Garlic shrimp, nacho nuggets and blini

Ceret. To find Ceret, you must brave your way across a score of railroad tracks under the west end of the new Woodall Rodgers Freeway. On a dark night you might fear for your safety until you see a brilliantly lit parking lot in front of a shiny gray four-story building-with the name of the restaurant in pink neon above a wrought-iron, art nouveau doorway. This isolated corner of downtown has been transormed into a true French outpost. The decor is a controlled hodgepodge of nostalgic turn-of-the-century French furniture and objets d’art contrasted with hi-tech architectural details like the stark black balcony that provides a small second dining level and petite antique and art galleries. Murals and other paintings inject an element of neo-surrealism as you view cows floating in cloudy heavens. But Ceret manages to preserve real chic by seeming offhand about this elaborately thought-out decor. The room may be a miniature theatrical set, but the waiters run around in T-shirts and the tables are set with paper place mats that double as menus. This bistro is the real thing, not the pretentious French imitations we’ve gotten used to. Ceret tries to bring authentic bistro food to Dallas at popular prices ($20 for two for a four-course dinner-not cheap, but quite reasonable if the quality is there) and is mostly successful, though you can’t expect grande luxe cooking at these prices. The menu catches the spirit of modern, casually fashionable belle France by giving nouvelle touches to standard bistro dishes. The chefs specialty is a simplified feuilleté (puff pastry) that reaches optimum crispness and tenderness. It’s used in three courses: wrapped around montrachet cheese or broccoli as an hors d’oeuvre; topping chicken and morels as a main course; dripping with a thin pastry cream and surrounded by fruit purees as dessert. Other items vary from fair to excellent. Among the appetizers, the paté of duck liver and the terrine of duck breast were first-rate; but the salmon mousse had a tinny aftertaste. The outstanding seafood offering was the sautéed scallops, which rested on a bed of spinach and were surrounded by a rich but light sauce. The steak, although cut too thin to be cooked truly rare, was preferable to the duck breast, which was tough. All the desserts we sampled were scrumptious. (703 McKinney. 720-0297. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30. MC, V, AE. $$-$$$$)

Rambutan’s. The new Marriott on the Parkway has defied custom by making its fancy restaurant Chinese-and laying on the atmosphere so thick it could asphyxiate you. The decorator has run amok: Chinese banners, screens and statues, indulgent mirrors at every corner, towering Ming vases filled with silk flowers and a stir-fry kitchen in the middle of the first dining room. With all this folderol, we expected a culinary rival to Uncle Tai’s, a couple of miles down the pike, or at least some consolation for the demise of the much-lamented Yunnan Dynasty. Alas, our first visit was one of those horrid occasions that remain forever engraved on the memory-a disaster more the fault of a waiter of classic incompetence than of the kitchen. Later visits were not similarly traumatic, but they did leave us fearing that Rambutan’s serves Chinese food for people who don’t like Chinese food. The a la carte menu is perfunctory; everyone is expected to order one of the prescribed dinners for two or more. Each dinner has a theme (elementary Cantonese, spicy Northern, seafood and so on), and each comes with an appetizer, a soup, three main courses and a dessert. The seafood dinner-the most expensive and most adventurous-sounding-began with a whole artichoke stuffed with crab in a cheese sauce (which was hot in spots and icy in others) and ended with a pineapple half filled with icecream, topped with fruit and doused with rumas potent as lighter fluid-both about asChinese as apple pie. The so-called garlicshrimp was for all the world good ol’ shrimpCantonese. There is no adventure here for oldChinese food fans, though there is a certaintalent in the kitchen-the standard dishes arestirred up with steady hands. (MarriottQuorum, 14901 Dallas Pkwy., 661-2800.Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur6-10:30, Fri-Sat 6-11. 55-555. All creditcards.)

Soaps. Although the renovation of the Sundance Square district in downtown Fort Worth has been under way for the past few years, it is only now that the area is springing to life. Walking through the two- to three-block area is like taking a step back in time to the turn of the century. The restored red-brick buildings, brick-paved streets and corner street lamps effectively re-create the late 19th century. One expects a horse and buggy to come rattling down the street bearing a fashionable couple, complete with top hat and parasol. Indeed, we did a double take when we did see a Clydesdale-drawn coach round a corner. (For $5 per person, these authentic coaches will conduct a full tour of downtown. You can catch one at the Hyatt or the Americana hotels most nights between 8:30 and 11 p.m.) If your interest lies more with food and drink, there are a number of quaint restaurants and bars in the area. Soaps is one of the latest additions, located on the outskirts of Sundance Square and housed in a historical building that was built in 1889. Restored to its initial splendor, complete with the original stained-glass windows, the building now holds the business venture of owner Ed Jackson. The menu sticks mainly to burgers, chicken and steak. The chicken Kiev we sampled was succulent and bursting with butter and the chicken-fried steak was large and tender, although the gravy was slightly too thick for our tastes. The appetizer list is varied, with such unusual items as nacho nuggets (deep-fried cheese balls) and red beans with corn bread. We suggest the fried vegetable basket, which contains hunks of cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms and artichokes in a crispy batter. Beer drinkers will delight in finding the Czechoslovakian Pilsner Urquell and Norwegian Ringes on an extensive beer list. Jackson says he also hopes to restore the building adjacent to Soaps and create a New Orleans atmosphere that will blend in well with the old-fashioned look of Sundance Square. (111 East Fourth at Commerce. (817) 332-3335. Mon-Fri 11 am-l0 pm. Closed Sat & Sun. AE, MC, V. $$)

La Champagne. The French dining room of the new Registry Hotel, La Champagne, is the place of your dreams if you’ve always wanted to date someone out of the pages of Vogue or GQ or dreamed of living in a house featured in Architectural Digest. It looks, of course, smashing-rumor has it that it was decorated and redecorated five times before it opened. The final effect was to turn the room into a hazy, dim wine-colored sea filled with tables that are islands of light crowned by tiny bouquets of miniature day lilies and thistle, set with glistening crystal and china. But the glamour of La Champagne goes far beyond its looks. The wine list is encyclopedic, with all the great names available in big years for big spenders. The multinational serving staff is smooth and professional; the food features exotic offerings such as wild asparagus, wild strawberries, partridge and venison. But we’ve found it difficult to have a good meal and a good time at La Champagne. Chef Henri Boubee, who was brought down from Windows on the World at the World Trade Center in New York, has created an ambitious menu, and he and his staff have talent-the first two appetizers we ate at La Champagne proved that. The special of the day, scallops with seaweed, boasted perfectly steamed, silky scallops; and the galantine of wild duck was marvelously rich with its foie gras and truffles. But there was an off note in each of the sauces-the scallops were a mite too acidic, and the port wine sauce surrounding the galantine was so sugary it could have passed for a Chinese sweet-and-sour. Similar disharmonies have marred many dishes. The lobster, cunningly extracted from its shell and laid out on the plate to resemble the live creature, was lukewarm, and its garnishes of cucumber and mint were an unsuccessful experiment. The filet of sole was served with two sauces that were standard and dull, watered down by the liquid seeping from the fish. It seems churlish to complain about La Champagne in the lap of so much luxury. During the restaurant’s first weeks, there were dainties of jumbo shrimp or smoked salmon, or even blini (tiny Russian buckwheat pancakes) topped with real Beluga caviar. But all the production numbers-great silver-domed dish covers that were whisked off to reveal the dishes of the entire party-can be wearying if the main thing -the food-does not excite. (The Registry Hotel, 15201 Dallas Pkwy. 386-6000. Daily: 6-11 p.m. All credit cards. $$$$.)


These restaurants represent the best in Dallas and Fort Worth dining.

These listings are revised and supplemented periodically. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment. Inclusion in this directory has nothing to do with paid advertising.

The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise

They indicate a general price range.

$ Generally inexpensive. Usually indicates a good value

$$ Middle ground and very general. Usually indicates

a menu with a wide price range.

$$$ Expensive. Expect to spend more than $20 for a

complete meal excluding wine and cocktails.

$$$$ Very expensive.

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

indicates a restaurant located on or north of LBJ Freeway


Dickey’s. We talkin’ lean, high-quality meat heah. boy, and good sweet slaw and plenty o’ beans, plus juicy corn on the cob that’ll squish butter right over on your lady if you don’t watch out. This place is crawlin’ with good ol’ boys and bidnismen around noon, but they don’t keep ya standin’ long. You may need a little ex-try sauce on the meat, ’less you like it dry, but this ain’t the French Room, so just git on up ’n’ git it. These ol’ boys’ll give you some ambiance, too: They got signs up with the words spelled like real people say ’em, like “cold slaw” and “sandwitches.” It’s a hoot. And look for the little proverbs on the chalkboard, like. “Girls, be sure you’re right, then ask your husband,” Shoot, that’s tellin” em. Just one hitch: That banana puddin’ tastes like its been cozyin’ up to a test tube. No way that’s homade (4610 N Central Expwy. 821-1571. Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday. No credit cards. $)

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

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

Sonny Bryan’s. This is the kind of no-frills, quality barbecue that must have made Texas famous long ago. If Texas excess has a good side, it’s found in the excessive barbecue sauce spilling off of 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 lnwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 8 am-5 pm, Sat 7 am-3 pm, Sun 11 am-2 pm No credit cards. $)


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

Little Gus’. This lower Greenville landmark is |ust the spot for breakfast, the day’s least pretentious meal. Justly famous for its greaseburgers and Greek specialties, Little Gus’ also sets up a fine basic breakfast and serves it any hour of the day. The food comes hot and in a hurry; usually, even on a busy morning, you’ll hear your name called before you’ve scanned the headlines The cook – no chefs here-can distinguish between eggs over easy and over medium, a gift too rare in the Age of Denny’s. Not a grit to be found, though; even the Greeks don’t know everything about good food. (1916 Greenville. 826-4910. Mon-Thur 7:30 am-4 pm & 6-9 pm; Fri&Sat 7:30 am-4 pm &6-10 pm; Sun 9 am-1:45 pm. No credit cards. $)

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

The Mecca. Welcome back to the land of marbled Formica, orange vinyl booths, and-if you ask for it-speed-of-light service with a smile. The price for two eggs, hash browns or grits, bacon or sausage and biscuits hasn’t changed in years, and the heaping portions and heavenly taste can’t be topped. The Mecca missed the age of Texas chic (thank goodness), but the biscuits are still light and just right for dunking, the eggs, hot, and the grits (with a little salt), divine. (10422 Harry Hines. 352-0051. Mon- Fri 5:30 am-3 pm. Sal 5:30 am-2 pm. Closed Sunday. All credit cards. $)


Agnew’s. Agnew’s is known as one of the city’s poshest restaurants, but our idea of elegant dining apparently differs from that of the 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 here is lacking. Our waiter was friendly, efficient and helpful with menu selections, but somehow his too-chummy attitude didn’t seem to mesh with the tone that the management is trying to achieve. As for the food, our cream of yellow pepper soup was perfect, and the spinach salad with bleu cheese and bacon dressing was good, although the dressing was smooth, not chunky. The smoked salmon appetizer was the only real disappointment here. The tournedos of beef were excellent: The sauce was light in color and flavor, and the meat was tender and cooked to perfection. The veal, served in a similar creamy sauce, was also excellent. The vegetables, however, were not top-notch – the asparagus was bitter, and the potato souffle was too garlicky. Desserts are Agnew’s specialty. and the white-chocolate mousse is a masterpiece. (15501 Dallas Pkwy in Adelstem Plaza. Suite 300. 4580702. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Fri 6:30-10. Sat seatings at 6:30 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$)

The Bay Tree. Twice during the first 10 minutes of our visit to the Wyndham Hotel’s gourmet restaurant, we heard waiters apologize for its minuscule size. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a beautifully prepared rack of lamb that was artistically arranged in small 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 wonderfully presented in a red wine sauce topped with tender morels. The double-fudge cake served with orange sauce was rich and creamy. (The Wynd-ham Hotel. 2222 Stemmons. 631-2222. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner; Mon-Sat 6-10:30; Sun brunch: 11-3. Reservations recommended. All credit cards $$$)


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

Blom’s. Cool pastels mix well with Gershwin tunes, but the service at Blom’s is apparently hit-and-miss. The food is. for the most part, excellent. The lobster, salmon and scallop terrine prepared with dill and tarragon was smooth; each seafood flavor was distinguishable. Theartichoke bottoms filled with crab meat were fresh andwere served with a light, buttery sauce. The cream ofwatercress soup was smooth, rich and chilled perfectly. Delightful tart sorbets in five or six different flavorsare offered before the entree, and a tree of complimentary petit fours appears after every meal. (The WestinHotel. 13340 Dallas Pkwy. 934-9494. Lunch: Mon-Fri11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 5-11; Sunday brunch: 10:30-2.30. Coal and tie required. Reservations. All creditcards. $$$$)

Café Capri. Cafe Capri is another of the Old World-style, standardly continental new kids in town. Its parking lot is full of expensive cars, its cloak room overflows with expensive fur coats, and diners here leave happily filled with high-quality cuts of beef, veal, fish or fowl. And Cafe Capri is better than most newcomers of its genre. The sauces on our entrees were prepared at the table, and although we were a bit nervous as we watched 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 – strawberries flambé-made the drive to Addison worthwhile The mixture of fresh berries, orange rind, brown sugar and Grand Marnier topped with whipped cream was spectacular. (15107 AddisonRoad, 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.$$)

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

Clair de Lune. This breezy Quadrangle restaurant has plenty of room for alfresco dining beneath big red umbrellas; inside, slick little midnight-blue tables provide a place to eat out of the heat. The menu offers an interesting and rich assortment of entrees such as Cornish hen, trout, breast of chicken with artichoke hearts and minute steak with french fries. We were disappointed with our onion soup au gratin-it lacked cheese, and the hunk of soggy French bread floating in the middle didn’t redeem it. The salad Clair de Lune was huge and fresh, with a collection of mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes, green pepper and bacon arranged on top with little or no dressing. (Quadrangle. 2800 Routh. 871-2288. Mon-Thur 8 am-12:30 am. Fri & Sat 8 am-2 am. Sun 11 am-midnight. All credit cards. $$)

Clouseau. Pink lamé walls, sparse surroundings and la nouvelle cuisine ate what we found at Clouseau, which takes its name from Inspector Clouseau of “Pink Panther” fame. The restaurant makes a bold (albeit somewhat unsuccessful) stab at a variety of dining experiences- playful yet serious-with a menu that’s one of the most inventive we’ve seen: lobster with grapefruit as an appetizer, salmon with cranberry sauce as an entree and kiwi parfait as dessert, to name just three of Clouseau’s 20-odd offerings. Both entrees we tried-medallions of lamb with pepper sauce and lotte (a fish that tastes a bit like lobster) with saffron sauce and snow peas-were tasty and beautifully arranged on our plates. The kiwi parfait was very refreshing, if a bit boring, and the fresh fruit tart (we chose strawberry) was superb, with lots of thick cream-and it was large enough for at least two people. Unfortunately, Clouseau’s attractive art deco church-pew booths aren’t terribly comfortable, and our service was slow and less than pampering. (2100 Greenville. 828-2131. Tue-Sun 11 am-2 am, Sun brunch; 11-6, Closed Mon MC, V, AE. $$$)

The French Room. The French Room retains its status as the crème de la crème of fine Dallas restaurants 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. The French Room’s management makes sure that along with superb cuisine comes service that aims to make each diner feel like a member of the first estate. Although the menu selections hold their own, we ordered each course of our meal from among the specials of the day and weren’t disappointed. The duck salad was large enough to have been a meal in itself, and every sumptuous bite was heavenly For dessert, the fruit melange topped with a creamy sauce and the tart raspberry pastry in a caramel sauce were wonderful, though both were a lad too rich for our tastes. (Adolphus Hotel. 1321 Commerce 742-8200. Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations required. Jackets and ties required All credit cards. $$$$)

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

The Garden Court. This Melrose Hotel restaurant proves that age can be accompanied by beauty and grace. The 59-year-old hotel has been born again, and its mix of art deco and traditional styling is the perfect setting for a relaxing lunch or a romantic dinner. The rich, moist fudge-nut cake makes it difficult to choose a sensible entrée, but a bowl of seafood chowder crowded with great hunks of fish and fresh vegetables and a crisp Garden Court salad make a perfect lunch. (3015 Oak Lawn. 521-5151 Breakfast: Mon-Fri 6:30-11; lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6:30-10, Fri & Sat 6:30-11; Sun brunch: 11-3. Reservations recommended tor dinner and tor five or more at lunch. 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. For the most part, the food at Hearthstone is basic and wonderful. The hot. homemade bread is hard to beat, and Hearthstone serves a variety of muffins and rolls. Baked potatoes in full dress and all-American entrees such as filet mignon. shrimp, snapper and veal make a wholesome, memorable meal. (208 E Main, Lewisville. 221-4515. Lunch; Mon-Fri 11-2: buffet: Tue-Sat 5:30-10: Sun brunch: 11-2. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)

Jean Claude. There is an obvious explanation for the incredible popularity of the pleasant, “terribly French” Jean Claude restaurant. Quite simply, it is Jean Claude himself. Besides being a consistently gifted chef. Jean Claude’s personal warmth spreads from his open cook station throughout the tiny dining room, engendering good will and cleansing the air of any pretension. Our selections were light, beautiful to look at and practically flawless. The hot crab and lobster salad with vinaigrette and fresh dill and the scallops en casserole proved wise beginnings, especially with hearty helpings of hot, homemade wheat bread. Our next indulgences were duckling in ginger and soy sauce and fresh Dover sole in a white wine sauce with mushrooms. The duck was superb, and the sole was good, if a little dull. After cleansing our palates with slightly tart greens, we launched into the chocolate mousse and hot chocolate souffle. At a fixed price of $31.50 per person, Jean Claude’s meals are worth every penny. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sat seatings at 6 & 9 pm Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)

Laurel’s. This is another of the beautiful new North Dallas hotel restaurants in which palate-clearing sorbets and bottled sparkling water are standard. Floor-length windows offer wide-angle views of downtown, nearby skyscrapers and all that is in between. Each course easily held our interest. We enjoyed fresh, artfully arranged vegetables, a tartly dressed salad and tenderloin in blueberries (just one of the interesting fruit-sauced entrees offered). We were pleased with the tender beef and the not-too-sweet blueberry sauce.It gave the common berry – heretofore reserved forpies and jellies-a new and delicious mission. We wereequally pleased with the scallops in grapefruit sauce;they were tender and fresh, and the fruit flavor wasdeliciously subtle. (Sheraton Park Central Hotel.358-3000. Mon-Thur 5 pm-midmght, Fri & Sat 5 pm-2 am. Closed Sunday. Reservations. All credit cards.$$$)

La Vieille Varsovie (The Old Warsaw). The decor at this old-line dining establishment is plush and elegant. yet it has a few charming eccentricities. Note the pink flamingos dancing gaily across the forest-green walls. 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. But in the midst of all the theatrics, it can be extremely difficult to keep one’s mind on one’s meal. The artichoke heart appetizer with shrimp and raspberry vinaigrette tasted a trifle boring. with nary a hint of raspberry 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 tim-bales. After a brief pause (long enough to witness an unbelievable flaming drink production), strawberries in fresh cream and a chocolate souffle were perfect endings. (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Thur 6-11 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Reservations. Jackets required All credit cards $$$$)

Le Boul’ Mich. Since French cuisine has become almost daily fare with I’Anglais, a glimpse at Le Boul’ Mich’s sparse menu is hardly surprising: pate maison, quiche Lorraine and omelette after omelette. But each of these items is well-prepared, particularly the Omelette Boul’ Mich, which is filled with every variety of garden vegetable. A light, romantic dinner at Le Boul’ Mich is delightful, but the patio and indoor porch of this little white house make it an irresistible luncheon spot as well. (2704 Worthington. 826 0660 Mon-Thur 11 am-10.30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11.30 pm. ClosedSun. Reservations. MC, V, AE $$)

Le Louvre. Nestled in the Corner Shopping Center between Wilderness Adventure and No Whar But Texas is this elegant restaurant, which has absolutely nothing in common with its neighbors We relaxed in a loveseat beneath a glittering chandelier in a room with enough Old Masterstyle paintings to remind us of the restaurants namesake The art became incidental, though, after the arrival of a bowl of creamy onion soup topped with Swiss cheese and a lobster bisque sweetened with cognac. The waiter deftly tossed our salads tableside and brought perfectly cooked beef and veal with three varieties of plump wild mushrooms Our only disappointment was with Le Louvre’s unsettling mix of music, inappropriate in a restaurant so named. We sipped coffee to renditions of “Hey Jude” and the “M* A* S* H” theme. (9840 N Central Expwy. 691-1177. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri 6-11:30, Sat 6-midnight. Reservations recommended All credit cards. $$$)

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

Les Saisons. Within a setting that resembles turn-of-the-century suburban Paris. Les Saisons serves meals that are traditional, expensive and predictably excellent. We enjoyed shrimp Les Saisons (shrimp served in a delicious cream sauce with chablis. mushrooms and shredded carrots) and coquille St Jacques (tiny bay scallops served with orange quarters). The cream of cauliflower soup was unexceptional, but we were warmly reassured by the onion soup topped with lots of melted cheese. (165 Turtle Creek Village, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 528-1102. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11.30-11:30. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

The Mansion. It’s fine to have enough money to dine in all the best restaurants and to 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. 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 serving of crisp asparagus with hollandaise sauce. We also tried the tenderloin strip, which, our waiter informed us. automatically comes medium rare. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Breakfast: daily 7-10:30; lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2; 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 pm-midnight. Reservations. Jackets and ties required, except at brunch. All credit cards $$$$)

Maitre D’. This relaxing Addison establishment may soon rival the longtime downtown greats if themanagement keeps on its toes. Its elegant burgundyand brown decor and its perfect, well-timed service instantly put us at ease, and the food was far fromaverage. One of the specials we sampled included individual medallions of veal, chicken and beef. We ex-pected too much meat and too few vegetables, but wehad ordered it in hopes of fulfilling our obligation tosample everything we could possibly digest We werehappy with everything and ate every bite. The vegetables were lightly cooked and held their natural flavor.(5290 Belt Line. 239-2799. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm.Fri 11-11, Sat 6 11 pm. Reservations recommended.All credit cards. $$$)

Mozart’s. Mozart’s gives the city’s best Austrian restaurants (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. The side dishes at Mozart’s were served in wonderfully ample portions. We enjoyed fresh spatzle (sautéed noodles) and mixed marinated vegetables. (Sheraton Park Central. 12720 12720 Merit. 385-3000. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. All credit cards. $$$)

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

Rolfs. Rolfs is a shining new example of excellence in German cooking for Dallas. Stout traditional dishes share the menu with a selection of standard continental favorites. The Strauss waltzes and rough-hewn ceiling beams evoke a pleasant, if not rock-ribbed, German atmosphere. The food lives up to the surroundings The entrees we tried arrived in typical gargantuan German helpings. The rinds roulade (braided beef rolled with pickles, onion and bacon) had an attractive, wild flavor, but the schlachtplatte, an assortment of German meats accompanied by sautéed potatoes and onions, was our favorite. The spread of showy Black Forest cake and tarts was tempting, but the unpretentious hot apple strudel was best by far. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy, Suite 117. 696-1933. Mon-Thur 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-11 pm. Closed Sunday. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)


Beauregard’s. This tiny gourmet carryout/European style grocery carries a varied selection of homemade jams and jellies, fresh vegetables from around the world and an assortment of fresh-baked breads. In addition, owner Beauregard Detterman prepares meat pies to heat at home as well as ready-to-go pasta salads, patés and desserts. On one visit, we sampled a chicken pie with bell pepper, onion, tomato and zucchini, all topped with mozzarella. When heated, the pie was a juicy blend of flavors that made a filling meal. The duck liver pate was a smooth, creamy and rich side dish. To finish the meal, we chose Beauregard’s dessert specialty: a chocolate cake that had marinated in French and Austrian chocolate for four days. This cake is for chocoholics only. (4603 W Lovers Lane. 351-0378. Mon-Fri 10 am-6 pm, Sat 10 am-5:30 pm. Closed Sun. AE. $$$)

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

Mirabelle. The menu at this bright, airy shop varies daily and is incredibly inventive, the pistachio-spiced country terrine is an excellent paté. 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 strongly seasoned with fresh basil. But Mirabelle’s crowning achievement is in its desserts: The fresh plum and apple tarts are excellent, as is the sour cream cheesecake served with a peach melba sauce. The cookies and bran muffins are tops-well worth their hefty prices. (73-74 Highland Park Village. 528-7589. Tue-Sat 10:30 am-7 pm; Sun & Mon noon-7 pm. MC, V, AE. $$$)

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


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. Our favorite dish is Maharaia Sahib’s mughlai biryani (lamb cooked with herbs and mixed with long-grain Indian rice, saffron, nuts, raisins and eggs). It tastes even better with some sweet mango chutney and an order of tandoori roti (Indian whole-wheat bread). Service at Sahib can be aggressive, so remember that you can turn down the “Elephant’s Memory” (a pina coladalike drink) and the mango ice cream, but enjoy the advice-the waiters will tell you exactly what to expect from each dish. (Caruth Plaza. 9100 N Central Expwy. 987-2301. Lunch: daily 11:30 2:30: 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. Tan-lore offers a large selection of vegetarian dishes as well as poultry, seafood, 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 in both dishes was spiced mildly, but not meekly. For something unusual, try a tanjorita. a soothing whipped yogurt drink (Preston-wood Creek Shopping Center, 5409 Belt Line. 960-0070. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sat 11:30-3; Sunbrunch: 11:30-3. dinner: daily 6 10 BYOB; setupsavailable. All credit cards. $$)


Ciao! Spicy, thick pizza, calzones, pasta and a wide variety of other Italian fare are the mainstays of this tiny new Cedar Springs pizzeria. This place could be clas-sifed as low-key, high-class high-tech The pizza was well-laced with oregano and garlic and was layered with homemade sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and Italian red peppers. The crust was thick, chewy and meant to be eaten with a fork. A couple of non-pizza selections are included on the menu and are offered as daily specials if you’re in the mood for something more substantial. Our service at Ciao! was unusually professional for a pizza joint. (3921-B Cedar Springs 521-0110. Daily noon-midnight MC, V. AE. $$)

DiPalma. It’s still hard to resist this festive restaurant/food store and its wide array of pastas, despite spotty service and inflated prices DiPalma features several flavorful dishes not found at other Italian establishments (such as chicken lasagna and lemon garlic chicken) as well as the more traditional Italian fare For an adventurous and rewarding lunch, try the pasta salad sampler. And the incredible assortment of Italian pastries is as good as it looks. (1520 Greenville. 824-4500. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30, Sat 11-3; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-10:30 Closed Sun. MC, V. AE. $$)

Fabio’s. If Fabio’s isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of Italian restaurants in Dallas, it may be because of its awkward location in The Corner Shopping Center This shouldn’t be a concern, however, because Fabio’s offers fine Italian fare and highly attentive service. Tagliarini belleza (pasta tossed in a combination of mushrooms and seafood) and tagliarini al salmone (pasta in a salmon sauce) make it tempting to stick with the pasta, but the veal and seafood dishes-particularly the sole mugnaia (filet of sole in lemon and butter sauce) – are well worth a detour. (9800 N Central Expwy. Suite 504. The Corner Shopping Center 987 3226 Sun & Tue-Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended MC, V, AE. $$$)

La Tosca. This is neither the fanciest nor the most expensive Italian restaurant in Dallas, but it may be one of the best. The elegant black and-white tiles and the waiters’ black-and-white striped shirts give the restaurant just the right touch of class The rest is left to the food, which is deftly prepared and served. We enjoyed fine, tender beef and red snapper as well as several different kinds of delicious, piping-hot pasta. The cheesecake is more cakelike than most Dallasites are accustomed to, but it is very good. (7113 Inwood. 352-8373. Tue-Thur & Sun 6-10:30. Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)

La Trattoria Lombardi; Ristoranti Lombardi. It would be difficult to picture a nirvana that didn’t include an occasional alfresco lunch at Lombardi’s on Hall Street. The patio is Old World-style, the breezes are fine and the offerings are among the best Northern Italian fare in town. Smart starters are a piquant combination of mozzarella, juicy beefsteak tomatoes and fresh basil leaves or a basket full of crisp, tender fried calamari. An assorted antipasto plate is truly rewarding, with ample portions and well-rounded tastes. Lombardi’s pasta is legendary, with the tortellini vying for the top slot in town. The vegetables were a bit on the skimpy side when served at lunch on Hall Street but were inspirational accents to dinner at the Adelstein Plaza location. Diced eggplant and creamed spinach cleverly wrapped in a cut-out potato round were among the best dishes in a lengthy and memorable meal. In addition to creative and varying pasta entrees, Lombar-di’s offers an impressive list of fish and veal dishes, including a superb baby lobster, fine sea bass poached with shellfish and wrapped in foil, and veal scallopine delicately flavored with lemon and orange. Top it off with one of the Lombardi family’s soufflés-we sampled the raspberry, the amaretto and the chocolate. (2916 Hall. 823-6040, 528-7506; Adelstein Plaza,15501 North Dallas Pkwy, 458-8822. Lunch: Mon-Fri11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11.Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

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

Now That’s Italian. For starters in this casual little Oak Lawn restaurant, we enjoyed creamy onion soup, greaseless beer-batter fried mushrooms and polenta (a concoction made from deep-fried cornmeal 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 toppings for the pizza, we chose artichoke hearts and Italian sausage; the combination was wonderful, but the flavor was almost overwhelmed by the hot mozzarella. 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, but on a return visit, service was careless. We especially like the patio dining and the logo of the Dallas skyline, including the leaning tower of Reunion. (3851 Cedar Springs. 522- 2340. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Fri 5 pm-midnight: Sat & Sun 1 pm-midnight. Sun brunch: 11:30-3. MC, V, AE. $$)

Prego Pasta House. As can be determined after a glance at the menu, the owner of Prego, Joe Barraco, is also the manager of Campisi’s. And in many cases, we found the food at Prego to be similar to Campisi’s, but the atmosphere and service were generally better. For appetizers, the artichoke hearts and scampi were passable although a bit blah (not much garlic or imagination), but the fried provolone was excellent. As a general rule, order the authentic Italian specialties; they’re all top-notch. The veal parmigiana is excellent, as is the lasagna. The pizza is the same type as Campisi’s, with a thin, tasty crust and 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. $$)

Sergio and Luciano. The setting here is not altogether satisfying-it’s half upstairs, half downstairs, and most of the action is on the upper floor-but the food is superb. The 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 in small portions as a first course that leaves room for more. If you want pasta, you can’t do better than the fettuccine with clam sauce. The vegetables are carefully prepared, and Sergio and Luciano serves real Italian hard rolls. (4900 Belt Line. Suite 250. 387-4411. Lunch; Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner; daily 6-11. All credit cards. $$$)

N 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 a perfect light lunch. Sergio’s dining room is semiformal, and the prices are surprisingly reasonable. (The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh, Suite 235, 742-3872 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations for dinner only. All credit cards. $$)

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


Café Cancun. We’ve always said “viva” to civilized Mexican restaurants, but Cafe Cancun is so enjoyable it makes you wonder if the chef really knows his tortillas, Can you imagine Joe T. escorting you to the oak-and-fern bar, plying you with margaritas and letting you order black bean nachos while you wait? All this, mind you, accompanied by lively strains of “Quando Caliente El Sol.’ But despite our predilection for luxury, we’ve also maintained since day uno that this is the best Mexico City-style food in town. The tacos al carbon are consistently the best we’ve had anywhere. The nachos, which combine black beans with |alapenos, guacamole, sour cream and Chihuahua cheese, are out of this world. Those hopelessly addicted to TexMex can indulge in several decent combination plates. But the chiles rellenos, the crisp sautéed red snapper and anything served with molé sauce are the dishes that keep people who like the real thing coming back for more. (Caruth Plaza, Park Lane at Central Expwy. 369-3712; 4131 Lomo Alto. 559 4011; Plaza of the Americas, 9690244. Mon-Thur 11-11; Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight at Lomo Alto; Mon-Fri 11 am-7 pm at Plaza of the Americas. MC, V, AE. $$)

Café Rincón. This breezy Mexican restaurant is several cuts above what we’ve grown to expect from establishments on Harry Hines. The colorful posters and music (which varies from New Wave and jazz to the bandito marching band) creates a mood just right for a couple of margaritas and a basket or two of chips. The menu includes all the Tex Mex you could want, as well as some fancier fish and steak offerings. The Cam-arones Bohemia (beer-batter shrimp) we sampled were large and tasty (owner John Rincón says that if you’re on a diet, his father – the chef – can fry them in Miller Lite). Café Rmcón’s tortilla soup is an edible grab bag of goodies. (2818 Harry Hines. 742-4906- Mon-Thur 11-11,Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)

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

Chiquita. This isn’t a Tex-Mex, pinata-strung establishment, but there are enough clothless tables around to make those of us who enjoy that type of place feel at home. We began our meal with the ironclad test: nachos, the bean and cheese variety. We argued over their quality, our more critical companions called the nachos “workmanlike and plodding.” They lacked, our friends said, the pizazz that would have made them worthy of their title. We were of one mind, however, about the entrees – all were hot and fresh and packed with high-quality beef and chicken. The pollo 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. MC, V, AE. $$)

Genaro’s Tropical. Welcome to a triple-threat tropical feast for the eye. the ear and. of course, the palate. En-joy rare pre-Castro Cuban and Brazilian music by the likes of Carmen Miranda and Yuma Sumac, but don’t let the aesthetic thrill of Genaro’s overshadow the surprising menu, which demonstrates that Dallas has only one showcase for genuine tropical cuisine. Of the many fine seafood creations, pez espada (swordfish kebab) deserves special mention. The charcoal-broiled cuts of fish are wrapped in spinach leaves, and the meat’s fine piquancy contrasts nicely with sautéed spinach and carrots. Also droolworthy are the torta del mar (an open-faced sandwich of crab meat and red snapper) and the enchiladas Genaro, filled with crab and snapper and covered with sour cream and tomatilla sauce. And you can count on the standard Mex-ican dishes, which arrive with generous helpings of guacamole. black beans and tomatoes. (5815 Live Oak at Skillman. 827-9590. Daily: 11-11. All credit cards. $$)

Gonzalez. Rule: Avoid dining inside restaurants that have a heavy takeout trade – you’ll be slighted on the amenities, especially service. Exception to rule: Gonzalez. Most of the basics here 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 wimpy, bland guacamole. Puff tacos and chile rellenos are among the standard entrees, all of which cost less than $6. If you’re looking for a breakfast treat, try the chilaquillas (tortilla strips tried with eggs and peppers). You’ll find 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 7 am-9 pm. All credit cards. $)

Guadalajara. This Ross Avenue hole in the wall has made itself respectable with the addition of 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 our Tex-Mex requests were prepared lust the way we like them. Sombreros off to Guadalajara for realizing that the charm of sleaze lasts only so long. (3308 Ross. 823-9340. Tue-Fri 11 am-3:30 am. Sat & Sun 10 am-3:30 am. Closed Mon. MC, V. $)


Herrera. Is any Mexican food really worth a long wait in the Texas sun for a crowded table in a rickety lean-to? When you even have to bring your own beer? Well, there are other places in the neighborhood that can match Herrerra’s enchiladas and tacos and beans, good as they are But the thick, pancake-shaped flour tortillas you can see cranked out by hand once you get in the door are unique, and so are the stewmeat bur-ritos made from them. And then there is the feeling of satisfaction at being at the classic Dallas hole in the wall The new Denton Drive location still looks like the striptease joint it used to be. The food is fine – but it just doesn’t seem like Herrera. (5427 Denton Drive. 630-2599 Daily 11 am-10 pm. All credit cards. 3902 Maple, 526-9427. Mon. Wed & Thur 9 am-8 pm. Fri-Sun 9 am-9.45 pm. Closed Tue. No credit cards. $)

Javier’s. Don’t visit this “gourmet Mexican” restaurant when you’re in the mood for Tex-Mex; you’ll leave with an aching in your heart for retried beans and rice. But the alternatives here are undoubtedly a better choice. You’ll leave Javier’s filled with delicious beef, seafood or chicken dishes, an actual vegetable and desserts other than pralines. The tortilla soup is crowded with cheese, avocado slabs and smooth pasilla chiles. The nachos are fine, but not too unusual, since black beans and white cheese have caught on even in Tex-Mex hot spots. Javier’s is in the big leagues for what it does to shrimp; they’re big and meaty and sautéed in a diablo sauce (a blend of coffee, orange juice and spices). The mushroom crepes served with corazon de filete is another tasty entree. For dessert, you can’t avoid the cajeta sauce, it comes on the cheesecake and on the crepes flambé and is dished over the ice cream (4912 Cole. 521-4211. Sun-Thur 5:30-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Reservations. All credit cards $$)

Joe T. Garcia’s. 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. Weare here to talk about an upstart: Garcia does Dallas.After several months’ consideration-noting that theowners feel confident enough to sell greeting cardsand T-shirts Six Flags-style-we’ll just say that we en-joyed the new Joe T’s. The margaritas are delightfully,dangerously stiff, and the food – one-shot standardMexican fare-is still pleasingly dependable. The atmosphere (with some token leaning walls) is notplagiaristic enough of the mother Joe T’s to be offen-sive (4400 Belt Line. 458-7373. Mon-Sat 11-11, Sun4-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)


Mario & Alberto. The giant paper flowers everywhere and the walls laden with candles make this northernoutpost of Chiquita a perfect place for a fiesta-whether a romantic night out or a kid’s birthday party.The prices are reasonable, the specialties are wonderful and new dishes are introduced regularly enough tokeep the aficionados coming back to try something different Of the older specialties, our favorites havealways been the steaks spiked with garlic and peppersand the simply char-broiled chicken breasts Of the recent additions, the carnitas of pork in an achiote sauce(achiote is a bright orange Mexican spice) and thepolio en adobo (breast of chicken cut into bite-sizedchunks and doused in red chili sauce) We have neverhad good luck with the fish or shrimp offerings, and theTex-Mex plates are lures for greenhorn gringos whodon’t know any better. The only trouble with Mario &Alberto is that everybody in North Dallas seems toknow about it- so get there early if you don’t want towait (425 Preston Valley Shopping Center. LBJ Frwyat Preston. 980-7296. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11 30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun, Drinks with $5 membership charge. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mercado Juarez. We’ll admit to being impulsive with our praise for Tex-Mex houses, all at once we fall in love, returning again and again to slurp hot sauce and devour beans. Right now we’re beside ourselves with cravings for lunch, dinner or anything in between at our new favorite dive. Mercado Juarez meets all our standards of excellence; (1) It’s cheap; (2) it’s clean; (3) it’s unaffected; and (4) we were served a lot of food. Half of the warehouse-type building is devoted to an interesting Mexican craft market; the other half houses the restaurant. The vastness of both the building and the menu scared us at first – we feared Pancho-esque automation – but somehow the staff pulled it off and served us mass quantities of superb nachos, tacos and all the trimmings. (1901 W Northwest Hwy. 556-0796, Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

On The Border. On The Border calls itself a “South Texas cafe.” oftering 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 as well as generous strips of mesquite-broiled beef. The tacos al carbon, filled with mesquite-broiled steak strips, were flavorful but 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. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30 am-mid-night. All credit cards. $$)

Rosita’s. The chicken enchiladas and chicken flautas we’ve tried here have proved reliably tasty and inexpensive. The tacos al 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. Mod 7 am-2:30 pm. Tue-Fri 7 am-10 pm. Sat & Sun 9 am-10 pm. MC. V, AE. $)


Asuka. This restaurant’s menu is a photo album of its offerings, giving diners a perfect chance to whet their appetites as they read. We stuck with an old favorite, an ishiyaki kaiseki dinner that began with appetizers for the adventurous. We wouldn’t have minded missing the small servings of raw tuna, red cabbage and sea-food 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 hot 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 dinner something like an evening at the sauna. (7136 Greenville. 363-3537. Lunch: Tue-Sun 11-2; dinner: Tue-Sun 6-11, Closed Mon. Reservations. MC, V, AE. $$$$)

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 just barelyseasoned, and then only to highlight natural flavors.The individual tastes of the meats and vegetables wereeasily distinguished and not greasy – quite a feat withso many ingredients presented en masse. The servicewas polite, though at times a bit hurried. (15030Preston 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 tor four or more orfor special banquets. Bar by membership. All creditcards. $$)

Bamboo Pavilion. We began a delightful meal with stir-fried minced chicken sautéed with black mushrooms and the freshest, crispiest water chestnuts ever to grace a wok. Served with two pancakes and rolled for us by our waitress, the result was something like an Oriental burrito and was simply delicious. Panda’s Prawns sounded too sweet (the menu describesthem as Gull shrimp marinated in wine and honey anddeep-fried), but they were crunchy and left us feelinglike another Bamboo chef’s suggestion: a ’HappyFamily.” Bamboo does a good job of spicing its dishesper request, the obvious key to its excellence isfreshness down to every detail (1790 Promenade. Center between Belt Line and Arapaho. Richardson.680-0599. Daily: Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm. Sat &Sun noon-10:30 pm MC, V, AE,. DC. $$)

Fong Lin. You won’t be bombarded by glowing paper lanterns hung from the ceiling or red-and-black-flocked wallpaper here, but neither will you encounter spacious rooms filled with Ming vases In fact. you probably won’t notice much about the surroundings at Fong Lin; they’re decidedly ordinary But the same cannot be said of the food We could have ended our meal happily after sampling the 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 also tried the moo shu pork, which proved to be a fine in-terpretalion of another Oriental standard. (8440 Abrams, Suite 408. 343-4514 Mon-Thur 11 am- 10 pm. Fri 11-11, Sat430l1 pm. Sun noon-10 pm. MC, V. AE. $$)


China Inn. You can’t always judge a Chinese restaurant by its pu pu platter. Our assortment of appetizers was a definite mixed bag, with the fried won ton as dry and disappointing as ever and the barbecued spare ribs very spare indeed The puffed shrimp, however, were large and toothsome. The quality of the entrees, we’re happy to say. was much more consistent than on our last visit The sauce on the sweet and sour pork no longer leans toward cloying sweetness, and the egg rolls contain far more ingredients – and contain them better But some things don’t need to change: We’ve never had a chicken dish here that was not ambrosial. Try almond chicken or kung bo gai ding – tender chicken strips stir fried with Chinese greens and topped with roasted peanuts in a fragrant, hot pepper sauce. Food this good shows there’s plenty of life yet in old-fashioned Cantonese-style cooking. (6521 E Northwest Hwy. 369-7733. Sun-Thur 11 am-1 am, Fri & Sat 11 am-3 am. All majorcredit 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 is provided by standard paper lanterns and red-and-black booths), but that’s unimportant – the management is serious about serving well prepared well seasoned Hunan and Szechuan delicacies Plump, juicy shrimp and crispy egg rolls lay 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 plate full of fresh, crisp vegetables tossed in a light sauce with ample crab, shrimp and scallops and a very spicy (at our macho request) chicken-and-nut dish. The two were culinary opposites, yet proved that the Lotus kitchencan please aficionados of simple or spicy Oriental food. (528 W Arapaho. Richardson 231-9200 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2 30; dinner: daily 5 10. All credit cards, $$)


Hunan Imperial. So many good new neighborhood Chinese restaurants have opened in Dallas over the last few years that it takes something special to lure us far from home Hunan Imperial is a notch above most of the better neighborhood places. The chef knows how to make each dish distinct: slippery, tender, tiny shrimp and nicely chewy pork in the shrimp and pork combination, a fillip of vinegar in the beef scallions. He has to have his arm twisted, though, if you are serious about having your spicy dishes really hot. Hunan Imperial may not be in the very top rank of Dallas Chinese restaurants, but we’ll continue to go out of our way to get there if the best dishes, like the sautéed string beans with pork and crunchy rock salt, continue to be so outstanding. (Walnut Hill at N Central Expwy, Suite 742, in the Corner Shopping Center. 363-3858. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11 30 am-2 am. Sun 11:30 am-11 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Peking Szechuan. Don’t let the modest looks of this place fool you – the view outside is of the Circle Bowl and Circle Inn sign-because the Oriental house specialties are a pure delight We especially enjoyed the Three Delicacy Flavor, which included tender and tasty chunks of shrimp, chicken and beef in Peking Sauce, surrounded with an equally tasty assortment of vegetables Also noteworthy is the Seafood Delight. a tender assortment of jumbo shrimp, king crab meat and scallops sautéed with Chinese vegetables on a sizzling platter We were unusually impressed with the fried rice and crispy snow peas The service is gracious but slow-paced. (2560 W Northwest Hwy. 3530129. Mon-Thur 11 30 am-10 30 pm. Fri-Sun 11:30-11:30. AE. MC. V. $$)


Plum Blossom. The cool, serene teal blue surroundings here calmed our spirits so that we could meditate on the large statue of Buddha, the beautiful Chinese porcelains and some of the best Chinese food in Dallas. Sea scallops with straw mushrooms in a potato nest are offered as an appetizer on one of the special dinners, but they’ll serve them a la carte if you ask. (By all means, ask.) The simple and delicious ginger duck and the miraculously tender shrimp are accompanied by impeccably crisp and green snow peas. Here you can even find some unusual desserts- which are more rare than Orient pearls in Chinese restaurants. The fried custard with mango sauce we found delightful, the fried ice cream with almonds and tangerine sauce less so. But on the whole, our meal at the Antole’s Plum Blossom was a little bit of nirvana. (Loews Antole, 2201 Stemmons. 748-1200. Mon-Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations required. Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$)

Royal China. If anything enhances the experience of dining here, it’s the unfailing courtesy of the staff and the personal care lavished on diners. Not that the food needs a boost. Buck Kao’s royal prawn entrees are legendary, but lesser-known dishes such as chicken curry (moist slivers of fowl with carrots, celery, water chestnuts and onions) are always excellent. If you begin your meal with the three-delicacies soup (laden with shrimp, scallops and chicken), take on a Chinese appetizer plate (the barbecued spareribs are great) and finish 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. Lunch: daily: 11:30 am-2.30 pm; dinner: daily 5:30- 10 pm. All credit cards. $$)


Korea House. Also identified as Koryo Jung on its sign and menus, this attractive little restaurant is often overlooked by its Richardson and North Dallas neighbors. Too bad, because its appetizing Seoul Food offers something for everybody. Barbecue fans will like the bulgoki (marinated and grilled beef) and kalbi gui (chewy ribs), and jalapeno buffs will go for the more incendiary kim chee (fiery pickled cabbage). There are plenty of more offbeat choices for the adventurous: The last time we visited, a Korean patron at the next table was feasting on a dish of mixed vegetables topped with a fried egg. The waitresses in their bright silk costumes add a welcome exotic touch to the otherwise standard modern surroundings. They do theirbest to make non-Koreans feel at home, but the servicecan be slow. (610 Promenade, Coit at Belt Line, Richardson. 231-1379. Daily 11 am-2:30 pm & 5- 10:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Sawatdee. Barbecued beef with bamboo shoots, the sort of dish one craves after Softball practice and board meetings alike, is zingy and delicious at this Upper Greenville Thai restaurant. A meal here, which is best begun with a small, light, crisp Siamese egg roll, is a ravaging blow to the low-sodium diet but is well worth a day of the bland in repentance. And Sawatdee’s fried rice is packed with pork, shrimp, egg, tomato and onion. On the whole, Sawatdee is a dependable place for an Oriental feast. (4505 Greenville at Yale. 373-6138. Lunch Sun-Fri 11.30 am-2 30 pm: dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Sate House. We’ll give you three guesses what this restaurant means when it advertises “Indonesian Home Cooking.” If one of your guesses is “an intriguing mixture of Chinese and Dutch cuisine that takes the shape of everything from fried chicken to barbecued beef,” you’re absolutely right. Sate’s menu includes four dinner choices, two salads, a soup and a side dish (risolles) that, as far as we’re concerned, is essential tothe Indonesian dining experience. Risolles are cheesy-tasting egg roll-type tidbits made of ragout, chickenand carrots. Most Indonesian food is prepared in arather unspectacular manner-the chicken, beef orpork is usually barbecued or fried. Coconut milk andpeanut sauces make the difference in taste. NasiRames Special, Sate’s version of the combination platter, is a good introduction to dishes such as ayampanggang pnangan and sambal ulek. (12125 Abramsat L8J Frwy, Suite 108. 680-2803. Lunch: Tue-Sat11:30-2:30; dinner: Tue-Sat 5-10; Sunday brunch:11:30-3. Closed Mon. MC, V, AE, DC. $)

Siam. Siam may no longer be the only Thai restaurant in town, but it’s still irresistible. We love almost everything – from the spicy curry sauces to the no-frills decor and always gracious service. A definite must-try appetizer is moo sar-tey (char-broiled, skewered pork strips served with a peanut curry sauce for dipping, accompanied by cucumber slices, red onions and hot peppers in a sweet-and-sour sauce). The skewers are a bit awkward to manipulate (table service does not include knives), but the effort is worthwhile As for entrees, you can’t go wrong with any of the Thai offerings, especially pud poy seon (scallops, jumbo shrimp, abalone and squid combined with mushrooms, young corn, snow peas and onions) and gang ped (chicken, pork or beef slices in a red curry sauce with bamboo shoots, peppers. coconut milk and mint leaves) (1730 W Mockingbird near Harry Hines. 631-5482. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Closed Sun All credit cards. $$)

Szechuan Pavilion. There’s nothing particularly compelling about the atmosphere at Szechuan Pavilion, but we’ve frequently found a positive correlation between good Chinese food and shabby surroundings The keys here seem to be authentic, fresh ingredients and few gummy additives, which result in spicy dishes that are zesty and flavorful but not too 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 mem, 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 (such as the Emperor’ s Chicken and the hot and sour whole fish) are downright exotic (8409 Preston. Preston Center 368-4303. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 4:30-10 pm. Sat noon-10:30 pm. Sun noon-10 pm All credit cards $$)

Uncle Tai’s. When the venerable Uncle Tai (one 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 red lacquer woodwork to the elegant, weighty flatware is plush and handsome. but the food is rhe 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. (13350 Dallas Pkwy. Galleria. Suite 3370. 934-9998 Mon-Thur11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11 am-10 30 pm Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$)


Taiwan. The new Taiwan manages to combine all the elegance of Oriental tradition with the cordial service and deft preparation of the Taiwan on Greenville, which we fell for years ago. We were delighted with the plump, lightly fried shrimp rolls and the warm, meat-stuffed turnovers (kuo-teh) that we ordered as appetizers, and with the large, hot tureens of egg flower soup and hot and sour soup. Then we chose a Sizzling Iron Plate, which gave us a taste of the deliciously spiced beef that we’d smelled since we entered the restaurant. (4980 Belt Line. 387-2333. Mon-Thur11-11,Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun 10 am-11 pm Allcredit cards. $$)


Banno Brothers. White you’re sitting at Banno’s listening to the raucous bleat of Dixieland jazz or watching an oyster shucker do his work, you can almost believe you re in New 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 an unusual tartar sauce with chopped onions. On the whole, Banno’s gives good weight-for the wait (1516 Greenville. 821-1321 Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri 11-11, Sat 5-11 pm. Sunday, gone fishin. MC. V. $$)

Boston Sea Party. Before you pop in on this party, be sure that you’re a confirmed seafood lover and that you re mighty hungry You’ll want to get your money’ s worth ($22 95, prix fixe for dinner), and you’ll want to make sure you sample everything The all-you-can-eat 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 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 plump and flaky The dessert pier held an appealing selection of small servings of fresh fruits. cheeses, cheesecake, mousse and carrot cake. (13444 Preston 2397061 Mon-Thur 5.30-10 pm. Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. Sun 4 30-9 pm. 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 five tables). but the offerings are excellent We ordered the salmon salad with green pepper (served on a flaky croissant) Chunky, slightly tart coleslaw was a complementary side dish For a taste of Cajun country cooking, try Hampton’s seafood gumbo. 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, homemade red sauce and tartar sauce. (801 S Pearl. 742 4668. Tue-Fri 8 am-6 pm. Sat 7 am-6 pm. Sun 7 am-4:30 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

Jozef’s. “Rough wood elegance” has become a seafood restaurant cliché, but we can think of no better way to describe this comfortable, unpretentious yet very fine restaurant. Prices are reasonable, the service was bright, and we enjoyed every bite from the bread to the cheesecake The clean, spicy Creole shark soup is worth trying, and 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 were beautifully served with mushrooms, shallots and a light, creamy sauce. Our only complaint was with the vegetables: Although they appeared to be fresh, they arrived cold. (2719 McKinney. 826-5560; 2640 Walnut Hill Lane, 351 5365. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2 30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10. Fri & Sat 6-11. Reservations recommended All credit cards $$$)

Ratcliffe’s. If you were a coastal transplant desperate for a true taste of the sea, you’d pay $8.95 for a bucket of steamers, right? Well, Ratcliffe’s is the place to do it-in style. Touted as a “San Francisco style seafood house,” Ratcliffe’s is romantic without the formula hokeyness so many fish restaurants rely upon An open kitchen and a glass case full of appetizing-looking ocean critters greet you when you walk in, and unless you have the misfortune to be seated in the rather bland upstairs dining room, you can enjoy your meal among beautiful antiques and pretty pastels. The seafood is reliably fresh, sauces are creative and served nouvelle-style (under, not on top of). The fried fish, shrimp, oysters el al. come piping hot. with a perfectly textured breading and just the right amount of grease. Two specials not on the menu but “prepared often” were superb: a bouillabaisse – a hearty bowlful of crustaceans afloat in a delicate broth-and a but-terflied and Dungeness crab-stuffed grouper. Sally’s Daily Sin, one of several house ice creams, provides a simple, soothing conclusion to a well-prepared, albeit pricey meal. (1901 McKinney, 748-7480. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

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


Turtle Cove. This airy rotunda of a restaurant looks snazzy with its salmon and teal fabrics against rustic dark woods, and some nights it seems that all of Dallas has turned out to eat the broiled seafood and drink the interesting California wines. But, after a few years of living with shrimp cooked over a mesquite wood fire, we’re beginning to think that if God had meant man to eat this way he would have put shrimp in West Texas (or mesquite in the Gulf). With too strong a dose of the smoke, shrimp can taste downright medicinal and can get all chewylike, too. Swordfish does a little better; but at $17,50 a throw, the price of a dinner can begin to climb astronomically. With other dishes, such as yellow squash ratatouille and apple cobbler, the kitchen approximates ambitious home cooking. At these prices, however, we might have expected fare that is somewhat fancier. (2731 W Northwest Hwy. near European Crossroads. 350-9034. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11-11. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE. $$)


Brent Place. Lunch customers drive from all over the state to dine in this 108-year-old house in Old City Park. The carefully researched menu includes original recipes from the annals of Texas cooking from 1890 to 1910 and changes weekly, we enjoyed mock turtle soup, baked crab, chicken and dumplings, succotash, carrots and apple custard pie-all deliciously authentic. Brent Place is a nonprofit project of the Dallas Heritage Society and is staffed almost completely by DHS volunteers. The lunch menu changes weekly, but on weekends the chefs try out new menus or prepare old favorites (1717 Gano. 421-3057 Lunch seatings: Tue-Fri at 11:15. 12:15 and 1:15: brunch: Sat & Sun 11-2 Reservations required weekdays and for 10 or more on weekends. MC, V, AE. $)

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

Bubba’s. You want meaty, not-too-greasy chicken with meaningful crust. You want it quick, you don’t want to pay an arm and a thigh for it, and you don’t want dinner in a box. So you go to Bubba’s. and you’re glad. Chicken is the house specialty, and the chicken-fried steak is a large, authentic member of the genre. The dinners, all for under $5, come with a choice of two vegetables (we tried coleslaw, green beans and mashed potatoes; all were fresh and distinctive). The meals are served with two humongous rolls, and there’s honey on the table to dip em in. The room is bright and airy with splashes of gleaming chrome and a wonderful old wartime poster. The plastic diningware and paper plates can be unwieldy, but that’s the only flaw at Bubba’s. (6617 Hillcrest. 373-6527. Daily 6:30 am-10 pm. No credit cards: personal checks accepted. $)

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

George Wesby’s. There are those who will cringe as they read these words and learn that their long-cherished pub has been discovered. But the secret is too great to keep. George Wesby’s. we hereby proclaim, is Dallas’ best purveyor of chicken fried steak, thick with white gravy and accompanied by huge cottage fries. There’s hardly reason to say more, to chatter on about Wesby’s burgers, hefty salads or frosty-cold beer; the news of great chicken-fried steak is enough. (3115 Live Oak. 821-1950, Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Fri 2:30-8 Closed Sat & Sun. MC, V. AE, DC $$)

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 was prepared with nuts and was enjoyed by at least one reviewer known lor not being nuts over chicken salad Pimento cheese sandwiches, chili and a variety of soups are also offered Don’t miss Ms Betty’s desserts: pumpkin cheesecake. Highland Park pie, peanut butter pie or fudge pie. (7011 Lomo Alto at Lovers Lane 526 5084 Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm. MC; personal checks accepted. $)

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


Highland Park Cafeteria. Where would you take E.T. to show him real American cooking? To HPC, of course. He’d recognize the long lines-just like the movies-even if he didn’t recognize the food. You could introduce him to chopped spinach salad with horseradish, definitive fried chicken or lean brisket, and every vegetable from turnips ’n greens to bright, crisp broccoli with hollandaise. The biscuits and corn-bread, billowy meringue pies and high layer cakes might make him so heavy he couldn’t get back in his spaceship. Once he’d learned the ropes, he’d tell everybody that the original location on Cole Street still has the best food. But although the newer branches are less consistent, they can be excellent, and the lines are a lot shorter. (4611 Cole, 526-3801; 600 Sakowitz Village on the Parkway, 934 8025; Hwy 114 at O’Connor, Irving, 556-0480. Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm. closed Sun at Cole location; Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5-8 pm. Sat 11 am-8 pm, Sun 11 am-2 30 pm at Sakowitz Village and Irving locations. No liquor. No credit cards. $)


Beefeater. This restaurant serves up thick, juicy beef, pork and lamb cuts of good quality in an Old English pub atmosphere The extras are limited and simple. with choices including a standard dinner salad, hearty black beans and tangy coleslaw (3010 N Henderson at N Central Expwy 826-2553. Mon-Thur 6-10 30 pm. Fri & Sat 6 11 30 pm. Closed Sun MC, V, AE. $$$)


The Bronx. It upset us a few weeks back to drive by The Bronx and see the redecorators at work. We were anxious to be reassured that, new cream paint and all, it was the same old Bronx The entryway is stucco now, and a few new abstract paintings grace the walls, but tea is still refreshing, the conversation still flows easily and the omelettes (we delighted in the huge, fluffy mushroom, spinach and bacon variety) remain dependably good. The service, which was always annoy-ingly slow in the past, was much more efficient. (3835 Cedar Springs 521 5821 Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30 pm-12:30 am. Fri & Sat 5:30 pm-1:30 am; Sunday brunch: 11-3. MC, V, AE. $$)

Crackers. Greek dishes prevail at this casual, comfortable restaurant. Enjoy moussaka, spanokopita, Greek-style baked chicken or souflaki while sitting outside 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 5-10:30, Fri & Sat 5-midnight. MC, V, AE. $)


Dalt’s. Dalt’s tries to reincarnate an old-fashioned soda fountain, but the Sweet Shoppes of hallowed memory were never this bustling nor this funky. Along with the ice cream floats, the bar cranks out plenty of more potent libations night and day. Prestonwood Mall shoppers, deal-making tablehoppers and cruising teen-boppers keep the place lammed. The catalog-sized menus make a good meal a matter of good luck-nobody could cook so many things equally well. But the chicken-fried steaks and salads are huge, and the burgers are meaty. And the fried ice cream sundaes, gooey with hot fudge or caramel and crunchy with nuts, make the concept of a raffish soda parlour seem pretty nifty after all. (5100 Belt Line, Suite 410. 385-8606. Daily 11 am-2 am. All credit cards. $)

Lou & Larry’s. Lou & Larry’s has a Greenville Avenue-type name and an Old Town address, but it’s a quieter, more diverse establishment than most of its neighbors. The restaurant has quite an imaginative menu; we especially enjoyed the selection of stir-fry salads. The sunny California stir-fry, a hot combination of lightly “wokked’ fruits, vegetables, ham. turkey tenderloin and chicken, was dressed in poppy-seed and honey dressing. But many other selections were disappointing. Lou and Larry’s tries hard to be an original American restaurant, but the kitchen will have to grow more consistent in order for the place to succeed. (5500 Greenville. 361-4348. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-midnight, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-1 am. Sun 11 am-midnight; Sun brunch: 11-3 All credit cards. $$)


Ruth’s Chris Steak House. This is a place for serious beef eaters. No frills, no gimmicks, no daily specials- just corn-fed, never frozen, aged prime beef, delivered fresh from the Midwest and cut on the premises. And although the whole concept seems a natural for Texas, the restaurant is actually part of a franchise that started in New Orleans. Seven different cuts of beef are offered at the Dallas restaurant, with a la carte side dishes including broccoli, cauliflower, spinach or potatoes au gratin. The decor is all-business, with the main attraction being a large board that delivers stock quotes by day and sports updates by night. Fittingly, the prices go right along with big-business expense ac-counts. (6940 Greenville. 691-6940. Mon-Fri 11:30-11:30, Sat & Sun 5-1 1:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)


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


Joe T. Garcia’s. In combing the Southwest in search of the perfect margarita. our elixir of tequila was found next to a plate of enchiladas, beans and rice in this celebrated family-style restaurant in Fort Worth. This margarita packs a wallop. No mixes, no diluted mixtures of sweet and sour. We’re talking tequila, lime juice and Triple Sec. Period. The food-the standard dinner plus a few choices like steak a la Mexicana-was, as always, |ust great. But our memories (what we can remember) lie with the liquid menu, (2201 N Commerce. (817)626-4356. Mon-Fri 11 am-2 pm & 5-10:30 pm, Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Sun 4-10 pm. No credit cards. $$)

Calhoun Street Oyster Bar. Within easy walking distance from the Tarrant County Convention Center and Theatre, this New Orleans-style restaurant is an ideal spot to grab a bite to eat before a show. As the name implies, oysters are the featured fare, but a blackboard menu featuring such fresh fish as New England scrod and Gulf pompano changes daily. The warehouselike interior of concrete and painted brick is reminiscent of Dallas’ S & D Oyster Company. Service is prompt and attentive here, a definite plus if you’re in a hurry to catch an early show. (210 8th Street at Calhoun. (817) 332-5932. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11 pm. Sun 5-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

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

Michel. Jean Claude’s younger brother moved from Dallas to Fort Worth last September to make a name for himself, and in smashing five-star fashion, he has done just that. Michel is almost perfect. We stumbled in one night, foolishly unaware of the treat in store for us in this renovated Camp Bowie house with upholstered walls, stained-glass windows and country-style drapes. We were seated at a linen-clothed table that was set with tapers and fresh flowers; it was easily large enough for the four-course bounty of food to come. We tried some moist, rich duck and a thick cut of beef for our entrees, which were preceded by a hot, homemade fish pate. The assorted fresh vegetables were artistically arranged and crisp, as was the Boston lettuce salad. For dessert, we chose chocolate and strawberry souffles, both fluffy masterpieces. (3851 Camp Bowie. 732-1231. Dinner: Tue-Thur 6 10, Fri & Sat seatings at 6 & 9 Dinner is prix fixe at $29.50. Reservations required. Coat and tie required. All credit cards. $$$$)


Cattlemen’s Steak House. The secret of visiting this legendary steakhouse on weekends is to get there before the crowds start descending. This means 5:30 or 6 pm. That might be a bit too early tor some, but otherwise, the wait sometimes exceeds an hour. The steaks are, indeed, worth waiting for: huge, tender and cooked as ordered. This is heartland food. Don’t look for any fancy names or mushrooms and shallots swim-ming in béarnaise sauce. Just sit back and en|oy classic meat and potatoes. Then, when you’re finished and the evening’s still young, sashay on over to one of the country/western joints down the street in the stockyards and work off your dinner two-steppin’. (2458 N Main. (817) 624-3945. Mon-Fri 11 am-10:30 pm, Sat 4:30-10 30 pm. All credit cards. $$)


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

Neiman-Marcus Red River Saloon. Gorgeous blond oak is everywhere here. The light-colored wood adds a clean airiness to the large room that’s almost antiseptic, but not quite. Located smack in the heart of the budding Sundance Square renovation area in the middle of downtown Fort Worth, the saloon is a great place to stop off for a beer and a platter of nachos during a shopping spree or |ust after work. The nachos are loaded, and if you look closely, you’ll be amused to see that the chips are molded in the shape of the state of Texas The Western-styled menu is clever, try the Texas Crepes, six-inch flour tortillas filled with Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses and onions and topped with what the saloon calls the “world’s richest chili” (115 W Second Street in Sundance Square. (817) 8 70-2502. Mon-Thur 11 am-8 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11 pm. Net-man-Marcus credit card only $)


Mac’s House. Around town, it’s called Mac’s steak-house, or sometimes “just the best steak in Fort Worth.” The restaurant is deceiving. From the outside it looks like a truck stop, and with a name like “Mac’s” that’s what we expected. But inside, we found linen tablecloths, candles on the tables and prompt and efficient waitresses. To stay happy at Mac’s, stick to the steaks. Although the menu seems quite ambitious, we’ve had better chicken that came out of a frozen box. To top off your Cowtown chowdown, try one of the delicious coffee drinks. (2400 Parkhill. (817) 921-4682. Sun-Thur 5-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. All credit cards.$$)

The Original Mexican Food Eats Cafe. Legend has it that this is the first Mexican food restaurant in Fort Worth (hence its name); it’s certainly one of the most popular ones. On a recent Saturday night, we faced a wait of more than half an hour for a table, but our time was well-spent. Our waitress was unfailingly pleasant and attentive and kept a full container of corn tortillas on our table. Specialties include the Roosevelt plate, a tasty combo that includes a taco. enchilada and chalupa. We found the chicken enchiladas to be among the best we’ve ever sampled, and the marga-ritas are huge. (4713 Camp Bowie. (817) 738-6226 Sun-Thur 11 am-9:30 pm. Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Tue. All credit cards. $)

Sardine’s. The name of this restaurant corresponds to manner in which guests are seated- The crowding, though, merely attests to the continuing popularity of this Italian inn. Aside from the close quarters, we were delighted with the hustle and bustle of the restaurant Upon entering, we were flagged down by the maitre d’. We were then passed on to a busboy, who wound us through the small dining room to a table Our waiter appeared and was gone with our order in a matter of minutes. The conversation level was quite loud (to be heard you must speak over the piano), but we found the candle-lit, if a bit noisy, atmosphere quite en-joyable. Our dinner (chicken with scampi and lasagna) was uniformly good; the sautéed chicken breasts were smothered in a tomato sauce with scampi, onions, mushrooms and sherry wine, and the lasagna was rich with layers of pasta, meat, tomato and a white sauce made from one of the chef’s special recipes. Sardine’s may never make the top 10 Italian restaurants, but tor atmosphere, it can’t be beat. (3410 Camp Bowie Blvd. (817)332-9937. Mon-Fri 11:30 am 2:30 pm & 5:30 pm-midnight. Fri & Sat 5:30 pm 1 am All credit cards, $$)


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


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

The Wine Seller. Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry. This place is tor those who enjoy a leisurely dinner, complete with four courses and at least one bottle of wine. Wine aficionados may peruse the restaurant’s wine vault to select the proper bottle for dinner On a recent visit, we chose a 1982 Monterey Chardonnay. a perfect complement to an appetizer board of smoked Gouda and Morbier cheeses and pepper pate. Selected wines are also offered by the glass, although sampling these can get expensive. Entrees include beef, chicken and seafood dishes The chicken Boursin, a chicken breast wrapped around Boursin cheese, baked in a wine sauce and topped with capers, was outstanding. The open kitchen lends a casualness to the place and allows diners to view the chefs as they work (6120 Camp Bowie (817) 737-2323. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30-11 30 MC, V: personal checks accepted. $$)


Le Café Bowie, its not often that we have a meal that we rave about for weeks after the occasion, but we did on our last visit to Le Café Bowie The Veal Bowie (milk-fed veal smothered in a hollandaise sauce with shrimp and artichokes) was so tender we could slice it with our fork. We were likewise impressed with the tenderness of the succulent Steak Louis XV. The accompanying vegetables were equally well-prepared, and our meal, overall, was one of the most enjoyable we’ve had in Fort Worth. (4930 Camp Bowie. (817) 735-1521. Sun-Thur 5:30-10 pm. Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Sun brunch: noon-2 pm. MC, AE, V: personal checks accepted. $$$)


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