Atlantic Café. You’d hardly know that Dallas is a landlocked city anymore. In one month, two extraordinary new seafood restaurants and another very good one have opened. The fanciest and most expensive is Atlantic Café With its etched glass and elegant stone floors, it somewhat resembles Café Pacific (its proprietor was formerly Café Pacific’s co-owner), but it has a sophisticated look all its own. The chic air of the place and the glamorous clientele (crowds were standing in line even during the first week) prompted a friend who was familiar with both coasts but new to Texas to say, “Dallas must be the San Francisco of Texas.” We’re satisfied with just being the Dallas of Texas, but we graciously acknowledged the intended compliment.
After a wait made bearable by watching all the gorgeous people in the narrow bar, we settled down to some marvelous food. Among the first course offerings, the ceviche of shrimp and scallops was the standout: They were bright-tasting and heavily spiked with cilantro. The baked oysters and fried squid were also memorable, as were the salads-especially the spinach and the exquisite tomato and fresh mozzarella with basil. The kitchen is equally adept at broiling and saute”eing the wide selection of seafood. Our salmon steak was perfectly broiled, with a crunchy exterior and juicy interior, and our sautded scallops were delightfully sauced. The Dover sole was the real thing, not flounder in disguise-firm, finely textured, almost chewy. The angel-hair pasta with seafood was a pleasant change of pace for those not in the mood for fish by itself, and there is a large selection of veal and beef dishes. (Maybe someday we will get around to trying them after surfeiting ourselves on the delights from the deep.)
Atlantic Café provides the support structure its tine seafood deserves, including a wine list with several choice whites. Even the desserts are exemplary. We argued about which dessert was the most outstanding: the light-textured cheesecake or the custard (really like a crème bruiée) with a crunchy topping. The partisans of the rich custard finally won out. About the only complaint we could lodge against the new restaurant was in regard to the service. It was polite and knowledgeable but harried; at every course, we were asked who had ordered what. Such a lack of organization demeans a restaurant of this quality and ambition. But perhaps the staff and management just weren’t ready for so much success so soon. In any case, the loose ends and even the long wait couldn’t spoil the exhilaration of eating at a new restaurant as outstanding as Atlantic Café. (4546 McKinney at Knox. 559-4441. Lunch: daily 11-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Newport’s. More relaxed in atmosphere than Atlantic Café this newer seafood restaurant in downtown’s West End is just as earnest about what it serves and the way it serves it. The selections, which change slightly at every meal, are a bit more limited, but there is plenty of variety. And you simply can’t buy fresher-tasting fish and shellfish than that served at Newport’s. Take something as simple as oysters on the half shell: We tried a half dozen each of the tiny bluepoints and the heftier Louisianas, and all were fresh and ice cold. The boiled shrimp was also first-rate, whether served alone in a cocktail, with crab in a Dijon sauce or tossed in a salad. Both the clam chowder and the seafood gumbo were rich and distinctive in flavor, although they might be a trifle thick and glutinous for some tastes.
Newport’s broils, fries and sautées so well that it’s hard to recommend one style of cooking over another. The fried shrimp and oysters stand out, perhaps because there are few places that do fried seafood well. The french fries were light and crisp, and even the accompanying tartar sauce was outstanding. But our memories of the charcoal-broiled swordfish and salmon are heavenly, too. The swordfish was flaky, juicy and delicate; it was topped with a garlic and basil sauce. The salmon, topped with beurre blanc, was equally exciting. The kitchen handles shellfish just as competently: Our lobster was split and broiled to a turn, and our giant sea scallops were sautéed to a lovely brown hue and sauced discreetly. One puzzling item on the menu is called a “clambake,” but what you receive is more like a bouillabaisse or a cioppino-a fish stew with shrimp, mussels, scallops and a single clam on top. We found it delicious, but we know that at least one diner at Newport’s was dismayed at being served such a motley, Mediterranean creation under a puritan New England pseudonym.
Here, as at Atlantic Café, the wine list is well-chosen, with a vintage as distinguished as the new Jordan Chardonnay available by the glass. Only three desserts are offered-a light, puddinglike chocolate mousse, a dense chocolate satin pie and berries with cream-but all were delectable. The service is professional and adapts itself to special situations like a curtain-time rush to the theater. Newport’s looks very dramatic, with several airy levels of tables on rough wooden floors surrounding a huge well (which once held the water at the brewery that long ago occupied the premises). The restaurant’s pedigree is impeccable: The owner is also a partner in Hampton’s Seafood Market, and the chef came from Café Ricific. Newport’s, like Atlantic Café seems destined to be among the top restaurants in Dallas. (703 McKinney in the Brewery. 954-0220. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6- 10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
Pop Bailey’s. This unpretentious place offers seafood on a much less exalted level than Atlantic Café or Newport’s, but it promises to be a very useful restaurant. It does simple things well: The large Louisiana oysters were bracing, and, for once, the plain boiled shrimp had plenty of taste. Pop Bailey’s does a creditable job of frying- which is, after all, the classic American way of cooking seafood. The specialty is catfish, either whole or file ted. The filets, fried with a light cornmeal batter, weren’t quite crisp enough for our taste but were otherwise excellent. The fried shrimp and oysters were crunchy and tender. Perhaps more surprisingly, the restaurant also broils fish well. We were most pleased with the red snapper. There is also a decent rib-eye steak for the seafood hater who is trapped among a bunch of aficionados. Pop Bailey’s serves excellent side dishes-steamy baked potatoes or homemade french fries, not-too-sweet slaw or green salad. The only dessert is cappuccino pie. (3750 W. Northwest Hwy. 350-9748. Mon-Fri 11-11, Sat-Sun 4-11 p.m. All credit cards. $$)
Ptim Restaurant. This new branch of the famous New York restaurant certainly sets at least one record for Dallas: the price of an entrée. The big specialties here are big steaks and big, big lobsters. When we visited, the only available lobster weighed in at 6 pounds (and there seemed to be plenty at that size). At $12 a pound, the one we ordered (our waiter brought him kicking to the table for a preliminary inspection and nicknamed him Harvey) cost us $72. This was for the broiled crustacean, bread, butter and water (if you asked for it); the trimmings set you back even more. Harvey turned out to be surprisingly tender for such a big bruiser, though a bit fibrous in texture. But there probably wasn’t more than twice as much meat on a 6-pound lobster as on a 1-pounder, so we weren’t convinced of the wisdom of our selection.
Our New York strip was also disappointing. The meat was not as butter-rich and tender as corn-fed beef should be, and it had been carelessly cooked so that it tasted of nothing but its charred exterior. It’s too bad that the star attractions of the Palm were such busts, since there was a lot of good cooking going on in other departments. The potato dishes-the crunchy hash browns and crisp, thin cottage fries especially-and the delicate strings of onion rings were sensational (although we couldn’t understand why they were served a half hour before the meats they were meant to accompany). The kitchen even did a fair job with fresh asparagus. There’s quite a decent Italian restaurant lurking behind all the hype at the Palm, too: The escarole soup had tender meatballs, the veal Marsala had plenty of flavor, and the spumoni was the best choice among a poor selection of desserts.
At these prices (the bill can easily mount past $50 per person for food alone) who wants to suffer through chaotic service to take a chance on less-than-perfect food? And with such an investment, we would prefer a decor other than checkered tablecloths and doodled caricatures scribbled all over the walls. (701 Ross. 698-0470. Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sat 5-11 p.m., Sun 5-9:30 p.m. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$$)
Tea Pot Inn. In a North Central Expressway location formerly occupied by two different Italian restaurants, Tea Pot Inn at first seems to distinguish itself from the dozens of other upscale new Chinese restaurants mainly by its unpretentious name. The menu certainly doesn’t offer many surprises -and novelty seems to be the name of the game in the competition among Dallas’ new Oriental palaces. But the striking thing about Tea Pot Inn (aside from its subtle, tasteful decor) is just how well the chef executes the old standbys. For instance, he knows how to fry delicately. When was the last time you had a perfectly cooked egg roll with a light, crisp shell and a meaty filling that wasn’t mostly stale-tasting cabbage? One of the restaurant’s specialties is called Hong Kong Chicken: Chicken breast fried to a golden turn, sliced and laid on top of stir-fried vegetables. The dark, glutinous sauce on the vegetables is rather unfortunate, but the chicken is perfect.
The chef at the Tea Pot Inn is Cantonese, but unlike a lot of chefs from South China, he really knows how to cook the spicy Szechuan dishes as well. The shrimp with bean curd was one of the city’s best hot and spicy dishes, with minced pork, garlic and ginger. The pork with scallions had plenty of spark, too. Neither of these was hot enough to be intimidating, but there’s plenty to choose from here if you don’t like spicy food. From the beautifully browned fried dumplings to the Wor Sue Duck, every dish we’ve tried at Tea Pot Inn has been tasty, and the service was warm and very hardworking. Although this restaurant can’t rival the three or four most ambitious Chinese kitchens in town, it certainly stands out among the others for many reasons-not the least of which are its extremely reasonable prices. (11343 N. Central Expressway. 369-6268. Sun-Thur 11 a.m.-10:30p.m., Fri & Sat 11-11. All credit cards. $$)
La Pranzo. When you get right down to it, there aren’t many nice places downtown where you can enjoy a basic business lunch. La Pranzo could fill that void. It has the right location: The SPG building is in the middle of downtown on Main Street. The furnishings are right: They’re unremarkable yet comfortable, and there’s room for privacy but not so much distance between tables as to create awkward silences. The menu at La Pranzo is on target, too: a little of everything, all moderately priced. In fact, on our first visit, we enjoyed one of the prettiest and most unusual salads we’ve ever had. The alternating slices of mozzarella, tomatoes and zucchini with basil dressing would make a delicious light lunch in themselves. Sfin-ciuni (much like a delicate, double-doughed pizza encasing a hearty filling of either cheese and vegetables or sausage and ham) was delicious. Even the veal selections we tried were good, happily lacking the heavy sauces often used around lunchtime to disguise tired beef. Scallops served with shrimp and calamari over linguine were fresh, tender and well-prepared.
But despite the good food, the going is likely to be tough for a while. The restaurant has sparked a reputation of being too slow for anyone hoping to return to work with time left in the day, and on our first visit, the service was confused to the point of being comical. The location is good, but location alone hasn’t proven in the past to be enough to keep a mediocre restaurant afloat. (L’Oustau didn’t last long there, and even well-known restaurateur Guy Calluaud decided that the second floor suite wasn’t right for his Brasserie.) But perhaps the third try will be the charm. For the sake of all the would-be power lunchers downtown, we hope so. (SPG Building, 1530 Main, 2nd floor. 698-0493. Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-2 p.m. V, AE. $$$)
J. Pepe Gonzales. With the opening of J. Pepe Gonzales, Dallas has gotten another fancy Mexican restaurant and another restaurant in the Quadrangle. J. Pepe Gonzales wouldn’t seem to be fulfilling any critical need in the life of the community, but the place was doing a booming business the night we went there. It’s not for purists (the margaritas were sweetish, and the food didn’t have much zing to it) but there seems to be an infinitely expandable market for safe, responsibly prepared Mexican specialties. The combination plates provided lots of variety-there were several with excellent sour cream chicken enchiladas as well as the ones made with beef.
And J. Pepe Gonzales has a wide selection of more authentic Mexican dishes. Probably the most unusual are the shrimp-and-spin-ach enchiladas. The rolled-up corn tortillas held little besides blanched fresh spinach; most of the flavor is in the topping, which contained several whole shrimp. We can’t say we found the effect exciting, but it was nice to know that we were getting our daily quota of green vegetables. Polio a la Pepe (a grilled breast of chicken) and the Carnitas dinner (with three baked pork burritos) were substantial and tasty. The service was harried but conscientious. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 871-0366. Mon-Thur 11 a.m.-2:30p.m. & 5:30-10 p.m., Fri 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. & 5:30-11 p.m., Sat 11-11, Sun noon-9 p.m. MC, V.AE. $$)
Billy Miner’s. Across the street from Fort Worth’s avant-garde Caravan of Dreams is a saloon with a 19th-century facade that serves some of the biggest, gooiest and most delicious hamburgers in town. The burgers are reminiscent of the famous ones at Kincaid’s, but at Billy Miner’s you can belly up to the bar and sip a beer, a glass of wine-whatever-while you feast. Steaks and hot dogs are also on the menu, but the hamburger bar (where you build your burger with all the fixin’s) appears to be the main attraction. While you wait for your order to come off the grill, heaping baskets of peanuts in the shell will help you while away the time. (150 W. 3rd at Houston. (817) 877-3301. Sun-Thur 11 a.m.-lO p.m., Fri & Sat 11-11. MC, V, AE. $)
These listings are revised and supplemented periodically. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment Inclusion In this directory has nothing to do with paid advertising.
The pricing symbols used are categorical, not precise. They indicate a general price range.
$ Generally inexpensive. Usually indicates a good value.
$$ Middle ground and very general. Usually indicates a menu with a wide price range.
$$$ Expensive. Expect to spend more than $20 for a complete meal for one (excluding wine and cocktails).
$$$$ Very expensive.
’Reservations’ indicates that the restaurant will accept reservations.
Credit card notations: MC/MasterCard. V/Visa, AE/American Express, DC/Diners Club. CB/Carte Blanche. “All credit cards” indicates that all five are accepted.
N indicates a restaurant located on or north of LBJ Freewa.
Bob Willy’s Dinner House. This antique shop on the vvest Plano plains used to serve i-rencn food Now it of-fers barbecue, which seems more appropriate. The ribshere are wonderfully meaty and tender, the brisket issucculent, and the sausage and ham are also goodThe potato salad is serious stuff: The pickles are sour,and there is hardly a hint of sweetness. The slaw iscreamy, and the beans are honest, plain pintos. Evendessert (pecan pie) is worth the calories. (1933 Preston,Piano. 985-0624. Breakfast: daily 6-11; lunch: daily11-2:30; dinner: Thur-Sat 5:30-8:30. No credit cards. $$)
The Rib.This place is rather a paradox, with courtly waiters in tuxes attending tables covered with oilcloths. Oh well, barbecue was never meant to be elegant. Relax with the appetizer of grilled sausage, then dive into short, sweet pieces of the ribs for which the place is named Don’t overlook the barbecued shrimp, which are juicy and taste of real smoke. Prices are rather high here-especially if you take the all-you-can-eat option – but the portions are huge. (5741 W Lovers Lane 357-8139. Daily 5-10 pm. Carryout available daily 4-10 pen. All credit cards $$)
The Rlbshack. Good mental health demands at least occasional barbecued ribs. Tearing at tender, juicy columns of meat and allowing streams of thick red sauce to drip down one’s chin satisfies the primal spirit and makes a tough impression at a power lunch And the chili rice is out of this world. The Ribshack is right for enjoying all forms of barbecue, beans, cole slaw and ice cold beer. (4615 W Lovers Lane. 351-3400. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun noon-9 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted $$)
Salih’s Bar-B-Que. This rustic restaurant on the Ad-dison strip is a popular lunch spot for North Dallas workers because it serves hearty, home-style meals. Salih’s offers plates of mild barbecued beef. pork, chicken or sausage, as well as sandwiches. Both types of entrees are served with surpnsingly good vegetables (including green beans, french fries, cabbage, pinto beans and-our favorite-potato salad), all served buffet-style. And the friendly service makes the placeseem even warmer. (4801 Belt Line, Addison. 387-2900. Mon-Sat 11 am-8:30pm. Closed Sun. No creditcards. $)
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. 6610134. Mon-Sat 6:30 am-2 pm. Closed Sun. No credit cards. $)
Little Gus’. For a good, down-to-earth breakfast, you’ve come to the right place. At Little Gus’, you place your own order and hunch over your coffee and paper- but you wont wait long. You can trust all the standard meat-and-egg combinations here, especially the hefty ham and cheese omelette. But if you’d like an unorthodox opening to your day, try the Greek omelette. The chili, mushrooms and zingy spices should sound reveille for your taste buds. (1916 Greenville. 826-4910. Mon-Thur 7:30 am-4 pm & 6-9 pm, Fri & Sat 7:30 am-4 pm & 6-10 pm. Sun 9 am-1:45 pm. No credit cards. $)
Arjon’t. Now under new management and with a new chef, this place is pretty much what it has always been: 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 & Sat 6-11:30 pm. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
Arthur’s. The atmosphere, food and service here almost always provide a pleasant dining experience. Among the fine array of appetizers offered, the salmon and the escargots are excellent. But if you’re not in the mood to overeat, you could easily skip them and begin with a salad (portions here are quite large). The Arthur’s special salad, which is big enough for two, contains several types of leafy lettuce combined with fresh shrimp, avocados, hearts of palm and artichokes, all covered with a light, creamy dressing. The lobster bisque is a nice starter, too, although at times it has been a little too tomatoey. The entrees include a tremendous stuffed beef filet chock-full of crab meat that’s covered in a beefy sauce and served over wild rice. The fettuccine with lobster is another winner, with lots of lobster and just enough rich, creamy sauce. Although a number of tasty desserts are offered (such as a flaky, slightly sweet tart), go for the chocolate cake. It’s sinfully rich but worth the remorse. (Campbell Centre, 8350 N Central Expwy. 361-8833. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Fri 6-11, Sat 6 pm-midnight. All credit cards. $$$)
Balvadere. Cozy as an Austrian country inn, with a fireplace that blazes year-round, Belvedere may be one of the best-kept secrets in town. With a less-than-ob-vious location (it’s upstairs in a Lomo Alto apartment hotel), this Teutonic cousin of The Chimney is easy to miss. But don’t: The service is pampering; the atmosphere, romantic; the food, top-notch; the prices, fair. Veal lovers will rejoice at the variety of preparations available, from simple medallions sautéed in lemon and butter to a piquant veal steak in Dijon sauce and capers. Veal Oscar with crab and asparagus is good, but it would benefit from a less liberal dousing of hollan-daise. Other standouts: the house wine, the vichy-ssoise, the Belvedere salad with bleu cheese and the “Austrian snowball,” a vanilla ice cream ball rolled in almonds and laced with chocolate sauce. (Crestpark Hotel, 4242 Lomo Alto. 528-6510 Lunch: Mon-Sat 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. All credit cards. $$$)
The Bay Tree.The Wyndham Hotel recently changed management teams and put a new chef into its petite dining room-to the improvement of the food, if not the overbearing service. Previously, the cooking was satisfactory, but now several of the dishes are much better. It sometimes seems that every restaurant in town has a sautéed shrimp appetizer, but the one at The Bay Tree is now a marvel. Intense heat has given the crustaceans a lovely reddish-brown crust, and the buttery wine sauce tickles the tongue. The noisettes of lamb are sauced superbly, too, although with hardly a trace of the fresh rosemary mentioned on the menu. There are still some rather pedestrian things here, such as the asparagus soup and the sautéed snapper with a pistachio breading, but the comparatively moderate prices and the improved food make The Bay Tree worth considering, even if you’re not staying at the Wyndham. (The Wyndham Hotel, 2222 Stemmons, 631-2222 Daily 6-10. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
Café 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 paté accompanied by small slices of French bread. For our entrees, we chose lamb chops and a veal dish with scallops. The lamb, though a tad more done than we had ordered it, was tender, juicy and flavorful; and the veal was thinly sliced, breaded and covered with scallops in a cream sauce. But the crowning glory of our evening came after dinner in the form of a very light but rich chocolate souffle sprinkled with powdered sugar and a flaming liqueur concoction deftly prepared by our charming waiter. By then, our busy day 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. $$)
Bohemia. A little corner of the old country is hidden behind the unprepossessing exterior of this place. Airy lace and perpetual Mozart set the tone here, and the food can be excellent. We especially enjoyed the rich liver pate as an appetizer, and the strudel is the real thing. But the main dishes show that the food is basically sturdy, Czech-style home cooking rather than anything more elaborate. The sauces on the sauerbraten and the pork roast are excellent, but the meats themselves are sliced coarsely and thereby lose appeal. But is there any other place in Dallas where you can order Tokay, the Hungarian dessert wine, by the glass? (2810 N Henderson. 826-6209. Mon-Thur5:30-10pm, Fri& Sat 5:30-10:30 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. Reservations recommended. $$$)
Cafe Royal. At intervals during this year, Cafe Royal is putting aside its regular dinner menu and playing host to distinguished chefs from famous European hotel restaurants. Call to inquire-you may find an inexpensive substitute for a jaunt to Paris, Madrid or Vienna. If s hard to say what this promotion will do to the standards of Cafe Royal when only the home team is in town. In any case, the regular staff will prepare lunch as usual, with occasional specials created by the visiting stars. (Plaza of the Americas, 650 N Pearl. 747-7222 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30 Reservations recommended Jackets and ties required. All credit cards. $$$$)
Calluaud. A meal at what has become Dallas’ establishment French restaurant is always an event. The dining room is decked with roses; the diners, with their best attire. Owner/chef Guy Calluaud always keeps some old favorites (such as the lamb with tarragon sauce) on the menu, but he occasionally bursts forth with inspiration and innovation. The salad with smoked fish is brilliant with a gingery dressing, and the hazelnut souffle dazzles as well as satisfies. This is still one of the top restaurants in Dallas. (2619 McKinney. 823-5380 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur6-10, Fri & Sat seatings at 7 & 9:30 Closed Sun. Reservations. Jackets and ties required. MC, V. AE. DC $$$$)
Caret.Francophiles continue to rally around what may be the one true French bistro (translation: solid French cooking at moderate prices) in town, but we find that the “haute-y” air here can be stifling. Nevertheless, the food is mostly of the highest quality, and for $20 for four courses, who’s complaining? Occasionally, we have hit a sour note: The salmon mousse appetizer, for instance, had an unpleasantly pasty consistency and a canned taste. However, a special, calamari (squid) was meltingly tender and sauced to perfection. Soups are generally excellent: We love the mussel soup and the potage aux champignon (a soup du jour), and the oxtail soup is hearty without being heavy All the seafood entrees are honest and well-prepared, but the rib-eye steak, our waiter warned us. “is not much better than you would get at Cork & Cleaver,” so beware Two huge scoops of homemade sorbet or the chefs puff pastry with vanilla sauce top off a meal handsomely. (703 McKinney in The Brewery. 7200297 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Fri 6:30-10:30. Sat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. MC. V. AE $$$)
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 bandied about in the press is of little consequence to his dedicated flock, which manages to consistently fill his long-established restaurant 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 larger than you may expect) 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. $$$)
Francisco’s.This charming bistro in a house off Cedar Springs has only the most classic recipes on its menu It executes them capably, too, with hits outnumbering misses two to one We enjoyed the shrimp appetizer in a creamy mushroom sauce much more than the alternative (Delice du Chef), in which shrimp was mixed with crab and snails in a tomatoey sauce The veal Oscar was perfectly done, with fresh asparagus and a subtle hollandaise; but the chicken in a rather vinegary wine sauce was less appealing. Both desserts we tried, the chocolate mousse cake and the crème caramel, were winners. (2917 Fairmount 7490906 Lunch: Tue-Fri 11-2: dinner: MonSat 6-10:30. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended; required on Sat. MC. V. AE, DC.$$$)
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 patés can also make a satisfying meal: The truffle patés are smooth and buttery; the pepper paté, 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. $$)
The Grape. We’re ever loyal to The Grape. Its hot. soft bread, classical music, interesting wines by the glass and the best mushroom soup in town are enough to keep us true. But we’re also impressed with the grace and imagination evident in other items served here. Veal topped with toasted peanuts and brown sauce showed confidence and flair on the part of the chef; a generous slice of duck pate was a complicated master blend of seasonings. Even The Grape’s amaretto cheesecake was lighter and more enjoyable than the heavy slabs we’re accustomed to finding around town (2808 Greenville at Goodwin 823-0133 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6 pm-midnight. MC, V, AE, DC $$)
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. Theoysters were beautifully poached, and the lamb wascooked 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. 385-3000.Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Closed Sun Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
La Viaille Varsovie (The Old Warsaw). It had beena while since we’d dined at this doyenne of DallasFrench restaurants, and we entered somewhat skeptical of some of the claims that have been made for it.But we must admit that this really is one of the bestrestaurants in town. Every dish we had was flawless:The oysters baked in two different sauces and thesalmon in puff pastry were fabulous; the Caesar saladwas impeccable; the entrees of sweetbreads and snapper were magnificently cooked. Even the desserts wereremarkable – we sampled an airy feuillete filled with fruitand surrounded by raspberry sauce and a perfectGrand Marnier souffle. The only thing the Old Warsawneeds to become a truly great restaurant is a sense ofproprietary creation: inventive dishes it can call its own. (2610Maple 528-0032 Sun-Thur6-10:30pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Reservations. Jackets required. All creditcards. $$$$)
Manhattan. There’s nothing terribly surprising when you enter ManMattan. located in a North Dallas strip shopping center. Unlike some other posh area restaurants, the inside has fairly nondescript decor that looks sort of thrown together at the last minute. But the food, fortunately, is better than the decor. The menu is extensive; the veal and shrimp are especially good. And the vegetables seem to be fresh and well-cooked. But the desserts, for the most part, aren’t worth the calories. (1482 Preston Forest Square. 385-8221 L unch: Mon-Fn 11-3; dinner: daily 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$$)
The Mansion.It seems that the Mansion has finally arrived as a purveyor of excellent American nouvelle cuisine. Previously, the elegant surroundings had to carry the whole show, but now the fine food is doing its part, too. At a recent lunch, we found the John Dory on soya pasta with scallions to be a marvelous seafood special. From the regular menu, shrimp with tiny slivers of zucchini basked in a sauce that was subtle and appealing. We couldn’t be happier that this place is at last living up to its press. (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Main dining room (jackets and ties required, except at brunch)-lunch: Mon-Fri noon-2; brunch: Sat noon-2; bun 11-2; dinner; Mon-Thur 6-10:30. Fri-Sun 6-11; supper: Mon-Thur 10:30-midnight, Fri & Sat 11-midnight. Promenade Room -breakfast: daily 7-10:30 am; lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; tea: Mon-Fri 3-5:30 Reservations All credit cards. $$$$)
Restaurant Silvano. For the first part of our evening here, we were about to crown this place one of the new rulers of Dallas dining. It is lovely, with its arched hideaways and warm lighting. And our food (except for an overly alcoholic souffle) was fabulous. The duck pate had a piquant bite to it, the lobster soup was rich, and two varieties of fish were perfectly poached – salmon with a red pepper sauce and snapper with a leek sauce. Even our salads were memorable. But as the dinner progressed and the room grew more crowded,’the din became overwhelming. And our waiter should have tried vaudeville-his disappearing act was sensational. We hope that the noise and poor service were anomalous, because they marred the evening beyond repair. (311 Market Street. 747-0322. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10:30. All credit cards. $$$$)
The Prospect Grill. We wanted to thoroughly enjoy our time spent in the chic, mellow atmosphere of this Lowest Greenville Avenue restaurant; unfortunately, we found that there are still a few kinks in the operation. Service is generally good, but it tends to be haphazard. And although a fairly limited menu is supposed to be supplemented by a list of daily specials, at least one specialty in each category (appetizer, entree, dessert) was unavailable when we visited very early in the evening. The good news is that the food is extremely well-prepared. If you’re in the mood for something grilled, go for the vegetable brochette or the fresh seafood bro-chette. The grilled entrees include sirloin burger, chicken breast, fresh shrimp, swordfish or tenderloin steak- all cooked over mesquite wood, which lends a rich, smoky flavor to the meat. Several light salads are offered, as well as homemade french fries (fried with onions and served with a tangy tomato sauce for dipping). A vegetable of the day (generally cooked to a crisp perfection) is also offered with each dish. (2100 Greenville. 828-2131. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-2 am, Sun 11 am-2 am. AE. $$)
Rolfs.Since it opened a year ago, Rolfs has established itself as a major presence among Dallas restaurants. The tone is formal without being forbidding, and the food is sophisticated and delicate without betraying its hearty German roots. Even a simple dish like consomme with liver dumplings is memorable, not to mention such complex creations as the appetizer of tiny shrimp and scallops marinated with fresh dill and dill seeds and flecked with tiny bits of tomato and mushroom. Few restaurants treat pork as royally as Rolfs, with its rolled roast stuffed with sauerkraut and herbs. The only disappointment on our last visit was the vaunted apple strudel (it was mushy from being reheated and was doused with too much sauce), but the ethereal cheesecake more than compensated for it. (Caruth Plaza. 9100 N Central Expwy. Suite 117. 696-1933. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
Routh Street Café. With its glossy salmon-and-pearl-gray interior, Routh Street Café combines excitement and comfort. A number of lighter dishes are available in the anteroom by the bar, but the main restaurant offers five courses at a fixed price of $35. The concept is American nouvelle. Main courses include baby Coho salmon, mesquite-gnlled veal or lamb and occasional game choices such as venison. The meats are cooked expertly, but we found the sauces a trifle under-seasoned. (3005 Routh at Cedar Springs. 871-7161. Mon-Sat 6-10:30 pm. Lounge: Mon-Fri 4:30 pm-2 am. Sat 6 pm-2 am. Closed Sun. Reservations recommended. MC, V. AE, DC. CB $$$$)
Forbidden City. Perhaps because it’s named after the royal heart of China, this place definitely tries harder. The waiters and even the manager line the walls of this ambitious Far North Dallas restaurant, making sure that no empty plate lingers on the table and that no glass goes unfilled But we do wish that they would relax and smile occasionally and that the food lived up to all the effort. This is good, standara North Chinese stuff-chicken with cashews,beef with snow peas, shrimp with two sauces-allunexceptionable but unexceptional. How aboutapplying some of that hard work to the kitchen? (5290 Belt Line, Suite 144. 9602999 Mon-Thur11am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-3 am. Sun noon-10:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)
Mr. Sushi. Dallas’ newest Japanese restaurant, Mr. Sushi, offers an authentic sushi bar: a counter behind which several formidable Japanese men wield vicious-looking knives to slice hunks, cubes and slivers of raw fish. The large blocks of fish, along with tentacles of octopus, squid, shrimp and salmon eggs, sit meticulously wrapped in plastic in their refrigerated cases atop the bar. If a bar whose sole purpose is to divvy up raw fish doesn’t excite you, maybe it’s just because you haven’t been brave enough to try it. This is the place to experiment with tuna which is as tender as the best rare beef or yellowtail, which is softer and richer. Octopus andabalone may be too chewy for most American tastes,but most explorers will find something to like with thebright, refreshing taste of the marinated rice, spicypickled ginger and incredibly pungent greenhorseradish. Mr Sushi also does a very good job withthe standard cooked Japanese items. (4860 Belt Line, Addison. 385-0168. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2; dinner:Mon-Thur & Sun 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. MC. VAE, CB. $$)
The New Big Wong. Let’s not belabor the obvious. If you’re looking for pleasant, quick service; cheap, hefty lunches; a voluminous dinner menu that both challenges and delights; crunchy, colorful vegetables; interesting decor; tanks full of eels and turtles (talk about fresh); and baffling music that changes daily, try the Big Wong. (2121 S Greenville. 821-4199 Daily 11 am-3 am. MC, V, AE $$)
Peking China. This restaurant in the middle of Singlesville in the Park Lane area advertises itself as the first place in town to serve authentic Mandarin cuisine Actually, the menu and the cooking are hardly distinguishable from a couple dozen other Chinese places in town But Peking China (in the location that once housed China Sea) is a very creditable and friendly neighborhood restaurant The Mandarin Beef we sampled had an interesting crinklea texture, with tons of black and red hot peppers and a hint of vinegar in the sauce The braised shrimp in a gingery sauce were marvetously soft – the texture that the Chinese call “live.” For dessert, we tried the sugar-spun apples-here they are served authentically, with the coating hardened by a short swim in ice water (7001 Fair Oaks 369-2737. Lunch: daily 11-3: dinner: daily 5-11. V. AE. $$)
Kobawoo. The first thing you’ll notice here are the swaying songsters belting out popular Korean tunes – on the video cassette player The next thing you’ll notice, and with good reason, is the food. Kobawoo has an ambitious menu featuring mostly Korean. Chinese and Japanese dishes. The Oriental staples – won ton, chowmein, tempura – are well-prepared if not overly stimulating. But there are plenty of exotic offerings to explore. One entree we liked was Wang Gae: Alaskan king crab with vegetables in an egg- based sauce that was spiced lust right. The spicing in general, though, ranges from mild to eye-watering hot, so it’s a good idea to inquire in advance. (3109 Inwood at Cedar Springs. 351-6922. Daily 11 -11. All credit cards. $$)
Peking Szachuan. The food and service here more than make up for the odd location and lack of decor. The hospitable, knowledgeable waitresses push several of the house specialties – and they clearly know what the kitchen does well. The Seafood Delight was a delicately cooked assortment of brightly colored vegetables amid shrimp and scallops. The beef with orange peel had a wonderfully crunchy coating under the hot. sweet sauce. We intend to go back and test the waitress’s contention that the chef can cook the whole repertory of Chinese dishes |ust as well. (2560 W Northwest Hwy. 3530129 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30-11:30. MC, V, AE. DC. $$)
Sawatdee. You can definitely Thai one on at this place, one of Dallas’ most attractive Asian restaurants. The hot dishes are plenty fiery, but otherwise the tastes here seem toned down in companson to those of Sawatdee’s competitors We enjoyed several first-rate novelties on our last visit The Sawatdee Oyster, for instance, contrasts the crunch of the lacy batter around the oysters with the crunch of bean sprouts, and the Panang Beef is served in a sauce heady with the flavor of lime leaves (4503 Greenville at Yale. 373-6138 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: daily 5-10 30. All credit cards. $$)
Joy Inn.Possibly the most popular Chinese restaurant in Dallas, this place can seat a regiment and still serve a meal in record time if you say you’re in a hurry. The appetizer platter, with its tasty egg rolls and tender shrimp, is a good beginning. But don’t stray too far from the Cantonese standbys when you order main courses, since the so-called Hunan dishes are hardly recognizable imitations. Come here when you want good or moo goo gai pan served with a smile. (9404 Ovella at Northwest Hwy. 352-1088 Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am-11 prn. All credit cards. $$)
Shangri-La.Despite the name, this is no newly discovered hidden paradise, but a very pleasant (if unremarkable) new Chinese restaurant in far Far North Dallas that extends the possibility of good Oriental food farther north of town than ever before. The San Shien soup was a satisfying beginning, with tender shrimp and meat (strips of beef substituted for the usual ham) as well as crisp vegetables. The fried dumplings were excellent; the egg rolls, crisply fried but filled too heavily with cabbage instead of more expensive things. All the main dishes were tasty, too. The spicy Szechuan ones (including pork in garlic sauce and hot and spicy shrimp) had interesting sour rather than sweet overtones. (17194 Preston at Campbell, Suite 115. 380-1988 Daily 11 am-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)
Slam 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, and its prices now seem rather high for what you get. (1730 W Mockingbird near Harry Hines. 631-5482. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri& Sat 5-11. All credit cards. $$$)
Taiwan. This ranks as one of the top Chinese restaurants in town as much for its elegantly appointed surroundings and careful service as for its excellent food. The cold appetizer plate – with sliced beef, smoked fish and slivers of chicken in a spicy sauce-is an authentic way to begin a Chinese meal. Seafood and vegetables receive especially nice treatments here, and the smoked duck is exceptional. (4980 Belt Line, Addison. 387-2333. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. Reservations recommended. MC, V, AE. $$)
Marty’s. Our dream is to be able to afford to do all of 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 patés 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 it all home and pretend you made it yourself. (3316 Oak Lawn. 526-4070. Mon-Sat 10 am-6:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC. V. AE, Marty’s charge. $$)
Miraballe. Located in the heart of Highland Park Village, this gourmet takeout shop is a feast for the eye- and the palate. Pinky-peach walls and wicker baskets laden with croissants and imported |ams soften the high-tech look of chrome counters; and just looking at the neat rows of boxed biscuits, tins and full wine racks is a delicious experience. But don’t stop there. A world of freshly prepared delights awaits you. Offerings change periodically: On our last visit, we sampled salmon mousse; a heavenly chicken salad; crisp, delicately spiced carrots and zucchini; and two kinds of prepared salads-one with pasta and a chunky potato salad (Do save room tor desserts-the goodies are out of this world.) Given the quality of the food, Mirabelle’s prices are very reasonable. (Highland Park Village, Preston at Mockingbird, Suite 73-74. 528-7589. Tue-Sat 10:30 am-7 pm; Sun & Mon noon-6 pm. MC. V. AE. $$)
Uptown Dell. It seems that our appetite for gourmet-to-go is insatiable: Yet another chic little takeout place-cum-caterer has opened on lower McKinney. Not to sound blase, but there are the usual oh-so-trendy salads, a quiche of the day and sandwich fare on croissants. But you’ll find some novel twists as well: hot Mexicans panuchos (flour tortillas packed with cheese, ham and stick-to-the-ribs refritos) and a special “San Francisco-style” (whatever that is) entree each day. The sweets reflect the same care and quality as everything else; we especially like the rich, thick cheesecake. But why, oh why, do they have to close at 3 pm? (2404 McKinney. 871-7120. Mon-Fri 10 am-3 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $$)
Kebab ’N’ Kurry. You can’t buy better Indian food thanthe last dinner we had here. The flaky fried-pastry appetizers (samosas) filled with meat and peas andpakoras of cauliflower and eggplant were light anddelicate. The main dishes balanced beautifully: botikebab (lamb) that was fork-tender, korma (chicken)drenched in cream and fresh coriander, eggplant andpotatoes in a mild curry sauce. The Indian dessertswere rich and flavorful, too. This place is a leading candidate for the best bargain in the city. (401 N CentralExpwy, Suite 300,Richardson, 231-5556; 220 Walnut Hill Lane, 350-6466. Lunch: daily 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10, Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30; brunch: Sat & Sun11:30-2:30. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $)
Sahib. When it opened, Sahib was one of the best Asian restaurants in Dallas, but it underwent something of a slump last year. Now its new management has brought it back into the mainstream, although it’s not quite yet at its former level of quality. The chicken and other items cooked in the tandoor (a clay barbecue oven) were moist and flavorful: They were neither underdone, as we sometimes had suffered through before, nor dried out. But the sauced dishes and vegetable curries we tried didn’t seem quite as distinctively spiced as before. (Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Cen-tralExpwy. 987-2301. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sat & Sun 11:30-2:45; dinner: daily 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$)
Adrlmo’s.A pizza isn’t just a pizza anymore. The owners of Adriano’s have seen to it that just about anything-from escargots, chicken, shrimp and crab to more ordinary toppings such as pepperoni and ricotta cheese-make for a proper pizza pie. An excellent roast chicken and a creamy fettuccine Alfredo are also available for non-pizza lovers. The atmosphere is cool and breezy; the service, laid-back and friendly. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 871-2262. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri & Sat 6 pm-2 am, Sun 4-8. MC, V.AE.S)
AIessio’s.In order to emphasize the nightly blackboard offerings, the menu here is small, though amply weighted with veal. The specials run from a few creative appetizers (such as the distinguished shrimp with broccoli and Parmesan cheese) to the heavy and uninspired fettuccine with salmon. The sole with hazelnuts is delicious. Service, sadly, can be negligent. If you can, request a table in the attractive front room-the back room looks and feels like an afterthought. (4117 Lomo Alto. 521-3585. Tue-Sat 6-10:30 pm, Sun & Mon 6-10 pm.MC, V,AE.$$)
CiaolThe pink and blue neon sign in the circular window of this small restaurant hints at its high-tech interior, but inside, you’ll find the place surprisingly warm and intimate. Although a few delicious-sounding pasta and veal dishes were listed as dinner specials, we opted for the Ciao specialty we’d heard friends rave about: pizza. We tried one with Italian sausage and crushed red peppers and another with thinly sliced onions and black olives, and we found both to be exceptional. But our personable waitress clued us in on our favorite version: pizza topped with spinach sautéed in garlic butter. Ciao for now, but we’ll be back. (3921-B Cedar Springs. 521-0110. Daily noon-midnight. MC. V, AE. $$)
Bugatti. Since we’re the ones who did much to trump the old Bugatti, it’s never pleasant to have to rein in our praise. But our last experience was definitely a downer. Under the new ownership of Ross Segal (“Mario has gone back to Spain”), Bugatti has retained the old chef, the menu, the location-the works-but something is missing. Maybe it’s the frantic pace of the service, or the fact that the fettuccine della casa comes already heaped with grated cheese. These are surface complaints, it’s true. But worse was the fact that the veal was mealy and tough, the gamberoni shrimp so overrun with a cloying sherry cream sauce as to be almost inedible. One standout remains steadfast, though: the cool, cool cappuccino pie. (2574 Walnut Hill. 350-2470. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$$)
FabIo’s. This classy-looking spot hidden away in the rear of The Corner Shopping Center has the most imaginative Italian menu in town. You couldn’t find more original or delicious appetizers than the ones served here: mushrooms on a bed of barely cooked fresh spinach or tender snails with sliced artichokes in a subtly flavored sauce. The other dishes we tried were also based on good ideas, but they weren’t executed as well. The shrimp in cardinale sauce was slightly overcooked, and the veal in a sauce made with ground nuts and sherry was overpoweringly sweet. A novel assortment of vegetables was so undercooked that it was almost raw. The spuma di zabaglione, though, was a dessert worthy enough to make us forget the previous inconsistencies; and the careful, personal service made Fabio’s one of the best Italian dining experiences around. (The Corner Shopping Center. Suite 504. 9820 N Central Expwy. 987-3226. Sun & Tue-Thur 6-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended. MC, V. AE. $$$)
Camplsi’s. The legend of this dimly lit Mockingbird landmark is one of the first ones that a Dallas newcomer hears. It is the story of hot, floury-crusted, four-star pizza loaded with ingredients and cut into rectangular slices. But save for an occasional delicious artichoke heart, we’ve found it wise to stick to enjoying Campisi’s pizza and reputation -the rest of the menu would best be forgotten The lasagna tasted canned and, like the veal, was drenched in a nasty all-purpose sauce. (5610 E Mockingbird. 827- 0355. 827-7711 Mon-Fri 11 am-midnight. Sat 11 am-1 am. Sun noon-midnight. Reservations for six or more. No credit cards; personal checks accepted $$)
La Bella. It’s time for us to quit looking down our noses at suburbia when it can boast a place like La Bella. Comfortable yet classy, La Bella may not be worth adrive from Oak Lawn, but if you live in the northernreaches of our world, this place should become aregular part of your work week. La Bella’s hot antipastotray, a kaleidoscopic collection of meaty mushrooms,artichoke hearts and other things valuable, is particularly noteworthy. At first, we were overwhelmed by LaBella’s enormous menu, but except for some rathercommonplace desserts and a measly serving of veal,everything we tried was better than average The pastawas hot and well-spiced; the wine list, though not ambitious, was nevertheless complete. (6757 Arapaho. 991-2828. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10. MC, V, AE. $$$)
La Trattoria Lombardl. More than any other, Italian cuisine 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. Car-paccia (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 chef’s own recipe for 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. $$$)
Mario’s. One of Dallas’ oldest and most loved expensive restaurants, Mario’s falls between the Italian and continental categories. A number of pasta dishes are beautifully prepared, but its hard to communicate to the otherwise very helpful waiters that you want them served before (rather than as accompaniments to) a main dish. The various veal and fish dishes we’ve tried here over the years have all been competently prepared, but we have always left Mario’s feeling more comforted than excited. (Turtle Creek Village. Suite 135, Oak Lawn at Blackburn. 521-1135. Sun-Thur 6-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 6-11 pm. Reservations. Jackets required-All credit cards. $$$)
Ristorante Lombardi. The tile floors and Italian-accented (and occasionally condescending) waiters lend this place a certain cachet. The food is mostly the real thing, too, although if’s executed with varying levels of perfection. At our last meal, the most successful items were the tortellini with a rich chicken filling and the desserts (a Grand Marnier souffle and a nut-filled rum cake). The least successful was a gummy, odd-tasting veal in a sauce flavored with orange. At these prices,we would expect a meal to consistently deliver at thehigher end of the quality scale. (15501 Dallas Pkwy inAdelslein Plaza. 458-8822. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2;dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. ClosedSun. All credit cards. $$$)
Serpico.A Best Western hotel on Industrial Boulevard is the last place you would expect to find a good Italian restaurant, but the food here can be excellent. Among the pastas, try linguini in white clam sauce or the shells stuffed with ricotta. Perhaps the best entree is the chicken scarpariello, sautéed with peppers and strong Mediterranean olives. The fritta mista (mixed, deep-fried seafood) is disappointing except for the chewy rings of squid. (Best Western Inn-Market Center, 2023 N Industrial. 741-5041. Breakfast: daily 7-10:30; lunch: daily 11 -2; dinner: Mon- Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri-Sun 5:30-11. All credit cards. $$)
Sergio & Luciano.Our last several visits haveshown Sergio & Luciano to be at top form-andthat is formidable. The pastas, in particular, havebeen expertly prepared. Our favorites among theregular menu offerings are the tortellini stuffed withchicken and the Panieri dello Chef (a pastry shellwith seafood in a cream sauce served on a leaf ofradicchio). Among the specials, the linguinijardiniere-with broccoli, carrots and mushroomsin olive oil – is a marvelous way to enjoy some pastaand eat your vegetables at the same time. Amongthe other dishes, the shrimp in champagne sauceis a standout. (The Quorum, 4900 Belt Line, Suite250. 387-4441. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner:Mon- Thur 6-10:30, Fri-Sat 6-11, Sun 6-10. All creditcards. $$$)
Via Veneto.In the former quarters of Sergio’s, under the same ownership and with the same phone number, Via Veneto really is a new restaurant – with a new menu and new ambitions to match. Many of the antipasto dishes are based on shellfish. Perhaps the best is a dish of large scallops tossed with strips of peppers and slices of black olive. When it comes to pasta dishes, almost all are available either in smaller portions as first courses or as main courses. It’s hard to choose among the spinach ravioli in a fresh-tasting tomato puree, the tortellini in a richly colored sauce, the fettuccine with mushrooms and ham and the tagliarini tossed with bits of fresh clams. Perhaps the most promising entrees are those from the grill. The thick veal chop, still on its bone, came off the fire at just the right moment, showing just a blush of pink when sliced. But the service is less than attentive. (The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh. 742-3872. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Mon-Thur6-10:30. Fri & Sat 6- 11. Closed Sun. Reservations for dinner only. MC, V, AE, DC. $$$)
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 julienne 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. $$)
Cantu’t.This old North Dallas standby has movedmuch farther north and-judging from the crowd thenight we went – has taken its loyal clientele with it. Can-tu’s offers Tex-Mex with no surprises; it’s rather bland forsome tastes, but dependable. The beef enchiladas aremeaty – just right for introducing a newcomer from theNorth to the mysteries of Tex-Mex. The char-broiledspecialties such as chicken and shrimp are similarlyplain but honest – except for the beef fajitas, which areso heavily marinated as to be unpleasant. The serviceis earnest and pleasant; the decor, a bit sophisticated.(5290 Belt Line, Addison. 991-9105. Mon-Thur 11am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11, Sun 5-10 pm. All creditcards $$)
Casa Rom.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 slow 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. $$)
Escondido.If we called this place a ’dive’ in the literal sense, Escondido would make your ears pop. But dont despair when you see Escondidos ramshackle white frame exterior or its late-New York subway interior. The Tex-Mex food is superior, the chips are just greasy enough, and the servings are massive considering the price. But skip the chalupas, and don’t be too critical of the basic nachos. You arent here for anything chichi (although the mushroom enchiladas are quite good); you’re here for extraordinary beans, rice, tamales and tacos. (2210 Butler. 631-9912. Lunch: daily 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 5-9. No credit cards. $)
Gantro’s Tropical. This is Mexican food with a different spirit: upbeat, New Wave, jazzy, Latin and hot! Genaro’s takes the notion of stretching our palates with border delicacies even farther than Cafe Cancun by adding irresistible nuggets of fresh seafood to how-can-you-miss favorites like enchiladas, tacos and nachos. The pez espada (swordfish kebab) is truly outstanding, as are the tacos al carbon and the enchiladas Genaro. The shrimp dishes, though tasty, are a bit light on the shrimp. But nothing really misses here, not even traditional Tex-Mex. One complaint: For a large room, the tables seem a tad small. (5815 Live Oak. 827-9590. Mon-Thur 5-10:30 pm; Fri 5-11:30 pm, Sat & Sun 11 am-11:30 pm. All credit cards. $$)
Harrara. The most outstanding characteristic of this pleasantly dumpy Tex-Mex house is its smallness. Hot hot sauce, greaseless tacos and dynamite flour tortillas may draw hungry crowds to Herrera. but you can bet that the masses don’t sit down to sup together – there isn’t room But if you don’t mind a line and guaranteed tight quarters, if you’re looking for authenticity and for fresh, high-quality ingredients, and if your tongue is flame-retardant, then head for Herrera. (3902 Maple. 526-9427 Mon, Wed & Thur 9 am-8 pm, Fri-Sun 9 am-10pm Closed Tue. No credit cards. $)
Joe T. Garcia’s.We love the old-time Tex-Mex recipesthat Joe T brought over from Fort Worth; none of yourfancy, exotic or newfangled dishes here. Just homemade tacos fried right in the shell, cheesy-gooey enchiladas, flavorful rice and rich-tasting beans. But we dowish 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. $$)
Moctezuma’a. A few blocks down from its old location, the new Moctezuma’s has lots of space and a patio out front-great for sunny days if you can stand all the dust from the nearby construction. The food, starting with great chips and hot hot sauce, can be excellent. The appetizer plate is grandiose, with flautas and spinach quesadillas in addition to the usual guacamole and nachos. The standard Tex-Mex, including homemade tamales, is fine, but the many specialty dishes deserve the name the restaurant gives itself: “gourmet Mexican.” The car-nitas of pork, wrapped in a flour tortilla, are delicate and come with a sauce in which lots of fresh cilan-tro is floating. (3202 McKinney. 749-7775. Sun-Thur 11 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat full menu 11 am-11:30 pm; appetizers 11:30 pm-12:30 am. Reservations for parties of six or more. All credit cards. $$)
Mariano’s. This is neither hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex nor “gourmet” Mexican, but something all its own. Enjoy the unpretentious but gracious surroundings and the polished service as you run the gamut from an unusually well-stuffed chile relleno to steak Milanesa and pechuga a la parilla (breast of chicken char-broiled with a delicious mist of garlic butter and cilantro). The only flaw here is the rather upscale sin of charging for soft tortillas. (Old Town, 5500 Greenville at Lovers Lane. 691-3888. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-11 pm, Sun 11:30am-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)
Raphael’s. We had almost given up on the old locations of Raphael’s on McKinney and on Greenville, but the new place on the Addison strip seems to embody the virtues that once made Raphael’s the top Mexican restaurant in town. The food is good, from a simple plate of enchiladas to such complexities as carnitas of beef, grilled shrimp with lots of garlic and chicken breast covered with cheese and lots of cooked fresh peppers, onions and olives. Even more refreshing is the solicitous service we encountered at the new Belt Line location (the waiters at the older ones sometimes have seemed to be competing for new levels of churlishness). Our only problem with the new spot is that everyone else in North Dallas seems to have discovered it too (3701 McKinney. 521-9640; 6782 Greenville, 692-8431; The Quorum, 4900 Belt Line, 991-3610. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-3 pm & 5:30-10:30 pm. Sat noon-10:30 pm at McKinney location; Mon-Thur 11.30 am- 3 pm & 5:30-10 pm, Fri 11:30 am-3 pm & 5:30 pm-10:30 pm, Sat noon-11 pm at Greenville and Belt Line locations. Closed Sun. Reservations Mon-Thur only. MC, V, AE, CB $$)
Mario & Alberto. This country cousin of Chiquita (weuse the term “country” loosely; the restaurant is locatedacross from Valley View Center in North Dallas) is apeach of a place in which to sample non-traditionalMexican cuisine in enchantingly pastel surroundings.New additions to Mario & Alberto’s menu (which is already peppered nicely with selections of chicken andseafood) include Polio Ranchero, a delicious dish ofdiced chicken and sautéed vegetables, and Shrimp alAjillo, a serving of meaty shrimp cooked and served inhalf shells The usual Tex-Mex offerings (we sampled abeef enchilada and refried beans a la carte) were alsoenjoyable. For appetizers, both the chicken nachos(thoughtfully served with jalapenos on the side) and theguacamole were excellent; for dessert, the Kahlua pieand the cinnamon ice cream are sure bets. The servicewas reasonably good; we didn’t always know where ourwaiter’s head was, but his heart was in the right place.(Preston Valley Shopping Center. Suite 425, LBJ Frwy at Preston. 980-7296 Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 11 :30 am-11 pm. Closed Sun Drinks with $4 membership charge. MC. V, AE $$)
Mexico.This newest Shannon Wynne creation has a wonderfully non-hi-tech, eclectic style, with carved angels and chili-pepper light bulbs hanging from the ceiling and jars of crayons on the tables so that diners can draw on the butcher-paper table coverings (reminiscent of Un, Deux, Trois in New York). The menu is eclectic, too. with Mexican versions of rabbit and squid. The problem here is that much of the food doesn’t taste as good as it sounds. The safest bets are the mixed nachos (topped with everything, including chicken mole) and the Polio Carlos (chicken in a Yucatecan sauce). If as much trouble had been taken with the execution of the food as with the conception of the restaurant, this would be a wonderful place. (2911 Routh. 760-8639. Sun. Tue & Wed 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Thur-Sat 11:30-11:30. Closed Mon. MC, V, AE. $$)
Aw Shucks. You can enjoy open-air dining on the shucks or 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. $)
Boston Sea Party. Quantity rather than quality is what you pay your hefty $22.95 (fixed price) for here. Several of the dozens of (mostly seafood) items on the all-you-can-eat buffet tables are good enough to devour en masse-we found ourselves especially fond of the king crab legs and the hot popovers. And there’s even a decent (and again, hefty) cooked-to-order course of lobster, salmon or steak. But far too many of the dishes had a bland, standardized style and a bitter aftertaste suggesting the Deepfreeze for us to take too muchpleasure in all this bounty. (13444 Preston. 239-7061.Mon-Thur 5:30-10 pm, Fri & Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 4:30-9pm. All credit cards $$$$)
Champagne Johnny’s. This place seemed to decline precipitously after our last review. Then it closed and later reopened with a new menu. No longer just a seafood restaurant, Champagne Johnny’s now devotes as much attention to red meats and veal. We returned with some anticipation, but the problems here have not all been resolved Our pesky peel-’em-yourself crawfish cocktail was utterly tasteless, and the fried clams were hardly light enough to deserve the tempura” description that had been tacked onto them The thick stuffed pork chops were overdone to the point of terminal dryness. and the mustard sauce didn’t help much. The filet of snapper was nicely sautéed, but it couldn’t compensate for the disappointments of the meal.(2905 Greenville. 823-5800 Tue-Thur 5-11:30 pm.Fri 5 pm-2 am,Sat 5 pm-2 am, Sun 11 am-10 pm Closed Mon. All credit cards. $$$)
Café Ocsana. The look hasn’t changed much since Piaf’s became Cafe Oceana; we still like the spacious, airy feeling and the crisp green of the plants against white and wood tones. The specialty now is seafood – it isn’t bad, but we wish it were better Among the array of appetizers, we tried the gumbo (too thick for our taste), the boiled shrimp (too bland), and the oysters Rockefeller (which tasted as though they had been cooked in a simple sauce of mock hollandaise and frozen spinach) The main courses showed a bit more talent in the kitchen The fried fish (especially the catfish) was very well-prepared; the barbecued shrimp, cooked on a brochette in a tomatoey barbecue sauce, was fine for those who like their seafood on the sweet side The side dishes varied from creditable ftiad potatoes to one of the oddest coleslaws we’ve ever had – dressed in a reddish sauce that smacked of horseradish. (4517 Travis. 526-3730 Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri 11 am-11:30pm, Sal 5-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Fishmonger’s Market Seafood Café. At this tiny Piano fishmarket, which doubles as a restaurant and takeout shop, both fried and broiled seafood come off admirably. The broiled scrod was impeccably fresh and delicate in texture, and the fried catfish and oysters were both crunchy, needing just a bit more salt to be delectable. All orders come with a not-too-sweet slaw and a choice of freshly cut french fries or red beans and rice. (1915 N Central Expwy, Suite 600, Piano. 423-3699. Mon-Thur 11 am-9 pm, Fri 11 am-10 pm. Sat noon-10 pm, Sun noon-9 pm. All credit cards. $$)
Charley’s Seafood Grill. Clustered on a hill in Las Colinas are three of Dallas’ most successful formula restaurants: Chili’s, Bennigan’s and Charley’s Seafood. They’re winners because they adhere to strict tenets: Keep it simple, and do it right. Charley’s capitalizes on the city’s new-found love affair with seafood, which is served either mesquite-grilled, lightly fried or sautéed. We tried a temperately spiced brochette of shrimp and scallops (very good) and a portion of fried catfish (tasty and without a trace of grease). Good homemade fries, a simple light slaw and possibly the best hush puppies around came along as side dishes. If you don’t like cheesecake, you won’t like Charley’s desserts (cheesecake, cheesecake or cheesecake), but don’t worry: two Snickers candy bars arrive with the check. (O’Connor Blvd at Hwy 114, LasColinas, 659-9751; 5348 Belt Line, Addison, 934-8501 Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11-11, Sat5-11 pm, Sun5-10pmat Las Colinas location; Sun- Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11 at Addison location. All credit cards. $$)
Hampton’s Seafood Market. It’s nearly impossible to get into a conversation with a North Dallasite without hearing that Hampton’s has opened a branch in Preston Royal. The excitement stems from the new northern accessibility of Hampton’s hot lunches, salads, sandwiches and frozen dinner entrees- not to mention the wondrous varieties of fish and seafood available for cooking at home. We enjoyed our salad plate: little scoops of mysterious fish salads on a bed of lettuce (we felt secure in identifying the flaked salmon and tuna, but the others could have been anything from monkfish to herring). The Hampton’s St. Jacques was a casserole of tiny bay scallops-tasty but a mite dried-out around the edges. Sandwiches come on large croissants and are served with either gumbo or chowder. (Preston Royal Shopping Center, Suite 113, 696-5400; 801 Pearl, 742-4668 Mon-Sat 8 am-6:30 pm, closed Sun at Preston Royal location; Tue-Fri 8 am-6 pm, Sat 7 am-6 pm, Sun 7 am-4:30 pm at Pearl location. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)
Seascape Inn. With so many new seafood restaurants in town, you could overlook Seascape Inn if the food weren’t so fine. The baked oysters Seascape with eggplant and mozzarella weren’t as tasty as we remembered them to be, but everything else was wonderful. The fettuccine with seafood was perfectly al dente, and the grilled salmon was flaky and tender, with a lovely hollandaise. You don’t expect dessert to be the highlight of the meal at a seafood restaurant, but the deep-dish apple pie-actually a delicate tart with an apricot glaze-looked and tasted magnificent. (6306 Greenville. 692-6920. Lunch: Sun-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards.$$$)
Ratcllffe’s. Given the airy atmosphere of this many-windowed seafood hot spot, the food here is better than it has to be. Even in a dungeon, Ratcliffe’s continental seafood would lift your spirits. Both the esoteric entrées (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 11-2:30; dinner: Sun- Thur 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
Rocco Oyster Bar. “Shuck ’em if they cani take a joke’ is the motto that Rocco waitresses wear emblazoned on their T-shirts, and with that twisted bit of humor, the mood is set. The Monday night all-you-can-eat catfish filets are greaseless works of wonder. But the Big Mix ($8.95) is mostly red beans and rice – not such a bargain. Rocco’s menu is broad (baby eel and oysters of three different breeds command attention), but some of the more adventurous offerings are less than delicious. The huge basket of calamari (fried squid in tempura batter) became tiresome after a while: The ringlets tasted too much like tiny, deep-fried rubber bands. But the ice cream drinks are a superlative way to cleanse fishiness from the palate. (2520 Cedar Springs. 747-6226. Sun-Wed 11:30-11:30. Thur-Sat 11:30 am-midnight. MC. V, AE. $$)
S&D Oyitar 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 red snapper filets to the fried oysters tastes fresh and is never greasy (2701 McKinney. 823-6350. Mon-Thur 77 am-10 pm, Fri A Sat 77-77. Closed Sun. No reservations. MC, V. $$)
Turtle CoveOn a recent visit, we waited 30 minutes for a table, although we had made reservations. Thus began an evening that ended in reservations of another sort. Our waiter was cordial enough and wetl-informed. but he was hard to find during the meal. Our oysters on the half shell were dry and disappointingly small, and the sauces were pre-mixed. an assembly-line insult to personal taste. The gumbo had some of that authentic funky fire but was sadly lacking in ingredients. As for our mesquite-grilled entrees, the red snapper had a distant smokiness and little else. The scallops, however, were a toothsome revelation-fat, moist and chewy. As a final blow, the staff betrayed its eagerness to reuse our table while we were still using it – and the prices here are too steep for hurrying (2731 Northwest Hwy. 350-9034. Mon-Sat 11-11, Sun noon-11 pm. MC, V. AE. $$$)
Broussard’sOur most recent meal here was such a disaster that we almost feel as though we shouldapologize for ever recommending the place. We triedthe Sampler platter of Cajun specialties, and none ofthem – gumbo, red beans and rice. etoufee. jambalaya-tasted even remotely like the same dishes we’veeaten in Louisiana. Other menu selections, such as thefried seafood platter and the assortment of shrimp,were no better. It’s a shame we have to be so negativeabout Broussarcfs. because the people who run it seemnice, 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, Fri 11 am-2 pm & 5-11 pm. Sat 5-11 pm. Sun 11 am-9 pm. Allcredit cards $$)
Bubba’s. Is this the Park Cities riposte to fast foods? Or an art deco diner? Whichever, Bubba’s serves some of the best fried chicken and hot rolls anywhere. The other down-home dishes are not quite so memorable, but they’re still good Not only does Bubba’s offer chicken-fried steak and chicken and dumplings, but you can also find vegetables such as black-eyed peas, corn and green beans, plus a slaw with a touch of garlic. You’ll certainly never feel trendier at a place where you carry your own food on a tray. (6617 Hillcrest. 373-6527. Daily 6:30 am-10 pm. No credit cards; personal checks accepted. $)
Dovie’s. Soldier/actor Audie Murphy’s house used tobe out in the country. Now it’s in the middle of boomingAddison, and its comfortable and elegant rooms are agood place to eat down-home cooking. The onion soupis the best in town; the chicken-fried steak and pot roast,excellent; the mashed potatoes, homemade rolls andhome-cooked vegetables, delicious. The sautéed snapper and the wonderful-sounding desserts were disappointing, but the enthusiastic, skillful service wasn’t. (4671 Midway. 233-9846. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30: dinner: Sun- Thur 5:30-9:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-10: Sun brunch:11-2:30. MC. V. AE. DC. $$)
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 catfish, both of 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. (3005 N Hall. 741-7589. Mon-Fri 11 am-2.30 pm. Closed Sat & Sun. No credit cards $)
George Wesby’s. There are those who will cringe as they read these words and learn that their long-cherished pub has been discovered. But the secret is too great to keep: George Wesby’s, we hereby proclaim, is Dallas’ best purveyor of chicken-fried steak, thick with white gravy and accompanied by huge cottage fries. There’s hardly reason to say more-to chatter on about Wesby’s burgers, hefty salads or frosty-cold beer. The news of great chicken-fried steak is enough. (3115 Live Oak 821-1950. Mon-Fri 11:30 am-8pm. Closed Sat & Sun. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Southern Kitchen. These two restaurants are old favorites of many Daliasites, especially those who like to consume mass quantities of food. Dinners come in two principal courses. The first brings all the shrimp, crab meat and oysters you can eat. The seafood may be a bit on the bland side, but there is an undeniable joy in being able to satisfy a shellfish craving in this manner. The second round brings on platters of fried and barbecued chicken, fish and delectable homemade biscuits and cinnamon rolls. If you prefer, you can also order steaks (generally excellent) or other items instead. No desserts here, though. Nobody has enough room for them. (2356 W Northwest Hwy, 352-5220; 6615 E Northwest Hwy, 368-1658 Mon-Sat 5:30-10 pm, Sun 5-9:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)
STEAKS, BURGERS, ETC.
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 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. $$$)
The Beefeater. We have a beef with The Beefeater (two, actually): Although the steaks were tender and flavorful, the side dishes are marginal, and the service is terribly slow. Don’t misunderstand: The employees are pleasant enough, as are the dark, publike surroundings. But we had to wait half an hour-on a very slow night-for our appetizers of onion rings (which were sodden and barely warm) and Boston clam chowder. Our entrees were served an hour after we were seated. But the prime rib and filet mignon did indeed satisfy. Perhaps if a little more attention was paid to other menu offerings, and if service was significantly beefed up, The Beefeater could give nearby Hoffbrau some competition. (3010 N Henderson at Central Expwy. 826-2553. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 6-10:30 pm, Fri& Sat 6-11:30 pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$$)
Jasons.This steak and seafood restaurant has a lot going for it: aged beef cut to order and well-grilled, a sophisticated setting and a selection of good wines 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 seafood we tried was impressive. Perhaps more attention has been paid to the setting here than to the food. (Sakowitz Village. 5100 Belt Line, Suite 502, Addison. 960-2877. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-3; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10:30, Fri& Sat 5-11:30. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)
Lawry’s The Prime Rib.This is the third location of a restaurant that was established in Beverly Hills in 1938. The gimmick is that it only serves one entree: roast beef. The surprise about Lawry’s is the lavishness of it all. You don’t expect valet parking, anterooms with wood-burning fireplaces and fancy decor at a meat-and-potato place. The food should please an all-American appetite-the roast beef is excellent. We recommend getting one of the larger cuts, since the smallest is sliced more thinly than we like our roast. (3008 Maple. 521-7777. Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30 pm, Fri & Sat 5:30-11:30 pm, Sun4-10 pm. All credit cards. $$$)
Nana Bar and Grill. Atop the new high-rise addition to the Loews Anatole, with a magnificent view of the Dallas skyline, the Nana Bar and Grill serves the much-vaunted ’New Southwestern Cuisine’-here sometimes more than a gimmick. Among the appetizers, we enjoyed the scallops marinated in lime juice and served cold with a sprinkling of red caviar and the salad of black-eyed peas with bacon and lots of garlic. The main dishes, by far the best things on the menu, include a thick veal chop, beautifully char-broiled salmon and juicy slices of wild turkey breast. (Loews Anatole Hotel. 2201 Stemmons Frwy. 748-7200 Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner: daily 6-10:30. Reservations recommended for dinner. All credit cards. $$$)
Pat’s Sandwich Delicatessen. This deli is usually packed with shoppers 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; Preslonwood Town Center, 991-6161. Mon-Thur 9 am-7 pm,Fri & Sat 9 am-8 pm at Highland Park location; Mon-Sat 10 am-9 pm at Prestonwood location. No credit cards. $)
Purdy’s. This is the home of the high-tech – and high-priced-hamburger. Under the exposed heating ducts and amid the yards of bent neon (an American flag in addition to a myriad of beer logos), you belly up to the counter to order huge burgers on homemade buns. Then, when your name is called, you add all the fixin’s you want from another bar. There’s also a meat market and a bakery on the premises and lots of longnecks and soft drinks in old-fashioned bottles. The quality is high, but we find it difficult to shell out $3.95 for a burger and almost another buck for some home-cooked but not very remarkable fries. (4812 Belt Line. 960-2494 Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun noon-10 pm. MC, V. $)
Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Still the queen of Dallas steakhouses, this place packs the customers in at all hours in the quest for the ultimate in meat and potatoes. The huge hunks of USDA prime beef, perfectly cooked and drizzled with butter and parsley, look as though no one could ever finish them, but somehow we polished them all off with no need for a doggy bag. The prices here are as high as the quality of the beef; the side dishes (all of which – even salad and potatoes – cost extra) are no great shakes; and the service can seem harried even if well-intentioned. But none of these things will matter at all to someone who insists on the best in steaks (6940 Greenville. 691-6940 Mon-Fri 11:30-11:30, Sat & Sun 5-11:30 pm. All credit cards. $$$)
Tolbert’s Texas Chill Parlor. Frank Tolbert may be gone, but his restaurant carries on his legacy. There should be consolation enough in this Elysium of Texas Red – the chili is still remarkable, and the burgers are outstanding, too. The one problem we found in this paradise was with the chicken-fried steak. It was the real thing, all right – a single piece of meat rather than some prefabricated substitute. But the crust didn’t hold onto it very well, and the gravy was unremarkable. The crunchy fries, large drinks and our sweetheart of a waitress just about made up for it. (4544 McKinney. 522-4340. Mon-Thur11-11,Fri & Sat 11 am-midnight. Sun noon-11 pm. MC, V, AE. $)
Wonderful World of Cooking. These tearooms are pleasant stops for lunchers who care more about food than atmosphere. We began with cups of a light, toma-toey broth and small cheese waters. Next, we enjoyeda satisfying order of green enchiladas (which wereserved, interestingly enough, with salad, zucchini breadand hot, homemade cinnamon rolls) and the green chiliquiche, which also came with salad and rolls. Dieters’dishes are available, but the homemade desserts aretoo good to pass up (5007 W Lovers Lane, 358-3345;1900 Pacific, 749-0444; Arnold Square. 13410-GPreston, 386-8620; 6023 Sherry Lane. 750-0382; 621Preston Royal Village, 739-4803; 12655 N Central Ex-pwy, 788-4430; 208 Mandalay Canal. Irving, 556-2525;602 Plymouth Park Shopping Center, 253-0666; 1305Avenue K, Piano, 423-8815. Store hours: Mon-Fri 9:30am-6 pm. Sat 9:30 am-5 pm. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11 -3; dinner: Thur 6-9 pm at Arnold Square location. ClosedSun. 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 wont 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-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). (2855 Central Dr., Bedford. (817) 283-4380. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 4-10 pm. Reservations. MC.V, AE. $$)
The China Rosa. This Arlington restaurant, decorated to resemble a street market in Hong Kong, is like an Oriental TGI Friday’s-and it’s just as crowded. The garish ambiance is fine if you’re in the mood for it, but in other areas the China Rose fails to deliver. We had to wait an hour and a half for a table (a lengthy interval even by Saturday-night standards). Among the appetizers, the parchment-wrapped shrimp were delectable although somewhat overpriced (four tiny pieces cost $2.95). The China Treasure Chicken, on the other hand, had generous portions but contained as much skin and fat as meat. (1401 N Collins, Arlington. (817) 277-5888. Sun-Thur11 am-10 pm, Fri & Sat 11-11. MC, V, AE. $$)
Empress of China. The garish red-and-yellow sign that announces “Empress of China” to the world might make you think that decor isn’t one of this restaurant’s finer points. Think again. Inside, the Empress is almost regal: spare, white and subtly elegant. The food is mostly middle-of-the-road Chinese-better than adequate but less than outstanding. One dish to try: the Shrimp (or Seafood) Wor Bar. (2648 N Belt Line. Irving. 252-7677. Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm; Fri & Sat 11-11; Sun noon-10 pm. Reservations. MC, V, AE, DC. $$)
Los Canarios. People who aren’t from Euless may find it hard to locate this family-run restaurant hidden away in a shopping center, but do try; it serves excellent Mexican specialties. The steak for the carne asada is marinated in orange juice and brushed with butter while on the grill, creating an enticing beef dish. The crab chimichangas (crunchy fried burritos) are unusual and satisfying. The standard mixed platters are good, but they’re not quite what we Texans are used to-the restaurant’s owners hail from Mexico and Southeast Asia, and Tex-Mex is not a native cuisine to them. (Hwy 10 at Raider, Euless. (817) 283-4691. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri 5-11:30, Sat 5-11. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. $$)
FORT WORTH RESTAURANTS
Café da Vinci. Oh, Leonardo, where are you? This Fort Worth restaurant could use a shot of your artistic ability in the food department, which is, in a word, uninspired. But, on the other hand, the crew here seems to be trying hard to please, and there are few nice restaurants on this edge of Meadowbrook, which accounts for the full parking lot on most nights. We found the veal to be only so-so, but the homemade pasta appetizer did show signs of untapped creativity in the kitchen. Don’t expect too much, and you won’t be disappointed. (5504 Brentwood Stair. (817) 496-5183. Lunch: daily 11-2; dinner: Sun-Thur5-10, Fri&Sat 5-midnight. MC, V. AE. $$)
Calamity’s.Calamity’s is a novelty restaurant/bar named after the infamous Calamity Jane. The interior is upgraded mine-shaft, and the food is average at best, but there are some clever touches: At Sunday brunch, the champagne flows freely, and a cappuccino machine and real whipped cream await you at the end of the buffet. The salad bar is well-stocked, and the view of Fort Worth’s skyline is impressive. Still, these two attributes don’t make up for inadequate service and so-so food. (1900BenSt. (817)534-4908. Sun-Thur 5-10 pm, Fri & Sal 5- 11 pm; Sun brunch: 10:30-2. Reservations recommended. All credit cards. $$$)
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-Fn 11:30-2; dinner: Mon-Sat 6-11. Sun6-10; Sunbrunch: 11-2. MC. V, AE. DC. $$$)
Edelweiss. The crowds at this cavernous German-style restaurant attest to its continuing popularity in Fort Worth On weekends, the wait can exceed an hour for a table – and longer for food. But the dirndl-clad frautetns are friendly and try to make the best of a slow kitchen. And owner/entertainer/band leader Berndt Schnerzinger does his part to keep your mind off the wait: He sings requests and old standbys such as My Way (with – you guessed it – a German accent). The food is generally of high quality The heaping sauerbraten plates continue to please, and we found the ribs (both pork and beef) delectable. (3801 A Southwest Blvd. (817) 738-5934 Mon-Thur 5-10:30 pm. Fri & Sat 5-11 pm. All credit cards $$)
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, its price was astronomical: $4.10. (1400 N Main]. (817) 624-9206. Mon-Thur 11 am-9:30pm, Fri& Sat 11 am-10:30pm Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)
Escape.It took us quite a while to find this hideaway. It’s an obscure white house that looks like any of the other quiet residences on this street, except that valet parking attendants line the tiny parking area with Cadillacs and BMWs But it’s a wonderful escape-a seven-course evening that comes mighty close to rivaling the five-star offering at Michel. Our entree of veal wrapped in herbs was simply presented, not drenched in an overpowering sauce. (3416 Petham. (817) 738-9704. Lunch: Sun-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner: Sun-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. All credit cards. $$$)
J.J.’a Oyster Bar. At J.J ’s, you can have your seafood any way you like it, as long as you like it fried. Cholesterol counts aside, you’ll love J.J.’s. It’s just what an oyster bar should be: a long bar with stools for perching, some “tall tops’ (tall, round tables with matching stools) and waitresses in jeans who bring you plastic baskets bulging with deep-fried fish and shellfish. Purists can feast on orders of raw oysters, too (929 University. (817) 335-2756 Mon- Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11 -midnight. Sun noon-9 pm. No credit cards $)
Reflections. This restaurant’s subdued, peachy pastels work well with black trim, and the quality of the food is superb. Yet there is something mildly unsettling about this Americana Hotel dining room. Despite the opulent touches (floor-to-ceiling lamps and color-coordinated flowers on each table), we felt a bit exposed as we dined in the long, rectangular room. But dont be put off by the too-bright indirect lighting or by the austere lines of the dining room. Go to Reflections for the food, because as far as hotel restaurants go. this place manages to break the stereotypes and deliver well-prepared and thoughtful dishes comparable to any of the best restaurants in Fort Worth. For starters, try the scallops wrapped in bacon or the paté- plate with a sweet sauce. The New York sirloin with Bercy sauce is overpriced at $18.50, but the cut is as tender as butter; and the Ginger Duck is delightful, with a perfectly sweetened sauce that enhances but doesn’t overpower (200 Main. (817) 870-9894. Mon-Sat 6:30-10:30 pm. MC, V. AE. $$$)
Rlatorante Lombardl. Old-World charm characterizes the new Fort Worth Lombardi’s in Sundance Square. Inside, the aroma of pasta and sautéed seafood mingles with the scurry of bustling waiters. For our main course, we sampled the pesce spada griglia (grilled swordfish marinated with Italian herbs) and scaloppine di vitello belinda (veal scaloppine sautéed with brandy and mushrooms in a cream sauce). Both dishes were expertly prepared: The large cut of swordfish was tender, and the veal was smothered in a not-too-rich sauce that was entirely satisfying. (300 Main in Sundance Square. (817) 877-1729. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Reservations. All credit cards. $$$)
River House. One thing to remember here is that you shouldn’t show up on a weekend night and expect to be seated within an hour. It doesn’t matter if they tell you it’ll be shorter; expect a long wait anyway. And once you’re seated, don’t expect too much in the way of great seafood; The standard fare of shrimp and fish was very basic. The service can be a little absent-minded, too. (1660 S University. (817) 336-0815. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner: Mon & Tue 5-9, Wed-Sat 5-10. Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$$)
Szechuan. Although our first experience didn’t send us off glad of heart (just full of heartburn), a second try at Fort Worth’s best Chinese restaurant proved that you should always listen to your waiter. If he tells you that he likes a particular dish but that it’s hot and spicy, believe him. The chef here has an authentically heavy hand with the hot peppers. Once we learned our lesson and steered clear of the ominous starred offerings, we were delighted with pleasing portions of pork with garlic (spicy, but not overwhelming), tangy beef with green pepper and diced chicken with almonds. Tsing Dao, a slightly sweet Chinese beer, washed it all down well. (5712 Locke off Camp Bowie. (817) 738-7300. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10pm, Fri&Sat 11:30 am-11 pm. Sun 5-10 pm. All credit cards. $$)
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 pm. Closed Mon. Reservations recommended on weekends. MC, V. $$$)
Tuscany. Don’t be discouraged by the stuccolike exterior of Tuscany; looks can be deceiving. Once inside,you’ll find yourself in an elegant Italian restaurant featuring the cuisine of Tuscany, the heartland of Italy.Owner Sharman Wallace greets her guests at the doorand keeps watch over the dining room, making surethat all runs smoothly. Wallace also assists in thepreparation of appetizers at the table (we had sautéedscampi). Although our pasta dish (tortellini alla panna)was far above average, the real highlight of our mealwas zuppa di pesce, a bouillabaisse-type dish featuring different kinds of squid, shrimp and mussels in aspicy sauce. Our meal was perfectly topped off withsteaming cups of espresso. Service was slow, but wewere happy to linger over a meal this good. (4255 Camp Bowie. (817) 737-2971. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30: dinner: Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 5:30-11.Closed Sun. All credit cards. $$)