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DINING RETURN TO ELEGANCE

Revisiting Dallas’ posh restaurants
By D Magazine |

Jean Claude. Are you planning an intimate Saturday night dinner a deux at Jean Claude? Plan on next September. By the time you read this, they’ll probably be booking weekends for fall. 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’s personal warmth spreads from his open cook station throughout the tiny dining room, engendering good will and cleansing the air of pretension. We were well satisfied with all elements of our dinner, but the highlight of the evening had to be when Jean Claude, a charmer, popped in front of our table to ask if we enjoyed the meal. The changing menu at Jean Claude’s varies with the availability of fresh fish and meats, and it is delivered orally by waiters practiced in the right balance of enthusiasm and restraint. Our selections were light, beautiful to look at and practically flawless. A 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. We chose to be served our salad after the entree (when in Rome …), so our next indulgences were duckling in ginger and soy sauce and flown-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. Despite the fact that, to our way of thinking, the souffle would have been better without the emphatic flavor of orange peel and Grand Marnier, it won hands down over the mousse -disappointingly similar to Mom’s chocolate pudding. It’s wise to call ahead (at least a month for weekends); you’ll be asked to choose either a 6 or a 9 o’clock seating. At a fixed price of $31.50 a head, Jean Claude’s is worth every penny. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sat seatings 6 & 9 p.m. AE, V, MC, DC. $$$)

The Old Warsaw. After dining at The Old Warsaw, it’s easy to see why those who can afford to be coddled are. There’s something deliciously decadent about watching a regally clad man concoct an entire meal before your eyes, knowing full well that you needn’t lift a finger during the entire process. Your “task” is merely to enjoy the indulgence – a feat that’s easily accomplished in the splendid surroundings of The Old Warsaw, an old-line dining establishment dripping in reputation and tradition. Somehow, the decor here is oddly reminiscent of New York City’s Russian Tea Room – it’s plush and elegant yet filled with unexpected eccentricities. Note the pink flamingos dancing gaily across the forest-green walls. Sink back into the cushy dusty rose suede semicircular booths. Hear the gentle blending of violin and piano as the music drifts delicately across the spacious room. Watch the multitudinous captains and waiters weave in and out of tables, attending to napkins that need placing, cigarettes that need lighting, pheasants that need carving. So relax and enjoy the show. But remember: In the midst of all the theatrics, it can be extremely difficult to keep one’s mind decidedly on one’s meal (Did 1 have the salmon in the first course or the second?). We did manage to notice, however, that the artichoke-heart appetizer with shrimp and raspberry vinaigrette tasted a trifle boring, with nary a hint of raspberry. But the fresh seafood soup fared better, as did our entrees -poached Dover sole with shrimp in lobster sauce, and veal with mushrooms. Both were as tender as one would hope, served in generous portions and accompanied by light, smooth vegetable timbales. After a brief pause (long enough to witness an unbelievable flaming drink production), the strawberries in fresh cream and the chocolate soufflé were nirvana. (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 p.m., Fri & Sat 6-11 p.m. Reservations. Jackets required. Ail credit cards. $$$$)

Agnew’s. When we put on our Sunday finest and headed for Agnew’s, one of Dallas’ most expensive and supposedly most elegant restaurants, we expected a first-class, top-notch dining experience. Our idea of elegant dining apparently differs from that of the Agnew’s management. The atmosphere is elegant, to a point – the colors are rich; the walls are covered with dark wood paneling; a fireplace adorns a far wall. But if elegance is synonymous with intimacy, the atmosphere at Agnew’s is lacking. The dining room is quite large, and the ceiling is high and vaulted. There’s wonderful food but little romance. The service was unusual: Our waiter was friendly, efficient and helpful with menu selections – all welcome traits for waiters – but somehow, his buddy-buddy attitude didn’t seem to mesh with the tone that the management is trying to achieve. Agnew’s menu changes nightly, and although the selection isn’t vast, there generally isn’t a bad choice on the menu. Our cream of yellow pepper soup was perfect – the rich consistency of the soup was accented by a subtle hint of sweetness from the delicate peppers. The spinach salad with bleu cheese and bacon dressing was good, but, surprisingly, the dressing was smooth -not chunky. The smoked salmon appetizer was the only disappointment on the menu. The salmon, served with capers and toast points, tasted more fishy than smoky, and our serving was stuck to the plate. The tournedos of beef were excellent – the sauce was light in color and flavor; the meat was tender and cooked to perfection. The veal, served in a similar creamy sauce, was also excellent. But the vegetables were a bit disappointing – the asparagus was bitter, and the potato soufflé was too garlicky. Desserts are Agnew’s specialty and, oh, are they tempting! The white-chocolate mousse is a masterpiece-rich, creamy and topped with strawberries. (15501 Dallas Parkway in Adelstein Plaza, Suite 300. 458-0702. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat seatings at 6:30 & 9:30 p.m. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$)

Calluaud’s. Calluaud’s has made a lot of news lately with the abrupt departure of its breakfast, lunch and happy-hour operation in the SPG Building downtown. Now Martine and Guy Calluaud have resumed their lunch service at the home location on McKinney Avenue, and it’s just like old times. The luncheon salads are as elegant as ever, and the lamb chops with French fries have returned to McKinney perfectly intact. So have the omelets, which are beautifully served with haricot verts and shredded carrots. Our luncheon companions reported that the salmon was flawlessly delicate and that the napoleon couldn’t have been better. And dinner at Calluaud’s is still one of Dallas’ most sensual experiences. It induces a great feeling of well-being: From the expertly assembled champagne cocktails to excellent decaffeinated coffee, everything is orchestrated with quiet perfection. We began with pheasant pate with pistachio and truffles en croute -delectable and subtle – followed by salad chez nous (asparagus, tomato, artichoke hearts and avocado on a bed of lettuce, covered with Dijon mustard dressing). Next, the entrees: duck with two sauces (mushroom and béarnaise with tomato), grilled sea bass in tomato sauce with basil, filet en croute in madeira sauce with truffles, and tournedos. All were impeccably prepared and artfully served. Though the wine list could stand some updating, we found the Corton Charlemagne ’78 to be earthier and more full-bodied than most whites. It had such character, in fact, that no heavy chilling was necessary. For dessert: soufflés – what else? Lemon and hazelnut were both scintillating choices. (2619 McKinney. 823-5380. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat seatings at 7 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. MC, V, AE. $$$$)

The Mansion. It’s fine to have enough money to do as one pleases -to dine in all the best restaurants and wear all the right clothes, but if ever the gorgeous spread that the Mansion consistently brings forth leaves you feeling blase, it’s time to seek counseling. Once we were seated comfortably in a dining room replete with molded ceilings and rich wood furnishings, the music of squeaking wine corks and laughter set us at ease. A small army of waiters and its captain cheerfully attended our every need. Reviews of this sort are a little like working with a gifted child: You expect excellence. We began our meal with a salad of lump crab meat in a lobster dressing set on a bed of three kinds of lettuce. When our salad tasted less than superior, we were vaguely disappointed. But the wild, meaty mushrooms in flaky puff pastry that followed were delicious and all but redeemed the Mansion. We sampled a huge, perfectly grilled salmon steak and a crisp serving of asparagus with hollandaise sauce. A broccoli mousse that came with the salmon was difficult to recognize as broccoli but was nonetheless tasty. We also tried the tenderloin strip, which, our waiter informed us, automatically comes medium rare. It was served with mushrooms, potatoes and lamb lettuce. Perhaps the only disconcerting part of our meal -and this is a minor point -was the manner in which the desserts were presented. All the selections from the dessert cart were placed on our table for inspection and selection. The array was overwhelming. But the raspberries served with whipped sour cream were delicious, and the chocolate mousse cake -obviously made from very fine, rich chocolate – melted in our mouths. (2821 Turtle Creek. 526-2121. Breakfast: daily 7-10:30; lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2:30; brunch: Sat noon-2:30 & Sun 11-2:30; tea: Mon-Fri 3-5:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11; supper: Mon-Thur 10:30-midnight, Fri & Sat 11-midnight. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards.$$$$)

RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS



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 whatsoever to do with paid advertising.

The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise. They indicate only a general price range.

$ Generally inexpensive. Usually indicates a good value.

$$ Middle ground and very general. Usually indicates a menu with a wide price range.

$$$ Expensive. You can expect to spend more than $20 for a complete meal excluding wine and cocktails.

$$$$ Very expensive.

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.



CONTINENTAL



Bagatelle. Dallas abounds with beautiful restaurants and good food, but rarely is excellence the rule of thumb. Bagatelle, however, seems comfortable with quality. The menu offers some out-of-the-ordinary fowl entrees such as stuffed quail and Long Island duckling. We enjoyed several large, meaty shrimp in garlic butter in the crevettes Bagatelle. The beef is tender and especially good when served with artichoke hearts and sliced mushrooms or when flambeed with cognac and pepper sauce. The chocolate mousse “flavored” with amaretto was quite the final act. (4925 Greenville. 692-8224. Lunch: 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11; Sunday brunch: 10:30-2. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

The Bay Tree. Twice during the first 10 minutes that we were in the Wyndham hotel’s gourmet restaurant, waiters apologized for its miniscule size. But the service was friendly and well-paced. We enjoyed a beautifully prepared rack of lamb that was artistically arranged in quarter-size slices around a tomato stuffed with eggplant. The meat was cooked to perfection-crisp on the outside and juicy toward the middle. The special New York sirloin was also beautifully presented in red-wine sauce topped with tender morels. The double-fudge cake served with orange sauce was rich and creamy. (The Wyndham Hotel, 2222 Stemmons. 631-2222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 6-11; Sun brunch: 11-3. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Belvedere. The red quilted booths are plush; the antique furnishings, lush; and the dinner music, classical. The Belvedere serves basically the same kind of delicious Swiss-Austrian food as its older sister, The Chimney. The veal (the restaurant’s specialty) approaches L’Ambiance’s in excellence, and the beef is tender; but the light. spirited sauces make the meal. (4242 Lomo Alto. 528-6510. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6.10:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Cafe Capri. Café Capri is another of the Old World-charming, standardly continental new kids in town. Its parking lot is filled with expensive cars, its coat room overflows with expensive fur coats and its diners leave filled with high-quality cuts of beef, veal, fish or fowl. But Cafe Capri is better than most newcomers of its genre. The sauces for our entrees were prepared at our table, and although we got a bit nervous watching our waiter submerge a beautiful steak Diane in thick brown sauce, we were relieved and delighted to taste the light blend of red wine, cream, mushrooms, shallots. Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. One dessert made the drive to Addison worthwhile: Although the waiter bragged on the chocolate rum cake and the Grand Marnier souffle, we insisted on strawberries flambé. The mixture of fresh berries, orange rind, brown sugar and Grand Marnier topped with whipped cream was spectacular. (15107 Addison Road, north of 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 Royal. The surroundings here are as exquisite as the Mozart played by the pianist during dinner. Good bets are scallops in pepper sauce-a fine appetizer-and such nouvelle cuisine entrees as flavorful duckling supreme and piquant veal steak with lime butter. But the service can be slow. (Plaza of the Americas, 650 N Pearl. 747-7222 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 6:30-11. Reservations recommended. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

The Chimney. Service is sometimes slow and the appetizers can be unappetizing, but the entrees at this understated restaurant are wonderful. Ten of the 18 listed are veal, so we expected the veal for-estiere to be good; it was better than that. Also recommended is the Rehsteak Chimney, breathtakingly tender tournedos of Montana venison. (Willow Creek Center, 9739 N Central Expwy at Walnut Hill 369-6466 6466. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Chlǒe. Once you get past the gorgeous glass front doors and are almost out of earshot of the blaring stereo system, you can enjoy a splendid four-course dinner here. The lobster mousse and the oysters and escargots with spinach are both fine openers. Next try a baby bibb with leeks salad or a steaming bowl of “soup of the seas.” For the main course, the filet of sea bass with beluga caviar is sinfully indulgent, and the duck with black currants is moist and tender with just the right touch of sweet currants. For dessert, the white-chocolate mousse is rich but light, and the amaretto souffle is heavenly. (8854 N Central Expwy in NorthPark East. 36 1 -9996. Buftet: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:15; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10, Fri & Sat 6:30-11; Sun brunch: 11:30-3. All credit cards. $$$$)

The Enclave. Here you expect all the waiters to be named James and to be gentlemen’s gentlemen in their moonlighting hours As for the food, the filet can be a bit dry but is usually very good; and the pepper steak flambé and the lightly breaded veal Oscar are tastefully presented. The house vegetables have been the only disappointment. The tab is reasonable, considering the plush elegance of the place. (8325 Walnut Hill. 363-7487. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-11:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Enjolie. Enjolie joins the growing list of Dallas’ finer restaurants, serving innovative and ambitious cuisine in an elegant but comfortable setting. The menu offers superior variations on culinary standards- chicken with crayfish, pepper steak, veal with mushrooms, medallions of lamb with tarragon sauce-as well as more unusual fare for the more audacious- roast pigeon, sweetbreads, pheasant mousse. Com-plimentary cheeses are served after the seafood entrées, so if you want dessert, be judicious. And you will want dessert. (Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel, 221 Los Colinas Blvd, Irving. 556-0800. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:15; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$)Ewald’s. Less pretentious and flashy than most continental restaurants in Dallas, Ewald’s ranks in the highest echelon when it comes to the quality of its food. Among the standouts are the tournedos St. Moritz. veal steak au moulin and veal Pagallo. Superb desserts include the strawberries Romanoff and the crème caramel. (5415 W Lovers Lane. 357-1622. Mon-Fri 6-10:30 pm. Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Francisco’s. Francisco’s, although not the same caliber as the best of the continental restaurants, is still good and reasonably priced. Soups are the high point on the menu. Clear mushroom soup, with mushrooms floating in consomme and topped with light pastry, is superb. Minestrone, a soup of the day, is almost as good. And the tournedos is a quality entree. For lunch, the chef’s salad is commendable. (2917 Fairmount. 749-0906. Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Reservations. MC. V. AE. $$$)

The French Room. The good news is that despite stiff competition from younger luminaries such as Agnew’s and Enjolie. The French Room retains its status as crowning glory among the many fine restaurants in Dallas. The quality of cuisine is, to date, unrivaled. In fact, while savoring succulent braised lobster and tenderloin of lamb, we doubted we could have fared better. Every accouterment, from the ashtray with its tiny painted porcelain top to the single burning taper and gleaming, seemingly untouchable silver was well-chosen. One expects “fine dining” at a five-star restaurant, but we’ve seen many a harried or snobbish waiter ruin an occasion of import or an otherwise delectable meal. The French Room sees to it that along with its superb cuisine comes service that aims to make each diner feel like a member of the first estate. Several adept waiters hover about each table, but their movements are so graceful and subdued that they never encroach upon the privacy of their patrons. Although the menu selections hold their own, it’s probably best to order from among the specials, and we suspect that even the most expensive menu item is worth its price. We ordered each course of our meal from among the specials of the day and were never disappointed. The duck salad was large enough to have been a meal in itself; each sumptuous bite was heavenly. For dessert, the fruit melange topped with a creamy sauce and the tart raspberry pastry served in a caramel sauce were wonderful, but perhaps too rich. Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce. 742-8200, ext 191. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required. Mon-Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$$)

Gallé. Watch out, French Room. Move over, Cal-luaud’s. Gallé has arrived, and our impression is most favorable Everything from the atmosphere to the after-dinner coffee in this Lincoln Radisson Hotel restaurant was prepared and presented to near perfection. For appetizers, the shining star is the cold hors d’oeuvres tray. Though quite expensive for an appetizer ($14), it was truly a treat. The watercress salad with walnut oil was very simple but was perhaps the most elegant salad offering. More than 15 entrees are offered, including seafood, fowl, rabbit and beef. The sweetbreads with morels were fabulous-tender, flavorful and served in a smooth brown sauce. (Lincoln Radisson Hotel, Lincoln Center, 5410 LBJ Frwy. 934-8400. Mon-Fri 6-11; Sat 6-11:30. Reservations requested. Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)

The Garden Court. This Melrose restaurant proves that with age can come beauty and grace. The 59-year-old hotel has been born again, and the mix of art deco and traditional styling in this bright, curtain-less black and white marble-floored room makes for a cheery lunch or romantic dinner. The rich, moist fudge-nut cake makes it difficult to choose a sensible entree, but a bowl of seafood chowder crowded with great hunks of fish and fresh vegetables and a crisp Garden Court salad makes a perfect lunch. (3015Oak Lawn. 521-5151. Breakfast:Mon-Fri 6:30-11: lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11, Sun 6-9; brunch: Sat 6:30-2:30. Sun 7-3. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

The Grape. Everyone loves The Grape, but the people who seem to love it most are lovers. Candlelight is conducive not only to romantic conversations but also to discussions of bad poetry and good dance. The food is excellent. Quiche Lorraine is a staple, as are the homemade mushroom soup and Boston lettuce dinner salad. The pates are consistently noteworthy. Service is provided by bright. young people who probably live lives more fascinating than any of their clientele. (2808 Greenville at Goodwin. 823-0133. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2;dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6-midnight. All credit cards. $$)

Hearthstone Manor. Believe it or not, it’s a good idea to get in 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. The food at Hearthstone is basic and wonderful, for the most part. The hot homemade bread is hard to beat, and Hearthstone serves a variety of muffins and rolls. Steamy baked potatoes in full dress and all-American entrees such as filet mignon, shrimp, snapper and veal make for a wholesome, memorable meal. (208 E Main, Lewisville. 221-4515. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Tue-Sat 5:30-10: Sun brunch: 11-2. MC, V.AE, DC. $$$)

L’Ambiance. This is definitely the best continental food you’ll ever eat in a converted gas station. Salads are impeccable; soups are tresh ana flavor-ful. Recommended entrées are the medallions of veal with mushroom puree and the pepper-sauced filet mignon. And when lobster bisque is available, be sure to try it. The pastry selection is varied and gorgeous. (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. $$$)

Le Boul ’Mich. Le Boul Mich has had its ups and downs, but it’s on the upswing now, serving one of the best omelets in town and a very respectable French steak pomme frite. The asparagus would be better if it were fresh, but the sourdough bread is delicious, the espresso is serious, the prices are reasonable and the old house with the porch on three sides is charming. (2704 Worlhington. 826-0660. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11:30pm. Closed Sun. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Le Cassoulet. This pretty, country-French restaurant is what NorthPark’s china and kitchenware boutique. Piccadilly Fair, would look like if it served dinner. Le Cassoulet’s specialty, country cassoulet (a combination of lamb, beef, sausage, herbs and white pinto beans), was too salty and gamey. Other entrees were only average. Our overall impression is that Le Cassoulet has an unusual and pleasing atmosphere but should concentrate a little more on perfecting its menu. (Amfac Hotel, east tower. 453-8400. Hours vary, but are usually 6-11 pm. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Le Louvre. If plush formality, solicitous service and leisurely pacing appeal to you, Le Louvre won’t dis-appoint. A lew good starters are the salmon mousse with cucumbers and dill sauce (near perfection) and the unusual and spicy hot terrine of wild game with green-pepper sauce. We also enjoyed the oyster pie with avocado sauce and the lobster sausage wrapped in a delicate pastry. Add a serving of the cream of spinach soup with crab meat and a “salad fantastic” and you could stop there-but don’t. The souffle du soir (we had raspberry) is out of this world. (9840 N Central Expwy. 691-1177. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

L’Entrecote. The dining experience here is exalted to the utmost-each table is attended by a captain, a waiter, as many as three assistants and a wine steward. Happily, the cuisine is on a par with the rich, subtle surroundings. The delicately seasoned escargots topped with light pastry were some of the best we’ve ever tasted. And the terrine of pheasant with pistachios complemented by mandarin oranges was smooth and slightly tart. The waiter displayed deft skill in preparing the wilted spinach salad with walnuts; it was a perfect blend of sweet and sour. For the finishing touch, the white and dark chocolate mousse was sinfully rich. (Loews Anatole Hotel, 2201 Stemmons Frwy. 748-1200. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: daily 6-10:30. Reservations required for dinner. AE. CB, V, DC. $$$$)

Le Rendezvous. Service is consistently good, and comfort marks an unpretentious formality here. A great late-breakfast omelet is offered beginning at 11. Also, look for the lunch specials with homemade soups, fresh fish and veal. Dinner standouts include extensive seafood entrees, veal in lemon butter and pepper steak. (3237 McKinney at Hall. 745-1985. Tue-Sun 11 am-2 am. Closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Le St. Tropez. Le St. Tropez calls itself a bistro, and that’s as good a description as any. The atmosphere is informal and relaxed and the menu features some bistro basics-croque monsieur, croissant sandwiches and omelets-as well as more complicated entries such as coq au vin and seafood dishes. We tried a rare roast beef special served with horseradish that was tender and flavorful. On the appetizer side, we liked the pate served with cornichons and fresh tomato, and the cold cucumber soup Le St. Tropez isn’t fancy, but it serves up good, basic French food at reasonable prices. (Northwood Hills Shopping Center, 8030 Spring Valley at Coit. 231-6181. Mon-Sat 11-11. Closed Sun All credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

Les Saisons. Here you’ll get what restaurant critics call a “dining experience.” The food is French, the waiters are French (or at least good impersonators) and the decor is set approximately in turn-of-the-century suburban Paris Meals at Les Saisons are traditional, expensive and predictably excellent, with interesting twists such as roast Cornish hen with tarragon sauce, braised sweetbreads and sirloin saute with Roquefort cheese and green peppercorns. (765 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 528-1102. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-midnight. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Maple Street East. This handsome Victorian house has been a favorite dining spot since it opened, even though the food was a little uneven at first Now, all that’s straightened out, and Maple Street East is consistently good. The salads are delicious, and the fettuccine verde is especially good for lunch, as is the crab, bacon and avocado sandwich. For dinner, try the tournedos. with English trifle for dessert. (2508 Maple. 698-0345. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:30: dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11: Sun brunch 11:30-2:30. MC. V, AE. $$$)

Maltre D’. They even chilled our salad forks. This relaxing uptown establishment may soon rival the longtime greats downtown if it keeps on its toes The elegant burgundy-and-brown decor, molded ceilings and perfect, well-timed service instantly put us at ease, and the food was far from average. One of the specials the night we visited included individual medallions of veal, chicken and beef We expected far too much meat and too few vegetables but thought that ordering this entree would fulfill our obligation to sample everything we could possibly digest We were happy with all three and ate every bite. The vegetables were lightly cooked and held much of their natural flavor. (5920 Belt Line, 239-2799. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Mozart’s. Mozart’s is the newest of the Deutsch in Dallas, and it gives the city’s best (Belvedere or The Chimney, depending on the phase of the moon) a new challenge. The rinder lendenschnitte habsburg, a forgivably tough filet mignon topped with tasty goose liver and juicy mushrooms, was very filling, and the combination of flavors was extraordinary. The cordon bleu consisted of a delicate crust and tender veal. And the side dishes at Mozart’s were served in wonderfully ample German portions. We enjoyed mixed marinated vegetables and fresh spat-zle (sauteed noodles). (Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit. 385-3000. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-10:30. All credit cards. $$$)

Patry’s. This can be an excellent place to have a quiet and elegant continental dinner, provided you arrive when the place is not too crowded. Pepper steak, duck a I’orange. lamb chops and veal in lemon butter are consistently tasty entrees. The cream of broccoli soup is among the best in the city One of Patry’s stronger points is its extensive wine list, which complements the menu. (2504 McKinney. 748-3754. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun, Tue-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Pyramid Room. This is Dallas’ old money’s old fave, and try as we might to be impudent and critical, we’re speechless with admiration for this flashy Fairmont restaurant that reminds us a little of Frank Sinatra and Tutankhamen. The best thing about the Pyramid is that even amid all the poshness. there’s real relaxation and gorgeous, delicious food that lends a mood all its own. The Pyramid Room hired a new executive chef, R.J. Lukas. soon after our visit, and we’re anxious to taste his cuisine. But the roast pheasant cooked with mango that we had on our last visit would be hard to top And the vegetables-wonderful, tender asparagus and some artichoke bottoms stuffed with celery-were top-notch. The petits-four tree of glazed cakes and fruits served before we ordered dessert was a magical ending to a very fine meal. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross at Akard. 748-7258. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: daily 6-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$$)

Three Vikings. Weekend diners are still lining up to try the city’s only samplings of Swedish cuisine. Entrees include roast duck with almond sauce and lamb chops with wild mushroom sauce. The veal Oscar and grilled salmon steak are both excellent. And there’s no nicer way to begin a meal than with the offerings on Three Vikings’ relish tray. (2831 Greenville at Goodwin. 827-6770. Mon-Thur 6-10pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)



ETHIOPIAN

The Blue Nile. Don’t be intimidated by the names of the menu items here; almost everything is stewlike and spicy and good. Expect the unexpected: The food is served on pizza pans, and no silverware is provided. In Ethiopia, you eat with the right hand, and injera (Ethiopian bread that is spongy and tastes slightly sour) 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. 324-0471. Tue-Sun noon-midnight. Closed Mon. AE, V. $)

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. 528-84 76. Daily 11-11. DC; personal checks accepted. $)



GOURMET CARRYOUT



Beauregard’s. This tiny gourmet carryout/Euro-pean-style grocery carries a varied selection of fresh vegetables from around the world, homemade jams and jellies and an assortment of fresh-baked breads. In addition, owner Beauregard Detterman prepares meat pies to heat at home, ready-to-go pasta salads, pates and desserts. On one visit, we sampled a chicken pie with bell pepper, onion, tomato and zucchini-topped with mozzarella. When heated, the pie was a juicy blend of flavors that made a filling meal. The duck liver pǎté was a smooth, creamy and rich side dish. To finish the meal, we chose Beauregard’s dessert specialty: a chocolate cake made with French and Austrian chocolate marinated four days. This cake is for chocaholics only. (4603 W Lovers Lane. 351-0378. Mon-Sat 10 am-6:30 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $$$)

Knox Street West. If you’re looking for a place to pick up fixings suitable for a lakeside picnic or a midnight rooftop feast, stop by Knox Street West. This small European-style carryout market sets the mood for a romantic occasion-there’s a fireplace, rustic old cabinetry and antique fixtures. The menu is limited and changes frequently, but that’s the charm of the place. When we visited, two outstanding entrees were available: chicken Dijon and a vegetable quiche. Desserts are winners, with the exception of the cheesecake, which, although flavorful, was a bit dry A wide variety of wines and imported beers is available, as are several blends of coffee, which is ground fresh to order. (3314 Knox. 528-4140. Daily: 10am-7pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mirabelle. Mirabelle’s menu varies daily and is incredibly inventive. The pistachio-spiced country ter-rine is an excellent pǎté. Salads are offered in a wide range of combinations. A good standby is the tarragon chicken salad, and there’s always a pasta salad or two. some with seafood or meat. We tried a mixture of baby shells, peas and ham seasoned with fresh basil, which was very good if you really love basil. Mirabelle’s crowning achievements are its desserts. The fresh plum and apple tarts are excellent, as is the sour-cream cheesecake offered with a peach melba sauce. The cookies and bran muffins are tops and are well worth their hefty price. (73 Highland Park Village. 528-7589. Tue-Sat 10:30 am-7pm; Sun & Mon noon-6 pm. V, MC, AE, $$$)

The Winery. Amid the vast wine stock at this shop adjacent to Jean Claude is a display case full of edible goodies perfect for eating in or carrying out. The emphasis is on freshly prepared salads and desserts, home-baked breads and cheeses – including hard-to-find varieties such as mozzarella rolled with prosciutto. Caterer Nancy Beckham will make sandwich or cheese trays, antipasto plates, dips and hors d’oeuvres for parties-or you can sample her hearty soups and sandwiches with a glass of wine on the spot. (2404 Cedar Springs at Maple. 749-0250. Mon-Sat 10 am-7 pm, Sun noon-6 pm. Complimentary wine tasting every Sun 4:30-6 pm. MC, V, AE. $$$)



INDIAN



India House. Dinner service is extremely attentive in this establishment where the selections are not exactly part of the American culinary mainstream. Fresh-from-the-oven breads and appetizers such as the chicken chat are superb. Both the tandoori chicken and beef (marinated delights served with shovel-sized portions of fluffy rice) are tasty and extremely filling. The cheese balls in sweet milk are perfect for dessert. (5422 £ Mockingbird. 823-1000. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. All credit cards. $$)

Kebab-N-Kurry. If you’re looking for something new and you’ve never tried Indian food, this is the perfect atmosphere in which to learn. The place is small, the waiters are friendly and very knowledgeable about Indian food and its history, and the food is authentic. The chicken chat is a tasty appetizer, as are the samosas (turnover-type pastries stuffed with either vegetables or meat). And a wide assortment of Indian breads is offered as well. (401 N Central Expwy, Suite 300, Richardson. 231-5556. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30-2:30. 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 Indian music relaxes us. Maharaja Sahibs Mughlai Biryani is our favorite dish-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. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy. 987-2301. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:45; dinner: daily 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$)Tanjore. At this small North Dallas Indian restaurant, the Middle Eastern mood comes through loud and clear with piped-in Hindi music and the tastes and smells of curry, cumin, cinnamon and coriander. Tanjore offers a large selection of vegetarian dishes, poultry, seafood and lamb and beef specialties. We settled on an order of lamb mugali (chunks of tender lamb in a creamy sauce with nuts) and shahi korma (boneless chicken cooked in curry with butter, cream and almonds). The sauce was spiced mildly -but not meekly-in both dishes. For something unusual, try a Tanjorita: a soothing whipped yogurt drink. (Prestonwood Creek Shopping Center. 5409 Belt Line. 960-0070. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30. Sat 11:30-3: Sun brunch: 11:30-3; dinner: daily 6-10. BYOB; setups available. All credit cards. $$)



ITALIAN



Bugatti. Bugatli offers consistently superior homemade pasta, the quintessential element for any good Italian restaurant. But Bugatti goes far beyond that. The chef handles veal as well as any of ffis Dallas contemporaries, and the homemade soups are among the best in the city. Other standouts include the tortellini alla crema (homemade doughnut-shaped pasta shells stuffed with veal and engulfed in a rich white cream sauce), the crab cannelloni and the fettuccine della casa. (2574 Walnut Hill. 350-2470. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

Campisi’s. In a dark room lined with celebrity photos is served the food that has made Campisi’s a Dallas institution Veal marsala with rich mushroom sauce, fettuccine. garlic toast and Campisi’s famous rectangular pizza all exemplify solid Italian cooking at bargain prices. (5610 E Mockingbird. 827-0355, 827-7711. Mon-Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat 11-1 am, Sun noon-midnight. Reservations for six or more. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

Cremona Ristorante Italiano and Deli. Park your car on the dead-end street, wind your way around the little junque stores, find a table near a window and prepare yourself for a no-nonsense Italian meal. The ladder-back chairs, wooden blinds and starched white tablecloths lend country-inn romance. The pasta is homemade, and the sauces are innovative, delicate and subtle. You’ll relish the fresh butter and cream flavors. (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. Although it may look suspiciously like another faceless pizza shack, Cunze’s is far from it. What you’ll find here is serious Italian food-veal scallopine, linguine with clams, fresh calamari (squid). Entrees come with the traditional green salad and a steaming side order of pasta in either a garlic or tomato sauce. The veal and shrimp combination is an especially tasty entrée-thin slices of tender veal sautéed with scampi in butter, lemon and garlic. As for atmosphere, Cunze’s interior is about as formal as Mama’s kitchen; but somehow the result is almost romantic. (6101 Greenville. 369-5747. Daily: 5-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Da Piccolo. A tiny spot near Knox Street in Old Highland Park, this is a place for pleasant, unpretentious Italian tare. The calamari is delicious, and spaghetti carbonara follows nicely. The lasagna is also worth a try. Service and prices are reasonable. But beware: This place is so small that intimacy is almost impossible. (4537 Cole. 521-1191. Mon-Sun 5:30-11 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$)

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. Mon-Thur 11 am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

Fablo’s. Fabio’s has pulled together a class act and offers a varied menu, classical music and friendly service. The fettuccine al’ amatriciana was laden with more sauce than we prefer, but it was a fine sauce indeed. The vitello al portafolgio (veal stuffed with prosciutto, cheese and mushrooms) was far too rich for our tastes, but we scraped away a few of the trimmings and enjoyed the tender veal. The gamberi alia Fabio-shrimp with scallops and mushrooms -was served in a delicious creamy white sauce. (The Corner Shopping Center, 9820 N Central Expwy, Suite 504. 987-3226. Sun & Tue-Thur 6-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations. MC. V, AE. $$$)

La Tosca. Elegant, understated surroundings and food equally as tasteful greet diners at La Tosca. Octopus salad and pepata di vongole or cozze (a clam dish) stand out on a menu that includes excellent pasta (paglio e fieno and cannelloni are delicious), scaloppine al marsala and involtini nicola (two veal dishes). Another unusual treat worth sampling is the cold, thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce. Noteworthy desserts include profitterol al cioccolato (a cream-filled pastry) and ice cream with Strega, an Italian liqueur. (7713 Inwood. 352-8373. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2:30: dinner: Tue-Thur & Sun 5:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Mon. No dinner reservations on weekends. All credit cards. $$$)

La Trattoria Lombardi. This place may never be as good as the old Lombardi’s on McKinney. but when it is at its best, the pasta is inspirational. Also offered are superior soups (clam chowder and minestrone excel), fine veal dishes (especially the veal with lemon butter, veal marsala and saltimbocca Ro-mana) and first-rate tarts and other desserts, all with Lombardi’s traditionally good service. (2976 Hall. 823-6040. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Mario’s. Out of the vein of most pizzeria-style Italian eateries. Mario’s offers first-rate, napkin-placing, cigarette-lighting service and food. Above-average pasta, veal entrees and sauces are fitting preludes to dessert, possibly one of Mario’s fine souffles. (135 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Sun-Thur 6-10:30pm, Fri&Sat6-11 pm. Reservations. Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$)

Now That’s Italian. For starters in this artsy little Oak Lawn restaurant, we enjoyed creamy onion soup, greaseless beer-batter fried mushrooms and polenta (a concoction made from deep-fried corn-meal served with lots of tomatoey marinara sauce). Our main courses were a whole-wheat pizza for one, vegetarian lasagna, a meatball sandwich and a heaping plate from the soup-and-salad bar. As toppers for the pizza, we chose artichoke hearts and Italian sausage. The combination was wonderful, but it was almost overwhelmed by all the hot moz-zarella. The vegetarian lasagna had a smaller assortment of vegetables than we had hoped, but what was there was fresh and crisp. Overall. Now That’s Italian is promising, and the decor (hi-tech) is pleasant and breezy. We especially like the logo of the Dallas skyline, including the leaning tower of Reunion. (3857 Cedar Springs. 522-2340. Mon-Thur 11 am-midnight, Fri & Sat 11-2 am. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

Pan’E Vino. We’ll admit a strong prejudice against chain restaurants, but we can’t skip Pan’ e Vino. This young subsidiary of People’s restaurants is beautifully done-hi-tech enough to be in, but not obnoxiously vogue You’d never guess you were on the shores of Central Expressway after passing the lighted pedestal of jelly beans at the door and following the waiter through a maze of diaphanous screens to a table. The area of the restaurant is small, but the shimmery screens lend privacy. The variety of Italian soups, sandwiches, salads, meats, seafoods and pastas is immense, so it follows that the food is good rather than superb. But the prices are reasonable and Pan’ e Vino is a first in this city: It offers family-style prices and a chic atmosphere, to boot. (10443 N Central. 363-2990. Daily: 11:30 am-midnight. MC. V, AE. $$)

Prego Pasta House. As can be determined after a glance at the menu, the owner of Prego, Joe Bar-raco. is also the manager of Campisi’s. In many cases, we found the food at Prego to be similar to Campisi’s. but the atmosphere and service are generally better. For appetizers, the artichoke hearts and scampi were passable but a bit blah-not much garlic or imagination. But the fried provolone was excellent. As a general rule of thumb, order the authentic Italian specialties; they’re all top-notch. The veal cutlet parmigiana is excellent, as is the lasagna. Pizza is the same as Campisi’s: a thin, tasty crust with oodles of rich, thick Italian topping. (4930 Greenville. 363-9204. Mon-Thur 11-11. Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. Sun noon-11 pm. MC. V. AE. $$)

Ristorante Lombard!. With this latest addition in Adelstein Plaza. Lombardi’s continues its tradition of serving great Italian cuisine. Try the specialty of the house appetizer (delizia tricolore), a sampling of some of Lombardi’s pasta, or steamed clams served with a garlic, white wine and lemon sauce. As entrees, the sea bass with mixed seafood is flavorful and rich; the veal scaloppine, tender and buttery. The juicy lamb chops are prepared in a lightly seasoned breading and are sauteed with red peppers, onions and black olives. Don’t pass up dessert- Lombardi’s smooth, subtle chocolate rum cake is a real treat. (15501 Dallas Pkwy at Arapaho. 458-8822. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30: Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$$)

Sergio and Luciano. The setting here is not altogether satisfying-it’s halt upstairs, half downstairs, and most of the action is on the upper floor. But the food is superb. Calamari-fried at lunch and served in a hot, spicy broth as an appetizer at dinner-is excellent. So is the tortellini alla panna, offered as a first course in small portions that leave room for more. If you want pasta, you can’t do better than the fettuccine with white clam sauce. The vegetables are carefully prepared, and Sergio and Luciano serves real Italian hard rolls. (4900 Belt Line, Suite 250. 387-4441. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30: dinner: daily 6-11. All credit cards. $$$)

Sergio’s. Seven fine veal dishes and an array of homemade pasta highlight Sergio’s innovative, elegant menu. Our tagliarini 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 lime juice dressing made for the perfect light lunch. Sergio’s dining room is semiformal, and its prices are surprisingly reasonable. (The Quadrangle, Suite 235, 2800 Routh. 742-3872. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fn & Sat 11:30am-11 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)

Sofio’s. When you step into Sofio’s, you know you’re not in just another strip shopping center restaurant. You’re in Rocky Sofio’s Italian restaurant/pizza joint. The fried mozzarella must have been Mama’s specialty. It’s served with a rich, chunky red sauce for dipping. The antipasto for two was chock-lull of Italian goodies-salami, olives and a rich assortment of marinated vegetables. For entrees, the baked lasagna and fettuccine Alfredo were winners, but the linguini with clam sauce wasn’t garlicky enough. The portions at Sofio’s are enormous (one appetizer can easily be shared), so don’t eat every bite; dessert is a must. (4021 Belt Line. 934-8121. Mon-Thur 11:30am-10pm, Fri 11:30 am-midnight, Sat 5 pm-midnight. C/osed Sunday. MC. V, AE. $$)



MEXICAN



Adeline’s. This tiny hole-in-the-wall in Preston Center dishes up wonderful huevos rancheros for breakfast plus other Mexican morning specialties such as migas (eggs scrambled with tortilla bits, cheese and tomatoes) and huevos con chorizo. The accompanying potatoes are good and hearty. For lunch, try the tamales, which are outstanding, or the fajitas (grilled strips of beef in a flour tortilla with lettuce and tomato). Adelina’s also caters any night except Thursday, with a maximum of 50 guests. (6027 Berkshire Lane. 363-8680. Thur-Tue 10 am-3 pm, Wed 6-8:30 pm. No credit cards. $).

Café Cancun. Cafe Cancun serves the finest Mexico City-style food in town. The standout menu items are too numerous to sample during one visit, but there are a few items you shouldn’t miss. Try the corn soup, which is thick with cheese and corn-meal, and the enchiladas verdes (chicken or cheese enchiladas with spicy green tomatillo sauce). Then sample the tacos al carbon, the quesadillas Cancun or the nachos Cancun (black beans, guacamole, cheese and sour cream). (4131 Lomo Alto. 559-4011. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat 5 pm-midnight, Sun noon-10pm. AE, MC, V. $$)

Chiquita. While this isn’t a Tex-Mex, pinata-stringing establishment, there are enough clothless tables around to make those of us who enjoy those places feel at home. We began our meal with the ironclad test: nachos, the bean and cheese variety. We argued over their quality; some of our more critical companions called the nachos “workmanlike and plodding.” They lacked, our friends said, the lilt that would have made them worthy of their title. We were of one mind, however, about the entrees. 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 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 & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

Gonzalez. Rule: Avoid dining-in at restaurants that do a heavy takeout trade-you’ll be slighted on the amenities, especially service. Exception to rule: Gonzalez. Most of the basics are reliable-the beans and rice are heaven-sent, and anything served on a corn tortilla is a winner. The hot sauce, which is both spicy and steaming, goes well with the abundant chips and almost makes up for the wimpish, bland guacamole. Puff tacos and chile rellenos are among the standout entrées-all of which cost less than $6. And if you’re looking for a breakfast treat, try the chilaquillas (tortilla strips fried with eggs and peppers). No frills here (and the voices of the drive-through patrons are a nuisance), but the food makes it all worthwhile. (4333 Maple at Wycliff. 528-2960. Daily: 7am-9pm. All credit cards. $)

Guadalajara. This Ross Avenue hole-in-the-wall has made itself respectable: a new door, new plate-glass windows and a brightly striped awning. We were put off at first, nostalgic about the days when roach and man ate side by side, but Guadalajara is still a far cry from elegant. Service was quicker than in the past, and all our Tex-Mex was prepared just the way we like it. Sombreros off to Guadalajara for realizing that the charm of sleaze lasts only so long. (3308 Ross. 823-9340. Tue-Fri 11-3:30 am, Sat 9-3:30 am. Closed Mon. V. MC. $)

Herrera. Despite the fact that this dumpy little restaurant on Maple Avenue has more customers than it can possibly serve, the food and the service have remained consistently good. Suggestions include the Jimmy’s special or the Pepe’s special, both of which are virtual Tex-Mex smorgasbords. The only bad news is that Herrera’s has no liquor license, so bring enough beer to carry you through the wait and the meal. (3902 Maple. 526-9427. Mon, Wed & Thur 9am-8pm, Fri-Sun 9 am-10 pm. Closed Tue. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

Javier’s. Don’t visit this “gourmet Mexican” restaurant when you’re in the mood for Tex-Mex because 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, desserts other than pralines and an actual vegetable. The tortilla soup is crowded with cheese, avocado slabs and smooth pasilla chiles. The nachos are fine, but not so unusual since black beans and white cheese have caught on even in Tex-Mex hot spots. But Javier’s is in the big leagues for what it does to shrimp; they’re big and meaty and sauteed in a diablo sauce (a blend of coffee, orange juice and spices). The mushroom crepes served with corazon de filete were more exciting than the beef, but the beef wasn’t half bad. For dessert, you can’t avoid the cajeta sauce-it comes on the cheesecake and on the crepes flambe and it’s 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. By definition, there can be but one best Mexican restaurant in North America. There have been times when we were wont to bequeath that title to Joe T.’s in Fort Worth, but now that isn’t the issue. We are here to talk about an upstart: Garcia does Dallas. After several months’ consideration-noting that the owners feel confident enough to sell greeting cards and T-shirts Six Flags-style- we’ll just say we enjoyed the new Joe T.’s. The margaritas are delightfully, dangerously stiff; and the food-still one-shot standard Mexican fare-is pleasingly dependable The atmosphere (with some token leaning walls) is not plagiaristic enough of the mother Joe T.’s to be offensive. (4440 Belt Line. 458-7373. Mon-Sat 11 am-3 pm and 5-11 pm, Sun 4-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mario & Alberto. Dining here is a completely pastel experience, like a meal inside a great peach petit four. Strong margaritas, good chips and hot sauce, chicken nachos and flautas con crema set a fine mood for main courses chosen from a vast menu (which includes everything from standard bean and taco plates to zucchini stuffed with ground sirloin). (425 Preston Valley Shopping Center, LBJ at Preston. 980-7296 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10;30 pm. Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun. Drinks with $5 membership charge. All credit cards. $$)

Moctezuma. Besides the usual Tex-Mex, Mocte-zuma’s features some excellent chicken and fish dishes. The nachos and the margaritas are tops. On sunny days you can sit outside on the terrace, sip a stout margarita and watch the traffic go by. (3236 McKinney. 559-3010. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30pm, Fri & Sat full menu until 11:30pm; appetizers until 12:30 am. Reservations for parties of six or more. All credit cards. $$)

On The Border. On the Border calls itself a ’South Texas cafe,” offering “the best mesquite-broiled foods of both Texas and Mexico (i.e., Tex-Mex).” We tried the Highland Park nachos, which were thick with two cheeses, onions and carrots-and included generous strips of mesquite-broiled beef. The tacos al carbon, filled with mesquite-broiled steak strips, had a good flavor but were a bit tough Our taco salad was delicious and enormous, and the vegetarian sandwich with avocado and sprouts was perfect for lunch On The Border also serves a meaty, cheesy, very hearty bowl of chili and some thick, juicy burgers. (3300 Knox. 528-5900. Sun & Mon 11:30am-10pm. Tue-Thur 11:30am-10:30pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Raphael’s. We’ve grown suspicious of civilized Mexican restaurants, guessing that their best is only fresh from the freezer But Raphael’s throws a kink in this philosophy. The food is better than average, the surroundings are pleasant and the prices are not much higher than at many of our favorite dives. Strong points are the appetizers (including quesa-dillas) and the desserts (try the sopapillas con fresas). (3701 McKinney. 521-9640 Mon-Fri 1130 am-10:30 pm, Sat noon-10:30 pm. Raphael’s Greenville, 6728 Greenville. 692-8431. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm: Sat noon-11 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. All credit cards. $$)

Rosita’s. The chicken enchiladas and chicken flautas we tried here have proved reliably tasty and inexpensive. The tacos de carbon were a little dry, as was the carne asada. Our only other substantial complaint was that some of the dinners lacked rice and beans, absolute staples for a Mexican dinner and not too much to ask for $3.95. The sopapillas, served with cinnamon and honey, were better than run-of-the-mill. Outside seating is available. (4906 Maple. 521-4741. Mon 7 am-2:30 pm, Tue-Fri 7 am-10pm, Sat & Sun 9 am-10 pm. All credit cards. $)



FAR EAST



Asuka. True gastronomes will admit to spending a good deal of their lives looking at Duncan Hines and restaurant ads. wishing for a bite of this or that delectable Asuka makes such people’s dreams come true, for the menu itself is a photo album of the restaurant’s offerings We stuck with an old favorite, an Ishiyaki Kaiseki dinner that began with some appetizers for the adventurous. We wouldn’t have minded missing these small servings of raw tuna, red cabbage and seafood that preceded our meal; they seemed to be present mostly for their shock value. But the next course, a huge, sizzling platter of beef and vegetables served over stone pebbles, was a flavorful, juicy blend of tender meat and crisp vegetables. The steam from the pebbles adds much to the taste of the dish and makes your dinner something like an evening at the sauna. We’re sure Asuka’s specialties are good for the complexion. (7136 Greenville. 363-3537. Lunch: Tue-Sun 11-2; dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30. Closed Mon. Reservations. AE. V. MC. DC. $$$$)



August Moon. The menu here is vast, so go early and read it carefully. We began with a pu pu tray with the lightest fried shrimp and won ton we’ve ever tasted. August Moon Seafood Splendor and August Moon Sizzling Plate were tremendous in size and seasoned just barely-and then only to highlight natural flavors. The individual tastes of the meats and vegetables were easily distinguished and not greasy-a difficult feat with so many ingredients presented en masse. And the service was polite but at times a bit hurried. (15030 Preston at Belt Line. 385-7227. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30pm, Fri 11-11, Sat 10:30 am-11 pm, Sun 10:30-10:30. Dim Sum served daily. Reservations lor eight or more or lor special banquets. Bar by membership. AE, MC, V, DC. $$)

Bamboo Pavilion. We began a delightful meal with stir-fried minced chicken sauteed with black mushrooms and the freshest, crispiest water chestnuts ever to grace a wok, served with two pancakes. The result, rolled for us by our waitress, was something like an Oriental burrito and was simply delicious. Panda’s Prawns sounded too sweet-the menu describes them as Gulf shrimp marinated in wine and honey and deep-fried-but they were crunchy and left us feeling like another of Bamboo’s chef’s suggestions: a “Happy Family ” Bamboo does a good job of spicing its dishes per request; the obvious key to its excellence is freshness down to every detail. (1790 Promenade Center between Belt Line and Arapaho. 680-0599. Daily: Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Sat & Sun noon-10:30 pm. AE, V, MC, DC. $$)

Fangti China 1. The features worth mentioning about this place are the service and the hours. At all times of the day and night, the waitresses are chipper and cheerful Since Fangti is open until six in the morning on weekends, it attracts an eclectically interesting crowd. The special soup and the hot and sour work well at late hours. The entrees, however, are inconsistent. (Twin Bridge Shopping Center, 6752 Shady Brook Lane. 987-3877. Mon-Thur 11:304 am, Fri&Sat 11:30-6 am. Sun 5pm-4am. AE. DC. MC. V. $$)

Fong Lin. You won’t be bombarded by ceilings strung with glowing red-fringed paper lanterns or walls lined in red-and-black-flocked paper here, but neither will you encounter spacious rooms filled with Ming vases or doorways guarded by giant porcelain too dogs. In fact, you probably won’t notice much about your surroundings at Fong Lin; they’re decidedly ordinary. But the same cannot be said of the food. We could have happily ended our meal after a huge pu pu tray, but we settled on orange beef (sliced tenderloin sautéed in orange peel with sesame seeds) and chicken and shrimp Hunan-style (diced chicken and shrimp sautéed with vegetables in a Hunan sauce). We’ve also tried the moo shu pork, a fine interpretation of another Oriental standard. (8440 Abrams. Suite 408. 343-4514. Mon-Thur 11 am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10pm. MC. AE. V. $$)

Forbidden City. This Chinese spot, next-door to Wilsons and in the same shopping center as three other restaurants, should be welcomed by North Dallasites. The atmosphere is quietly elegant, and the food matches the decor Everything on our pu pu tray-shrimp toast to won ton to ribs-was well-prepared and flavorful. The tofu was tender and pleasantly spongy as opposed to the standard recapped rubber-tire versions Also try the chicken and walnuts: Our chicken was tender; the walnuts, crunchy -providing a perfect example of the complementary textures so important to Chinese cuisine. Beef with snow peas was a pleasant variation on the same theme; the tender beef was cooked just right, and the snow peas were crisp. The service was efficient and friendly. (5290 Belt Line. 960-2999. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm. Fri & Sal 11-3 am, Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Hunan Imperial. The difference between this Chinese restaurant and almost every other new Chinese restaurant begins with its extensive menu. There are offerings that are just not readily available at other Dallas Chinese restaurants-string beans with pork, for example. The beans we tasted were crisp and flavorful, with just a smidgen of pork flavor, Another dish we found both palate-pleasing and pretty was the shrimp with pine nuts. The vegetables and the pine nuts were crisp and crunchy; the shrimp, well-cooked but not tough or mushy; the barbecue ribs, tops. And the atmosphere, although not quite imperial, was at least subdued and conducive to fine dining. (The Corner Shopping Center, Walnut Hill and N Central Expwy. 363-3858. Sun-Thur noon-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30-2 am. AE, V, MC. DC. $$)



Peking Szechuan. We found ourselves in agreement with the praise other reviewers have heaped upon this place. Nothing-save a lard-loaded egg roll-was disappointing, and the service was pleasantly well-paced. The lamb with green onion and the scallops with hot garlic sauce were extremely nice -both contained fresh, neatly chopped ingredients that maintained their own distinctiveness and crunch. Although one entree contained canned mushrooms, we found the entrees as a whole a welcome change from the gummy, gooey dishes served at some establishments. (2560 W Northwest Hwy. 353-0129. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30-3 am, Sunday 11:30 am-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)



Lotus. Forget about being hungry again in an hour; we left this restaurant happily filled to the gills, not planning another meal until well into the Chinese new year. Lotus runs low on swank (the ambiance comes in standard paper lanterns and red-and-black booths) but that’s unimportant-the manager is serious about serving well-prepared and well-seasoned Hunan and Szechuan delicacies. Plump, juicy shrimp and crispy egg rolls sat in places of well-deserved honor on a flaming pu pu tray. The entrees selected by the chef for our house special were a seafood club plate full of fresh, crisp vegetables tossed in a light sauce with ample crab, shrimp and scallops and a very spicy (at our machismo request) chicken-and-nut dish. The two were culinary opposites yet proved that the Lotus kitchen is ready for simple or spicy Oriental food aficionados. (528 W Arapaho, Richardson. 231-9200. Lunch: daily 11-2:30; dinner: daily 5-10. All credit cards. $$)



Plum Blossom. This review differs from many others listed under “Oriental” because words such as “elegance” and “charm” apply. Subtle scroll paintings, glittering tableware and well-mannered service set the mood for the somewhat flamboyantly presented meal, chosen from one of the three standard banquets (the least expensive of which has five courses). Almost every item of our Emperor’s Banquet for two was exotic. Our appetizer-a 10-flavor chrysanthemum fire pot with seafood, chicken, beef, vegetables and noodles-at least bordered on the unusual; and we savored every delicate bite. We heard whispered complaints of high prices and limited quantity but were ourselves content with the number of different foods served in modest portions. After the fire pot came duck, then crab claws and shrimp in black-bean sauce, Chinese vegetables, sweet and sour pork, and fried custard for dessert. (Loews Anatole, 2201 Stemmons. 748-1200 Lunch: Mon-Sat 11 -2; dinner: daily 6-10:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)



Royal China. If anything improves the experience of dining here, it’s the unfailing courtesy of the staff and the personal care lavished on every diner. 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 up with a dish such as beef with tomato or sliced chicken with mushroom and bamboo shoots, you won’t want to consider dessert. (201 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 361-1771. Daily: 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)



Sakura. In many ways this Japanese restaurant is typical of all Japanese restaurants: Waitresses wear traditional costumes, dinner is prepared at the table, the decor is soothingly Oriental. Our waitress made suggestions about our orders and cooked our dinner before our eyes, never expecting us to drop all conversation and “ooh” and “ah” until she finished. We enjoyed a quiet, well-prepared meal selected from a vast menu including everything from shredded beef to sea urchin. Standards such as sushi and tempura are also very good. (7402 Greenville. 361-9282. Daily: 5:30-11 pm. All credit cards. Reservations. $$)



Sawatdee. If your culinary tastes are inclined toward the adventurous and experimental, this is truly an excellent restaurant in which to indulge. Among the specialties of the house worth noting are the red chicken curry, South Seas scallops and the dinner portion of moo satay. But be sure to clearly indicate to your waiter how spicy you like your food; otherwise, you may be surprised or disappointed by the degree of seasoning. (4503 Greenville at Yale. 373-6138. Daily: 11:30-2:30pm and 5-10:30pm. AE, MC, V. $$)

Sate House. We’ll give you three guesses what this restaurant means when it advertises “Indonesian Home Cooking.” If one of your guesses was “an intriguing mixture of Chinese and Dutch cuisine that takes the shape of everything from tried chicken to barbecued beef.” you’re absolutely right. Sate’s menu includes four dinner choices, two salads, a soup and a side dish that, as far as we’re concerned, is essential to the Indonesian dining experience. Risolles are egg roll-like tidbits made of ragu, chicken and carrots and have a cheesy taste. Four or five would make a wonderful meal, but then you’d miss the rest of the adventure. Most Indonesian food is prepared in a rather unspectacular manner-the chicken, beef or pork is usually barbecued or fried. But coconut milk and peanut sauces make the difference in taste. Nasi Rames Special is Sates version of the combination platter. It’s a good introduction to dishes such as ayam panggang priangan. sate manis and sambal ulek. And don’t worry – they’re defined on the menu’s back page. (12125 Abrams at LBJ Frwy, Suite 108. 680-2803. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10; Sunday brunch: 11-2. MC, V, AE. $)



Siam. Siam opened up new worlds for us when it brought Thai food to Dallas. For the uninitiated, Thai cuisine is often fiery hot, using peppers and curry sauces, and blends in several elements that separate it from spicy hot Chinese cooking such as Szechuan or Hunan. An excellent beginner is the moo-sar tey (pork strips on bamboo skewers served with a peanut sauce) and slices of cucumber and hot pepper. For an entree, try the gand ped-a rice dish with curry, bamboo shoots, coconut milk, mint leaves and your choice of pork, beef or chicken. Another standout is the pard Thai, a rice noodle dish with shrimp, pork, eggs, hot chili peppers, bean sprouts and green onions. (1730 W Mockingbird near Harry Hines. 631-5482. Mon-Thur 11 am- 10pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $)



Szechuan Pavilion. There’s nothing particularly compelling about the atmosphere at Szechuan Pavilion, but then, we’ve frequently found a positive correlation between good Chinese food and shabby surroundings. The keys here seem to be authentic, fresh ingredients, few gummy additives and spicy dishes that are zesty and flavorful but not fiery hot. Two items on the menu shouldn’t be missed: the fried fantail shrimp appetizer-perfectly crisp and light and served piping hot-and the subgum deluxe lo mein-a fabulous blend of lo mein noodles, plump nuggets of seafood and stir-fried vegetables. Beyond that, we tend to rely on the chef’s suggestions -some of which, like the emperor’s chicken and the hot-and-sour whole fish, are downright exotic. (8409 Preston in Preston Center. 368-4303. Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30 pm and 4:30-10:30 pm, Sat & Sun noon-3 pm. All credit cards. $$)



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



Taiwan. This restaurant is dressier and a bit more expensive than a lot of Chinese places in town, but it stands head and shoulders above most of them when it comes to food. The choices, particularly in terms of appetizers and soups, are extremely varied; the Kuo-Teh meat dumplings, the flaming pu pu platter and the sizzling rice soup for two are outstanding. The kitchen is at its best with the hot and spicy Szechuan dishes. Service can range from nerve-rackingly overattentive to somewhat absent-minded. (6111 Greenville. 369-8902. Mon-Sat 10:30 am-3 am, Sun 10am-11 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)



Yunnan Dynasty. Probably the best Chinese restaurant in Dallas. Yunnan Dynasty is especially adept at hot and spicy dishes such as Yunnan spicy shrimp, shredded beef with hot pepper and black-bean sauce and diced chicken with hot pepper sauce. The chef’s special beef is also a crunchy delight. One of our all-time favorites is steamed fish, served whole, with black-bean sauce. For dessert, sesame bananas can’t be improved upon. (Caruth Plaza. 9100 N Central Expwy. Suite 191. 739-1110. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10pm, Fri & Sat noon-11 pm. AE, V, MC, DC. $$)

SEAFOOD



Banno Brothers. Listening to the raucous bleat of Dixieland jazz or watching an oyster shucker do his thing, you could almost believe you’re in New Orleans. And 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, while the crowded seafood salad makes a good meal for light eaters. 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 a surprising 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, Frl 11-11. Sat 5-11 pm. Sunday, gone fishin’. MC. V. $$)

Boston Sea Party. Before you pop in on this party, be sure 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. The presentation here is a lot like Sunday brunch at some of the larger hotels around town, and it is as delectable as it is vast. We selected dinner from three different “piers.” The first pier 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: and the char-broiled salmon was llaky and meaty. The dessert pier held an appealing selection of small servings of fresh fruits, cheeses, cheese-cake, mousse and carrot cake. (13444 Preston. 239-7061. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2;dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5-11, Sun 4:30-9. All credit cards. $$$) Champagne Johnny’s. The feel here is one of the Florida Keys: potted palms, archways, sunset light-ing. Champagne is the bartender’s specialty, and he offers a large variety. Seafood is the chef’s forte, and there’s a decent selection on that front, too. The poached oysters were an imaginative change from the usual cheese/spinach variations. The house salad consisted of romaine, bibb and iceberg let-tuces, black olives and cheese. The scallops in garlic were tender, and the broiled salmon was excellently prepared. It was moist and came with ratatouille, a perfect complement to the subtlety of the salmon and scallops. Servings were large, and most diners probably won’t want dessert. That’s just as well-Johnny’s cheesecake and homemade pies just don’t measure up to the rest of the fare. (2905 Greenville. 823-5800. Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm and 5 pm-midnight, Sat 11:30-1 am, Sun 11-11. All credit cards. $$$)Charley’s Seafood Grill. Charley’s is worth a visit not so much for its seafood as for its atmosphere- the brass-trimmed, floor-to-ceiling mirrored bar filled with row upon row of assorted liquor bottles is really quite a sight. The seafood, unfortunately, is less im-pressive. Charley’s chowder is bland, and the nu-merous fried offerings are only average, but the char-broiled fish (trout, red snapper, swordfish steak) can be quite good. (5348 Belt Line. 934-8501. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. All credit cards. $$)Fausto’s. This establishment deserves commenda-tion for its excellence in all areas of restaurant man-agement, especially for the food. King salmon with spinach in a puff pastry and baked swordfish with oysters and wine sauce would satisfy anyone. The fresh shark gumbo and the artichoke and mushroom salad are equally special. The chocolate mousse is ambrosial: and the fresh coffee with beaten cream is superb. The elegant, dark and unhurried atmos-phere makes for a particularly satisfying and roman-tic evening. (Hyatt Regency Hotel. 651-1234. Daily: 6-11 pm; Sun brunch: 10:30-2:30. Reservations for dinner. Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$$)

Hampton’s Seafood Market. On any given day, this small, quaint seafood oasis adjacent to the Farmer’s Market downtown offers approximately 50 different kinds of seafood for eating in or carrying out. The luncheon menu is limited – as is the seating (only two tables) – but the offerings are excellent. We ordered the salmon salad with cucumber and the swordfish salad with green pepper (both served on flaky croissants). Chunky, slightly tart coleslaw was a complementary side dish. For a taste of Cajun country cooking, try Hampton’s seafood gumbo. The Hampton salad is 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 shrimp boil and 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 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 McKinney Avenue restaurant. Prices were reasonable, service was bright and we enjoyed every bite from the bread to the cheesecake. The clean, spicy Creole shark soup is worth trying. Jozef’s crab meat Remick and mushrooms (stuffed with crab meat) began our meal perfectly Our lobster was moist, not overcooked, and was served with an unusually large steak. The chef’s special shrimp was beautifully served with mushrooms, shallots and a light creamy sauce. Our only complaint was the vegetables-although they appeared to be fresh, they arrived cold. (2719 McKin-ney. 826-5560 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sal 6-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

Ratcliffe’s. The decor looks like New Orleans, and the fish compares favorably. Especially noteworthy are the clam chowder and sourdough bread. Add a house salad and soothing raspberry mousse, and you have a pleasant lunch. In the evenings try the pasta with seafood or red snapper, plus vegetables. (1901 McKinney. 748-7480. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10. Fri & Sat 5-11. Reservations optional. All credit cards. $$$)

Rocco Oyster Bar. If you can forget that we’re landTocked in Central Texas, there s no less splendid place than Rocco’s to act like a drunken sailor and eat fresh seafood that still smacks of brine But the food here tends to be a bit erratic. On one visit, our entrees were uniformly delightful: fresh sole alman-dine, soft-shell crab and the Big Mix-a brochette of shrimp, scallops, green pepper, tomato and oysters smoked until heated through but still moist. We weren’t as impressed on another trip- the sauteed scallops were a bit dry, and the sea bass was delivered raw. Chic industrial lighting and blue neon tubing make Rocco’s an exceptionally attractive place. (2520 Cedar Springs. 747-6226. Sun-Wed 11:30 am-10:30pm, Thur-Sat 11 am-midnight. AE. MC, V. $$)

Seascape Inn. This seafood restaurant is one of Dallas’ finest eateries. We’ve never had a bad entree, and Chef Jean LaFont’s specialties are always just that-special treats. The Dover sole Veronique and the salmon in puff pastry are two wonderful selections. “Gracious” best sums up the service and atmosphere; it is elegant but not pretentious. (6306 Greenville. 692-6920. Lunch: Sun-Fri 11-2: dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$$)

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

Spinnaker. The menu here is of manageable size-there is variety, but it doesn’t appear that the chef tries to perform beyond his means in order to impress. We began with an on-the-house appetizer, a tasty sample of marinated shrimp. Our entree choices included a filet of red snapper with white wine and lemon butter and bouillabaisse marsel-laise, rich with shrimp, scallops, crab legs, halibut, sea bass, lobster, mussels, redfish and clams in a deliciously light, non-fishy broth The appetizers we sampled-baked clams with shrimp and crab meat and bisque of crawfish with cognac-were very good. But we missed having salads with our meal and feel compelled to give Spinnaker counsel on its desserts: The chocolate chip-pecan pie and the strawberry tart just didn’t taste up to par. (Lincoln Radisson Hotel, 5410 LBJ Frwy at Dallas N Tollway. 934-8400. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 6-11: Sun brunch: 10:30-3. Closed Sunday evenings. Reservations only. All credit cards. $$$)

Turtle Cove. Decisions are easy to make at Turtle Dove: Order the fresh seafood broiled over a mes-quite wood fire, a whiff of which you’re bound to in-nale as you enter. The mesquite provides a low, noist heat that cooks the seafood to perfection. Mesquite-broiled vegetables are a better choice than salad, and the best appetizers are the fresh oysters and broiled shrimp. Just remember: stick with the fresh seafood, (2731 W Northwest Hwy near European Crossroads. 350-9034. Sun-Thur 11 am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. MC, V, AE. $$)



SOUTHERN SPECIALTIES



Brent Place. Lunch customers drive from all over the state to dine in this 106-year-old house in Old City Park. The menu changes weekly; we enjoyed roast beef, corn on the cob, baked beans, coleslaw, bread pudding, muffins and corn bread, plus iced tea, for $6. Brent Place is a nonprofit project of the Dallas Heritage Society and is staffed almost completely by society volunteers. The lunch menu changes weekly, but on weekends the chefs try out new menus and prepare old favorites. (1717 Gano. 421-3057. Lunch seatings: Tue-Sat at 11:15, 12:15 and 1:15; Sun 11:15am-2pm. Reservations required weekdays. MC. V, AE. $)

Bubba’s. This slate-gray art deco lunch stop near the SMU campus offers dependable chicken-fried steak, fried chicken and chicken and dumplings. With them you can have mashed potatoes and cream gravy, vegetables cooked with salt pork, salad, luscious hot rolls and cobbler for dessert. Breakfast begins with biscuits-with gravy or in sausage sandwiches. This is a great place for reading the Sunday papers or, in the case of one SMU history prof, “Pericles.” (6617 Hillcrest. 373-6527. Daily: 6:30 am-10 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Celebration. Nothing fancy, nothing snooty, nothing canned makes its way to your table at this longtime favorite home-style chow house. Specials change daily; and everything we tried was worth celebrating. We went on a Tuesday to give Celebration the acid test: Would the special of the day, chicken-fried steak, be worthy of our (native Texan) digestive juices? Indeed, it was. The gravy was some of the best we’ve tasted, save for Massey’s in Fort Worth and George’s in Waco. The best part of the meal was the smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, obviously made from scratch and seasoned with drippings from the steak. Every entree comes with three vegetables, a huge salad, homemade salad dressing and an assorted basket of rolls. (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. $$)

Highland Park Cafeteria. To dine at this Dallas institution during peak hours can mean waiting in line (or as long as 20 minutes. But don’t give up; the line moves quickly and soon you’ll be enticed by the aroma of HPC’s home-style food. HPC offers all kinds of green salads, coleslaw, congealed salads and fresh fruits. Next in line are the entrees: roast beef, fish (baked or fried), casseroles and more. And the vegetables here are actually semi-crisp, not steamed into mush. The assortment of breads and desserts is especially tempting. (4611 Cole. 526-3809. Mon-Sat 11 am-8pm. Closed Sun. No liquor. No credit cards. $)

Ms. Betty’s. The personality of this luncheon “boutique” is best described by its specialty dessert: Highland Park pie, a rich concoction of chocolate chips and pecans from an original recipe by Ms. Betty (Carron). Place your order at a walk-up window and take your seat in an old-style wooden school desk. The ham salad is good but not as good as the chicken salad, which is prepared with nuts and was enjoyed by at least one reviewer known for not being nuts over chicken salad. Pimento cheese sandwiches and a variety of soups are also offered, as is chili. Don’t miss Ms. Betty’s desserts: pumpkin cheesecake, Highland Park pie, peanut butter pie or fudge pie. (7011 Lomo Alto. 526-5084. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Peggy’s Beef Bar. If Snider Plaza has hopes of becoming highbrow (a la Highland Park, a la Rodeo Drive) it has to contend with Peggy’s Beef Bar. And Peggy. This quick-bite barbecue dive, complete with numerous pictures of cattle, offers juicy sandwiches, heaping barbecue plates and some terrific spicy onion rings. But you city slickers stay home; Peggy’s servin’ up the real McCoy. (6600 Snider Plaza. 368-9422. Mon-Fri 7 am-6 pm, Sat 10 am-4 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Sonny Bryan’s. This is the kind of no-frills, quality barbecue that must have made Texas famous oh-so-long ago. And if Texas excess has a good side, it’s the excessive barbecue sauce spilling off Sonny Bryan’s hefty beef sandwiches and juicy ribs. The solid lunch crowd at this small, rustic former drive-in can attest to the great flavor of Sonny’s-if you can get anyone to stop eating. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 7am-3pm, Sun 11 am-2pm. No reservations. No credit cards. $)



STEAKS, BURQERS, ETC.



Albert’s Delicatessen and Catering. The menu features deli sandwiches and “specialties,” which include croque monsieur sandwiches, soups, hot dishes such as lasagna and moussaka, and basturma (an egg dish fixed with aged beef that tastes a lot like country ham). Al also serves up a creamy, cinnamon-flavored cheesecake and lots of friendly chatter. Albert’s has a nice, neighborly atmosphere. (1416 Avenue J. 424-4534. Mon-Fri 7-7, Sat 7 am-4 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)

Beefeater. With an Old English pub atmosphere, this restaurant serves up thick, juicy beef, pork and lamb cuts of good quality. The extras are limited and unfancy. with choices including a standard dinner salad, hearty black beans and a creamy coleslaw with a bite. Service is good. (3010 N Henderson at N Central Expwy. 826-2553. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Bohemia. The owners of this charm-laden little Bavarian restaurant are Czechoslovakian, but the cuisine is not all that different from your favorite German establishment, and odds are that it’s prepared with more care. The menu includes a lot of goulash-style dishes, dumplings, veal and vinegary sauces. Our vegetables were outstanding, cooked perfectly. The sauerkraut, in fact, was the best we’ve ever had The desserts, too, were homemade -a fluffy cheesecake with real whipped cream and an apple strudel of flaky pastry and tart, plump fruit slices. (2810 N Henderson. 826-6209. Tue-Sun 5:30-10. Closed Mon. MC. V, AE. $$)

The Bronx. Pinpointing the ambiance of The Bronx is not easy-it’s somewhere between Soho chic and Southern simplicity. In any case. The Bronx is a great place to sit back, relax and choose from a limited menu of quiches, omelets and salads, or perhaps the meat loaf plate, all of which are sure bets. The Bronx has daily wine specials and some of the best spiced tea around. Service can be a bit slow. (3835 Cedar Springs. 521-5821. Mon-Thur 5:30 pm-12:30 am, Fri 5:30 pm-1:30 am, Sal 5:30 pm-1:30 am: Sunday brunch: 11-3. MC, V, AE. $$)

Chili’s. A wide variety of flavorful burgers as well as good nachos and, of course, the “bowl of Texas red” keep us coming back to this casual but appealing eatery. There’s usually a line, but it’s worth the wait, especially since it runs parallel to the bar. This is a great place to go on a sunny Saturday afternoon. (7567 Greenville, 361-4371. 4291 Bell Line, 233-0380: 1901 N Central Expwy, 423-0925: 924 Cope-land, 261-3891. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11-1 am, Sun 11:30 am-10 pm. No reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $)

Chips. Basic burgers, with everything necessary to make them good: fresh, lean ground meat, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard and mayonnaise-and a fresh poppy-seed bun. The options include cheese, of course, and double meat. And there’s a taco salad large enough to feed a family of four, and good chili con queso. Service is as fast and friendly as you want it to be because you order at the counter and pick it up when your name is called. The atmosphere is basic burger joint: loose and relaxed. (4501 N Central Expwy. 526-1092. Mon-Thur 11 am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Crackers. Greek dishes prevail at this casual, comfortable restaurant. Dine on moussaka, spano-kopita, baked chicken Greek-style or souflaki out on the balcony among the trees or in the pleasant but nondescript dining rooms. For a taste of something on the lighter side, quiche and sandwiches are available. Almost all entrees are preceded by a cup of soup and a crunchy, cheesy tidbit followed by a fresh green salad. (2621 McKinney. 827-1660. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30, Sat 11-3. Sun 11-5; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-11. Fri & Sat 5-1 am. MC, V. AE. $)

Dalt’s. This is a formula restaurant (it’s owned by the same people who own TGI Friday’s), but it doesn’t look or feel like one, Dalt’s resembles a Thirties malt shop-lots of black-and-white tile and such. The burgers are big and juicy, as are some of the concoctions that come from the bar. And Dalt’s has some excellent malt-shop offerings such as shakes, sodas and sundaes. (5100 Belt Line, Sakowitz Village on the Pkwy, Suite 410. 386-9078 Daily: 11 am-2 am. All credit cards. $)

Hoffbrau. We regret heaping more praise upon this much-adored Dallas institution only because the last time we visited-on a Monday night-we waited 30 minutes for a table. But it was no wonder, for we stood in Hoffbrau-that enchanted place where even SMU kids dress like UT kids. The steaks are large, the potatoes are fattening, the beer is cold and the music’s loud Hoffbrau may have made Esquire’s best eats list, but neither prices nor service seems to have suffered. (3205 Knox at Cole. 559-2680. Mon-Fri 11-11. Sat noon-11 pm. Sun 4-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Judge Bean’s. Another in a seemingly endless procession of “fat-burger” joints, Judge Bean’s offers serious carnivores a half-pound burger available with almost any imaginable topping from hickory sauce to retried beans, chips, onions and hot sauce. Also worth trying are Bean’s hefty nachos and curlicue French fries. And for the true Texan, there’s the world’s largest hamburger (or so Judge Bean says) -a 4-pound burger consisting of 2 pounds of meat and 2 pounds of fixin’s-which has to be seen (or perhaps eaten) to be believed. (8214 Park Lane, 363-8322. and 14920 Midway. 980-4400. Sun & Mon 11-11. Tue-Sat 11 am-2 am. MC, V. AE. $)

Kobe Steaks. This plush Japanese steakhouse offers combinations of steak, seafood and/or chicken. Beef is the featured attraction, and it is of the highest quality. Dinners come with delicious beef broth, a piquant shrimp appetizer and smooth green tea as well as salad and rice. But the group seating arrangements offer little privacy while you dine. (5000 Belt Line oft Dallas Pkwy, Suite 600. 934-8150. Sun-Thur 5-11 pm, Fri & Sat 5-midnight. All credit cards. $$$)

Nostromo Bar. The minute this hi-tech bar/restaurant opened its unmarked door, it reigned as one of the “in” places to see and be seen in Dallas. But the definitively chichi atmosphere can become nauseat-ingly thick. Meanwhile, management provides a limited menu that includes a good steak and a different homemade soup each day. (4515 Travis at Knox. 528-8880. Mon-Fri 11:30-2 am, Sat & Sun 6 pm-2 am. Jackets required lor men. Reservations. AE, V, MC. $$)

The Palm Bar. Nowhere downtown can you find a lighter, lovelier or more innovative meal than at The Palm Bar in the Adolphus Hotel. In addition to such predictable selections as salads and New York deli-style sandwiches, you’ll find lunch variations such as the croissant sandwich with turkey or roast beef and a pot of fresh steamed vegetables dressed with a dab of herb butter. A limited menu is available through cocktail time. (Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce. 742-8200. Mon-Fri 11 am-7 pm. All credit cards. $$)



PORT WORTH RESTAURANTS



Angelo’s. Hallowed has become the name of Angelo’s among devotees of the almighty rib, and fora real taste of Texas, we’ll take the tender, meaty, succulent barbecued ribs served here. For $5.75, you get a pile of ribs, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, pickle, onion, sauce and bread. Ribs are served after 5 p.m. only. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m., after which the price of beer doubles. (2533 White Settlement Road. (817) 332-0357, Mon-Sat 11 am-10pm. Closed Sun. No reservations. No credit cards. $)

The Back Porch. A fun place to visit after an afternoon in the park or an hour at the museum. Wholewheat pizzas, a weigh-and-pay salad bar (which, for 16 cents an ounce, includes fresh, juicy hunks of a wide assortment of fruits and a good guacamole salad), three kinds of homemade soup and great heaping ice cream cones make this a favorite spot for Fort Worth diners. (2500 W Berry, (817) 923-0841. Mon-Thur 11 am-9pm, Fri&Sat 11 am-10pm. Closed Sun. 3400 W Camp Bowie Blvd. 332-3941. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-3; ice cream Mon-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri & Sat 11-10; Sun, ice cream only. 1-9 pm. No credit cards. $)

The Balcony. Here you’ll find continental cuisine, with specialties such as beef dishes, fried shrimp and veal cordon bleu. The elegant restaurant overlooks bustling Camp Bowie Boulevard and is a good place for relaxed dining and conversation. (6100 Camp Bowie. (817) 731-3719. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Reservations. Jackets required lor dinner. All credit cards. $$$)

Benito’s. This is a real Mexican restaurant, not the place for Pancho-style taste buds or first-semester Spanish students. This small, family-run establishment is managed by the daughter of the former headwaiter at Caro’s, and she’s made sure her restaurant’s beans and rice are just as tasty and nongreasy as theirs. But she’s done more: Benito’s serves all sorts of Mexican breakfasts, as well as specialties such as menudo-that’s tripe, in case you don’t know; it’s reputedly great for hangovers. (1450 W Magnolia. (817) 332-8633. Mon-Thur 8 am-10pm, Fri &Sat 8am-3am, Sun 8am-10pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)

Bill Martin’s. A family seafood restaurant with notable hush puppies and fried, baked and broiled fish of many breeds. The peel-’em-and-eat-’em shrimp is a favorite with regulars. We’ll take the large portion of catfish filets. The newspaper theme is followed in the menus and names of all the “editions.” (2nd Edition. 4004 White Settlement Road; (817) 332-9244. 3rd Edition, 5425 E Lancaster; (817) 451-7220. 4th Edition. 7712 South Freeway; (817) 293-9002. Tandy Edition, 1 Tandy Center; (817) 336-2667. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 4:45-10, Fri 4:45-11. Sat 11-11. Sun 11-10. All credit cards. $$)

Burgundy Tree. This is a pleasant spot for good omelets, crepes, quiches and even an occasional London broil. And the Burgundy Tree’s University Drive location makes it an easy drive from Casa Mariana, Will Rogers or a show on Camp Bowie. (1015 University Dr. (817) 335-2514. Sun-Thur 11-10, Fri & Sat 11 am-1 am; Sun brunch: 11-2. V, AE, DC. MC. $$)



Cattlemen’s. First-time visitors are excited by the rustic Texas-style setting in the heart of the old stockyards area, but the prime steak is the thing that brings them back a second time Blue-ribbon beeves are displayed to document the superb quality of meat that has been devoured here, but tasting is believing. When the steaks arrive, all else becomes incidental. The prime cuts of rib eye and K.C. sirloin are delectable, and the 18-ounce prime boneless strip is a third-degree sin. (2458 N Main. (817) 624-3945. Mon-Fri 11 am-10:30pm, Sat 4:30-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur. All credit cards. $$$)



Joe T. Garcia’s. This Fort Worth temple to Tex-Mex serves up superior family-style Mexican staples and industrial-strength margaritas that are champions. You’ve got your beans, rice, tacos. enchiladas, guacamole, tortillas and, if you must, nachos. No questions. No substitutions. That’s it. But it’s the best, and it makes for an inherently good time. Time after time. (2201 N Commerce. (817) 626-4356. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm & 5-10:30 pm, Sat 11 am-10:30pm, Sun 4-10pm. Reservations tor 20 or more. No credit cards. $$)



London House. Many a prom date, graduate, newly engaged and golden-aged couple have celebrated at the London House. The steaks and chicken are tender and flavorful. The crab, too, is tender and moist. The soup and salad bar, always a strong point, has gotten even better with the addition of items such as watermelon chunks. (4475 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817) 731-4141. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-11, Fri & Sat 5:30-midnight. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

L’Oustau. In this pleasant, open room with lots of skylights, French-accented waiters bring forth a fine selection of continental food. The best offerings include the lamb chops (served in a delicate sauce) and the coq au vin, which evokes memories of real country cooking in Burgundy. Try a strawberry tart, which comes with a layer of custard and a thin crust of chocolate. Or, if you’re into self-denial, limit yourself to one fresh strawberry dipped in chocolate. (300 Main Street. (817) 332-8900. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2: dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations are recommended. MC, V: personal checks accepted. $$$$)

Massey’s. Knowing a chicken-fried steak at Mas-sey’s is knowing the best of the breed, the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance of chicken-fried steak. The portions are huge, and the tender meat is cooked with a heavenly breading and topped with yellow cream gravy, just the way it’s done on that great spread beyond the sunset. At lunchtime, you get salad, two vegetables and homemade biscuits with your steak. Seafood and Mexican dishes are also served. (1805 Eighth Ave. (817) 924-8242. Daily: 8am-10pm. MC, V. $)

The Melting Pot. Regardless of how good a restaurant is. a shopping mall address draws skepticism. But we were favorably impressed by The Melting Pot, on the upper level of Ridgmar Mall (around the corner from Neiman’s), which offers a full menu, including savory baked brie to be scooped from the plate with homemade melba toast or an apple slice. Among the appetizers is a whimsical selection of croissants, omelets, fondues and pasta. All are reasonably priced (nothing on the menu costs more than $11.25; many entrées are under $5). Everything we tried was good-the crab meat croissant was filling, flaky and well-seasoned. The pasta arrived delightfully hot but could have been more vigorously seasoned. (Ridgmar Mall, 2166 Green Oaks Road. 731-1502. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-3 prn & 5.30-9 pm. AE. MC. V $$)

Old Swiss House. From your arrival, when the parking valet assures you that he will not need a name to remember which car is yours, to the likely visit of the chef to your table, you will be coddled all evening. The lamb chops and the cherries jubilee are awe-inspiring, and the veal Oscar and King Edward broil (a beef filet) are quite good. You don’t have to dress up here, but the service and attention shown by the staff will make you feel as though your dinner is a special occasion. (5472 Camp Bowie. (817) 738-8091. Mon-Thur 6-10pm, Fri & Sat 6-10:30pm. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

River House. This welcome spot considerably lessens the pain in a city aching for reasonably priced yet digestible seafood. The seafood platter is a delightful sampling of shrimp, oysters, fish and deviled crab. And the assorted shore dinners, which include an appetizer, salad, entree, drink and dessert (try the Key lime pie), are a worthy catch. (1660 S University. (817) 336-0815. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2;dinner: Mon & Tue 5-9. Wed-Sat 5-10. Reservationstor six or more. All credit cards. $$)

Zeke’s. This smaller sister-restaurant of The Hop(it’s run by the same family) was for many years happily located next to Freak Imports and is run by whatis a minority in Cowtown: longhaired, freaky people.The kind that need not apply at other, stuffierestablishments. We love Zeke’s longhairs. but thething that keeps us coming back is the golden, crispbatter that coats almost everything Zeke’s serves.It’s greasy in the most delightful of ways, and thefact that orders of fried fish, mushrooms, okra andzucchini look a lot alike doesn’t make them boring,just uniformly superb. (5920 Curzon. 731-3321. Sunnoon-11 pm, Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. No checks, no credit cards. $)