Restaurant Reviews

BARBECUE



Peggy Sue’s Barbecue. This ’50s-style joint in Snider Plaza is serving some of the best BBQ in town. Terrifie appetizers include Texas Torpedoes-cream cheese-filled fried jalapenos. Baby back ribs, chicken, polish kiel-basa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection. Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world 01 meat, go first-class here. 6600 Sni


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 lone star diehards, there is plenty of beef, too. The “blues” are) on the walls, in the form of concert posters,} and in your ears. Friendly wait-staff. 9810 N. Central Expwy., 214-368-7427 (L-5); 5017 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 100, Piano, 972-248-3866. $. (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 down on great red-stripe brisket, ribs, and homemade Mom-style pie. No, really-Sammy’s is a family-run enterprise, and all the Pritchards pitch in. 2126 Leonard St., 214-880-9064. $. (K-7)



BREW PUBS



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 dipping sauce. 2600 Main St., 214-744-2739. $. (L-7)



The Rock Bottom Brewery. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asia-go 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 roasty (Pelican Brown Ale and our fave, Roadrunner Stout). 4050 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-404-7456. $$. (K-4)



Routh Street Brewery and Grill. The food has slipped a bit, 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)



BURGERS/CASUAL



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 cool, green, countrified retreat in the city. A bottle of domestic beer starts at $2.75, there are abundant lunch specials, and the portions are very generous. 4615 Greenville Ave., 214-265-9105. $-$$. (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 margaritas 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)

CAJUN/CREOLE



Copeland’s of New Orleans. Cajun Staples are complemented by an array of more creative appetizers and entrées. The blackened redfish was nicely done 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. S$. (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-thought-of-that-place” alternatives. Though the fried food can be spolty, the gumbo’s rich and the po’ boys are consistently good. The seafood salad makes a great alternative for anybody counting calories. 2615 Commerce St., 214-745-1900. S. (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 the Chicken Rockafella with oysters, cheese, and spinach. 2621 McKinney Ave.. 214-969-1927. $-$$. (L-7)



CHINESE



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


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 stay away from the neon sweet and sour stuff, and you’ll 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 out Chinese food at his Preston Royal outpost before the world got so small that 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, 214-361-1771.$. (K-5)

Taiwan Restaurant. One of the big-time Chinese restaurants fa Dallas, Taiwan only stumbles when it’s top sure of itself. The upstairs dining rooms overlook only a parking loi. Focus on the tableside view, instead-plates are garnished with surreally carved vegetables. Lunch specials are a steal, ranging from $5.95 to $9.43. 4980|Bell 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 the pan-fried ch|cken dumplings, jam-packed with tender white meat. 19021 Midway Rd., 972-306-CHOW. $. (K-2)



Uncle Tai’s Honan Yuan. After a hard day of shopping the} mall, it’s good to plop down in a comfortable chair and nosh on sweet, crunchy walnuts whil)2 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 die mall does inhibit further shopping. In the Gallera, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ, 972-934-999p. $$. (K-4)



COFFEEHOUSES



Cafe Society. There’s a new location, but it didn’t take long to establish roots as Dallas’ most authentic coffeehouse. It 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)

D REVISITS Cafe Brazil. A listing in “cof-feehouses” is perhaps unfair. Certainly, coffee was copious. Varied, and excellent (the hazelnut was as good as it smelled), and true, the atmosphere was relaxed and conversation-amenable. But the food at this cafe excelled beyond expectations. Smoked turkey migas featured diced meat and eggs in a medley of bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and jalepenos topped with Monterey Jack cheese and crisp corn tortilla chips. Another dish for which to crave: chicken tortilla soup served in a round loaf of tortilla bread. There was too much to sample: omelets, crêpes, sandwiches, tacos. delicious desserts, and coffee, coffee, coffee. 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



Deli News. This New York-style deli is uninviting 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. 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. $. (K-4)

Street’s 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)



EASTERN EUR0PEAN



Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? 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: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd, Ste. 150,972-239-8060. $$. (K-4)



ECLECTIC



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 fine, too, but the main attraction is the prettiest patio in town. 3301 McKinney Ave.. 214-754-4940. $-$$. (L-7)



D REVISITS Cosmic Cup. The vegetarian cafe is, like, out [here: metal cups for water (good look, bad taste) and Ravi watching was its own entertainment. 4513 Travis St., 214-522-2411. $$. (L-7)



D REVISITS St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin. It seems as though Pete, a self-anointed saint, is an avid fisherman and opened a restaurant to hang his trophy marlins on the wall. Bui don’t go expecting to find much seafood to eat-it’s basically pizza, pasta, and grilled sandwiches. The bare brick-walled room is fun, and the after-work bar scene is just short of dancing. We sampled the only seafood on the menu: the dancing tuna sandwich. After ditching the disappointing bread, we found a nicely cooked tuna steak accompanied by a great homemade pickle-laden tartar sauce. Diablo tempestuous-a spicy tomato jalepeno sauce slathered over pasta-comes with chocolate milk to cut the fire. 2730 Commerce St., 214-698-1511.$. (L-8)



Tarazza. This menu borrows ideas from all over die 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 die 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. Strip away the pretentious facade that has become the trademark of most of Dallas’ “finer” restaurants, replace it with a healthy dose of culinary finesse, and you have the Thomas Avenue Beverage Company. Chef Michael Smith serves a healthy mix of Southwest, cajun, and New American cuisine. The roast pork chop with spinach sautéed with apple butter literally melts off file 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)



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL



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 were never quite sure who our waiter was. 5290 Belt Line Rd. 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)



Barclays. Don’t 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 bobbydazzler. 2917 Fairmont St., 214-855-0700, $$-$$$. (K-7)



The French Room. Perfection is not a word to be tossed lightly into restaurant reviews, but the Adolphus Hotel’s gorgeous crown jewel comes close. 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. The French Room’s by-the-glass wine selection offers a nicer variety than we’ve seen elsewhere. Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St.. 214-742-8200. $$$. (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 (he 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’ I9009 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 lakes 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. $$$. (K-7)



The Pyramid Room. That overused word, opulence, must be hauled oui again-the Fairmont Hotel’s flagship restaurant demands it. Here is service and ambience that beggar less extrava-gant 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)



St. Martin’s. Rich paneling, soft-lit paintings, and touches of muled 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 aie made in-house. 8220B Westchester Dr., 214-368-4188. $-$$. (L-6)



Watel’s. Sure, you’ll find weird organ meals like calves’ brains doctored with capers and veal kidneys touched with mushrooms to satisfy the strand of old-world gastronomic esoterica 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. 2719 McKinney Ave., 214-720-0323. $5. (L-7)



What Else. Serious, well-prepared French country cooking in a cozy dining room. Slow cooked, 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)



GOURMET TO GO



Betty’s Brisket and Gourmet Foods. At this takeout shop, order brisket or turkey as a meal complete with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and bread; or order meat by the pound. Also: killer desserts, appetizers. 17390 Preston Rd., 972-931-9094. $.(K-2)



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. $-$$. (K-7)



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-droppingly reasonable prices ($4-$10). 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-4070. $-$$. (K-7)



GREEK



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)



Ziziki’s. The wood bar is one of the places to be seen in 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. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122. 214-521 -2233. $$-$$$. (L-7)



HOME COOKING



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 entrees (even though loo many of them are geriatrically under-seasoned), 20 sides, 10 types of bread, a dozen desserts. There’s a logo 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. $. (K-6)



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 till 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 Richard’s 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. 972-423-1524. $. (M-2)



INDIAN



Bombay Cricket Club. The food here is cricket with us, especially the incendiary chicken vin-daloo, the soothing saag paneer (chunks of homemade cheese in creamed spinach), the curry-kissed aloo bengan, which combines eggplant, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes, and the leg 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)



ITALIAN



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. S. (L-7)



Camptsi’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. Turns out that Tuscany transplanted to Dallas/Fort Worth takes on the sheen of the surrounding culture. 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.. Piano. 972-519-0345. $. (L-2)



Joey’s. If you aren’t a “High Profile” regular, chances are you’ll spend most of your evening at this dizzyingly decorated hot spot nursing a cocktail in the overstuffed bar. The good news is Joey’s now takes reservations. Owner Joey Vallone and chef have created menu of innovative Italian fare-like a tower of vegetables glued logether with Fontina cheese or the riga-toni Vallone with artichokes, asparagus tips. and Louisiana head-on prawns. And then, there are all those pretty people. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-0074. $$-$$$, (K-7)



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 Mont fort Dr.. 972-934-8424. $$. (K-4)



Modo Mo. “Cucina Rustics Italiana” off the Dallas North Toll way. Charming decor, excellent 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 ladyfingers. 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 meats, 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 dinnig spot give this Cedar Springs mainstay showerlike appeal. But this in no way takes 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 that Terilli’s is more than the sum of its parts. 2815 Greenville Ave., 214-827-3993. $$. (L-7)



JAPANESE



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 :he Dragon Lady Roll, a combination of tuna, avocado, and rice flashed with incendiary wasabi, red pepper sauce, and Japanese yellow mustard wrapped in seaweed and sliced. 2624 Elm St., 214-651-1177. $$-$$$. (L-7)



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)



D REVISITS Sushi at Stoneleigh. The WASPiest sushi bar in town. The niche has been wide open for a sedate, quiet sushi bar in Dallas. We’re all for global, but it is disconcerting when the sushi chefs aren’t Japanese, though somehow, here, it’s not surprising. On the surface, Sushi at the Stoneleigh is traditional: They bring you hot towels before you eat, the chefs wear the requisite kerchiefs, and the sushi list reads about the same-spider rolls, the eel, salmon skin, and tuna sashimi were all clean and briny. 2927 Maple Ave., 214-871-7111. $$-$$$. (K-7)



Sushi Sake. Sushi Sake is half-hidden in a Fleetwood Square strip that we would 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 REVISITS Teppo. It’s Saturday night and Teppo is packed with Spandex Barbies with guys as accessories. What caught our eye at the bar were several people drinking sake with a whole fish slicking-tail up-out of the glass. Ayu was in season and this is how you eat it. Too bad we had already committed to an icy Ichiban with our hibachi fare: liver-smooth lumps of beef tongue; tiny, quivering quail eggs; grilled duck chunks. The infamous, potentially lethal fugu (blowfish) is prized in Japan because its flesh gives you a rush. Our feathery, non-controversial tins tasted like dried mushrooms-the only rush we received was from our experience at Teppo, where we always feel as hip as we hope to be. 2014 Greenville Ave., 214-826-8989. $$-$$$. (L-7)



MEDITERRANEAN]

Adelmo’s. Some go for the food, some go for the intimacy, but almost everybody finds a reason to go back to this well-hidden gem. Service is unhurried and patient, and the wine list varied and reasonable. Entrees 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., 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)



Cafe Instanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gets cozy at night thanks to the ubiquitous candles, 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)



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. I8III Preston Rd. at Frankford Road, Ste. 120, 972-447-0066. $$-$$$. (K-2)



D REVISITS PoPoLo’s. The menu is full of hit and miss choices with Mediterranean inspiration: pastas, pizzas, risottos, and meats off the hickory grill with mix and match glazes. We paired a delicate rock fish with a mild ginger tamari sauce which was served on a mountain of grilled vegetables- certainly enough for two. In fact, all the entrées we tried were. A fair barbecue chicken pizza with roasted com relish and red onion had a chewy crust and needed extra sauce. While the bakery products-especially the fennel focac-cia-were superb, the desserts looked better than they tasted. 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


Toscana. There are flaws-a starter of yellow-corn polenta that should have been crispy was soggy, it’s too 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)



MEXICAN



Avila’s. This 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. The little things separate the best from the also-rans of Tex-Mex. Cantina Laredo’s attention to detail shows throughout the entire meal. Our entrées were flawless, led by some of the tastiest fajita meat we have ever run across. 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 Park Forest Shopping Center. 11742 Marsh Ln.. Ste. A. 214-357-0141. $. (J-4)



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 Charros. 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. Make reservations. 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-;sweel flavor. Forget that fascinating menu when it’s time for dessert and just ask for the flan. 14866 Montfort Dr., 972-726-0202. $$. (K-4)



Mario’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 basic Tex-Mex combinations in town. 221 W. Parker Rd., 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. 4311 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-8181.1


Matt’s Rancho Martinez. Outstanding grilled (not fried) flautas, as well as the signature chile relleno. are the hallmark’s of this Austin-style menu, but, oddly, Matt’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, combo plates, and sides that read like standard Tex-Mex on paper, but on the palate translate into transcendent fare. Service is cheerful; the setting is no-frills comfortable. The bad news: The restaurant serves only beer and wine. 4322 Lernmon Ave., 214-526-1020. $. (K-7)



D REVISITS Mi Cocina. The new upscale menu debuts tacos habana- three soft com tortillas stuffed with delectable chili marinated chicken served with a thick ground chili sauce, diced cilantro, and onions. Vegetarians get a new Tex-Mex option with Latin stir-fry fajitas-a huge pile of seasoned grilled vegetables served with cilantro-laden arroz bianco. Don’t go without trying some of the best nachos in town. Service can be snippety due to the ever-present crowds and the pressure to turn the tables. 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 ble floors, curved fireplaces, and inlaid wood ceilings create a members-only country club ambience. This Grand Dame of Dallas dining lives up to its legend by serving innovative, world-class Southwest cuisine with a few Asian touches. Two signature starters-tortilla soup and a warm lobster taco-remind us why Chef Fearing is the dean of this cuisine. Despite a menu packed with exotic meats, game, and fish. we found baked potato and vegetable enchiladas with ancho ranchero sauce covered with tortilla salad our favorite. And 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)



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 Mediter-raneo and Toscana. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094. $$$. (K-7)



Rooster. David Burdelle-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. Oak Grove and Lemmon avenues, 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)

SEAFOOD



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. It not for the subtitle of this restaurant, “Island Cuisine,” you might expect to find a hair salon, 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. ’Hie successful dishes are the simplest ones and they relate more to the Italian peninsula-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 per-fect for a dale 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 peony. 1916 Greenville Ave., 214-826-1910. $$. ( 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. 272.1 Elm St., 214-653-3949. $$. (L-7)



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-a shallow bowl piled high with shells, legs, and Utils protruding recklessly from a broth. There’s a late menu nightly from It) p.m.-2 a.m. 302 S. Houston St.. 214-747-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: the one-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd? Addison, 972-774-95l8.$$.(K-4)



Lombard! 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 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-1233. $$. (K-4)



Mainstream Fish House. Mainstream will reel you in (just like it has Ross Perot and Roger Staubach) with its properly seasoned chowder studded with juicy clams to the mouth-puckering Key lime tart, Your best choice between them? The daily specials. This hands-on operation of owner Kelly Hagen and family (his dad owns die 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 sauleed 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 modem seafood restaurant with one of Dallas’ top chefs in the kitchen. Okeanos highlights Chef Avner Samuel’s global and visual way with food, and just about every plate is not only perfectly prepared but pretty, too. 5290 Belt Line Rd., 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 are tender, juicy, and pleasantly sweet; a side of honey-sour sauce added a potent bite, despite the damp blanket of rice pilaf. Grilled shrimp nachos. with shrimp, black beans, white cheese, and salsa, were light and chewy. Picardys’ kidfriendly 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.SS-(K-7)



Sea Grill. Asian accents are subtly woven into this seafood-intense menu, where even- 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. The setting may be sain mall, but the food, right down to the homemade desserts, transcends it. 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. Mi ami-inspired, this striking art-deco eatery is the only spot in Dallas thai 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 attentive-ness to detail and skillful service-even if it demands you crush your piggy bank before savoring those claws. 5001 Belt Line Re!., Addison, 972-503-3079. SS-$S$. (K-4)



SOUTHWESTERN



Frying 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 mélange of peppers. 2831 Greenville Ave.. 214-827-2112.$. (L-6)



Sam’s Cafe. Slicking to the Southwestern theme after others abandoned il for global, Sam’s still serves King Ranch casserole, a palate-pleasing mixture of chicken, com tortillas, roasted peppers, cheeses, and onions, which makes an excellent take-out dish for a family dinner. Quesadillas. all five varieties, score high marks, and regulars like the eight inventive pastes. Sam’s offers 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, 214-855-2233. $$. (K-7)



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 has a gift for slipping happy surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes. For instance, 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. Service is friendly and fast, and the decor is legendary. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. $$-$$$. (K-7)



Y.O. 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 corn cake, a vast flapjack concealing nuggets of crab, shrimp, oysters, and corn kernels. Entrees range from basic steaks (we enjoyed a huge, glorious ribeye) to turkey, cattish, shrimp, and the Muy Grande Tex-Mex Platter. 702 Ross Ave., 214-744-32K7. $-$$. (K-7)



SPANISH



Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first lapas cafe is as tiny a place as the tapas. Besides the two dozen or so tapas always available, a daily changing blackboard 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 calamari with saffron rice and peas. Home of the friendliest staff in Dallas, this place is trying hard and succeeding. 4131 Lomo Alto Dr.. 214-59’)-9563. $$. (K-6)



STEAKHOUSES



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)



Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House. Prime rib and a trimmed-to-lean ribeye were robustly rare and confidently complemented with garlic mashed potatoes. Figure in service that was. if not clairvoyant, almost uncannily empathetic. and you’ll have some grasp of the comfortable ambience that keeps this 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 thought the vegetables were great. Not a joint for the faint of pocket book but 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 the in-town reincarnation of the venerated 1950s original, this vast place has Piano-style prosperity written all over it-all upscale splendor with a midscale attitude (confidently casual service and ambience, an at-ease clientele outlined for comfort from Dockers to Mikes.) The menu’s the same. though-mostly steaks, with the usual feu seafood and fowl entrées, plus starters and a list of à la carte sides. 3408 Preston Rd., 972-867-2122 (K-1); 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122. $$-$$$. (L-6)



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 Rim St.. 214-741-2277. $$$. (K-7)



The Palm. General manager AI Biernat has built this steak-and-lohster New York import into the downtown power-lunch spot. Gentlemanly bonhomie reigns, from the greeting at the door to the professional waitstaff. 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, line cuts of meat cooked exactly to order. Unexpected alternatives like ostrich and game com plicate 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 fee! 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-1)



Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The steaks, served sizzling with butter, come as either a filet, a rib-eye, 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)



THAI



D REVISITS Chow Thai. A strip shopping center in Addison doesn’t seem a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but we had one at Chow Thai. We were stunned by the subtle beauty of the interior-surreal contemporary art hangs on cool mint green and yellow walls with subtle oriental touches-a Buddha here a metallic elephant tapestry there. It is sooo very L.A. We were equally stunned by the food. Everything we tried lasted clean and light. Vegetables in a fiery green curry sauce maintained the distinctive tastes of lemongrass and mint. A dessert of fresh, sliced mango atop a mound of sticky rice seasoned with coconut milk was a spectacular ending. Service on a busy Saturday night was slow, but sincere. 5290 Beltline Rd. at Montfort, Addison, 972-960-2999. $$. (K-3)



Royal Thai. Accented with small lamps casting delicate pools of light, this is die 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)



VIETNAMESE



Saigon Savour. The cuisine here combines Mediterranean and Asian influences, but the San Francisco owners need to realize that Dallas palates are used to piquancy. We also wish for more vegetables, which Vietnamese cooks usually prepare with finesse. 17370 Preston Rd., Ste. 490, 972-380-2766. $$. (K-2)

TARRANT COUNTY



Angela’s Barbecue. The Fort Worth landmark is one of the bookends of Dallas-Fort Worth area barbecue, its Dallas counterpart being the original Sunny Bryan’s, Famous for fabulous ribs smoked so lender 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., Fou Worth, 817-332-0357. (A-9)



Angeluna. This new centerpiece of Sundance Square features an aggressively chic atmosphere. Come to see-and-be-seen, but not heard. The food somewhat redeems the jackhammer 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. If you can find your waiter, skip the goat’s milk ice cream and splurge on the Key lime tart. 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 i lie food. The queso flameado. with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and served w th fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or com tortillas. Order ii 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)



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. 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 lixed-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 socializes in soft flour tortilla tacos. Their thick, slightly chewy, warm, handmade flour tortilas 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-featuring 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 butritos 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)



Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restaurant. 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, for that matter. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-626-4356. $$. (B-9)



Piccolo Mondo. 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 solid 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)



Reata. The 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 Fori Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, L 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 Deli & Market. There is no better spot in Sundance Square fora casual, imaginative brunch, lunch, or dinner. Basic offerings include sandwiches, salads, breakfast, gourmet coffees, and homemade desserts. This is the rare restaurant that’s quick enough for just a ’ bite, but whose smartly minimalist 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)

SIDE DISH



Real Texas Cooking



Cookbook shelves these days are crowded with fancy New Southwest cookbooks featuring pro-chef recipes consisting of a hundred obscure ingredients. Others condescendingly claim to showcase “interior,” “genuine,” “classical” Mexican recipes, each requiring more elbow grease than finesse. It’s a relief that the subtitle of Matt Martinez’s new cookbook, Matt Martinez’s Culinary Frontier, is the simple claim: “A Real Texas Cookbook.” That means low-brow, unpretentious Tex-Mex, the kind he’s served since he started cooking at his dad’s famous Austin restaurant, El Rancho, and still serves at Mart’s Rancho Martinez and No Place- crispy tacos, chicken-fried steak, ballpark nachos, and Malt’s famous Smoked Bob.



SIDE DISH



Chefs Ingredients



Danielle Custer, 28, is the executive chef, chef de cuisine, and general manager of the newly refurbished Laurels at the Sheraton Park Central. She attended Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, N.Y., and graduated top of her class.



Where do you get your ideas?

“I dream about food in my sleep and think up new dishes in the shower.”



What’s your favorite Dallas restaurant? “The Green Room is very interesting and especially in contrast to this city.”



Who would you most like to cook for?

“My family, because I don’t get to cook for them often, and I mostly cook for people I don’t know. I’d probably cook really simple food. And then I’d actually sit down and enjoy it with them. Professionals I’d like to cook for-Sheila Lukins and Julia Child. They have created memories for me that have helped me create food.”



Laurels, Sheraton Park Central Hotel, 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000.

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