasites are accustomed to, but it is very good. (7713 Inwood. 352-8373. Tue-Thur & Sun 6-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)

La Trattoria Lombardi; Ristorante Lombardi. It would be difficult to picture a nirvana that didn’t include an occasional visit to Lombardi’s on Hall Street. The offerings are among the best Northern Italian fare in town. Smart starters are a piquant combination of mozzarella, juicy beefsteak tomatoes and fresh basil leaves or a basket full of crisp fried calamari. Lombardi’s pasta is legendary, with the tortellini vying for the top slot in town. The vegetables were a bit on the skimpy side when served at lunch on Hall Street but were inspirational accents to dinner at the Adelstein Plaza location. Diced eggplant and creamed spinach cleverly wrapped in a cut-out potato round were among the best dishes in a lengthy and memorable meal. (2916 Hall, 823-6040 or 528-7506; 15501 Dallas Pkwy inAdelstein Plaza, 458-8822. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. ClosedSun. All credit cards. $$$)

Mario’s. Mario’s is stereotypical of fine Italian restaurants in all the best ways. Black tuxedos, white tablecloths and red furnishings lend elegance to rooms decorated with antique vases, wildlife prints and candlelight. We first sampled the sharp, locally made cheese served with bread, then moved into a well-paced meal that began with an appetizer of ciappino (an attractive ragout of crab, scallops and mussels in a basil-flavored tomato sauce). Mario’s pepper steak was huge and tender, but an order of scaloppine con car-ciofi (veal scallops sautéed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms) was less exciting than we had hoped; although the veal was good, the sauce and artichoke hearts lacked lilt. Mario’s has good desserts and prompt service, but the dish we’ll remember is the fettuccine- it’s perfect. (Oak Lawn at Blackburn in Turtle Creek Village, Suite 135. 521-1135. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Reservations. Jackets required. All credit cards $$$)

P.J.’s Ristorante. Once inside P.J.’s (located in an undistinguished strip shopping center near Mockingbird and Central), you’ll find yourself in an intimate, tidy brick dining room complete with piped-in Italian accordion music and faux vineyard latticework on the ceilings. We started with an antipasto plate that we could have gone without; for $3.50, it was little more than a deluxe salad with an artichoke heart and a deviled egg. But the pasta Giovanni drew raves and is perfect for those who have trouble deciding what to eat: It’s a heaping platter of ravioli, manicotti. spaghetti, meatballs, sausage and the cheesiest, tastiest lasagna we’ve had in a while. The tomato sauce that topped everything was truly exemplary – thick, garlicky and perfectly spiced. If you can eat any more after entrees like these, try either the cappuccino pie or the cheesecake with a cup of P.J.’s coffee. (5410 E Mockingbird. 824-1490. Daily 5:30-10:30 pm or. on weekends, as late as necessary. V. AE. $$)


Pietro’s. This is the sort of place people used to refer to when they said that they were going out to eat Italian food. Not everything comes with tomato sauce, but many of the best things do. The well-cooked pasta is drenched in it (with meat or without); thick portions of veal parmigiana swim in it; soft, bready pizzas are topped with it. And it’s not too highly flavored with garlic or herbs, so even families with picky kids can have a good time here. (5722 Richmond. 824-9403. Tue-Thur 5:30-10 pm. Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. MC. V. $$)

Ristorante La Bella. Our first visit to La Bella convinced us that an interesting new Italian restaurant had finally come to a Far North Dallas neighborhood sorely in need of a good place to dine. Especially appealing was the specialty, frutta di Adriatoci – a lightlycooked seafood stew containing fresh mussels, clams,shrimp and fish in a garlicky wine broth. The otherseafood dishes, such as the shrimp cooked with olivesand mushrooms, were also memorable. But none of thechicken or veal dishes we’ve tried have measured upto the seafood. (6757 Arapaho. 991-2828. Mon-Fri11:30am-11 pm, Sat 5-11 pm. Sun 11 am-10 pm. MC,V, AE $$)


Sergio & Luciano. You can find some of the best Italian cooking in Dallas here. The tortellini in a fiery, salty sauce of ham. tomato and red pepper was bellissima, the scampi in garlic butter, perfect; the chocolate mousse, heavy and rich, But a number of our dishes- such as the tough, boring osso buco (a veal dish) – fell far below this level We were disappointed; we had hoped that the place might be the really sophisticated and outstanding Italian restaurant that Far North Dallas needs. (4900 Belt Line in the Quorum, Suite 250: 387-4441. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri-Sun 6-11. All credit cards. $$$)

Sergio’s. Seven fine veal dishes and an array of homemade pasta highlight Sergio’s innovative, elegant menu. Our taglianni salmone (pasta in a salmon sauce) was rich and flavorful without being heavy. The assorted hot appetizers, including shrimp, mussels and squid, were savory and delicate. The tentazione salad of avocado, mangoes and papayas served with walnuts and a lime juice dressing made a perfect light lunch. Sergio’s dining room is semiformal, and the prices are surprisingly reasonable. (2800 Routh in the Quadrangle, Suite 165. 742-3872. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat.6-11 Closed Sun. Reservations lor dinner only. All credit cards. $$)


Prego Pasta House. This dimly lit. forest-green dining room is warm and intimate, an ideal place to begin an elegant evening on the town But the best thing about Prego is that you don’t have to dress up to dine here, and you won’t break your budget, either. We began our meal with the best fried cheese we’ve had in Dallas: balls of warm, stringy provolone inside crumbly, spicy breading. Our friendly waiter recommended the fel-tucine. and he was right: The tender pasta covered in a delicately seasoned cream sauce was heavenly. We also enjoyed a small oval pizza with a thin, crisp crust and generous toppings of mushrooms, green pepper, green onions and Italian sausage. (4930 Greenville. 363-9204. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri &Sat 11 am-midnight. Sun noon-11 pm. MC, V, AE $$)

Villa Bugatti. The hustle and bustle and the occasionally poor service at the original Bugatti restaurant is, happily, not characteristic of the new Bugatti near the Quadrangle. At the old Bugatti. the tortellini was unbeatable, and – halleluiah! – it is similarly creamy and rich at Villa Bugatti. A special lobster and veal combination we tried highlighted each flavor unusually well; the lobster was covered with a light tomato sauce. We did find a few disappointments, but. all in all. in the areas where the first Bugatti falls short – in atmosphere and in serv-ice-the new Bugatti. in a quiet, tree-shaded two-story house, shines. (2710 Boll. 824-2470. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11, Sun 5:30-1030. All credit cards. Reservations. $$$)


Café Cancun. We’ve always said “Viva!’ to civilized Mexican restaurants, but Cafe Cancun is so enjoyable it makes you wonder if the chef really knows his tortillas.

But despite our predilection for luxury, we’ve also maintained since day uno that this is the best Mexico City-style food in town. The tacos al carbon are consistently the best we’ve had anywhere. The nachos, which combine black beans with jalapenos, guacamole, sour cream and Chihuahua cheese, are out of this world. Those hopelessly addicted to Tex-Mex can indulge in several decent combination plates, but the chiles rellenos, the crisp sautéed red snapper and anything served with mole sauce are the dishes that keep people who like the real thing coming back for more. (Park Lane at Central Expwy in Caruth Plaza, 369-3712; 4131 Lomo Alto, 559-4011; 650 N Pearl in Plaza of the Americas, 969-0244. Mon-Thur 11-11; Fri & Sat 11 am-mid-night, Sun noon-10 pm at Caruth Plaza and Lomo Alto locations; Mon-Fri 11 am- 7 pm at Plaza of the Americas location. MC, V, AE. $$)

Café Rincón. This breezy Mexican restaurant is several cuts above what we’ve grown to expect from establishments on Harry Hines. The menu includes all the Tex-Mex you could want, as well as some fancier fish and steak offerings. The Camarones Bohemia (beer-batter shrimp) that we sampled were large and tasty (owner John Rinc6n says that if you’re on a diet, his father – the chef – can fry the shrimp in Miller Lite). Try the tortilla soup-it’s an edible grab bag of goodies. (2818 Harry Hines. 742-4906. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

Casa Rosa. This is Tex-Mex a la Highland Park, with standard dishes (fresh chips, hot hot sauce and tender, steaming flour tortillas) as well as more sophisticated fare. Casa Rosa may have the looks and clamor of an El Chico, but with an Inwood Village address it has to be better in order to survive. Although we’ll skip the old-fashioned tacos on our next visit (they tasted of old-fashioned grease), the rice, enchiladas, nachos topped with sour cream and the superior guacamole redeemed the meal. (Inwood at Lovers Lane in Inwood Village, Suite 165. 350-5227. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon- Thur 5-10, Fri 5-11, Sal & Sun noon-10. All credit cards. $$)

Chiquita. This isn’t a Tex-Mex, pinata-strung establishment, but there are enough clothless tables around to make those of us who enjoy that type of place feel at home. We began our meal with the ironclad test: nachos, the bean and cheese variety. We argued over their quality; our more critical companions called them “workmanlike and plodding.” They lacked, our friends said, the pizazz that would have made them worthy of their title. We were of one mind, however, about the entrées – all were hot and fresh and packed with high-quality beef and chicken. The polio en crema (strips of chicken flavored with sour cream and walnuts) and a pounded chicken dish broiled over a hickory fire were both unusual and good, but a puff taco was tasteless and stale. We also had some tangy tortilla soup, some well-spiced guacamole and some crisp zucchini with just the right touch of paprika. (3810 Congress off Oak Lawn. 521-0721. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sal 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V. AE. $$)


Gonzalez. Gonzalez kept all the trappings of the fast-food establishment that used to be here, even to the drive-through takeout window. But the tone of the place is, shall we say. elevated by the quality of the food. Fa-jitas sizzle on a platter, wafting the smell of toasted oregano to your nose. The guacamole comes on a stone molcajete and is crowned with lots of cilantro. Our only disappointment was a rather flavorless chile relleno. (4333 Maple at Wycliff. 528-2960. Daily 7am-9 pm. All credit cards. $)

Genaro’s Tropical. Welcome to a triple-treat tropical feast for the eye, the ear and, of course, the palate. Enjoy rare pre-Castro Cuban and Brazilian music by the likes of Carmen Miranda, but don’t let the aesthetic thrill of Genaro’s overshadow the surprising menu, which proves that Dallas has only one showcase for genuine tropical cuisine. Of the many fine seafood creations, pez espada (swordfish kebab) deserves special mention. The charcoal-broiled cuts of fish are wrapped in spinach leaves, and the meat’s fine piquancy contrasts nicely with the sauteed spinach and carrots. Also drool-worthy are the torta del mar (an open-faced sandwich of crab meat and red snapper) and the enchiladas Genaro, filled with crab and snapper and covered with sour cream and tomatillo sauce. (5815 Live Oak at Skillman. 827-9590. Mon-Fri 11-11. Sat 11 am-midmght. Sun 11 am-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Guadalajara. Okay, we confess. We revisited this familiar hole in the wall expecting an easy ride. We planned to scarf up excellent Tex-Mex, make the usual disclaimer about the rather run-down location and burp all the way back to the office. Another day, another Dos Equis. Were we ever wrong! Amazingly, Guadalajara has backslid quite a bit. First, the service was not mildly deficient, not bad. but awful. We received menus without prices and without explanation, as if we should have known that all the lunch entrees are the same price. We were given chips and hot sauce but no napkins. And when our very hot plates arrived, no warning was given, and one hapless diner singed his hand. But. we told ourselves, this is Guadalajara; surely the food would redeem this disaster. It did, but only in part. The chicken enchiladas with sour cream were as flavorful as ever, and the flour tortillas are still the best in the city. But the meat in the burrito was barely cooked and of a suspicious hue, and the rice was only so-so. We hope for better things on our next visit – if there is one. (3308 Ross at Hall. 823-9340. Tue-Fri 11 am-4 am. Sat & Sun 9 am-4 am. Closed Mon. MC, V. $)

Herrera. Is any Mexican food really worth a long wait for a crowded table in a rickety lean-to where you even have to bring your own beer? There are other places in the neighborhood that can match Herrera’s enchiladas, tacos and beans- good as they are. But the thick, pancake-shaped flour tortillas cranked out by hand are unique, as are the stew-meat burritos made with them. And then there’s the feeling of satisfaction at being at the classic Dallas dive. The new Denton Drive location, however, still looks like the striptease joint it used to be. The food is fine – but it just doesn’t seem like Herrera. (5427 Denton Drive. 630-2599; 3902 Maple. 526-9427. Daily 11 am-10 pm; all credit cards at Denton Drive location. Mon. Wed & Thur 9 am-8 pm, Fn-Sun 9 am-10 pm; closed Tue; no credit cards at Maple location. $)


Marcado Juarez. This place has an authentic Mexican atmosphere, from the loads of curios on sale to the family of singing musicians. The braziers that were brought to our table laden with roasted meats are authentic, too, as are the beef and cabnto they bear. But the attempts at more complicated Mexican cuisine here aren’t very successful. Our red snapper with molo de ajo (a garlic sauce) and our milaneza (the Mexican answer to chicken-fried steak) were both pretty sad. We recommend sticking to basic Tex-Mex if you venture to Mer-cado Juarez. (1901 WNorthwest Hwy. 5560796. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10 pm MC, V. AE. $$)

Javier’s. Don’t visit this “gourmet Mexican” restaurant when you’re in the mood for Tex-Mex; you’ll leave with an aching in your heart for refried beans and rice. But the alternatives here are undoubtedly a better choice. You’ll leave Javier’s filled with delicious beef, seafood or chicken dishes, an actual vegetable and desserts other than pralines. The tortilla soup is crowded with cheese, avocado slabs and smooth pasilla chiles. The nachos are fine but not too unusual, since black beans and white cheese have caught on even in Tex-Mex hot spots. Javier’s is in the big leagues for what it does to shrimp; they’re big and meaty and sautéed in a diablo sauce (a blend of coffee, orange juice and spices). The mushroom crêpes served with corazon de filete are also tasty. For dessert, you can’t avoid the cajeta sauce; it comes on the cheesecake and on the crepes flam bé and is dished over the ice cream. (4912 Cole.521-4211. Sun-Thur 5:30- 10 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm.Reservations. All credit cards. $$)Joe T. Garcia’s. The North Dallas branch of thefamous Fort Worth Mexican food institution is capableof turning out dishes that match the quality of theoriginal. The tacos are custom-fried with the meat insidethem, not crammed into preformed shells. The chilesrellenos with their savory stuffing are probably the bestin Dallas. Even the refried beans are outstanding: stiffin texture and bold in flavor. But so much can go wrongat Joe T.’s Dallas location that you may not want to stayaround to taste the food. On one recent visit, the nachoshad such strong-smelling cheese that we were put off,but our complaints went unheeded. On the next visit,the tostadas reeked of stale oil. There are other telltalesigns of the troubles that go along with a family-runrestaurant trying to turn itself into a chain, like the menusthat claim not to be menus (because the original placenever had them). We hope Joe T. will pull his acttogether, because the food can be quite good. (4440Belt Line. 458-7373. Mon-Fri 11 am-3 pm&5-11 pm,Sat 11-11, Sun 4-10:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

La Calle Doce. Scholars of sleaze who postulate that food quality in a Mexican restaurant varies inversely with the fanciness of the environs have a lot to learn from La Calle Doce. This sunny Oak Cliff restaurant has hardwood floors, fresh white linen tablecloths and the first guitar-strumming troubadour we’ve ever really enjoyed. All the standard combinations are offered at budget prices, and the menu also offers a selection of gourmet seafood specialties (“fresh from the Trinity”) ranging from flounder and frog legs to pescadd entero empanizado (whole catfish, breaded and fried). The guacamole is outstanding, and the chile rellenos remain the best we’ve tasted (although they’re pretty hot for unsuspecting gringos). Carnitas tampiquenas (strips of beef cooked in beer) are appealing, especially when rolled in a complimentary hot flour tortilla. (415 12th St. 941-4304. Mon-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri 11 am-10 pm, Sat 11:30 am-10 pm, Sun 11:30 am-1 pm. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

Mario & Alberto. Giant paper flowers and walls laden with candles make this northern outpost of Chiquita a perfect place for a fiesta. Of the specialties, our favorites have always been the steaks spiked with garlic and peppers and the simple char-broiled chicken breasts. Of the recent additions to the menu, we enjoyed the carnitas of pork and the polio en adobo (breast of chicken cut into bite-sized chunks and doused in red chili sauce). We have never had good luck with the fish or shrimp offerings, and the Tex-Mex plates are lures for greenhorn gringos who don’t know any better. The onlytrouble with Mario & Alberto is that everybody in NorthDallas seems to know about it, so get there early if youdon’t want to wait. (LBJ Frwy at Preston in PrestonValley Shopping Center, Suite 425. 980-7296. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30am-11 pm.Closed Sun. Drinks with $5 membership charge. MC,V, AE $$)


On The Border. They probably don’t have anything like this on the border. Not only is the food here pleasing to the palate, but the airy charm of On The Border’s “South Texas Cafe” decor is a definite plus. We delighted in the Mexican chicken dishes, especially the chicken enchiladas (tender and generously covered with Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream) and the chicken chimichangas. But to those with differing tastes. On The Border also serves such Texas dishes as chili and mesquite-broiled hamburgers. In all, On The Border offers a pleasant atmosphere, good service and large portions at reasonable prices. (3300 Knox. 528-5900. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-midnight. Sun 11-11. All credit cards. $$)

Moctezuma’s. Try something other than the usual Tex-Mex dishes when visiting this attractive dinner stop; the chicken and fish “especiales” offer a nice getaway. We especially enjoyed the pechuga a la parrilla, a boned, very tender breast of chicken grilled in a white wine and butler sauce, and the enchiladas de polio, sour cream chicken enchiladas served with rice and beans. The service here is very attentive, and the margaritas are worth an honorable mention. (3002 McKinney. 526-1197. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat full menu 11 am-11:30 pm; appetizers until 12:30 am. Reservations lor parties of six or more. All credit cards. $$)

Raphael’s. For as long as we can remember, we’ve been struck by frequent cravings for Raphael’s Tex-Mex. The consistently fresh, light chips, the flavorful, tomatoey hot sauce and the icy, potent margaritas kept us coming back for more. On our recent visit, those basics were still as good as we remembered, but some of the entrees weren’t up to Raphael’s par. The meager serving of guacamole was rather bland and too chunky, and the enchiladas were only average. Even Raphael’s unique puff taco was not as fresh and tasty as we remembered. Decorating improvements at the original Raphael’s on McKinney (including a huge, colorful mural) have made the already warm atmosphere more attractive. We hope the food will improve as well (3701 McKinney, 521-9640; 6782 Greenville, 692-8431. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-10:30 pm at McKinney location; Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm. Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Sat noon-11 pm at Greenville location. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. MC, V, AE. CB. $$)


Rio Grande Qrlll. Fajitas-skirt steak that is grilled, sliced and served with guacamole and flour tortillas-are the rage in Dallas now. Nobody cooks them much better than this trendy new Greenville Avenue restaurant. The smoke flavor comes from a mesquite fire, and the accompanying pico de gallo has enough fresh hot peppers to set your tongue aflame. The chiles rellenos are gummied up with a sweet tomato sauce, sour cream, olives and almonds, and the polio cilantro has very little coriander taste. (5111 Greenville. 692-9777. Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-2 am. MC. V. AE. $$)

Rosita’s. Rosita’s gets better every time we visit. In the past, the tortillas were tough, and the hot sauce was less than dynamic, but our recent visit provided a top-notch Tex-Mex meal. Portions were huge, and lunch cost less than $4. Rosita has breakfast on the grill every morning by 7 o’clock and a list of dinner specials that includes favorites in every combination. You can’t beat the price of her corn tortillas (free on request) or flour tortillas (two for 25 cents), and you shouldn’t pass on the sopapillas, either. (4906 Maple. 521-4741. Mon 7 am-2:30 pm. Tue-Fri 7 am-10 pm, Sat & Sun 9 am-10 pm. MC, V. AE $)


Bamboo Pavilion. We began a delightful meal withstir-fried minced chicken sautéed with black mushrooms and the freshest, crispiest water chestnuts everto grace a wok. Served with two pancakes and rolledfor us by our waitress, the result was something like anOriental burrito and was simply delicious. Panda’sPrawns sounded too sweet (the menu describes themas Gulf shrimp marinated in wine and honey and deep-fried), but they were crunchy and left us feeling likeanother Bamboo chefs suggestion: a Happy Family.Bamboo does a good job of spicing its dishes per request; the obvious key to its excellence is freshnessdown to every detail. (Bell Line at Coit in PromenadeCenter, Suite 1790, Richardson. 6800599. Mon-Fri11:30 am-10:30 pm.Sat & Sun noon-10:30 pm. MC. V,AE. DC. $$)

China Inn. You can’t always judge a Chinese restaurant by its pu pu planer. Our assortment of appetizers was definitely a mixed bag. with the fried won ton dry and disappointing and the barbecued spareribs very spare indeed. The puffed shrimp, however, were large and toothsome. The quality of the entrees, we’re happy to say, was much more consistent than on our last visit. The sauce on the sweet and sour pork no longer leans toward cloying sweetness, and the egg rolls contain far more ingredients. But some things don’t need to change. We’ve never had a chicken dish here that wasn’t ambrosial. Try almond chicken or kung bo gai ding (tender chicken strips stir-fried with Chinese greens and topped with roasted peanuts in a fragrant, hot pepper sauce). Food this good shows that there’s plenty of life yet in old-fashioned Cantonese-style cooking. (6521 E Northwest Hwy. 369-7733. Sun-Thur 11 am-1 am, Fri & Sat 11 am-3 am. All major credit cards. $)


August Moon. This popular Far North Dallas Chinese restaurant has gotten bigger, more ambitious and, most importantly, better since it opened a few years back. Our last meal was one of the best-executed Chinese meals we’ve had in Dallas. Among the long list of “specialties on the revised menu, the Five Flavor Shrimp and the Mongolian barbecue were both succulent, and they left us wanting to try some of the more exotic of these new offerings. But even an old standby like moo goo gai pan was special; the chicken was particularly tender and the vegetables were fresh. (15030 Preston at Belt Line. 385- 7227. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat 10:30 am-11 pm. Sun 10:30-10:30 Dim sum served daily. Reservations for four or more or for special banquets. Bar by membership. All credit cards. $$)

Fangti China 1. First impressions do count, and we knew when we saw the red neon signs in the window that dining at Fangti was going to be fun. We soon discovered that it’s a delectable experience as well. The pu pu tray, a mouthwatering medley of fantail shrimp, an egg roll, barbecued beef, fried won ton and shrimp toast, was an inspiring beginning, and the differing tastes and textures somewhat satisfied our desire to sample everything on the menu. The entrees we finally chose included moo shu chicken, a delightful variation of the standard pork dish, complete with pancakes. Shrimp with peanuts in hot sauce was a crunchy and delicious dish, but keep this in mind: When they say “hot,” they mean hot. The clientele is wonderfully diverse (perhaps partly due to Fangti’s hours- it’s open until 6a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights); the service,though impeccably polite, is leisurely. (6752 ShadyBrook in the Twin Bridge Shopping Center. Mon-Thur11:30 am-4 am, Fri 11:30 am-6 am, Sat 5:30 pm-6 am,Sun 5:30 pm-4 am. 987-3877. All credit cards. $$)

The Forbidden City. Is The Forbidden City the mostoverrated Chinese restaurant in town? We’ve never hada really bad dish here, mind you, although we couldcomplain that our service has been a bit offhand. Butwe’ve never had a really exciting dish, either. OurHunan-style smoked ham had a lavish quantity of meat,but the sauce had little flavor other than salt. TheMongolian beef was similarly bland. If fresh, dependable but ultimately boring Chinese food satisfies you,you may be happier at The Forbidden City than wewere. (5290 Belt Line. Suite 144. 960-2999. Mon-Thur11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-3 am, Sun noon-10:30pm. All credit cards. $$)

Fuji-Ya. This little Japanese inn is tucked into a row of fast-food places just north of LBJ Freeway. The atmosphere may not be much better than in the adjacent Ar-b/s, but the food certainly is. There are the standard Japanese items like shrimp tempura and teriyaki chicken, available separately or in various combinations and cooked reliably. You can also find more unusual specialties like tonkatsu, the pork cutlet that is Japan’s answer to chicken-fried steak. And on Thursday and Friday evenings, Fuji-Ya serves excellent sushi – fresh fish sliced and served up so handsomely on little pillows of flavored rice that you wont even notice that it’s raw. At $12, the price of the sushi is a bit steep, but the rest of the menu is quite reasonable. (13050 Cat. 690-8396.Tue & Wed 11 arn-10 pm; Thur-Sat 11-11;Sun 5-10 pm.Closed Mon. MC, V, AE $$)

Korea House. Also identified as Koryo Jung on its signand menus, this attractive little restaurant is often overlooked by its Richardson and North Dallas neighbors.Too bad. because the appetizing Seoul food offerssomething for everybody. Barbecue fans will like thebulgoki (marinated and grilled beef) and kalbi gui(chewy ribs), and jalapeno buffs will go for the more incendiary kirn chee (fiery pickled cabbage). There alsoare plenty of offbeat choices for the adventurous: Thelast time we visited, a Korean patron at the next tablewas feasting on a dish of mixed vegetables topped witha fried egg. The waitresses in their bright silk costumesadd a welcome exotic touch to the otherwise standardmodern surroundings. They do their best to make non-Koreans feel at home, but the service can be slow. (Coilat Belt Line in Promenade Center, Suite 610, Richardson. 231-1379. Daily 11 am-230 pm & 5-10:30 pm.MC, V, AE $$)

New Big Wong. If you want to learn to eat like the Chinese, the New Big Wong is the place to do it. The 56 chef’s specialties contain such mysteries as beef tendon in shrimp egg sauce, intestine in black bean sauce and duck web with oyster sauce. For the squeamish, there are alternatives such as rock salt prawns, simple in seasoning and marvelously subtle in taste and texture. Some of the greatest delights are the whole fish dishes (the seafood comes straight from tanks full of catfish, eel and lobster). Our Crispy Whole Fish Hunan Style had wonderfully crunchy skin, silky white flesh and an incendiary sauce. Do carefully inquire about what you are getting, though. And if a waiter tells you that you won’t like a dish, listen to him: He may be right. (2121 S Greenville. 821-4198. Daily 11 am-4 am. MC, V. AE $$)

Peking Szechuan. Don’t let the modest looks of this place fool you (the view outside is of the Circle Bowl and Circle Inn sign), because the Oriental house specialties here are purely delightful. We especially enjoyed the Three Delicacy Flavor, which included tender, tasty chunks of shrimp, chicken and beef in Peking Sauce, surrounded by an equally tasty assortment of vegetables. Also noteworthy is the Seafood Delight, a succulent assortment of jumbo shrimp, king crab and scallops sautéed with Chinese vegetables on a sizzling platter. We also were unusually impressed with the fried rice and crisp snow peas. The service is gracious but slow-paced. (2560 W Northwest Hwy. 353-0129. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30-11:30. MC, V, AE.$$)

Plum Blossom. The cod, serene, teal-blue surroundings here calmed our spirits, allowing us to meditate on the large statue of Buddha, the beautiful Chinese porcelains and some of the best Chinese food in Dallas. Sea scallops with straw mushrooms in a potato nest are offered as an appetizer on one of the special dinners, but you can get them a la carte if you ask. The simple, delicious ginger duck and the tender shrimp are accompanied by impeccably crisp snow peas. You can even find some unusual desserts. The fried custard with mango sauce was delightful; the fried ice cream with almonds and tangerine sauce, less so. (Loews Anatole. 2201 Stemmons. 748-1200. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations required. Jackets required. All credit cards $$$)

Royal China. If anything enhances the experience of dining here, it’s the unfailing courtesy of the staff and the personal care lavished on diners. Not that the food needs a boost. Buck Kao’s royal prawn entrees are legendary, but lesser-known dishes such as chicken curry (moist slivers of fowl with carrots, celery, water chestnuts and onions) are always excellent. If you begin your meal with the three-delicacies soup (laden with shrimp, scallops and chicken), take on a Chinese appetizer plate (the barbecued spareribs are great) and finish with a dish such as beef with tomato or sliced chicken with mushroom and bamboo shoots, you won’t want to consider dessert. (Preston Royal Shopping Center, Suite 201. 361-1771. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:30. dinner: daily 5:30-10. All credit cards. $$)

Sawatdee. Barbecued beef with bamboo shoots – the sort of dish one craves after Softball practice and board meetings alike – is zingy and delicious at this Upper Greenville Thai restaurant. A meal here (which is best begun with a small, light, crisp Siamese egg roll) is a ravaging blow to the low-sodium diet, but it’s well worth a day of the bland in repentance. Sawatdee’s fried rice is packed with pork, shrimp, egg, tomato and onion. On the whole, Sawatdee is a dependable place to have an Oriental feast. (4503 Greenville at Yale. 373-6138. Lunch: Sun-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10:30, Fri & Sat 5-11. All credit cards. $$)

Sate House. Well give you three guesses what this restaurant means when it advertises ’Indonesian Home Cooking.” If one of your guesses is ’an intriguing mixture of Chinese and Dutch cuisine that takes the shape of everything from fried chicken to barbecued beef,” you’re absolutely right. Sate’s menu includes four dinner choices, two salads, a soup and a side dish (risol-les) that, as far as we’re concerned, is essential to the Indonesian dining experience. Risolles are cheesy-tasting egg roll-type tidbits made of ragout, chicken and carrots. Most Indonesian food is prepared in a ratherunspectacular manner (the chicken, beef or pork isusually barbecued or fried) but coconut milk and peanut sauces make the difference in taste. (12125 Abramsat LBJ Frwy. Suite 108. 680-2803. Lunch: Tue-Sat11:30-2:30, dinner: Tue-Sat 5-10; Sun brunch: 11:30-3Closed Mon. MC, V, AE, DC. $)


Yunnan Dynasty. Good news! Yunnan Dynasty is back after having been closed for several months. The chefs special beef, with orange peel and lots of hot peppers, showed that this is still one of the outstanding Chinese kitchens in town: It was crunchy, juicy, tender and delicious. But our chicken and shrimp dishes were both rather glutinously sauced. Yunnan Dynasty raised the standard of Chinese cooking in Dallas when it opened three years ago. Now the competition is much stiffer, and it will have to try harder if it is to reclaim its spot at the top. At least its prices, which seemed high when it opened, now appear all too reasonable in view of inflation elsewhere. (9100 N Central Expwy in Caruth Plaza. Suite 191. 739-1110. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Taiwan. The new Taiwan manages to combine all theelegance of Oriental tradition with the cordial serviceand deft preparation of the Taiwan on Greenville, whichwe fell for years ago. We were delighted with the plump,lightly fried shrimp rolls and the warm, meat-stuffedturnovers (kuo-teh) that we ordered as appetizers. Wealso enjoyed the large, hot tureens of egg flower soupand hot and sour soup. Then we chose a Sizzling IronPlate, which gave us a taste of the deliciously spicedbeef that we had smelled since we entered the restaurant. (4980 Belt Line. 387-2333; 6111 Greenville.369-8902. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight,Sun 10 am-11 pm. Revervations recommended. Allcredit cards. $$)


Szechuan Pavilion. The prices and pretensions are relatively modest here, and the food is very tasty, though not particularly memorable. The orange beef and the shrimp in garlic sauce were both plenty spicy for all but the most masochistic hot pepper lovers. The Emperor Chicken arrived in a nest of fried potatoes surrounded by a field of bright green broccoli. But the complexity of the dish was more for the eye than for the palate; inside we found a standard combination of chicken and vegetables. (8409 Preston in Preston Center. 368-4303. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 4:30-10 pm, Sat noon-10:30 pm, Sun noon-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Uncle Tai’s. When the venerable Uncle Tai (one ofNew York’s most celebrated Chinese chefs) left the BigApple to settle in Houston several years ago, it was adecided gain for Texans who enjoy flawless, fiery Hunan cuisine Specializing in the spicy, predominantlystir-fried concoctions of his native Shanghai, Uncle Taicreates dishes that please the palate while subtly expanding it And Chinese-food fans who equate environmental dinginess with authentic fare are in for a surprise. Everything from the curved red lacquer woodwork to the elegant and weighty flatware is plush andhandsome. But the food is the real revelation. At the riskof waxing effusive, it would be hard to find a restaurantwith more careful food preparation, imaginative dishes,courteous service or handsome surroundings. (13350Dallas Pkwy in the Gallena, Suite 3370. 934-9998 Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10 30 pm. Jacketsrequired. All credit cards. $$$)


Banno Brothers. While you’re sitting at Banno’s listening to the raucous bleat of Dixieland jazz or watching an oyster shucker do his work, you can almost believe you re in New Orieans (ana you could practically drive there in the time it takes to get service at Banno’s on a busy Saturday night). But the wait is worth it, especially when endured with oysters on the half shell and the mollusk’s natural accompaniment: ice-cold beer. The broiled red snapper is buttery and nicely textured, and the crowded seafood salad makes a good meal for light eaters. The fried snapper, however, could just as well have been fried anything. The little touches are nicely done, with crunchy hush puppies (which, alas, do not come gratis) and an unusual tartar sauce with chopped onions. On the whole. Banno’s gives good weight – for the wait. (1516 Greenville. 821-1321. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11-11. Sat5-11 pm. Sun, gone fishiri. MC, V. $$)

Boston Sea Party. Before you pop in on this party, be sure that you’re a confirmed seafood lover and that you’re mighty hungry. You’ll want to get your money’s worth ($22.95. prix fixe for dinner), and you’ll want to make sure you sample everything. We selected dinner from three different “piers.” The first was a sampler of appetizers – fresh oysters, smoked fish, caviar, salads and chowder. The second was an assortment of steamed oysters, meaty crab legs and shrimp. Then came the main course. Our particular sea party found the whole Maine lobster to be excellent, though a little less tender than the Australian lobster tail; the char-broiled salmon was plump and flaky. (13444 Preston. 239-7061. Mon-Thur 5:30-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. Sun 4 30-9 pm All credit cards. $$$)

Charley’s Seafood Grill. We have a soft spot in our hearts for Charley’s, with its high ceilings and sunny windows looking out on a rural Addison that has mostly disappeared. The food is not always inspired – the okra gumbo is as murky as the mighty Mississippi, and the boiled shrimp is bland – but the seafood is fresh; and the waiters are obliging. The char-broiled seafood is always dependable: Our red snapper was as juicy as a well-grilled hunk of beef. And the side dishes are better than they often are at seafood places, with tasty homemade fries to go with the fish and good homemade cheesecake to follow. Somehow it’s a shock to walk outside after a meal here and see Prestonwood across the road, we always expect a salt breeze and sailboats. (5348 Belt Line. 934 8501. Sun-Thur 11 am- 10 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11 All credit cards. $$)

Hampton’s Seafood Market. On any given day, this small, quaint seafood oasis adjacent to the Farmer’s Market downtown offers about 50 different kinds of seafood for eating in or carrying out. The luncheon menu is limited, as is the seating (only five tables), but the offerings are excellent. We ordered the salmon salad with green pepper (served on a flaky croissant); chunky, slightly tart coleslaw was a complementary side dish. For a taste of Cajun country cooking, try Hampton’s seafood gumbo or sample the Hampton salad, a delightful combination of shrimp, coleslaw, vegetables and two kinds of fish salads. Hampton’s also sells its own marinade for fish, beef or chicken, as well as shrimpboil, homemade red sauce and tartar sauce. (801 S Pearl. 742-4668. Tue-Fri 8 am-6 pm, Sat 7 am-6 pm, Sun 7 am-4:30 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

Jozef’s. “Rough wood elegance” has become a seafood restaurant cliche, but we can think of no better way to describe this comfortable, unpretentious yet very fine restaurant. The clean, spicy shark soup is worth trying, and Jozef’s crab meat Remick and mushrooms stuffed with crab began our meal perfectly. Our lobster was moist, not overcooked, and it was served with an unusually large steak. The Chef’s Special Shrimp entree was beautifully served with mushrooms, shallots and a light, creamy sauce. (2719 McKinney, 826-5560; 2460 Walnut Hill, 351-5365. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11 Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)


Oysters. They cook fish so well here; why can’t they get everything else right? The daily fish special we tasted was broiled with as much authority as any seafood restaurant around and took on a buttery richness. Even Oysters’ mundane seafood platter had perfectlycrunchy fish and respectable versions of the otherdenizens of the deep. But none of the extras (slaw, fries,hush puppies) were better than passable. Come on,fellas. Man does not live by fish alone. (4580 Belt Line.3860122 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30am-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Ratcliffe’s. Touted as a “San Francisco-style seafood house,” Ratcliffe’s is romantic without the formula hokeyness that so many seafood restaurants rely upon. An open kitchen and a glass case full of appetizing ocean critters greet you when you walk in, and unless you have the misfortune to be seated in the rather bland upstairs dining room, you can enjoy your meal among beautiful antiques and pretty pastels. The seafood is reliably fresh; sauces are creative and served nouvelle-style (under, not on top of). The fried offerings come piping hot, with a perfectly textured breading and just the right amount of grease. (1901 McKinney. 748-7480. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Rocco Oyster Bar. “Shuck ’em if they can’t take a joke” is the motto that Rocco waitresses wear emblazoned on their T-shirts, and with that twisted bit of humor, the mood is set. The Monday night all-you-can-eat catfish filets are greaseless works of wonder. The Big Mix ($8.95) is mostly red beans and rice-not such a bargain. Rocco’s menu is broad – baby eel and oysters of three different breeds command attention – but some of the more adventurous offerings are less than delicious. The huge basket of calamari (fried squid in tempura batter) became tiresome after a while; the ringlets tasted too much like tiny, deep-fried rubber bands. But the ice cream drinks are a superlative way to cleanse fishiness from the palate. (2520 Cedar Springs. 747-6226. Sun-Thur 11:30-11:30, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-12:30 am. MC, V, AE. $$)

Seascape Inn. Bring someone who likes to talk, because the wait (up to 30 minutes for lunch, longer at dinner) is the chief drawback to this mostly superior restaurant. But once you’re ushered into the pleasant dining room, which is awash in cheerful coral and green tones, you’ll have earned the baked oysters Seascape. Served in a fondue of fresh onions and eggplant, glazed with white wine and thick mozzarella cheese, the appetizer sets high standards for the meal that follows. As for the main course. Seascape Inn does best with more exotic entrees such as linguine pescadore, served perfectly al dente with oysters, clams, mussels and whitefish in a complex wine sauce. Sadly, our fried seafood platter was salvaged only by the juicy scallops; the shrimp and oysters had been breaded long ago-or were they frozen? Unsavory options both, especially when so much else is done so well. (6306 Greenville. 692-6920. Lunch: Sun-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Sun- Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$$)

S & D Oyster Company. Newly bricked McKinney Avenue makes S & D’s stark, casual dining room feel even more like a part of New Orleans. This is fitting, since the array of seafood offered here (oysters, shrimp, fish) is fresh and authentically prepared. And S & D’s service is consistently crisp and friendly. The large crowd lingering outside the door speaks for the food’s reputation. (2701 McKinney. 823-6350. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)


Spinnaker. If decor were edible, this seafood restaurant and oyster bar would rank high in the city. It’s airy and open, with glass partitions and massive columns providing striking contrast. The food, however, doesn’t live up to the surroundings. Baked clams with shrimp and crab meat did just what an appetizer should do, but they were followed by an uneven dinner. A satisfyingswordfish steak grenobloise was made even better bythe presence of a seasoning that we couldn’t identify,but the New Orleans barbecued shrimp was alarminglysimple, its “spicy cayenne and butter sauce” doing agood imitation of basic barbecue sauce. The accompanying vegetable portions were fashionably skimpy,featuring an uninviting breaded tomato with Parmesan.Add some very leisurely service, and the result is disappointing. (The Lincoln Hotel. 5410 LBJ Freewayat Dallas Pkwy 934-8400. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3;dinner: daily 6-11; terrace menu: daily 2-6 pm. MC,V. DC.)

Turtle Cove. This airy rotunda of a restaurant looks pretty snazzy with salmon and teal fabrics against rustic dark woods; and some nights, it seems as though all of Dallas has turned out to eat broiled seafood and drink interesting California wines. But after a few years of living with shrimp cooked over a mesquite wood fire, we’re beginning to think that if God had meant man to eat this way he would have put shrimp in West Texas (or mesquite in the Gulf). With too strong a dose of the smoke, shrimp can taste downright medicinal and can get all chewylike. too. Swordfish does a little better; but at $17.50 a throw, the price of a dinner can begin to climb astronomically. (2731 W Northwest Hwy near European Crossroads. 350-9034. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri&Sat 11-11. Reservations recommended. MC, V. AE $$$)


Broussard’s. If you’ve been ragin’ for Cajun, seek no more. Your introduction to one of the South’s fine cuisines awaits you here. But be prepared: Cajun cooking is spicy, redolent fare that can take some getting used to. If you’re bold and impatient, plunge right in with the Sample Tray, which includes the famous gumbo, a zes-ty chicken sauce piquante, crab etoufee. jambalaya (just like the song) and red beans and rice. Taste buds awakened, move on to a seafood specialty such as boiled and barbecued shrimp or baked, crab-stuffed red snapper. Add a mug of cold beer, and let le bon temps routez. (Belt Line at Central Expwy in Richardson Heights Center, Suite 63. Richardson. 231-9850. Mon-Thur 11 am-2 pm & 5-10 pm. Fri 11 am-2 pm & 5-11 pm, Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 11.30 am-9 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Bubba’s. You want meaty, not-too-greasy chicken with a meaningful crust. You want it quick, you don’t want to pay an arm and a thigh for it, and you don’t want dinner in a box. So you go to Bubba’s, and you’re glad. Chicken is the house specialty, and the chicken-fried steak is a large, authentic member of the genre. The dinners, all for under $5, come with a choice of two vegetables (we tried coleslaw, green beans and mashed potatoes; all were fresh and distinctive). Each meal is served with two humongous rolls, and there’s honey on the table to dip em in. The room is bright and airy with splashes of gleaming chrome and a wonderful old war-time poster. The plastic dinnerware and paper plates can be unwieldy, but that’s Bubba’s only flaw. (6617 Hillcrest. 373-6527 Daily 6:30 am-10 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $) Celebration. For those who are hungry (and we mean hungry) and who love home cooking, Celebration is tru-ly something to celebrate. We selected beef stroganoff, a satisfying dish topped with wine-flavored whole mush-rooms, and baked chicken, which was tender inside and crisp outside. Three vegetables are served with each entree (choices change daily); we had creamy, made-from-scratch mashed potatoes, sweet corn on the cob and green beans almondine. Desserts got mixed reviews: the cheesecake was fine, but the straw-berry shortcake was smothered in mounds of whipped cream that tasted as if it had been blended with a box of powdered sugar. (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. All credit cards. $$) Chickeria. The decor of this cleaned-up. painted-up old auto repair shop is more industrial-utility than hi-tech. The food is cooked with real care, and the peoplewho fix and serve it are most hospitable. The main specialty, of course, is chicken. Marinated in citrus juice and broiled over mesquite wood, it is perfect and downright cheap. The shrimp is equally wonderful: tender, juicy and delicate. A variety of vegetables is available daily; the ones we tried were delicious. (601 N Haskell 821-9027. Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm. MC, V. AE $)

Don’s Seafood ft Staakhouse. The original Don’s is one of the most famous restaurants in Cajun country. From its home in Lafayette, it has been propagating itself all over Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Don’s most distant outpost has been in Dallas for nearly a year, and like all the other branches, it has its ups and downs. The thin Cajun gumbo, smoky with roux, is the real thing; so is the crispy fried catfish. The boiled shrimp and the etoufee, however, miss the mark. Maybe someday all the food here will be as good as the best already is, and we can settle back and persuade ourselves that we’re having a merry old time on the banks of the Bayou Teche. (2361 W Northwest Hwy. 350-3667. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. All credit cards. $$)

Fran’s. This little cafe, with its shingled walls and pots of English ivy in the windows, is a homey place for lunch or dinner. We sampled a heaping vegetable plate of mashed potatoes, broccoli and green beans (the green beans were unusually good). Fran’s menu changes daily, but chicken-fried steak is a staple. Chicken and dumplings, beef tips with rice, meat loaf and beef stroganoff are other tasty regulars. And don’t miss the homemade banana pudding or the hot peach cobbler. (3005 N Hall. 741-7589. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30. dinner: Mon-Thur 5-9. Fri 5-10, Sat 5:30-10. No credit cards. $)

George Wesby’s. There are those who will cringe as they read these words and learn that their long-cherished pub has been discovered. But the secret is too great to keep: George Wesby’s, we hereby proclaim, is Dallas’ best purveyor of chicken-fried steak, thick with white gravy and accompanied by huge cottage fries. There’s hardly reason to say more – to chatter on about Wesby’s burgers, hefty salads or frosty-cold beer- the news of great chicken-fried steak is enough. (3115 Live Oak. 821-1950. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-8 pm. Closed Sat & Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

Hearthstone Manor. Believe it or not, it’s a good idea to get into your car in traffic-clogged Dallas and drive the 30 or so minutes it will take to wind up (in hopes of winding down) on Main Street in Lewisville. For the most part, the food at Hearthstone is basic and wonderful. The hot, homemade bread is hard to beat, but Hearthstone also serves a variety of muffins and rolls. Steamy baked potatoes in full dress and all-American entrees such as filet mignon. shrimp, red snapper and veal make for a wholesome, memorable meal. (208 E Mam, Lewisville. 221-4515. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2: dinner: Tue-Sat 5:30-10: Sun brunch: 11-2. MC, V,AE, DC. $$$)

Highland Park Cafeteria. Where would you take E.T. to show him real American cooking? To HPC, of course. He’d recognize the long lines (just like those at the movies) even if he didn’t recognize the food. You could introduce him to chopped spinach salad with horseradish, definitive fried chicken or lean brisket and every vegetable from turnips ’n’ greens to bright, crisp broccoli with hollandaise. The biscuits and corn bread, billowy meringue pies and high layer cakes might make him so heavy he couldn’t get back into his spaceship. Once he’d learned the ropes, he’d tell everybody that the original location on Cole Street still has the best food. (4611 Cole. 526-3801: 600 Sakowitz Village on the Pkwy, 934-8025. Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm: closed Sun at Cole location. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-8 pm, Sat 11 am-8 pm. Sun 10:45 am-3 pm at Sakowitz Village location. No liquor. No credit cards. $)


Ma. Betty’s. Eating lunch at Ms. Betty’s is like having a meal at your favorite aunt’s house. Although the space is limited (provisions lor dining consist of six or seven old-fashioned school desks) as well as the menu (two soups, five sandwiches, two beverage choices and Ms. Betty’s widely hailed desserts), our experience here was nothing less than delightful. The sandwiches, though plain, were very good – particularly the chicken salad, which boasted plenty of nuts and was served, at our request, on light, homemade beer bread. Ms. Betty’s famous “Highland Park Pie” was a treat (it’s like a wedge-shaped chocolate-chip cookie in a crust), but we found her peanut-butter pie far superior. The food is cooked and served by Ms. Betty herself, lending an intimate charm to this friendly establishment. (7011 Lomo Alto at Lovers Lane. 526-5084. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm, MC; personal checks accepted. $)

Taste & Take. Mrs. Hugh Davis, owner of this cozy little diner and takeout operation on Greenville Avenue, wouldn’t admit it herself, but we suspect that her business philosophy is that people are tired of red beans and chicken-fried steak. Her homemade ham and chicken salads, four kinds of homemade breads and delicious desserts (try the apricot or raspberry squares) offer a lighter, healthier alternative to weighty midday meals. Menus change each week and vary from Cornish game hen to chicken and dumplings. Hill Country preserves, chowchow, homemade dressings, mustards and breads are available, and T&T offers gourmet takeout food, catering and free delivery for orders of $25 or more. (4509 Greenville. 691-5161. Mon-Fri11 am-6 pm. Sat 11 am-3 pm. AE; personal checks accepted. $$)


Albert’s Delicatessen and Catering. Al’s menufeatures deli sandwiches and specialties that includecroque monsieur sandwiches, soups, hot dishes suchas lasagna and moussaka. and basturma (an egg dishprepared with aged beef that tastes a lot like countryham). Al also serves a creamy, cinnamon-flavoredcheesecake and lots of friendly chatter in a neighborlyatmosphere. (1416 Avenue J, Piano. 424-4534. Mon-Fn 7 am-8 pm. Sat 7 am-4 pm. Closed Sun. No creditcards; personal checks accepted. $)

The Bronx. It upset us a while back to drive by The Bronx and see the redecorators at work. We were anxious to be reassured that, new cream paint and all, it was the same old Bronx. The entryway is stucco now. and a few new abstract paintings grace the walls, but the important things haven’t changed. The spiced iced tea is still refreshing, the conversation still flows easily, and the omelettes (we delighted in the huge, fluffy mushroom, spinach and bacon omelette) remain dependably good. The service, which in the past was an-noyingly slow, was much more efficient. (3835 Cedar Springs. 521-5821. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30 pm-12:30 am. Fri & Sat 5:30 pm-1:30 am; Sun brunch: 11-3. MC, V, AE. $$)

Chip’s. This is the place for a drinking man’s (or woman’s) lunch. Coolers of beer and sangria await you just inside the front door, while a chalkboard announces beer-of-the-month specials (most of the wall decor is beer-related). But if you’re eating lunch, stick around. “The best hamburger I’ve ever had in my mouth,” mumbled one dining companion. Another praised the burger with chili, cheese and onions; appropriately gooey, it was best eaten with a fork. The grilled breast of chicken sandwich doesn’t quite match the Stoneleigh P’s version, but it preserves its taste very well despite arriving “loaded” with tomatoes, onions and mustard sans request. (4501 N Central Expwy. 526-1092. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Dalt’s. Dalt’s tries to reincarnate an old-fashioned soda fountain, but the Sweet Shoppes of hallowed memory were never this bustling or this funky. Along with the ice cream floats, the bar cranks out plenty of more potent libations night and day. Prestonwood shoppers, deal-making table-hoppers and cruising teeny-bopperskeep the place jam-packed. The catalog-sized menusmake a good meal a matter of good luck – nobodycould cook so many things equally well. But thechicken-fried steaks and salads are huge, and theburgers are meaty. And the fried ice cream sundaes,gooey with hot fudge or caramel and crunchy with nuts,make the soda parlor concept seem pretty nifty after all.(5100 Belt Line in Sakowitz Village, Suite 410. 385-8606. Daily 11 am-2 am. All credit cards. $)

Deacon’s Steak House. We’re in favor of anyone who tries his hand at a serious steak restaurant, and we think that Deacon’s may be on the right track: It’s got high-backed booths, ceiling fans and inlaid wooden tables, and the waitresses are friendly and seem legitimately Texan. The menu offers steaks of every size and cut as well as grilled onions and baked or fried potatoes. But like most Dallas steakhouses, the best thing about Deacon’s isn’t its steak; best of show goes to the raspberry and the espresso cheesecakes, which are homemade by a South African woman named Rene Foreman. Deacon’s has set the stage for an above-average steak-house, and with a little more attention given to quality, it could soon give Hoffbrau a run for its money. (4820 Greenville. 361-2924. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10 pm, Sat 4:30-11 pm. Sun 4:30-10 pm. MC, ,. AE, DC. $$)


The 1879 Townhouse. The best thing about the Townhouse is its location: across from the courthouse on the square in downtown Waxahachie. The short trip (30 minutes) from Dallas is just long enough to make hustle and bustle out of the question. Settle in for some inexpensive, standard sandwiches and a chicken-fried steak that’ll keep you happy until morning. Some mighty good steak fries come with the steak, but we wish they’d throw in a little more cream gravy on the side. Don’t miss the homemade banana pudding; it’s the real McCoy. (East Side Square, Waxahachie. 9370051. Tue & Thur 11 am-9 pm, Wed 11 am-3 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-2:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $)

Francis Simun’s. Chic has invaded even health food restaurants, so now you can look at taupe walls, potted plants and attractive oil paintings while you eat your whole-grain breads and organic fruits and vegetables. Sunday brunch here can be a somewhat ascetic experience: You can scrape your plate clean and still go home lean. One patron resembling an SMU lineman voiced concern over the size of the portions, but it’s probably good for the rest of us to enjoy the broccoli quiche, vegetable casserole, apricot mousse and carrot cake in moderation. It’s all quite tasty, but it’s still hard to forget how virtuous you feel by dining here. (6922 Snider Plaza. 368-7789. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2, dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10 pm; Sun brunch: 11:30-2. AE, DC, CB. $$)

Hoffbrau. Steak and Hoffbrau are synonymous. You wouldn’t dream of ordering anything else at this rustic restaurant on well-traveled Knox Street. Of course, there are other selections on the somewhat limited menu, but the only real debate is whether you want a T-bone or a shish kebab. Either way, both go perfectly with a frosty longneck. On weekend nights, be prepared to wait, longneck in hand, in Hoffbrau’s elegantly appointed waiting area (out the front door and on the curb). But as legions of Hoffbrau groupies will attest, if’s worth the wait. (3205 Knox. 559-2680. Mon-Fri 11-11. Sat noon-11 pm. Sun 4-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)


Kirby’s. Dallas’ oldest steakhouse is a time machine back to the Fifties. The decor is homey, the waitresses call you “honey” and the prices are reasonable. The steaks are good rather than great, but they are something you can count on, along with the flaky baked potatoes and the finely chopped salads served with bowls of dressing at each table. Bring the kids and regale them with tales of what life used to be like in the good of days. (3715 Greenville. 823-7296. Sun & Tue-Thur 5:30-10 pm,Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$)Kobe Steaks. Although we Texans are proud of our beef. Japan – if Kobe Steaks is any indication – has us beat in the taste and tenderness departments. Kobe steaks are the result of a specialized cattle raising proc-ess that includes a daily diet of beer and. yes. massage. The hibachi seafood dinner we tasted drew raves, es-pecially for the scallops, which were large and suc-culent. The Kobe Special Dinner was appropriately named, the beef and chicken (cooked in butter, soy sauce and sesame seeds) proved exquisitely tasty. But the lobster could have been left off this dish; it was tough and was overpowered by the soy flavor. Meals are prepared on a grill built into your table, and chefsperform a variety of stunning hand-acrobatics usingknives and condiment shakers. (5000 Belt Line in theQuorum, Suite 600. 934-8150. Sun-Thur 5-11 pm.Fri &Sat 5 pm-midnight. All credit cards. $$)


Kuby’s. On a first visit to Kuby’s. you may feel a bit left out, as though you’ve been missing something all these years (which is possible). The members of the uncommonly regular crowd at this authentic German delicatessen and grocery store know what to order, know how to get the attention of the no-nonsense frauleins and usually know one another as well. But Kuby’s is worth the initiation. You’ll find generous plates of knack-wurst. bratwurst and polish sausage, served with sauerkraut or delicious, mild potato salad. Sandwiches include corned beef, roast beef, pastrami, braun-schweiger and even tartar. And Kuby’s cooks up a different soup every weekday. (We like lentil on Wednesday and oxtail on Friday ) Try the fresh German pastries, especially the Black Forest cake. (6601 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Mon-Sat 8 am-6 pm. No credit cards for purchases under $15; personal checks accepted. $)

Purdy’s Hamburger Market and Bakery. Just one step inside the door of this Addison eatery you’ll find a cooler full of almost any thirst-quencher you could want – from longneck beers to old-fashioned Cokes and Dr Peppers in little bottles. With its black-and-white tile walls, high ceiling and nostalgic rock ’n’ roll tunes, this place will take you back to the Fifties. And Purdy’s huge, fresh burgers, served on toasted homemade buns and dressed as you like ’em at the produce bar, will remind you of the burgers you loved back then. The french fries (served in generous portions) are crisp and perfectly seasoned. If you’re still hungry, pick up achocolate chip cookie at the bakery on your way out. (4812 Belt Line in the Quorum. 960-2494. Mon-Thur11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. Sun noon- 10pm. MC,V.$)

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. This is a place for serious beef eaters. No frills, no gimmicks, no daily specials-just corn-fed, never-frozen, aged prime beef, delivered fresh from the Midwest and cut on the premises. And although the whole concept seems a natural for Texas, the restaurant is actually part of a franchise that started in New Orleans. Seven different cuts of beef are offered at the Dallas restaurant, with a la carte side dishes including broccoli, cauliflower, spinach or potatoes au gratin. The decor is all-business, with the main attraction being a large board that delivers stock quotes by day and sports updates by night. Fittingly, the prices go right along with big-business expense accounts. (6940 Greenville. 691-6940. Mon-Fri 11:30-11:30, Sat & Sun 5-11:30 pm. AII credit cards. $$$)

Frank Tolbert’s Texas Chill Parlor. Frank X. Tolbert’s chili shrine needs reviews like Dallas needs more Yankees, but it never hurts to be reminded that, as always, Tolbert’s serves the finest “native Texas foods” in the city. The Texas red chili is a civic treasure, the “mystical ingredients” of which must have been supplied by the cowboy-hatted gods themselves. Ditto for the nacho de polio (chicken nachos served on fried flour tortillas); these nachos can compete with any south of the Red River. We’ve sampled most of the menu and have nothing but contented sighs for the Boquillas Bur-rito, a divine mix of Texas red, lettuce and onions wrapped in large flour tortillas and soaked in chili con queso. For even bigger appetites, there’s the Pot Cluck burrito, a gargantuan affair stuffed with spicy chicken and layered with thick, melted cheese. (4544 McKin-ney. 522-4340. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 am-mid-night, Sun noon-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $)

Wonderful World of Cooking. This rather plain dining room is a mecca for those who crave light, healthy lunches. We tried some chicken broccoli crepes in a light wine sauce and the ever-popular green enchiladas (which could have stood a bit more chicken and less sour cream and cheese). The chicken and broccoli dieter’s delight was too watery, but the Wonderful World’s salad plate (with spinach, chicken with walnuts and fresh fruit salads) was delightful, especially with the addition of the lemon-nut and cream cheese finger sandwiches. The fudge pecan pie and the Italian cream pie, both served hot, are out of this world. (5007 W Lovers Lane, 358-3345; 13410-G Preston, 386-8620;6023 Sherry Lane, 750-0382; 621 Preston Royal Village, 739-4803;208 Mandalay Canal, Irving, 5562525;602 Plymouth Park Shopping Center, 253-0666; 1305Avenue K, Piano, 423-8815. Mon-Sat 9:30 am-6 pm.Closed Sun. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-3. Catering andtakeout available. No credit cards. $)


Emiliano’s. This is the first local branch of an Arizona Mexican-food chain, and it proves that Tex-Mex is not the only hybrid cuisine that has grown up north of the border. Emiliano’s long menu includes a number of dishes seldom found around here, such as cabrito (young goat that’s been parboiled and then roasted – it’s tender and mild-tasting) and crab meat burritos. We can’t recall another Mexican place with a salad bar, either – here, in addition to the greens and veggies, you can get chili con queso, some rather watery guacamole and some pico de gallo that will burn your tongue off. (1212 N Collins, Arlington. (817)277-9163. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. MC, V, AE. $$)

Gaylen’s Bar-B-Q. Eat here in good ol boy splendor among a forest of antlers and stuffed deer’s heads. The good ol’ boys get stuffed, too, mainly on some of the best barbecued ribs in North Texas. The french fries are also outstanding. And since Arlington is wet, the beef and fixin’s can be washed down with a cold beer. (826 N Collins, Arlington. (817)277-1945. Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm. No credit cards. $)

Grapevine Steakhouse. It’s worth a 30-minute drive from Dallas to Grapevine just to see the yaks’ heads on the walls and the real live urban cowboys down below. You can also bite into an inch-and-a-half thick T-bone here. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, but it arrived far undercooked. The waiter willingly took it back to the kitchen to finish grilling it, so we were happy at last. Service was a bit slow, but there was a live band and a dance floor to keep us busy while we waited, and the long, family-style tables made eavesdropping interesting. But skip the calf fries. (909 Bushong, Grapevine. (817)481-4300. Sun & Tue-Thur 5:30-10 pm. Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30 pm, Closed Mon. MC, V, AE. $$)


II Nonno’s. This upscale Italian restaurant in the East Tower of the Amfac Hotel at D/FW airport is one of the best-kept secrets in the metroplex. The food is hearty and delicious, and the portions are generous enough to daunt all but the biggest eaters. The antipasto cart is full of treasures such as cold shrimp in a creamy dressing, stuffed artichoke bottoms, marinated mushrooms and prosciutto and melon. The fettuccine carbonara was toothsome, the poached salmon, flaky and flavorful; the veal Marsala, satisfying. We don’t usually like singing waiters and waitresses, but II Nonno’s singers are quite good. The entertainment and the food makes a drive from either Dallas or Fort Worth worthwhile. (East Tower, Amfac Hotel, D/FW airport. 453-8400. Daily 6-10 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Man Wah. This Arlington Chinese restaurant offers what is surely one of the most elaborate appetizer trays in the metroplex. In addition to the standard egg rolls, shrimp and spareribs, it includes an unusual sort of Chinese dumpling, chicken wrapped in foil and a skewer of good-sized beef chunks and pineapple. If your appetite holds up past the appetizer, Mah Wah does a decent job with the standard Chinese menu. (1725 E Division, Arlington. (817) 277-8192. Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri $ Sat 11 am-midnight. All credit cards. $$)


Angelo’s. For a real slice of Texas barbecue, the place to go- as far as most residents of Fort Worth are concerned – is still Angelo’s As with most respectable barbecue joints, the drawing card here is the food and drink, not the atmosphere or service (both of which are carefully disguised at Angelo’s). If you don’t watch your step, you may bump into a grizzly bear modeling an Angelo’s T-shirt or have a cold beer spilled down your back by a diner who tripped while walking down the slanting concrete floor into the dining area. You order cafeteria-style from a menu above the counter. A paper plate is heaped with a choice of ribs (served after 5 pm only) or barbecued beef, potato salad, coleslaw, pickle, onion, sauce and bread. A large, icy beer is just the thing to top it all off. (2533 White Settlement Road. (817) 332-0357. Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

Calhoun Street Oyster Bar. Within easy walking distance from the Tarrant County Convention Center and Theatre, this New Orleans-style restaurant is an ideal place to grab a bite to eat before a play or concert. As the name implies, oysters are the featured fare, but a blackboard menu (offering fresh fish such as New England scrod and Gulf pompano) changes daily. The warehouselike interior of concrete and painted brick is reminiscent of Dallas’ S&D Oyster Co. Service is prompt and attentive here, a definite plus if you’re in a hurry to catch an early show. (210 E Eighth St at Calhoun. (817)332-5932. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Sun 5-9:30 pm. MC, V. AE. $$)

Cattlemen’s Steak House. The secret of getting into this legendary steakhouse on weekends is to arrive before the crowds start descending. This means 5:30 or 6 pm. That may be a bit too early for some people, but otherwise, the wait sometimes exceeds an hour. The steaks are, indeed, worth waiting for: huge, tender and cooked as ordered. This is heartland food. Don’t look for any fancy names or mushrooms and shallots swimming in béarnaise sauce; just sit back and enjoy classic meat and potatoes. (2458 N Main. (817) 624-3945. Mon-Fri 11 am-10:30 pm, Sat 4:30-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Crystal Cactus Restaurant. Hotels are notorious for housing mediocre restaurants with overly ambitious prices, so it’s refreshing to find a hotel restaurant that tries as hard as this one. Instead of the customary bread basket, we received thin slices of baked potato skins sprinkled with Parmesan and slipped between slices of piping-hot garlic bread. An unusual appetizer of escar-got came wrapped in a crisp pastry for dunking in a creamy lemon-butter sauce; it was accompanied by plump, juicy oysters Rockefeller. And the chicken Oscar was expertly prepared, with a light hollandaise sauce and scampi covering lightly breaded chicken breasts. The dessert tray held huge slices of Sacher torte. Even the presentation of the check – often a cumbersome task after even the most pleasant dinner- was done with flair: The bill was presented with chocolate-covered strawberries atop a steaming dish of dry ice. (Hyatt Regency Hotel, Eighth & Commerce. (817) 870-1234. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm & 6-11 pm, Sat 6-11 pm. Sun 10:30 am-2:30pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Edelweiss. Ja, it’s a bit kitsch (that’s German for a bit corny), but sometimes kitsch isn’t so bad. In fact, kitsch can be a great deal of fun, and Edelweiss’ proprietor and bandleader, Berndt Schnerzinger, makes the most of it. A polka band cranks up every night at 7 o’clock to play renditions of old German standards while diners enjoy heaping platefuls of authentic German cuisine. The weiner schnitzel, sauerbraten, knackwurst and bratwurst are among the best we’ve tasted this side of Bavaria. (3801-A Southwest Blvd. (817) 738-5934. Mon-Thur 5-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Hedary’s Lebanese Restaurant. Family-owned Hedary’s makes a great neighborhood restaurant; it’s the type of place that’s perfect for quick meals out or for a bite to eat before a show. Prices are reasonable, the service is quick and efficient, and the food – well, what can we say about maza, lahm mishwi or falafil except that they are as fascinating as they sound. For starters, try the maza, a type of salad smorgasbord. (The menu explains that the Lebanese eat small servings of several salads.) For a main course, you can’t go wrong with the lahm mishwi (large rib-eye steak chunks skewered with tomatoes and onions and wrapped in the steaming folds of Lebanese yeast bread). For something with more bite, try the falafil, deep-fried balls of spiced gar-banzo beans ground with onion, coriander and garlic. (3308 Fairfield at Camp Bowie. (817) 731-6961. Tue-Thur5-10pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. Closed Mon. No reservations. All credit cards. $$)


Benito’s. For a taste of excellent Tex-Mex, this is the place The chile rellenos were stuffed full of cheese, and the fajitas came to our table still sizzling. Instead of a small glass of wine, our waiter (who reminded us of a cross between Lawrence Welk and Howard Cosell with a Spanish accent) brought us the whole bottle – just in case we finished and needed more. For service and food, Benito’s is giving Joe T. a run for his pesos. (1450 W Magnolia. (817)332-8633. Sun-Thur 10-10, Fri & Sat 10 am-3 am. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Kincaid’s. Whoever said that a hamburger is a hamburger is a hamburger? It just ain’t so. One visit to Kin-caid’s and you’ll consider yourself a connoisseur of ground beef. In this old-fashioned grocery store, hamburgers are made the old-fashioned way – and that means lots of onions, pickles, cheese and grease. You’ll need both hands to eat one of Kincaid’s burgers: one to hold the burger; the other to keep the fixin’s from spilling out all over the wooden luncheonette counters that cover the shelves of groceries. There are other selections from the grill, but we stick to the basic hamburger and have never been disappointed. (4901 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2881. Mon-Sat 10 am-6:15 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)


The Old Swiss House. We came here with great expectations but left sorely disappointed. Our table wasn’t ready when we arrived, and, as a result, we were seated in an inferior (by the hostess’ own admission) section of the restaurant. Our waiter, although amiable and efficient, brought us two orders of escargot instead of one- and one of the orders was cold. Our entrees fared no better. The salmon tasted as if it had been sitting around too long; and the veal topped with Swiss cheese looked and tasted as if the cheese had come from individually wrapped sandwich slices. The flaming cherries jubilee, however, did redeem the meal in part, and we would have left partially satisfied except that the accompanying coffee tasted as if it had been in the pot for hours. For our money, we expected more. (1541 Merrimac Circle. (817) 877-1531. Mon-Thur 6-10 pm; Fri & Sat 6-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. Reservations recommended. $$$)

Massay’s. There are legions of Fort Worth residents (native and transplanted) who swear allegiance to this family-owned chicken-fried steakhouse. There’s nothing fancy here, just pure, down-home cookin’ The chicken-fried steaks are served on plastic plates, coffee is served in plastic cups and diners are seated on vinyl chairs. But plastics aside, the food is better than average (and the portions are larger, too). The chicken-fried steak is exactly that: crispy-fried-not cloaked in the soggy batter that we’ve encountered at less worthy establishments. All chicken-fried steak dinners come with home-cooked vegetables and rolls. All in all, Massey’s makes for a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner. (1805 Eighth Ave. (817)924-8242. Daify 8 am-10 pm. MC, V. $)

Michel. Jean Claude’s younger brother moved from Dallas to Fort Worth last year to make a name for himself, and in smashing five-star fashion, he has done just that. Michel is almost perfect. We stumbled in one night, foolishly unaware of the treat in store for us in this renovated Camp Bowie house with upholstered walls, stained-glass windows and country-style drapes. We were seated at a table that was set with a linen tablecloth, tapers and fresh flowers; it was easily large enough for the four-course bounty of food to come. We tried some moist, rich duck and a thick cut of beef for our entrees, which were preceded by a hot, homemade fish pate. The assorted fresh vegetables were artistically arranged and crisp, as was the Boston lettuce salad. For dessert, we chose chocolate and strawberry soufflés, both fluffy masterpieces. (3851 Camp Bowie. 732-1231. Tue-Thur 6-9:30 cm, Fri & Sat seat-ings at6&9 pm. Dinner is prix fixe at $29.50. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

The Original Mexican Food Eats Cafe. Legend has it that this is the first Mexican food restaurant in Fort Worth (hence its name); it’s certainly one of the most popular ones. On a recent Saturday night, we faced a wait of more than half an hour for a table, but our time was well-spent. Our waitress was unfailingly pleasant and attentive and kept a full container of corn tortillas on our table. Specialties include the Roosevelt plate, a tasty combo that offers a taco, enchilada and chalupa. We found the chicken nachos to be among the best we’ve ever sampled, and the margaritas are huge. (4713 Camp Bowie. (817) 738-6226. Sun-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-9:30 pm. Closed Tue. All credit cards. $)

Riatorante Lombardi. Old-World charm characterizes the new Fort Worth Lombardi’s in Sundance Square. Inside, the aroma of pasta and sautéed seafood mingles with the scurry of bustling waiters. For a main course, we sampled the pesce spada griglia (grilled swordfish marinated with Italian herbs) and scallopine di vitello belinda (veal scallopine sautéed with brandy and mushrooms in a cream sauce). Both dishes were expertly prepared; the large cut of swordfish was tender, and the veal was smothered in a not-too-rich sauce that was entirely satisfying. (300 Main in Sundance Square. (817)877-1729. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri $ Sat 5:30-11. Reservations. $$$)

Royal Thai. If you go by the menu, “Authentic Thai Food” looks a lot like “Authentic Chinese Food,” but when the portions are large and the service amiable, who’s going to quibble? This Oriental shrine is about as common on the dive-littered Lancaster strip as a Church’s Fried Chicken takeout is in Bangkok, but it does prove that there’s room for everybody. Our waitress told us that Thai food is considered spicier than Chinese fare, but we found our pu pu tray, Thai combination plate and Royal Thai Chicken to be seasoned with a light touch. (5700 E Lancaster. (817) 457-8865. Sun-Thur 11 am-2:30 pm $ 4:30-10 pm, Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 4:30-11 pm, Sat 4-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Szechuan. Although our first experience didn’t send us off glad of heart Oust full of heartburn), a second try at Fort Worth’s best Chinese restaurant proved that you “should always listen to your waiter. If he tells you that he likes a particular dish but that it’s hot and spicy, believe him. The chef here has an authentically heavy hand with the hot peppers. Once we learned our lesson and steered clear of the ominous starred offerings, we were delighted with pleasing portions of pork with garlic (spicy, but not overwhelming), tangy beef with green pepper and diced chicken with almonds. (5712 Locke off Camp Bowie. (817) 738-7300. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Soaps. Housed in a restored historical building in the shadows of towering skyscrapers, this new restaurant in the Sundance Square district may be just what the doctor ordered for the nighttime doldrums of downtown Fort Worth. The dinner menu sticks mainly to burgers, chicken and steak, but the appetizer list is varied, with such unusual items as nacho nuggets and red beans with corn bread. The chicken Kiev we sampled was succulent and bursting with butter; and the chicken-fried steak was large and tender, although the gravy was slightly too thick for our tastes. (111 E Fourth at Commerce. (817)332-3335. Mon 11 am-2 pm, Tue-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri 11 am-1 am, Sat 8 pm-1 am. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE.$$)

Tuscany. Don’t be discouraged by the stuccolike exterior of Tuscany; looks can be deceiving. Once inside, you’ll find yourself in an elegant Italian restaurant featuring the cuisine of Tuscany, the heartland of Italy. Owner Sharman Wallace greets her guests at the door and keeps watch over the dining room, making sure that all runs smoothly. Wallace also assists in the preparation of appetizers at the table (we had sautéed scampi). Although our pasta dish (tortellini alla panna) was far above average, the real highlight of our meal was zup-pa di pesce, a bouillabaisse-type dish featuring different Kinas of squia, snrimp ana mussels in a spicy sauce. Our meal was perfectly topped off with steaming cups of espresso. (4255 Camp Bowie. (817) 737-2971. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

The Wine Seller. This place is for those who enjoya leisurely dinner, complete with four courses and atleast one bottle of wine. Wine aficionados may explorethe restaurant’s wine vault to select the proper bottlefor their meal. On a recent visit, we chose a MontereyChardonnay, a perfect complement to an appetizerboard of smoked gouda and Morbier cheeses andpepper paté. Selected wines are also offered by theglass. Entrees include beef, chicken and seafood dishes. The Chicken Boursin. a chicken breast wrappedaround Boursin cheese, baked in a wine sauce andtopped with capers, was outstanding. (6120 CampBowie. (817) 737-2323. Mon-Thur 11:30am-10:30 pm.Fri & Sat 11:30-11:30, Sun noon-6 pm. MC, V; personalchecks accepted. $$)