Sunday, May 26, 2024 May 26, 2024
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Brisket, salmon, roast beef and tortellini

Routh Street Cafe. At first glance, this is just another of those madeover Oak Lawn houses that has been transformed into a fancy café. But once you’re inside, that impression is dispelled. With its glossy salmon-and pearl-gray interior, Routh Street Café looks more ambitious and more professional than most of its competitors. Indeed, we don’t know of another restaurant in town that combines such excitement and comfort and that has patrons looking blissfully at ease either garbed to the hilt or stylishly undepressed.

The restaurant’s culinary ambition is also immediately obvious. A number of lighter dishes are available in the anteroom by the bar, but in the restaurant, five courses at a fixed price of $35 are available (menus are printed every day with chef Stephen W. Pyles’ signature at the bottom). Only rarely is a dish offered at a surcharge. The first course typically offers a soup or two, a pasta dish or perhaps a mousse. The concept is American nouvelle, so the ingredients are usually national standbys such as sweet potatoes or squash. The accompanying basket of home-baked muffins was one of the most exciting elements of the meal; the ones flavored with hazelnuts were especially memorable.

The second and fourth courses of the meal are identical; you choose when you want your salad and your sorbet (before or after the main course). The sorbets and ices are exotic combinations of mint and fruit, and the salads are composed of the choicest greens. The main course offers such selections as baby Coho salmon, mesquite-grilled veal or lamb and occasional game choices such as venison. The meats are cooked expertly, but we found the sauces a trifle un-derseasoned. Time will tell whether young chef Pyles achieves the top rank of maitre de cuisine that he so clearly aspires to, and this matter of sauces and seasonings is the point on which he will be judged.

Pyles’ desserts, which are prepared in a separate pastry kitchen upstairs, are already on the highest level. Their excellent quality convinces us that there really is a new American cuisine, earthier than French, yet more refined than traditional American dishes. The chocolate cake with brandied cherries is a masterpiece, as are the gingerbread-like pear cake and the mousse sprinkled with praline bits and surrounded by custard sauce. Other elements of the operation are world-class, too. Each day, the ail-American wine list is updated by computer, including a specific date and time. The wines are unusual and are very reasonably priced, and the servers know their way around the offerings well enough to be impressively reliable guides. One especially nice detail is the availability of some of the better wines by the glass, although at hefty prices. The service is both relaxed and helpful (we did experience one mix-up in which the waiter couldn’t tell our lamb and venison orders apart). (3005 Routh at Cedar Springs. 871-7161. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 p.m. Lounge: Mon-Fri 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m., Sat 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE. $$$$)

Bob Willy’s Dinner House. This antique shop on the West Piano plains used to serve French food. Now it offers barbecue, which seems more appropriate since the neighborhood is far enough out to appear a little countrified. There’s a chuckwagon out front for those who want takeout food, and the inside is filled with lovely old furniture and quaint knickknacks. This is one of the nicest places you can eat barbecue, so by all means go on in and sit a spell.

The food is some of the best barbecue in Dallas. It’s not for those who really love barbecue-if you don’t instruct the kitchen otherwise, your meat will come with sauce poured all over it (a real no-no among barbecue aficionados). But the ribs here are wonderfully meaty and tender; the brisket is succulent and the sausage and ham are also good.

One or two other places in Dallas mayedge out Bob Willy’s in their ability to cookmeat, but nobody beats the place in thequality of the side dishes. The potato saladis serious stuff-the pickles are sour, andthere is hardly a hint of sweetness. The slawis creamy, and the beans are honest, plainpintos. Even dessert (pecan pie) is worth thecalories. The welcome is warm, and theservice is friendly and personal but not presumptuous. (1933 Preston, Piano.985-0624. Breakfast: daily 6-11; lunch: daily11-2:30; dinner: Thur-Sat 5:30-8:30. Nocredit cards. $$)

Lawry’s The Prime Rib. This is the third location of a restaurant that was established in Beverly Hills in 1938. The gimmick is that it only serves one dish: roast beef. The job of the waitresses, who sport short-skirted maids’ outfits straight out of a Thirties comedy, is merely to ask what kind of salad and potato you want. Then, carvers walk by with a huge trolley laden with meat to ask what size portion you prefer and how you want the meat cooked. They also offer servings of peas or creamed spinach.

The surprise about Lawry’s is the lavish-ness of it all. You don’t expect valet parking, anterooms with wood-burning fireplaces and fancy furnishings at a meat-and-potato place. But Lawry’s puts on the dog (and runs up the bill). Something about the showiness seems a trifle incongruous (perhaps because the site is a made-over funeral parlor, and the style is still a bit too grandiose and funereal). But the service, which we found both solidly professional and warmly down-to-earth, compensates for the overdone decor.

The food should please an ail-American appetite. The salad that comes with the dinner mixes iceberg and other lettuces, crumbled hard-boiled eggs and beets with the bottled dressing and seasoned salt marketed by the owners (yes, this is that Lawry’s). You pay extra for a salad with vinaigrette and for a baked potato, which will be excellent but for which you can’t get sour cream-another of the quirky “principles” of the restaurant. The roast beef is excellent. We recommend getting one of the larger cuts, since the smallest is sliced more thinly than we like our roast. The carver stands right in front of you, so you are assured of getting the done-ness you want, and the carts are heated with burning charcoal, so you are assured of getting hot meat. The accompanying Yorkshire pudding and fresh horseradish in whipped cream are first-class. (3008 Maple. 521-7777. Mon-Thur 5-10:30 p.m., Fri & Sat 5-11:30 p.m., Sun 4-10 p.m. All credit cards. $$$)

Serpico. A Best Western hotel on Industrial Boulevard is the last place you would expect to find a good Italian restaurant. But this place is close enough to the Market Center that the people who run Da Piccolo thought it would be a good bet as a location for a new enterprise. The menu is much like that of the parent institution, and we aren’t sure that we don’t prefer the newer location, which is pleasantly decorated with prints and brightly colored quilts on the walls and, most importantly, is not as woefully overcrowded as the older Da Piccolo is.

The food here can be excellent. Among the pastas, the linguini in white clam sauce and the shells stuffed with ricotta are the most outstanding. The tortellini were served only in a beef broth-which lacked strength, but which at least tasted homemade and was not oversalted. None of the appetizers is worth the effort (start with a half order of pasta if you want a more elaborate meal).

Perhaps the best entrée is the chicken scarpariello, sautéed with peppers andstrong Mediterranean olives. The frittamista (mixed deep-fried seafood) is disappointing except for the chewy rings of squid;order these separately, since they cost less bythemselves. The veal piccata is only subtlylemony-a pleasant change from the overlyacid versions we’ve been served lately. Theold standbys, veal parmigiana and shrimp ingarlic butter, are presented adequately here,but only just. Try some of the more unusualdishes. Dessert choices are simple but good:cappuccino pie, cheesecake and chocolatelayer cake. The service is attentive and pleasant but slow. (Best Western Inn-MarketCenter, 2023 N. Industrial. 741-5041. Break-fast: daily 6-10:30; lunch: daily 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri-Sun 5:30-11.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 indicatesa menu with a wide price range.

$$$ Expensive. Expect to spend more than $20 for a complete meal (excluding wine and cocktails).

$$$$ Very expensive.

Reservations” indicates that the restaurant will accept reservations.

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

indicates a restaurant located on or north of LBJ Freeway.


Pies’ Barbecue. Mr. Ples started his catering business in 1931, and except tor a little work that he’s done tor Mobil Oil on the side, he’s been turning out barbecue ever since. In his seven-month-old converted Dairy Queen, Pies and his wife prepare delectable ribs, sliced beef and sausage, and they serve it cafeteria-style with all the trimmings: turnip greens, beans, corn on the cob, corn bread and a slab of sweet potato pie that is poetry en croute. (1212 W Kiest. 371-5533. Mon-Thur 11 am-8 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-9 pm. No credit cards. $)

Sonny Bryan’s. This disreputable-looking joint is nigh onto world famous because it serves some of the best barbecued brisket and spareribs anywhere. But can you stand the commotion while you’re hanging around to get your order taken and the discomfort of waiting for it? Can you stand the rickety old school desks if you want to eat inside? Can you stand the mediocre trimmings and the crush of the wildly disparate people who crowd into this place? Can you stand the litter that never seems to get picked up? If you care about first-rate barbecue, you don’t have much choice but to brave the difficulties, shut up and eat. (2202 Inwood. 357-7120. Mon-Fri 7 am-4:30 pm, Sat 7 am-3 pm. Sun 11 am-2 pm. No credit cards. $)


Cindy’s. From early Saturday morning until lunchtime, when most restaurants shut down for lack of business,Cindy’s is hopping with sporty types just off the tenniscourt or the jogging path as well as with families and little old ladies. And Sunday mornings are even busier.We’re not sure that we’ve figured out the appeal of thisplace – it may be just that there’s something for everybody here (Cindy’s bills itself as a pancake house anddelicatessen). The pancakes we tried were too cottonyand flavorless for our tastes, but the blintzes (althoughunrecognizable to a New Yorker), the fat corned beefand pastrami sandwiches-even the hamburgers-arefine. (11111 N Central Expwy, 739-0182; Dai-Rich Village, Suite 385, Coit at Belt Line, Richardson, 231-3660. Sun-Thur 6 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 6 am-midnight.MC, V. $)

The Hungry Jockey. If you’re a people-watcher and you’re looking for a nice, comfortable spot to have a good, rib-stickin’ breakfast, this is the place for you. The Hungry Jockey is a North Dallas institution-a haven for high-powered business breakfasters and genuine Levi’s-clad cowboys. Most of the food is hearty (although we’ve had some bad luck with dried-up bacon). The blueberry pancakes and the Canadian bacon are top-notch. Grab a cup of fresh coffee, then sit back and enjoy a taste of a real diner, North Dallas-style. (1417 Preston Forest Square. 661-0134. Mon-Sat 6:30 am-2 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)


Agnew’s. Any problems that Agnew’s may have had in the past were blessedly temporary: Our last meal here was perfect. All the dishes we sampled were so beautifully cooked that we can’t even single out favorites. The appetizers come in great variety (quail salad, delicately sauced shrimp, tiny scallops in puff pastry), while the entrees tend to follow a formula. Perfectly grilled meat-juicy salmon and veal or beef steaks -sit atop the subtlest sauces in town and are surrounded by bouquets of whittled vegetables. The desserts were so tempting that we ordered one of each; thesublime raspberry and chocolate cakes lived up toevery sinful expectation. (Adelstein Plaza, Suite 300, 15501 Dallas Pkwy. 458-0702. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Fri 6:30-10:30, Sat seatings at 6:30 & 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$$)


Arjon’s Le Louvre. Under new management and with a new chef, this place is pretty much what it always was: a good, solid, unremarkable continental restaurant. Our only real disappointment came early in the meal with a feuillete of sweetbreads for which you needed an ax to chop through the pastry. Otherwise, we enjoyed the meal – especially the Caesar salad (which some diners might have found too garlicky), the salmon with pink peppercorns and the dense chocolate mousse. The atmosphere is friendly, but the blare of the jazz club upstairs can be oppressive. (The Corner Shopping Center, 9840 N Central Expwy 691-1177. Sun-Thur 6-11 pm, Fri 6-11:30 pm. Sat 6 pm-midnight. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Arthur’s. The atmosphere, food and service here almost always provide a pleasant dining experience. Among the fine array of appetizers offered, the salmon and the escargots are excellent. But if you’re not in the mood to overeat, you could easily skip them and begin with a salad (portions here are quite large). The Arthur’s special salad, which is big enough for two people, contains several types of leafy lettuce combined with fresh shrimp, avocados, hearts of palm and artichokes, all covered with a light, creamy dressing. The lobster bisque is a nice starter, too, although at times it has been a little too tomatoey. The entrees include a tremendous stuffed beef filet that’s chock-full of crab meat, covered in a beefy sauce and served over wild rice. The fettuccine with lobster is another winner, with lots of lobster and just enough rich, creamy sauce. Although a number of tasty desserts are offered (such as a flaky, slightly sweet tart), go for the chocolate cake. It is sinfully rich, but it’s worth the remorse. (Campbell Centre, 8350 N Central Expwy. 361-8833. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Fri 6-11, Sat 6 pm-midnight. All credit cards. $$$)

Blom’s. This plush hotel dining room at the Galleria’s main entrance is competing for a lot of superlatives, including that of having the most adventuresome chef. The interesting new combinations usually work well, but they sometimes go overboard, as in the case of our recent meal. If we hadn’t ordered cautiously, all four courses could have been adorned with fresh raspberries (including the salad, where they perched atop a pile of endive). Blom’s is also vying for loveliest presentation of dishes (which appeal to the eye as richly as to the palate) and for the most expensive-prices are right upthere, especially if you order the lobster with vegetablesin a rich cream sauce and other such delicacies. Wefound the food intriguing; the service, alternately a bitcoy and a bit inattentive. (Westin Hotel, 13340 DallasPkwy. 934-9494. Dinner: Mon-Sal 5:30-10:30; Sunbrunch: 10:30-2. Reservations recommended. Allcredit cards. $$$$)

Café America. After a long wait and a struggle to squeeze into the tiny space allotted for our miniature table, we didn’t think we were going to be very fond of Cafe America. But our waitress was so cordial and savvy that we were soon appeased, and the food turned out to be mostly excellent. The hamburger was as big as a baseball and was perfectly grilled, and the waitress’ recommendation that the chicken and broccoli dish was the best offering on the “light foods” side of the menu was right on target. Both desserts we tried were paradise for chocoholics; the fudge pie beat out the mousse for temptation-of-the-month honors, but not by much. (Bloomingdale’s, Valley View Center, 13320 Monttort. 450-2290. Mon-Sat 11 am-4 pm & 5-8 pm. AE, Bloomingdale’s; personal checks accepted. $$)

Cafe Capri. As soon as we entered this small, softly lit European-style dining room after a long workday, we began to relax. To start our meal, we sampled fresh,chilled oysters on the half shell and a beautifully garnished pate accompanied by small slices of Frenchbread. For our entrees, we chose lamb chops and aveal dish with scallops. The lamb, though a tad moredone than we had ordered it, was tender, juicy andflavorful; and the veal was thinly sliced, breaded andcovered with scallops in a cream sauce. But the crowning glory of our evening came after dinner in the formof a very light but rich chocolate souffle sprinkled withpowdered sugar and a flaming liqueur concoction deftly prepared by our charming waiter. By then, our busyday had become a dim memory. (15107 Addison Road near Belt Line. 960-8686. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon- Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$)

Calluaud. A meal at what has become Dallas’ establishment French restaurant is always an event. The dining room is decked with roses; the diners, with their best attire. Owner/chef Guy Calluaud always keeps some old favorites (such as the lamb with tarragon sauce) on the menu, but he occasionally bursts forth with inspiration and innovation. The salad with smoked fish is brilliant with a gingery dressing, and the hazelnut souffle dazzles as well as satisfies. This is still one of the top restaurants in Dallas. (2619 McKinney. 823-5380.Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat seatings at 7& 9:30. Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. MC, V, AE; personal checks accepted. $$$$)

Clair de Lune. This attractive bistro in the corner of the Quadrangle is a fine place for light fare, especially when the weather is warm and you can sit outdoors in the patio area. But when the icy winds blow and you want to come inside for more serious eating, Clair de Lune disappoints. On our last visit, everything-soup, appetizer, salad, entree, dessert-was under par. We were especially distressed by a special of the day that was purported to be duck in a saffron sauce but which proved to be unidentifiable, tough slices of meat in a thick, tasteless gravy. Perhaps when fair weather returns we’ll feel more kindly toward Clair de Lune, but for now we’ll avoid it. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 871-2288. Mon-Thur 9 am-12:30 am, Fri & Sat 9 am-2 am, Sun 11-11. All credit cards. $$)

Exposure. From the moment you enter this restaurant/photo gallery, you’ll know you’re in the presence of serious chic. But Exposure is not just trendy; it’s a serious restaurant that offers some remarkable food. The appetizer list is especially varied, and the main dishes offer some novel (but not outrageous) inventions. The service was not quite as remarkable as the food-maybe the slow tempo is designed to let all the beautiful people get a good long look at one another. (4516 McKinney. 528-0210. Mon-Sat 4 pm-2 am. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)


Ewald’s. The steadfast Ewald is surely one of the lowest-profile chefs on the local dining scene, but he’s also one of the best. The fact that his name is not ban-died about in the press is of little consequence to his dedicated flock, which manages to consistently fill his long-established restaurant to capacity. They come for Ewald’s rich European dishes and his fine art of preparation (an art that can be viewed through a wide window at the rear of the restaurant). We started with the unusual – and unusually good – fried parsley appetizer. (Share one; the portions are a little more than you need.) Then we moved on to a divine fresh snapper (sautéed and sauced with a blend of duxelles and béarnaise) and superb beef tournedos that were cooked to pink perfection and topped with delicious artichokes. (5415 W Lovers Lane. 357-1622. Mon-Fri 6-10:30 pm, Sat 6-11 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)


Francisco’s. This charming bistro in a house off Cedar Springs has only the most classic recipes on its menu. It executes them capably, too, with hits outnumbering misses two to one. We enjoyed the shrimp appetizer in a creamy mushroom sauce much more than the alternative (Delice du Chef), in which shrimp was mixed with crab and snails in a tomatoey sauce. The veal Oscar was perfectly done, with fresh asparagus and a subtle hollandaise; but the chicken in a rather vinegary wine sauce was less appealing. Both desserts we tried, the chocolate mousse cake and the crème caramel, were winners. (2917 Fairmount. 749-0906. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30: dinner Mon-Fri 5:30-10:30, Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended: required on Sat. MC, V. AE, DC. $$$)

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


Frenchy Café. The surroundings are very informal in this delicatessen/lunch spot, and the food can be very good. In search of a hot lunch on our last visit, we tried the lasagna and found it rich and slightly sweet. A selection of pǎtés can also make a satisfying meal: The truffle pǎtés are smooth and buttery; the pepper pǎté, coarser and only a little spicy. If you want to splurge on dessert, the chocolate mousse (flavored with orange and topped with whipped cream and cocoa) is a good bet But be forewarned: The cost – not to mention the calories-can begin to mount quickly. (5940 Royal Lane. 369-1235. Mon 11 am-3 pm, Tue-Fri 11 am-7 pm, Sat 11 am-5 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V. $)

Jean Claude. Jean Claude Prevot has abandoned his kitchen in order to spend his time greeting guests (and appearing as a guest himself on Julia Child’s new PBS show). But the food at his restaurant doesn’t seem to be suffering. We aren’t sure of the wisdom of coating scallops with a mustard sauce, but everything else on our last visit was heavenly: a sweetbread pǎté with crunchy vegetables, lamb showered with fresh herbs and accompanied with a little ball of lamb stuffing, golden sea bass in a tomato and hollandaise sauce, a perfectly caramelized upside-down apple tart and a cloudlike chocolate souffle. Over the years, this restaurant has become more confidently French (salads are now served after the main dish as a matter of course) and more confidently wonderful. (2404 Cedar Springs. 653-1823. Tue-Sat seatings at 6 & 9 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)

Kosta’s. With so few Greek restaurants in town, perhaps it’s churlish to hope that Kosta’s, our old stand-by, would do something besides hold its own over the years. We still swear by the juicy souflaki and the creamy, aromatic moussaka, which may be that mysterious ambrosia so loved by the Greek gods. But we still swear at the service, which on our last visit fell to new lows: The table was set (including putting on the tablecloth) while we were at the table. It’s quite a trick to watch. Such disorganization is Greek to us, but you can bet your last dolma that we’ll be back for more. This far from Olympus, we’ll take what we can get. (2755 Bach-man. 351-4592. Mon-Sat 11 am-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

L’Ancestral. The last place you might expect to find this rather sedate Old-World bistro is across the street from the infamous Tango frogs. Mama sits at the cash register, and Papa presides over the kitchen. The food is country-French-unpretentious by continental standards, but still pretty impressive by most American yardsticks. Among the nicest choices of appetizers are the unusual salads: one made of corn, the other of lentils. The sauce served with four large, handsome shrimp had a surprising bite to it, and the chicken with shallots had a robust taste, complemented by crisp pommes frites. Our favorite dessert here is the pot de crème, but the homemade sherbets are vivid and refreshing. (5631 Alta. 826-0006. Tue-Sun 6:30 pm-1 am. Closed Mon. MC, V, AE. $$$)


Laurel’s. This penthouse restaurant appeals mightily to the eye. The view is breathtaking, the decor is elegant and the presentation of each dish is elaborately imaginative. The nouvelle-type food may not taste quite as good as it looks, but it is excellent nonetheless. The oysters were beautifully poached, and the lamb was cooked to order, but neither of the sauces on the disheswas memorable. The prices, however, are a bit lowerhere than at most restaurants of comparable ambition.(Sheraton Park Central Hotel, 12720 Merit. 3S5-3000. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)


La Vieille Varsovie (The Old Warsaw). It had been a while since we’d dined at this doyenne of Dallas French restaurants, and we entered somewhat skeptical of some of the claims that have been made for it. But we must admit that this really is one of the best restaurants in town. Every dish we had was flawless. The oysters baked in two different sauces and the salmon in puff pastry were fabulous; the Caesar salad was impeccable; the entrees of sweetbreads and snapper were magnificently cooked. Even the desserts were remarkable-we sampled an airy feuillete filled with fruit and surrounded with raspberry sauce and a perfect Grand Marnier souffle. The only thing the Old Warsaw needs to become a truly great restaurant is a sense of proprietary creation-inventive dishes it can call its own. (2610 Maple. 528-0032. Sun-Thur 6-11 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Reservations. Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$$)

Le Boul’ Mich. We’ll hesitantly continue to recommend dinner at this elegant old house across the street from the Quadrangle, despite the fact that on our last visit we experienced some unforgivably absent-minded service and less-than-spectacular food. (Even so, it gave us plenty of time to munch soft, hot bread, sip wine and enjoy the view through the large windows that line the front of the restaurant). The menu is short but varied, and specials are offered every evening. The pea soup has a rich, bacony flavor, and the spinach salad had much more than the obligatory sprinkle of bacon and egg. One of the specials, sole meuniere, came lightly breaded, though a tad soggy in white sauce; and the steak au poivre was likewise drenched in sauce, although the meat itself was good. The chocolate-chip cheesecake isn’t worth the calories. (2704 Worthington. 826-0660. Mon-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11.30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Lechner’s Brass Bull. The food at this German restaurant hidden away in the Regent Hotel can be excellent. Everything from the goulash soup (which had a distinctive flavor and lots of meat) to the desserts (carrot cake, chocolate mousse and apple strudel) showed care in the kitchen. Among the main courses, we especially liked the smoked pork chop, which had a rich, hamlike taste. The wiener schnitzel was crisp and delicate; the bratwurst, pale and lightly seasoned. Even the seafood was good, with a hearty- rather than sophisticated – style. All the German dishes came with a spicy, tart potato salad (although some lacked the promised sauerkraut). The decor is in a nondescript hotel style that doesn’t do much for the food, but we would have been happy enough if the service hadn’t been lacking as well. Our waiter was snappy almost to the point of rudeness, and the meal was absurdly slow, with long waits at every point. We were sorry to see a potentially excellent meal made memorable for all the wrong reasons. (1241 W Mockingbird. 630-7000. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-11 pm, Sat & Sun 5:30-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$)

Le Train Bleu. In this authentic re-creation of an old-fashioned French dining car, crisp white linen table-cloths grace the tables and emerald-green plush greets the eye everywhere. In keeping with the rather elegant atmosphere, the food is mostly French and of a very respectable quality. Grilled dishes such as steak or lamb come off well, and even more elaborate things such as scallops in a rich sauce succeed here. But the most exciting offerings are the desserts. The chocolate cake known as ’La Reine de Saba” (“The Queen of Sheba”) is creamy-textured and sweet, and the Grand Marnier crème brulée with a crunchy sugar coating is extraordinary. The service, however, can be impossibly slow. (Bloomingdale’s, Valley View Center, 13320 Mont-fort. 450-2290. Mon-Sat noon-2:30 pm & 6-8 pm. AE, Bloomingdale’s; personal checks accepted. $$$)

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

Mr. Peppe. This is a European’s European restaurant: not lavishly decorated, not terribly high-priced, but consistently right on target. The escargots in garlic herb butter were tender, though a bit grainy. The crab-stuffed artichoke bottom, however, was one of the best cold appetizers we’ve sampled in a while. Soup or salad comes with every entree, and the cream of mushroom soup is a buttery delight, chock-full of mushrooms and onions. The beef Wellington is superb, with a flaky crust, tender beef and a rich brown sauce. The veal in lemon butter is a simple masterpiece, and delicate seafood offerings such as lobster tails with drawn butter are cooked to perfection. An unusual cantaloupe sherbet is a palatable ending. (5617 W Lovers Lane. 352-5976. Mon-Sat 6-10 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)


The Prospect Grille. We wanted to thoroughly enjoy our time spent in the chic, mellow atmosphere of this Lowest Greenville Avenue restaurant; unfortunately, we found that there are still a few kinks in the operation. Service is generally good, but it tends to be haphazard. And although a fairly limited menu is supposed to be supplemented by a list of daily specials, at least one specialty in each category (appetizer, entree, dessert) was unavailable very early in the evening when we visited. The good news is that the food is extremely well-prepared. If you’re in the mood for something grilled, go for the vegetable brochette or the fresh seafood brochette. The grilled entrees include sirloin burger, chicken breast, fresh shrimp, swordfish or tenderloin steak, all cooked over mesquite wood, which lends a rich, smoky flavor to the meat. Several light salads are offered, as well as homemade french fries (fried with onions and served with a tangy tomato sauce for dipping). A vegetable of the day (generally cooked to a crisp perfection) is also offered with each dish. (2100 Greenville. 828-2131. Daily 11 am-2 am. AE. $$)

The Pyramid Room. Alas, what a fall is here. The once-proud monarch of fine Dallas restaurants seems to have hit bottom. On our most recent visit, the scallops had picked up a metallic taste from the serving dish, and the red snapper was dreary. We expected the waiter to ask us why we sent it back barely sampled, but he wasn’t even curious. Perhaps he knew all too well the problems the restaurant was having. The rich desserts kept us from leaving hungry, but they didn’t keep us from going away depressed at the restaurant’s decline. (Fairmont Hotel, Ross at Akard. 748-7258. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2: dinner: daily 6-11. Reservations recom mended. All credit cards. $$$$)


Bamboo Pavilion. This northern outpost of Szechuan Pavilion drew raves when it opened, and some of its chefs specialties are very appealing. Panda’s Prawns, for instance, is an unusual treatment of huge, breaded and deep-fried shrimp tossed with julienne vegetables in a delicately sweet sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. But the items on the back pages of the menu don’t seem to receive as much care. The Orange Flavor Beef was a rather dismal affair- cut unattractively and stir-fried too slowly-and the resulting texture was almost like strips of boiled beef. Bamboo Pavilion has a long way to go before it deserves its reputation as one of the city’s leading Chinese restaurants. (Promenade Center, Suite 1790, Belt Line at Coit, Richardson. 680-0599. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Sat & Sun noon-10:30 pm. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

China North. The novelty of this new spot on the west end of the Addison strip is its Mongolian fire pit. A long buffet presents thinly sliced raw meats, vegetables and sauces. The diner heaps these in a bowl and takes them to a window, behind which a chef quickly cooks them on a massive cast-iron griddle. This is also one of the few restaurants in town that will serve Peking duck on request. It will set you back $18, but it can be a great bargain when it’s part of a house dinner. And the service is one of the restaurant’s biggest assets. (4021 Belt Line, Addison. 788-1811. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Chu’s. Friends told us that Chu’s, one of the first restaurants to open on the Addison strip some years ago, is now serving some of the best Cantonese-style Chinese food in town. They were right. Chu’s soups had a rich, homemade taste, and the chicken with pecans had asubtlety and depth that no one could ever call bland.The spicy dishes, such as the double-cooked porkSzechuan style, are a bit perfunctory, though. Order theCantonese dishes and prepare for a treat. (15080 Beltway, Addison. 387-1776. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 4:30-10, All credit cards. $$)

La Pagoda. Even for those familiar with Oriental cooking, the cuisine at this new Vietnamese restaurant will seem exotic indeed. The most interesting things here come in mysterious edible packages: There are the imperial rolls, the excellent won ton found in some of the soups, the wonderful Vietnamese crìpes and “pressed rice,” a soft, pancakelike doily in which meat and vegetables are wrapped. The fillings come in great variety, too, and include such wonderful things as barbecued pork. All these items come garnished with an endless array of fresh herbs. (4302 Bryan. 821-4542. Sun-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)


Lotus. This Chinese restaurant in Richardson has a new and very pleasant decor, as well as a new chef. We were delighted with the silky eggplant with garlic sauce and the tender chicken with snow peas. We also discovered that the policy of serving a complimentary appetizer tray before each entree makes Lotus a rare bargain-a standout among neighborhood Chinese places, despite the rather tentative service. (528 W Arapaho. Richardson. 231-9200. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 5-10. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

Royal China. This cozy neighborhood restaurant offers good food at reasonable prices and a genial host, Buck Kao, who will greet you by name after one or two visits. For a mouthwatering beginning, try the fried meat dumplings with ginger sauce. Follow up with, hot and sour soup (the name means what it says), a spicy combination of bean curd, black mushrooms, sesame oil and beef. For entrees, you can’t improve upon Dry Stirred Beef, but if you want to go the chicken or fish route, kung po chicken (with peanuts, green pepper, water chestnuts, celery and mushrooms) and royal prawns (served in a sweet sauce with peas and onions) are reliable choices. (Preston Royal Shopping Center, Suite 201.361-1771. Lunch: daily 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 5:30-10. MC. AE. DC. $$)

Royal Panda. This new Chinese restaurant in the location of the defunct Hunan Pavilion offers excellent renditions of the Mandarin and Szechuan dishes that have become standard on menus all over town. The lamb Hunan-style boasted precisely cut small chunks of meat sautéed nicely amid the scallions. The shrimp and pork Szechuan style had a peppery bite to it, and the Crispy Duck lived up to its name. The service is unusually friendly and helpful, placing Royal Panda above most of its competition. (The Corner Shopping Center, 8021 Walnut Hill at Central Expwy. 363-3858. Mon-Fri 11 am-4 am. Sat & Sun 11 am-6 am. MC, V, AE. $$)

Sakura. In Japanese, Sakura means’cherry blossom.” Ironically, cherry blossoms are about the only Japanese element not included in this restaurant’s authentic setting. Until recently, Sakura also offered Chinese and Korean dishes; now the restaurant apparently is concentrating on what it knows best. On a recent visit, we sampled the gyoza (fried, meat-filled dumplings), which were a tad greasy but were still among the best in town. The highlight of our meal was the Yose Nabe: fish, shrimp and octopus cooked with vegetables and tofu in broth. Also noteworthy was the chicken teriyaki, which had just the right touch of sweetness. And we liked the sauces that accompanied the gyoza and tem-pura; both were understated, as they should be. The service was exemplary-the kind that every restaurant should (but often doesn’t) have. (7402 Greenville. 361-9282. Mon-Thur& Sun 5:30-11 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30 pm-midnight. Reservations recommended on weekends. All credit cards. $$)

Sate House. Ayam panggang priangan, anyone? Forthose born west of Indonesia, that means barbecuedchicken marinated with soy sauce. Served with softfried noodles and steamed rice, it’s one of several examples of “Indonesian home cooking” found here. Mostentrees are cooked sate style (on a skewer); expecteach bite to teach you something about a delightfulforeign cuisine. Gado-gado, for instance, is a vegetablesalad with a heavy peanut sauce dressing, sprinkledwith tiny bits of shrimp. Some people in our party lovedit; the other half passed it up. But even cautious dinersshould like soto, a thick, soupy concoction of chickenwith bean thread and bean sprouts. The menu here isfull of tastes both subtly seductive and brassily intrusive;come to learn and enjoy. (12125 Abrams at LBJ Frwy, Suite 108. 680-2803. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Tue-Sat 5-10; Sun brunch: 11:30-3. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$)


Shangri-La. Despite the name, this is no newly discovered hidden paradise, but a very pleasant (if unremarkable) new Chinese restaurant in far Far North Dallas that extends the possibility of good Oriental food farther north of town than ever before. The San Shien soup was a satisfying beginning, with tender shrimp and meat (strips of beef substituted for the usual ham) as well as crisp vegetables. The fried dumplings were excellent; the egg rolls, crisply fried but filled too heavily with cabbage instead of more expensive things. All the main dishes were tasty, too. The spicy Szechuan ones (including pork in garlic sauce and hot and spicy shrimp) had interesting sour rather than sweet over-tones. (17194 Preston at Campbell, Suite 115. 380-1988. Daily 11 am-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)


Siam Orchid. When a new owner took over Siam (the defunct Thai restaurant that had been one of the top Asian restaurants in town for a long time), he kept the menu and some of the staff intact. But we still detect some changes: The service seems to be a bit more efficient and helpful, and the food is still good, though not quite as exciting as before. Some of our old favorites, such as the sliced beef salad and pud Thai (a delicious, unpretentious dish of noodles sauced with sprouts, shrimp and ground peanuts), somehow taste earthier. And the pork sate (strips of meat broiled on a skewer) has a softer, almost mealy texture. Siam Orchid is a very fine restaurant, but with so many new Thai places in town, it’s not the place of pilgrimage its predecessor was, ana its prices now seem rather high tor what you get. (1730 W Mockingbird near Harry Hines. 631-5482 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri 5-11, Sat 5-11 All credit cards. $$$)


Taiwan. This ranks as one of the top Chinese restaurants in town as much for its elegantly appointed surroundings and the careful service as for its excellent food. The cold appetizer plate-with sliced beef, smoked fish and chicken slivers in a spicy sauce- is an authentic way to begin a Chinese meal. Seafood and vegetables receive especially nice treatments here, and the smoked duck is exceptional. (4980 Belt Line, Addison. 387-2333- Daily 11 am-2:30 pm & 5-11 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$)

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

Uncle Tal’s Hunan Yuan. The magisterial Chinese chef, who flies in from Houston each week to check on his Dallas location, seems to be doing a good job of keeping up quality long-distance. Uncle Tai’s Beef is the single most virtuosic Chinese dish around; the surface of the meat, after a complex series of soakings and cookings, boasts a texture as rich as a medieval tapes-try. All the food is likely to be excellent, but the total dining experience is rather austere in this crowded nook high above the Galleria’s ice skating rink. And just try to dissuade your waiter from dividing up the portions andtaking away the service plates-all the communicationsbarriers of the impenetrable East descend with the request. (The Galleria, Suite 3370, 13350 Dallas Pkwy.934-9998. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm. Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. Jackets required. All creditcards. $$$)


Au Bon Gout. The translation, for all you non-French-speaking boors, is “in good taste,” and this place is indeed. A stop here on the way home is a guaranteed feast in full culinary regalia. Christian Gerber, formerly the chef at the Old Warsaw, is a serious French caterer. It’s painful to choose from the many offerings: One night we faced an array that included veal with morels, chicken in green peppercorn sauce, coq au vin, rabbit in mustard sauce, sliced venison with cranberry and apples, roast chicken and beef tenderloin. All of it was freshly prepared and packaged per order in an easily reheatable tin. The veal was divine, but the chicken in green peppercorns was not. Escargots swimming in herbed garlic butter were a bargain at 75 cents a pop. Tiny French green beans in a cold vinaigrette and a tart potato salad were fine accompaniments, as was the chocolate mousse, a supreme dessert. (4424 Lovers Lane. 369-3526. Mon-Sat 10 am-6 pm. All credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)


Marty’s. Our dream is to be able to afford to do all our

grocery shopping at this granddaddy-of-’em-all gourmet carryout shop. Specialty foods from around the world are offered here: scores of imported cheeses, homemade pǎtés and carryout entrees such as duckling, pasta (the tortellini is superb), aged meats, smoked meats and a variety of French specialties. The desserts (mostly pastries) are scrumptious; the cheesecake (which comes in a variety of flavors) is extra special. Marty’s is the perfect place to pick up everything – appetizers, entrees, desserts, coffee and wine-and then take everything home and pretend you made it all yourself. (3316 Oak Lawn. 526-4070. Mon-Sat 10 am-6:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, Marty’s charge. $$)

Taste & Take. Alas, it’s easier to taste than to take at this cheerful country spot. Did you ever try to pry a menu out of Grandma? “Hello, could you tell me what entrees you have for takeout tonight?’ “Uh, let’s see, we have some veal lasagna. Oops, no lasagna. Well, how about chicken breasts with mushrooms in wine?” “Great.” “Uh-oh, we only have one left.” And so on. But that’s the bad news. The good news is that what finally comes your way will be tasty indeed. Our favorites: flour tortilla chips with chili con queso, herbed shrimp, pumpkin cheesecake and buttermilk white bread. Our complaint: The portions of the frozen entrees are a tad skimpy for the price. (4509 Greenville. 691-5161. Mon-Fri 11 am-6 pm, Sat 11 am-3 pm. MC, V, AE; personal checks accepted. $$)

The Winery. What The Winery does best is sell wine, and there’s no question that the lunch selections at this serious wine shop don’t outshine the array of spirits. (The Winery doesn’t even have its own kitchen.) But owner Diane Teitelbaum’s food manager, Theresa Magee, scours the city looking for the best croissants, chicken salad and cheesecakes to offer customers for takeout or eating in, and she consistently provides an assortment of fresh and filling croissant sandwiches (smoked ham, peppered beef, turkey and summer sausage are regulars), salads (the artichoke-heart version happily lacks the usual douse of vinegar) and cheese-cakes. Of course, sometimes homemade edibles can’t be topped: Magee makes her own shrimp salad and brings it with her to work. (2404 Cedar Springs. 749-0250. Mon-Sat 10 am-7 pm; lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3. MC, V, AE. $$)


Sahib. When it opened, Sahib was one of Dallas’ best Asian restaurants, but it underwent something of a slump last year. New management has brought it up, although it’s not quite yet at its former level of quality. The chicken and other items cooked in the tandoor were moist and flavorful. neither underdone, as we sometimes had suffered through before, nor dried out. But the sauced dishes and vegetable curries did not seem as distinctively spiced as before. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy. 987-2301. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sat&Sun 11 30-2:45; dinner daily 5:30-11. ll credit cards. $$)

Tanjore. The atmosphere at this small, graceful Indianrestaurant permeates all the senses. The soothing Hindimusic and the smells of curry, cinnamon, cumin andcoriander float around the breezy green gazebo andleave diners too relaxed to worry much about fooddefinitions. But that’s okay, because service here isfriendly and helpful. A waiter will be glad to explain thattikka a aloo is a lightly fried potato patty and that chapatiis a wonderful whole-wheat bread. We were overwhelmed by the enormous portions but were happy ascharmed snakes with the shahjehani biryani (chickenand nuts topped with boiled eggs and served withspiced saffron). (Prestonwood Creek Shopping Center, 5409 Belt Line. 960-0070. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30.Sat 11:30-3; dinner: daily 6-10; Sun brunch: 11:30-3. All credit cards. $$)


Ciao! The pink and blue neon sign in the circular window of this small restaurant hints at its hi-tech interior, but inside, you’ll find the place surprisingly warm and intimate. Although a few delectable-sounding pasta and veal dishes are listed as dinner specials, we opted for the Ciao specialty we’d heard friends rave about: pizza. We tried one with Italian sausage and crushed red peppers and another with thinly sliced onions and black olives, and we found both to be exceptionally good. But our personable waitress clued us in on our favorite version: pizza topped with spinach sautéed in garlic butter. Ciao for now, but we’ll be back. (3921-B Cedar Springs. 521-0110. Daily noon-midnight. MC, V, AE. $$)

Cremona. Often, the best Italian restaurants can be spotted not by how they look, but by how they feel. In this sense, Cremona is very Italian. Based on location alone, you might not even find this hideaway, let alone go in (it’s at the end of a dead-end street near the Quadrangle, across from the Snake Pit bar and in the same complex with several eccentric little shops). But do go in; your visit will be an enjoyable one. Cremona is a mixture of romance and surrealism (ladder-back chairs and candle-lit tables share a room with a boisterous accordion player and a painting of a man peeling up the Venice canal-gondolas and all). Cremona’s menu is a limited one: several pastas (including a rich, creamy tortellini, lasagna, ravioli and fet-tuccine) and a few meat dishes. The pace here is Italian, too: It ranges from slow, easy and potently romantic to loud and rambunctiously chaotic. (2600 Woodrow between Cedar Springs and Routh. 742-4330. Lunch: Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$)


Fabio’s. This classy-looking spot hidden away in the rear of The Corner Shopping Center has the most imaginative Italian menu in town. You couldn’t find more original or delicious appetizers than the ones served here: mushrooms on a bed of barely cooked fresh spinach or tender snails with sliced artichokes in a subtly flavored sauce. The other dishes we tried were also based on good ideas, but they weren’t executed as well. The shrimp in cardinale sauce were slightly overcooked, and the veal in a sauce made with ground nuts and sherry was overpoweringly sweet. A novel assortment of vegetables were so undercooked that they were almost raw. The spuma di zabaglione, though, was a dessert worthy enough to make us forget the previous inconsistencies; and the careful, personal service made Fabio’s one of the best Italian dining experiences around. (The Corner Shopping Center, Suite504, 9820 N Central Expwy. 987-3226. Sun & Tue-Thur 6-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE. $$$)

DiPalma’s. Dallas boasts a taste of Little Italy in the form of DiPalma’s, the gourmet food store/restaurant on Lowest Greenville. The antipasto di Giorno is a scrumptious sampler of fresh fruits and good-sized cheese selections, and the DiPalma garlic bread makes a nice accompaniment. We enjoyed the pasta al’arrabbiata, made with flavorful Italian sausage and two kinds of cheese, and the chicken lasagna, a delicious (and unusual) variation of the standard dish. Try as we might, we couldn’t resist the tempting array of displayed pastries-mama mia, they’re wonderful! Service is exceptionally pleasant; if you’re lucky, you might be visited tableside by the very charming Mr. DiPalma himself. (1520 Greenville. 824-4500. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30, Sal 11-3; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sal 6-10:30. Closed Sun MC, V,AE.$$)

Ferrari’s. This newest addition to the burgeoning restaurant row in the West End warehouse district may be Dallas’ best Italian restaurant. The pasta here is magnificent. The paglio e fieno (hay and straw) and the lasagna are equally perfect. The kitchen seems to be a fountain of heavy cream, butter, egg yolks and cheese. The scallopine alla valdostana and the tender shrimp float in similar ivory sauces mixed with sliced fresh mushrooms. (1713 Market. 741-5538. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon- Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. MC, V,AE.$$$)

La Tosca. With its spacious, black-and-white-tiled entry and waiters dressed in snazzy striped T-shirts, La Tosca has a European classiness not found at other local Italian eateries. The food is similarly chic. For appetizers, the seafood salad (a briny, tart mixture of mostly squid and octopus) and the mussels broiled in garlic butter are both well-prepared. A special broiled red snapper was excellent, but jumbo scampi arrived with that telltale bright pink blush that spells toughness. LaTosca really shines, however, with its pastas. Special bravos go to the tortellini with prosciutto and the paglib e fieno. You’ll be hard pressed to make room for dessert , but the profitterol al cioccolato-gooey with chocolate and cream-is a decadent, delicious treat. (7713 Inwood. 352-8373. Tue-Sun 6-10:30 pm. Reservations Tue- Thur & Sun only. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)


Mario’s. One of Dallas’ oldest and most loved expensive restaurants, Mario’s falls between the Italian and continental categories. A number of pasta dishes are beautifully prepared, but it’s hard to communicate to the otherwise very helpful waiters that you want them served before (rather than as accompaniments to) a main dish. The various veal and fish dishes we’ve tried here over the years have all been competently prepared, but we have always left Mario’s feeling more comforted than excited. (Turtle Creek Village, Suite 135, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 prn, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Reservations. Jackets required. All credit cards. $$$)

La Trattoria Lombardi. More than any other cuisine, Italian food sets a mood, and Lombardi’s hot, creamy pasta manages to warm and relax you and make life in general seem considerably more pleasant. At La Trattoria, quiet music, brick archways and traditionally good-natured and competent service completed the spell that began when we sampled several appetizers. Carpaccia (perfectly spiced, paper-thin slices of juicy raw beef served with capers and light Dijon mustard) practically dissolved in our mouths. But the veal with sweetbreads and the chefs own recipe of homemade green lasagna were the crowning glories of the evening. (2916 Hall. 823-6040; 528-7506. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)

Piccolo Mondo. This interesting new Italian restaurant advertises itself as serving Adriatic cuisine, but the menu is standard Northern Italian. The important thing here is that the cooking is excellent in its hearty, forth-right style, from the appetizers to the desserts. The scampi are delectable in their garlic-butter sauce. Half orders of pasta are available for $4.50, and the tortellini and cannelloni are extraordinary. The veal in the various scallopini dishes is of good quality; the sauces, thick and forceful. Outstanding desserts include the cannoli and the crème caramel-old standbys, to be sure, but executed better here than elsewhere. The service was up to the level of the food. All in all, Piccolo Mondo may not offer any revelations or gaudy new inventions, but we wish every restaurant did this well when concentrating on the fundamentals. (9507 Over-lake Drive. 357-2983. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon- Thur 5-10:30, Fri & Sat 5-11. Sun 5-10. All credit cards. $$$)


Café Rincón. This ethnic neighborhood has produced dozens of Mexican restaurants, but Cafe Rincón is more sophisticated than the others. This may be the most authentic Mexican menu in town, but the cooking has its ups and downs. The camarones Bohemia (beer-batter fried shrimp) can be extraordinary, but on our last visit, one of the four big crustaceans smelled strongly of ammonia. The sopa de albondigas (meatball soup) had tender, tasty spheres of meat, but the fresh herbs described on the menu were nowhere to be found. Much of the food is very hot (and surprisingly pricey), but helpful waiters will steer you clear of the worst offenders if you ask. (2818 Harry Hines. 742-4906. Mon-Thur 11-11,Fri & Sat11 am-midnight. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)


Café Cancun. We’re not so sure that this is the best Mexican restaurant in town anymore (perhaps expansion to three locations has compromised quality a bit), but Cafe Cancun does serve many excellent dishes, from the charming appetizer of julienned jicama (a mild-tasting root vegetable) to the rich desserts. The tampi-quena steak comes with an excellent enchilada and other side dishes, but the mole sauce on the chicken tasted as though the chef had taken the common shortcut of using a prepared mix of spices rather than starting from scratch. The Caruth Plaza location is decorated nicely enough, but it’s too crowded to be truly charming. (Caruth Plaza, Park Lane at Central Expwy, 369-3712; 4131 Lomo Alto, 559-4011; Plaza of the Americas, 650 N Pearl. 969-0244. Mon-Thur 11-11; Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun noon- 10 pm at Caruth Plaza; Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri 11 am-midnight, Sat 5 pm-mid-night, Sun noon-10 pm at Lomo Alto; Mon-Fri 11 am-7 pm at Plaza of the Americas. MC, V, AE. $$)

Casa Rosa. We’re happy for the folks at Casa Rosa-business, apparently, couldn’t be better. We’re unhappy, though, with the way the management is handling its success. People waiting to eat can either stand in a small, usually crowded entrance hall or squeeze into a tiny bar. Once seated, they encounter experienced, friendly but extremely scatterbrained and s-l-o-w service. But we understand why people are willing to put up with these and other problems: The food here is very good. The mixed appetizer plate of nachos and fajitas is a wonderful way to get a sampling of Tex-Mex specialties. The entrees are offered in good combinations, and the fajitas are some of the best in Dallas. Seafood specialties are also a treat. (Inwood Village, Suite 165, Inwood at Lovers Lane. 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 place serves fine Mexican cuisine in a slightly formal atmosphere. Other Dallas restaurants have recently tried this same approach, but Chiquita was one of the first. The chicken nacho appetizer, one of the menu’s shining stars, offers tender chicken topped with Monterey Jack cheese. The menu is divided between Tex-Mex offerings and Mexico City-style Mexican food. There’s a mixed platter for those who want a balanced sampling of the more localized fare (enchiladas, tamales, tacos), and the sirloin steak grilled with peppers and onions (tender beef with delicate grilled vegetables on the side) is a winner from the other side of the menu. (3810 Congress. 521-0721. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AS. $$)


Cantu’s. This old North Dallas standby has movedmuch farther north and -judging from the crowd thenight we went – has taken its loyal clientele with it. Can-tu’s offers Tex-Mex with no surprises; it’s rather bland forsome tastes, but dependable. The beef enchiladas aremeaty -just right for introducing a newcomer from theNorth to the mysteries of Tex-Mex. The char-broiledspecialties such as chicken and shrimp are similarlyplain but honest-except for the beef fajitas, which areso heavily marinated as to be unpleasant. The serviceis earnest and pleasant; the decor, a bit sophisticated.(5290 Belt Line, Addison. 991-9105. Mon-Thur 11am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun 5-10 pm. All creditcards. $$)

Escondido. If we called this place a “dive” in the literal sense, Escondido would make your ears pop. But don’t despair when you see Escondido’s ramshackle white frame exterior or its late-New York subway interior. The Tex-Mex food is superior, the chips are just greasy enough, and the servings are massive, considering the price. But skip the chalupas. and don’t be too critical of the basic nachos. You aren’t here for anything chichi (although the mushroom enchiladas are quite good); you’re here for extraordinary beans, rice, tamales and tacos. (2210 Butler. 631-9912. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 5-9. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)


Genaro’s Tropical. This is Mexican food with a different spirit: upbeat, New Wave, jazzy, Latin and hot! Genaro’s takes the notion of stretching our palates with border delicacies even farther than Cafe Cancun by adding irresistible nuggets of fresh seafood to how-can-you-miss favorites like enchiladas, tacos and nachos. The pez espada (swordfish kebab) is truly outstanding, as are the tacos al carbon and the enchiladas Genaro. The shrimp dishes, though tasty, are a bit light on the shrimp. Nothing really misses here, not even traditional Tex-Mex. One complaint: For a large room, the tables seem a tad small. (5915 Live Oak. 827-9590. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm: appetizers only: Sun-Thur 10:30-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-rnidnight. All credit cards. $$)

Javier’s. Billing itself as a “gourmet Mexicano” restaurant, Javier’s serves fare that comes under the one hyphenated abbreviation we don’t hear very often in Dallas: Mex-Mex (or Mexican food a la Mexico City). The unfancy decor of stone, dark wood and plants is shown up by the downright exotic selection of mostly beef and seafood dishes prepared with pungent marinades and sauces such as black pepper sauce or garlic sauce. We enjoyed the filete cantinflas, a beef tenderloin stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and seasoned butter and topped with a chile mulato sauce and sliced avocado. The polio al ajillo (chicken sauteed in garlic sauce) was a bit dry but perfectly flavored. The bean and cheese nachos, made with black beans, are some of the best we’ve tried. (4912 Cole. 521-4211. Sun-Thur 5:30-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Reservations. All credit cards. $$)

Joe T. Garcia’s. We love the old-time Tex-Mex recipes that Joe T. brought over from Fort Worth: none of your fancy, exotic or newfangled dishes here. Just home-made tacos fried right in the shell, cheesy-gooey enchiladas, flavorful rice and rich-tasting beans. But we do wish that Joe T. would do something about the unpleasant smell of cooking oil that pervades the room andlessens the pleasure of the fresh-from-the-stove tosta-das. Not even the carefully cooked food and attentiveservice can compensate for that smell. (4440 Belt Line,Addison. 458-7373. Mon-Fri 11 am-3 pm & 5-11 pm, Sat 11-11, Sun 4-10:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $$)

Mexico. This newest Shannon Wynne creation has a wonderfully non-hi-tech, eclectic style, with carved angels and chili-pepper light bulbs hanging from the ceiling and jars of crayons on the tables so that diners can draw on the butcher-paper table coverings (reminiscent of Un, Deux, Trois in New York). The menu is eclectic, too, with Mexican versions of rabbit and squid. The problem here is that much of the food doesn’t taste as good as it sounds. The safest bets are the mixed nachos (topped with everything, including chicken mole) and the Polio Carlos (chicken in a Yucatecan sauce). If as much trouble had been taken with the execution of the food as with the conception of the restaurant, this would be a wonderful place. (2911 Routh. 760-8639. Sun-Wed 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Thur-Sat 11:30-11:30. MC, V, AE. $$)

Los Vaqueros. Los Vaqueros, Highland Park’s long-time favorite place to eat an enchilada, is one of the most dependable places in town for old-fashioned Tex-Mex. Over the years, the management has added fancier dishes to try to emulate the upscale competition. But we found the tacos al carbon tough, and the filete de casita had a dispirited color that reminded us of boiled beef. From now on, we’ll stick to the first-rate tacos and tamales. (Highland Park Village, Suite 77, Preston at Mockingbird. 521-0892. Sun-Thur 11 am-9:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)


Aw Shucks. Open-air dining on the shucks may be impractical for winter, so squeeze into this tiny oyster bar and stand-up eatery for large fantail shrimp, authentic gumbo and fried oysters that are tasty but small. That’s the only drawback here: The meals are simple and good, but the portions are small and padded with french fries. If you like oysters on the half shell, don’t miss the horseradish – its shotgun kick will quickly clear your sinuses. (3601 Greenville. 821-9449. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-11 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11:45 pm. Sun noon-9 pm. No credit cards. $)

Banno Brothers. Like so many good, moderately priced seafood restaurants, Banno Brothers is cool and dimly lit, with that garish decor no doubt salvaged from a closeout sale in Davy Jones’ Locker. The menu can be trusted from top to bottom, from oysters on the half shell (shucked on location) to large, meaty fantail shrimp drenched in butter. The fried snapper has taken a quantum leap for the better since our last visit; now it’s tender, not too crusty and large. By the way, this is the sort of place where you can still order a “schooner” of beer and be understood. Ignore Banno’s venial sin of charging for hush puppies, and enjoy. (1516 Greenville. 821-1321. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat 5-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V. $$)

Hampton’s Seafood Market. This lunchtime spot is-if you’ll pardon the expression-anchors away from other seafood restaurants. Hampton’s offers an extensive array of seafood entrees that are fresh, well-prepared and reasonably priced. (When was the last time you saw those three descriptions in the same sentence?) Two entrees we enjoyed are the shrimp plate (which isn’t all-you-can-eat but seems like it) and the croissant filled with fresh crab meat. The buttery, home-style New England clam chowder is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, and the spicy gumbo is almost as good. (801 S Pearl, 742-4668; 113 Preston Royal Center. 696-5400. Tue-Fri 8 am-6 pm, Sat 7 am-6 pm, Sun 7 am-4:30 pm at Pearl location; Tue-Sat 8 am-6;30 pm, Sun 8 am-4:30 pm at Preston Royal location. Closed Mon. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)

Jozef’s. Jozef’s new location on Walnut Hill serves food that’s as good as that of the original, and you don’t have to fight the crowds. We were impressed with the spicy ceviche (lots of lime, tomatoes, fresh peppers and high-quality fish) and with the gumbo, although the boiled shrimp were rather bland. If you prefer something straightforward, the broiled swordfish is first-rate; or if you want something a bit fancier, the red snapper with crab meat in a spirited sauce is also splendid. (2719 McKinney, 826-5560; 2460 Walnut Hill, 351-5365. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)

Ratcliffe’s. Given the airy atmosphere of this many-windowed seafood hot spot, the food here is even better than it has to be. Even in a dungeon, Ratcliffe’s continental seafood would lift your spirits. Both the esoteric entrees (such as the unforgettably pungent filet of mako shark and the abalone steak) and the humbler items (such as the fried seafood platter or the baked trout with saffron rice) deserve applause. For lighter appetites, the thick clam chowder or oysters Wellington should suffice. (1901 McKinney. 748-7480. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10; Fri & Sat 6-11 Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

S&D Oyster Company. A line from Jonathan Swift hangs in the entry of S&D: “He was a bold man that first eat an oyster.” But what a trend that man set, and what a perfect atmosphere for letting several dozen of the slimy little jewels shimmy down your gullet. This New Orleans-style anchor is always crowded and, unfortunately (for us at least), the peak crowd lasts from early afternoon until midevening. But if you don’t mind waiting in line, the coleslaw is spectacular (and coleslaw is rarely spectacular); the shrimp are juicy and meaty; and everything from the catfish filets to the catch of the day tastes fresh and is never greasy. (2701 McKinney. 823-6350. Mon-Thur V am-10 pm, Fri&Sat 11-11. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)


Fran’s. Don’t be fooled by the men in coats and ties; wear your jeans and T-shirt and get set for some good, down-home cookin’-maybe even a mite better than Mom used to make. The atmosphere here is down-to-earth: The walls are shingled, the windows are filled with pots of English ivy, and the blue jean-clad waitresses are friendly and attentive. We were impressed with the chicken-fried steak and with the catfish, which were topped off with home-cooked mashed potatoes, squash and corn bread. The menu changes daily, so bring your bifocals to read the chalkboard menus that hang on the wall. (3005NHall. 741-7589. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 -2:30; dinner: Mon- Thur 5-9, Fri 5-10, Sat 5:30-10. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)


Broussard’s. Our most recent meal here was such a disaster that we almost feel as though we should apologize for ever recommending the place. We tried the sampler platter of Cajun specialties, and none of them – gumbo, red beans and rice, etoufee, jambalaya- tasted even remotely like the same dishes we’ve eaten in Louisiana. Other menu selections, such as the fried seafood platter and the assortment of shrimp, were no better. It’s a shame we have to be so negative, because the people who run it seem nice, and the atmosphere is homey and convivial. (63 Richardson Heights Center, Belt Line at Central Expwy. 231-9850. Mon-Thur 11 am-2 pm & 5-10 pm,Fn 11 am-2 pm & 5-11 pm, Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 11.30 am-9 pm. All credit cards. $$)

Hearthstone Manor. This is embarrassing. We heaped praise on Hearthstone Manor, told you it was worth the drive to Lewisville, told you you’d be in for a wholesome, memorable meal. We apologize. Since our last visit, this graceful old mansion, once the home of the doctor who treated Sam Bass and Jesse James, has changed from a delightful, lovingly presented restaurant into an overpriced, slow-paced tourist trap withfood that is mediocre at best. Gone is the congenialservice and the homemade, strawberry-flavored butterwe enjoyed with assorted hot breads. Present is cordonbleu tasting of old grease and soggy breading and anadmittedly tender pepper steak drenched in heavygravy that surrounded and smothered three (count ’em)snow peas. The escargots were good, but the scallopsserved with shrimp and crab meat tasted pre-packaged, and the sauce was watery. And the pastries hardly had time to thaw before they were served. (208 EMain, Lewisville. 221-4515. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Tue-Sat 5:30-10; Sun brunch: 11:30-2:30. All credit cards. $$$)

Highland Park Cafeteria. The Sakowitz Village branch of HPC seemed to have fallen a little farther behind the original location on our last visit. The fried chicken, our most trusty measuring stick for the cooking here, tasted floury and a bit sad. But we were glad to see that the cooks had returned to HPC’s glorious old recipe for the stuffed peppers: The brisket trimmings, which are the secret basic ingredient for the dish, had been left in shreds rather than processed to a pulp as they had been the previous time we tried them. Even with occasional flaws, HPC still offers some of the best old-fashioned Southern cooking in Texas. (4611 Cole, 526-3801; 600 Sakowitz Village on the Pkwy, 934-8025 Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm: closed Sun at Cole location. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-8 pm. Sat 11 am-8pm, Sun 10:45 am-3 pm at Sakowitz Village location.No liquor. No credit cards. $)

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

Southern Kitchen. These two restaurants are old favorites of many Dallasites, especially those who like to consume mass quantities of food. Dinners come in two principal courses. The first brings all the shrimp, crab meat and oysters you can eat. The seafood may be a bit on the bland side, but there is an undeniable joy in being able to satisfy a shellfish craving in this manner. The second round brings on platters of fried and barbecued chicken, fish and delectable homemade biscuits and cinnamon rolls. If you prefer, you can also order steaks (generally excellent) or other items instead. No desserts here, though. Nobody has enough room for them. (2356 W Northwest Hwy, 352-5220; 6615 E Northwest Hwy, 368-1658. Mon-Sat 5:30-10 pm. Sun 5:30-9:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)


Albert’s Delicatessen and Catering. Much of thecharm here comes from Big Al himself-the aggressively friendly proprietor sets the tone of the place. Themenu here features lots of sandwiches, including goodhamburgers and deli items such as basturma, a garlicky dried beef. Daily specials include dishes such asmeatballs, spaghetti or lasagna. But we can’t recommend the stew, which tastes just like vegetable soupwith some beef thrown in. And we weren’t fond ofthe popular cheesecake- it was too sweet, too stickyand too heavy on the cinnamon. (1416 Avenue J, Piano. 424-4534. Mon-Fri 7 am-8 pm, Sat 7 am-4 pm.Closed Sun. No credit cards: personal checks accepted. $)


Antares. This is the perfect spot for a visitor to Dallas who is staying at the Hyatt Regency: It has an excellent view, good food and adequate service. By the same token, Antares is not an extraordinary place for Dallas-ites who have already seen the view. The specialty here is beef-excellent aged beef, including prime rib that’s of melt-in-the-mouth quality. A small sampling of seafood and fowl is also available, with a few basic appetizer offerings such as shrimp cocktail and the somewhat unimaginative escargots. Desserts are plentiful and full of pizazz. (300 Reunion Blvd. 741-3663. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2; dinner: daily 6-11; Sun brunch: 10:30-2:30. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)

The Beefeater. We have a beef with The Beefeater (two, actually): Excluding the steaks (which were tender and flavorful), the side dishes are marginal, and the service here is terribly slow. Don’t misunderstand: The employees are pleasant enough, as are the dark, pub-like surroundings. But we had to wait half an hour-on a very slow night-for our appetizers of onion rings (which were sodden and barely warm) and Boston clam chowder. Our entrees were served an hour after we were seated. But the prime rib and filet mignon did indeed satisfy. Perhaps if a little more attention was paid to other menu offerings, and if service was significantly beefed up. The Beefeater could give nearby Hoff-brau some competition. (3010 N Henderson at Central Expwy. 826-2553. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$)

Deacon’s Steak House. We can’t quite agree that this earthy steak house is “better than the other guys” (Hoff-brau, we assume), but being second best isn’t necessarily bad. Deacon’s offers virtually every type of popular steak at a reasonable price and is a one-of-a-kind operation on Greenville Avenue. We found the T-bone praiseworthy, but the top sirloin was a bit sinewy. Deacon’s does have its advantages over Hoffbrau, however: You get a choice of salad dressing, and you don’t have to fight the crowds. (4820 Greenville. 361-2924 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri 11:30 am-11 pm, Sat 4:30-11 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)

The 1879 Townhouse. The best thing about the Townhouse is its location: across from the courthouse on the square in downtown Waxahachie. The short trip (30 minutes) from Dallas is just long enough to make hustle and bustle out of the question. Settle in for some inexpensive, standard sandwicnes and a chicKen-friedsteak that’ll keep you happy until morning. Some mightygood steak fries come with the steak, but we wish they’dthrow in a little more cream gravy on the side. Don’t missthe homemade banana pudding; it’s the real McCoy.(East Side Square, Waxahachie. 937-0051. Tue & Thur 11 am-9pm, Wed 11 am-3pm, Fri&Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-2:30 pm. MC, V, AE. $)

Jasons. This steak and seafood restaurant in SakowitzVillage has a lot going for it: aged beef cut to order andwell-grilled, a sophisticated setting, a selection of goodwines available by the glass. It’s a pleasant place that,with some work, could be a lot better. Steaks are good,but the prime rib is rather tasteless. None of the seafoodwe tried was impressive. Perhaps more attention hasbeen paid to the setting here than the food. (Sakowitz Village, 5100 Belt Line, Suite 502. Addison. 960-2877. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-3; dinner: daily 5-11. All credit cards. $$$.)

Kirby’s. Dallas’ oldest steakhouse is a time machine back to the Fifties. The decor is homey, the waitresses call you “honey,” and the prices are reasonable. The steaks are good rather than great, but they are something you can count on, along with the flaky baked potatoes and the finely chopped salads. Bring the kids and regale them with tales of what life used to be like in the good ol’ days. (3715 Greenville. 823-7296. Sun & Tue-Thur 5:30-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11 pm. Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$)

Kobe Steaks. Arigato! That’s Japanese for “thank you,thank you, thank you.” Kobe Steaks has again servedus a scrumptious feast of unbelievably tender beef,chicken and succulent shrimp, fresh vegetables andhot soup. Best of all, it was done in the Japanese tradition without all the theatrics of Benihana. A salad, ashrimp appetizer and sherbet desserts are includedwith all entrees. That’s a very filling, economical meal fora little more (or, depending on your choice, a little less)than $10. (The Quorum, Suite 600, 5000 Belt Line. 934-8150. Sun-Thur5-11 pm, Fri & Sat 5 pm-midnight.All credit cards. $$)

Kuby’s. On a first visit to Kuby’s, you may feel a bit left out, as though you’ve been missing something all these years (which is possible). The members of the uncommonly regular crowd at this authentic German delicatessen and grocery store know what to order, know how to get the attention of the no-nonsense frauleins behind the counter and usually know one another as well. But Kuby’s is worth the initiation. You’ll find generous plates of knackwurst, bratwurst and Polish sausage served with sauerkraut or delicious, mild potato salad. Sandwiches include corned beef, roast beef, pastrami, braunschweiger and even tartar. And Kuby’s cooks up a different soup every weekday. (We like lentil on Wednesday and oxtail on Friday.) Try the fresh German pastries, especially the Black F-orest cake. (6601 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Store hours: Mon-Sat 8 am-6 pm: restaurant hours: Mon-Fri 8 am-5:30 pm. Sat 8 am-5 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards for purchases under $ 15: personal checks accepted. $)


Pat’s Sandwich Delicatessen. This cozy deli next to the Highland Park Village Theater is usually packed with shoppers and Highland Parkers of all ages at lunchtime. Pat’s is probably best known for its incomparable roast beef sandwiches: paper-thin slices of flavorful, deep pink beef served on a buttered Kaiser roll. But Pat’s also serves one of the best corned beef sandwiches outside New York City, as well as hearty Irish stew and creamy cheesecake. (31 Highland Park Village. 526-5353. Mon, Tue & Thur 8 am-7 pm. Wed 8-8, Fri & Sat 8 am-8:30 pm. No credit cards. $)

Stetson’s. This pricey, determinedly masculine place serves the best steaks in Far North Dallas. Stetson’s offers these hunks of heaven in various cuts and a wide range of sizes, and they’re cooked over an open flame.The experience is one you can’t quite duplicate anywhere else around, and it can make up for a lot of shortcomings elsewhere. The restaurant’s other specialty isseafood, and it has its ups and downs, as does thesometimes harried, disorganized service. (Registry Hotel, 15201 Dallas Pkwy. 386-6000. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3; dinner: daily 5:30-midnight; seafood bar: daily11:30 am-midnight. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$.)


Wonderful World of Cooking. These little tearooms are pleasant stops for lunchers who care more about food than atmosphere. Our meal began with complimentary cups of a light, tomatoey broth and small cheese wafers. Next, we enjoyed a satisfying order of green enchiladas (which were served, interestingly enough, with salad, zucchini bread and hot, home-made cinnamon rolls) and the green chili quiche, which also came with salad and rolls. Dieters’ dishes are available, but the homemade desserts (we tried a slice of coconut pie and the Kentucky Derby pie, a fudge-pecan temptation that is served hot) are too good to pass up. (5007 W Lovers Lane, 358-3345; 1900 Pacific, 749-0444; Arnold Square, 13410-G Preston, 386-8620; 6023 Sherry Lane, 750-0382; 621 Preston Royal Village, 739-4803; 208 Mandalay Canal, Irving, 556-2525; 602 Plymouth Park Shopping Center, 253-0666; 1305 Avenue K, Piano. 423-8815. Store hours: Mon-Fri 9:30 am-6 pm, Sat 9:30 am-5 pm. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11 -3 at all locations. Dinner: Thur 6-9 pm at Arnold Square location. Closed Sun. Catering and takeout available. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)


Bruni’s. There’s something to be said for cheap Italian restaurants like Bruni’s, located in a Bedford strip shopping center-especially if “cheap” means solid, reasonably priced meals in clean, modest surroundings. You won’t find strolling musicians here, just tables covered with red-and-white checked oilcloths and friendly waitresses to take your order. We sampled a variety of the offerings, including fried ravioli, fried artichoke hearts, shrimp scampi and spaghetti with mushrooms. Our favorite item was the huge batch of artichoke hearts we received for only $3.50. Our least favorite dish was the spaghetti (specifically its sauce, which was too heavy on the tomato paste and too light on the spices). Bruni’s is definitely worth a try if you live in the Mid-Cities. (2855 Central Dr., Bedford. (817) 283-4380. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 -2; dinner: Mon-Sat 4-10 pm. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE. $$)


The China Rosa. This Arlington restaurant, decorated to resemble a street market in Hong Kong, is like an Oriental TGI Friday’s-and it’s just as crowded. The garish ambiance is fine if you’re in the mood for it, but in other areas the China Rose fails to deliver. We had to wait an hour and a half for a table (a lengthy interval even by Saturday-night standards). Among the appetizers, the parchment-wrapped shrimp were delectable although somewhat overpriced (four tiny pieces cost $2.95). The China Treasure Chicken, on the other hand, had generous portions but contained as much skin and fat as meat. (1401 N Collins, Arlington. (817) 277-5888. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri-Sun 11 am-midnight. MC, V, AE. $$)

Grapevine Steakhouse. It’s worth a 30-minute drive from Dallas to Grapevine just to see the yaks’ heads on the walls and the real-live urban cowboys down below. You can also bite into an inch-and-a-half-thick T-bone here. The meat we sampled was melt-in-your-mouth tender, but it arrived far undercooked. The waiter willingly took it back to the kitchen to finish grilling it, so we were happy at last. Service was a bit slow, but there was a live band and a dance floor to keep us busy while we waited, and the long, family-style tables made eavesdropping interesting. But we advise skipping the calf fries. (909 Bushong, Grapevine. (817)481-4300. Sun, Tue& Wed 5:30-10 pm, Thur-Sat 5:30 pm-12:30 am. Closed Mon. MC, V, AE. $$)

II Nonno’s. This upscale Italian restaurant in the East Tower of the Amfac Hotel at D/FW airport is one of the best-kept secrets in the metroplex. The food is hearty and delicious, and the portions are generous enough to daunt all but the biggest eaters. The antipasto cart is full of such treasures as cold shrimp in a creamy dressing, stuffed artichoke bottoms, marinated mushrooms and prosciutto and melon. The fettuccine carbonara was toothsome; the poached salmon, flaky and flavorful; the veal Marsala, satisfying. We don’t usually like singing waiters and waitresses, but II Nonno’s singers are quite good. The entertainment and the food makes a drive from either Dallas or Fort Worth worthwhile. (East Tower, Amfac Hotel, D/FW airport. 453-8400. Daily 6-11 pm. All credit cards. $$$)


Becera’s. You’ll have to have one heck of a sweet tooth to undertake the drive to this strip-shopping center Mexican restaurant on the southwest side of Fort Worth. But the drive is worth it if you arrive hungry enough to get past the so-so Tex-Mex fare and then sit back to drool over the award-winning pralines from Juan Becera’s kitchen. These homemade, sugary confections are huge and rich with cinnamon and other spices. And if you can afford them at 80 cents apiece, you can afford the gas it takes to drive there. (5613-C McCart. (817) 291-1621. Tue-Thur 11 am-9 pm; Fri & Sat 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sun & Mon. $$)

The Carriage House. It’s a bit overpriced, perhaps, but Fort Worth patrons seem to be stuck on this genteel Old Guard establishment. The maitre d’ and waiters speak to customers by name, and an appropriate amount of time is given to diners to peruse the menu before waiters interrupt to take the dinner order. Nothing is rushed here, especially service, which can be annoying if you’re anxious to catch a show. Wait until you can spend the better part of an evening; then sit back, and you may enjoy (as we did) stuffed mushrooms, es-cargots, rack of lamb and broiled abalone. (5136 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-2873. Lunch; Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11, Sun 6-10; Sun brunch: 11-2. MC, V, AE. $$$)

El Rancho Grande. Although this restaurant is fairly new, it’s steadily challenging its older competitors in the area (Jimenez and Joe T.’s). The chicken enchiladas are smothered in sour cream, and the tacos al carbon are thick with generous portions of steak. Even the customary chips are distinctive; they’re light, not heavy or soggy with grease. One disappointment: Although the special margarita was indeed special (made with liqueurs and call tequila), its price was astronomical: $4.10. (1400 N Main. (817) 624-9206. Mon-Thur 11 am-9:30 pm.Fri & Sat 11 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

Escape. It took us quite a while to find this hideaway: It’s an obscure white house that looks like any of the other quiet residences on this street, except that valet parking attendants line the tiny parking area with Cadillacs and BMWs. But it’s a wonderful escape-a seven-course evening that comes mighty close to rivaling the five-course, five-star offering at Michel. Our entree of veal wrapped in herbs was simply presented, not drenched in an overpowering sauce. (5416 Pel-ham. (817) 738-9704. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11.30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Fri 5:30-10, Sat 5-11, Sun 5-10. All credit cards. $$$)

The Keg. This place has one of the better salad bars in or around Fort Worth. In addition to the standard lettuce and spinach, the offerings include several vegetables and macaroni and rice salads, along with an assortment of fresh vegetables. Large bowls are provid-ed for trips to the salad bar, so you can make one big salad instead of several small ones. As for steaks (for which the restaurant is known), you can’t go wrong with a New York cut or a teriyaki steak: Both are huge and tender. Be prepared to ask for a doggy bag – you may not make it through the tempting salad bar, heavily laden baked potato and steak. (1309 Calhoun, (817) 332-1288; 3024 Meredith, (817)921-5241; 6301 Camp Bowie, (817) 731-9222; 428 E Lamar, Arlington, (817) 261-5900; 4413 S West Loop 820, (817)292-6170. Sun & Mon 5-10 pm, Tue- Thur 5-11 pm, Fri & Sat 5-midnight at Calhoun location; Sun-Thur 5-10 pm, Fri & Sat5-11 pm at Meredith location; Sun- Thur 11:30 am-10 pm, Fri 11:30 am-midnight, Sat 5 pm-midnight at Camp Bowie location; Sun- Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11 at Arlington location; lunch: Sun-Fri 11:30-2:30, dinner: Sun-Thur5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11:30 at Loop 820 location. MC, V, AE. $$)

Michel. Michel’s fixed-price menu has climbed to $34.50 from the previous $29.50, but even though the price has gone up, the portions of our latest four-course meal seemed to be on the lean side. Michel’s dedication to quality, however, remains unchanged. The sea scallops were tender and juicy; the escargots, rich with butter and garlic; the entrees of lobster and lamb, deftly prepared. The accompanying crisp vegetables with pasta were perfect complements to both dishes. Fortunately, our main courses did not leave us feeling too full for the fluffy chocolate-Grand Marnier soufflés, which disappeared without a trace. On weekends, there are two seatings for dinner: one at 6, the other at 9. If you arrive for the latter, be prepared to wait. (3851 Camp Bowie. (817) 732-1231. Tue- Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat seatings at 6 & 9. All credit cards. $$$$)

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

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

Tours. This place reminds us less of Fort Worth than any other restaurant in town; we spied nary a cowboy hat and didn’t hear even a trace of a Texas drawl the entire evening. The staff tries hard to please. The salmon was fresh, with a light hollandaise sauce that was neither overpowering nor too lemony. The veal, likewise, was cooked simply but well. For dessert, there’s a chocolate cake that will satisfy even the most die-hard chocolate lover. (3429B W Seventh Ave. (817) 870-1672. Lunch: Tue-Sat 11:30-2; dinner: Tue-Sun 6-10:30 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended on weekends. 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 Tuscany, the heartland of Italy. Owner Sharman Wallace greets her guests at the door and keeps watch over the dining room, making sure that all runs smoothly. Wallace also assists in the preparation of appetizers at the table (we had sautéed scampi). Although our pasta dish (tortellini alla panna) was far above average, the real highlight of our meal was 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 meal this good. (4255 Camp Bowie. (817) 737-2971. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 5:30-10:30 pm,Fri & Sat 5:30- 11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)

The Wine Seller. This place is for people who enjoy a leisurely dinner, complete with four courses and at least one bottle of wine. Wine aficionados may explore the restaurant’s wine vault to select the proper bottle for their meal. On a recent visit, we chose a 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. (6120 Camp Bowie. (817) 737-2323. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30-11:30, Sun noon-6 pm. MC, V; personal checks accepted. $$)