DALLAS’ WINNING RESTAURANTS

Polling your tastes in barbecue, fancy French, Sunday brunch and more

Sometime during the summer, we decided that this relationship had been one-sided long enough. Our wellspring of adjectives had run dry; our taste buds had been left numb by a cheesecake too many, a house salad too limp. The task of riding herd over so many restaurants, new and old, had left us on the brink of an impaction. An internal crisis. Gut-level collapse. We needed a break.

Rather than skip an issue, we had a brainstorm: Why not ask the people which restaurants are worth their salt-and their money? We randomly selected 5,000 D subscribers to receive questionnaires, all the while imagining our readership a trusty and discriminating font of untapped criticism. We were right.

Of course, in order to tap that wealth of criticism, we had to offer a mild bribe. Those who returned completed surveys by June 10 were eligible to win a drawing in which our editor selected two D subscribers to win dinners for two at their choice of Dallas restaurants. The winners were Paula Roberts and Cheri Flynn. Roberts wasted no in making her reservations at the Adolphus’ French Room.

In the space provided for comments, we heard some compliments and some complaints. Yes, we did forget to ask you about seafood. Fortunately, you weren’t shy about telling us your favorites, anyway: The write-in best seafood restaurant is Ratcliffe’s. S&D Oyster Co. and Turtle Cove tied for second place.

There were other pearls of wisdom. John Wilson says that his health is excellent at age 65 and credits at least part of his success to pork and beans. “They’re wonderful,” he says, “as are other simple things…but good company is best of all.” Another person said “with all due respect” that our traditional reviews “were suspect at times,” but believe it or not, several more readers told us that they couldn’t vote for any worsts because, relying on our advice, they’d never had such an unfortunate dining experience. But just as we began to gain a little confidence, we came across the ballot that said, “D Magazine needs new blood in their writing department; someone with a West Coast flare [sic].” We’ve been wondering ever since where to purchase a West Coast flare and ask, “Will the Dallas fireworks ordinance permit us to own one?”

Let’s agree to disagree on a few points, reconsider some long-held prejudices and examine together the first annual D Magazine Readers’ Restaurant Review-our own small Readers’ Digest!



Big Winners & Losers



We began our survey with a non-specific, best-and-worst all-around category, asking for the extremes in the expensive (more than $50), moderate ($25-$50) and inexpensive (under $25) ranges. Prices were for two people, including wine and tip. The finalists for most expensive best restaurant were predictable, with Jean Claude easily taking first place, the Adolphus French Room a comfortable second, the Mansion third and Old Warsaw and Calluaud tied for fourth. The most expensive worst restaurants? According to the survey, another tie between Agnew’s and the Mansion. Since both restaurants also fared well in the race for the best, we’ll attribute part of the success/failure rate to the simple fact that these restaurants are so widely known. Hundreds of others received less than five votes apiece.

In the moderate range, Cafe Pacific took first place with Ewald’s and Les Saisons almost tied for second. Chili’s was followed closely by S& D Oyster Co. as most inexpensive best. Worst in that race was a close contest among Ninfa’s, Joe T. Garcia’s (Dallas location) and-you snobs-McDonald’s.



Campisi Reigns



The Pizza King of Dallas is Joe Campisi. His Egyptian Room won this contest by the greatest margin of all the categories. Al’s Pizzeria claimed a very distant, though respectable, second.



Takeout Gourmet



Marty’s was the winner by a mile in the gourmet takeout category, but Mirabelle and Wonderful World of Cooking both received respectable numbers of votes.



Ritz



Jean Claude took another prize in the French Cuisine contest, with Calluaud and the French Room in second and third places.



New Faces



The best new restaurant in Dallas (opened less than a year) is, without question-according to our readers-Uncle Tai’s. Most of the others that did well had been open more than a year. Enjolie at the Mandalay Four Seasons and Agnew’s both scored well, but so did the new Taiwan in Addison and the new Ris-toranti Lombardi.



Rib Ticklin’



Best barbecue unquestionably went to Sonny Bryan’s. Dickey’s was a faraway second and Salih’s an even more distant third.



Diving



We asked our readers for the names of their favorite dives-north, south, east and west- but we really didn’t receive many nominations for establishments that meet the criteria set by one veteran diver on our staff. By his standards, a dive should display obvious, but not obnoxious, filth. Along with superior food and cold beer, the dive should offer an element of danger, such as a particularly grizzly waitress or an imposing bouncer.

The winners in the north were Roscoe White’s Easy Way Barbecue, Dalt’s and Memphis. In East Dallas, Lakewood Yacht Club took first place and Greenville Avenue Bar and Grill and Snuffer’s took second and third places, respectively. In West Dallas, first place is shared by four havens: Strictly TaBu, Club Schmitz, The Mecca and Sonny Bry-ans. The South’s best? Gennie’s Bishop Grill.



The Last Supper



Faced with the ultimatum: “You have one last meal to eat in the city of Dallas. I’ll meet you at ” Most readers- apparently believing that you can’t take it with you-opted to go out in style at Jean Claude. The French Room and the Mansion also scored well, and Cafe Pacific was a close fourth. But a few readers thought that the hospital might be a more appropriate setting for a last meal.



Sunday, Sunday



As for Sunday brunch, the Loews Anatole is the place to be. The Mansion and the Fairmont in second and third place, respectively, aren’t bad alternatives.



Italian



In the Italian-food contest, II Sorrento claimed an upset victory over La Trattoria Lombardi, while La Tosca and Bugatti settled for third and fourth places.



Good Fortune Cookies



Chinese food provided our tabulators with the greatest contest in tallying the varieties of Lum Yees, Yet Laus, Szechuans, Scheuan, Schezwan and Ben E. Hannas. But Taiwan and Uncle Tai’s (one reader voted for Mr. Tai) were obviously the preferred restaurants. August Moon won second place, and Forbidden City gets very honorable mention.



Not On the Border



We expected the contest to be close on the Mexican front since this cuisine is such a point of pride in so many establishments. But Cafe Cancun glided past all opposition into first place. Mario & Alberto took second place, and Raphael’s settled for third.



Three Martini



The Mansion scored better later in the day, taking first place in the business-lunch category. Arthur’s claimed second; Cafe Pacific was third.



A Little Romance



The best place for a romantic dinner seemed to vary with the romance. Room service at the Adolphus and “my house” got their share of votes, but first prize goes to the Mansion-apparently a number of business lunches lead to return visits at night. Old Warsaw has the formula for romance as well, but Les Saisons, II Sorrento and Jean Claude also set off their share of lover’s sparks. This was one of the only categories, incidently, where Highland Park Cafeteria did not score.



Well-done



Kirby’s has the best steak in town. Hoffbrau came in second and Ruth’s Chris was a distant third. “Fresh Approach/My Place” seemed a fine alternative, but some people chose to travel to Grapevine Steak House or The Palm in New York City for their prime beef.



Over Easy



Best breakfast went to Cindy’s. The Mecca and the Mansion – hardly birds of a feather-followed in second and third.



Fast Track



Burger King serves the best fast food. according to our readers. McDonald’s and Bub-ba’s scored second and third, respectively.



Fine Wines



Choosing the best wine list in Dallas was difficult for many of those who voted. Ag-new’s took first place honors, while La Cave and The Wine Press ranked a close second and third.



Where is the Middle East?



The hands-down winner in our Middle Eastern food contest is Indian cuisine, rather than Middle Eastern, but what the heck. Congratulations to Sahib.



Vegetable Eaters



Picky vegetarians like Highland Park Cafeteria best for its all-vegetable meals, though Roy’s and Celebration also did well.



Bring the Kids

Highland Park Cafeteria won best family meal, with Roy’s second and Wyatt’s not far behind.

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