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 Expwy. 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 creamy 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.
Brechenridge Brewery. This sleek, woody establishment, much larger than the mother ship in Colorado, comes with the slightly irritating supply-before-demand trappings of success: T-shirts and other Breckenalia are for sale, before you even thought to ask. But the confidence may be well-founded. Besides being one of the prettiest brewpubs so far (the humongous beer-can collage is art. damn it), at least two of the five beers-India Pale Ale and Oatmeal Stout-are first-class creations. To wash down your drink, try the superb prawn appetizer, then move on to duck enchiladas, fish tacos. or the pulled pork sandwich. The brew pub sweepstakes are getting crowded, and the winner is- well, stay tuned. 1907 McKinney Ave., 965-0007. Inexpensive.
Copper Tank Brewery. Deep Ellum’s first brewpub, which has one door on Commerce and another on Main, boasts the longest bar in Dallas, and we don’t doubt it. Every time we asked our waitress for something-beer, water, more beer, pizza, more pizza-she seemed to vanish into another time zone before languidly returning with our request. Our beer choices proved to be a mixed lot-a flaccid ESB, a zingy raspberry, a decent Brown ale-that on the whole didn’t live up to the excellent pesto-coated pizzas. Perhaps competition (at least two more brewpubs are said to be bound for Deep Ellum) will light a Are under this sleepy crew. 2600 Main St.. 744-2739. Inexpensive.
Hubcap Brewery & Kitchen. 1701 N. Market St,, 651-080S. Moderate.
The Rock Bottom Brewery. food at this popular Addison brewpub is much like the dark wood-and-brass place itself: upscale, tony and surprisingly good. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asiago cheese dip or signature green pork chili. Pizzas arrive lava-hot on cracker-thin crust: try the bourbon beef (with homemade steak sauce) or double-smoked bacon [with spinach, goat cheese and roasted garlic). Smoked chicken enchiladas were some of the best we’ve tried–really. Alder-smoked salmon and chips sounded good, but came out bland. How’s the beer? Thought you’d never ask. Six regular brews range from ultra-light (Coyote Western Ale and Palomino Pale Ale) to deep and roasty (Pelican Brown Ale and our fave. Roadrunner Stout). Falcon Red is a nice compromise. Families, singles and couples mesh seamlessly as waiters hustle cheerfully-but beware Thursday nights, when Polo-reeking 20-somethings prowl. 4050 Belt Line Rd., 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, 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., 922-3835. Moderate.
Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery. 5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300, 696-2739. Moderate.
Yegua Creek Brewing Co. 2920 N. Henderson Ave., 824-BREW. Inexpensive.
Cafe Nordstrom. You’d think that Nordstrom was known for its food instead of its renowned shoe selection. You’d think you were going to wait in line forever. But you’d be wrong on both counts. Nordstrom’s legendary commitment to customer service shows In this casual, third-level, in-store eatery. The backbone of the Cafe is sandwiches and salads, and the kitchen staff gets kudos for preparing fresh, high-quality stuff (great muffins). The grilled Italian sandwiches called panini come loaded and the California blend of vegetables, cheese and pesto makes a perfect lunch. Nordstrom, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., third level, 702-0055, ext. 1610. Inexpensive.
Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. You loved it on Central. You’ll love ft 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.
D REVISITS The Ozona Westex Grill and Bar. Set back amid a tangle of trees, and flowing multi-roomed around the corner of Greenville and Yale, this popular gathering spot-with its galvanized metal table-tops and natural wood interior-provides a surprisingly cool, green, countrified retreat in the city. There are no real surprises, and although there are grilled options like salmon salad and a chicken dinner, a bit too heavy reliance on deep frying may well dismay cholesterol counters. A bottle of domestic beer starts at $2.75, there are abundant lunch specials and the portions are very generous: Order conservatively on your first visit. 4615 Greenville. 265-9105. Inexpensive to moderate.
The Pub. Where else but in the men’s department would i?iu expect to find Nordstrom’s The Pub, with plenty of beers on tap and balls bouncing on every television? Keeping in mind that the British aren’t exactly known for their food, this restaurant turns out some pretty respectable grub, like meat-filled pasties (a British pie), bangers (sausages), light. good homemade mashed potatoes and greaseless fried fish and chips (little potato wedges). Salads offer a good excuse to polish off the basket of scones and soft chile-tinged breadsticks that come with them. Opt for the bread pudding instead of the less-than-authentic triffle. Nordstrom, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., first level. 702-0055. ext. 3620. Inexpensive.
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.
Copeland’s of New Orleans. 5353 Belt Line Rd.. 661-1883. Moderate.
Crescent City Cafe. 2615 Commerce St.. 745-1900. inexpensive.
Lone Star Oyster Bar. There are restaurants for all seasons, and this is a summer place. Bring together raw oysters, big schooners of cold beer, hot days and excellent background music (e.g. Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” | and the result is that pleasant manana spirit that seems to pervade certain Greenville spots. While we don’t fear Galveston Bay oysters, some do. (“I’m watching my mercury,” quipped one of our party as he declined a mollusk.) The cautious can opt for the tasty (though rather skirnpy) blackened catfish or halibut, or the decent fried shrimp. Don’t miss the hush puppies, perfectly deep-fried with a hint of onion. We could have used some crispier crackers for the oysters, and we question the authenticity of the mounted sailfish on the walls (OK. maybe we’re jealous), but everything else is the real thing. 3707 Greenville Ave., 827-3013. Inexpensive.
LuLu’s Bait Shack. 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 com meal-battered oysters with tomato, lettuce and mayo, the plate fetch-ingly 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 rouiez all over your head, 2621 McKinneyAve.. 969-1927. Inexpensive to moderate.
Cathy’s Pacific. At this ambitious offshoot of Piano’s Cathy’s Wok, Chinese-American dishes dominate the menu along with “light and healthy” entrees. 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. 4848 Belt Line Rd., 392-9998. Moderate to expensive.
Jew Big Wong. This comfortable eatery is not so “new” anymore; in fact, it’s been well over 10 years since Big Wong, lost in a fire, was transplanted to Greenville, No matter. If you’re up for a quick and tasty lunch, this place deliv-ers large portions of fare in fast-food time-you II be aston-ished. If a more leisurely dinner is the object, the complex menu rewards experimentation: walnut shrimp, bean curd with crab meat, eggplant with minced pork in a feisty gar-lic sauce and more esoteric offerings. Service is cheerful and language is no barrier; ask and they’ll explain. 2121 S. Greenville Ave.. 821-4198. Inexpensive.
Szechwan Pavilion. Peking duck aficionados love the fact that this classic Chinese entrée is available at Szechwan Pavilion anytime, in half or whole portions, without the cus-to mary need to call ahead and order it. Tableside, waiters brush the delicate pancakes with hoisin sauce, then layer on perfectly roasted duck, crispy skin and wisps of scal-lions, and present the rolled-up treats on a platter ringed with slices of orange. Between bites, you’ll notice lots of regular customers greeting each other in this tranquil, soft-pink setting punctuated with black lacquered chairs. Top-quality ingredients star here, from the fat shrimp in the veg-etable-loaded sizzling rice soup to the juicy roast pork in the lo mein. Szechwan beef, marked as spicy, had just the right amount of burn. The “wonderful shrimp” would be more wonderful if they weren’t coated in a soggy batter, but they sure are big. butter flied beauties. 8411 Preston Rd., 368-4303. Inexpensive.
Taiwan Restaurant. 4980 Belt Line Re. 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 oft 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 enjoyment than the food does. In The Galleria. 13350 Dallas Pkwy.. 934-9998. Moderate.
Java Jones. 3211 Oak Lawn Ave.. 528-2099. Inexpensive.
Gilbert’s New York Delicatessen. 127 Preston Forest Village, 373-3333. Inexpensive.
Streets. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-2505. Inexpensive.
Athénée Cafe. Or is it Cafe Athénée? We’re confused–the menu and canopy say the latter, but a business card says trie former. Inhabiting an unlikely strip-mall spot near an auto parts store, it bills itself as “Texas’ Only Rumanian 4 Eastern European Restaurant Since 1986.” (at its current location since 1989] and the aromatic fragrances of ancient Europe will whisk you back a century or two. Wonderful Veal Athénée features tender, fresh medallions topped with provolone in a delightful brandy mushroom sauce, with delicious spicy cabbage and flaky rice pilaf. Stuffed Mountain Cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-sized beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights include Rumanian sausage, hand-packed daily, and veal chop, finished in the pan with dill and mushrooms in white wine sauce. Forget the house salad-try the silky tomato-based spicy vegetable soup instead. Garlic bread is bland but forgivable, the wine list adequate, the service attentive and caring..-but please, Constantin and Amalia. decide on the name! 5365 Spring Valley. Ste. 150,239-8060. Moderate.
Blind Lemon. The beer’s cold, the ambience and attitude funky, so it’s a cryin’ shame that Blind Lemon falls somewhat short in the food category. No show stoppers, just no real standouts. For example, barbecue chicken pizza was laden with tender breast and gooey cheese, but the doughy crust was barely done, and served lukewarm. The ground turkey sandwich sounded like a healthful respite from burgers, but the mealy result, accompanied by oily fries, was a big disappointment. Service was well-meaning, but poorly informed about meal ingredients, and we didn’t even get around to more ambitious dishes like salmon and steak. We’ll go back for a brew or two, but until culinary aspirations match delivery, we’ II probably dine elsewhere. 14902 Preston Rd. at Belt Une. Addison, 458-0458. Inexpensive to moderate.
D REVISITS Bread Winners. From the moment of its first rather diffident opening as a bakery that also served breakfast and lunch, this McKinney Avenue oasis has struck all the right notes, making happy chords with its seemingly effortless combination of indulgent ambience, sunny service and creative, fresh food treatments. Now, since expanding its menu and hours to include dinner Wednesdays through Sundays, Bread Winners has become even more addictively charming. Its brick-floored. French Quarter-esque multilevels set a magical scene for summer evenings. Its menu reflects a never-boring mélange of influences, from homey (a simple garden salad of lettuces, spinach, mushrooms, carrots and cabbage bathed in creamy fresh vinaigrette) to refined Asian (a starter of Thai shrimp scampi mounts great spicy curls of shrimp on crisp cilantro noodles). Main courses cut a similar broad swathe–a center-cut mustard-grilled pork chop comes thick, juicy and perfectly partnered with scalloped sweet potatoes and pan gravy; grilled tuna steak, rosy and near-rare, wears a tropical salsa of spiced diced fruit. Try it with a side of lemon whipped potatoes, the citrus accent a delightful presence alongside the plate’s crisp tortilla salad. Desserts here are outstanding, too-key lime pie holds a paper-thin curl of lime atop its tart, dream-cream filling: a to-die-for something called Banana Jazz features fantasy swirls of chocolate mousse and whipped cream layered with sliced bananas on a dark chocolate crust. Have that last with a glass of house red from the restaurant’s thoughtfully priced little wine list, and you’ve capped the kind of casual evening that turns occasional diners into habitues. 3301 McKinney Ave.. 754-4940. Inexpensive to moderate.
Deep Ellum Cafe. The menu descriptions here 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 unmentioned side salad (like perfectly ripe fruit salad topped with strawberry puree] that fights for equal attention. Desserts, also homemade, are so rich that a bite or two suffices, although the chocolate terrine positioned on a butter-rich caramel sauce can lead you. trance-like, back for a few 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.
East Side Grill. Chef Tony Knight, whose Aransas Pass restaurant formerly occupied this space, offers down-home dishes endowed with kicky accents that lift them above common bar food. Notable examples: Chicken-fried steak came with terrific twice-baked mashed potatoes and a healthy stir-fry of vegetables. An Aransas burger was a patty of broiled sirloin with roasted poblanos and onions and jack cheese. The 10-ounce strip steak was gilded with onion braised in Jack Daniels sauce. The homemade salsa that accompanies the chicken quesadillas can make your eyes water from 4 feet away, and fried pickles were surprisingly delicious in nicely seasoned, greaseless crumb crust. 2916 N. Henderson Ave., 828-2801. Inexpensive.
8.0 Restaurant and Bar. 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 toad-in-the-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.
Garden Court. Every dish on executive chef Randy Richins’ menu is main-course generous. Of the appetizers, go for the pepper-seared scallops against mixed greens garnished with orange and grapefruit sections and avocado in a raspberry vinaigrette. The soup of the day on our visit, gorgonzola-spinach cream, was smooth, rich-flavored and memorable. Two disappointments: The wild mushroom penne was so tasteless that our waiter, noticing our displeasure, offered to let us select something else. After we declined, he took the dish back to the kitchen and returned with a much-improved meal with a richness of seasoned flavor. Another poor selection was the mushroom sandwich, an unredeemable disaster dominated by the strong onions, which eclipsed any gentler accents. A chicken breast in honey and tangerine juice had more character. On the whole, the Court’s pleasures far outweighed the disappointments. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy.. third level. 702-0055, ext. 1628. Inexpensive to moderate.
Gershwin’s. This trendy upper Greenville spot caters to the “too-old-for-Friday’s-but-too-young-for-Luby’s” crowd-you just know these people shimmied to a disco beat in their prime. The ambitious menu walks many fine lines with a presumptive air and succeeds more often than not, but don’t expect a true gourmet experience-seasonings are either too strong, as with overpowering, too-salty pasta sauces, or bland and hotel food-like, such as grilled tilapia on warm orzo salad. Best bets are the more traditional ones-steaks, pizzas, salads and sandwiches, all generous, tasty and satisfying. Atmospheric dark wood, white linens, giant ferns and live jazz piano make for fun people-watching. Waiters are generically efficient, if just a mite pompous, but the place packs ’em in practically every night, so why argue with success? One big gripe-pretentious valet parking for a free-standing restaurant is ludicrous. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln.. 373-7171. Moderate.
The Grape. 2808 Greenville Ave., 828-1981. Moderate.
Piano Cafe. Not a good start-park in a strip mall, enter Piano Cafe’s lobby where a table offers autographed photos of celebrities, and wait to be seated until the young hostess completes her personal call. Luckily, it’s all uphill from there, starting with the tasty, house-made, lightly crusty rolls and a simply prepared, flavor-packed onion soup. Choose the mixed green salad Instead of the Caesar, and opt for the zingy raspberry vinaigrette, A feast of perfectly cooked vegetables accompanies each generous meal, and most people leave loaded with leftovers. Juicy, freshly grilled roast chicken with red pesto penne draws loyal fans, and vegetarians will find much to choose from. Two more surprises; a decent wine list and a winner of a dessert list. A warm French apple pie (homemade, like everything else here) accompanied by homemade Chambord/Frangelico ice cream, whipped cream and berries, of fers caloric heaven. 1915 N. Central Expwy.. Ste. 500, Piano. 516-0865. Moderate.
D REVISITS Sipango. Somehow-is it the glamour of the name?-Sipango Is one of those places that prompts you to search for the celebrity types you know are surely present among the soignee clientele. Not the place itself, certainly; while the bar. with its smokers’ tables, corner band riser and mini-dance area, is appropriately suave in ambience, the adjoining huge dining room most closely resembles a high-tech dining hall in some upscale institution, with diners lacing each other across tables set in long, rigid rows. Nothing rigid about the food, though-Chef Matthew Antonovich’s menu sets out an array of selections various enough to allow for grazing or snacking as well as course-by-course dining. An appetizer of tuna seared rare, for example, made a perfect starter for a light supper, presented as thin, ruddy petals fanned with sassy fresh greens dressed in ginger-soy vinaigrette: a small-plate dish of mushroom-fortified risotto, deep-flavored and lipped with mellow Reggiano parmesan, completed a meal we found entirely satisfying. On the more substantial side, an entrée of veal marsala covered its plate with classically sauced thin slices draped on a cushion of polenta, accented with wild mushrooms and Texas goat cheese. Too sated even to consider the richer desserts at hand, we found the house-made sorbettos altogether captivating-watermelon, fresh and luscious, won out over a more exotic red papaya sampled. Service was amiable, with some timing lapses; live music was a treat, once the too-loud cocktail pianist made way for a combo; people-watching was its own entertainment. One quibble; Isn’t it a little tacky for a spot this successful to charge for valet parking? Or is it that the chic are too cheap to tip? 4513 Travis St., 522-2411. Moderate.
Addison Cafe. Prestonwood Place, 5290 Belt Line Rd,. Addison. 991-8824. Moderate.
Chez Gerard. This quintessential little French restaurant with its flowery wallpaper, lace curtains and cozy feel 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 appetizer, as does a zesty dish of mixed seafood with avocado and lime. The heady-with-mustard dressing coating the 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 soufflés, 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. In the Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St., 742-8200. Expensive.
La Petite Maison. The young and enthusiastic Robert Barone. the chef-owner of this new restaurant, has made a good start with this daring venture. From our first thrilling spoonful of soup to the last plate-scraping nibble of chocolate creme. Barone’s fare was beautifully prepared, presented and served. Take the lobster bisque, for example. Its deep auburn color hinted at its lush, splendid flavor. Also good was the seafood starter of smoked salmon, scallops and shrimp flung with capers and green onion. The “Grand Mere” oven-roasted chicken, sprinkled lavishly with hearty smoked bacon squares, was served with carved potatoes and tiny onions. The pork medallions zinged with Dijon mustard and a side of garlic whipped potatoes and baby carrots, while roasted rack of lamb featured three rib chops on a bed of toothsome couscous spiced with subtle curry. The dessert we tried-silken chocolate creme under a tepee of fragile pastry triangles rooted in whipped cream and a layer of raspberries-was a dramatic creation. 2917 Fairmount St.. 855-0700. Moderate.
Old Warsaw. Romance is on the menu here, 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. Entrées include braised pheasant, rack of iamb 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.. 52&0032. Expensive.
The Pyramid Room. That vastly overused word, opulence, has to be hauled out yet again here-the Fairmont Hotel’s flagship restaurant demands it; here is service and ambience that beggar less extravagant description. The food, too, on our visit, deserved superlatives, albeit not quite as glowing ones for the prix-fixe menu (four courses, $29 sans wine) as for pricier a la carte selections. Grilled quail halves were pretty little things on Marsala-glazed arugula leaves; cream of turnip soup with toasted pumpkin seeds was too subtle (read: bland) to stir excitement, but grilled snapper with shiitake mushrooms in lobster butter sauce was satisfying, Macadamia nut tone was a dense disappointment, particularly compared to a companion’s a la carte dessert indulgence-a gooey dome of warm chocolate polenta filled with caramel, on bourbon-laced sauce with vanilla ice cream. The courses preceding that sin were stellar, too- duck confit was tenderness itself in a wine-poached pear: lobster bisque was satin rich and cognac-kissed: herb-crusted rack of lamb, four rosy baby chops, came with chevre-sharpened mashed potato and jewel-pretty vegetable pearls on rosemary mint sauce. The companion’s tab passed the $50 mark, but you could hardly ash for more cosseting or more comfort at any price than that provided by this serenely cosmopolitan restaurant. Great wines, too, and live music. Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St.. 720-5249. Expensive.
The Riviera. 7709 Inwood Rd.. 351-0094. Expensive.
Watel’s. This homey little restaurant, 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 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.
Gourmet to Go
Betty’s Brisket and Gourmet Foods. Former attorney and self-taught cook Monte Bond named Betty’s Brisket after his mom; his tiny, spanking-clean take-out shop specializes in her recipe for brisket and turns out some seriously good food at easily affordable prices. Choices abound-you can order brisket or turkey (both are lean and tender) as a meal complete with mashed potatoes, a vegetable and bread: as sandwiches on wonderfully homey, soft potato rolls: as complete dinners for four or by the pound; or pick the weekly special or one of the many salads. But. as good as the meals are. be prepared for killer desserts and appetizers, including an excellent lemon tartlet. Both the tapenade and goat cheese spreads delight, as does the chile-chicken egg rolls and the mushroom and leek crescents. 17390 Preston Rd., 931-9094. Inexpensive.
Eatzi’s. Okay, it’s not a restaurant, but the prepared foods and breads you can buy at this unique market make it worth frequent trips to turn a meal in your own dining room into a special occasion. Make your way to the bread shelves, where you’ll find 14 varieties and enough spreads and fillings to make you dizzy. At the salad counter, just describe the salad of your dreams and they’ll toss it together. For an effortless meal, try one of the chickens from the wood-burning oven, a steak from the butcher’s counter, or one of the dozens of prepared foods. The quality of the deli meats is unsurpassed. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-1515. Inexpensive to moderate.
La Spiga. You may have to track down La Spiga, tucked away in a warehouse area, but it’s well worth the effort. The owners trekked all through Europe on a search for the best breads and returned home to open this quaint bakery/cafe that specializes in preservative-free bread. Customers line up to buy these rustic, crusty loaves, and the bread is being served at many of the finest restaurants in town. But there’s plenty more being dished up here, including tureens of homemade soup (excellent cream of mushroom) and sandwiches on big, soft pillows of panini rolls. Mini-quiches and fruit plates fill the bill for anytime snacks, focaccia comes pizza-style, and Caesar salads are a garlicky hit. And the service? When a baby-carrying customer requested a highchair, one of the co-owners quickly dispatched an employee to the furniture store across the street. The baby was happily drooling on it minutes later, 4203 Lindberg Dr., Addison, 934-8730. Inexpensive.
Marty’s. Marty’s, long the king of gourmet shopping in the Dallas area, has recently come under siege from trendier rivais, but this venerable Oak Lawn institution remains a solid, reassuring respite from the competition’s haughty glitz. Call us quaint, but we much prefer Marty’s friendly, non-snob ambience to the “do-us-a-favor ” din of frantic newcomers, Sample new Italian cheese, low-fat Vietnamese chicken salad, or “Ann’s Marinated Shrimp” in Marty’s relaxed cozy aisles. Browse the tapenades, flavored olive and grapeseed oils, vinegars and vinaigrettes, marinades, aromatic coffees and teas, sumptuous, girth-enhancing chocolate truffles and delicate sorbets. Marty’s hallmark, though, is service: their wine experts, for example, field questions from beginners and savants with equal aplomb and courtesy. Just one thing.,.make the new dining area look a little more like you mean it? Please? 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-4070. Inexpensive to moderate.
Kostas Cafe. A light, lemony flavor underscores the sagana-ki, a creamy, mild cheese that’s breaded, fried and served in flames, and the dolmas bulge with their rice and moat 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.
Ziziki’s The gleaming wooden bar might be one of the places to be seen in Dallas, but it’s the food that reigns supreme here. An order or two of Ziziki bread (homemade pita bread broiled with two cheeses and herbs) teams well with any of the carefully crafted salads. Lamb and shrimp star here (the lamb souvlaki, skewered lamb ready to be popped into homemade pita bread, makes a can’t-be-beat sandwich), and the homemade Italian cream cake ends meals on a sweet note. The wines, chosen from all over the globe, demonstrate the owners’ never-ending quest for the best. You’ll want Id visit the new coffee bar/take-out. shop for some of your Ziziki favorites Hike their mouthwatering sauces). 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122, 521-2233. Moderate to expensive.
Barbec’s. 8949 Garland Rd., 321-5597. Inexpensive.
Celebration. 4503 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 nonsmoking customers, apparently, to make that distinction more factual than symbolic). 10422 Harry Mines Blvd.. 352-0051. Inexpensive.
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 Huffy. The waitresses are plentiful, courteous and efficient. 2442 Avenue K at Park Boulevard, 423-1524. Inexpensive.
Bombay Cricket Club. Though we’re easily fooled about the nuances of cricket (the game), the food here is definitely cricket with us, especially the incendiary chicken ven-daloo. the soothing saag paneer (chunks of homemade cheese in creamed spinach) and the curry-kissed aloo ben-gan, which combines eggplant, potatoes, onions and tomatoes. Having heard raves about the leg of lamb from the tandoor, we’re saving it for the next round, or inning, or chukker, or whatever they call It. 2508 Maple Ave., 871-1333. Inexpensive to moderate. India Palace. 12817 Preston Rd., 392-0190. Moderate.
The Adriatic. The Italian food here is complemented by the high caliber of the service and the tranquillity of the setting, which includes live (and blissfully quiet) piano music. Start a meal with the excellent steamed clams In garlic broth or the Caesar salad-fresh, but needed more of the excellent croutons and shredded cheese. The rack of lamb, perfectly cooked, was a treat with heaping sides of zuc-chini and carrots and the garlic-laden scalloped potatoes. The pepper steak special is a tender, tasty meat feast sided by a nicely braised cabbage dish that’s not often served today. Expect generous portions here and peruse the wine list, which impresses with its variety and reasonable prices. Bargains abound on the lunch menu, which features everything from a fruit and cheese platter to crab and cannelloni. The restaurant also has a regal, yet welcoming bar. This may just be the neighborhood spot we all seek for a romantic dinner or to unwind from the workday. 19009 Preston Rd,, 248-2500. Moderate.
Alessio’s. 4117 Lomo Alto Dr., 521-3585. Moderate.
Angela’s Italian Grill. Hew to the spicier side of the menu- clams in red sauce over linguine. say. or Pasta Romano with Italian sausage, pepperom, 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. But given the affable 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, 55610 E. Mockingbird Ln., 827-0355, Inexpensive.
Cappellini’s. Garlic alert! Be warned that this restaurant specializes in the use of garlic-the chicken Caesar salad’s garlic-haunted dressing will keep you safe from vampires for a long time. Another Cappellini’s trademark is the large portions, everything from the giant salads to the mouthwatering pasta to the homemade desserts will satisfy at least two people. The Tuscan salad is big enough for three and is a clever combination of fresh greens, thinly sliced apples, Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts and sun-dried tomatoes, all laced with a commendable balsamic vinaigrette. The lasagne is unique-served in rolled single layers with a tomato sauce enriched with cream. Before you leave, Stop in the restroom, where you’ll find water coolers tilled with much-needed mouthwash. 3820 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 488-9494. Moderate.
Ciao Bella. The very menu begins the seduction with its mouthwatering description of the cuisine of Chef Tommaso’s Italian home of Bologna; when our dinner was served, 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 did not disappoint The star of our meal was a special, peppered salmon in brandy sauce, which was flaky and oh-so-smooth. with just the right amount of pepper kick. 3232 WcKinney Ave.. 871-2074. Inexpensive to moderate.
Covino’s. Buried deep inside a series of strip malls, Covino’s Pasta and Pizza draws raves from customers for its New York-style pizza-a thin, crisp dough lightly topped with whole (not skim| mozzarella and just a whisper of tomato sauce. That same dough makes the richly stuffed cal-zones especially good, and stars again in an appetizer stuffed with meat, cheese and spinach. Pastas, especially the hearty lasagne and tortellini with pesto. earn high marks due to their sprightly sauces. Meatball subs can’t be beat, but, like all sandwiches here, require a hearty appetite. Owner Joe Covino la transplanted New Yorker) is usually on hand greeting the regulars in this tiny, unpretentious trattoria, while his wife Michèle is at home making her scrumptious cheesecakes for the restaurant. Bring the kids, bring the baseball team, bring a bottle of Chianti, but the prices are so low you won’t need to bring much money. 3265 Independence Pkwy., Plano, 519-0345. Inexpensive.
Flip’s Wine Bar And Trattoria. 1520 Greenville Ave., 824-9944. Moderate.
D REVISITS Joey’s. You hear that Joey Vallone has spritzed up his restaurant’s menu with new summer dishes. So you make your reservations, put on your kickiest dress-to-do-lunch casual costume, and venture in to find-what? Among other things, that Joey’s is an altogether more pleasant place now that the first-blush rush has leveled off somewhat; and that at least one starter you found less than delightful on your first visit has vastly improved. Avocado pancakes, a stack of blini-sized green discs layered with lump crab meat on herbed tomato salsa, has metamorphosed from mushy dullness to a well-integrated melding of textures and flavors. But one of the new seasonal selections seems unpolished: Bosc pear salad tossed with arugula. radicchio and Belgian endive sounded like a blissful balance of sweet fruit with bitter greens; alas, the pear slices we expected to be poached were raw and unripe, unredeemed by a scattering of port-soaked Gorgonzola cheese crumbs in roasted pear vinaigrette. A thin-crusted Peking duck pizza would have been fine if its rotisserie duck shreds and shiitake mushrooms hadn’t been over-doused, not with the musky ponzu sauce that would have made it a neat take on the classic dish, but with a far too sweet plum sauce that could have passed for preserves. On the bright side, pansotti–half-moon pasta stuffed with lobster-was a delectable choice indeed, the pasta shells delicate, the lobster chunks kissed by fresh tomato sauce. Chocolate cannoli made for fine dessert sharing, a pair of dark, tender cylinders filled with subtly sweet ricotta, beautifully presented. And as always, the witty decor and lighthearted ambience of the place sent us on our way charged with cosmopolitan good will. What Is it about Joey’s that has that effect on people? 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-0074. Moderate to expensive.
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 the 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 secondi 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 mozzarella 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 perfectly, and dinners end best with a dish of homemade gelato (rich ice cream). 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. Cedar Springs Boulevard is a far cry from the rolling Tuscan hillside evoked by Pomodoro’s alfresco seating, but even after a decade, the place still exudes its own trendy, noisy charm. Besides, where else could you toast the downtown YMCA joggers tramping past during lunch? Plenty of indoor seating in the tiled dining room, too, but if you’re a non-smoker, ask to sit far, far away from the smoking section. Gently melted buffalo mozzarella wrapped in grilled rugola makes for a nice start: so does the carpac-cio with capers and lemon. Polio Pizzaiola is tender and tasty, if a mite salty; clever pasta dishes like fettucine with lobster or pappardelle with sausage are fun and feisty, but could be more substantial for the price. Speaking of which, is It just us, or do the specials seem high? Service is uniformly excellent-Pomodoro still bends over backwards to please, and it shows. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 871-1924. Moderate.
Ruggeri’s. You wouldn’t think Addison needed another Italian restaurant, but the new location of Ruggeri’s is a big hit. Owner Tom Ruggeri completely gutted the old Key West Grill and remodeled it with Venetian glass, alabaster saucer-like hanging lamps and aquariums that separate the huge bar from the three main dining rooms. Al lunch, sun streams in through the tall windows, and at night the deep red and green in the decorations mute and soften the room. Despite its regal setting, Ruggeri’s projects a relaxed Image, one that makes you want to linger over coffee and the excellent homemade desserts and listen to the live music Thursday through Saturday nights. A double hit of garlic makes a great way to begin a meal here, with an order of steamed clams in garlicky herbed broth and a basket of cheesy slices of toasted garlic bread. If you order a daily special of baked salmon filet with superb dill sauce, be prepared to become a regular. The sautéed veal and shrimp combination also got high marks, and customers praise both the renowned 16-ounce veal chop and the crab-stuffed jumbo shrimp. Lasagne, a hefty 3-inch high slab oozing with cheese and a sausage/meat mixture, sits proudly on a plate half filled with sprightly tomato sauce, half with a thin Béchamel sauce. Service strikes a fine-tuned note with wine-savvy servers on one memorable visit. 5348 Belt Line Rd.. 726-9555. Moderate.
Tramontane. Marvelous starters include the marinated goat cheese, peppered and nestled on top of herbed greens. Those same greens shone in a mesclun salad strewn with chunks of walnuts and tart goat cheese. We also savored the soups-deep-flavored French onion was topped with fine Gruyère cheese and the haricots vert have a strong, fresh presence in the creamed green bean potage. Entrées exceeded our expectations. Pan-seared salmon was transcendent, bathed in a tart caper sauce and served with grilled polenta and steamed spinach. Other winning entrées were the ravioli stuffed with spinach and mushrooms and the super-plump filet mignon sauced with Cabernet, served with a side of crunchy green beans and rosemary potatoes. The desserts are made in-house, but the bread is from Massimo’s. Preston Center’s got itself a winner. 82208 Westchester Dr.. 368-4188. Inexpensive to moderate.
Nana. 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 combination platter, and these taste impeccably fresh. The crisp tempura 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 We 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.. Plano, 881-0328. Moderate.
Sushi at the Stoneleigh. 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, was delightful. 2927 Maple Ave., 871-7111. Inexpensive to moderate.
Deco’s By Arthur. Don’t be put off by the nondescript strip mall location; Deco’s by Arthur, in the northwest quadrant of Preston and Forest, is an absolute treasure. Enjoy complimentary garlic-laden pizza crusts while browsing the eclectic menu, ranging from falafel to jambalaya to grilled salmon-reflective of Deco’s origins as a successful catering business. Try a daily special-baked corvina on curry rice with roasted-pepper sauce was as good a dish as you’d find at any expense-account palace, and half the price. La Jolla salad sprinkles fresh greens with sun-dried apricots, cranberries, almonds and diced apples in an oil-free raspberry vinaigrette. “Signature” pizzas, named after movie stars, feature thick, toasty crusts, fresh, fresh, fresh ingredients like caramelized onions, roasted, smoked peppers, portobello mushrooms, spinach…aah! Friendly, fast service, too. Two caveats-Deco’s is vegetarian (except for fish), so don’t expect burgers or chicken, and second, the staff keeps a spotless kosher kitchen (cool) and hours (closed on Friday night and all day Saturday!. 1418 Preston Forest Square, 788-2808. Inexpensive.
Adelmo’s. Our last dinner at Adelmo’s 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 specialite 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 laid on in a florid over-treatment that overwhelmed the delicate, sweet trout meat’s flavor. 4537 Cole Ave.. 559-0325. Moderate to expensive.
Cafe Istanbul. 5450 W. Lovers Ln,. Ste. 222. 902-0919. Inexpensive to moderate.
D REVISITS Calluaud’s The Bistro. Oh, the ning of the man! Not content with being first to initiate Dallas diners into the divine mysteries of authentic French cookery back in the ’70s, chef/owner Guy Calluaud has expanded his scope to ply us now as well with delicacies from further south- Morocco, northern Italy and Spain. Particularly Spain, from which he has borrowed the tapas concept, at the same time broadening its definition to include small-plate versions of some of his most memorable dishes. No longer must one’s choice be narrowed to a single starter, one entrée and dessert to make up a meal. That option’s still on the menu, but so is the opportunity to sample hot and cold teasers of every addictive sort, from soups to salads, from a listing of more than 30, plus daily specials. Start, say, with gazpacho-a thick, smooth, piquant version-or a small Caesar salad traditionally dressed and tossed with croutons and parmesan. Proceed to cigars of fried goat cheese spiked with garlic, paprika and cilantro: ravioli of wild mushrooms, meaty marvels bathed in herb and sherry sauce; garlic shrimp, flirty curls vivaciously seasoned with red chili pepper. Along the way, succumb to Guy’s should-be-immortalized fresh foie gras sautéed with raisins and port sauce, or his obster soufflé, meltingly airy and splendidly sauced. Our only disappointment of the new dishes was the steak tartare that was so strongly endowed with horseradish and capers, the beef flavor struggled to come through. Never mind-a cassis sorbet, tart-sweet globes of claret-clear color in a stemmed glass, would bring any meal to a happy close. Calluaud’s new bistro format is different from the pricey Calluaud’s of the past, but you know what the French say to that, don’t you? Vive la différence! 5405 W. Lovers Lane, 352-1997. Inexpensive to moderate.
Mediterraneo. 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 Fid.. Addison, 385-8455. Moderate.
Cantina Laredo. Skip the wimpish, disappointing gua-camole 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, margaritas 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 that 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 al 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 as a description for the lone, fanned strawberry, 165 Inwood Village, 350-5227. Inexpensive.
Cenaduria Mexicana. This restaurant’s goal is to offer authentic homemade Mexican-not Tex-Mex-food. It achieves this through such offerings as the barbacoa, a Mexican pot roast, that is served on the weekdays only. You get a generous plate of fork-tender beef mixed with onions, chiles and tomatoes. With the basket of tortillas, it’s a roll-your-own feast. The side of beans gets high marks for the smoky flavor and a hint of what we suspect is beer in the juices. Unfortunately, bland is prevalent in some dishes here. The quesadillas could be fed to a baby with their tasteless white cheese and tortillas-they need some jalapenos. chopped onions, anything to add some spice. The soupy salsa served with chips before the meal can be tongue-tingling one day and bland the next. Chicken gorditas. a better choice, still need to be doused with salsa. Breakfast is also served until noon each day with nothing costing more than $4.95. Cenaduria is sure to get regulars coming to see the mariachi bands and ballet dancers perform. 2013 Greenville Ave., 827-1494. Inexpensive.
Chuy’s. 4544 McKinney Ave,, 559-2489, Inexpensive to moderate.
Flying Burro. Bringing his own style of New Mexico-Mex to Dallas, owner Scott Cain has a neat sense of the cuisine’s essential basics- To Texas tongues, the most alien dish on the menu will probably be Winnie’s Killer Queso, a dark, spicy, burn-the-baby mélange of peppers. The fried jalapenos-uncommonly crisp and pickled, are filled with vinegary chicken and cheese, all hot as hell. The Burro’s sauces, in red or green, are gentler on the tongue and add the right spice to the chicken and New Mexican enchiladas. Be wary, however, of the posole. which had been overcooked and oversalted when we visited. The pounded chicken breast also had been baked too long. Overall, the restaurant makes a happy addition to the casual dining scene. 2831 Greenville Ave., 827-2112 Inexpensive.
Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Start by dipping chips into the warm, piquant green salsa, wash them down with handmade margaritas, then opt for tart, fresh ceviche while you pender: Barra de Navidad, enormous fresh shrimp sautéed in diablo 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. 415 W. 12th St.. 941-4304. Inexpensive.
Mattito’s. Chicken quesadillas, listed as an appetizer, qualify as a full meal, and are much tastier than the grilled vegetable nachos (broccoli on a nacho?). Go for the spinach enchiladas with their zippy green sauce, and don’t miss the chile rellenos, topped with the usual sauce, cheese and sour cream, but also with chopped pecans for crunch and raisins for sweetness. The fajitas and tacos are standard fare: save your calories for the homemade flan and sopaip-illas instead. Mattito’s bar packs a lively crowd, and lunch bargains abound, with specials ranging from $4.95 to S6.95, including a foot-long enchilada with beans and rice and two versions of chicken-fried steak. 4311 Oak Lawn Ave.. 526-8181. Inexpensive.
Matt’s Rancho Martinez. We’ve hopscotched across Mali’s menu for years, trying the seafood platter (shrimp, frog legs, catfish), the veggie fajitas (a nice culinary oxymoron), the “old-fashioned” chalupas and more, but we’re always drawn back to the trademark chile rellenos. Get them topped with ranchero or green sauce; either marries nicely with Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, raisins and pecans. The only down notes: The tortilla soup is curiously zingless, and the “Cowboy drunk” beans that accompany many dishes are, while fat-free, almost taste-free as well, 6312 La Vista Dr., 823-5517. Inexpensive.
Monica’s Ac Y Alla. 2914 Main St., 748-7140. Moderate.
Tupinamba. Eddie Dominguez’ family has been in the restaurant business for 30 years, so he’s trying to uphold the family’s reputation. He has risen to the occasion. Meals commence with tortilla chips and a zesty bowl of salsa-fiery one day. almost tolerable the next. Nachos are crisp with shredded chicken and cheese, and the shrimp cocktail combines fresh shellfish with a drinkable gazpacho soup/sauce. “Tupy” tacos, although deep-fried, are hard to stop eating. Two small disappointments-the sour cream enchiladas were bland and the fajita salad was topped with dry chicken and an uneventful vinaigrette dressing. Desserts are definitely worth ordering. 12270 Inwood Rd., 243-2355. Inexpensive.
Ali Baba. 1905 Greenville Ave., 823-8235. Inexpensive.
Natural/Health Dream Cafe. This Quadrangle eatery is the living embodiment of the notion that location, location, location determines success. The location of its patio on the north side would alone assure a great dining experience-evening diners can sit in indirect sunlit comfort and view a bubbling fountain, grassy lawn, flowers and trees. This pastoral setting seems particularly appropriate for the Dream Cafe’s menu of nightly pasta and chicken specials-on our visit, one with the tongue-twisting name of chicken with feta-calamata olive relish-salads and sandwiches. You can’t go wrong ordering corn cakes, with a hot peanut dipping sauce and grilled shrimp, or the vegetable enchiladas of spinach and wild mushrooms with ancbo sauce and melted Jack cheese. However, a grilled chicken breast sandwich came on a regrettably dry sourdough bun. The Dream Cafe’s famed breakfast menu remains an intrigu-ing cross-solid egg dishes to entice the power-breakfast crowd and granola for those who want to start the day on a more spiritual, healthful note. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 954-0486. Inexpensive.
Fresh ’N Lite. The name car 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. Don’t forget to save room for a hot fruit cobbler. 6150 Frankford Rd., 713-8167, Inexpensive.
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 Dy fresh corn, herbs and tomato nuggets, these ravioli tuck intensely smoky ham and earthy Brie between rustic homemade layers of pasta and create 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. 3005 Routh St.. 871-2004. Moderate.
An tares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-flung revolving restaurant, long marked by mediocre food that failed to live up to its soaring view, appears to be finding its wings at last- chef Jeff Dover’s menu almost consistently delivered delights on our recent visit. Starters were particularly outstanding-huge, meaty, seared sea scallops, pearly-white within, were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and earthy shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a to-die-for roasted shallot vinaigrette. An entree of grilled tiger shrimp mounted toothsome guard on a peppery bed of lemon-spiked fettucine in garlic butter, Sautéed salmon was less memorable only because its seasoning was too timid- the filet was fresh and perfectly cooked, but held little excitement on its bed of totally unseasoned rice; what flavor the plate afforded came from the grilled Granny Smith apple slices and applejack sauce that were both blander than expected (a seasonal thing, perhaps?). Desserts were one up-a tongue-tingling Key lime pie, really terrific-and one down-warm peach-walnut cobbler, made with canned peaches, for God’s sake, sans walnuts as far as we could tell, and far too sweet. And the view? How blase do we have to be before seeing the city do a slow 360degree pirouette below us fails to be enchanting? Valet parting, by the way, is complimentary via the maitre d’s stamp. Reunion Tower, 300 Reunion Blvd., 651-1234. Expensive.
Amu. 4620 McKinney Ave., 526-7398. Moderate.
Beau Nash. 400 Crescent Ct., 871-3240. Moderate.
Cafe Sierra. This casual, unpretentious restaurant offers dishes that combine Italian, Spanish. Greek 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 lin-guine 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. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 351-2233. Moderate.
Dakota’s. Start with an appetizer sampler or warm homemade breads and the addictive, fried, cayenne-spiked onion shreds as you peruse the menu, which includes plenty of items marked as “lighter fare.” Choices from the wood-burning grill never disappoint, but a recent daily special was especially intriguing-colorfully striped, smoked mozzarella ravioli showered with sweet crab and sautéed bell peppers with a light garlicky sauce to tie all the elements together. Bargain-seekers will love the $15.95, three-course “twilight menu” offered daily, with choices that might include a first course of venison sausage que-sadillas followed by roasted salmon and chocolate pecan pie. 600 N. Akard St.. 740-4001. Moderate.
Huntington’s. You’ II forget that you’re in a hotel-the comfortable wing chairs, the simple-but-elegant centerpiece of a single Gerbera daisy floating in a water-filled bowl, and the oh-so-discreet service will remind you more of family get-togethers at your wealthy Aunt Edna’s. Good news, though-this is one of the best places in Dallas for a reasonably priced, reliably good meal. Lobster bisque smoothly and richly delivers the very essence of lobster, best enjoyed as you wolf down the lightly crusty rolls slathered with garlic-studded whipped butter. Don’t miss the meaty crab cakes (offered as an appetizer or entree), and end your meal with a knockout of a crusty crème brulée. Watch out for the tame salad dressings, though. Even Aunt Edna would demand something perkier than these. Westin Galleria, 13440 Dallas Pkwy,, 851-2882. Moderate to expensive.
Landmark Restaurant. A day’s-special starter, on our visit, topped a crisp-edged potato pancake with a single huge seared sea scallop and zipped the pairing with caviar-caper rémoulade. Another special sandwiched a succulent grilled shiitake mushroom between Roma tomato halves, crumb-coated and fried, on baby greens dressed with basil-balsamic vinaigrette. Both were luscious, as was a hauntingly smoky tomato soup dolloped with pale green basil cream- a made-in-heaven marriage of flavors and hues adorned by a flash-fried basil leaf. An entrée of charred rare ahi tuna was stellar stuff indeed, the thick, meaty cut crisp-seared on the outside, its heart rosy-dark and tender; its accompanying warm salad Nicoise was studded with pressed kalamata olives that provided spirited accent to the gentle smoothness of the dressing, a vintage balsamic vinegar and saffron aioli. The warm cardamom spice cake shared for dessert was a trifle dry, hut the red pear coulis and vanilla crème fraiche that dressed it redeemed it as well. 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 521-5151. Moderate to expensive.
Laurela. In the Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 385-3000, Expensive.
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 [S65 complete) was as outstanding-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 Dy the glass and the sommelier drops you like a stone- it’s just his way. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd.. 559-2100. Expensive.
Maple Avenue Carte. This restaurant is a particularly happy instance of urban evolution-the circa-1905 mansion has been revived, polished and given new life, welcoming diners to a setting that retains the warmth the house must have possessed as a home. Furnishings, service and culinary style are in sync with the transformation-the food is regionally keyed to home cooking, stylishly updated but basically familiar. Shrimp cocktail is on the menu alongside ceviche. Good crusty rolls accompany the soup of the day, a deep-flavored cream of mushroom on our visit. Oven-roasted natural chicken, Madeira-sauced, comes with garlic mashed potatoes; sauteed sea bass, petal-tender and moist, is served on ribbons of lemon-buttered fettucine. A peanut butter tart carries a rich chocolate surprise; almond cheesecake is densely textured and satisfying. The house by-the-glass Mondavi wines-cabernet, chardonnay, or zinfandel-are surprisingly modest in price as, indeed, is the food: Entrées start under $10. and the most expensive (two pounds of steamed lobster) is less than $20. 2616 Maple Ave., 871-1181. Moderate.
Nana Grill. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel tower, 2201 Stemmons Fwy,. 761-7479. Expensive.
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. 2810 N. Henderson Ave.. 821-4552. Inexpensive to moderate.
Seventeen Seventeen. At the Dallas Museum of Art’s new restaurant, beauty is not only on the walls but on the plate and palate. The decor is simply lovely, with pierced blond wood panels, blocks of black and natural carpet and plate glass windows looking out over a tree-centered terrace and the downtown skyline. But even more breathtaking is the food. On a brunch visit, the tomato-Pernod broth was a muted masterpiece. A small comino-rubbed. baby lamb T-bone on musky black-chile mole sauce was splendid and a com pudding tamale, creamy in its little shuck canoe, was glorified with shredded red and blue tortillas, purple and white cabbage and bell peppers of every hue. On the breakfast side, a honey-granola waffle wore a toss of pecans beside caramelized oatmeal-crusted fried banana on vanilla bean syrup, and smoky-flavored wild boar sausage partnered an omelet stuffed with charred bell pepper confetti and white Cheddar cheese. For lunch, the toasted ravioli triangles, although a trifle tough, were nicely stuffed with corn and goat cheese and served with golden coins of candied kumquat under white chayote squash. The blue crab cakes were partnered with a crunchy salad of field-fresh greens and papery rice noodles. The most memorable desserts were a pink-and-white layered mousse cake heaped with fresh raspberries and a trio of house brulées-mango-lime, raspberry<:hccolate, orange with vanilla cream. Open for brunch and lunch only until September. 1717 N- Harwood St., 922-1260. Moderate to expensive.
Yellow. With new chef Christian Svalesen, a new seafood-rich menu that displays his talents, and lowered prices, Yellow scores a triple play. The petent little 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 sword-fish. 2719 McKinney Ave.. 871-1772, Moderate.
Cafe 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. The too-sweet nubbly crust on a warm apple crisp dessert overwhelmed its firm, fresh fruit filling, but the vanilla bean ice cream Wat 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 com, 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 ’II have to pay the admission fee for the aquarium in order to get to the restaurant, so plan some extra time to tour the exhibits. 1801 N. Griffin St., 720-2224. Inexpensive.
Joe’s Crab Shack. 3855 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 247-1010. Inexpensive to moderate.
Lefty’s. Although the menu is small, Lefty’s features everything you’d expect a good lobster house to have, including beef for those who don’t like seafood. Soups come in thick, white mugs; a disk of a cracker covers the top to keep the steam in. Choose the clam chowder and steer away from the metallic-tasting lobster bisque. Of the appetizers, the smoked salmon with bagel chips or the steamed clams would make a nice meal. So would the crisp house salad, paired with a crab cake and its good dilled tartar sauce. Baked shrimp, stuffed with baby shrimp, crab and cracker crumbs, are served perched in a wickedly good sauce. The service gets mixed marks, but the wine list is promising. One false note: The sauce on a dally special of seafood diablo lacked spiciness, though the plate was heaped with clams, lobster, mussels and shrimp. One big bargain-the one-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 774-9518. Moderate.
Mainstream Fish House. Preston Forest Shopping Center, 11661 Preston Rd., Ste. 153, 739-3474. Moderate,
Newport’s. 703 McKinney Ave.. 954-0220. Moderate.
Remington’s Seafood Grill. 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. 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 brandied 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. 2701 McKinney Ave., 880-0111. Moderate.
Sea Grill. Asian accents are subtly woven into this seafood-intense menu, where every bite surprises-a touch of lemon grass in the iced tea, a splash of sake enlivening a black bean sauce. Don’t even bother with the menu if a lobster sandwich is one of the daily specials; just order it quickly before they run out. Hunks of sweet lobster meat tossed with a lemon/Dijon mayo make this open-faced sandwich a winner, and it’s served not only with fries, caraway seed-flecked slaw and slices of mango, but also with the good house salad. The setting may be strip mall-pedestrian, but the food, right down to the homemade desserts, transcends it. The orange cheesecake, as delicate as a mousse, ends a meal on a light, but flavor-intense note. Sea Grill even offers a wine list that does justice to its food (although the by-the-glass prices are steep). 2205 N. Central Expy.. Ste. 180, Plano, 509-5542. Moderate.
Shell’s Oyster Bar & Grill. Despite its one big flaw-waiters that are Blasé about their duties-we couldn’t help but like Shell’s. Start with the peel ’n’ eat shrimp, a hefty por-tion 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 with slaw and fries was even better. Cajun touches dot the menu from po-boys to red beans and rice, but Shell’s, hoping to establish itself firmly as a seafood restaurant, is off to a good start. The desserts need work, though, so try an after-dinner drink or cappuccino rather than the overly-sweet, pastry-less peach cobbler. 6617 Snider Plaza, 691-8164. Inexpensive.
Lavaca Cantina. 14902 Preston Rd.. Ste. 700 in Pepper Square, 458-0458. Moderate.
Loma Luna Cafe. The Southwestern craze is history-mercifully, however, the food isn’t. Loma Luna is still the standard-bearer, dishing up consistently fresh, piquant, Santa Fe-style cuisine, rich with smoky pecan wood flavor. For starters, treat the kids to an appetizer of queso fundido. flamed tableside, or try the zesty roasted pepper-corn soup, always a winner. Salads are predictable: opt instead for the blue corn chicken enchiladas. Sandia Range pecan-smoked chicken, or the sublime shrimp diablo, stuffed with poblano peppers and cheese and grilled to perfection. And when nothing else satisfies like enchiladas, try either the “Christmas’” (one chicken with green chile, one cheese with red pasilla) or opt for the plain ol’ beef-huge, spicy and not swimming in grease. Alfresco seating at this Preston Center establishment overlooks busy Preston Road and a parking lot: so sit inside and enjoy the pinon-scented ambience instead. 8201 Preston Rd., Ste. 100. 691-1552. Inexpensive.
Sam’s Cafe. Southwestern to the max, this Tex/Mex blend aims to please. Pots of soft, poppyseed-studded bread-sticks stand ready to dip into their accompanying cream cheese/salsa mixture. Caesars take a Southwestern spin with spicy fried strips of tortillas replacing the croutons, white the dressing remains perkily authentic. The “King Ranch Casserole,” a palate-pleasing mixture of chicken, corn tortillas, roasted peppers, cheeses and onions, makes an excellent take-out dish for a dinner the whole family will love. Quesadillas, all five varieties, score high marks, although the ingredients need to be spread out more evenly. Regulars like the eight inventive pastas, and they also know that the poblano chicken chowder, with its sneaky little burn, is a must-order. Sam’s offers a good-sized bar, with a house specialty called the “Grand Canyon”-a 32-ounce margarita. 8411 Preston Rd., Ste. 112. 739-2288. Moderate.
Star Canyon. Superchef Stephan 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.
Cafe Madrid. Forget dreaming of tapa-tasting your way through Spain after sampling the little plates here-at least in our experience, neither Barcelona nor Madrid offers anything to equal Cafe Madrid’s panorama of palate teasers. Apart from the house bread, which is totally undistinguished, every bite we sampled held pure delight. Besides the two dozen or so tapas always available, a daily changing blackboard listing offers as many more, including everything from potato omelet to crisp-fried baby smelt, from wine-poached rabbit to blood sausage. Don’t shudder-that last is a near-religious experience, the dark, crisp-skinned sausage stuffed with rice and onion, filled with rich, meaty flavor, presented m double-bite-size morsels on herb-oiled cushions of bread. Try it with authentic Spanish manchego cheese, thin-sliced in crumbly mellow triangles, and stalks of white asparagus dressed with tomato-, onion- and green pepper-studded vinaigrette. If it’s a more conventional meal you’re after, a three-course dinner is offered nightly-cream of leek soup, veal stew and a cream-filled liqueur cake on our visit, paella on Friday and Saturday evenings. 4501 Travis St., 528-1731. Moderate.
Bob’s Steak & Chop House. 4300 Lemmon Ave., 528-9446. Moderate to expensive.
Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House. 5330 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 934-2467, Moderate.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. 5251 Spring Valley Rd? 490-9000. Expensive.
Kirov’s Steakhouse. 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. Monster steaks and lobsters large enough to dance with (as waiters have demonstrated on past visits) are the main draw here, but veal, seafood and poultry are featured, too. Prime rib on a recent visit was an overwhelming platterful, vast and lusciously rare in a crusty coating of seasonings; the veal chop sampled was less delectable, moist but decidedly chewy. These followed a warm appetizer of clams casino-on the half-shell, beneath a chop of celery, carrot and garlic, topped with a crisp curl of bacon-and a cold one involving roasted pimiento blanketing iceberg lettuce under anchovy filets and many capers. Dressed with light vinaigrette, the latter is always fantastic; alas, though, instead of the usual quarter-head chunk of lettuce, the plate held a mere slice this trip-an odd place to cut corners, we thought. A side of green beans was fresh and crunchy; chocolate layer cake was fine. The most recognizable color caricatures of celebs, local and other, that cover the walls were fascinating as usual-although this was the first time we’d realized they were glued, rather than painted directly on the plaster. Tcchi 701 Ross Ave., 698-0470. Expensive.
Paul’s Porterhouse. 10960CornpositeDr..357-0279.Expensive.
Stone Trail. 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 entrée with cheese-rich potato casserole or chile-jazzed whipped potatoes on the side. At lunch. Stone Trail serves a wonderful quesadilla thai 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 entrees 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. 3130 Lemmon Ave., 526-4664. Moderate.
Chow Thai. 5290 Belt Une Rd., Ste. 144, 960-2999. Moderate.
Royal Thai. Eating here, we always feel as if we’ve been invited into the private home of some gracious Thai host. Impeccably furnished, accented with small lamps casting delicate pools of light, this is the prettiest (and on its best days, the best) of Dallas’ Thai restaurants. That old standby, lemon grass chicken, is skillfully executed but try less familiar items, too. On a recent visit, one entree o1 crab, scallops, fish, shrimp, squid and peppers on curried rice drew literal cries of delight from the lucky first-time diner, who had to be told that even greater pleasures waited on the menu. If there’s a drawback, it’s in the size of the portions, which are not large; consider appetizers if you’re really hungry. In Old Town. 5500 Greenville Ave., 691-3555, Inexpensive to moderate.
Thai-Thai. Here’s the place for inexpensive food that hits the high points of freshness and authentic seasonings as satisfyingly as more exotic Thai eateries. A near-full house on our last visit made noon service near-brusque and near-instant, but the fare suffered not at all-steamed Thai dumplings were frilled purses plumped with shrimp, pork and vegetables, served with a zesty dipping sauce, Tom Kha Gai (chicken coconut soup) was a miracle of subtle flavor Interlacing^, smooth coconut milk cushioning pepper heat and filled with white chicken strips, baby corn, lemon grass, lime, cilantro leaves and those dark-capped little mushrooms that look like Disney dancers. Pad Woon Sen heaped an entrée plate with stir-fried glass noodles, chicken and every vegetable known to the Pacific Rim, plus rice and a crisp-skinned spring roll, all for under $5. Even the iced coffee that is a Thai meal’s most fitting dessert was a time-saver; instead of wearing one of those drip caps that take forever to brew, it was ready-made and absolutely delicious. 1731 Greenville Ave. at Ross. 828-9795. Inexpensive to moderate.
Toy’s Cafe. 4422-8 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 m mind that portions are large. And. even better, prices are low. The Village at Collin Creek. 621W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 247. Piano. 509-7979. Inexpensive.
Arc-En-Ciel. Unless you know exactly what you want to eat. allow plenty of time to study the menu here, which contains more than 300 choices, not including additional dishes rolling by in the dim sum carts. Arc-En-Ciel. French for “rainbow,” serves Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, some authentic, some Americanized, such as the 16 lunch specials that include an egg roll, fried rice and soup with each entrée, all for $3.50 to $3.95. Classic Vietnamese spring roils, with their transparent wrappers displaying their well-packed interiors of shrimp, vermicelli, mint, pork and garlic chives, taste every bit as good as they look, especially when dipped in the sneakily hot peanut sauce. Tender little shark’s fin dumplings, charcoal-broiled pork over vermicelli and crispy duck disappear fast, but the fresh crab dishes require too much work (and create too much of a mess) to get the meat out of the shell. Skip the desserts. 3555 W. Walnut Rd., Garland. 272-2188. Inexpensive.
Saigon Savour. The cuisine at this restaurant combines Mediterranean and Asian influences, but the San Francisco owners have not yet realized that Dallas palates are used to piquancy. The dishes we tried were lightly seasoned to the point of blandness. Ground shrimp, wrapped around sugar-cane sticks and grilled, held just a hint of the cane’s sweetness and were served without any sauce, perhaps by oversight. The green pepper soup, with sliced pepper, ginger, mushrooms and carrot cubes, was more flavorful. Broiled snapper delivered none of the menu-promised curry nuance, but garlic-spiked noodles were chewy and pungent and fine. A green papaya salad came with a dangerous-looking, dark-red sauce that packed little heat but added great interest. Contrariwise, the whole-roasted Dungeness crab and charcoal-grilled pork chop both had a lusty garlic presence. We also found ourselves wishing for vegetables, which the Vietnamese cooks usually prepare with finesse. The atmosphere at this newcomer is lovely-the room is decorated in plum, purple and white, and the food is served on pretty china. Service is intensely caring. 17370 Preston Rd.. Ste. 490, 380-2766. Moderate.
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-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.
Bistro Louise. We’ve rarely found food wonderful enough to warrant a 40-mile return trip, but here the tea-smoked duck-moist and fat-free, its satin skin smoked black and its luscious meat’s near-sweetness offset by a tart cranberry-port salsa-is such a dish (which takes three days to prepare!!. But almost everything we tried here was just as stellar. A starter of shiitake mushroom and baked garlic bread pudding was inspired. Pork porterhouse steak sauced with British ale was a lean loin cut, nicely partnered with a wedge of sweet potato-butternut squash gratin and sauteed baby vegetables. Minted salmon, a thick cut with sea salt and pepper on pistachio aioli, slid apart in lush layers at the touch of a fork. Other standouts range from Louise’s signature salad to a vegetable tower of peas, diced pepper and smoked corn kernels to a Mediterranean seafood paella. Only one starter fell short: Lettuce timbales weren’t zipped enough with their minted tomato vinaigrette to be as interesting as the concept sounded. Desserts, lemon coconut cake and a reverse chocolate cake were humdingers. 2900 S. Hulen (south from 1-301, Fort Worth, 817-922-9244. Moderate to expensive.
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 die 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 only, except on Friday and Saturday, when you can listen to great music at night while enjoying your dinner. 715 W. Magnolia, 817-926-7000. Inexpensive.
8.0 Restaurant & 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^dge. Singles love it. The waiters are sassy but efficient, and the food is good. The olivada crostini is an appetizer to die for, if you happen to like olives and garlic. The herb-crusted salmon is flaky and flavorful; the steaks are crowd-pleasers: and the pasta dishes pleased the vegetarians in our midst. Live music Thursday through Saturday nights. 111 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 corn flavor. A signature dish, vermicelli with charcoal-broiled shrimp wrapped in sugarcane, 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, (metro) 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.
Panther City Brewery. Fort Worth has been slower than Dallas to embrace the brewpub craze, but Panther City Brewery, with a prime location in the Stockyards, perfectly illustrates the enigma brewpubs present: They are neither fish nor fowl. Is this an elegant, creative Southwestern restaurant or a casual place with an emphasis on gourmet beer, serving the burgers-and-quesadillas menu you expect at such places? Right now, the restaurant is trying unsuccessfully to be both. Opened by Sally Bollick, who owned the pricey-and well worth it-Cafe Matthew in Bedford, Panther City Brewery has an unfocused menu that includes burgers and sandwiches as well as high-priced entrees and appetizers that sound good on the page but don’t quite work on the plate. The habanero tartar sauce accompanying the crab cakes appetizer was far better and more substantial than the miserly, small, unassuming crab cake that went with it; it was hard to find the meat in smoked chicken quesadillas, and a lamb salad was simply a huge plate of greens with a couple of lamb chops stuck on top; the lamb chops were raw, too. and had to be returned for more cooking. However, the service is caring, and the lively atmopshere lends itself to experimenting with the brews. The jalapeno beer and the cream ale were smooth and tasty; other beers included pale, red and amber ales, plus a stout. Here’s a drink of jalapeno beer to Panther City Cafe in hopes they’ll even out in time to impress what should be a constant stream of Stockyards visitors. 2513 Rodeo Plaza. Fort Worth, 817-626-9500. 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. Inexpensive to moderate.
Star of Texas Grill. From its perch on the mezzanine of the Worthington Hotel, the Star of Texas looks out over the bricks of busy Main Street. It’s a quiet place to dine, with piano music often drifting up from the lobby bar and a decor featuring cedar fence posts artfully draped with ropes and cowboy hats. The food can best be described as Southwestern/Italian, ranging from pastas and hearth-baked pizzas to venison chili, nachos and big beef steaks. Many dishes are given Fort Worth place names, such as North Side nachos. Thistle Hill salad and Billy Bob’s shrimp cocktail. On our visit, the food tasted pretty good, but our waiter was clearly working too many tables, and service suffered. Our appetizers-Cajun popcorn shrimp and Texas bruschetta (Italian herb and sun-dried tomato bread with Dallas goat cheese and cilantro jalapeno pesto]. meant to be served hot-arrived lukewarm at best, after the salads were served. The house salads, by the way, turned out to be the best part of the meal, fresh, crisp and flavorful. The Texas tacos also were served barely warm. My vegetarian companion requested lobster instead of chicken in part of her entrée, but after a very long wait, it arrived with-chicken. With the many choices of good places to eat in downtown Fort Worth, the Star of Texas Grill is going to have to try harder than this. 200 Main St., 817-882-1719. Moderate,
Water Street Seafood Company. Near the TCU campus. 1540 S. University Dr., Fort Worth, 817-877-3474. Moderate to expensive.