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Restaurant Reviews

By D Magazine |



THAT WE USE THE TERM “MEDITERRANEAN food” seems ludicrous, because if you check your globe, you’ll see plainly thai the Mediterranean borders several continents. But whether you’re eating tapas, tabbouleh, or tiropita, it’s easy to taste back through the layers of culinary influences until you reach the Moors (who once ruled the Mediterranean shore to shore) and the ancient Middle East- which is not so different from the modem Middle East when it comes to the plate. So perhaps Dallas diners’ passion for pasta actually foreshadowed the local increase in good Middle Eastern restaurants. Whatever the reason, even George Hedary-whose restaurant alone justified the category listing for years-has ventured across the Trinity again, so it appears that maza is here to stay. Al-Amir, the latest Arab entry, still feels like a tentative venture. Located in an old Japanese restaurant, the walls remain mysteriously decorated with oriental murals of bamboo; the only ethnic clue in the decor is the case of hookahs in the entry. Only a very few tables were taken on our visits, which could account for the extremely solicitous, though confused, staff and uneven kitchen. For instance, we ordered one wine and were served another, in the most friendly fashion. The meat-pies were especially good, pinched together around a lamb and pine nut filling, then fried till rich and crisp. But grape leaves, stuffed with beef instead of lamb, were not appealing. More approachable maza, like hummus and baba ghanoush-purées of chickpeas and smoked eggplant, respectively-were good, properly garlicked and lemoned. The natural dryness of cooked kibbeh was mitigated by hummus or yogurt, and the Cornish hen was surprisingly moist. Its tiny gaminess was complemented by the fragrant rice pilaf and scant but strong garlic sauce. Bui food, as we all know, is only a small part of dining out. Al-Amir needs to commit a little more and provide an environment for its food. Create an atmosphere, an experience, not just a menu. Surely someone there has a brother-in-law in the rug business? 7402 Greenville Ave., 214-739-2647. $$. (L-5)


Lakewood has its own wood-burning oven, the one kitchen accessory every neighborhood needs now that all trendy food is “roasted” or “wood-fired.” The current tenants of this space kept the name of the previous one, added some appliances so they could extend the repertoire, and reopened as La Dolce Vita, which could be summed up as the Lakewood version of PoPoLo’s. La Dolce Vita’s style suits its neighborhood-in place of slick and chic, this is homey and warm, with tall front windows, a pretty painted mural, a gleaming counter for coffee and desserts, and rose petals in the restroom sinks. The menu features some good salads, but pizza (gotta bum some wood in that oven) and pastas make up most of the menu, The Dolce Vita pizza features artichoke hearts and unfortunately, the pizzas are topped with the house-made mozzarella, which is too fresh to melt well and balls up in your mouth. Study the Heimlich maneuver before eating this one. You choose your own pasta shape and sauce, and of course there are all the chi-chi choices. But after sampling several, we found that our favorite dish here was spaghetti and meatballs. In Lakewood, the most unpretentious rich neighborhood in Dallas, you don’t have to be embarrassed to admit that. 1924 Abrams Pkwy., 214-821-2608. $-$$. (L-7)


THE FRENCH ARE RIGHT TO BE PARANOID. We are doing our best to knock French cuisine off its centuries-old, worldwide pedestal, and in this country, we’ve almost succeeded. It’s thoroughly regrettable, because you can only eat so much grilled food. The trend towards simplification in the New American style means that food is becoming less like fashion and more like the Gap. So it’s a relief in Piano, the land of the arrivistes, to open a strip-mall door and find yourself in a little Gallic enclave, complete with cream sauce and a decor that we’d describe as comfortable rather than cutting edge. La Mirabelle serves French classics, starting with appetizers like escargots and onion soup. But it’s not all chestnuts. The rare filet does come with a deep, round marchand de vin sauce and the flavorful strip (sautéed. a pleasant change from char) is served with green peppercorn sauce. But there is some uncommon-if still classically rooted- fare here, too. Rabbit (cooked according to the tenderness of the body part, so both braised and grilled), comes with spaet-zle, tender little potato dumplings that are mysteriously missing from many local menus. And the giant sea scallops rest on a bed of leeks drizzled with palely fragrant truffle oil. But the classic touch we appreciated most was the service-particularly the chef’s rounds from table to table. Never have specials sounded so special. Chef Francois Fotre and waiter both presented orally a list of options of meat and fish which were available cooked according to the diner’s preference. “If you like sweetbreads, I have a few that I found this morning, I could sauté them a moment, then finish them with a reduction,” is the way the spiel might sound. Meaning that only basic advance prep had been done, that your meal would actually be cooked the way you like it, after you ordered it-a return to couture cuisine. 17610 Midway Rd., 972-733-0202. $$-$$$. (K-4)


Peggy Sue’s Barbecue, This ’50s-style joint in Snider Plaz^ is serving some of [he beta! BBQ in town. Terrific appetizers include Texas Torpedoes-^ream cheese-rilled fried jalapenos. Baby back ribs, chicken, polish kielbasa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection, Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world of meat, go first-class here. 6600 Snider Plaza, 214-987-9188. $. (L-6)

Red Hot & Blue. A place to pig out literally: RHB specializes in pulled pork and dry ribs- that is, Southern-style, as opposed to Texas-style, barbecue. It’s all good, though there are gimmicky touches like the fried onion loaf. For tone star diehards, there is plenty of beef. too. The “bites” are on the walls, in the form of concert pesters, and in your ears. Friendly waitstaff. 98il0 N. Central Expwy., 214-368-7427 (L-5); $017 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 100, Piano. 972-2#8-3866. $. (K-2)

Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue, for the banking crowd at bankers’ hours. Everyday at lunch. Sammy’s is full of white-collar types, ties thrown over their shoulders, chowing on great red-stripe brisket, ribs, and homemade Mom-style pie. No really-Sammy’s is a family-run enterprise. ar(d all the Pritchards pilch in. 2126 Leonard St.. 214-880-9064. $. (K-7)


Copper Tank Brewing Company. The beer may be microbrewed but the setting is macro. This huge pub-an Austin import-functions as a sports bar. watering hole, and restaurant. While the beer wins awards, the food also deserves some attention, too. Our favorite pretzel replacement: onion rings with a zesty apple-horseradish dip-ping sauce. 2600 Main St., 214-744-2739,. $.(L-7)

D REVISITS Hubcap Brewery & Krtchen. ElvisT’ “Don’t Be Cruel” injunction weighed heavily on us in this vast, super-casual West End brew pub, where the menu’s light flirtation with innovative dishes (Bomber Wontons, Voodoo Pizza) was flattened on our visit by the kitchen’s plodding renderings. Suffice to say such attempted twists on the fun and familiar are best forgotten; we found cooks here mo ? comfortable with cliché fare-a super-conventional ribeye and baked potato were fine. Prices are mod at, service friendly and fast, and the main draw, after all, is the Colorado-rooted pub’s own beer: The three we tried (generous 5-ounce samples at a buck a pop) wore estimable, leaving us with nothing else to complain about but the music, which sounded a lot like heavy machinery crunching cars. 1701 N. Market St., Ste. 130., 214-651-0808. $-$$. (K-7)

The Rock Bottom Brewery. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asi-ago cheese dip or signature green pork chili. 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 roast y (Pelican Brown Ale and our fave, Roadrunner Stout). 4050 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-404-7456. 5$. (K-4)

D BEST Routh Street Brewery and Grill. The food has slipped a hit, but the hand-crafted brew remains some of the finest in Dallas. An elegant hill country lodge motif with antler chandeliers, dark leather booths, and soft lighting make it a sexy spot. Shy away from the weinerschnitzle: roasted pork tenderloin with shallot-flavored mashed potatoes fared better. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$. (K-7)

Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery. A crisp, cozy place with a predictably young, energetic staff and a menu that provides information (including how many fat grams) as well as social commentary (check out the Central Expressway Jackhammer Ale). 5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300, 214-696-BREW. $-$$. (L-6)

Yegua Creek Brewing Co. Recently snatching a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (the second time in three years) for its Scotch Ale, Yegua Creek continues to brew stellar suds. A home-grown brew pub. it meets the usual size requirements, but its menu strays from the burger/pizza path into less-traveled Southwest byways with mixed success. 2920 N. Henderson Ave.. 214-824-BREW. $$. (L-7)


D REVISITS Angry Dog. We were anything but angry after eating at the Angry Dog. We muscled our way to the back and settled at a communal table elbow to elbow between bikers and businessmen. The menu is standard bar cuisine including some great burgers, nachos, and sandwiches, but it extends to include some inspiring options. The Angry Dog-a grilled, all-beef hot dog split and served open-faced covered with grilled onions, chili, and cheese–is truly fantastic and a bargain at $430. We learned from our Harley-riding neighbors that the Angry Dog burger with fries is the best hangover cure in Dallas. Seems the medicinal secret stems from coating the fries with paprika, cayenne, and garlic salt. There is a shaker full on each table, if you prefer to work on obtaining a hangover, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St., 214-741-4406. $. (L-7)

D REVISITS Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. Fearlessly, we picked the week of the E. coli horror story to review a burger joint and found the crew at Chip’s (in the old church) grilling ground beef and frying potatoes as though they never read the newspapers. So we eschewed the pig sandwich, the hot dog. the grilled chicken (let’s talk about horror!), and stuck with the beef. And we found the burgers reliably good-buns were toasted, lettuce was crisp, and the meat was cooked thoroughly, of course. Sides of fries and skinny-cut onion rings were audibly hot, and the milkshakes, as always, are medicine for the soul. 4501 Cole Ave., 214-526-1092 (L-7>; 4530 Lovers Ln., 214-691-2447. S. (K-6)

The Ozona Westex Grill and Bar. “Mellow” is the operative word. Set back amid a tangle of trees, this popular gathering spot provides a surprisingly coot, green, countrified retreat in the city. A bottle of domes)ic beer starts at $2.75, there are abundant lunch specials, and the portions are very generous. 4615 Greenville Ave., 234-265-9105.$-$$.(L-6)

Snuffer’s. The perfect college menu-big burgers, outrageous cheese fries, chicken sandwiches, and chicken Caesar salad. For those with a thirst, there are sneaky margantas that taste like Slurpees, and, of course. beer. Go early on weekend nights; the crowds build quickly. 3526 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-6850 (L-7); 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$. (K-4)


Copland’s of New Orleans. Cajun staples are complemented (by an array of more creative appetizers and entrées. The blackened redfish was nicely don : if a bit tame. What’s more, every staff member from the manager on down was friendly and polite. 5353 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-661-1883. $$. (K-4)

Crescent City Cafe. Crescent City still dishes out solid New Orleans chow in authentic French Quarter surroundings and remains one of our favorite “glad-you-ihought-of-that-place” alternatives. Though the fried food can be spotty, the gumbo’s rich and the po’ boys are consistent)! good. The seafood salad makes a great alternative for anybody counting calories. 2nl5 Commerce St., 214-745-1900.$. (L-7)

LuLu’s Bait Shack. The tackiest place in town and proud of it? Cajun cuisine with regional nuances ranging from hot to hotter. For tamer tongues, try thé Chicken Rockafella with oysters, cheese, arid spinach. 2621 McKinney Ave., 214-969-11927. $-$$. (L-7)


Arc-En- Ciel. The menu at both locations offers more than 300|Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, some authentic, some Americanized, some untranslatable, many mysterious. Dim sum is also available. 3555 W. Walnut St.. Garland. 972-272-2188 (M-4); 2208 New York Ave., Arlington, 817-469-9999. $-$$. (F-9)

Cafe Panda. The personnel here roll out the red carpet and the mostly excellent food reflects a meticulous attention to detail, performing some service rituals as complex as the cuisine. Start with quail curl and watch as a team of servers performs a near-ballet in bringing it to your table. And finish with tableside French-pressed coffee.7979 Inwood Rd., Ste. 121, 214-902-9500. $-$$. (K-6)

Jasmine. Ersatz nightclub ambience collides with hustle-bustle service, but freshly prepared cuisine fortunately transcends both. Exquisite Ming chicken, redolent with spices and served in a crispy cold iceberg lettuce shell, was almost a meal in itself. 4002 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-991-6867, $-$$. (K-4)

May Dragon. An inscrutable strip center location belies one of the city’s best Chinese restaurants. Just slay away from the neon sweet and sour stuff, and you ’II be happy. Try a duck, instead. 4848 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-392-9998. $$. (K-4)

New Big Wong. Large lunches are served here in fast-food time, but a leisurely dinner rewards experimentation. The menu is large, and largely authentic, serving a wide variety of wiggly sea creatures. The setting is plain and the service friendly. 2121 S. Greenville Ave., 214-821-4198. $.(L-7)

Royal China. Bucky Kao was dishing oui Chinese food ai his Preston Royal outpost before the world got so small thai global became a cuisine. It’s still family-run, which means service can waver, but the dry-stirred beef never seems to. 201 Preston Royal Village.214-36l-1771.$.(K-5)

Taiwan Restaurant. One of the big-time Chinese restaurants in Dallas. Taiwan only stumbles when it’s too sure of itself. The upstairs dining rooms overlook only a parking lot, Focus on the tableside view, instead- plaies are garnished with surreally carved vegetables. Lunch specials are a steal, ranging from $5.95 to $9.45. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 200, Addison, 972-387-2333. $-$$, (K-4)

Uncle Chow, The menu might be small, but the flavor’s all there, especially if you start with [he pan-fried chicken dumplings, jam-packed with tender white meal. 19021 Midway Rd., 972-306-CHOW. $. (K-2)

Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan. After a hard day of shopping (he mall, it’s good to plop down in a comfortable chair and nosh on sweet, crunchy walnuts while waiting for the solicitous staff to bring you Uncle Tai’s hot and spicy cuisine. The food is so good that you’ll want to take some home, but shlepping garlic-laden Chinese through the mall does inhibit further shopping. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ, 972-934-9998. $$. (K-4)


Cafe Society. Dallas’ most authentic coffeehouse not only roasts its own beans, but offers a comfortable but hip environment for serious discussion, flirtation, hanging out, listening to music, and feeling generally plugged-in and with it. 209 Henry St.. 214-745-1964. $. (L-7)

Cafe Brazil. “Brazil” here is a coffee cue. but this cafe is not just another Java joint. The brews are varied and the laid-back attitude of all three locations make them comfortable chat rooms, but the food is better than it has to be. Breakfasts are particularly notable. 6420 N. Central Expwy, 214-691-7791 (L-6); 2221 Abrams Rd., 214-826-9522 (L-7); 2815 Elm. St.. 214-747-2730. $. (L-7)


Deli News. This New York-style deli is uninvit-ing with rudely inattentive service-perhaps a stab at regional authenticity, though only a deli outside the Big Apple would dare to serve this pitiful chicken soup. The bagels are excellent. 500 Crescent Court. Maple Avenue at Cedar Springs Road, 214-922-3354. $-$$. (K-7)

Gilbert’s. The deli menu doesn’t disappoint, from the finest grilled Reuben in town to overstuffed sandwiches on good rye. You can order from an extensive breakfast menu all day long and even chug down a Dr. Brown’s soda or a chocolate egg cream. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-373-3333. S. (K-4)

Streets Famous Sandwiches. We are impressed by the creative combos of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, and “Gene’s Favorite” is ours, too-grilled chicken and onions with melted provolone and spicy Dijon. Sides include a cheese tortellini salad with walnuts, Chinese sesame noodles, potato salad, and coleslaw. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-2505. $. (K-7)


Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meat-ball-sized beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd., Ste. 150. 972-239-8060. $$. (K-4>


Bread Winners. The menu here reflects a mélange of influences, from homey to refined Asian. A mustard-grilled pork chop comes partnered with scalloped sweet potatoes, and a grilled tuna steak wears a tropical salsa of spiced diced fruit. Desserts and breakfasts are line, too, but the main attraction is the prettiest patio in town. 3301 McKinney Ave., 214-754-4940.S-SKL-7)

D REVISITS The Brick Room. All rightie, then-there’s Lowest Greenville. There’s Lakewood. And now, midway between them in East Dallas, there’s Lowest Skillman, where this former auto parts store has been transformed into a suavely casual food-and-music venue. Even on weeknights, tiered tables are filled with aficionados of the jazz that’s live Tuesday through Sunday. Whether they come tor the food alone is moot-partly California-inspired, partly bar-food familiar, the menu’s a mid-priced mix ranging from seafood to barbecue to classic steaks (the featured baseball sirloin cul. nicely broiled, would have fed a platoon). But for sure, they come for the Freddie Jones combo’s music the night we were there. Cool jazz on a flugelhorn? You have to love it, along with the Room’s well-tuned bar and no-airs service. 1925 Skillman St., 214-823-2725. $$. (L-6)

Cosmic Cup. The counterculture’s barely made a dent: in the Dallas psyche, a fact which makes Cosmic Cup almost a tourist attraction here. In other cities, there are whole neighborhoods lined with places like this. Most of the food is India-inspired, which makes vegetarian an easy philosophy-samosas, dal, curry. Good, and good for the soul. 2912 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-521-6157.$. (K-7)

D REVISITS Deep Ellum Cafe. The first thing anyone’s likely to notice about this downtown cafe is that they need to invest in a new Ventahood. The odor of overcooked fat assaults the nostrils as soon as you enter the Thin Room/Cafe door. If you’re a fan of this unpretentious place (as we are and have been since its opening), you expect the food to be inventive and good. But we have been disappointed lately. The southern-fried-aka chic ken -fried-steak (supposedly a literal cut above the generic stuff) is actually several tiers below. Another classic, Vietnamese chicken salad, was a boring pile of hamster fodder doused with nuoc chain.

Service that used to seem bohemian now just seems preoccupied. And the big finish, the Toblerone tort, was a repellent chocolate goop, sweetened further with caramel glue. 2704 Elm St., 214-741-9012. $-$$. CL-7)

Doolittle’s. Make of it what you will, this slick combination restaurant/bar offers a buffet of menu and music styles ranging from chicken and dumplings to martinis, modem jazz to Jimmy Buffet. There is a little something for everyone here-cigars, single malts, boutique beers. home cooking, burgers, and New American. 5290 Beltline Rd., Ste. 50, Addison. 972-991-2030. $$. (K-4)

Dream Cafe. This Quadrangle eatery’s pastoral-in-city setting seems particularly appropriate for the Dream Cafe’s menu, though there are those who insist that “dream” refers to the often seemingly somnolent service. The Dream Cafe’s famed breakfast menu remains an intriguing, blend-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., 214-954-0486 (L-7); 1133 N. Zang Blvd., 214-943-6448, (breakfast and lunch only this location) $$. (K-8)

East Side Grill. This little neighborhood pub offers down-home dishes with kicky accents that lift them above common bar food, Notable examples: Chicken-fried steak with terrific twice-baked mashed potatoes and a healthy stir-fry of vegetables. 2916 N. Henderson Ave., 214-828-2801. S. (L-7)

8.0 Restaurant and Bar. Get to this way-cool spot early or risk missing out on imaginative blue- and green-plate specials like black bean tamales in a tomatillo sauce. Stay the hell away on Thursday nights unless you like to watch the beautiful people booze and schmooze shoulder-to-shoul-der. Better to go when you can actually see the floor-to-ceiling murals by Dallas artists. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0880. $-$$. (K-7)

Firehouse. This restaurant is the ultimate in food cross-dressing. Chef Bruno Giovanni Mella displays great dexterity in crossing pork chops with mango salsa or andouille sausage with barbecued shrimp. Fire-eaters have hit the mother lode. But there’s plenty lor those who feel failli at the site of a jalapeno. Try the roasted garlic and eggplant dip served in a whole roasted onion. 1928 Greenville Ave., 214-826-2468.$$-$$$. (L-7)

Gershwin’s. The ambitious menu ai this handsome room reaches for the top New American tier and gets there more often than not. Best bets are the more traditional ones like steaks, pizzas, and salads-all a deal compared to what’s served at more famous New American venues. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln. at Greenville Avenue, 214-373-7171. $$. (L-5)

D BEST Trie Grape. The secret is that Dallas’ oldest and best wine bar is really one of ils oldest and best restaurants- dim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter how often the chef changes), and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave., 214-828-1981.$$. (L-7)

D BEST The Green Room. This ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of the most inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The menu is eclectically uptown, and the decor is strictly downtown rock ’n” roll. The contrast between them is cool. At $34. the fixed-price, four-course, “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2715 Elm St., 214-748-ROOM. $$. (L-7)

Jungle Red. Colorful decor combines the feel of a Caribbean nightclub with Peewee’s Playhouse-zany is the operative word and more so if you indulge in a frozen fruit drink swirling away in the machines behind the bar. The food is a hybrid, too: a tropical blend of Saturday morning sweetness with seafood and fruit. Fish or shrimp tacos are best bets. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-5733. $-$$. fjK-7)

Margaux’s. Cafe Margaux owner Kay Agnew has reopened yet again, in a smaller space wearing a suitably shorter name and with a mealtime menu that includes lunch on weekdays and dinner on Thursday only. Shrimp and sausage gumbo is the real thing, and com-meal-crusted oysters are crisp-skinned delights. 2404 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-740-1985.$$. (K-7)

Mark’s on Henderson. Chef-owner Mark Jenson has turned this intimate 13-table bistro into a grown-up wine bar by serving hot food. Browse the cellar and choose a bottle or sample international wines by the glass. A moderately priced chalkboard menu lists an eclectic selection of daily entrees such as Russian chicken-a breast covered with a sauce loaded with grilled onions and cilantro. 2926 Henderson Ave., 214-841-0900. $$. (L-7)

Mel Italiens Bar and Fine Dining. Mel Hollen, who has designed and opened a number of well-loved Dallas eateries, finally has opened a place of his own, featuring his slightly dated classics like baked oysters “Bingo”-six tasty Blue Points on the half-shell over a bed of creamed spinach, shallots, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese. 15175 Quorum Dr., Addison, 972-233-6357. $$-$$$. (K-3)

Piano Cafe. A feast of vegetables accompanies each meal at this suburban bistro, and most people leave with leftovers. Freshly grilled roast chicken with red pesto penne draws loyal fans. There’s a decent wine list and a winner of a dessert list. 1915 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 500, Piano, 972-516-0865. $$. (M-l)

Sipango. The Cal-ltal menu offers selections various enough to allow for grazing as well as course-by-course dining at this currently cool cafe-cum-nightspot. Service was overly amiable, with some timing lapses; and once the too-loud cocktail pianist made way for a combo, conversation was possible and people-watching was its own entertainment. 4513 Travis St., 214-522-2411. $$. (L-7)

St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin. The marl in doesn’t mean seafood, it’s just a clue that the owner likes to fish. The only seafood here is the dancing tuna sandwich; mostly, the food is simply designed to go wih your beer. Beware the diablo tempestuous, pasta doused in fiery jalapeno-tomato sauce. It’s so hot it comes with a chaser of chocolate milk. 2730 Commerce St., 214-698-1511. $. (L-8)

Tarazza. This menu borrows ideas from all over the world–a Japanese version of Italian risotto, a French duck confit salad, a Thai soup-adds its own spin, and leaves taste buds dancing. Listening to piano music at the inviting bar area is the best way to end to your meal unless the stars invite you out to the upstairs terrace. 4514 Travis St., 214-521-2175. $$. (L-7)

The Thomas Avenue Beverage Company. Chef Michael Smith serves a healthy mix of Southwest, cajun, and New American cuisine at this old-style pub in brand-new Uptown. The roast pork chop with spinach sautéed with apple butter literally melts off the bone. The menu changes weekly, based on availability of fresh ingredients. 2901 Thomas Ave., 214-979-0452. $-$$.(L-7)

Yvette. The menu here suits the Cadillac setting-dark wood, etched glass, and red velvet curtains. Over-the-top Yvette, part-owned by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Barry Switzer. does score some absolute touchdowns, like a perfect Caesar salad and a Dover sole so tender and nicely seasoned it’s gone before you have time to appreciate it. 14775 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-503-9777. $$-$$$. (K-4)


Addison Cafe. You might expect a contradictory kitchen from a place that’s subtitled “Le French Bistro.” Our pan-seared snapper melted like butter, but the smoked salmon topping was dry and chewy. Sautéed sea bass was crisp, moist, and flaky, but bread tasted store-bought. And because service is studiedly languorous, we weren’t quite sure who our waiter was. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste, 108 at Montfort Drive, Addison. 972-991-8824. $$. (K-4)

Arthur’s. A ’70s artifact, this restaurant’s longtime reputation as a prime steak place is still deserved but too limiting. The kitchen’s ways with seafood, veal, fowl, and even pasta are winners, too. Vive les classiques! 8350 N. Central Expwy. (in Campbell Center), 214-361-8833. $$$.(M-3)

D BEST Barclays. Don’1 come to Barclays expecting to find a pint of bitter and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms was of regal status. And if you’re looking for that perfect place to “pop” the question or celebrate something special, look no further; this place is a gem-a real bobby-dazzler. 2917 Fairmont St.. 214-855-0700. $$-$$$. (K-7)

The French Room. Hotel Adolphus’ gorgeous crown jewel comes close to perfection. One entrée plate presents roasted duck breast on lemon thyme polenta in ruby port wine sauce; another holds roasted veal tenderloin with Brie cheese and pear gratin on truffled opal basil risotto. Good selection of wine by the glass. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200. $$$. (L-7)

Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: fine food in fine surroundings at a fair price. Appetizers and entrées alike are first-rate. If you’re not up for one of the excellent meals, enjoy a glass of wine and a sampling of cheese or one of their many patés. 3605 McKinney Ave., 214-528-6010. $$. (L-7)

Lavendou. If you’re in search of a classic French meal, head to Lavendou and get textbook Provence-from the food down to the yellow and blue decor. Duck with black currants would please even the pickiest Francophile and pomme frites are pure Paris. Lavendou is as capitalist as they come, though-patrons can purchase pottery from their line of ochre and lavender objets. 19009 Preston Rd., 972-248-1911. $$-$$$. (K-3)

Old Warsaw. Hanging on to a reputation as one of Dallas’ oldest elite restaurants is tough business, but La Vieille Varsovie is valiant. It takes effort to find much fault with the fancy food- from appetizers to dessert, the meal is an anachronistic treat. Servers, however, are only acceptably pleasant. 2610 Maple Ave., 214-528-0032. $$S. (K-7)

D BEST The Pyramid Room. Thai overused word, opulence, must be hauled out again-the Fairmont Hotel’s flagship restaurant demands it. Here is service and ambience that beggar less extravagant description. The food, too, deserves superlatives. You can hardly ask for more cosseting at any price than that provided by this serenely cosmopolitan restaurant. Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St., 214-720-5249. $$$. (K-7)

D BEST The Riviera. We knew the moment an airy avocado cream hors d’oeuvre passed our lips that we were doomed, once again, to a near-flawless dining experience, Each dish seems to outdo another. Food credits here mostly belong to Chef de Cuisine Michael Weinstein, one assumes, with input from David Holben, now executive chef at sibling restaurants Mediterraneo and Toscana. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094. $$$. (K-7)

St. Martin’s. Rich paneling, soft-lit paintings, and touches of muted gold update the famous romantic setting; live music shapes the proper evening mood. And chef Rich Hollister’s food delivers sophisticated fulfillment. The by-the-glass wine selection is broad, and service strikes the correct balance between attention and discretion. 3020 Greenville Ave., 214-826-0940.$$.(L-6)

Tramontana. An unassuming little cafe that delivers more than it modestly promises. Savor 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, too, exceeded our expectations, and desserts are made in-house. 8220B Westchester Dr., 214-368-4188.$-$$. (L-6)

Watel’s. Sure, you’ll find weird organ meats like calves’ brains doctored with capers and veal kidneys touched with mushrooms to satisfy the strand of old-world gastronomic esoteri-ca that quivers in your palate. But you’ll also find exquisite contrasts like delicate rare tuna coated with crunchy peppercorns and tightly structured grilled shrimp with red pepper coulis-all served in a crisp, clean space. 1923 McKinney Ave., 214-720-0323. $$. (L-7)

What Else. Serious, well-prepared French country cooking in a cozy dining room. Tender duck-leg confit falls off the bone and is accompanied by a creamy risotto. A classic tarte tatin-upside-down apple tart-is authentic. Pay-by-the course menu reminds us that eating French food doesn’t have to be an intimidating or expensive experience. 1915 Greenville Ave., 214-874-WHAT. $$-$$$. (L-7)


City Cafe To Go. This tiny, restaurant-related gourmet shop is jam-packed with good stuff. Soups score high marks, from the famous tomato soup to the buttery clam chowder; sandwiches and salads earn major points for creativity. Desserts are even better, from a thoroughly decadent Blum cake, with its cascades of sugary crisps, to a simple dish of berries. 5757 N. Lovers Ln., 214-351-3366. $$. (K-6)

Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-1515. $-S$.

La Spiga. You may have to track down La Spiga, tucked away in a warehouse area, but it’s worth it-these rustic, crusty loaves of preservative-free bread are served at many of the best restaurants in town. But there’s plenty more being dished up here, including homemade soup, panini, quiches, pizza-style focac-cia, and Caesar salads. 4203 Lindberg Dr., Addison, 972-934-8730. $. (K-3)

Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. The new cafe in the old store offers excellent food in confusing surroundings. A marinated salmon sandwich with caramelized onions, a beef tenderloin Caesar salad, and a tangy hearts of palm salad are all standouts. Marty’s is now a true wine bar with weekly wine-by-the-glass selections featuring some of the most distinctive pours from the world’s major wine regions-at jaw-dropping-ly reasonable prices ($4-$IO). 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526^1070. $-$$. (K-7)


Kostas Cafe. The food is simply Greek and simply good. Appetizer do’s: saganaki and dolmas (musts, really). Entrée don’ts: souvlaki (tough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave., 214-987-3225. $$. (L-6)

D BEST Ziziki’s. The wood bar is one of the places to be seen m Dallas, but it’s the neo-Mediterranean food that rules. Greek-styled lamb and shrimp star, and the Italian cream cake ends meals on a sweet note. The wines, from all over the globe, demonstrate the owners’ quest for the best. Visit the coffee bar/take-out shop. 4514Travis St.. Ste. 122, 214-521-2233. $$. (L-7)


Barbec’s. Barbec’s regulars love the tabloid newsprint menu, the hearty, what-canget-you-Hon? waitresses, the awesome anytime breakfasts. The food ranges from pretty good to good, but it’s all cheap. And they’ve always got those legendary beer biscuits, sweet and high and truly loved by all. Great meringues. 8949 Garland Rd., 214-321-5597. $. (M-6)

Casa Linda Cafeteria. The hairnet is alive in Casa Linda, behind the virtually endless serving counter at this culinary heir to the Highland Park Cafeteria. We are always amazed at the quantity of food selections here-a dozen salads, 30 entrées (even though too many of them are geriatrically under-seasoned), 20 sides, 10 types of bread, a dozen desserts. There’s a to-go section full of salads, soups, etc. 300 Casa Linda Plaza; 214-324-5000. $. (M-6)

Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. In this former residence are several dining areas, each housing a few tables. Entrées run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast to fried chicken, all accompanied by an endless supply of vegetables. Don’t worry if your entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-5681.$.

D REVISITS DC’s Cafe. In your dreams, you’ve had home cooking as fine as this, but rarely, rarely in real life. Picture a pair of pork chops, each bigger than your hand, grilled to succulence and sided with sweet potato, stewed okra, tomato-cucumber salad-all perfectly seasoned. Add ; menu of other down-home favorites, fried, grilled, and baked, served in mammoth portions at ground-level prices, and you begin 10 see why the family-run establishment has won a sizable following since owner-cook Damon Crow opened it some four years ago. Its strip-center location’s off-track, and you’ve been in powder rooms bigger than its trig gray-carpeted, mirror-walled seating space (capacity 23, max), but constant takeout and eat-in traffic demonstrates DC’s is hardly unsung; the food and cordial attitude demonstrate why. 8224 Park Ln., 214-363-4348. $. (L-5)

Doody’s Roadhouse. Attainable goals are the key to success-why can’t aspiring restaurateurs remember that? The owner of Doody’s did. It’s a casual neighborhood joint where locals drop in for food and drink and fill the patio on pretty days. Food here is strictly no frills and trend-free. Spinach dip. Buffalo wings. Burgers. In huge portions. 2847 N. Henderson Ave., 214-828-9600. $-$$. (L-7)

Poor Richards Cafe. Honest home-cooked food, featuring a huge spread of the one meal Mom told you never to leave home without-breakfast. 2442 Ave. K at Park Boulevard, Piano, 972^23-1524. $, (M-2)


D BEST Bombay Cricket Club. The food here is cricket with us, especially the incendiary chicken vindaloo. the soothing saag paneer (chunks of homemade cheese in creamed spinach), the curry-kissed aloo ben-gan, which combines eggplant, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes, and the teg of lamb from the tandoor. 2508 Maple Ave., 214-871-1333. $-$$. (K-7)

India Palace. Delicate spices imbue truly fine Indian cuisine. And, similar to a fine perfume, too much is an assault on the senses, too little and there’s no magic. India Palace has kept the proper balance for nearly a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. 12817 Preston Rd., Ste. 105.972-392-0190. $-$$. (K-4)


Alessio’s. We grazed on complimentary bruschetta and fresh vegetables while reviewing the pricey menu and a difficult-to-read chalkboard describing the even pricier evening specials. This is a Dallas favorite, especially for romantics, but we’re not in love with the value since inconsistency mars the food. 4117 Lomo Alto Dr., 214-521-3585. $$-$$$. (K-7)

Angelo’s Italian Grill. When you think of classic Italian favorites, what triggers your Pavlovian response? Lasagna? Spaghetti? Scampi? Chicken parmesan? Pizza? This homey place has it all. Each meal comes with a Caesar salad and out-of-the-oven garlic rolls. The wine list is extensive, even by the glass. 6341 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5566. $. (L-7)

Campisi’s Egyptian. It’s dark, outdated, and frankly, kind of a dump. The food is predictable and mostly pedestrian, except the famous pizza. But all an institution has to do in order to succeed is endure. Dallas loves Campisi’s and has for decades. Cash or check only. 5610 E. Mockingbird Ln., 214-827-0355. $. (L-6)

Coco Pazzo. Both Dallas locations of Coco Pazzo (links in the chain owned by noted New York restaurateur Pino Luongo) are a little less rustica and quite a bit glitzier than one might find in the Italian countryside. Food is similarly stylish, but usually very good, particularly pastas and desserts. 2504 McKinney Ave., 214-871-2606. $$.(L-7)

Covino’s. Buried deep inside a series of strip malls, Covino’s draws raves for its New York-style pizza. Owner Joe Covino (a transplanted New Yorker) is usually on hand greeting the regulars while his wife Michèle is at home making 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. 972-519-0345. $. (L-2)

Joey’s. Owner Joey Vallone and chef have created a menu of innovative Italian fare. If you aren’t a “High Profile” regular, chances are you’ll spend most of your evening at the bar of this dizzyingly decorated hot spot. Try the tower of vegetables glued together with Fontina cheese or the rigatoni Vallone with artichokes, asparagus tips, and Louisiana head-on prawns. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-0074. $$. (K-7)

D BEST Mi Piaci. At all times, these hipper-than-hip rooms are filled with people who look like they just stepped off the fashion pages. The menu focuses on classic Tuscan cuisine, with homemade pasta, made-to-order risotto, and superb breads. You’ll always see serious waiters expertly deboning the meltingly tender Dover sole for savvy diners. Our only complaint: The noise level can get pretty high. 14854 Montfort Dr., 972-934-8424. $$. (K-4)

Modo Mio. “Cucina Rustica Italiana” off the Dallas North Tollway. Charming decor, excel-. lent staff, and innovative menu. Gnocchi Modo Mio isn’t Rome, but it beats the pants off local imitations, and the tiramisu has the perfect proportion of mascarpone to ladyfin-gers. The overall service is efficient and unobtrusive-this packed restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. 18352 Dallas Pkwy.. Ste. 112, 972-671 -MODO. $$. (K-2)

Nicola’s. From its tony Tuscan al fresco decor to the woody perfume of grilled meals, Nicola’s exhibits stylishness beyond typical mall restaurants. For a light meal, glass of wine, and an unsurpassed view of Dallasites doing what they do best-shopping-Nicola’s is the best. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy., 972-788-1177. $$. (K-4)

Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and floors and odd faucet-like lighting of this trendy dining spot give this Cedar Springs mainstay showerlike appeal. But this doesn’t take away from the charm of the little garlic trees that sit in the windows or the fresh flowers that grace each table. As for the food, Pomodoro deserves applause for consistent innovation. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-1924. $$. (L-7)

Terilli’s. A Lower Greenville fixture, Terilli’s packs in a semi-sophisticated crowd for such-as-it-is jazz and an eclectic menu featuring the signature item with the silly name: “Italcho’s” (crisp chips of pizza dough topped with moz-zarella and a choice of toppings). Food ranges from pretty good to so-so. but devotees find mat Terilli’s is more than die sum of its parts. 2815 Greenville Ave., 214-827-3993. $$. (L-7)


Deep Sushi. Remember that American sushi is as much style as substance, and you’ll be happy here. There’s a lotta style, and even some good sushi, if you fish carefully. Watch out for the Dragon Lady Roll, a combination of tuna, avocado, and rice Hashed with incendiary wasabi, red pepper sauce, and Japanese yellow mustard wrapped in seaweed and sliced. 2624 Elm St., 214-651-1177. $$-$$$. (L-7)

D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range from the sublime to the abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, bento, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. at Parker Road. Piano, 972-881-0328. $$. (M-2)

Sushi at The Stoneleigh. Sedate for a sushi spot, with more of the civilized pace of the old hotel than the faster rhythms of a typical sushi bar. Still, the fish is fine. We especially like the special Stoneleigh sushi. 2927 Maple Ave., 214-871-7111. S$-$$$.(K-7)

D REVISITS Sushi mi McKinney. There was sushi in Dallas before there was sushi on McKinney, but there was no cool sushi. Sushi on McKinney opened at the height of Japanese hip. and California rolled its way down onto the regular route of Dallas diners. Its edge is slightly dulled now, but it remains a reliable option for sushi standards, and this is still a fun place to go. We like to sit at the sushi bar, where the chefs will often prepare special tidbits. 4502 McKinney Ave., 214-521-0969. $-$$. (K-7)

Sushi Sake. Sushi Sake is half-hidden in a Fleetwood Square strip that we’d call hard to find if so many aficionados weren’t finding it. Many of them are admirers from chef-owner Takashi Soda’s former days as sushi chef of Nakamoto in Piano, and they find here a warmly upbeat ambience, willing attendance to every need, an arresting selection of sakes, hot and cold-and of course, the food. 220 W. Campbell Rd., 972-470-0722. $$. (M-3)

D BET Teppo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the cit\ s most exciting sushi bars and ;i favorite weekend date destination as well. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modern decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials. 2014 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-8989. $$-$$$. (L-7)


Adelmo’s. Some go for the food, some go for the intimacy, but almost everybody finds a reason to go back id this well-hidden gem. Service is unhurried and patient, and the wine list varied and reasonable. Entrées and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that held our attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes had been devoured. 4537 Cole Ave., 214-559-0325. $$. (K-6)

The Bistro. Don’t restrict dinner to a single starter, one entree, and dessert. That option’s still on the menu at this quiet restaurant, but so’s the opportunity to sample hot and cold teasers of every Mediterranean sort from a listing of more than 30. plus daily specials. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Road, 214-352-1997. $-$$. (K-6)

Cafe Express. Fresh, health-conscious, budget-friendly, and efficient is the goal at this amusingly designed cafe. The wholesome and healthy emphasis can be found in the salads. sandwiches, chicken, and pastas. But beware: There are a bevy of burgers (like the blue cheese and bacon burger) and a bountiful display of desserts (like chocolate pot de crème) to tempt the weak. 3230 McKinney Ave., 214-999-9444. $. (L-7)

D BEST Mediterraneo. Chef David Holben’s exquisite culinary artistry, a casually elegant decor, and efficient, non-stuffy service combine to create a sublimely magical Mediterranean bistro that’s a sibling to the very successful Riviera. Of particular interest: Mediterraneo’s $9.95 luncheon menu includes appetizer and entrée. 18111 Preston Rd. at Frankford Road. Ste. 120, 972-447-0066. $$-$$$. (K-2)

PoPoLo’s. Wins the popularity contest in its restaurant-free Preston Hollow neighborhood, though against stiffer competition, the menu might rate as many misses as hits. Choose from pastas, risottos, and hickory-grilled meats with mix-and-match sauces. Wood-fired pizzas and breads (from the adjoining bakery) are usually excellent. 707 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-692-5497. $-$$. (K-5)

Sambuca. Both of Sambuca’s locations are wonderfully vibrant restaurants featuring innovative Mediterranean cuisine for those who enjoy their meals with jazz. Each location presents well-known groups seven nights a week, but the decibel level prohibits any casual dinner conversation during performances. The food is tasty and satisfying, utilizing lots of spices, garlic, and herbs. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison. 972-385-8455 (K-3): 2618 Elm St.. 214-7444)820.$$. (L-7)

Toscana. There are flaws: a starter of yellow-corn polenta that should have been crispy was soggy, it’s noisy, and the tables are too crowded. But the winning trio who founded Riviera and Mediterraneo have another success story in Toscana, a super Tuscan-themed restaurant with all the cachet of its sisters. 4900 McKinney Ave.. 214-521-2244. $$. (K-6)


D BEST Avila’s. litis is the food you’d come home to if you could and leave home for if you must, starting with the eye-watering salsa. Beef tacos are brim-full of good, greaseless ground beef, and a plump enchilada is perfectly partnered with a soft cheese taco. The refried beans are outstanding. The service is pleasant, and the restaurant is immaculate. 4714 Maple Ave.. 214-520-2700. $. (K-7)

Cantina Laredo. Cantina Laredo’s attention to detail shows throughout the entire meal. Don’t force yourself into a decision-order the monstrous sampler platter and take home the leftovers. 8121 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-987-9192 (L-5); 4546 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-458-0962. $-$$. (K-4)

Casa Navarro. This wonderful descendant of downtown’s late, lamented El Taxco offers classic Tex-Mex in true hole-in-the-wall style. A godsend for North Dallas-types hankering for a real-Mex fix. There’s breakfast, too. In the Forest Park Shopping Center, 11742 Marsh Ln., Ste. A, 214-357-0141. $. (J-4)

D REVISITS Casa Rosa. Old ladies prefer pink light bulbs. They say it lends a youthful glow to an age-paled face. Casa Rosa is certainly venerable by Dallas restaurant standards, and the pink lights here not only make the place pretty but create a theme. The service on our last visit seemed so inexperienced, you’d think the restaurant had been bom yesterday. But the menu has aged gracefully, and some new offerings have been mixed in to update the classics. Warmed salsa, fresh tostados, rich chili-clad cheese enchiladas, fat chicken-filled enchiladas covered with tart tomatillo, and exotic mushroom enchiladas with goat cheese were all excellent. Only chimichangas failed-the fried tortilla packets had been wailing too long. One of the few places to order fideo {Mexican pasta), but here it was little more than grocery store spaghetti with an insipid sauce of bell peppers and tomatoes. A spilled soft drink at one end of the table didn’t cause the waiter to hesitate in jotting down an order at the other-admirable presence of mind, but this is the kind of emergency where distractibility is an asset. 165 Inwood Village, 214-350-5227. $. (K-6)

Chuy’s. Dallas’ most frenzied dining scene, if you can call this “dining.” The frenetically zany decor induces an attentional deficit and the food is competent Tex-Mex, but the herds of elbow-bending college students can be daunting if you’re over 30 or are indisposed to dine in a den. Din. Whatever. 4544 McKinney Ave., 214-559-2489.$. (K-7)

Dos Charm. This is food for people who break into a sweat at the sight of a habanero chile.

The extensive menu has plenty of seafood choices and healthful options added to the list of traditional favorites. 108 University Village Shopping Center, Belt Line and Piano roads, 972-783-7671. $. (M-4)

El Norte. The decor varies from the authentic look of specials painted directly on the walls to cheesy plastic flamingos in the flower boxes, but some solidly good food comes out of the kitchen. This is a great family spot with a reasonable all-you-can-eat special. 2205 W. Parker Rd., Piano, 972-596-6783. $. (L-2)

Escondido’s. The rickety surroundings exude genuine “dump” appeal, which simply means that the food should be as good as the place is bad. And for the most part, it is. 2210 Butler St., 214-634-2056. $. (K-7)

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Touted as Dallas’ best “interior”’ Mexican restaurant, Javier’s lives up to its own high standards. Entrees range from excellent seafood dishes to tender cabrito, though some regulars never stray from the legendary filet Durango. 4912 Cole Ave., 214-521-4211.$$. (L-6)

La Calle Doce. Those who don’t like seafood will appreciate more traditional Mexican offerings served in this old Oak Cliff house, such as spinach enchiladas carefully covered with green sauce. And La Calle Doce’s celebrated hot sauce remains a winner. 415 W. 12th St., 214-941-4304. $-$$. (K-8)

Las Cazuelas. This tiny East Dallas jewel serves up marvelous food, starting with the killer salsa that’s made with fresh cilantro. onion, and tomato essences. On Mondays, the special caldo de res, chunky with beef and vegetables, is fabulous as is the super-hot chile relleno. 4933 Columbia Ave., 214-827-1889. $. (L-7)

La Valentina. A taste of big city Mexico in suburbia. The beautiful menu makes fascinating reading which doesn’t always translate to the plate. The polio en mole poblano tops a chicken breast with a sensuous sauce that includes 54 types of chilies, spices, and a touch of chocolate, resulting in a richly layered smoky-sweet flavor. Forget that fascinating menu when it’s time for dessert and ask for the flan. 14866 Montfort Dr., 972-726-0202. $$. (K-4)

Maria’s Chiquita. A Dallas classic, this restaurant eschews velvet paintings and kitsch in favor of a pretty, casual decor and offers upscale Mexico City-style fare, as well as some of the best Tex-Mex combinations in town. 221 W. Parker Rd., Ste. 400. Piano. 972-423-2977. $-$$. (L-2)

Martin’s Cocina. The kitchen here does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrées that weigh in at less than 1,000 calories each, including the four chiles rellenos. Martin himself lost 100 pounds eating his own food. But only skimp if you want to-the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa, its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. 7726 Ferguson Rd., 214-319-8834. $-$$. (N-5)

Mattito’s. A bustling, family restaurant, which inherited its menu from Matt Martinez Jr. Don’t miss the chile relleno, topped with the usual sauce, cheese, and sour cream, but also with chopped pecans for crunch and raisins for sweetness. Save some calories for the homemade flan and sopaipillas. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort, Addison, 972-503-8100. (K-3); 4311 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-8181. S. (K-7)

D BEST Matt’s Rancho Martinez. Outstanding grilled (not fried) flautas, as well as the signature chile relleno, are the hallmarks of this Austin-style menu, but, oddly, Malt’s chicken-fried steak (served three ways) is some of of the best in town. It’s hard to go wrong with this menu, and there’s a great outdoor patio, too. 6332 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517. $-$$. (L-7)

Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution has dished up definitive Tex-Mex food to addicts who stand in line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enriquez satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with house specialties. Service is cheerful; the setting is no-frills comfortable. The bad news: The restaurant serves only beer and wine. 4322 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-1020. $- (K-7)

Mi Cocina. This chain has expanded so rapidly you’d think Dallasites had just discovered Tex-Mex. But at all six locations, the food is dependably good and lines are still dependably long. Cool your heels with a margarita. The new menu features upscale dishes in addition to basic tacos and enchiladas-tacos habanas are stuffed with chicken and covered with ground chili and cilantro; Latin stir-fry fajitas provide a new option for vegetarians, 11661 Preston Rd., 214-265-7704 (K-4); 77 Highland Park Village, 214-521-6426 (K-6); 18352 Dallas Pkwy. at Frankford Road, 972-250-6426 (K-2); 7201 Skillman St., 214-503-6426 (L-5); In the Galleria, 972-239-6426 (K-4); 509 Main St., Fort Worth {817-877-3600). $-$$. (B-9)

Monica Aca Y Alla. This cool place has been around long enough to be a tradition in these days of restaurants that open and close-especially in Deep Ellum. The ambitious menu offers intriguing South western-inspired options as well as more standard Tex-Mex, in a hip and hopping ambience. New weekend brunch: 10a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 2914 Main St., 214-748-7140. $$. (L-7)

Monterrey. The setting is gardenlike, the service is attentive, and the food in this family-run Lakewood establishment is fresh, fresh, fresh. 1611 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2026. $.(M-5)

Nuevo Leon. Excellent Mex-Mex food in a comfortable old Greenville Avenue location draws a mixed crowd but enthusiastic reviews. Cabrito is good, mole is excellent, carnitas are the best. 2013 Greenville Ave., 214-887-8148 (L-7); 12895 Josey Ln., 972-488-1984. $-$$. (J-4)

Piano Tortilla Factory. If you live in Piano, then this little place should be on the top of your list for a quick bite, take-out. or delivery. Piano Tortilla Factory’s appeal doesn’t end with the food-the friendly owner is quick to strike up a conversation and make you feel welcome. Low prices are a bonus, too. 1009 E. 18th St., Piano, 972-423-6980. $. (M-2)

Rodolfo’s. Stan with the home-fried chips, huge half-tortilla rounds served with a full-bodied salsa. Then try the Big Tex-Mex dinner or the Number 0 (yes, they start numbering at zero). The star on the Number 0 plate is the Idaho enchiladas made of, yes, mashed potatoes, pleasantly spiced and available with a choice of seven different sauces. 2002 S. Edgefield Ave., 214-942-1211. $. (K-9)

Tupinamba. Thankfully, nothing changes at Tupinamba. Those who have followed Tupy’s for 30-odd years to its several locations (now, fourth) have come to depend on it for massive quantities of delicious food in a friendly, attentive atmosphere. 12270 Inwood Rd., almost to the Tollway, 972-991-8148. $-$$. (K-4)


Cafe Istanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gets cozy at night, but those who tolerate early evening daylight are rewarded with a happy hour. Solid service tops off a superb all-around experience. 5450 W. Lovers Ln., Ste. 222,214-902-0919.$-$$.(K-6)

D BEST Cafe Izmir. A unique dining experi-ence: In this popular and charm-ing little cafe, diners choose a vegetarian or a meat-based meal rather than ordering from a menu. And then a parade of delightful food appears-lemon-zested tabbouleh, hummus, Mediterranean cole slaw, pita quarters, grilled kabob tubes of ground beef and marinated chicken, and lamb. A scarce Greek red wine called Boutari Maossa is a happy find here, and the sweet Turkish coffee in fragile cups is as irresistible as the desserts. 3711 Greenville Ave., 214-826-7788. $$. (L-7)

Hedary’s. George Hedary is back with a comfortable clone of the Fort Worth original, menu and all, in Far North Dallas. But the question is: Can one Lebanese oven produce enough of the family’s famed pita rounds to satisfy us all? Order the menu’s maza appetizer and you’ll get a dozen sampler starters on tiny plates. And tiny cups of Lebanese coffee keep you awake on the drive home. 7915 Belt Line Rd., 972-233-1080, $$. (L-3)


D BEST Marrakesh. Just what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas’? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu-is a bargain at $25.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanied a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrated and finger-cymbaled her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104. $$.(L-6)


Antares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-high, revolving restaurant appears to be finding its wings at last. Huge, meaty, seared sea scallops were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a roasted shallot vinaigrette. Reunion Tower. 300 Reunion Blvd., 214-651 -1234. $$$. (K-8)

Anzu. The uncluttered feng shui decor induces relaxed pleasure. Service supports the mood, too, with knowledgeable dish descriptions and friendly attention to small needs. Each dish on the menu is a compelling example of East-meets-West culinary compatibility. 4620 McKinney Ave., 214-526-7398. $$. (L-6)

Beau Nash. The genteel bustle of a world-class hotel makes dinner at this restaurant seem like a special occasion. Good picks: a portobello tart or the perfection of moist-hearted Atlantic salmon. Bad pick: a salad of Belgian endive and unforgivably dry and yellow mache. Service throughout is immaculate and thoughtful. Hotel Crescent Court, 2215 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-3240. $$-$$$. (K-7)

City Cafe. Basic California-style food comes graced with a Cajun touch here, a hint of the Southwest there. The menu changes every two weeks, but a few customer favorites, like the succulent tomato soup, appear regularly. Check out the award-winning wine list and the nice choice of after-dinner drinks. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-2233. $$. (K-6)

Dakota’s. Choices from the wood-burning grill in this handsome, underground, downtown restaurant seldom disappoint, and pastas can be excellent also. Bargain-seekers will love the daily $15.95, three-course “twilight menu.” 600 N. Akard St., 214-740-4001. $$. (L-7)

D REVISITS Gershwin’s. Pretty people, pretty food, pretty prices set the scene for power lunching here. We say “power” because the careerists who crowd this popular Upper Greenville restaurant have clearly reached a level of eminence that allows them longer-than-peon lunch hours. They’d better have-service throughout our visit, however caring, could best be described as leisurely. Nevermind: The fare deserves unrushed attention almost as much for showy presentations {tall food is prevalent here) as for creativity. Our top thrill: rare-hearted duck meat loaf with cherries in port wine sauce, not only a novel twist but a triumph worth repeating. Worth lingering over, too-dishes and prices both were substantial enough to make us wonder if lunch and dinner menus might be the same. We asked. They’re not. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-373-7171. $$-$$$. (L-5)

Huntington’s. This is one of the best places in Dallas for a reasonably priced, reliably good meal. Lobster bisque delivers the very essence of lobster, best enjoyed as you wolf down the light, crusty rolls slathered with garlic-studded whipped butter. Don’t miss the meaty crab cakes, and end your meal with a crusty crème brulée, Westin Galleria, 13440 Dallas Pkwy., 972-851-2882. $$-$$$. (K-4)

D REVISITS Landmark Restaurant. Some times a kitchen can try too hard. It’s natural for a new chef to flex and even to overreach as he establishes his style. But the frenzy of invention should have passed for Jim Anile, who’s been in the Landmark kitchen a number of years. We wish he’d relax a tittle-we don’t think we’re the only diners who don’t want to work to figure out what “tempura fried day boat scallop with pickled cucumber salad and spicy red chili mango coulis” could possibly taste like. We hate to complain too much-you’d probably get a good meal here if you skipped thoughtful decision-making, just closed your eyes, and pointed at the menu. Certainly the “soy charred ahi tuna on oyster sesame glaze with sweet shrimp dumplings and pan fried noodle cake” was a fabulous plate of food, each flavor melding into the next. We don’t have room for enough words to describe more of these dishes-we would only like to suggest that the chef take some stylistic inspiration from the Landmark’s simply graceful dining room. In the Melrose, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151.$$-$$$. (K-7)

The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner. it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining lives up to its legend–the atmosphere is inimitably posh, the food is predictably innovative. The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd.. 214-526-2121. $$$. (K-7)

Nana Grill. The new kitchen king of this elegant room-with~a-view is Ron Rosenbaum and his new menu broadens Nana’s focus from Southwestern to Regional American. We found the transition mostly hard to fault. Service is supremely suave and caring, the accouterments define luxe, and the ambience is as comfortably refined as always in this upscale establishment. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel Tower. 2201 Stemmons Fwy., 214-761-7479. $$$. (K-7)

NorthSouth. Great gimmick. Not-so-great food. Order an item prepared “North” (low fat version) or “South” (the real thing). If you must go, and plenty of people do. go “South,” and if you are watching what you eat, eat half of the real thing. Chicken-fried steak is not meant to be breaded with cracker crumbs and baked. 2800 Routh St., 214-849-0000. $$. (L-7)

Rooster. David Burdette-former chef at The Grape-has drawn inspiration from old South “vittles.” He dubs this action ;’New American Southern cuisine,” which is actually a disciplined orchestration of traditional influences and imaginative diversions with a deftly assembled wine list. 3521 Oak Grove Ave.. 214-521-1234. $$-$$$. (K-7)

Seventeen Seventeen. Artful dining at the Dallas Museum of Art is a definitive Dallas experience. Chef George Brown creates abstract expressionist plates of food, inspired by cuisines from all over the world-the best seem to be those inspired by the orient. Don’t skip without tasting one of the fantasy desserts, dreamed up by pastry chef Katie Brown. 1717 N. Harwood St., 214-880-0158. $$-$$$. (K-7)

Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. Like the room, the plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin here is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd., 214-265-SEVY. $$. (K-6)


Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas’ most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. Paintings of the 19th-century Italian countryside grace the walls, and fresh flowers fill large vases. Menu favorites like calamari. clam chowder. Caesar salad, salmon. and red snapper are superbly prepared and presented by an experienced waitstaff. 24 Highland Park Village. Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane, 214-526-1170. $$-$$$. (K-6)

Clive & Stuart Island Cuisine. The interior does indeed remind you of a seaside resort (is that a good thing?), and the mostly seafood menu is a collision of cuisines, apparently referring to the global island. The successful dishes are the simplest ones-for example, sea bass on ravioli with goat cheese. 2614 McKinney Ave., 214-871-9119. $$-(K-7)

Daddy Jack’s. Chef Jack Chaplin’s tiny restaurant with its quaint, red-and-white checked tablecloths and casual, cozy atmosphere is perfect for a date or for just breezing in after a day at the lake. But forget about the atmosphere, What we’re really talking about is fantastic, though richly prepared, seafood. Also worth noting are the relaxed, efficient service and fair prices: The experience was worth every penny, 1916 Greenville Ave., 214-826-4910. $$.(L-7)

Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill. This Jack Chaplin restaurant offers lively service and food that manage to combine homey familiarity with twists of near-elegance. For example, a grilled red snapper topped with shrimp and lobster brandy could grace a tonier table, but here it’s served with an ear of corn. 2723 Elm St., 214-653-3949. $$. (L-7)

D BEST Fish. This elegant downtown spot doesn’t seem too inviting at first glance, but inside it is airy and elegant. Peruse the menu while sipping on the restaurant’s signature cocktail: Veuve Clicquot champagne. Fish’s other temptations include the acclaimed Green Soup-? shallow bowl piled high with shells, legs, and tails protruding recklessly from a broth. There’s a late menu nightly from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 302 S. Houston St., 2~l4-747-FISH. $$-$$$. (K-7)

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. One big bargain: die one-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10.9?. 4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-774-9518, $$.(K-4)

Lombardi Mare. Don’t be put off by the nondescript exterior, the interior is a mind-blower. Lighting fixtures designed to appear like a school of fish swim across the ceiling. This place is a seafood lovers’ paradise. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels, and lobster, and finish with Tuscan pudding. 5100 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-1233. $$. (K-4)

Mainstream Fish House. This hands-on operation of owner Kelly Hagen and family (his dad owns the fish market a few doors away) knows its fish, as does every employee, so take their recommendations and you can’t go wrong. Preston Forest Shopping Center, 11661 Preston Rd., Ste. 153, 214-739-3474. $$. (K-4)

Newport’s. Some of the freshest seafood you’ll find in land-locked North Texas. Choose from mesquite-grilled fish, seared, blackened, or fried seafood, and sautéed chicken. Housed in the old Dallas Brewery and Bottling works. Newport’s three-tiered dining room actually holds a huge, open Artesian well that once fed the pre-Prohibition brewing operation. 703 McKinney Ave., 214-954-0220. $$. (K-7)

Okeanos by Avner. Simple but classy modern seafood restaurant with one of Dallas’ top chefs in the kitchen. Okeanos highlights Chef Avner Samuel’s global and visual way with (bod. and jus! about every plate is not only perfect!)’ prepared but pretty, too. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 102B. Addison, 972-490-8686. $$. (K-4)

Picardys Shrimp Shop. New American inventiveness at family-style prices. Picardys finds a regional inspiration for most of its mostly shrimp dishes: Coconut tempura shrimp arc tender, juicy, and pleasantly sweet; a side of honey-sour sauce added a potent bite, despite ’ the damp blanket of nee pilaf. Grilled shrimp nachos. with shrimp, black beans, white cheese, and salsa, were light and chewy, Picardys’ kid-friendly atmosphere is a plus. 6800 Snider Plaza. 214-373-4099. $-$$. (L-6)

S&D Oyster Company. Serving fresh seafood in an authentic New Orleans atmosphere for more years than we care to remember. S&D has become a mainstay of quality. 2701 McKinney Ave., 214-880-0111. $$. (K-7)

Sea Grin”. The setting may be strip mall, but the food, right down to the homemade desserts, transcends it. Don’t even bother with the menu if a lobster sandwich is one of the daily specials. Sea Grill offers a wine list that does justice to its food (although the by-the-glass prices are steep). 2205 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 180, Piano, 972-509-5542. $$. (M-2)

Truluck’s Steak & Stone Crab. Miami-inspired. this striking art-deco eatery is the only spot in Dallas that serves the infamous stone crab seven days a week, year-round, Truluck’s stone crabs come in four sizes-medium, large, jumbo, and colossal-and they’re ruinously expensive. Truluck’s showcases an attentiveness to detail and skillful service- even if it demands you crush your piggy bank before savoring those claws. 5001 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-3079. $$-$$$. (K-4)


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, making this something beyond the usual Lower Greenville watering hole. To Texas tongues, the most alien dish on the menu will probably be Winnie’s Killer Queso, a dark. spicy, burn-the-baby melange of peppers. 2831 Greenville Ave.. 214-827-2112.$. (L-6)

Sam’s Cafe. Sticking to the Southwestern theme after others abandoned it for global. Sam’s still serves King Ranch casserole. There’s a good-sized bar, with a house specialty called the “Grand Canyon”-a 32-ounce margarita. In the Preston Center Shopping Center, 8411 Preston Rd., Ste. 112, 214-739-2288 (K-6); 100 Crescent Court, Ste. 140.214-855-2233. $$. (K-7)

D BEST Star Canyon. A real star, this is the place that most visitors would like to go but usually usually can’t-tables are booked for weeks ahead. It’s worth giving it a shot. Superchef Stephan Pyles lias a gift for slipping happy surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes, For instance, coriander-cured venison lived up to ils reputa tion, grilled rare and sliced into rosy petals complemented by whipped yam and an assertive dried-fruit empanada. Service is friend ly and fast, and the decor is legendary. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 2I4-520-7S27. $$. (K-7)

Y.0. Ranch. This food may be dubbed “early Texas cooking,” but we doubt many Old West ranch cooks whipped up this sophisticated a menu, starting with the seafood com cake, a vast flapjack concealing nuggets of crab, shrimp, oysters, and corn kernels. Entrées range from basic steaks (we enjoyed a huge, glorious ribeye) to turkey, catfish, shrimp, and the Muy Grande Tex-Mex Platter. 702 Ross Ave., 214-744-3287. $-$$. (K-7)


Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas cafe is as tiny a place as the tapas. Besides the two dozen or so tapas always available, a daily changing black board lists as many more, including everything from potato omelet to crisp-fried baby smelt, from wine-poached rabbit to blood sausage- and that last is a near-religious experience. 4501 Travis St., 214-528-1731. $$. (L-6)

La Tasca Espanola. So many tapas, so little time. You can make a meal by choosing two or three from the list of 22-and do it for under $20. Tortilla espanola, a thick, pie-shaped omelet, was a standout. Entrées include exceptional paella valenciana-a lovely presentation of mussels, clams, shrimp, chicken, and cala-mari with saffron rice and peas. Home of the friendliest staff in Dallas, this place is trying hard and succeeding. 4131 Lomo Alto Dr., 214-599-9563. $$. (K-6)


Bob’s Steak & Chop House. This place dazzles with juicy, tasty cuts of meat-coupled with veggie and potato^-and pleasant, attentive service. All at the appropriate price. 4300 Lemmon Ave., 214-528-9446. $$-$$$. (K-7)

D BEST Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House. Prime rib and a trimmed to-lean ribeye are robustly rare and complemented with garlic mashed potatoes. Figure in service that is, if not clairvoyant, almost uncannily empathetic, and you’ll have some grasp of the comfortable ambience that keeps mis cigar-friendly outpost filled even on weekday evenings. 5330 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-$$$. (K-4)

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. Filets are virtually perfect, fashioned from cuts of meat as thick as couch cushions, and the wine list is varied. Heck, even the vegetables are great. Not for the faint of pocketbook, but it’s worth serious consideration when you’re in the mood to blow it out red-meat style. 5251 Spring Valley Rd., 972-490-9000. $$-$$$. (K-4)

Kirby’s Steakhouse. Unlike me in-town reincarnation of the venerated 1950s original, this vast place has Piano-style prosperity written all over it–all upscale splendor with a mid-scale attitude (confidently casual service and ambience, an at-ease clientele outfitted for comfort from Dockers to Nikes.) The menu’s the same, [hough-mostly steaks, with the usual few seafood and fowl entrées, plus starters and a list of à la carte sides. 3408 Preston Rd., 972-867-2122

Morton’s of Chicago. Understatement reigns here, from dark wood to etched glass, starched white linens and muted Sinatra, and more than 30 martini varieties. And. of course, there are steaks-big, beautiful steaks. 501 Elm St., 214-741-2277. $$$. (K-7)

The Palm. General manager Al Biernat has built this steak-and-lobster New York import into the downtown power-lunch spot. Come to see-and-be-seen, and maybe even to cut a deal, but don’t come for the food. Over the past several months our samplings have gone from bland to worse. Is the problem turnover in the kitchen or bad buying at corporate headquarters? 701 Ross Ave., 214-698-0470. $$-$$$. (K-7)

Paul’s Porterhouse. Devoted fans of this Restaurant Row mainstay make a compelling argument that it deserves a prominent spot in your regular red-meat rotation. The menu features an array of steak variations-from filets to porterhouses-and choices are thick, fine cuts of meat cooked exactly to order. Unexpected alternatives like ostrich and game complicate your entrée decision; so might the taxidermy decor. 10960 Composite Dr., 214-357-0279. $$$. (J-5)

Randy’s Steakhouse. A meal in this cozy, Victorian home-cum-restaurant can make you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s. But your friends have never served steaks like these. Graded prime and cut by hand, these beauties tasted rich and buttery. The 10 seafood selections offer plenty of alternate choices, and all meals come with rich, cheesy potatoes au gratin or a baked potato and fresh vegetables. 7026 Main St., Frisco, 972-335-3066.$$-$$$. (K-l)

Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The steaks, served sizzling with butter, come as either a filet, a ribeye. a New York strip, a porterhouse, or a T-bone. Although you have to order side dishes à la carte-including eight types of potatoes-most of them will serve two. There is a huge wine list, and for serious grape lovers, the restaurant has a wine room for tastings. 5922 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-902-8080 (K-7); 17840 Dallas Pkwy.. 972-250-2244. $$$. (K-2)

D REVISITS Stone Trail Steakhouse. Funny how ambience follows ownership. The atmosphere here is so evocative of Farfallo and Papillon-the continental restaurants Tony Taherzadeh formerly owned- you’d hardly have to be told this sprawling steak spread was his latest brainchild. Lavish decor, a soigné lounge with live music for late dancing, an upscale menu with prices to match-all are characteristic touches calculated to beguile moneyed lovers of luxe. As are service (professionally correct to a near-aloof degree) and food (a bone-in ribeye, in particular, was exemplary on our visit; pecan-crusted catfish and bell pepper soup won near-equal approval). And while the room where we dined was almost too tranquil, revelers in the lounge and cigar room seemed to having a dandy time. Dinner only. 14833 Midway Rd., 972-701-9600. $$$. (K-3)


Chow Thai. A strip shopping center in Addison doesn’t seem a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll have one here. Excellent Thai classics like vegetables in a fiery green curry and Pad Thai taste clean and light. A dessert of fresh mango atop sticky rice is a spectacular ending. 5290 Beltline Rd. at Mont-fort Drive, Addison, 972-960-2999. $$. (K-3)

Royal Thai. Accented with small lamps casting delicate pools of light, this is the prettiest of Dallas’ Thai restaurants. That old standby, lemon grass chicken, is skillfully executed, but try less familiar items, too. On a recent visit, one entrée of crab, scallops, fish, shrimp, squid, and peppers on curried rice was delightful. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave., 214-691-3555. $-$$. (L-6)

Toy’s Cafe. This hole-in-the-wall joint has all the elements of a great neighborhood “find.” We were welcomed warmly by three friendly Asian women and the tantalizing aroma of curry and garlic. Our Thai iced tea was a hit; eggplant and tofu in a Thai green curry coconut milk was perfectly prepared. Our fresh squid salad with Thai herbs was fresh and tasty. 4422-B Lemmon Ave., 214-528-7233. $. (K-6)


D REVISITS VietNam. There was a pink bicycle with training wheels pulled up to a booth in the other room where a Vietnamese family was eating lunch when we arrived. The room where we were seated was decorated with a surreal mixture of fine and funky portrait-sized reproductions of greeting-card-quality art with a nod to the Buddha and a buffet line with a sneeze guard. A thoroughly global ambience. We ordered from the multi-page menu, instead, and were pleased with big hot pot of soothing soup, chock-full of chicken and cabbage and served with a separate bowl of rice. Served over a flame, the broth had accelerated to a rolling boil by the time we finished eating. Lemon grass chicken was a pleasant, fragrant stir-fry, but imperial rolls with shrimp were unfortunately rubbery. 4302 Bryan St.. 214-821-4542. $-$$. (L-7)


Angelo’s Barbecue. The Fort Worth landmark is one of the bookends of Dallas-Fort Worth area barbecue, its Dallas counterpart being the original Sonny Bryan’s. Famous for fabulous ribs smoked so tender the meat falls off the bone at the slightest nudge from the incisors, which are properly enjoyed with a couple of Shiners, sitting under a dozen taxidermified beast heads. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth. 817-332-0357. (A-9)

Angeluna. Come to see-and-be-seen, but not heard. The food somewhat redeems the jack-hammer decibel levels. The “one-world-cuisine” menu features multicultural dishes with arty presentations. Don’t miss Joe’s Shrimp Paesano-lightly breaded jumbo prawns sautéed in vodka-lemon butter. Skip the goat’s milk ice cream and splurge on the Key lime tan. 215 E. 4th St., Fort Worth. 817-334-0080. $$. (B-9)

Benito’s. Like a familiar, old friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from time to time, but some things never change, like the food. The queso flameado, with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and served with fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or com tortillas. Order it first and then spend some time with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-8633. $$,(B-9)

D BEST Bistro Louisa. 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 tan cranberry-port salsa-is such a dish. Almost everything we tried here was just as stellar. Daringly traditional French decor and attitude. 2900 S. Hulen St. (south from 1-30). Fort Worth, 817-922-9244.$$. (A-10)

Cacharel. With country French decor, this fixed-price ($34.50) refuge easily tops Arlington’s dining scene, such as it is, with its ninth-floor business building location as well as its New French cuisine. 2221 E. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 910. (Metro) 817-640-9981. $$$. (B-5)

Casa Jose. The best Tex-Mex cafe in Arlington offers all the regular Tex-Mex dishes but specializes in soft flour tortilla tacos. Their thick, slightly chewy, warm, handmade flour tortillas offer a tasty base from which to build a taco. 2030 S. Cooper St.. Arlington, (metro) 817-265-5423. $. (A-5)

Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St.. 817-624-3945. $$-$$$. (B-9)

Daddio’s Downtown Nearly Jazz Cafe. 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 music while enjoying dinner. 715 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-926-7000. $. (B-9)

Forest Park Cafe. A Franco-Texan neighborhood bistro atmosphere with a slightly quaint menu that features crêpes and patés, as well as simple sandwiches and handmade vegetable ravioli with roasted tomato sauce. Stellar Saturday and Sunday brunches have become a West Side tradition. 2418 Forest Park Blvd., 817-921-4567.$, (A-9)

Joe T. Garcia’s Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery. Although not as fancy as its cousin around the corner on North Commerce, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to tamales. Breakfast is a work of art here. And on your way out. the bakery, in an alcove off the dining room, sells traditional Mexican breads, rolls, and sweet rolls. 2122 N. Main St., Fort Worth, 817-626-5770. $$. (B-8)

D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fori Worth restau-rant. Its location near the Stockyards is a rambling plantation that can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” On a balmy night, wait for a spot outside by the pool and order the enchilada dinner. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St.. Fort Worth, 817-626-4356. $$. (B-9)

Piccolo Hondo. This neighborhood Italian restaurant is a suburban strip-mall surprise. It features an elegant, parquet-floored piano bar, a white tablecloth dining room, and service to match the basic Italian fare-heavy pastas, variations of veal scaloppine. If you want imagination, look to the specials. 829 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, 817-265-9174. $-$$. (B-5)

D BEST Reata. I ’he flavors purveyed (upscale, ranch contemporary ) were crisp and deftly defined. With a good wine list, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a thick glaze of Western decor (including a menu finished in leather), you’d have to be a pretty crusty cowboy not to be roped-in. 35th floor, Bank One Tower, 500 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-336-1009, $$-$$$. (B-8)

Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, country French atmosphere is charming and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817-727-2781. $$$. (B-9)

Sundance Dell & Market. There’s no better spot in Sundance Square for a casual, imaginative meal. Basics include sandwiches, salads, breakfast, gourmet coffees, and homemade desserts. This is the rare restaurant that’s quick enough for just a bite, but whose smart decor, great coffee, and excellent food make it perfect for lingering. 353 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 817-335-3354. $. (B-8)

Water Street Seafood Company. Although Fort Worth is a landlocked, there’s still serviceable seafood to be had. The dining room could use a few more walls and a few less tables, but plenty of daily specials supplement a range of regular entrées that would make a coastal restaurant proud. 1540 S. University Dr., Ste. 120, Fort Worth, 817-877-3474. $$. ( A-9)

Gourmands To Go

The goat’s milk Brie is so fragrant, so drippingly rich, so unctuous, you wonder that they even call that orange stuff cheese. But it’s just a taste of the 150 cheeses in the case at Sigel’s Fresh Market in Addison. This is one of the best cheese collections in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it’s sold by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable sales staff, and of course, the perfect accompanying wine is only a few feet away. Besides the stellar cheese counter. Fresh Market sells custom-made sandwiches, dried exotic mushrooms in bulk, 42 cuts of pasta. 17 different oils, Italian tuna, sardines, and anchovies (indulge yourself for $40 a jar), as well as roasted chickens and ducks. Did we mention full-service catering?

Stgett Fresh Market. 15003 Inwood Rd., 972-387-9804.

Toast of the Town

What better reason to raise your glass than to toast a new-found champagne? Nicolas Feuillatte has been producing top-quality cuvées since the “70s. but this year Dallas wine importer Martin Sinkoff began representing Nicolas. That means we’ll be seeing- and sipping-more of this wine than ever. Fruit’s the foundation of any wine, and Feuillatte’s grapes have a reputation for excellence. So a bottle of this bubbly-is particularly toast-inspiring. The Grande Cuvee Palmesd’ Or sells for about $ 100. but the Brut Premier Cru is available for only $25. It’s a celebration in itself.

The History of Pablo’s

There’s a story behind those soft tacos and that S2.95 lunch special. Back in 1986, Pablo Llanito was written up as one of the 18 Best Servers in America by Tables Magazine, a restaurant industry publication. The young engineering student had moved from Mexico to Dallas in 1980 to improve his English. He got a job as a dishwasher in the ultra-hip I.O, worked his way to bartender, and augmented his English lessons by learning idioms like “Screaming Orgasm.” After stints at Tango, Fast and Cool, Llanito became the first employee and investor in the Red Jacket. Now he’s the proprietor of his own place, Pablo’s, a liny, bright blue restaurant in Oak Cliff.

Pablo’s Tex-Mex and Taqueria, 2035 Singleton Blvd. a! Hampton Road, 214-630-7468.

Godiva Goodies

Less was more for Lady Godiva, but there’s nothing minimalist about die Godiva Cake from ST Bakery & Cafe. This sumptuously overdressed sweet starts with a layer of nut sponge cake soaked in Godiva chocolate liqueur. That’s topped with a layer of chocolate ganache. Then more nut sponge, then toffee, then cake again. The whole extravagance is crowned with almond krokant and given a bare drizzle of sweet chocolate. The Godiva cake was originally created by ST Bakery owner Clare van Loenen for the Dallas round of the Godiva Liqueur Cup dessert competition. It won. A whole 9″ cake is $32.50, or enjoy a slice in the cafe for $4.00.

ST Bakery & Cafe, 9090 Skillman St.. 214-503-6007.

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