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DININ OUT NEW RESTAURANT REVIEWS Flying Burro Brings New Mexico-Mex to Greenville

Also: Eatzi’s, Tupinamba, and Shell’s Oyster Bar & Grill
By D Magazine |

FLYING BURRO

Word i las it that owner Scott Cain launched his new restaurant because he moved here, couldn’t find any place serving New Mexico food, and decided to fill the void himself. Maybe nobody told him about Blue Mesa Grill or Loma Luna, but that’s fine with me- Flying Burro’s closer to my house anyhow, and its open-every-day hours make it marvelously compatible to anytime appetites.

The place is pretty and comfortable, all clean, white walls, and clean, fresh woodwork, with intriguing black-and-white photographs punctuating the partition between dining and drinking areas; a Santa Fe-esque pastel mural involving giant peppers and wagons on one wall; a tangle of shed deer antlers topping the towering back of the bar, which is otherwise occupied by a jackalope (you have to see it to understand), and other whimsies as well as bottled stock. Mr. Cain has a sense of humor.

He also has a neat grasp of his cuisines essential basics. New Mex-Mex speaks with an accent different from the Tex-Mex we know and love, although the names and components are often the same. To Texas tongues, the most alien dish on his menu has to be something called Winnie’s Killer Queso, which comes as a dark, spicy, burn-the-baby mélange of peppers perhaps with some cheese, perhaps not-I couldn’t taste any. His kitchen’s stuffed fried jalapenos also depart from the familiar-the little green bullets, uncommonly crisp although pickled (he imports them from Mexico), are filled with vinegary chicken and cheese, all hot as hell. Even his nachos and quesadillas carry more heat than local standards.

The Burro’s chile sauces, though, were gentler on the tongue. They come in red or green, the latter supposedly more picante; but a lunch special of chicken enchiladas anointed with green chile-laced sour cream conveyed terrific chile flavor totally without pain-to my mind, the way the pepper influence is supposed to be handled. New Mexican enchiladas-fine, handmade tortillas, stacked, not rolled, topped with cheese and onions-were wonderfully zippy too in both red and green sauces. They’re offered with either; ask for Christmas style to get both; ask for a fried egg on top and the melting together of essences will set you free.

Not everything here is so successful-posole, the homey pork and hominy soup, was made with pork butt, for pity’s sake, and had been held too long on the fire; it was incredibly salty. Pounded chicken breast stuffed with chorizo, cilantro, and onions must have been baked too long; dry on the bottom, it had developed a bitter undertaste in its red chile sauce. The plate’s steamed calabaza (zucchini) slices were a nice touch, though, and the pinto beans served with various dishes were free, thank God, of the dreaded raw chile powder taste so often inflicted on them.

Warned off the day’s sopaipillas by our efficient and caring server, we tried the flan, and found it adequate if rather too dense. But hey, if that’s the New Mexico way, I can ride with it-there’s enough variety on the menu to make the Flying Burro a happy addition to the casual dining scene, for heavy heat lovers as well as us tamer types. -Betty CookFlying Burro. 2831 Greenville Ave., 827-2112. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Inexpensive.

EATZI’S

While it’s not a restaurant, Eatzi’s-a new gourmet-to-go market and bakery-has nevertheless taken Dallas foodies by storm since its January opening, In fact, you may well walk into Eatzi’s already crabby because of the always-full parking lot. Once inside, though, your senses are immediately assaulted by the Eatzi’s “experience.”

The first impression is visual-a sea of chefs in the open kitchens flanking the entryway kneading bread, stirring the contents of giant stockpots, holding loaded trays skyward as they jockey through the crowds, singing out “fresh food, corning through!” Way overhead, Italian opera struggles to be heard over the crowd’s din. The sense of smell kicks in as the heady aroma of fresh bread overwhelms you. Ahead ties the octagonal glass display case groaning with food begging to be chosen, so, senses reeling, you grab a basket and prepare for some serious decision-making in this market filled with “food for the taking.”

And such an array of choices: At the made-to-order sandwich bar are 14 types of bread, countless fillings, and enough spreads to make you dizzy. At the salad counter, where the wall is covered with bins of greens, describe the salad of your dreams and they’ll toss it together. For an effortless meal, scoop up a chicken as it exits the wood-burning oven, choose a steak at the butcher counter and they’ll grill it to order, or visit the refrigerated cases stocked with prepared food ready for a final microwave zap. Round out your meal with some fresh coffee beans or a bottle of wine (or mix-and-match your own six-pack of quality beers).

But, how does Eatzi’s score with that very-important sense, taste? A runaway success- breads, from soft rolls to rustic, crusty loaves, get high marks. At the deli counter, the quality of the house-roasted beef, ham, and turkey is unsurpassed, and the prosciutto is nicely trimmed. Prepared pastas reheat well, roasted chickens retain their juices, and the fresh fruit plate tastes as good as it looks.

There’s only one problem in the Eatzi’s concept, and this may well be remedied after the store has a few weeks to find its sea legs: The checkout system is simply inadequate. It’s as if the planners thought of almost everything in the way of sumptuous food and busy-market ambience-and then, moments before the place was to open, as eager gour-mands-to-go pressed noses against the glass doors, remembered: “Uh-oh. Money, Someone’s got to, uh…Okay. You stand over there and take money. They can just put their shopping baskets on the floor and balance their checkbooks on their still-warm loaves of Rustic Wheat. Alright. Open the doors.”

Eatzi’s will daze and amaze you. And once the checkout system gets smoothed out, we may rent an apartment next door and pop in three times a day. It’s that good.

-Suzanne HoughEatzi’s. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-1515. Daily. 7 a.m -10 p.m.

TUPINAMBA

Talk about pressure-your family has spent roughly 50 years in restaurants, and your 95-year-old dad, Forylan Dominguez, a Dallas legend, strolls in periodically to see how you’re doing with the current joint. Eddie Dominguez, owner of the newest fam-ily restaurant in Tupinamba’s long history, rises to the occasion with his incarnation of Tupinamba, which he says is the fifth location of the family’s very popular restaurants. From about 1947 to 1970, Dominguez’ parents operated their ever-crowded location in Oak Cliff, followed by sites on Lovers Lane and Northwest Highway. A five-year stint at a Midway and LBJ location (now closed ) fol-lowed, and now Tupinamba has opened on Inwood south of LBJ to immediate acclaim.

Dominguez says that he and his sons still put together the secret ingredients for his family’s recipes for chili and other dishes, mixing them in big buckets before giving them to his staff with explicit instructions on how to finish the recipes. Meals commence with the requisite bowl of tortilla chips, accompanied by zesty salsa-fiery one day, almost tolerable the next. A pitcher of iced tea is delivered to every table that orders a glass-a nice touch.

But then, everything seems carefully thought out here. Nachos are crisped, then individually heaped with shredded chicken and cheese, and the shrimp cocktail combines fresh shellfish with a drinkable gazpacho soup/sauce. “Tupy” tacos are deep-fried the authentic way, probably too greasy for most American tastes, but it’s hard to stop eating these tasty, unusual specimens. Sour cream enchiladas, packed with tender chicken, are bland but comforting, and only the fajita salad was disappointing, with its dry chicken and bottled-type vinaigrette dressing. Tupinamba serves generous portions of its stewed-type shredded chicken in the hefty quesadillas, a $6.25 bargain served, strangely enough for a cheese-based entrée, with a bowl of timid chili con queso-the quesadillas are much better matched with that assertive salsa.

Desserts are definitely worth ordering, whether the wisp of Mexican fried dough called sopaipilla, ready to be dipped in honey; or the praline pie, a decadent ice cream-based pie. -S.H.

Tupinamba. 12270 Inwood Rd., 243-2355. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 12-9 p.m. Inexpensive.

SHELL’S OYSTER BAR & GRILL

Despite its flaws, we couldn’t help using Shell’s, and I know we’ll return soon. The tiny restaurant in Snider Plaza is already packed with regulars. Perhaps these are fans of the site’s former occupant, Michelle’s, devotees of the bargain prices, or those interested in the new focus on seafood.

Shell’s food may draw a crowd, but it would be nice if the waiters didn’t act blasé about it-their attitudes smack a little too much of the familiar “I’m really an actor, this is just my day job” syndrome. And you’ll probably be as clueless as we were when you’re given an empty metal cup with the peel V eat shrimp. (Clue: Mix your own cocktail sauce. We had to flag down the waiter to bring some of the essentials, such as lemon wedges and a utensil to mix it all up.) “Survival of the fittest” seems to rule here; on a recent visit, two requests were needed to bring glasses of water, three finally produced bread, and one plaintive request brought extra paper napkins,

Still, when it comes to food, Shell’s fans have flocked to the right place-the food is solidly good, starting with the peel ’n’ eat shrimp-a hefty portion of perfectly prepared crustaceans. One evening’s fish special turned out to be a tasty, perfectly cooked thin cut of excellent swordfish teamed with lightly cooked vegetables and rice, but the grilled shrimp dinner, complete with slaw and fries, was even better. Only two of the dinners (both including steak) venture above $10; and sandwiches remain a bargain, whether served with fries or slaw ($4.95-$5.95) or with soup, salads, or vegetables ($5.95-$6.95). Cajun touches dot the menu, from po-boys to muffalettas to red beans and rice and catfish dinners, but Shell’s is hoping to establish itself firmly as a seafood house. Desserts need work; try an after-dinner drink or a cappuccino rather than the peach cobbler, an oversweetened, pastry-less concoction topped with aerosol whipped cream. -S.H.

Shell’s. 6617 Snider Plaza, 691-8164. Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Inexpensive.

THESE RESTAURANTS REPRESENT THE BEST in Dallas dining. It is implicit, then, that we recommend them highly. Visits by our critics are made anonymously to avoid preferential treatment. Listings are updated periodically.

The magazine does not review chain restaurants with more than three locations in the Dallas area.

Inclusion in this directory has nothing whatsoever to do with paid advertising.

KEY:

● Inexpensive: Dinner entrées under $

● Moderate: Most entrées $10 to $25

● Expensive: Most entrees $25 or more (Based on a typical dinner for one, not including drinks, tax, and tip.)

Barbecue

Red, Hot & Blue. This restaurant promises Memphis blues and red-hot barbecue, and it delivers. Go for the “wet” smoked pork ribs and add the dry seasoning that’s at every table, but beware of the blisteringly hot “hoochie-koochie” sauce on the table, The baked beans, with green pepper and onion, were tangy but the cole slaw was bland; we wondered if someone forgot the dressing, New potato salad, however, was chunky and firm with the right mix of egg and seasoning. 9810 N. Central Expy. at Walnut Hill Lane, Ste. 600, 368-RIBS or fax 373-FAXS for orders to go. Inexpensive.

Sonny Bryan’s. The basic barbecue sandwich plate remains as fresh and new as the day the late Sonny first lit the fire in the barbecue pit: tender, flavorful meat piled on a soft bun, accompanied by wondrously spicy sauce, smoky beans, and cole slaw with a hint of tartness. The onion rings are to be treasured, a crusty shell around a soft, piping hot, sweet onion. The food may be as good at the new locations, but like an old hometown, the gritty ambience of the original must be visited from time to time. 2202 Inwood Rd., 357-7120; and other locations. Inexpensive.

Brewpubs

Hubcap Brewery & Kitchen.

1701 N. Market St., 651-0808. Moderate.

The Rock Bottom Brewery.

4050 Belt Line Rd., West Addison, 404-7456. Moderate,

Routh Street Brewery and Grill. For starters, try the musky, rich mushroom soup and a heaping bowl of buttery ale-steamed mussels. Fried fish and chips were hearty and crisp and the Wiener schnitzel is huge and delectable. A hickory-grilled half chicken was to swoon over, splendidly accompanied by horseradish-scented whipped potatoes and a rosy pear-and-red cabbage mélange. The beer is also noteworthy. Try the sampler of five two-ounce servings that will help you settle on one to drink with your dinner. The desserts, however, were disappointing-the spiced apple strudel’s crust has a toughness reminiscent of microwaved pastries. 3011 Routh St., 922-8835. Moderate.

Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery. The best beer at this SMU hangout is the Route 66 Amber Ale; the strangest is Uncle Red’s Raspberry Aie. The food is hearty and filling-anyone who can finish the humongous nachos should receive a complimentary beer and Turns. 5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300, 696-2739. Moderate.

Yegua Creek Brewing Co. You may come for the beer, but you’ll come back for the food. The pheasant quesadillas easily win Bar Food Hall of Fame status. To quench your thirst, try the Icehouse Pale Ale and the White Rock Red. But 86 that Apricot Ale. 2920 N. Henderson Ave., 824-BREW. Inexpensive.

Burgers/Casual

Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. You loved it on Central. You’ll love it on Cole. Chip’s award-winning burgers are as good as ever served at the new location in the turn-of-the-century structure that was built as a Baptist church. The classic hamburger is a messy, delicious concoction. Seasoned fries, chicken sandwiches, grilled cheese, and salads are good, simple-if fattening-fare. 4501 Cole Ave., 526-1092. Inexpensive.

Mac’s Bar & Grill.

2301 N. Central Expwy., Piano, 881-2804. Inexpensive to moderate.

Snuffer’s. Every so often someone publishes the number of fat grams in a serving of Snuffer’s cheese fries, and we all pretend to be shocked- shocked!-and swear never again to let those straight-from-Satan munchies pass our lips. But inevitably we give in. Snuffer’s has a limited menu, but it’s hard to go wrong with burgers, the chicken sandwich, or the chicken Caesar salad. Go early on weekend nights, as the crowds build quickly. 3526 Greenville Ave., 826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd, Addison, 991-8811. Inexpensive.

Cajun/Creole

Café Margaux. Kay Agnew endows whatever space her restaurant occupies with a distinctively Southern comfort, as well as outstanding food. Prime examples: A half-dozen fried oysters, their little frills crisped with corn meal, came arranged on a pale, lemony sauce laced with nuggets of cracked pepper, while the day’s special of blackened halibut, with gilding pearly leaves of moist, sweet flesh, delivered a truly subtle murmur of Creole warmth in seared surface seasonings. Crestpark Hotel, 4242 Lomo Alto Dr., 520-1985. Moderate to expensive.

Copeland’s of New Orleans. The menu lists low-calorie choices like steamed vegetables and grilled fish, but classic Cajun food is the real star here-po-boys and deep-fried catfish, gumbo and shrimp étouffée. Don’t skip the thick, rich homemade ice cream or the traditional bananas Foster. Do, however, ask them to turn down the music. It’s way too loud. 5353 Belt Line Rd., 661-1883. Moderate.

Crescent City Cafe. Don’t come for the decor, with) its brick walls, wobbly tables, and neon signs; or for the service: Each member of the staff gamely attempts to handle two or three times a normal load. But seafood gumbo, a wealth of a meal in a bowl, is reason enough to become a regular; pair it with half of a po-boy, and you’re set for the day. (Steer clear of the po-boys featuring roast beef, though; this tough, stringy beef tastes like Mom’s overcooked pot roast). The classic New Orleans muffaletta sandwich, slathered with a tangy olive dressing that zips up the meats and cheeses, travels well-a perfect foil to airline food or something to take home for dinner. Sample those New Orleans-style doughnuts, beignets, before you leave, though-they’re best hot. 2615 Commerce St., 745-1900. Inexpensive.

Chine

Cathy’s Pacific. At this ambitious offshoot of Piano’s Cathy’s Wok, Chinese-American dishes dominate the menu along with “light and healthy” entrées. Appetizers both hit and miss- meaty honey-garlic wings start a meal well, as do skewers of satay chicken, but pot stickers disappoint with their nondescript filling, and beef satays are tough. Seafood dishes are a good bet here, and the single best item might be the Vietnamese bouillabaisse, loaded with savory king crab, plump shrimp, miniature clams, and seaworthy scallops. Cathy’s uses top ingredients, from jumbo nuts in the cashew chicken to the crisply sautéed vegetables in the spring rolls. Note: Food can be ordered moderately hot, hot, or extra hot. Go with hot.5950-A Royal Ln., 739-3378. Inexpensive to moderate.

May Dragon. Blending Mandarin, Hunan, Cantonese, and Szechwan-style offerings, May Dragon serves Chinese banquet-style dishes any day of the week. At lunch, try the unusual Ming lettuce rolls, consisting of a large iceberg lettuce bowl lapped with hoisin sauce and filled with minced chicken and vegetables. From the elaborate dinner menu, the Magic Seafood Basket of Maine lobster tail, crab meat, scallops, and shrimp in a knitted noodle basket was beautiful; the crab and lobster were exquisite though the sherry sauce was surprisingly strong. 4848 Belt Line Rd., 392-9998. Moderate to expensive.

Taiwan Restaurant. The menu might look like a lot of other Chinese restaurants’, but that’s where any similarity ends. First, the decor: These elegantly decorated, spacious rooms are lined with windows to take advantage of the view from Taiwan’s second-floor location. Second, dim sum is offered daily (11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.), and it’s authentic, complete with carts loaded with little plates of these Chinese appetizers. There’s sticky rice, egg rolls, dumplings, and much more. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 200, Addison. 387-2333. Moderate.

Uncle Tai’s. When it opened more than 10 years ago, Uncle Tai’s earned massive acclaim, but lately it’s been coasting too much on its reputation. The “two delicacy” cold platter spunkily begins a meal, especially if it teams slivered chicken in an assertive sesame sauce with peppercorn-topped tender prawns, but meals can slide rapidly downhill to candy-sweet “hot, spicy shrimp” and over-tenderized chicken with cashews. Spring rolls start off well, with a greaseless crisp crunch, but the filling remains a mystery. The setting, overlooking the wannabes on The Galleria’s ice skating rink, offers more enjovment than the food does. In The Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., 934-9998. Moderate.

Coffeehous

Java Island. With its jungle decor, you really feel like you’ve landed on a tropical island. But there is no Gilligan-like isolation here-scan the Internet on the in-house computers while enjoying one of the menu’s Italian selections or create-your-own sandwiches. Of course, the main draw is 40 flavors of coffee at $1,25 a cup. 302(1 Legacy Dr? Ste. 270, Piano, 491-1695. Inexpensive.

Java tones. Offering one of the least expensive cups of coffee among Dallas’ upscale Java joints ($1.60 per bottomless cup), Java Jones also has an Italian menu-panini, pasta, and gelato. The restaurant attracts a body-pierced, tattooed crowd. 3211 Oak Lawn Ave,, 528-2099. Inexpensive.

Deli

Gilbert’s New York Delicatessen. Mile-high combination sandwiches, best on rye, include The Brooklyn Bridge, a triple-decker of corned beef, lean pastrami, chopped liver, and onion, and The Queensboro Bridge, stuffed with turkey, pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and thousand island dressing. Be sure to sample the fabulous borscht with sour cream and die garlicky new cucumber pickles. For those who long for Eastern European dishes, specialties include stuffed cabbage, knish-es, and chicken or flanken in the pot. 127 Preston Forest Village, 373-3333. Inexpensive.

Street’s. This sandwich shop puts most others to shame. After chomping through most of Street s menu, one of our favorites is the V.I.P, a turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce sandwich. Another favorite is the vegetarian number with grilled por-tobello mushrooms layered with onion, tomatoes, and melted cheese. Two common threads: The bread is good, and the quality of the produce is high. For dessert, the buttery rum cake and carrot cake are especially satisfying, 4246 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-2505. Inexpensive.

Eclectic

Deep Ellum Cale. Alter a new menu premiered in December, regulars heaved a sigh of relief when they saw their favorites, like the multi -flavored Vietnamese salad, appear on the new menu as well. This way-too-loud restaurant wisely played up its strength, top-notch homemade breads, and expanded the sandwich offerings. The menu descriptions do not do the food justice-the Dagwood sandwich conjures up images of a piled-high sub, but it arrives gooily warm, a gourmet knife-and-fork treat, with an unmen-tioned side salad {like perfectly ripe fruit salad topped with strawberry puree) that fights for equal attention. Desserts, also homemade, are so rich that a bile or two suffices, although the chocolate terrine positioned on a butter-rich caramel sauce can lead you, trance-like, back for a tew more bites. This eclectic menu borrows from cuisines all over the globe, and pays plenty of attention to vegetarians. 95001 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 392-0894. Inexpensive to moderate.

8.0 Restaurant and Bar. Head here on any Thursday night to mingle with the standing-room-only, coolest crowd in Dallas. Even the non-hip crowd comes for Sunday brunch, especially for a courtyard seat, Healthful cooking is stressed, but pancakes, chili cheeseburgers, and bacon appear alongside the “workout omelette.” You’ll find large portions and low prices, but 8.0″s goal isn’t to attract epicureans. The “Lava Lamp,” an 8.0 drink involving jello shots and vodka, has a loyal following, and the blue frozen margaritas are nothing but fun in a glass. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 979-0880. Inexpensive.

Fox and Hound. Although the restaurant calls itself an “English Pub and Grill,” don’t look for load-in-die-hole here. Despite the silly British names that dot the menu, m’lord will encounter hearty half-pound burgers, steak fries, enormous onion rings, rich beer-cheese soup, pasta, blackened salmon, and prime rib. The beer list offers more than 100 labels both in bottles and on draft. But while the food is good, the service on two visits was extremely slow and inattentive. 18918 Midway Rd., 732-0804. Inexpensive to moderate.

The Grape. The interior of The Grape is painted to look mellowly aged, like a wine cellar, and it’s guaranteed to stir up romance. Chef David Burdette toils behind a glass wall, and a huge blackboard displays the day’s menu, specials, and wine by the glass, Whatever you order, start with the mushroom soup-it’s famous, and justifiably so. The menu changes every few days and includes classics like beef tournedos, osso buco, and grilled swordfish, each given a unique Burdette sauce or accompaniment. 2808 Greenville Ave., 828-1981. Moderate.

Sipango. Meals start off promisingly at Sipango, where tables are packed with the impossibly young, thin, and trendy. They dip morsels of the excellent fine-crumbed crusty bread in oil and peruse the very thorough wine list. There’s much to admire in this huge restaurant, where rustic brick walls and starched white linens complement each other. After that, it’s hit or miss, with food that often looks better than it tastes. Sautéed shrimp/corn cakes contain lots of rubbery shrimp and a stray kernel or two of com; the accompanying lime aioli lacks zip. So does the much-praised Caesar salads dressing. The best choices seem to come from the grill or the pizza oven, and a pizza topped with juicy grilled chicken, apple wood smoked bacon, and mushrooms nicely combines both. Desserts, from die apple pie with a thick. doughy crust to the gluey, odd version of crème brulée, disappoint, but the selection of after-dinner drinks pleasantly surprises, 4513 Travis St., 522-2411. Moderate.

French/Continental

Addison Cale. The intimate setting, clusters of long-stemmed flowers, and regal service bode well for a night of amour. Hot crusty rolls and a Salade Victor Hugo, greens topped with juicy grilled chicken, tomatoes, and walnuts, team up for a swell lunch; and a spinach, gruyère, and sun-dried tomato salad makes a nice segue into dinner. The heaps of vegetables served with the entrées are so beautifully prepared and cooked that it’s tempting to polish them off first. However, you’ll be devoting equal time to the beef tournedos in their intoxicating bordelaise sauce il you’ve been clever enough to order that, Prestonwood Placc-,5290 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 991-8824. Moderate.

Calluaud’s Bistro. Long one of Dallas’ most charming French eateries, Calluaud’s now concentrates on casual entrées and tapas, with an occasional “small bite” from the restaurant’s previous, skillfully executed, traditional French menu. Among the entrées, try the moist, perfectly cooked red snapper topped with tomatoes, onions, green peppercorns, rosemary, and a touch of vinegar, served with sautéed squash. And don’t be surprised if you’re sealed by the owner’s wife or teenage daughter, or if the chef himself, Guy Calluaud, comes out of the kitchen to sel a table or straighten the silver. 5405 W. Lovers Ln., 352-1997. Moderate.

D REVISITS Chez Gerard. This quintessen tial little French restaurant with its flowery wall paper, lace curtains, and cozy fed brings to mind your grandmother’s dining room, However, Grandma never cooked like this, and she sure didn’t offer wines like these. The classic French onion soup, crowned with toasted bread and melted cheese, makes a nicely sized, thoroughly satisfactory appetiser; as does a zesty dish of mixed seafood with avocado and lime. The heady-with-mustard dressing coating tender greens and wisps of mushroom make the house salad a winner and perk up the palate for what follows. The menu is resolutely French, with intensely flavored crawfish souffles, delicate beef in a wonderful peppery sauce, and the best pommes frites around. Desserts, from the cloud-filled praline soufflé to the crusty crème brulée, should never be skipped. 4444 McKinney Ave., 522-6865. Moderate.

The French Room. At Dallas’ pre eminent grand-occasion restaurant, the price is haughty, although the courtly and unassuming staff certainly is not. And the menu is charged with such romantic eloquence it might make the best-seller lists as The Dishes of Dallas County. But it’s not just hype-every dish we sampled more than lived up to its billing, from an appetizer of foie gras terrine with mesclun salad to a roasted breast of guinea hen, split and filled with sweet crab’ meat. Chef Donald Guillory’s cuisine makes dining here a special occasion. In the Adolphus Hotel. 1321 Commerce St.,742-8200. Expensive.

D REVISITS The Green Room. Chef Chris Pyun’s spring menu folds fusion into French with lively effect; witness briny little Malpeque oysters, clinging to their half-shell under dollops of colorful, crunchy fly ing fish caviar, a sweet rice wine vinaigrette stung with minced fresh jalapeno for dipping. Witness French Brie baked in puff pastry and topped with Granny Smith apples, onion confit, and oil-glazed mesclun leaves. Those were star starters; so was the foie gras-superbly fresh, barely seared petals crowning sweet potato puree and steamed spinach, a circle of candied banana slices completing the plates exquisite play of flavors. Another main dish, while more substantial, was less exciting-a not-quite-tender pork rib chop, thyme-roasted and stuffed with corn, bacon, and green onion hits, laid for some reason atop rather than alongside herbed mashed potatoes (can anyone see the end of this stacking craze?). An apple and dried cherry tart enfolded in airy pull pastry was delectable but: needed more of the raspberry-port wine puree barely painted on its plate. Next time, we’ll know to request a bigger brush. 2715 Elm St., 748-7666. Moderate,

La Madeleine. The original restaurant, open more than 10 years now. provides a morning home to dozens of breakfasters every day The menu’s a mixed bug, with hearty croissant, breakfast sandwiches sidling up to low-fat organic granola. The restaurant packs in crowds throughout the day as well, serving them bowls of excellent, thick, toma-to basil soup until long after the sun has sel. The Caesar is so popular that its croutons and dressing have been packaged for sale, as have the tomato soup and coffee, and there’s always a line ordering bread to go. New items dot the menu, including nicely grilled salmon and penne with ratatouille, but don’t worry-old favorites remain, such as the classic herbed rotisserie chicken. 3072 Mockingbird La, 696-0800. Inexpensive.

Le Chardonnay. Restaurateur Michel Baudouin’s same-name Dallas spin-off of his Fort Worth establishment serves the same menu as the original. Yet the two could hardly be more different physically. The western Le Chardonnay is merry and casual, while the Dallas version strikes a serene, urbane note. At both locations, M. Baudouin’s French fare is modulated to appeal to Texas palates. Black bean soup and beef tenderloin sauced with jalapeno and cilantro are popular favorites, as is a rather sweet tart featuring apples with purple, green, and Vidalia onions on sturdy pastry. A pan-seared veal chop with port sauce was flavorful. Finish it all with a lighter-than-air serving of Floating Island. 500 Crescent Court, Ste. 165, 922-4555. Moderate to expensive.

Old Warsaw. Romance is on the menu at Old Warsaw, with its candlelit atmosphere, unobtrusive service, and strolling violinists. The menu is solidly Continental and features lots of tableside preparation. The lobster crêpe, packed with cubes of sweet meat, makes an excellent appetizer, as does the rich, creamy Brie soup. The entrées include braised pheasant, rack of lamb, and sweetbreads. Crab-stuffed tenderloin, a favorite choice, is meltingly tender and a visual delight. The wine list is excellent, and you’ll have plenty of time to study it if, as often happens, you’re shown to the bar for a lengthy wait until your table’s ready. 2610 Maple Ave., 528-0032. Expensive.

The Pyramid Room. Despite the plush atmosphere and impeccable service, you don’t have to spend big bucks to have a fine meal here. In addition to the regular menu, there’s a five-course dinner for $24 per person offered nightly, with dishes such as Sautéed calamari, chilled cucumber soup, homemade sorbet, and grilled beet tenderloin on polenta. Dessert is included, and the beautifully garnished macadamia nut tone is a favorite. The lobster bisque is a classic, smooth and rich with morsels of lobster, and the basket of breads is irresistible. The wine list, recognized by Wine Spectator, is outstanding. Live music nightly, Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St., 720-5249. Expensive,

The Riviera. We know of no place in Dallas where food, service, and ambience unfailingly come together in a more pleasurable whole, from seating and gift hors d’oeuvres to bitter, smooth farewell chocolate truffle. Between those grace notes, every course shines with the exuberance characteristic of the restaurant’s namesake Mediterranean region. One appetizer featured rich nuggets of Maine lobster with fresh-scented celery root in sautéed cakes nestled in basil-lobster sauce along with infant leaves of arugula and cilantro. We also found a perfect soup: a chilled Provencal blending of fresh and sun-dried tomato afloat with ripe avocado slices around a crouton heaped with crab meat. 7709 Inwood Rd., 351-0094. Expensive.

D REVISITS Watel’s. This homey little res-taurant, half of it an art-filled cozy interior and half an enclosed patio, might have been lifted, menu intact, right off a Paris or Brussels side street. The menu features what few Dallas menus do. including brains, rabbit. and sweetbreads for sophisticated customers, but also plenty of pasta, grilled fish, and vegetarian dishes for the less brave. And a filling appetizer of toast rounds served with a zesty eggplant relish and an intense tapenade is a steal at $3.50. As enticing as these regular favorites are, don’t miss the daily specials, like heaps of incredibly tiny mussels in a cream-enhanced garlicky broth. Another nice touch: a cheese plate for dessert, with a half-dozen types of perfectly ripe cheeses, carefully trimmed fruit slices, and a freshly heated basket of bread. On lazy Sunday afternoons, customers can order from Watel’s regular lunch menu or opt for one of the brunch specials. 1923 McKinney Ave., 720-0323. Moderate.

Greek

Kostas Cafe. A light, lemony flavor underscores the saganaki, a creamy, mild cheese that’s breaded, fried, and served in flames, and the dolmas bulge with their rice and meat filling. The ever-popular spinach and feta cheese pie called spanakopita can be ordered either as an appetizer or entrée, and it packs a light, airy mouthful of flavor. Skip the dreary salads and move on to a gyro sandwich packed with lamb and beef, or kabobs starring succulent grilled pork tenderloin. Combination platters offer the best way to sample the menu, and be sure to peruse the wine list, with 21 wines available by the glass. The homemade rum cake may not be an authentic Greek dessert (don’t worry, there’s also baklava), but it packs a tasty punch. 4621 W. Park Blvd., Piano, 596-8424. Moderate.

Home Cooking

Barbec’s. 8949 Garland Rd., 321-5597. Inexpensive. Celebration. The restaurant looks like a house, with its wood paneling, fireplaces, and cozy furnishings. The waitresses are extremely friendly and chatty, and put you right at home the minute they bring a basket with melba toast, sesame breadsticks, and other packaged crackers to your table. The menu features such home cooked treats like chicken and dumplings, and turkey and dressing. While portions are generous, save room for the freshly baked rolls and muffins. No fries here; instead you’ll get a bowl of fresh seasonal fruit. 450} W. Lovers Ln., 351-5681. Inexpensive.

Mecca. On a recent visit we found the quality of the highly touted Mecca breakfast had slipped considerably. The gravy was downright thin and tasteless, and you can get eggs, grits, hash browns, and bacon cooked this competently at a number of places. Biscuits are harder to find, though, and the Mecca’s are certainly acceptable-fluffy and hot, but not remarkable. But this veteran establishment can’t be beat for atmosphere; it’s got the feel and the look of a truckstop diner, except it’s clean and bright and offers a nonsmoking section (and has enough non-smoking customers, apparently, to make that distinction more factual than symbolic), 10422 Harry Hines Blvd., 352-0051. Inexpensive.

Natchez. Southern hospitality is warmly dispensed here, in surroundings that suggest a large home’s dining room. The food’s markedly Southern, too-even tortilla soup, that Southwestern cliché, was gumbo-thick, dusky, and decidedly piquant. The small menu’s potato cakes, delicately crisp-skinned, were lapped in a sweet honey-mustard sauce; the king cake, a tender patty of chopped scallops, crawfish, shrimp, and salmon, came on a tangy tartar sauce, garnished with cilantro-kissed chopped tomato. Stuffed chicken breast was two half-breasts filled with crawfish and white cheese, bound together for cooking, then bedded on subtle cilantro pesto cream. Corn-crusted catfish, a huge filet, emitted a to-die-for fragrance and tasted as good with its unexpected beurre blanc sauce. But the big surprise of our visit was an outstanding crème brulée, its sugar-shell top still warm and crackling beneath the spoon. It blew us away. 2810N, Henderson Ave., 821 -4552. Inexpensive to moderate.

Poor Richard’s Cafe. Located in a strip shopping center in East Piano, this country cafe has been serving families and working folks for more than 20 years. The menu has a range of stout breakfast and lunch offerings. In the morning, the signature BBQ Omelet is a Western-style delight and the pancakes are light and fluffy. The waitresses are plentiful, courteous, and efficient. 2442 Avenue K at Park Boulevard, 423-1524. Inexpensive.

Indian

India Palace. With gracefully figured arcades, a glass window overlooking the deep clay tandoor ovens, and a bountiful buffet, India Palace can appear quite splendid. Try the mulligatawny soup-tomato with an undercurrent of coconut-and pureed lentil punctuated with a host of distinct herbs. Curried chicken is creamy, tender, and moist, while the bright-red marinated tandoori chicken and grilled flat bread or naan, both seared by the intense dry heat of the tandoor oven, are without parallel. End it all with a luscious mango custard or creamy rice pudding with almonds, pistachios, and a hint of rosewater. 12817 Preston Rd., 392-0190. Moderate.

Italian

Alessio’s. Among the frequently superb offerings, we especially recommend the light as-air gnocchi with gorgonzola, the grilled double veal chops steeped in five herbs, and the creamy, tomato-scented pasta fra diavolo. As an appetizer, escargot, tough and chewy, were disenchanting, all the more so when we discovered that our waiter had failed to reel off the day’s inventive list of savory appetizers. To compensate, we were treated to a heavenly dessert of homemade vanilla ice cream with blanched almonds, ripe strawberries, and chocolate sauce. Service, including frequent visits from the owner, was personable and caring. 4117 Lomo Alto Dr., 521-3585. Moderate.

Angelo’s Italian Grill. Hew to the spicier side of the menu-clams in red sauce over linguine, say, or Pasta Romano with Italian sausage, pepperoni, olives, and Roma tomatoes over penne-and you’ll be fine. Entrees in the white-sauce family, however, can be cloyingly rich, as was a three-cheese pasta on a recent visit. The Gorgonzola, Parmesan, and fontina swamping the linguine lost their individual tastes in the creamy sea, and only a heavy application of red pepper helped us finish half the plate. Bui given the at fable service, reasonable prices ($7.95-$12.95), and generous portions, we’ll be back-with fingers crossed. 6341 La Vista Dr., 823 5566. Inexpensive.

Campisi’s Egyptian. Shove open the padded red vinyl door, stumble to a leatherette booth in this darkened room, and plunk a quarter in your mini jukebox to have the Chairman of the Board or Dean Martin croon a tune as you sip Chianti. People swear by Campisi’s rectangular pizzas, with their ultra-thin crusts, but they use scallions instead of onions, and what appear to be canned mushrooms instead of fresh, so we prefer the heaps of red-sauced pastas, especially the cheesy lasagna. Herbs lace the giant meatballs, the scampi is a garlicky delight, and the light-tasting cheesecake (made by a local German baker) is an absolute must. 55610 E. Mockingbird Ln., 827-0355. Inexpensive.

Ciao Beta. The very menu begins the seduction with its lyrical, mouth-watering description of the cuisine of Chef Tommaso’s Italian home of Bologna; when our dinner was served, its exquisite flavor and the loving, handmade care with which Tommaso recreates his home cuisine brought joy to our palates and fueled the culinary romance. An appetizer of baked artichoke filled with veal, ricotta, spinach, and herbs seemed somehow to expand to more than the sum of its flavor components once it reached the tongue, and linguine with clams, herbs, garlic, and white wine didn’t disappoint. The star of our meal was a special, peppered salmon in brandy sauce, which was flaky, succulent, and oh-so-smooth, with just the right amount of pepper kick. 3232 McKinney Ave., 871-2074. Inexpensive to moderate.

Flip’s Wine Bar And Trattoria. Original art on the walls, soul music in the background (but not too loud), and eclectic, friendly servers make Flip’s a great place to just hang out and sample the unusual imported beer and wine-but don’t miss the food. Flip’s Italian nachos are a must-we had Texas goat cheese and red bell peppers on ours. Order some bruschetta with the nachos and it could make a meal, but why stop there ? The man-icotti will put smiles on faces and songs in stomachs. 1520 Greenville Ave, 824-9944. Moderate.

Joey’s. Every dish we saw or sampled here was beautifully composed on the plate and only three were less interesting than they looked-an avocado pancake, Joey’s Nutty salad, and capellini crusted salmon. On the plus side, Joey’s serves a delicious rotisserie-roasted duck with fresh raspberries and richly seasoned wild rice. Also good is the fazzoletto, a tissue-thin pasta handkerchief folded around arugula, spinach, and ricotto cheese. The shrimp and crab cheesecake with pesto was mouthwatering. Desserts were anticli-mactic after the meal, but the seven-layer cheesecake and house tiramisu are pleasant. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-0074. Moderate to expensive.

D REVISITS Mi Piaci. The artful, minimalist decor, complete with soaring, twisted columns, makes for an upscale setting, but Mi Piaci’s food would taste great anywhere. You have to like a restaurant that bakes its own breads (including killer breadsticks), cures its own olives, and grows its own herbs, Pasta, which you can watch Mi Piaci’s chefs roll, shape, and cook, never fails to please, especially the earthy fusilli with wild mushrooms. The menu always offers at least four types of made-to-order risotto, a classic Italian, labor-intensive, meltingly tender rice dish; along with Italian standards such as osso buco and veal scaloppine. For a knockout alternative, sample die mammoth, juicy, grilled pork chop, served with velvety sage-laced mashed potatoes, pungent oven-dried tomatoes, and sweet roasted onions. Hefty portions of garlicky bruschetta start a meal in style, and the lemon tart in a pistachio crust ends it on a light note. 14854 Montfort Dr., Addison, 934-8424. Moderate.

MoMo’s Italian Specialties This eatery plays like an Italian opera, from the soprano highs of the al dente homemade pastas to the baritone lows of its strip-mall decor. The pizzas (the menu lists two dozen mouthwatering versions) achieve perfection, with crusts that retain their crispness, topped with the freshest brush of tomato sauce and the softest puddles of mozzarella. The stuffed pastas, like lasagne, rotolo verde, and spinach-filled ravioli satisfy the heartiest appetites, and a pungent parsley pesto enlivens the complimentary focaccia. So far, excursions onto the second! piatti (second course) list haven’t met the expectations created by what precedes it. There’s no wine list, so bring your own Chianti. Be sure to end your meal with a slice of the chocolate mousse cake MoMo’s wife makes, or one of the many ice cream selections, each crowned with homemade whipped cream. 9191 Forest Ln., 234-6800. Inexpensive to moderate.

Nicola’s. It took four visits to this smoothly polished Italian gem before we could bear to order anything other than their killer quatro stagioni pizza (divided into four sections of artichokes, mushrooms, prosciutto, and tomato/basil). The pizza dough, like the homemade breads, gets its distinctive crunch from a high-heat stint in the wood-burning oven in this smartly designed restaurant’s exhibition kitchen. Homemade moz-zarella graces the pizza, as well as several of the pasta dishes, like the lush lasagne special layered with chicken and spinach. Minestrone starts the meal in a hearty fashion; it’s a better choice than the lackluster salads. A bottle of Antinori Chianti complements Nicola’s food perfecdy, and dinners end best with a dish of homemade gelato (rich icecream). Be careful, however, if you order the focaccia Nicola appetizer. You’ll never stop with just one order. The Galleria, third floor, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., 788-1177. Inexpensive to moderate.

Pomodoro. Here you’ll find fresh, delectable Italian pasta, frittatas, veal, and fish in a Napa Valley-esque setting just north of downtown. Go light (and cheap) with minestrone, complimentary fresh bread with sautéed tomatoes, and a Chianti Classico, or belly up to spicy Penne Arrabiata or Linguine Verde con Popla di Granchio (spinach linguine with crabmeat). Appetizers shine, especially the silky Carpaccio Pomodoro and bountiful Calamaretti. Service is spunkily efficient. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 871 -1924. Moderate.

Ruggeri’s Ristorante. This congenial restaurant has a following of prosperous regulars who swear by the dependable excellence of its cuisine, from crab claws Lamonte sautéed in lemon butter, garlic, and crunchy minced shallots to creamy zabaglione afloat with fresh raspberries and strawberries. The strawberries were winter-firm for our visit and should have been omitted, but everything else we sampled demonstrated Ruggeri’s exacting standards. Cappeline al Salmone was, as usual, a transcendent composition of angel hair pasta punctuated with smoked salmon curls and caviar in vodka sauce. Scalloppine aile Carciofo presented veal scallops sautéed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in a lively lemon butter sauce. 2911 Routh St., 871-7377. Moderate.

Japane

Hana. We give Hana high marks for authenticity, from the sushi bar to the tatami room to the stacks of Japanese newspapers and magazines available for their customers’ perusal. The Sashimi’s predictably good, especially the flavor-packed salmon, although the sushi list should explain just what things like “Texas roll” consist of for those of us who don’t know. Both the lunch and dinner menus offer bento boxes, Japan’s version of a com-bination platter, and these taste impeccably fresh. The crisp remplira shrimp and vegetables have only recently emerged from their hot oil bath; the chicken or beef in teriyaki sauce are minutes off the grill. Extra care has even been given to the salads, with slices of real Japanese cucumbers and flecks of grated ginger in the dressing. 14865 Inwood Rd., 991-8322. Moderate.

Nakamoto. Ruisseau Village, 3309 N. Central Expy., 881-0328. Moderate.

Sushi at the Stoneleigh. The setting here, like the food, is immaculately fresh. Blond tables and chairs and double doors opening onto a landscaped terrace create an airy ambience, and track lighting draws the eye to the knife-wielding sorcery of Chef Masa Nagashima, who serves up every known sushi/sashimi standard, plus creative specialties, from his 68-irem menu. Every bite we sampled was delectable, from the basic raw tuna, yellowtail, and salmon cuts to a more exotic spider roll of crunchy-cooked, soft-shell crab wrapped in seaweed and rice. Chefs-special baked mussels were divine, warmly blanketed in the half-shell by a lush blend of mayonnaise and golden smelt eggs. The salmon roe on seaweed-wrapped rice burst voluptuously on the tongue. Don’t forget appetizers: The miso soup, with hidden cubes of silken tofu, and gently pickled emerald seaweed were delightful. 2927 Maple Ave., 871 -7111. Inexpensive to moderate.

Kosher

Deco’s By Arthur. With textured aluminum overhangs, a black and purple theme, and a round neon clock, this strictly kosher restaurant is an attractive contemporary diner. You’ll find vast quantities of pizzas, pasta, and baked artichoke bottoms, and a $6.95, heart-healthy, all-you-can-eat buffet of salads, vegetables, and pasta. Among the many dishes, the mushroom soup and smoked salmon pasta are delightful. Several nights a week, jazz and jam sessions entertain the diners. (The restaurant closes for the Sabbath at 2:30 p.m. Friday and reopens at 10:30 a.m. Sunday for brunch.) 14 18 Preston-Forest Square, 788-2808. Inexpensive.

Mediterranean

D REVISITS Adelmo’s. Anyone here research-ing out-of-sync experiences? Here’s one for you: Our last dinner at Adelmo’s (two people, same table) might have been prepared in two separate restaurants, course by course. A starter of lobster ravioli was a lively, lovely affair, the tender pasta pillows plump with toothsome filling in a spicy vodka tomato sauce. Salmon tartare was a soupy mess-innocent snippets of fresh, raw pink lost in a near-liquid amalgam sparsely studded with onion and too many capers. The spécialité de la maison grilled veal chop was perfect as always, an awesome cut splendidly browned outside, juicy and luscious inside, large enough for two. A day’s special grilled trout was innocence betrayed again, by an unnecessary assault of strong accent elements- dried cherry tomatoes, capers, pickled artichoke hearts, and mushrooms, all heavy-handedly laid on in a florid over-treatment that quite overwhelmed the delicate, sweet trout meat’s flavor. Ah, well, the introductory tray of pickled vegetables was a charming gesture, our cozily close-seated co-diners all seemed happy, and service was as warmly intimate as the setting, if a trifle over-eager to push by-the-glass wine refills: Our glass was whisked away not quite empty, which would have been less cruel if we hadn’t meant to set one glass as our limit. 4537 Cole Ave., 559-0325. Moderate to expensive.

Cafe Istanbul. With its brick and whitewashed walls and heavy wooden tables, this tiny, comfortable cafe conjures up a Turkish seaside tav-erna, albeit in Inwood Village. The mood is set for a Middle Eastern meal that starts with meze, a platter of assorted cold appetizers accompanied by Raid, an anise-flavored liqueur, or beer. Follow with the Bolu Tavuk, a chicken breast sautéed with unusual herbs in olive oil or the tender and sumptuous marinated swordfish with vegetables. The perfect way to end the meal is with the sweet sekerpare cookies and a cup of thick Turkish coffee. 5450 W Lovers Ln., Ste. 222,902-0919. Inex pensive to moderate.

Méditerranée. This might just be the most inspired, creative menu in town, and the daily specials soar way beyond special (pray that lobster with Roquefort-whipped potatoes is on the list). The crab-filled corn pancake appetizer, with its mushrooms and sun-dried tomato/lobster/butter sauce, demonstrates how skillfully executive chef David Holben combines flavors and textures. 18111 Preston Rd., Ste. 120,447-0066. Moderate.

Sambuca. At the gorgeous new Addison location, deep, inviting booths with animal prints, a high-tech-bar area, and a forest scene mural all create a wild atmosphere that is good for people-watching and enjoying live jazz. Compared to this noise and color, Sambuca’s menu seems almost restrained. To start off a meal, the spinach salad with a sun-dried cherry vinaigrette and the appetizer pizzas get high marks. For the main course, the specials seem more assertively flavored than the regular menu items. For dessert, dive into the rich Romana Sambuca cake, which is drenched with anise-flavored liqueur. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison, 385-8455. Moderate.

Vincent’s Home Cooking. Mediterranean specialties such as dolmades, hummus, and baba ghanoush share equal space on the buffet table with salads and a variety of meats. Plus, don’t forget a slice of the homemade bread. The feast, which includes a selection of desserts such as chocolate cream pie, costs as little as $5.95. 2574 Walnut Hill Ln., 351-1860. Moderate.

Mexican

Cantina Laredo. Skip the wimpish, disappointing guacamole salad, and save your appetite for the Guadalajara plate, loaded with cheese enchiladas, a chunky tamale, tacos al carbon, pico de gallo, and a decent dollop of guac. Speaking of green, the spinach enchiladas here are for the real spinach lover; the leaves retain some of their crunchy integrity, spared the thermonuclear zapping the dish receives at most places. Add good chips, sauce that belongs in the Tex-Mex Hall of Fame, friendly service, strolling mariachis, mar-garitas with a pleasant sting, and you have just had a good time. 8121 Walnut Hill Ln., 987-9192. Inexpensive.

Casa Rosa. Traditional Mexican dishes are offered, but so are dishes mat put a California-type spin on classic Mexican by adding things like goat cheese, wild mushrooms, and mesquite-grilled red snapper. The interior appeals with its giant murals, spot-lighted plants, and a muted, comforting decor. The peppery salsa and thin, crisp tortilla chips awaken appetites, and flawless service moves meals along smoothly. Nicely grilled meat stars in the tacos a! carbon, and chicken enchiladas come packed with shredded meat and topped with a subtly smoky red sauce. Good, creamy flan stars for dessert, although “topped with fresh fruit” is a stretch for the lone, fanned strawberry. 165 Inwood Village, 350-5227. Inexpensive.

Chuy’s. Separate yourself from the roar of the crowd, and pay attention to the food and intelligent service-this is Tex-Mex with a healthy attitude. Charros, lightly spiced beans sans fat, offer a happy alternative to the refried standard here- and even that’s thoughtfully cooked with canola oil instead of lard. Fine, thin tostadas are grease-less; salsas carry fresh, addictive bite. House-special enchiladas feature blue corn tortillas stacked with big bites of smoky grilled chicken in a tart green tomatillo sauce; grilled chicken and cheese take on spirited tang with a more delicate tomatillo sauce made with herbs, sour cream, and spices. And a prime starter before all this is rajas con queso-chiles and onions bathed in a nippy white cream cheese sauce, thin but hauntingly rich in flavor. 4544 McKinney Ave., 559-2489. Inexpensive to moderate.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Start by dipping chips into the warm, piquant green salsa, wash it down with handmade margaritas, then opt for tart, fresh ceviche while you ponder: Barra de Navidad, enormous fresh shrimp sautéed in dia-blo sauce (coffee, orange juice, tomato), or delicate Snapper Mojo de Ajo in garlic and lime, or mouthwatering Filete con Champinones (steak with mushrooms and brandy)? Decisions, decisions. 4912 Cole Ave., 521-4211. Moderate.

La Calle Doce. Take a charming old Oak Cliff house, add a dash of restoration, stir in a smattering of family photos, cover with family staff and management, and you’ve got La Calle Doce, known for its outstanding ceviche; good, stout margaritas; and some of the best seafood around. The herb-marinated grilled catfish, served whole on a bed of Spanish-style rice with plenty of vegetables, can convert the most strident “catfish-is-so-ugly”snob. Owners Oscar and Laura Sanchez, along with Laura’s sister Alma, are ready to answer all questions and make informed recommendations. 415 W. 12th St., 941-4304. Inexpensive.

Monica’s Aca Y Alla. Her ads say she’s not beautiful, but Monica sure knows how to cook. She does, she does-and never a dull cliché on the plate. Her tortilla soup’s a miracle of textures and flavors that shames tonier places with its crisp tortilla ribbons and rainbow-pretty passel of vegetables. The salad that comes with it at lunch is all perky mixed greens, brightened with lime-dill vinaigrette. Pan-fried catfish is soulfully tender (if regrettably cursed with thread-thin bones) in gar-he butter lime sauce. And the brown rice risotto in mild chipotle sauce strikes a neat chord in harmony with sautéed shrimp. The key lime cheesecake is a favorite, the house flan is a lively gingered chocolate. Don’t look for the mundane here-this is one of Deep Ellum’s prime health-conscious, people-watching spots, even at noon on weekdays. Live music, dance rhythms as spicy as the food, is featured on Friday and Sunday nights. 2914 Main St., 748-7140. Moderate.

Plano Tortilla Factory & Cafe, Not exactly around the corner, not much atmosphere, and no alcohol served, but this little authentic Mexican joint will have you eating to the belt-loosening stage. Your best game plan: Arrive after 11 a.m., when your meal (dine-in only) will start with free, fresh corn-tasting chips, spicy salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Buttery tasting chicken quesadillas, stewed pork-filled taquitos, and a split com tortilla stuffed with inch-thick cubes of tender chicken team up nicely for a generous à la carte meal that would satisfy any linebacker, and would still leave enough from a 10-spot to pay for dessert and a drink. Combination plates, complete with rice and beans, average about $5. Make sure to take home a copy of the menu-this place does big take-out business. 1009 E. 18th St., Piano, 423-6980. Inexpensive.

Middle Eastern

AH Baba. Bring your family here for exceedingly low prices, abundant portions, and authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. Start off with the maza plate, a traditional sampler of hummus, baba ghanoush, grilled eggplant, and tabouleh, a parsley, lemon juice, tomato, and wheat salad. Then try the falafels, deep-fried chick peas and sesame seeds in a yogurt sauce; kibi, deep-fried cracked wheat and beef; or grilled shish Tawook, spicy chicken cubes with smoky rice and vermicelli. 1905 Greenville Ave., 823-8235. Inexpensive.

Natural/Health

Dream Cafe. Dallas’ most accessible organic breakfast spot, Dream Cafe unapologetically offers ultra-hip, ’90s-style breakfasts, complete with superb joe, warming the hearts of artsy advertising types and button-down bankers alike. Black bean and rice luncheons and alfresco din-ner-fests (Monday night specials include kid entertainment) should delight fastidious health-conscious types. The ambitious menu occasionally lives up to its glorious nouvelle descriptions (“Mystic Pasta, grilled chicken Brie, caramelized onions” and so forth); try daily specials for best bets. 2800 Routh St., 954-0486. Moderate.

Fresh ’N Lite. The name can be a little misleading-the menu does offer a lot of fat-free foods, but this place is out to please everyone, so the menu includes burgers, croissant-based sandwiches, and even corn dogs. Most popular are the enormous bowls of salad in 13 varieties. The Caesar features perfectly grilled chicken, olives, and onions, and makes a satisfying meal, although the accompanying pasty white rolls need improvement. Save room for a hot fruit cobbler. 6150 Frankford Rd., 713-8167. Inexpensive.

New American

Americana. Meals here start with crusty slices of bread just waiting to be dipped into a roasted garlic and sun-dried tomato aioli. The silky wild mushroom and cheese chowder is decadently rich. The knockout appetizer, though, was the smoked ham and Brie ravioli. Served in a bowl soup-style, their rich broth enlivened by fresh corn, herbs, and tomato nuggets, these ravioli tucked intensely smoky ham and earthy Brie between rustic homemade layers of pasta and created an unbeatable meal The inventive appetizers set the stage for equally tasty entrées such as roast chicken (pure comfort food gone upscale, with heavenly whipped potatoes and spinach) and peppery beef tenderloin comes with a wealth of caramelized onions and morels. Now if they’ll just warm up the cold, almost clinical atmosphere. .1005 Routh St., 871-2004. Moderate.

Anzu. This is the kind of place where no one will share appetizers-they’re too good. But Anzu’s entrées are as delightful as its starters; every bite brings a heady thrill of pleasure to [he tongue. Teriyaki grilled portobello mush room was a huge, marinated single cap, meaty as steak, sliced for chopstick convenience, and strewn with slivers of vinaigrette-zipped tomato and leek. Asian influences abound in Anzu’s self-styled “New American” menu and decor, from the origami birds fluttering from the ceiling to the sake warmed to just the right temperature. 4620 Mc-Kinney Ave., 526-7398. Moderate.

Beau Nash. The restaurant’s trademark grilled corn and smoked chicken soup turned out to be merely another take on the ubiquitous tortilla cliché, albeit a virtuously fat-free version. Pumpkin-brandy cheesecake was a rather too-solid ball thickly encrusted with shaved almonds-for the sake of a novel appearance, we suppose, at the delicate texture’s expense. Other presentations, though, were pretty without being contrived-grilled asparagus fanned beautifully under shiitake mushroom slices with peppered goat cheese;angel hair pasta lay heaped with lump crab meat and diced tomato on a wash of basil coulis. Creative pizzas (try steak), sandwiches ( try lobster), and entrées all speak with the lively Asian accents we’re currently calling fusion. The Hotel Crescent Court setting is splendidly casual; the service manages to charm without being chatty. 400 Crescent Ct., 871 -3240. Moderate.

Cafe Sierra. This casual, unpretentious restaurant offers dishes that combine Italian, Spanish, Ci reek, and Middle Eastern cuisines with Southwestern accents. About the most exotic dish on the menu is a portobello mushroom and zucchini sandwich grilled on rosemary focaccia bread with provolone spread, wild greens, and a sliced tomato. Happy tartness comes through in prosciutto-studded linguine and in moist grilled swordfish spiked with hearts-of-palm vinaigrette on a bed of seasoned couscous. A trio of marinated pork chops dripping in their brown-grilled juices would be comfort food anywhere. For dessert, a country tart with three types of berries in a flaky crust looked as good as it tasted, and the chocolate layer cake was a beautiful wedge of dark-brown sin.2900 Greenville Ave., 827-1813. Inexpensive to moderate.

City Cafe. Here’s what’s in store: Complimentary marinated vegetables and olives at each table, excellent service, white tablecloths-and an exhibition kitchen featuring chef Katie Schma’s innovative dishes, like escolar-similar to halibut but juicier and tastier-served vertically with cumin-crusted stacked filets sitting on Spanish-style rice flecked with tomatoes and onions, topped with fried onion shreds, and surrounded by drizzled sauces of smoked plum and cilantro-spiked mango. And brother Doug Schma makes chocolate Kahlua cake: layers of meringue ami buttercream… mmm. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 351-2233. Moderate.

Dakota’s. The outdoor patio here, with its fiveriered waterfall and hundreds of tiny while bulbs, is one of the most romantic spots in town. Sample appetizers like smoky grilled portobello mushrooms, tiny, delicate crab cakes, and smoked chicken quesadillas; revel in soups like smoked chicken chowder; and try not to become addicted to the lamb chops, served with pots of mint jelly, feta cheese vinaigrette, and angel hair pasta. But, whatever you do, save room for the homemade desserts-cheesecake, “ooey-gooey” brownies, and the divine, sweet-tart Key lime pie. 600 N. Akard St., 740-4001. Moderate.

Landmark Restaurant. Ensconced in the mellow confines of the grand Melrose Hotel is a piquant treat: the “New World” cuisine of the Landmark Restaurant. Influences of the Far East are evident in such creations as “pressed sushi” with daikon and beet confetti salad, it’s lovely, with rounds of firm fish sided with crisp, white radish and scarlet beet, but be warned-the dish is incendiary, even the rice. The spicy presence, though assertive, is just right in masterpieces like the grilled rack of lamb. In the Melrose Hotel, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 521-5151. Moderate to expensive.

Laurels. Everything about this lofty restaurant- atop a North Dallas hotel-does more than just look good. The space is lavish, the view is spectacular, and the New American cuisine is dazzling. A recently introduced prix fixe menu melds North and South American foods in a selection of health-aware appetizers, entrées, and desserts labeled with their calorie and fat contents for $49.50, including wine, beer, or soft drinks, and coffee. Or try entrées like the mixed grill-antelope, lamb, and quail, all splendidly set out on a sun-dried cherry sauce and gilded with pear-jalapeno chutney. In the Sheraton Park General, 12720 Merit Dr.’, 385-3000. Expensive.

D REVISITS The Mansion on Turtle Creek. We’ve never spent a more pleasant evening nor been more tenderly served than at the Mansion on this most recent visit. Nor had better food-the near-brashness that has at times marked chef Dean Fearing’s cuisine as more showy than soul-satisfying has been polished into a sophistication and balance that justify the international recognition he has received. Take two starters: A mammoth orange-caramelized sea scallop partnered divine flash-seared foie gras on a duck confit crêpe with blackened turnip slices and gingered currant sauce; and risotto perfumed with Oregon truffles offered gentle counterpoint to pesto-glazed shrimp with tomato essence and grilled zucchini salad. A request to split an entrée was honored without a murmur of condescension, and the ranch-reared antelope proved adequate for two, a substantial cut, rare and honey-glazed on a hearty posole stew gilded with roast yellow tomato, punctuated with barbecued venison fajitas. A less costly tasting menu ($65 complete) was as outstandings-bay scallops on deep-flavored fennel puree with basil-creamed noodles; a curl of warm lobster and shrimp fritters with celery root in a salad dressed with truffle-tomato vinaigrette; pan-fried golden trout so succulent its layers slipped apart like satin, with parsley potatoes, black trumpet mushrooms, a crunchy bouquet of minced parsnips, young asparagus, and green beans completing the plate. Hang the cost. Go there. Do that. And don’t be dismayed if you mention wine by the glass and the sommelier drops you like a stone-its just his way. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd., 559-2100. Expensive.

Nana Grill. The hotel’s name may have changed, but people-watching in the Wyndham Anatole Hotel lobby won’t-sheiks and secretaries, politicians and potentates, conventioneers and corporate power brokers. But sit in the 27th-fioor Nana Grill and you’ll feel you could buy and sell them all-partly because of the altitude, the plush decor, and the staffs polished competence, of course, but also because of chef Scott Blackerby’s cosmopolitan fare-like the ambrosial baked oysters with cilantro pesto, a trademark house favorite. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel tower, 2201 Stemmons Fwy., 761-7479. Expensive.

D REVISITS Yellow. With new chef Christian Svalesen, a new seafood-rich menu that displays his talents, and lowered prices, Yellow scores a triple play. The potent Utile pots of garlic butter make it easy to polish off the crusty bread as you admire the crisp, clean decor-a white palette accented with clear, bright blue and, of course, yellow. You’ll find almost as many appetizers as entrées, and here, finally, is a restaurant that does both equally well. The best appetizer ranks among the best in town-a crab cake packed with Dungeness crab, lightly crusted, perched on a tantalizing coriander sauce. Among the lunch choices is a winner of a grilled salmon club sandwich, although it’s impossible to eat without a knife and fork. The dinner menu includes tasty options, like duckling in blackberry sauce, for those who don’t like seafood, but make sure that someone at your table orders the aptly named pyramid of swordfish. Desserts, especially the pistachio crème brulée, don’t disappoint-now, if only they’d expand the list. 2719 McKinney Ave., 871-1772. Moderate.

Seafood

Cale Pacific. Magical food: a starter of lime-seasoned ceviche was as tony as the clientele, an extravagance of lobster and shrimp chunks with bay scallops, all bedded on jicama matchsticks and deep-green ribbons of spinach. A day’s special entrée starring Gulf red snapper was even prettier, the fish delicately moist inside a crisp corn-tortilla crust atop a fine, crunchy salsa balancing tart tomatillo and sweet diced pineapple, Hie too-sweet nubbly crust on a warm apple crisp dessert overwhelmed its firm, fresh fruit filling, but the vanilla bean ice cream that crowned the whole affair helped cut the sweetness, as did bracing espresso. 24 Highland Park Village, Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane, 526-1170. Moderate to expensive.

Daddy Jack’s. Try steamed Manila clams, plump fresh things, their sturdy feet clinging stubbornly to shells, freckled with minced garlic crunch in dippin’-good broth. Savor an entree-sized appetizer of fresh mixed salad greens bedding meaty portobello mushrooms overlapped with ripe peeled tomato slices drizzled with Balsamic vinaigrette. Share a snapper and lobster tail special, sauced with spicy beurre blanc that nips you with warm afterburn-but only with someone you love enough to let him or her nibble at your big baked potato and sweet, barely steamed corn on the cob. One safe bet: Nobody goes home from here hungry. Or feeling neglected, either. 1916 Greenville Ave., 826-4910. Moderate.

Eighteen-O-one. Owned by well-known caterer Daryl Richardson, this West End eatery in the Dallas World Aquarium features a superb, aquatically inspired menu reflecting the four regions from which the aquarium’s fish hail. Start with the warm bread and a cup of Daryl’s famous corn chowder, a spicy blend of fresh corn, peppers, and chunks of potatoes in a creamy base. Some of the international delicacies include coconut shrimp, quesadilla del Dia, saté of the day, and an Australian grilled sandwich. Or try one of the house specialties such as the grilled Caesar salad or crab cakes. Top it all off with ice cream and a homemade brownie. You’ll have to pay the admission fee for the aquarium in order to get to the restaurant, so plan some extra time to tour the museum, either to work up an appetite or walk off your meal. 1801 N. Griffin St., 720-2224. Inexpensive.

Joe’s Crab Shack. This kitsch-filled restaurant, complete with a whale swimming overhead, wants its customers to feel like they’ve paused, mid-scuba dive, for a meal. And it is a bubbly place, with some of the perkiest servers around. Whack the blue crabs with a wooden mallet, dunk the sweet meat in the melted butter, toss the shells in the recessed bucket in the table, and repeat, pausing only for slugs of beer. The crab bisque adds just the right spicy note, and, if your cholesterol level allows it, the crab fingers and fried shrimp can’t be beat. 3855 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 247-1010. Inexpensive to moderate.

Lulu’s Bait Shack. The old Crackers location has been transformed into a ramshackle, faux-bayou hangout serving an array of authentic Cajun cuisine with regional nuances ranging from hot to hotter. Buffalo shrimp are hotsy-totsies nicely balanced in a blue cheese dip, and jambalaya carries a major kick. For tamer tongues, try the Chicken Rockafella with oysters, cheese, and spinach. Homey mashed Mardi Gras pasta is a mixture of fresh vegetables with capers and sun-dried tomatoes, while a lunch trip’s oyster po-boy proved a happy marriage of corn meal-battered oysters with tomato, lettuce, and mayo, the plate fetchingly sprinkled with paprika. One warning: The house drink is a 96-ounce fishbowl containing various types of alcohol, served with a plastic alligator and several straws. Share with friends, or the bon temps may roulez all over your head. 2621 McKinney Ave., 969-1927. Inexpensive to moderate.

Mainstream Fish House. The name, smacking of inoffensive blandness, is deceiving: These people know food. Bread pot shrimp-a hollowed out loaf of sourdough filled with the sautéed sea creatures-and creamy crab cakes are not to be missed. Go for the daily specials-a good Canadian salmon for $12.95 or chargrilled tuna at $ 11.95 with two side orders. Key lime pie provides the perfect ending to a pleasant meal. Preston Forest Shopping Center, 11661 Preston Rd., Ste. 153,739-3474. Moderate.

Newport’s. Entering Newport’s in the West End’s historic brewery building, with its tables set on semicircular rings leading toward a seemingly bottomless pit, seems at first like descending into Dante’s Inferno. But the food is heavenly. New England clam chowder was rich, creamy, and delicious. Mesquite grilled Maine lobster was so meaty, moist, succulent, and filled with coral or roe that we ate almost everything but the gills. For dessert try the Kahlua Nest. 703 McKinney Ave., 954-0220. Moderate.

Remington’s Seafood Gril. The menu here has its highs and lows. Crab cakes are nicely meaty, teamed well with fresh chopped slaw and skin-on fries. However, scoops of margarine, not butter, accompany the baskets of good bread and the baked potatoes, which are further insulted by promised chives. Skip the clam chowder in favor of the sprightly Caesar, and be sure to order the tiniest, tastiest dessert around, the $1.39 sundae-a mini-scoop of vanilla ice cream awash in caramel and fudge sauces, topped with chopped Hershey’s kisses. 4580 Belt Line Rd., 386-0122. Moderate.

The Roaring Fork. Restaurateurs Phil and Janet Cobb, savvy masters at creating first-class impact, have unveiled a restaurant as intriguing as its odd name. Fresh seafood, flown in daily, receives major emphasis here, from Blue Point and Malpeque oysters, divine in their briny liquor, to an Alaskan crab claw that made us wonder why some seafood is cooked at all. Worth the trip alone, was the signature appetizer called Duck Cigars-Asian egg rolls holding braised duck leg meat spiked with jalapeno and cilantro. A crawfish cake was less memorable, but crisp-skinned. Maytag blue cheese enlivened a wonderful salad with fanned pear slices and gave zip to the grits that came with the half-split, double pork chop and apple fritters. The nearest we came to disappointment was with the veal tenderloin that arrived as slightly overcooked medallions; the wild mushrooms in a brartdied cream sauce overwhelmed the veal’s delicate flavor. However, the succulent swordfish steak coated with a horseradish crust found the perfect partners in its mustard cream sauce and wild rice cake. 14866 Montfort Dr., 387-3675. Expensive.



S&D Oyster Company. The interior is cool pale yellow and white, though the mostly fried food is not as light as the atmosphere. We suggest you skip the shrimp dip and go straight for the fresh oysters on the half shell. The menu does offer a few selections of broiled fish, but we recommend the fried oysters with French fries and hush-puppies fora rare treat in these low-fat times. Finally, cleanse your palate with a refreshing piece of lemon pie. 2701 McKinney Ave., 880-0111. Moderate.

Sea Grill. Chef Andy Tun s Thai roots put an Asian-American spin on classic seafood dishes like mussels in lemongrass broth, and smoked salmon appetizer with capers, caviar, dill, horseradish, and toasted pumpernickel. At night, with soft lighting, Harry Connick Jr. in the background, and a bottle from the nicely priced wine list, you might even forget you’re next door to a Fuddrucker’s and a Ming Garden. 2205 N. Central Expy., Ste. 180, Piano, 509-5542. Moderate.

Southwestern

Lavaca Cantina. The cantina sits with three other restaurants in the entertainment-restaurant-bar complex known as Pepper Square. The menu offers cowboy chow-grilled food, Mexican specialties, and lots of stuff for snacking. The best thing we tried was the jerk chicken and Key lime mustard slaw sandwich. The fun-filled cantina steals the show at happy hour, when 26 types of tequila draw some serious attention and the appetizer list gets a workout. If you’re going just for the food, lunch is a better deal. 14902 Preston Rd., Ste. 700 in Pepper Square, 458-0458. Moderate.

Loma Luna Cafe. Muted, soft earth tones, subtle lighting, and good art provide a tranquil setting for meals that start with hot chips and two assertively spicy salsas. The Botanas Platter, a generous assortment of appetizers, also zings the taste buds. Entrées, though, can be curiously bland, as though made by a different chef altogether. Silky Man and honey-drizzled Navajo fry bread ends the meal on a sweet note. Brunch, offered on both Saturdays and Sundays, is a $10.95 bargain, and offers a welcome change of pace-eggs scrambled with smoked mushrooms, onions, and poblano peppers. Most entrées come with home fries and beans, and you’ll also be served blue com muffins, a fruit cup, a bottomless glass of champagne, and coffee. 8201 Preston Rd., Ste. 100, 691 1552. Inexpensive.

D REVISITS Star Canyon. Yes, Stephan Pyles’ wildly popular establishment really is booked for dinner four weeks in advance. Unless you’re willing to dine after nine o’clock on an early weeknight as we did. And yes, the dinner was worth the drill-Pyles has a gift for slipping happy little surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes. Garlic potato soup, for instance, hid crunchy niblets of mild garlic in its creamy depths, as well as golden cubes of baked sweet potato. A grilled quail was not only halved but boned on a first-course plate mounded with arugula that coyly concealed poached pear slices and zip-spiked Cajun pecans. Coriander-cured venison lived up to its legendary reputation, grilled rare and sliced into rosy petals complemented by whipped yam and an assertive dried fruit empanada; and pan-seared salmon staked its own claim to stellar status sided with a musky black bean-roast banana mash fired with coconut-serrano broth. Even as simple a dessert as bread pudding departs from the commonplace here-the bread’s brioche, dark chocolate enriched; the sauce is sambuca-scented in gentle milk chocolate; the combination of subtle flavors and smooth texture is transcendent. Service was friendly and fast, as always, and we salute a wine list that covers a comfortable price range, as well as overall menu prices lower than many restaurants of lesser rank charge. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 520-7827. Moderate to expensive.

Steakhouses

Bob’s Steak & Chop House. Bob’s packs a crowd, belying the notion that people aren’t eating much beef anymore. Sure, the menu offers plenty offish and seafood, as well as enough appetizers, salads, and vegetables to satisfy any vegetarian’s hunger; but beef rules in these richly appointed dining rooms. Options abound-three sizes each of filets and strip steaks, a 16-ounce prime T-bone, and a darling 28-ounce prime porterhouse are just a few of the choices. The rib-eye, cooked to a crust outside and tender inside, couldn’t be better; although the juicy rack of lamb offers heads-on competition. Unlike most steakhouses, Bob’s offers accompaniments-a choice of potatoes (pick the garlicky “smashed” potatoes) and a sweet, whole steamed carrot, free with each meal. Equal attention has been given to the massive salads here, from a classic rendition of a Caesar to a meal-in-itself spinach bacon salad. 4300 Lemmon Ave., 528-9446. Moderate to expensive.

Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House. Pace yourself here. The perky garlicky aioli, spread on airy, lightly crispy rolls, can cause you to empty the breadbasket, but save room for the black bean soup, an intense, smoky bowl of pureed magic. The crisp deviled crab cakes, in their subtle mustard sauce, can also start a meal in fine style. As tender and juicy as the lamb chops are, beef is the reason to visit Chamberlain’s, and prime rib heads the roster of favorites. Horseradish-whipped mashed potatoes star on the list of side dishes, although the fresh, bacon-laced corn casserole finishes a close second. Desserts, while respectable, don’t reach the same heights as the food that precedes them. 5330 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 934-2467. Moderate.

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. This is a “he-man” of a restaurant, complete with a bustling bar of regulars slapping each other on the back. The wine list is huge, filled mainly with lots of expense-account bottles, but bargains can be found among them. (The wines available by the glass seem to be a pitiful afterthought.) The menu is just what you’d expect, with lots of meat and side dishes, lobster, and a token fish of the day, The two prime cuts, a rib-eye and a strip, are the best steaks on the menu, and they’re rich in flavor and perfectly cooked. Service is fast-paced unless you request otherwise. 5251 Spring Valley Rd., 490-9000. Expensive.

Kirby’s Steakhouse. The return of the old Greenville favorite is apparently pleasing a wide range of diners: Clientele includes dating teenagers, families with kids, and nostalgic past patrons. While the born-again Kirby’s is under new ownership, the clubby, comfortable restaurant relies heavily on recipes from the past: Steaks are cooked to perfection and have a hint of the forbidden flavor of fat. The new menu reflects ’90s notions with pasta, chicken, and seafood. The fried okra appetizer just may be the best in town. 3525 Greenville Ave., 821-2122. Moderate to expensive.

Morton’s of Chicago. If you’re an unrepentant carnivore who just doesn’t care that huge slabs of juicy red rib-eye steak and chops of veal aren’t chic any more, Morton’s is for you-and your more nutritionally correct family and friends can enjoy lobster, shrimp, or chicken as well as simply prepared fresh fish. Understatement reigns here, from dark wood to etched glass, starched white linens, and muted Sinatra, and there are more than 30 martini varieties. 501 Elm St., 741-2277. Expensive.

The Palm. Imported during Dallas’ roaring ’80s, The Palm has handily held its own. The insouciant service and lack of cushiony frills bespeak a brawling, brassy, particularly Texan attitude, and the food, from lamb to linguine, veal to seafood, vegetable sides to salads-and unforgettable steaks and lobster-is superb. This New York import flatters its clientele-political figures, business executives, and VIPs-by splashing their colorful caricatures all overm its walls. 701 Ross Ave., 698-0470. Expensive.

Paul’s Porterhouse. Expect the unexpected at Paul’s. Outside, you’d peg it for a $7.99 all-you-can-eat beef joint. Inside, you’ll see otherwise, as you check out the Remington sculptures, lofty menu prices, and a knock-out of a wine list I Wine Spectator gave it one of the six “Awards of Excellence” in Dallas). Other surprises quickly follow, like grand wheels of mild cheddar at each table, and maybe a complimentary bowl of quail soup or dessert (if Paul’s around and in a good mood). Prime beef (including a 28-ounce porterhouse) shares the menu with plenty of seafood items as well as deer, elk, ostrich, pheasant, and rabbit. 10960 Composite Dr., 357-0279. Expensive.

Stone Trail. The decor of polished wood, gleaming silver, and long-stemmed yellow roses is welcoming, as is the soft, soothing music and coddling service. The creative appetizer list includes a crab cake combining a wealth of lump crab meat with zestful chile, served with a tangle of vegetables; catfish with green apple tartar sauce; and grilled goat cheese in grape leaves. The rest of the menu bears more typical steakhouse fare, including lobster and an astonishingly pricey free-range chicken. Beef, crusty and juicy, makes the best entree with cheese- rich potato casserole or chile-jazzed whipped potatoes on the side. At lunch, Stone Trail serves a wonderful quesadil-la that we’ll put up against any in town. Desserts change daily, but your best choice after dinner may be a drink or cappuccino in the beautiful knockout of a bar, where a jazz singer will entertain you. 14833 Midway Rd., 701-9600. Moderate to expensive.

Texas Land & Cattle Company. Night or day, this place jumps, and it has carved out its own Dallas niche with popular entrées liked smoked sirloin, mesquite grilled trout, and fried pickles. Meals begin with loaves of sourdough bread and a bucket of shell-on peanuts-plain or roof-of-your-mouth-burning spicy. The shrimp cocktail, Caesar, and house salads are good starts. Then dive into the star attraction-meat. These thick slices of tender beef pair nicely with the heavenly skin-on homemade mashed potatoes, rich with garlic and pepper. But there are plenty of other choices from mesquite grilled shrimp to camphre chili. Don’t hesitate to fill up on the steak and potatoes, because none of the desserts are worth the calories, so far. I130 Lemmon Ave., 526-4664. Moderate.

Thai

Chow Thai. This striking restaurant-with an eclectic atmosphere that includes lozenge-shaped lighting and light wooden chairs-amazes both the eyes and the mouth. The restaurant’s cooks and owner, who are from Bangkok, offer their customers authentic Thai fare with some exciting original dishes such as the Chow Thai duck, marinated in an exotic honey sauce, and yum pla muk, calamari served in a bed of fresh vegetables. If you choose items from the hot-ter side of the menu, cool off with Thai tea, a special blend with soy milk that is extremely soothing. Don’t let courteous, young waiters steer you away from the more exotic dishes. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 144, 960-2999. Moderate.

Toy’s Cafe. Previously known as Thai Toy, this place specializes in vegetarian and seafood dishes, and is a good spot for informal, wholesome, and inexpensive eating. Don’t miss Toy’s mee grob, pinkish rice noodles studded with scallions and cilantro, deep-fried in a non-cloying sweet-and-sour sauce; or the deep-fried marinated shrimp fingers wrapped in rice paper. Soups, which feed two to four, are among Toy’s strongest suits. Scrumptious main courses begin with broad, soft, fresh rice noodles stir-tried with tofu, shrimp, or crab. Cash only. 4422 B Lemmon Ave., 528-7233. Inexpensive.

Tuppee Tong. Although you can order the food with the heat toned down, don’t. You’ll miss the punch of the peanut sauce that comes with the satays (appetizers of skewered chicken, meat, or shrimp) and the kick of the red curry chicken (made daily from home-grown spices). Balance the heat with a Thai salad of carrot, cucumber, and radish slivers in sweetened vinegar, and try one of the eight or so soups offered here in three sizes. Tuppee Tong translates as “big golden spoon,” so keep in mind that portions are large. And, even better, prices are low. The Village at Collin Creek, 621 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 247, Piano, 509-7979. Inexpensive.

Tarrant County

Angelo’s Barbecue. Simply put, still Texas’ best barbecue. This legend has no feet of clay-and sadly, no sawdust on the floor. It’s been gone for years, thanks to the Health Department, but the ambience, the casual friendliness, and most importantly, the barbecue, remain. No frills here, just the basic best-tender beef and pork ribs, great sliced and chopped beef sandwiches. There’s also beer, beans, cole slaw, chips, pickles, peppers-all the traditional extras. Near downtown, it’s a favorite hangout for attorneys, cowboys, cops, mechanics, and business men and women, as well as families. Children abound. They take checks, but no credit cards. Beef and rib plates are served after 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth, 817-332-0357. Inexpensive.

City Park Cafe. This TCU-area cafe with its small, intimate, and oddly shaped interior would be right at home in New York or San Francisco, cities where many great restaurants are tucked into odd spaces. The menu is American-Louisiana spicy chicken and fish, grilled steaks. good salads. The house salad is the thing to order. Several heart-healthy offerings are included on the menu, although good intentions can the in the arms of the sinful chocolate desserts. The waiters and waitresses have been the same for many years, lending an air of comfortable friendliness to an overall sophisticated image. Sunday brunches are excellent at this popular courting spot for adult couples. 2418 Forest Park Blvd., 817-921-4567. Moderate.

Daddio’s Downtown Nearly Jazz Cafe. Like the music its name celebrates, this cafe provides a constantly evolving riff on the theme of service-sometimes it’s faster than other times. But the Greek salad is the best in town, and the rest of the menu gives a unique Texas tone to classic Greek specialties. Breakfast and lunch except on Friday and Saturday, when you can also get dinner and great music at night. 715 W. Magnolia, 817-926-7000. Inexpensive.

8.0 Restaurant s, Bar. Once you’re inside the historic Knights of Pythias building-you know, the only building with a knight in full shining armor tucked into a third-floor niche above Main Street-you’ll find the mixture of old brick walls and funky new murals by Fort Worth artists creates a place at once warmly welcoming, even cozy, and yet cutting-edge. Singles love it. The waiters are sassy but efficient, and the food is good. The olivada crostini is an appetizer to the for, if you happen to like olives and garlic. The herb crusted salmon is flaky and flavorful; the steaks made even a Stock Show crowd happy on our recent visit; and the pasta dishes pleased the vegetarians in our midst. Live music Thursday through Saturday nights. Ill E. 3rd St., 817-336-0880. Inexpensive.

Gaylen’s. The array of taxidermified hunting triumphs hanging on the walls of this restaurant correctly suggest its owner is an avid hunter; it comes as more of a surprise to discover the hunter’s name is Darla Tinsley. Appropriately enough, meat is king at Gaylen’s; a complete range of barbecue possibilities is offered, including beef, sausage, ham, pork loin, chicken, salami, and bologna. At a recent family dinner, melt-in-your-mouth ribs and flaky, moist beef got high marks, as did accompanying onion rings (the kind with the smooth, rather than flaky, breading). Forget the side dishes, get a sandwich and some onion rings if you’re really hungry, but under no circumstances should you skip dessert. Gaylen’s peach and blackberry cobblers are sensual experiences not to be missed-full of fruit, with a tender, flaky crust, served warm; vanilla ice cream is optional. 826 N. Collins, Arlington. 817-277-1945. Inexpensive.

Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. Probably the Fort Worth restaurant best known to Dallasites, Joe T.’s is an excellent example of mythology winning out over reality. Fort Worthers take their out-of-town guests here if they insist, but there is much better Mexican food to be had in Fort Worth (Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Bakery on North Main comes to mind.) However, if it’s atmosphere you want for a big party, Joe T.’s does an excellent job of feeding large groups decent food in record time. Mariachi players stroll among the diners and will take requests. On a nice spring night, Joe T.’s patio can’t be beat-it’s one of Fort Worth’s best outside dining experiences. Food is served family style and it rarely varies. Solid and dependable. Cash and local checks only. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-626-4356. Moderate.

Kowloon Seafood Restaurant. Housed in an upscale shopping center in an Arlington neighborhood where virtually every business is Asian-owned, Kowloon Seafood Restaurant aptly represents exactly that-neighborhood Chinese-Vietnamese gone upscale. At lunch, dim sum is available, and the dinner menu lists familiar Chinese dishes as well as Vietnamese noodle and rice dishes, soups, and hot pots. At dinner we had acceptable, but not extraordinary spring rolls. However, the crab meat corn soup could have been a meal itself; it was full of what tasted like fresh crab meat, with a rich, creamy base and a hint of heat balanced by the com flavor. A signature dish, vermicelli with charcoal-broiled shrimp wrapped in sugar cane, lived up to its rave word-of-mouth advance-seasoned shrimp are transformed into a flat piece of meat that is wrapped around a stalk of sugar cane and cooked, then served with a stack of rice paper wraps, spicy sauce, and a plate of fresh vegetables (greens, peppers, cilantro). You unwrap the shrimp from the sugar cane and make a sort of tasty Vietnamese fajita out of it with the sauce, vegetables, and the rice paper. 100 W. Pioneer Pkwy., Arlington, 817-261-6699. Inexpensive to moderate,

Lucile’s-A Stateside Bistro. Here’s the latest successful restaurant to occupy one of West Fort Worth’s landmark buildings-the old Finley’s Cafeteria. The funny wedge-shaped building that once supplied fresh homemade pies to its neighborhood is now feeding folks Lucile’s “American classics.” Pasta, wood-roasted pizzas, lots of roasted veggies, steaks, and sandwiches (including an excellent hamburger! as well as several entrées marked “heart healthy” keep patrons coming back for more. Friendly service, pretty presentation, consistently good food, a lively piano bar-what more can you ask of a neighborhood bistro? They’ll even feed you breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-738-4761. Moderate.

Rickshaw Chinese Restaurant. No wonder Fort Worth’s East Siders have been keeping this a secret. This tiny restaurant tucked into a strip shopping center is nothing fancy, but the food is invariably tasty, well-prepared, and nicely served. Show up more than twice and they most likely will not only remember your name, but also your favorite order. You can’t go wrong with the house specials, the best of which is the Double Delight, made with shrimp in a white sauce and pork in a hot black bean sauce that will delight Texas palates seasoned on spicy Tex-Mex. They also make the best hot and sour soup in Fort Worth. No overheated buffet here; food is prepared fresh when you order, and it shows. Lunches are varied and quick, but go for dinner so you’ll have more time to savor the rich flavors. 1229 Wood Haven Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-496-6767. Inex pensive to moderate.

Uno’s Pizzeria, Chicago Bar & Grill. Deep dish pizzas are the specialty here-not only the traditional sausage, pepperoni, etc., but also some interesting twists on the traditional ingredients-such as a spinach and mozzarella cheese combo, and an eggplant and artichoke mix. For those with less hearty appetites, they offer plizzettas, thin-crust pizzas for one including a vegetarian version and a lemon-lime chicken with cilantro. The Caesar salad is excellent, with anchovies offered on request. Their pasta is al dente, the sandwiches are generous, and there’s enough variety on the menu to satisfy even the non-Italian food lovers. (The wine list features one of Orvieto’s wonderful white wines, something not seen just everywhere.) Uno is family-friendly, with a kids’ menu designed to please kids, not moms. Wickedly delicious desserts range from a traditional but tasty hot apple pie with ice cream to a splendid Brownie Bowl. 300 Houston St., Fort Worth, 817-885-8667. Moderate.

Water Street Seafood Company. This seafood restaurant’s been around for several years, but now finds itself smack dab in the middle of what has become University Park, Fort Worth’s hottest new shopping area. Regular customers worried that Water Street might go all trendy on us. But not to fear. The tastefully bare-bones decor, the wonderfully wacky wall mural behind the bar (featuring a cowboy riding a bucking fish ), the daily specials, and the solidly good food have remained the same. The only sign of change is a new dining room to the south of the main room. The wait people are friendly and usually quite knowledgeable about the menu. Specials change daily, always featuring some mesquite-grilled or blackened offerings, but any fish offered on special can be prepared any way the customer likes. Near the TCU campus. 1540 S. University Dr., Fort Worth, 817-877-3474. Moderate to expensive.

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