This space on the ground floor of the Westin Galleria hotel opened as Blom’s, which for several: years competed with the best restaurants in Dallas. Over the last two or three years, though. Blom’s kitchen had become more and more erratic and its clientele’s visits more and more irregular. Early this year, the hotel closed down Blom’s and shortly thereafter reopened the same premises as the Huntington Grill, the strategy behind the move seems to have been to give the public what it is supposed to want-namely, meat and potatoes-in a glitzy, high-rolling milieu. The strategy works in a number of other venues about town, and from the initial evidence seems to be working here… so much so that on a recent, crowded evening (admittedly, at a late hour) the kitchen found itself fresh out of both me sirloin and the smoked Prime rib we had wanted to order-a depletion of resources unprecedented in our experience of places that advertise themselves as specializing in “Perfect beef perfectly served.”
Operations at the Huntington Grill so far have enough glitches that we wonder whether-especially at these high prices-it can continue to attract business besides that of guests of the hotel. Harried service and the unavailability of key menu items might be easily forgiven if all the food were as good as the best we were served here. But the kitchen s misses were sadly more frequent than its! successes. The menu-hokily and inconveniently printed on the border of a large paper toque, or chefs hat-offers two ways to order. The beef specialties and a couple of others are listed as “From Our Broilen” and come with a complimentary appetizer of peel-your-own shrimp, a salad, potatoes, and vegetables (a relative bargain with prices mostly around S25). Other entrees come à la carte, with separate tariffs for appetizer and salad and with different starch options. The “crock of shrimp” turns out to be a very tall crock of ice topped with a few firmly cooked but largely tasteless boiled crustaceans. The à la carte appetizers, on the other hand, were some of the best dishes we tried at the Huntington Grill. The seafood bisque was perfectly flavored, the fettuccine with snails sautéed in a cream sauce extremely rich, and the Scottish smoked salmon pristine and satiny.
Of the dishes offered “From Our Broiler,” the best was the large, perfectly broiled lobster tail on the steak and lobster tail combination. The tenderloin on that combination, like the hefty twenty-four ounce T-bone, suffered from a too heavily charred crust. A burnt taste on the outside of an expensive steak argues that the heavy beef has been abused by a grill cook short on training and experience. The whole chicken, skinned and partially de-boned, arrived with a herbal breadcrumb crust but was dried-out and tasteless-a disappointment in a dish that looked both unusual and inviting on the plate. Desserts were a mixed lot: the broiled berries (a kind of crème br?lée with strawberries) were delicious, but me chocolate pot (a rather dense, pudding-like affair) had a curious burned-chocolate taste that some of us liked and others did not. The Huntington Grill has lots of good intentions and an obviously marketable idea. But the execution is going to have to improve mightily before it earns much repeat business. Westin Hotel, Galleria, 13340 Dallas Pkwy. 851-2882. lunch Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner daily 5:30-11 pm. All credit cards. Expensive to very expensive, N -W.L. Taitte
Snider Plaza is a Park Cities anachronism, Somehow, instead of becoming another Dallas-style Rodeo Drive, like the Miracle Mile or Highland Park Village, it has remained a small town center, where proprietors of small businesses call regular customers by their first names and there is space for an old-fashioned five and dime. It’s the perfect home for a small, unpretentious cafe like the Cisco Grill. This easy-going spot is perfect for lunch, a family supper, or even solo dining. Like the Italian restaurant Amore. at the other end of the Plaza, Cisco makes no great claims for originality, but simply offers good food at reasonable prices in a low-key atmosphere. At Cisco, the food has a Southwestern flavor.
Both soups we tried were terrific-the baked potato soup was full of skin-on potato chunks and generously topped with melted cheese, crumbled bacon, and scallions. The tortilla soup was a hearty, spicy version with big pieces of avocado and tomatoes and lots of cheese and tortillas. Both are available by the cup or bowl.
Cisco’s burgers, served on well-toasted sesame buns, are big; the bacon-cheddar burger we tried had plenty of both. With it we ordered a basket of thin, crisp fries and tender onion rings. Chicken salad combines chunks of chicken breast, jicama, and onion slivers in a sour cream-picante sauce dressing. Cisco’s “choice tacos” are basically fa-jitas without a sizzling skillet, served with little bitty containers of avocado and sour cream. Chicken enchiladas are smothered under a bright green tomatillo-poblano sauce; some cheese would have helped balance the acid taste of the sauce.
There’s no bar and no desserts on the menu, but Steve’s Ice Cream is right across the street and the Plaza is a perfect place to window shop and lick a cone. 6630 Snider Plaza. 363-9506. Mon-Thur 11-10, Fri & Sat 11-11. MC, V, AE. Inexpensive.
-Mary Brown Malouf
What’s this-a Momo’s without pizza? Without focaccio? Without those darling, addictive little appetizer discs for sampling all the delectable pizza combinations before pigging out on from-scratch pasta?
It’s true. But before you condemn Momo’s Pasta as a low-budget remake, let me disabuse you. The new Knox Street sequel to Momo’s Italian Specialties on Forest Lane is both more and less than a condensed version of Antonio (Momo) Gattini’s original establishment. Less, because of the aforementioned pizza omission (owed, we must assume, to kitchen limitations in the ex-Dream Cafe digs); but more, because the twenty pasta variations that are the new place’s sole entrées are all-new, all-different, and altogether praiseworthy.
Well, perhaps not all. We did encounter one dull dish among the main-course selections of our two visits: Bucatini alleVerdure would have been a fine fling of thin pasta ribbons with tomato, eggplant, and black olive slices greened with bell pepper, parsley, and basil, but the dish was disagreeably dry, and the promised bit of anchovy undetectable.
Every other pasta we tried, though, was irreproachable. Conchiglie, die big shell-shaped scoops, held a blend of four cheeses-fontina, gruyere, parmesan, and fresh mozzarella- in creamy harmony. A robust mix of chopped lamb, sweet pepper, garlic, and tomato with white wine gave macaroni uncommon character. Gnocchi- lightest of the little egg-shaped dumplings I’ve ever tasted anywhere-were most memorable of all, bathed in a creamy melt of Gorgonzola and parmesan with tomato.
Marsala-drenched zabagiione was a rich, almost too-sweet closer. Our star desserts were a meltaway torte of chocolate and hazelnut layered with crisp meringue and whipped cream, and sciuscia, a huge scoop of chocolate ice cream lavished with Vov, a homemade liquor, whipped cream, and crushed amaretto cookies.
Be warned: on weekends, the wait can be long-Momo’s takes no reservations-and the service spotty, despite the remarkable energy of manager Hossein Ghomi. Ghomi, who shepherded the original Momo’s to success and remembers every face he ever saw there, hopes to expand into a next-door space in the near future; meanwhile, beaming good will abounds among patrons and thin-spread staff, and we heard no complaints. 3312 Knox. 521-3009. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Mon-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri 5:30-11:30. Open Sat 11:30-11:30; Sun 11:30-10:30 MC, V. Inexpensive.
Soon Tary, the proprietor of the two Thai Lanna restaurants, has been a vegetarian for some time. Now he has opened Thai Soon to try to demonstrate that a vegetarian and seafood menu can work in an ethnic restaurant. Judging from the waiting lines at this tiny (around forty-seat) place on Lowest Greenville, the idea has a large appeal to a sizable body1of patrons. Much of the food is not all that different from items at regular Thai restaurants. Satay-the barbecue-on-a-stick dish the Siamese borrowed from the Indonesians-is done here with tofu or shrimp rather than pork or chicken. The shrimp version is delicious, but another interesting sounding appetizer, the corn patties (fried corn cakes Thai style), were bland and unappealing. Similarly, many of the soups either come direcly from standard menus or are elegant variations of standards. The special noodle soup with shrimp and vegetables proved difficult to serve up and eat-there seemed to be one unending noodle tangled up in the serving bowl ; if you got one part of it, you got the whole thing.
Almost a dozen vegetarian dishes start out the main course section of the menu. Some of these are similar to the eggplant delicacies that are among the best things at the original Thai Lanna. Others are based on tofu-the Thai green curry with coconut cream has a knockout flavor, but you may find yourself knocked out by the spiciness of the dish. Almost nothing is bland or even passably neutral in taste at Thai Soon; even dishes cooked without the ubiquitous Thai chiles-like shrimp with garlic sauce and broccoli-come with a spicy dusting of white ground pepper. There are a variety of dishes with crab and squid available, and seven fish dishes-including a lordly steamed fish (impeccably fresh catfish) topped with vegetables in a sauce. Thai chefs also do great things with noodles, and there is a wide selection of versions either with seafood or purely vegetarian. 2018 Greenville. 821-7666. Mon-Fri lunch 11-3, dinner 5-10; Sat 11 am-10pm; Sun5pm-10pm. AE, MC, V. Inexpensive to moderate. -W.L.T.
This breezy-looking, informal spot in The Plaza on Bachman Creek serves food in what we have come to think of as a down-home Chinese style. Vegetables-especially onions and garlic-are often cut more coarsely than in Chinese restaurants with more pretension to finesse. Lots of dishes have an aggressively sweet edge to them, even those that usually aren’t sweet at all, like shrimp in garlic sauce. Dishes tend to be oilier than the norm, too-not just fried things like the bland Golden Crispy Bean Curd but stir-fried main courses as well.
Taipei has several dishes not found on every Chinese menu in town. We tried a number of them, including the Crispy Gold en Brown Fish Ball: something like big fish croquettes doused in a bright red, sweet, hot sauce. The minced chicken with lettuce (served to be eaten in a lettuce leaf like a taco) was filled with lots of coarsely chopped celery and other vegetables, and didn’t have much flavor. The shredded duck with bean sprouts had rather dry duck meat, but lots of fresh and crunchy sprouts. The general level of the cooking here might best be assessed in a standard dish like beef with broccoli. The meat was tasty and not overcooked, but it had a kind of grayish color that comes from insufficient heat in the wok. The lack luster cooking at Taipei is somewhat com pensated for by the hardworking service. 3820 W Northwest Highway, Suite 150. 350-3969. Sun-Thur 10:30 am-JO:30pm, Fri & Sat 10:30 am-11 pm. All credit cards. Moderate. -W.L.T.
BARBECUE & BURGERS
Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Que. This is one of the few barbecue joints in Dallas where the place is as great as the food. It may be located in a nondescript shopping strip, but walk through the door and you’re in a laid-back, Hill Coun try honky-tonk: vintage Lone Star posters by Austin artist Jim Franklin, cow skulls, and other genuine Texas mem orabilia line the wails and the jukebox is loaded with Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and Bob Wills. Service is pretty much do-it-yourself-amble down the cafeteria line, pile your plate with terrific ribs, slow-cooked beef and ham and spicy sausage, your choice of hot or mild beans, German potato salad, coleslaw, then pick up your longneck and head for a table. After a few bites and a few bars of “Rose of San Antone,” you’ll forget that’s Mockingbird Lane outside the door. 316 Hillside Village (Mockingbird and Abrams). S23-5524. Mon-Sat 11-8 No credit cards; personal checks accepted. Inexpensive. -M.B.M.
The Bronx. This casual, relaxed lunch spot turns dark at night, barely lit by candles and the flash of siren tights from the fire station across the street. Day or night, the menu of top-notch burgers (the guacamole and bacon burger is a favorite) and omelettes is augmented by blackboard specials. On a recent visit, we started with potato skins, gooey with melted cheese, and then attempted to finish a hunk of Mom-style meatloaf, covered with onion and pepper-filled tomato sauce. Garden lasagna was delicious, loaded with all sorts of vegetables, and so rich with cheese you didn’t miss the meat. The day’s dessert selections were both terrific: a sweet-tart Viennese apricot pie and a simple chocolate mousse. I’m probably the only person in town who doesn’t love The Bronx’s iced tea. Served in bathtub-sized glasses, it comes spiced and pre-sweetened; I prefer mine straight, but unfortunately this is not an option. 3835 Cedar Springs. 521-5821. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-3; dinner Mon-Sat 5-11:30; Sunday brunch 11-3. MC. V, AE. Inexpensive. -M.B.M.
Chips. Chips is the burger joint for me: I like its laid-back, not-too-loud atmosphere. I like the friendly and efficient service. 1 like the pig sandwich (shredded pork with relish), the chicken sandwich, and all the burgers I’ve tasted (chili, cheese, hickory, and plain). I like the skinny, sweet onion rings and the big basket of fries and I love having to choose between cold beer and an honest-to-gosh, from-scratcb milkshake, depending on what kind of comfort I need that day. If things seem too bleak, you can get it all to go, but beware-these are juicy sandwiches and your bun will be soggy by the time you get home. 4501 N Central. 526-1092. 2445 W Northwest Hwy, Suite 101. 350-8751. Sun-Tour 11-10, Fri&Sat 11-11 at Central location. Mon-Thur 11-9, Fri&Sat 11-11 at Northwest Hwy location. MC. V, AE. Inexpensive.
Louisiana Purchase. We have been out to Piano twice lately to visit the Louisiana Purchase. Once the place was packed, die other time empty. The food is somewhat incon sistent, too-but there are clearly enough bargains on this large, mostly seafood menu to justify the intermittent crowds. The crawfish étoufée (available in two portion sizes) was sufficiently authentic to cause our Louisiana relatives to want to come back. The fried shrimp, oysters, and catfish are as good as any place around. Lots of the dishes, though, as at other putative Cajun places, are simply too hot for most tastes-beware the gumbo and especially the barbecued shrimp. Central Expressway at Parker Road, Piano. 422-2469. Sun-Thur 11 am-10pm. Fri&Sat 11-11. MC.V.AE Moderate. N -W.L.T.
Patout’a. Alex Pat out’s new restaurant serves some remarkable cooking alongside some pretty ordinary stuff. The spicy, earthy chicken and sausage gumbo is a marvel, and the Cajun smothered duck with oyster dressing is glazed to a crisp and succulent perfection. There are admirable versions of standard Louisiana dishes like shrimp rémoulade and boudin (a livery-tasting rice sausage). At its best, this sophisticated country fare is unbeatable. But the disappointments included cochon de lait-roast young pig-dial was stringy and fried shrimp that came in a tasteless batter. If some of these problems resolve themselves over time, Patout’s could become one of Dallas’s most exciting restaurants. 5600 W\Lovers Lane, 956-9077. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30. Sun $1:30-2:30: dinner Mon-Thur 5-10, Fri 5-11, Sun 5-9; open Sat 11-11. All credit cards. Moderate to expensive.
Bahama Bob’s. Bahama Bob’s serves a truly great pina colada-this from one who eschews sweet drinks-which we sipped while we munched on our appetizers, unaware that this was the high point of the night’s trip to the tropical zone. Crunchy sweet! onion rings, conch fritters, and plantain chips, slices of the blandly sweet fruit in a spicy crisp coating, were ill good. Entrees were less pleasing: our friendly waitress warned us that the Jamaican jerk chicken was hot-very !hot- but she didn’t say it was so heavily spiced you couldn’t actually finish it. which it was. On the other side of the coin, my companion’s coconut shrimp were so sweet he coald only eat a tew of them; they might have been better as an appetizer. The black beans and rice that accompanied the meal were fine; the fruit muffins were dry. with no discernible fruit. This is another fun place to go in the Weil End, kit until the kitchen takes itself seriously, it’s not the place to go for a true taste of the Caribbean Have a pina colada, instead, and another onion ring. 302 N Marker. 655-2627. Mo^-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sar 11-11:30. Voodoo Bar downstairs open till 2. All credit cards. Moderate.
Crystal Pagoda. Colorful kites fly overhead in this upscale Chinese spot. The food mostly keeps pace with the decor. Among (the appetizers is one of the city’s best versions of Bon Bon chicken (shredded meat topped with a paste of peanuts and hot peppers). The Hunan lamb and the shrimp with cashew n)uts are also memorable. But the crispy duck is a major disappointment: not nearly crisp enough and almost tasteless. 4516 McKinney. 526-3355. Mon-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm Fri 11:30 am-11 pm. Sat noon-It pm, Sun noon-10:30 pm MC, V, AE. Moderate. -W.LT
Han-Chu. Still one of the handsomest Chinese places in town, with its sleek Mack decor, Hao-Chu is one of the better purveyors of the cuisine, too. Standard dishes like the spring rolls can be a disappointment, but the golden coin shrimps proved a worthy appetizer. Among the entrées, Shang-hai smoked pork stir-fried with vegetables is an unusual standout, and the tangerine beef is one of the best versions in town: tender, pillowy pieces of beef in a sauce not too sweet or too cloying. The standards of service here seem to have slipped a bit since the very efficient early days. Caruth Plaza, 9100 N Central Expwy at Park Lane, Suite 191 69J-0900. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10.30 pm, Fri & Sat 11:30 am~ll:30 pm. All credit cards. Moderate.
Hong Kong Royal*. This is the favored upscale authentic restaurant for the Chinese community for miles around, in its gaudy perch on the second floor of a shopping center that looks like a set for The Last Emperor. The barbecued duck will probably be too ferry for most Occidental tastes, but the special Chinese soup will make lots of converts to authenticity-a hearty beef broth filled with tender, bone-in chunks of meat, bok choy, and other, more unusual Chinese vegetables (has anybody seen the one called “dragon’s eye” before?-it’s a knockout). Hong Kong Royale bills itself as a seafood specialist, and its seafood can be spectacular. Two of the best-prepared Chinese dishes we have been served in Dallas are die scallops in a potato nest (served with a bonus-deep-fried scallops on the side) and the fresh whole sole steamed under a blanket of black beans, cilantro, garlic, and scallions. These delights don’t come cheap, however. The sole cost S25 (worth it if you’ve got it). And. come to think of it, even the noontime dim sum can mount up in price awfully fast here. 221 W Post, Richardson. 238-8888. Mon-Fri 11-11, Sat & Sun I0am-Upm. All credit cards. Moderate to expensive.
Taiwan. Ordinary things sit side by side with excellent dishes at the Addison Taiwan. The subnormal egg rolls seem to come from a different kitchen than the light, delicate shrimp dumplings. At least no one can complain any longer that they go too easy on the spicy dishes here; both the Mongolian beef and the tangerine chicken (available on the bargain luncheon menu) we sampled were heavily spiked with hot red peppers. 4980 Belt Une, Addison. 387-2333. Sun-Thur 11:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri à Sas 11:30-11. All credit cards. Moderate.
Café Royal. This is one of the most elegant and romantic rooms in town-from the candlelight and red rosebuds to the grand piano. In the past, food and service have always been equally top-drawer. Unfortunately, on my last visit, though cbef Peter Schaffrath’s kitchen was as fine-tuned as ever, the service was a sour note. What started out gracious declined to perfunctory; finally we fill ignored altogether. After ask ing for our check twice, we left in a huff instead of on air as one should after a delicious meal in a beautiful place. The menu offers a choice of an à la carte or prix-fixe ($34.50) dinner. My choices from the latter list included a typically lovely presentation of shrimp in a spiral of tomato and avocado coulis, and imaginatively prepared lamb cutlets. covered in crispy shredded rosemary potatoes. My compan ion’s à la carte snails in fennel sauce were sublime; the prop erly tableside-prepared Caesar salad and grilled sirloin mat followed were nothing short of perfect and chocolate crème br?lée from the dessert cart was heaven; it’s too bad the serv- ice brought us back to earth with such a thud. Plaza of the Americas, 650N Pearl. 979-9000. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner Mon-Thur 6:30-10. Fri&Sat 6.30-U. Alt credit cards. Expensive. -M.B.M.
Chez Gerard. The din on a crowded night guarantees an intimate, if not tranquil, dinner at this cozy, very French restaurant; you can usually depend on well-executed French fare, too. However, though my last visit mere began and ended on a high note, the effect was marred by slightly lackluster entrées. A duck liver and spinach napoleon was flawless- still-rosy slices of liver layered with bright green spinach and flaky pastry-and the onion soup was everything onion soup can be. At the other end, crème caramel was a precise balance of bittersweet syrup and lightly sweet custard. But the grilled swordfish was slightly dry, and the fennel sauce bathing a filet of taramia was so subtle it was almost bland, which the accompanying potato and vegetables frankly were, 4444 McKinney. 522-6865. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, dinner Mon-Sat 6-10:30. dosed Sun. All credit cards. Moderate to expensive.
L’Amblance. There’s a strange, patched-together look to this remodeled service Station with its bronzy mirrors and central serving area, but the warm welcome and friendly service overcome the surroundings and the food on my last visit was fine. Appetizers-a creamy tomato soup topped by a cheesy crouton. and a row of a dozen perfectly cooked asparagus spears-were especially good. Rack of lamb was traditional and well prepared; the duck breast, recommend ed as a house specialty, was nicely cooked, but its uniden tifiable fruit sauce was overly sweet. The watercress salad with goal cheese, bacon, and hard-cooked egg was delicious, but desserts-a dry flourless chocolate cake and boringly sweet chocolate Concorde (layers of chocolate meringue and chocolate mousse) were forgettable. 2408 Cedar Springs. 748-1291. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Mon-Sat 6-10:30. All credit cards. Expensive. -M. B. M.
Three Vikings. Three Vikings, which had been a fixture on Lower Greenville, packed up and disappeared some months back. Now it has resurfaced in the tiny space previously occupied by Da Piccolo and Red Moon Caf? on Cole Avenue. The look of the place is very light, with lots of pale blue and bleached pine. There’s nothing light about the food, though-which is good or bad, depending on how you feel about Scandinavian/Continental food. For my part, 1 am immoderately fond of the Swedish meatballs, moderately fond of the Finnish shrimp chowder, and not fond at all of the heavy-on-the-béarnaise veal Oscar. 4537 Cole. 559-0987. Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Tue-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. All credit cards. Moderate,
Trieste. The menu at Trieste, which changes every Monday, was frankly French on our visit. Entrees included potato i m fan-shape of au gratin slices) and vegetable (slivered zucchini, squash, tomato). The fresh tomato looked as lively as it tasted with its garnish of crème fra?che and dollop of caviar, while die smoked trout mousse folded into rosy slices of smoked salmon was pure silk. The rare lamb slices were bathed in a sauce full of fresh currants, and the French combination plate, lobster medallions and beef tender, was served with two sauces, a classic demi-glace and a rich béarnaise fragrant with tarragon. We were invited to invent our own soufflé combinations, but it was the lack, rather than the choice, of flavor that made the results (chocolate with hazelnut and mocha with vanilla) disappointing. The home-made icecreams were a better choice. 1444 Oak Lawn Ave, Suite 600. 742-4433. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Tue-Sat 6-10. Closed Sun. MC, V, DC Moderne.
Franki’s LI’l Europe. Entrees offered on our lunch and dinner visits ranged from Italian to French to German and Austrian, with side trips to Hungary and Yugoslavia. Top stop for my money was segediner, a Hungarian dish involving succulent pork chunks simmered with mild sauerkraut and cream, subtly spiced and heady enough in their combined flavors to erase trendy undercooking techniques from your mind forever. Cevapcici. described as the Yugoslavian national dish, was a half-dozen hand-formed ovals of veal. Iamb, and pork sausage on saffron-scented rice, with a fan of perfectly crisp-steamed zucchini slices on die side. Chicken Pavarotti crossed the Italian border with a tender sautéed breast lavished with fresh mushrooms in a line, fresh tomato sauce. The pre-entrée courses were less mundane than they sounded-crisp-fried calimari (mere babies) and mozzarella rose above clichéd familiarity, thanks Id the warm tomato dipping sauce served with them; Franki’s mixed salad was a happy mélange of mussels, artichoke, and palm hearts in vinaigrette rich with diced tomato, with crisp ribbons of marinated cucumber for texture contrast. Desserts included admirably flaky apple strode), served warm with ice cream, and a particularly light, lovely bread pudding, which should have been (it arrives chilled instead, on raspberry sauce). Oh, and one other thing: owner Franki Kovacic, whose hospitality knows no bounds, * if 1 try to ply you with a li’l drop of slivovitz, an incendiary plum brandy, after dinner. The Yugoslavian national liqueur, he calls it. A probably very effective deadly household chemical, I call it. You do what you want to, but don’t say you weren’t warned. 362 Casa Linda Plaza (behind the fountain). Garland Road at Buckner. 3204426 Lundi Mon-Sat 11:30 am-2:30pm; dinner daily 5:30-9:30. Brunch Sun 11 am-3 pm. Ail credit cards. Inexpensive to moderate. – B.C
Kuby’s Sausage House Inc. Let come-latelies who don’t know any better flock to flash in the West End’s teeming canyons-lunch instead at Kuby’s of a Saturday, and I promise you 11 see everybody who’s anybody in Real Dallas sooner or later. That’s the original Real Kuby’s we’re talking about; not the latterday palace in the downtown historic district, but the hallowed old deli/imports/fast food emporium in Snider Plaza, by SMU. Stand in line here for the requisite noontime half-hour, and you can watch the social set mingle meekly for a shot at German classics clattered on naked tabletops exactly as they have been for twenty-seven years: plump knackwurst partnered with pastrami-flecked German potato salad, a brimming bowl of superior sauerkraut on the side: onion-spiked tartar steak, red as cherries (not an atom of fat in it), spread thick between rye bread slices; moist, fresh carrot cake framed in a full half-inch of butter-cream icing, with a plastic tumbler of iced tea to wash it down. Upscale it’s not, and frill-free it is-tacky little too-thin paper napkins, plastic cream-thimbles in a bowl on the table, butter thriftily spread on bread in the kitchen and brusque, old-school, no-backtalk-taken service. But the cream is real, the formica tables spotless, the brusqueness motherly, and the stein-hung walls downright merry. On the whole, the Real Kuby’s is not unlike places I visited last year in Germany; must be as real as Real Dallas has always thought. 6600 Snider Plaza. 363-2231. Mon-Sat Sam^pm. MC V with a $15 minimum. Inexpensive. – B.C
India Palace. This has been Dallas’s most ambitious Indian restaurant from its beginnings, and now added to the already long menu is a two-page extension that enables the adventurous to explore some of the byways of Indian cooking. Unusual dishes include grilled items like the tangri kebab (marinated, delicately charred chicken drumsticks) and the reshmi kebab (boneless chicken wrapped around skewers). Several dumpling-like fritters come stuffed with raisins and flavored with yogurt sauces. And the fish masala turns out to be toothsome cubes of meaty fish in a heady sauce of tomatoes and peppers. The prices for all these delicacies can mount up rapidly if ordered with necessary extras like the extraordinary Indian breads, but you can compensate for extravagant exploration by alternating with visits to the bargain lunch buffets. 13360 Preston Rd. 392-0190 Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30. Sat & Sun noon-3; dinner Sun-Thur5:30-10. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. Moderate to expensive.
Taj Mahal. Add one more to the list of good local Indian restaurants. Lamb vindaloo and chicken shahi korma are especially good here, though it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu. Caruth Plaza, Central Expwy & Park Ln. 692-0535. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2:30. Sot-Sun 11:30-2:30; dinner Sun-Thur 5:30-10. Fri & Sat 5:30-10:30. MC, V. AE. Inexpensive to moderate.
Café Italia. Café Italia is informal, and prices are low. which makes one inclined to overlook such minor glitches as flabby garlic bread and flat San Pellegrino water. I tried entrees of an on-the-money combination of cannelloni and manicotti and a very meaty yet unheavy lasagna. Barely sweet flan with a drift of lightly whipped cream and killer-strength espresso made for a nice finish. 5000 Maple. 521-0700. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2; dinner Mon-Thur 5:30-10. Fri & Sat 5:30-11. Closed Sun. MC. V. AE. Inexpensive to moderate.
Massimo Da Milano. If there’s a bad item available at this attractive Italian bakery/cafe, I’ve yet to discover it despite exhaustive research. Although the changing pizza, pasta, and salad offerings are always alluring, more often than not I find myself opting for the focaccia sandwich. round flat bread filled with ham, cheese, leaf lettuce, and tomato slices. For dessert, there are any number of pastries to choose from, but nothing suits a cup of espresso better than the little amaretti cookies. These days, service for the cafeteria-style service line ranges from disorganized to efficient, which is an improvement over days past, when disjointed to chaotic were the applicable adjectives. 5519 W Lovers Lane. 351-1426 Mon-Thur 9 am-10pm. Fri & Sat 9 am-11 pm. Sun 9-9. MC. V. AE. Inexpensive.
Ruggeri’s Glitzier eateries come and go, but mis comfort able bastion of unstressed gentility stands solid on with no sign of flagging. One prime reason: consistency. Every item on the menu of familiar Italian classics is prepared from scratch and handsomely presented; and while few of the wide-ranging dishes are knock-your-socks-off spectacular, none I’ve had has been much less than excellent. I couldn’t help regretting that no one warned me the soft-shelled crab on my appetizer plate had been frozen, not fresh, before its sautéeing in garlic-spiked olive oil; but ils texture and taste were acceptable if its rectangular shape was not. Otherwise, everything on our dinner visit touched happy chords, from al dente angel hair pasta with tomato, fresh basil, and garlic to veal scallops sautéed with artichoke hearts and mush rooms in butter; my companion, who had enjoyed the lat ter dish in Rome, pronounced this version comparable. And if I had the chefs recipe for cioppino, I swear I’d open a res taurant myself-the fisherman’s stew of fresh seafoods in spicy marinara sauce was nothing less than sublime, pr iions here are generous enough to make espresso my pre ferred meal’s-end postlude, but sweets-cravers can indulge sans sin on a silken crema caramela or extravagantly wick ed chocolate mousse cake-all made in-house. Music’s from-scratch, too-a quiet piano accompanies dinner; and owner/manager Pete Ruggeri’s unfailing cordiality is as con sistent as the food and the competent wait staff that conveys it. 2911 Routh Street. 871-7377. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Sun-Thur 6-11:30, Fri-Sat 6-midnight. All credit cards. Moderate. -B.C.
311 Lombardi’s. What is me Italian translation of “good karma”? Our waiter didn’t know, but 311 Lombardi’s has achieved it. Here, surrounded by the glow created by creamy apricot walls, happy hordes of downtown workers gel what may well be the best Italian food in town at reasonable prices. No pasta was visible in the pasta and bean soup, but it was a hearty, herb-enlivened delight anyway. A pizza with leeks, pancetta. goat cheese, and mushrooms could have held its own against New York’s best. The next stop on 311 Lombardi’s menu was good enough to be required earing for potato-philes: potato gnocchi with two sauces (tomato and irresistible gorgonzola). A tender, thin veal cutlet topped with arugula and diced tomatoes was simply immense. Dessert of luscious raspberry ice cream arid respectable espresso rounded off a repast that was pure pleasure from start to finish. 311 Market. 747-0322. Mon-Thur 11-11, Fri 11 am-1 am, Sat 5 pm-1 am, Sun 5-10 pm. All credit cards. Moderate.
Hana Japanese Restaurant. As in most Japanese restaurants, the sushi bar here is the social center-a joyous stretch of immaculate revelry staffed by swift-bladed showmen who slice out the usual artistic raw-fish delicacies as well as a specialty or two all their own: their oyster shot, a chewable potion involving raw oyster, fresh quail egg, and spicy accents, is alone worth a visit. The kitchen excels, too, with shrimp tempura and fried oysters crisped to air-light, greaseless perfection, grilled salmon steak and beef teriyaki moistly tender. One late-arriving entrée flawed our dinner visit; otherwise the service, like the food, was exemplary. 14865 Inwood. 991-8322. Lunch Mon-Fri 10-2: dinner Mon-Wed 5:30-10:30, Thur-Sat 5:30-2. Closed Sun. AU credit cards. Moderate.
Hlbachl-Ya Japanese Restaurant. From its name, you’d expect this place to be one of those Japanese emporta that showcases the chef as swordsman/entertainer at his grill. Hibachi-Ya’s not like that at all-everything about il is underplayed except the food Owner Pete Yamamoto plays his role quietly, over a grill set into a side counter, leaving his guests refreshingly free to enjoy dining without the burden of applause. Applause is due, though, for the beef that stars on his menu along with chicken and shrimp, not only hibachi-grilled but in less familiar traditional Japanese dishes dis” offrered. Best by far was a traditional entree. Urns steak, meltingly lender filet perfumed by marinating in plum sauce, then grilled and cubed for easy chopsticking. The best appetizers, too, were beef-notably in sirloin tataki, rare slices served with a fruity ponzu sauce, and in hibachi rolls, bite-sized bits of fresh carrot, bell pepper, onion, and pineapple wrapped in sliced sirloin, with teriyaki sauce for dipping. 3850 W Northwest Hwy, Suite 510. 350-1110. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-3: dinner Fri-Sat 5-11:30. Sun 5-9:30. All credit cards. Inexpensive.
Cantina Laredo, It’s been said before, but m say it again: hole-in-the-wall ambience and a funky location are not pre requisites for good Mexican food- The fare at this heart o’ Addison restaurant is worth a drive from downtown. I’ve never been here when the place didn’t seem full, but that may be because the cement floors and boxlike layout amplify every sound and the smoke from the mesquite-grilled specialties hangs in the air. Despite the hectic atmosphere. our service was brisk and attentive. Tex-Mex at Cantina Laredo is good, but the specialties are better: cabrito barbacoa (barbecued goat) was rich and tender, and pollo ranchera was a tender breast with a spicy sauce of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Desserts, usually a weak point on Mex ican menus, are good here; apple pie is served on a sizzling fajita skillet with cinnamon ice cream, and churros- cinnamon-sugar coated fritters-are freshly fried. 4546 Belt Une. 458-0962. Sun-Thur 11-11. Fri & Sat 11-midnight. All credit cards. Moderate. N -M.B.M.
Chuy’s. If PeeWee Herman opened a Mexican restaurant in Dallas’s West End, chances are it would look a lot like Chuy’s: the zany, multilevel, multicolored room is furnished with chrome and glitter-vinyl dinette sets, strung with model cars and schools of plastic fish, and plastered with pink-painted 45s. Past the playhouse atmosphere, though, is some serious Mexican food. We started with fresh lime margaritas and an order of banditos, fried cheese and chili-filled whole wheat tortillas, along with the full-flavored salsa and crispy chips. The menu listed combination plates ranging from the huge comida deluxe (two enchiladas, one flauta, one crispy taco, chile con queso, guacamole, rice, and beans) to Chuy’s “lie plate,” a single taco with guacamole and queso. But we chose instead a “Chuychanga,” a big fried flour tortilla encasing a half breast of chicken and some melted cheese, served with a selection of sauces: slightly sweet ranchera sauce, a tart tomatillo verde, Tex-Mex chili gravy, or New Mexican-style fiery green chili sauce. Without the sauce, the dish was underseasoned. Chuy’s special enchiladas, New Mexican blue corn tortillas stacked with chicken, cheese, and tomatíllo, were gooey and good; the chile relleno, an Anaheim pepper stuffed with well-seasoned meat, was covered in a too-tomatoey sauce. 211 N Reconl St. 747-2838 Sun-Thur 11-11, Fri & Sat 11-12 (bar open till 2). MC. V, AE. Inexpensive.
Mario’s Chiquita. Years ago, before fajitas became a staple on the menu of every Tex-Mex, beef, and burger restaurant in town, tacos al carbon were the order of the hour-Some of the best to be had were Mario Leal’s Chiquita, first on Oak Lawn, then on Congress. Fortunately, tacos al carbon are still to be had at Chiquita, now in Travis Walk. This conservative but pretty pastel restaurant offers dependable Tex-Mex, but its forte is the kitchen’s specialties: such as the above-mentioned tacos, tender strips of steak folded in flour tortillas, or the carnitas a la tampiqueno, a plate of grilled pork strips sided by a cheese enchilada in a terrific ranchera sauce. Came asada is great and almost worth ordering for the triangles of grilled Linares cheese alone, and the sopapilla with cinnamon ice cream is one of the few really wonderful desserts I’ve had with Mexican food. 4514 Travis (in Travis Walk). 521-0721. Sun-Thur 11:30-10:30. Fri & Sat 11:30-11. All credit cards. Moderate.
Martinez Cafe. Tex-Mex abounds in Dallas: top-notch Tex-Mex. however, is relatively rare. That’s where Martinez Cafe comes in. It’s been a long time since standard-issue Tex-Mex made me sit up and take notice as I did here. There’s nothing outré on the menu, just the standards, prepared as they should be. Here you will find snappy salsa, notable nachos. tasty tacos, and enticing enchiladas. Just one caveat: if Mexican food and margaritas are synonymous in your book, don’t come to Martinez Cafe. There aren’t any margaritas to be had, though beer and wine are available. 3011 Routh. 855-0240. lunch Mon-Fri 11-2:30; dinner Monitor 5:30-10. Fri 5:30-11, Sat 11-11. MC. V, AE. Inexpensive.
Primo’s. This is the Mexican restaurant for the “thir-tysomething” crowd-small enough to have character, nice enough to be comfortable, MTV on one of the bars television sets, sports on the other, and Sixties music coming through (he speakers. Oh yes, and plenty of high chairs. The menu is Tex-Mex, with blackboard specials, and, except for bland margaritas and some overcooked shrimp, everything we sampled on a recent visit was as soul-satisfying as good Tex-Mex can get. Primo’s offers one of the best botanas platters around-two kinds of nachos, midget flausas, and terrific quesadillas Take note of the tiny, crispy meat tacos- fried after they’re filled, and available in the standard size, loo. The chicken enchilada in ranchera sauce was also memorable. 3309 McKinney. 520-3303. Mon-Thur II am-midnighl, Fri 11 am-1 am. Sat 5pm-l am, Sun 11-11. All credit cards. Inexpensive.
Amadeus. Trammell Crow Center (which used to be called LTV Center) is one of the most glamorous locations downtown, and its mezzanine floor is a lovely site for the New American restaurant called Amadeus. But while the food is good enough, it doesn’t have the distinction to lure people to make a special trip in the evening-so in the recently added evening hours Amadeus can seem like a party nobody came to. Such appetizers as sautéed shrimp on lime bourn: blanc and quail on salad greens had the advantage of perfectly cooked main ingredients but the drawbacks of lackluster sauces. The sautéed duck breast had the opposite problem: a peppery crust and piquant blueberry sauce adorned overcooked fowl. Service is slightly formal and particularly attentive. Trammel! Craw Center, Suite 250 2001 Ross at Harwood. 979-2620 Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Tue-Thur 6:30-10, Fri & Sat 6:30-11. All credit cards. Expensive.
Beau Nash- It’s a heady sensation in often early-to-bed
Dallas to see a bar and restaurant thronged with people after 11 on a weeknight (though more of the glitzy patrons were drinking than eating). But the crowds can be noisy, and the trendiness of this glossy spot carries over to the menu. sometimes to its detriment. Everything we sampled at Beau Nash this time had an assertive and appealing taste, especially the Chinese-dumpling-shaped ravioli filled with wild mushrooms and drizzled with two sauces, but sometimes the assertive tastes competed too strongly with one another. The thick, tender veal chop, for instance, hid a bed of spaghetti squash in a sunny sauce and lay under a compote of fresh tomatoes and herbs-all surrounded by a wine-dark sea of sauce of another sort. Enough already! The mimosa cake we sampled for dessert looked prettier than it tasted. Hotel Crescent Court, 400 Crescent Court, Maple at McKinney 871-3240 Breakfast daily 7-10:30; lunch daily 11:30-2:15; dinner Sun-Thur 6:30-10:15, Fri & Sat 6:30-midnight; Sun brunch 11:30-2:15. AU credit cards. Expensive.
Dakota’s. This spiffy setting underneath a downtown street-with its glass elevator from street level, its courtyard cum waterfall, and its interior full of polished marble, brass, and beveled glass-has been the scene of variable success in the kitchen. But our most recent visit brought us the most consistently fine food here to date. The appetizer sampler contained tantalizing bits of crisp calamari. succulent baby back ribs, zesty crabcakes, and tangy marinated shrimp. The veal T-bone was perfectly cooked, though the side dish of linguini with black olives and sundried tomatoes proved the meal’s only disappointment, since it lacked coherence and subtlety. The fish special-marl in topped with asparagus and lump crab meat-and the sensational desserts of Key Lime pie and white chocolate ice cream with brownies and butterscotch sauce more than made up. 600 N Akard. 740-4001, Lunch Mon-Fri 11-3; dinner Sun-Thur 5-11, Fri & Sat 5-11:30; Sun brunch 11-2:30. All credit cards Lunch moderate, dinner expensive. -W.L.T.
The Mansion on Turtie Creek. What never seems to change at the Mansion is its historic beauty and top-of-the-line service. What does change is the menu. Now it’s printed daily, the better to accommodate changing offerings according to season-and the creative inspiration of Dean Fearing. Regulars tend to opt for whatever appears on any given day ; diners for whom the Mansion is a relatively rare experience may prefer to sample such classics as the peerless tortilla soup; Louisiana crab cakes with a sauce of smoked chilies, lobster, and blood orange; and crème br?lée with raspberry sauce for dessert. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 526-2121. Main dining room-jackets and ties required. Lunch Mon-Fri noon-2:30; brunch Sat noon-2:30. Sun 11-2:30: dinner Sun-Thur 6-10:30, Fri & Sat 6-11; supper Mon-Thur 10:30 pm-midnight, Fri & Sat 11 pm-midnight. Promenade Room- breakfast daily 7 am-11 am; tea Mon-Fri 3-5:30 pm. All credit cards. Expensive.
Pyramid Room. With the rapid growth of fine American restaurants in Dallas, this old standby ceased to be top-of-mind. But don’t forget the Pyramid Room. Under new chef Avner Samuel, the place is no longer erratic, and some of the best dishes are the plainest ones. Salads are excellent, the pasta is fresh and homemade (served with elephant garlic, which was quite interesting and milder than the name suggests), the chicken items (one served with angel-hair pasta and a hot chicken salad) are imaginative and ample, and the service is gracious and efficient. 1717 N Akard, Fairmont Hotel. 720-5249. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner daily 6-11. All credit cards. Expensive.
Routh Street Cafe. A dinner at this-one of Dallas’s two most celebrated restaurants these days-is always memorable and satisfying. But in the four years Routh Street has been open we have found it dependably erratic. The introductory muffins, salads, sorbets, and desserts always blow away all criticism; this time even the unlikely-sounding sorbets (chocolate sapote-sarsaparilla ice?) were as spectacular as the downhome-sounding desserts (banana-cream macadamia-nut pie with fudge sauce and blackberry buckle). But the appetizers and main courses are spectacular only some of the time; they can also be just a bit too experimental. We loved our quail with saffron fettuccini and our venison with a blue-corn tamale, but our black bean cake with sea scallops and our lamb with a guajillo-chile waffle (!?) didn’t entirely work. 3005 Routh at Cedar Springs. 871-7161. Tue-Sat 6-10:30pm. Closed Sun A Mon. Reservations. All credit cards. Very expensive.
Santa Cafe. Sam’s Cafe is the Southwestern sister of Mariel Hemingway’s chic New York bistros, and like most restaurants that open with a big bang, the place is usually packed. On one visit, me polenta of the day was excellent-crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, the golden slice was topped with sautéed peppers and squash in cilan-tro cream. Skewers of grilled chicken were moist and flavorful and the three accompanying sauces-poblano béarnaise, fresh tomato, and barbecue-were tasty. Sam’s Caesar salad is, in good Eighties style, “light”; though good, it’s not as redolent of anchovies and garlic as the classic version. Simple, grilled entrées, such as the semi-boned breast of free-range chicken smothered with slivered peppers, goat cheese, and herbs and the tenderloin with poblano béarnaise, come off better than more complicated dishes. Desserts provided, as they should, a pleasant memory of the meal. Apple cobbler was a soothing, grandmother’s dessert, hot and fragrant with cinnamon, and chocolate shortcake put an Oreo twist on the American classic. 100 Crescent Court, Suite 140 855-2233. Lunch Mon-Fri 11-2:30, Sat 11-3:30; dinner Mon-Thur 6-11, Fri-Sun 6-midnight. MC, V, AE. Moderate.
San Simoon. Richard Chamberlain’s food matches the splendor of San Simeon’s service and its subtly, weirdly wonderful interior. (Keep your eye on the lighting; it changes over the course of a meal.) Pick hits include a chowder of corn. wild rice, and duck sausage; chilled bow-tie pasta and prosciutto with sage walnut pesto; and Romano-crusted veal with angel-hair pasta and tomato sauce. 2515 McKinney at Fairmount in Chateau Plaza- 871-7373. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Sun-Thur 6-10:30. Fri & Sat 6-11; Sun brunch 11-2:30. All credit cards. Expensive.
Bay Street. Bay Street has made some efforts toward climbing aboard the Cajun bandwagon with such dishes as Cajun popcorn (fried crawfish tails), gumbo, and crawfish étouffée. Still, ihe^e Cajun upstarts, while respectably prepared, are outshone by the non-Cajun seafood choice) like a simple charbroiled swordfish, which was impeccably fresh and juicy on a recent visit. (And if you are optimistic enough to order swordfish on a regular basis, you know how rare it is when the meaty fish does not emerge with the texture of fish jerky.) Bay Street does well with bread and dessert, and has half a dozen white wines by the glass. Bay Street’s service is young and tries hard, and the setting is a handsome, hangar-like space. 5348 Belt Une, Addison. 934-8502. Sun-7htg 11 am-10pm, Fri&Sat 11-11. All credit cards. Moderate.
Ratcllffe’s, Apart from a tendency to overprice some items (S4.25 for sliced cucumbers in piercing dill vinegar??) and oversalt some sauces, this suave establishment deserves the loyalty of its marry local and business-travel aficionados. A ceviche of bay scallops and shrimp was simply perfect; grilled Hawaiian yellowfin tuna was properly moist in an admirable leek-laden Zinfandel sauce. A salmon fillet ordered poached “fas delivered grill-broiled instead, but its flavor and texture were so sublime, I gladly spurned the hovering waiter’s offer to correct the error. The day’s dessert soufflé (Grand Marnier) and the moment’s fresh espresso capped the evening very well. Check the wine list here- it’s one of the country’s recognized best, although the house by-the-glass pourings seemed as overpriced as the cucumbers. 1901 McKinney. 871-2900. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Sun-Thur 15-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. Reservations recommended, MC, V.\AE. Expensive.
Yoll’s Seafood & Grill. This plain-jane descendant of a more ambitious failed Pacific/Oriental restaurant in Garland is thronged evenings by Northeast Dallasites willing to wait tony-five minutes in line for a fresh-seafood f?t at under five dollars a pop. Willing, too, to overlook uninspired accompaniment*: shrimp scampi, for instance, heaped pink shrimp (more than a dozen) on linguini that was much over-buttered though nicely al dente; meaty scallops given the same treatment glowed with spicy Cajun beat, and a sautéed rainbow trout shimming in butter tasted wonderful once we separated the delicate flesh from myriad baby-needle bones. No one else seerned to mind that the vegetable of the day was canned new potatoes, served naked-while on one visit, brown-fried the next, or that neither dressing we tried (a too-sweet honey-mustard, a too-piercing warm vinaigrette) overcame the all-iceberg salad’s basic boredom. We could detect no crab meat in the cream cheese-filled crab Rangoon’s radier rigid pastry pockets, and Yoli’s cuts corners too by serving no bread, only saltines, and no water unless requested; but heaping helpings of hospitality set a merry mood tor the casual crowd that fills the tiny tables. Beer and wins are available at Yoli’s by membership-S3 a year-out ices tea seems to be the beverage of choice. 9220 Skillman at LBJ, Suite 124. Lunch and dinner Mon-Thur 11 am-10 pm, Fri 11 am-11 pm, Sat noon to 11; dinner 4-10 Ail credit cards, inexpensive.
Chaise Lounge. “This Is The Place Your Mother Warned You About,’j says the sign outside. The food served inside this dark roadhouse is swell: com and conch chowder, pan-fried trout, and rice and raisin pudding with heavy cream are transcendency noteworthy. If you don’t like to rock out to Cajun music, sit in the kitchen at dinner. 3010 N Henderson. 823-1400. Mon-Wed2pm-10:30pm, Thur-Sat 2 pm-11 pm. Closed Sun. All credit cards. Inexpensive to moderate.
Highiand Park Cafeteria-Casa Linda Piaza. All right, die newest star in the HPC crown can’t hold a candle to the original in ambience or spirit. But the shiny new Casa Linda branch holds its own charms for HPC aficionados in
East Dallas and elsewhere: it’s open on Sunday, which is when many wist after a cafeteria fix. And the food’s as good, if not as overwhelmingly varied. On our last vis il, I assem bled a fine) country vegetarian meal of macaroni and cheese (the latter probably processed, but palatable), collard greens long-simmered with cubed side pork (as they should be), and sliced cucumbers marinated, by some happy miracle, in vinegar without sugar. My companion’s fried whole trout had gone dry from holding over heat, but his tomato-avocado aspic wad firm, tart, and fresh, and his stewed corn was from the .an but passable. The cornbread had home-cooked crunch, and a huge wedge of angel food cake we shared was as lofty at, a minister’s Sunday message. The floor plan is cleverly arranged to shorten waiting lines. by the way, with separate loup and salad areas-not as scenic as the original’s approach, but infinitely more practical. 300 Buckner Blvd at Garland M 327-3663. Mon-Sat 10:45 am-8:05pm. Sun 10:45 ant-3 pm. MC, V AE. Inexpensive. -B.C.
Toiberts Chill Parior. Never underestimate the power of a legend. When the original Tolbert’s Chili Parlor downtown was rubbled in the name of progress, chili-loving disciples doubted any successor could replace it. While no spiffy fast-food castle will ever achieve the deplorable dinginess right-thinking locals loved, this latest Tolbert’s Chili Parlor, in me West End, does capture some him of the old Chilimaster’s irrepressibly bawdy spirit. Could be the location-deepest downtown, after all, is where any Tolbert’s belongs. Could be the Southwesternness of stone arches, armadillo an, pool tables in the back room. Could even be the food-somehow, the menu’s cutesiness seems less obnoxious here. Most specialties we tried reflected some care in preparation, and all ingredients seemed fresh and high-quality, The chili labeled Frank’s Original Texas Red wouldn’t win this year’s award at Terlingua, but it’s a respectable, if underseasoned, long-simmered version studded with bite-sized beef cubes. So is its companion brew. Stovepipe chili, a darker, slightly milder mole-style version. Donkey tails, a pair of cheese-stuffed hot dogs wrapped in flour tortillas and deep-fried, are an inspired Tolbert invention, and the onion-sparked mustard served with them is a robust accent. For my money, though, die burgers are the best bet-the Fredericksburger, a two-handed stack of cooked-to-order beef, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onions, is big enough to qualify as a for-two entrée, even without the thimble-full of too-mild pico de gallo available as a side order. 350 N St Paul. Suite I6Q 953-1353; 1800 N Market. 969-0310. Mon-Thur II am-8pm. Fri 11 am-10 pm. Sat II am-4pin, dosed Sun at St Paul location. Sun-Wed II am-midnight, Thur-Sat II am-2 am at Market location. All credit cards. Inexpensive.
Cafe Sport. At the weekend brunch there are standard egg dishes, and mere is also a version of me famous San Francisco dish, a “New Joe’s Special.” with ground beef, onions, mushrooms, and spinach along with the eggs. Weekday lunch has the broadest range of offerings, from sandwiches to an original-sounding buffalo stew served with cornbread. At dinnertime, the soups don’t show much promise. But the costliness of the ceviche proved justified by the presence of lots of scallops and shrimp and even hunks of lobster. The limey, cilantro-spiked taste of the ceviche was a trifle acidic but pleasing. Main courses offer things as far afield as veal and even fish, but the red meats arc the stars. The Sport Cut of prime rib, served with a huge rib bone still attached, was a Lucullan slab of meat, served with tasteless Yorkshire pudding and a vegetable of the day. The chocolate mousse pie was an unusual recipe-a cakey. almost brownie-like bottom and a layer of mousse almost like a topping above it. And the caramel custard was definitive-creamy, smooth, and rich with the taste of burnt sugar. 3227-C McKinney. 720-2233. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30 pm; dinner Sun-Thur 5:30-10:30, Fri & Sat 5:30-11; brunch Sat & Sun 11 am-3pm. Alt credit cards. Moderate to expensive.
Hoffbrau. Maybe you have to be a UT alum to appreciate this place, modeled on a famous Austin hangout. The mystique includes an aggressively downhome atmosphere, servers who don’t know much about the offerings, and a particular, rigid formula for serving the steaks; they are preceded by a salad that includes lots of chopped green olives, they are accompanied by long, soggy fried potato quarters, and they are doused by a sauce of lemon and margarine. The steaks themselves really aren’t too bad (though just about everything else is), perhaps because the beef is cooked in a pan or on a griddle, rather than charbroiled. This gives a more reliable way to gauge doneness and keeps the steaks from tasting unpleasantly overcharred, me way they so frequently do at the chain beef establishments. 3205 Knox. 559-2680. Mon-Wed II am-10 pm. Thur & Fri 11-11, Sat 11:30 am-ll pm, Sun 11:30-10 All credit cards. Moderne. -W.L.T.
Mortons Of Chicago. This Chicago steakhouse has wonderfully marbled and perfectly cooked porterhouse steaks. There are other options, including such non-beef I choices as veal chops, butterflied whole chickens, and fresh fish specialties, but Morton’s does steaks best. A soufflé dessert was chalky and disappointing. 501 Dm. 741-2277. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; dinner Mon-Sat 5:30-11. All credit cards. Expensive.
The Palm Restaurant. Garish caricatures of the famous and infamous cover the walls of the noisy Dallas branch of this New York steakhouse. The place is a circus, but the food is serious, though almost absurdly abundant. The gargantuan servings of meat and potatoes defy all rules of portion control; however tasty the food, it’s bard to believe anyone could finish a meal here, 701 Ross Ave. 698-0470. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-3; dinner Mon-Thur 3-10, Fri 3-10:30, Sat 5-10:30, Sun 5:30-9:30. All credit cards. Very expensive.
Ruth’s Chris Staakhouse. You get real Southern hospitality at this New Orleans import. On our last visit, drink orders and selections of cut and side dishes were noted with dispatch and we settled down to the business of beef. The thick porterhouse steak arrived, sizzling in a pool of butter and parsley: It was flavorful and cooked exactly to order, but a little chewy. The lyonnaise potatoes were delicious and more than enough for two people; the steak was supposed to feed two, but we took home plenty for Fido. 5922 Cedar Springs Rd. 902-8080. Lunch Mon-Sun 11:30-4 pm; dinner Mon-Sat 4-11:30, Sun 5-11:30 All credit cards. Expensive.
Bagaistein’s, As you go deeper into this storefront establishment, you discover that it is more than Dallas’s best bagel emporium. Past the bakery, there is a deli. Past the deli, there is a restaurant with several levels of seating. Here you can order superior breakfast specials, complete with fresh hash browns and toasted bagels. Or you can order elaborate sandwiches made from pastrami or smoked tongue, and other deli fare like chopped liver, lox, or knockwurst. Or you can order complete dinners, including surprisingly tasty broiled fish accompanied by pilaf and l fresh broccoli. Service has improved greatly over the last few years. Northwood Hills Shopping Center, 8104 Spring Valley. 234-3787. Mon6am-3pm, Tue-Sun 6am-9pm. All credit cards. Inexpensive to moderate.
City Market. Remember, a cup of soup equals one vegetable salad, two vegetable salads equal one meat salad, a bowl of soup equals one meat salad plus 50 cents, and sandwiches are only available in the other line.. There are some confusing features about the cafeteria-style service at this slick city lunch spot, but by the end of your meal one thing is clear: a better fast lunch will be hard to find. Ordering does involve some executive decision-making-it’s hard to choose from the wide selection of delicious, imaginative salads (almond chicken with rice, potatoes in pesto with i black olives, marinated beef with peppers), hearty soups, and excellent sandwiches. This is not the time to skip dessert-in addition to the apricot-raisin bread pudding on my last visit there was a glorious hot chocolate pudding/cake I thought only my mother could make. 200 Trammel! Crow Center (Ross at Harwood). 979-2690 Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm. MC, V; personal checks accepted. Inexpensive.
Petaluma. San Simeon’s takeout branch is very nearly as delightful as its parent restaurant. For breakfast, the alternatives include fresh-squeezed juices, croissants, Danishes, and blueberry muffins nonpareil. At lunch, the soup of the day is whatever it is at San Simeon and always a good bet. The cooling salad and sandwich options include chilled shrimp and bow-tie pasta with tomato, lemon, and dill and a breast of turkey sandwich with guacamole and jack cheese. Chateau Plaza, 2515 McKinney. 871-2253. Mon-Fri 7am-6 pm. MC, V, AE. Inexpensive.
La Pagoda. In the past, I’ve experienced the emperor’s new clothes syndrome in regard to La Pagode. Although I had heard numerous reports of excellence from restaurant-hounds I respect, I had never had a meal that was better than average here until I went to lunch with a regular, who simply asked the chef to show us his stuff. The results, most notably a shrimp and shredded cabbage salad with a peanut sauce, were dramatically more distinguished than on my past visits. 4302 Bryan at Peak. 821-4542. Mon-Thur 11-10, Fri & Sat Il-11, Sun 5-10 MC, V, DC. Inexpensive to moderate.
Saigon. First time 1 dined here, I ordered the shrimp wrapped around sugar cane simply to see what it was. Since, I’ve ordered it every visit because the dish is so transcendent ly marvelous-the shrimp pureed and molded around slim sticks of sweet cane, then grilled and served with lettuce and cilantro leaves, cucumbers and carrot slices, all to be wrapped in rice paper and dipped in hoisin sauce for savoring. Savory it is, and addictive, too-but we did save room last trip to find several other dishes equally stellar. Among them: chicken simmered with beer in a deep, rich tomato sauce with bread for dipping (we fought over it); a special-of-the-day fried catfish, succulent to the bone, in whisper-delicate barter; chicken done yet another way, in hot chili and lemon grass-celestially incendiary, if that’s not an oxy-moronic appraisal. Saigon shines with eagerness to please. as well as immaculate maintenance; the welcome’s warm. the beer’s cold (try one of the Oriental imports), and the place fully justifies its continuing eminence as one of this city’s most outstanding Vietnamese restaurants. 1731 Green ville. 828-9795. Tue-Thur 11 am-I0 pm, Fri & Sat 11-U, Sun & Mon 5-10. Ali credit cards. Inexpensive. -B.C.
LAS COLINAS/MID CITIES
Cacharel. This pretty establishment with a glassed-in exhibition kitchen has a fined price of $10 for lunch and $24 for dinner. The fere-including such Gallic classics as green salad with goat cheese, asparagus soup, scallops with an assertive tarragon sauce, and lamb with a natural-juice sauce-would be worth twice the tariff. Brookhollow Two. 2221 E Lamar, Suite910, Arlington. 640-9981. Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2; dinner Mon-Thur 6-10, Fri & Sat 6-11. Closed Sun. All credit cards. Moderate.
Hadary’s. They say the Lebanese are the French of the Middle East, culinarily speaking; the fere at Hedary’s bears this out. Middle Eastern cuisine is full of strong flavors- mint, onion, and garlic-combined here with finesse that makes them all balance. For a one-visit overview, order the maw. a selection of salads, and a meat combination plate. That way you can sample a little of everything: tabuli (wheat, tomato, and parsley salad), hummus (garlicky pureed chickpeas), savory fried falafel. lentils, cucumbers in yogurt, and a delicious batinjan mtabbal (roasted eggplant dip), along with freshly baked puffed pita bread. The meat plate features homemade sujuk (hot beef sausage), kaffa (ground beef rolls), Lebanese shish kebab, and a version of the national dish of Lebanon, kibbi. that compared favorably with my mother-in-law’s. Lebanese red wine is available by the glass; it seems rough till you try it with the assertively seasoned food. 3308 Fairfield at Camp Bowie. (817) 731-6961. lunch Tue-Fri 11-2: dinner Tue-Thur & Sun 5-10, Fri & Sat 5-11. MC, V, AE. Moderate. -M. B. M.
Reflections. Fort Worth’s most beautiful and most serene dining room is the scene for some of its best rood. The goat-cheese ravioli, served as an appetizer, sal in a creamy sauce and was dotted with caviar. Both the blackened redfish (ac-companied by Maryland crab cakes) and the juicy, pink rack of lamb were perfectly cooked. And the dessert cart offered a raspberry tart with a firm, crisp crust and a chocolate cake with rich buttereream frosting. Our only reservations concerned some of the sauces-both the vinaigrette poured over the salads and the sauce accompanying the lamb had touches of sweetness that were not quite subtle enough. The Worthington Hotel. 200 Main. (817) 870-1000. Dinner Mon-Sat 6-10 All credit cards. Expensive.
Saint-Emllion. Considering the four-course fixed price of $20 per person, it’s surprising that more Dallasites don’t make the trek to Saint-Emilion. The last time I did, the results were impressive. A thoughtfully put together salad (leaf lettuce, radicchio, watercress, walnuts, and bits of bacon dressed with walnut oil), textbook lobster bisque, rich spinach cannelloni, and creditable snails in garlic butter made for a great start. (Order the last with the boneless quail and you’ve got the snail-and-quail special.) Juicy swordfish proven?al and nicely roasted duck with cherry sauce were all one could ask for. (Actually, one could ask that the duck be boned.) For dessert, pass on the fluffy, lightweight chocolate mousse and opt for the extraordinary crème caramel. 3617 W Seventh. (817) 737-2781. Lunch Mon-Fri Il:30am-2pm:dinnerMon-Sat 6-10pm. Closed Sun. MC, V, AE. Moderate.
Barnacles. What a find! This place is comfortable, easygoing in the Lower Greenville manner, bedecked with nets and other bits of nautical kitsch. On a balmy evening with the front doors thrown open, it has that “Nawlins” flavor. The huge mural of the Mississippi past and present wins immediate entry into the Dallas Museum of Great Bar Art, where it joins the massive Mardi Gras heads that decorate Fat Tuesday, The menu is surprisingly extensive. We had tasty Cajun popcorn, followed by a creditable Fishing Camp Scampi-juicy shrimp, perfecto pasta, thick cheese bread, and carrots. The musical fere can be uneven, but there’s no cover charge, so who’s complaining? 1915 Greenville. 826-2623. Daily 8pm-2 am, Sun 7pm-2 am, MC, V, DC.
Club Dada. You may recognize the name from the avant-garde performing group, Victor Dada. That’s because three of the members opened it, and it docs have an eclectic style: new music and jazz and nightly versions of “performance art.” One of our favorites is the “Ward of the Day,” or “Monday Night Feedback,” where an improv team gives its own version of Monday Nigh! Football. 2720 Elm at Cromdus. 744-3232. Mon-Fri 4 pm-2 am. Sat 6pm-2 am. Sun 8pm-2 am. MC. V, AE.
Dave’s. Dave’s is casual, friendly, and comfortable-not because of the surroundings, but by virtue of a friendly staff, a casual, eclectic crowd, and great bartenders. No one sits in the uncomfortable metal chairs unless die place is too crowded to sit or stand at die bar, and no one can accuse Dave’s of being pretty, but the attraction’s still there-and the neighborhood crowd loves it. 2812 N Henderson. 826-4544. Daily 4 pm-2 am. MC, V, AE.
The Den, This dark, warm, intimate bar is located inside the Stoneleigh Terrace Hotel. You never know who you’re going to see here, if anyone at all. It’s the perfect place to meet someone for a quiet conversation. And if they bore you, you can always spend your time trying to figure out whose picture is hanging next to Bob Hope’s. Stoneleigh Terrace Hotel, 2927 Maple Ave. 871-7111. Mon-Sat 11 am-mid-night. Sun noon-10 pm. All credit cards.
Empire. At Dallas’s latest club to die beautiful people, everyone wears black, they all look worldly, they don’t all look straight, and obey absolutely adore mis former dinner theater on the edge of Deep Ellum. The owners call Empire “elegant,” “classical,” “modern,” “minimal,” and “international,” and the truth is it’s all these things: the most ornate, fashionable nightclub we’ve ever had. It’s worth an evening just to come look at the fixtures. let alone the people. 2424 Swiss Ave. 828-1879. Sun-Thur9 pm-2 am. Fri & Sat 9 pm-4 am. MC, V. AE.
Fat Tuesday. We’re glad mis bar recently celebrated its first anniversary. The drinks (potent frozen slush concoc-uons. many of which con tain 190 proof alcohol >, Mardi Gras atmosphere, and unusual bar food (New Orleans-style Po’ Boys and other Cajun staples) have spelled survival in these doom-and-gloom times, We only wish the dance floor were bigger and the music were live every night. 6778 Greenville. 373-7377. Daily 4 pm-2 am. MC, V. AE.
Gershwin’s Bar & Grill. It’s not, you say, really a bar. And you’re right, it’s not. It’s a restaurant that happens to have a couple of bars. But it’s definitely a necessary part of Dallas nightlife. The place is subdued and quiet so that you can talk without shouting, and there’s a cushion of canning sound from the elevated baby grand piano. The waitpeople are studiously unobtrusive and the tables are spaced fer enough apart to ensure quiet, private conversations. Around you, groups of well-aged Yuppies drink Cabernet Sauvignon and murmur and laugh like small clans of friends gathered around warm campfires to spend the evening. Gershwin’s is a great place to go when you want to slow down from die fast lane of other Dallas night spots. 8442 Walnut Hill at Greenville. 373-7171. Sun 10:30atn-3pm & 5pm-midnight, Mon-Thur 11:30 am-midnight. Fri & Sat 11:30 ain-1 am. No cover. All credit cards.
Improv Comedy Club and Restaurant. A good thing about this place is mat you can get pretty good (but not great) food and then be entertained all night long at the same place. A not-so-good thing is that if just you and your sweetie go, you’ll be seated at a table for four and they’ll plunk two strangers down with you. Another good thing is there’s not really a bad seat in the house-even from die back you can clearly see the facial expressions of the comics on stage. And another not-so-good tiling is that every comic in the world is not Robin Williams or Steve Martin-if you’re used to a steady diet of big-name TV comics, you may think some of these comedians’ jokes are a bit thin. But, hey, drink another beer and laugh. 9810 N Central Expwy (in the Comer Shopping Center), 750-5868. Shmtimes Sun-Thur 8:30pm, Fri A Sat 8:30 & 10:45. MC, V, AE.
Library. Sit back in die big, cushy den chairs and sip a Manhattan or a martini or a scotch on the rocks. No strawberry daiquiris, please; this is a bar for adults. But a beer would be Tine in this comfortable, sophisticated spot tucked away in a back corner of the Omni Melrose Hotel. There’s even a piano player to soothe your soul. Omni Melrose Hotel, Oak Lawn at Cedar Springs. 521-5151. Mon-Sat 11 am-2am. Sun 11 am-midnight. All credit cards.
Memphis. Don’t let the tiny dance floor (literally about the I size of a two-door foreign car) and die dark hue of the bar disturb you. People dance in the aisles, on the chairs, by die bar-mainly because this is the best live jazz-dance bar in North Dallas. Great local groups are regulars-like Emerald City and Schwantz Lefantz. Quorum Plaza, 5000 Belt Line, Suite 500. 386-9517. Mon-Fri 4pm-2 am. Sat & Sun 7pm-2 am. Cover $4-$5. Alt credit cards.
Miio Buttarfingar’s. This is one of the few remaining “bar” bars on the Upper Greenville strip. Milo’s has outlived the disco and the fern-even the upscale meat market. It’s a comfortable joint where you can wear your jeans (even if they’re faded) and play a game of pool, foosball, or shuf-fleboard with a buddy while sipping a longneck. A few years ago, owner Ned Smith moved Milo’s off of Greenville to a spacious, but modest, location around the comer. But judging by the fresh-faced college clientele, you’d swear he’d moved into the basement of the SMU student center. 5645 Me. 368-9212. Mon-Sat 11:30 am-2 am. Sun 3 pm-2 am. MC. V, AE.
Outback Pub. In an age where people actually pay bar consultants to engineer dives that are studiously raunchy and raucous (Dick’s, The Chaise Lounge), me West End’s Outback Pub is an Aussie twist on an age-old theme. It’s a pub. Novel idea. Darts, shuffleboard. pool, neon beer signs, soundless soap operas, good, cold beer. The food is cheap and filling; the karma is right for playing hooky from work. 1701 Market. 761-9355. Daily 11 am-2 am. All credit cants.
Plaza Bar. This bar is the perfect spot to grab a quick brewski and flag down your friends before making the great trek through the West End. Green and black marble, stone pillars, and black wrought-iron bar stools and tables make this a handsome hangout, but not a very cozy one. That’s okay, since the drinks are stiff and conveniently packaged to go. Part of the Dallas Alley in the Wist End Marketplace. 2019 N Lamar. 988-0581. Daily 11 am-2 am. MC, V, AE.
Sam’s Cafe. Yes, we know Sam’s is a restaurant. Yes, we know the burgers there cost almost $6. Yes, we know it’s die Southwestern sister of Mariel Hemingway’s chic New \brk bistro. But even if you aren’t planning to eat even one bite, the bar at Sam’s will welcome you with an open tab. A cocktail at Sam’s has now become the thing to do after Sfuzzi and before San Simeon, or before Sfuzzi and after San Simeon, or before San Simeon and Sfuzzi. Get the picture? 100 Crescent Court. Suite 100. 855-2233. Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30pm. Sat 11-3:30pm, Mon-Thur5:30pm-ll:30pm. Fri-Sun 5:45 pm-12:30 am. MC. V. AE.
State Bar. One sign of a bar’s success is the sighting of T- shirts emblazoned with its logo on the persons of its patrons and would-be patrons. By that standard. State Bar is nearly as successful as-and far more hip than-die Hard Rock Cafe. What has made State Bar’s martini-glass trademark omnipresent is simple: this is a bar for low-key Bohemians who want to have civilized conversation while gazing out picture windows facing the fairgrounds across the street. The subdued lighting-there are rheostats at each booth-and moderate volume of the music make this possible. All in all, the effect is of a gallery opening without the pictures. 3611 Parry. 821-9246 Daily 4pm-2 am. MC. V. AE.
Take 5. Though we were drawn into Take 5 by virtue of sheer volume, it’s hard to hit an off night here. The music is consistently good; on our first visit, Dallas Brass and Electric cranked out everything from prince to vintage Chicago. Even on a Sunday, there’s reason here to celebrate. Part of Dallas Alley in the West End Marketplace. 2019 N Lamar. 988-0581. Daily 5 pm-2 am. MC, V, AE.
Terilli’s. Terilli’s is always packed-with jazz lovers, serious drinkers, people wailing for a table for dinner, and Greenville Avenue wanderers. The bartenders are attentive and friendly; the drinks are on the money; the live jazz on Tuesday through Sunday is great if you can hear it above the roar of the crowd; and you can order Italchos-Terilli’s trademark Italian nachos-until 1 a.m. One caveat: the open kitchen is right next to the bar and it gets as hot as Hades on a busy night. Leave the sweaters at home. 2815 Greenville. 827-3993. Daily 11:30 am-2 am. MC, V, AE.
Tilt. This drinking man’s arcade is just die ticket if you’re experiencing withdrawal pains between visits to the State Fair’s famous Midway. Tilt is two long rooms lined with, among orner things. pinball machines, shoot-the-duck-as-it-bobs-in-the-water games, motorcycles-with-screens-mounted-on-their-dash-that-simulate-obstacle-course games, and games testing marksmanship with a water pistol that could make you the winner of that stuffed Spuds hanging on the top row. Kick back and enjoy being a kid again. In the West End Marketplace. 603 Munger. 720-7276 Mon-Sat 5 pm-2 am. Sun noon-10 pm. No credit cards.
FORT WORTH NIGHTLIFE
Caravan of Dreams. Caravan of Dreams, which covers three floors of a chic Sundance Square building, has excellent live jazz/blues (and a bar) on the first floor, a theater with movies and live drama (and a bar) on the second floor, and an outdoor patio with a cactus garden (and a bar) on the roof. 312 Houston. (817)877-3000. Hid-Fri5pm-2am.Sat & Sun 7pm-2 am. Closed Mon & Tue. Caver for shows only. All credit cards.