Restaurant Reviews

NEWCOMERS

CITY HARVEST

CITY HARVEST STARTED OUT as a brave venture, and some might say it’s getting more foolhardy all the time. When Carla Wood and Warren Farmer defected from Marty’s in 19% and joined with Herschel Redd to open their own gourmet takeout shop, they picked a location deep in the only Oak Cliff neighborhood recognizable to North Dallasites (at the corner of Bishop Avenue and 7th Street). Now City Harvest has moved further into the suburb, to North Edgefield Avenue. It may challenge out-of-Cliff visitors, but City Harvest has developed a faithful following.

The new space is a little more cafe, a little less grocery store, than the old one. Order your food from the paper menu, then browse the shelves for the extras-I buy a bag of Zapp’s chips and a triple chocolate chunk cookie to go with a sandwich that always looks too big for lunch but that always ends up eaten. The pesto chicken salad deluxe, for my favorite instance, is a layering 3 inches tall of white chicken mixed with mayonnaise and dried cherries, with pesto, greens, and tomato on rosemary bread. The Italian sandwich has an equally outrageous attitude (three meats and four cheeses) and is equally irresistible. Dinner has been less reliable because it tends to taste warmed over- the rich, thick meatloaf was satisfying, but the roasted chicken was rubbery. Green beans Nicoise, in the anxiety not to overcook them, were undercooked. It’s hard to precisely gauge a second cooking time.

Ambitiously, City Harvest is open every day and-even on weekdays-serves real morning food. Downtowners take note: Oak Cliff is easy for lunch, the sandwiches are terrific, and you can pick up dinner to go while you eat. 939 N. Edgefield Ave., 214-943-2650.$-$$. (K-8)

-Mary Brown Malouf



THE MERCURY

WHEN I CALLED TO ASK ABOUT THE NEW restaurant, I was told that its kitchen features a wood-fired oven and that it serves i ’’grilled” pizzas. What, exactly, is the oven for if they grill the pizza? Menu prose, like press release language, often presents a problem, and Mercury’s efforts confuse more than communicate: The wine list has a section for “foreign” whites but no “foreign” reds. One salad is made from “gathered” greens. (So where’s the salad that’s made of un-gathered greens?)What does “picked” basil mean? That it’s not been i cut, mown, or weed-eaten? This may sound like nit-picking, but it’s an indication of the problems with Mercury, a ; sleek New American grill misplaced in Preston Forest. And it’s not just the menu that’s trying too hard. The sleek interior, designer-dim lighting, and jazzy soundtrack all seem a little too Manhattan.

On the other hand. Chef Chris Ward is described as “sharply focused, talented” and “Dali-esque” in the press release. This only brings to my mind overcooked timepieces, but his résumé-including stints as : executive at J. Pinnell’s and the Pyramid Room-is promising. The service, even on the nights when I was not recognized, was enthusiastic and professional beyond expectation. But the gap between the food promised by the menu prose and the dishes delivered was too great. I was excited about an appetizer of lamb osso buco, served with cannellini beans and candied (confit?) duck, but both the little shank and the shreds of duck were dry, and the beans only added a fuzzy parch to the stringy dryness of the meat. Wood-oven foccacia was nicely thin but topped with cheese that had been broiled to a greasy scab on top. The tuna at lunch was nicely cooked to gray-ringed maroon, but the pappardelle with roasted chicken tasted like leftovers barely masked with a surplus of browned butter. A special of grilled sword fish over truffled mashed potatoes, topped with mashed avocado was one of the ugliest dishes I’ve met, and it wasn’t any better with my eyes closed. 1991 Forest Ln., Ste. 1418, 972-960-7774. $$-$$$. (K-4)-M.B.M.



ROCK & ROLL SUSHI

Rock V roll is here to stay and obvi-ously, so is sushi. On the coasts, Japanese food crested in the coo! ’80s, but Dallas has had more sushi openings in the last year or so than in the decade before. In addition to a burger joint, barbecue pit, and Tex-Mex. every white-bread neighborhood now has its sushi bar.

Rock & Roll Sushi is part of the late-hitting West Coast tsunami. A Califomia concept (’’you rock and we roll,” get it?), its appeal is part fish, part gimmick. Many Dallasites still aren’t completely comfortable sitting at a sushi bar rather than a table, but Rock & Roll doesn’t leave much choice: The bar is a circle that takes up most of the middle of the dining room. And around the bar is a stream with a flotilla of lacquered boats bearing sushi. Picture the Lazy River at Hurricane Harbor, only the people are all tuna rolls. The sushi chefs work in the middle of the river, and when your order is up. they put it on a boat and send it around.

We were pretty happy with what we ordered, though the things we liked best were the least traditional-and I tend to be a purist. The “crazy cowboy roll”-tuna rolled with salmon and avocado-was only Japanese by way of California, but the combination worked. Same with the signature “spicy rock ’ n ’ roll,” tuna around crispy shrimp tempura in a soybean sheet. We liked the rich crunch of the shrimp inside the raw meat. At lunch, the bento boxes are a good deal, each box packed with tempura, teriyaki, sushi, and a bowl of miso. 6109-B Berkshire Ln., 214-987-1966. $$-$$$. (K-6)-M.B.M.

BARBECUE



Baker’s Ribs. Nothing fancy about this place. Load up your tray with piles of sliced beef. pork, turkey, chicken, cayenne-seasoned St. Louis-cut ribs, and the usual side dishes: potato salad, cole slaw, and beans. We still prefer the Commerce Street location. 2724 Commerce St., 214-748-5433 (L-7); 4844 Greenville Ave,, 214-373-0082 (L-5); 488 W. 1-30 at Belt Line Road. Garland. 972-226-7447. $.

D BEST Sonny Bryan’s. For 40 years, Sonny Bryan’s meaty ribs, moist brisket, and classic barbecue sauce have been the standard by which all other Dallas barbecue is judged. The West End and St. Paul locations maintain the original tastes in fancier settings, but for the classic barbecue experience, return to the original Inwood Road joint, sit on the hood of your car, and gnaw on tenderly smoked ribs and chopped beef. 2202 Inwood Rd? 214-357-7120 (K-6); 302 N. Market St.. 214-744-1610 (K-7); 325 N. St. Paul St. (in the tunnel). 214-979-0102 (L-7); 4701 Frank-ford Rd., 972-447-0102 (K-2); Macy’s, 3rd level, Galleria, 972-851-5131.$. (K-4)



BREW PUBS



Cooper 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)

D BEST Routh Street Brewery and Grill. Although the food has slipped a little, the hand-crafted brew remains some of the finest in Dallas, and an elegant hill country lodge motif with soft lighting makes it a sexy spot for a beer joint. Shy away from the wein-erschnitzle; roasted pork tenderloin fares better. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$. (K-7)



BURGERS/CASUAL



Angry Dog. 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 $4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St., 214-741-4406. $. (L-7)

Chip’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. Perhaps Dallas’ best rendition of the all-American hamburger is served at Chip’s. Both locations have an atmosphere as wholesome as a Beach Boys song, and the food is fast and fresh, too. A return to a time of innocence, when a good time could be fueled by nothing more than fries and a shake. The skinny onions rings, rich pig sandwich, and hot dogs are just lagniappe. 4501 Cole Ave.. 214-526-1092 (L-7); 4530 Lovers Ln., 214-691-2447. S, (K-6)

Comer Bakery. Dallas has a number of excellent bakeries now, but the Corner Bakery holds its own. Country loaves are crusty, and the sweet stuff-Russian coffee cake, sticky buns, and brownies-are all excellent. But the Bakery has a cafe side, serving pizza (with the deep-dish. 2-inch sides holding a flat filling), tomato-sauced pasta, and sandwiches. 2401 Preston Rd., Piano. 972-398-1955. $. (K-2)

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 -881l.$.(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 is nicely done if a bit tame. What’s more, every staff member from the manager on down is friendly and polite. 5353 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-661 -1883. $$. (K-4)

Crescent City Cafe. Crescent City still dishes oui solid New Orleans chow in authentic French Quarter surroundings. Though the fried food can be spotty, the gumbo’s rich and the po’ boys are consistently good. 2615 Commerce St., 214-745-1900. $. (L-7)



CHINESE



D REVISITS Arc-En Ciel. Its .versatile space-it people get sick or Chinese and Vietnamese food, the owners could always convert it into a car dealership. There’s room for dozens of SUVs inside Arc-En-Ciel, Arlington. And yet. there have been several Saturday nights when they declined to seat us because the whole place was reserved fora wedding reception. (Of course, that’s preferable to some friends’ experience: They were seated even though the whole place was being used by a wedding reception.) The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare, and even though Arc-En-Ciel prefers to be listed under Chinese food, everyone really goes there to eat Vietnamese. Our last meal we ordered in a leisurely way, a few dishes at a time-pristine Imperial rolls; shrimp pounded and molded on sugarcane; grilled pork to roll in rice paper with rice noodles, cilantro, mini, lettuce, and sprouts; hot-sauced chicken-each dish delightful, fresh, excellent, delivered charmingly by our waitress. We’d brought our own wine (no license), and we kept the Vietnamese cook busy till closing. 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)

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>

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 a parking lot. so focus on the tableside view, instead-plates are garnished with surreally carved vegetables. Lunch specials are a steal. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 200, Addison, 972-387-2333. $-$$. (K-4)



COFFEEHOUSES



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 [his 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. Centra) Expwy., 214-691-7791 (L-6); 2221 Abrams Rd., 214-826-9522 (L-7); 2815 Elm St., 214-747-2730. $. (L-7)



DELI



Deli Hews. While upscale restaurants have come and gone in Crescent Court’s elite environs, this plainly authentic deli has continued to demonstrate that you don’t have to be from New York to know the Real Thing when you taste it. Hot cabbage borscht, potato pancakes, and rye-wrapped pastrami are all wonderful. All this plus Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray tonic. 500 Crescent Court, Maple Avenue at Cedar Springs Road, 214-922-3354. $-$$. (K-7)

Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family enters their 11 th year of dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-373-3333. S. (K-4)



EASTERN EUROPEAN



Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish–meatball-size 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. One of the prettiest, most atmospheric Old South settings anywhere in Dallas, this Uptown eatery is a favorite for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and now dinner (Wednesday through Sunday). Big triangles of grilled polenta lavished in fresh marinara make a main-dish starter; a single wedge of strawberry chocolate torte serves two. 3301 McKinney Ave.. 214-754-4940. $-$$. (L-7)

The Brick Boom. Tables on tiers raked amphitheater-style give live jazz lovers a fine view of the bandstand in this suave food-and-jazz emporium that’s brought a new night-life dimension to Lowest Skillman. Steaks and seafood are main menu draws, pleasant service and a well-tuned bar keep the all-aged faithful happy between sets. 1925 Skillman St., 214-823-2725. $$. (L-6)

Deep Ellum Cafe. The first legitimate restaurant in Deep Ellum has a lot of competition now, and though this is still one of the most pleasant places to be in downtown, sometimes the food is not so pleasant. The kitchen seems bored with the standards like chicken and dill dumplings and Vietnamese chicken salad; specials are a better bet. Sit outside-from or back-if you can. 2704 Elm St., 214-741 -9012.$-$$. (L-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 for those who feel faint 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)

Fogo tie Chao. Fogo de Chao, a churrascaria in Addison with branches in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, serves traditional cookery from southern Brazil, starting with the traditional caipirinha (a little like a sweet margarita, with cachaca, a sugarcane liquor). Overwhelming abundance is the theme: A neverending parade of meat on long skewers is delivered by gaucho guys in amazing trousers and belts. Very exotic. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-7300. $$. (L-7)

D BEST The Grape. I he secret is thai Dallas’ oldest and best wine bar really one of its 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 oui 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 V 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)

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 entrées such as Russian chicken-a breast covered with a sauce loaded with grilled onions and cilantro. 2926 Henderson Ave., 214-841 -0900. $$. (L-7)

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 adessert list. 1915 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 500, Piano, 972-516-0865. $$. (M-2)

St Pete’s Dancing Martin. 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 with 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)

Tarantino’s. The overall ambience-a dark. New York cafe-shaped space dominated by a long bar-is best at night, when the slight scruffiness is hidden by dim light and the place looks avant instead of under-financed. The food goes back to the basics of Italian and Spanish cuisine, served tapas-style. Polenta crab cakes are served with crab claws and crab salad; smoked duck ravioli is topped with rich duck confit. The take on traditional osso buco, based on a rich, gamy lamb shank instead of veal, is food you lust after. 36 M Parry Ave., 214-821-2224. Dinner only. $$$. (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)



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 weren’t quite sure who our waiter was. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 108 at Monlfort Drive, Addison, 972-991-8824. $$. (K-4)

D BEST Barclays. Don’t come to Barclays expecting to And a pint of bitters and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms is 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. 2917 Fairmont St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$.
Clair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the comer of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant delights with delicious food and impeccable service. A classic house-made pork paté is served with diced onion, french cornichons, and mustard. Poitrine de canard, a splendidly moist duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Road, 214-987-2028. $$. (K-5)

French Room This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling, Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that doesn’t mesh with the modern world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a bed of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. 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, stilt 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)

D REVISITS L’Ancestral. Fine restaurants are so often judged by the outrageous originality of the chef and the obscurity of the ingredients that it’s easy to forget the delights of traditional cooking, well done. Let L’Ancestral remind you. The civilized dining room, softly but not dimly lit. is decorated mildly with dried arrangements and old oil portraits. The tables are draped in starchy white, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. We actually began our meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you could get. But it only proved-as did the rest of our meal-that some ideas need no improvement. The broth was long-cooked, deep and dark, the onions melted down into sweet threads, the broth-soaked bread was sturdy enough to hold its shape despite its soaking, and the melt of cheese provided some tooth. The restaurant’s onion tart was just as subtly good, the buttery crust filled with caramelized onion threads scented with orange. Lamb came cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre, another traditional dish, was cloaked in pepper cream that balanced the metallic juice of the rare meat and the rich crunch of the best, yes, French fries in town. We were served with that combination of grace and efficiency that, like this food, seems peculiarly French. 4514 Travis St., 214-528-1081.$$-$$$. {L-7)

La Mirabelle. Thoroughly retro not only in its ambience, which stresses traditional comfort. and in its food, which is precisely and personally prepared French, but in its service, which actually claims to coddle the customer. Enjoy reading the menu, but don’t order a thing until you hear the specials of the day. That’s where the treasures are. 17610 Midway Rd., 972-733-0202. $$-$$$. (K-4)

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.$$$. (K-7)

D BEST The Pyramid Room. Thai overused word, opulence, must be hauled oui 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 Frank Harris, one assumes, with input from David Holben. now executive chef at sibling restaurants Mediterraneo and Toscana. 7709 Inwood Rd? 214-351-0094. $$$. (K-7)

Tramontane This cozy little dining room has charming murals on the walls and an inviting-looking bar, but service and food vary. Some high points: The steak is perfectly good-flavorful red meat with a simple emphatic wine reduction-and the salad is a mix of lovely, flowerlike greens with pungent, mouth-cleaning flavors. 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., 2I4-874-WHAT. $$-$$$. (L-7)



GOURMET TO GO



Bon Vivant Market. Longtime Dallas chef Dan O’Leary is the food mind behind this all-purpose market. Bon Vivant has plenty of room to navigate a basket around the central island filled with prepared meals (veal meatloaf, lasagna), past the bakery (crusty Euro-country loaves), to the grill area (juicy chicken skewers) and sandwich bar. Plus, there’s a real wine department and tables for eating in if you don’t want to take out. 1801 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-818-1177. $-$$. (M-2)

Eatzl’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 Rowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order, Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-1515. $-$$. (K-7)

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

Sigel’s Fresh Market. Besides the stellar cheese counter, dozens of kinds of imported pasta, great selection of olive oils, and other gourmet comestibles, the little deli adjoining Sigel’s liquor store sells perhaps the best roast chicken to go in town. And it’s a deal. too. 15003 Inwood Rd., 972-387-9804. $. (K-4)



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)

D BEST Ziziki’s. I he wood bai 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/takeout 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)

Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. Entrees 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.,2l4-351-568l.$.(K-6)

DC’s Cafe. You’ve been in powder rooms bigger than this super-clean little place, but you’ve had home cooking this line only in your dreams of classic soul-food plate lunches at penny-ante prices. Pork chops, meatloaf, catfish et al come with three sides, and we’ve never seen the room empty of patrons. 8224 Park Ln., 214-363-4348. $. (L-5)

INDIAN

Bombay Cricket Hub. Lunch buffets are an Indian restaurant tradition, and Bombay Cricket Club’s lineup is excellent. A pretty setting, unfailingly polite service, and excellent food make this one of the top Indian restaurants in town. The quality is steady at lunch, which for some restaurants seems to be a time not to try very hard. 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



D REVISITS Alfonso’s. You’ll never see this neighborhood Italian restaurant on a Top 10 glitz-and-glory list. On the other hand, you might find yourself stopping in here 10 times more often than the hotter spots-the food’s that appealing (and inexpensive), the ambience that undemanding, the immaculate setting that comfortable. The menu touches on all the basics, genuinely and with a practiced Hair for flavor balances: The house marinara and buttery house-made rolls have held a rapt following for years, and a recent visit’s appetizer of artichoke hearts gently warmed in lemon-butler was simply transporting. As were a crusty pizza strewn with minced fresh garlic and delicately wrapped manicotti. Lake Highland Village, 718 N. Buckner Blvd. at Northcliff Drive,214-217-7777. $.
Campisi’s Egyptian. It’s dark, outdated, and frankly, 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)

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)

La Dolce Vita. Lakewood’s favorite wood-burning oven is as comfortable a place for pizza and wine as it is for pastry and coffee. The high-ceilinged room with tall windows is a good place to linger if the crowds don’t push you out. Service is unpretentious and friendly; pizzas and pastas are good but not weird. 1924 Abrams Pkwy., 214-821-2608. $-$$. (L-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 waiters expertly deboning the 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 Italians” off the Dallas North Tollway. 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 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. $$.
Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and floors and odd faucet-like lighting of this trendy dining spot give this Cedar Springs mainstay showerlike appeal. But this doesn’t take away from the charm of the little garlic trees that sit in the windows or the fresh flowers that grace each table. As for the food, Pomodoro deserves applause for consistent innovation. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-1924. $$. (L-7)

Ruggeri’s. It could be that success at its newer Addison spinoff has cost the Uptown original its reputation for dependably fine Italian dining. The formerly flawless food has been less consistent lately: The veal chop was huge and tender, but zabaglione was too much more than froth. The crowd is festive as always. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-7377 (K-7); 5348 Belt Line Rd. 972-726-9555. $$-$$$. (K-4)

Toscana. You’ll gladly pay top dollar for Executive Chef David Holben’s fancy versions of Tuscan-based dishes. Appetizers alone are worth the visit: Pan-seared, lemon-thyme calamari is light and delicious, and lightly creamed grilled corn soup with toasted pine nuts is reminiscent of the hearty Tuscan soups of Florence. Indulge in tiramisu bread pudding with a Frangelico anglaise sauce. 4900 McKinney Ave., 214-521-2244. $$. (K-6>



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 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. Sen lends to from sublime to abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. at Parker Road. Piano, 972-881-0328. $$. (M-2)

Sushi on McKinney. One of the first sushi bars in Dallas to cash in on the ’80s notion that sushi is cool. Sushi on McKinney remains a popular stop for everything from introductory hand rolls to more esoteric Eastern concoctions. And, somehow, the scene here has stayed cool, even in the un-hip ’90s. 4502 McKinney Ave., 214-521-0969.$-$$. (K-7)

D BEST Teppo. Oui only yakitori bar is also one of the city’s sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination as well. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modem 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)



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. Entrées and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that will hold your 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. al Inwood Road, 214-352-1997. $-$$. (K-6)

D BEST Mediterranco. The Quadrangle location will probaby be the pro tolype for future Mediterraneos. It’s a pretty restaurant, stylishly minimalist but surprisingly warm and welcoming, and the food-a balance of old and new ideas-is hard to find fault with. Crusts are all the rage: Halibut is mysteriously crab crusted, salmon has a polenta crust, and lamb is crusted with goat cheese. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0002 (K-7); 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 suffer 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)



MEXICAN



D BEST Avila’s. Uns is the food you’d come home to il 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 retried beans are outstanding. Service is pleasant; the restaurant is immaculate. 4714 Maple Ave.. 214-520-2700. $. (K-7)

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

Casa Rosa. There’s almost always a table available at pink-tinted Casa Rosa, but only because the place is so big. The appeal of the food would pack a smaller place. Casa Rosa does well with standards-except the chimichanga-but the finds here are the more unusual dishes like goat cheese chile relleno and mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village, 214-350-5227. S. (K-6)

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 conies 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)

D REVISITS Herrera’s. In the early ’70s. we used to grab a six-pack and line up on the sidewalk around the origi-nal Alamo-like Herrera’s on Maple Avenue waiting for one of nine tables and a No. 10: one tostada with guaeamole. one cheese enchilada, and a soft cheese taco. After a lire, they moved across the street to bigger (and pinker) digs. Twenty-five years and six locations later, digs. Twenty-five years and six locations later, they continue to serve the same No. 10 along with other reliable Tex-Mex favorites in tacky surroundings. Comforting plaies of cheese enchiladas come bubbling in chili con came along with the best homemade flour tortillas in town. Weekend breakfast favorites include the signature “Breakfast of Champions” menudo (read; hangover cure). Sadly, the margaritas are lousy, forcing us to brown bag at the Maple Avenue or Josey Lane location. 4001 Maple Ave.. 214-528-9644 (K-7); 5427 Denton Dr., 214-630-2599 (K-6); 2853 W. Illinois, 214-330-6426 (J-9); 1905 N. Josey Ln? 972-242-4912 (J-3); 9404 Ovella Ave.. 214-956-0150 (J-5); 3790 Belt Line Rd., 972-488-2202. $. (K-4)

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicain. Touted as Dallas’ best “interior” Mexican restaurant, Javier’s lives up to its own high standards. Entrées 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 Galle 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. S-$$. (K-8)

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.. Addison, 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 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 entrees that weigh in at less than 1,000 calories each, including the four chiles rellenos. 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. Matt Martinez. Jr. himself doesn’t have anything to do with Mattito’s. but he did develop the recipes, and those didn’t change when he left. So the chile relleno and griddled flautas are excellent. The service is snappy, and what it lacks in charm, it makes up for in efficiency. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort Drive. Addison, 972-503-8100 (K-3); 4311 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-8181.$. (K-7)

D REVISITS Mart’s Rancho Martinez. We’re sorry to say. after 25 we actually had a disappointing dish at Matt’s. The servers were bustling efficiently because the place was filled with the faithful-as it is at every meal-but no one else seemed to be having problems. Perhaps it was a just punishment for stepping off the prescribed path: One of us ordered the lunch special (allegedly soft smoked beef tacos) instead of the usual nectar. The pallid folds of flabby tortilla hid a mound of wet, fat meat, and we were forced to share the single chile relleno, the jewel in the Martinez crown, still sublime, meltingly crisp outside, savory beef within, sauced Christmas-style with red and green and topped with raw pecans and raisins. We were the scouts. Now you know. The flautas are the best in Dallas. The chile relleno is food for the gods. Even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. But even Malt can make mistakes. 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: beer and wine only. 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. 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 tor 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, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ. 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 Southwestern-inspired options as well as more standard Tex-Mex, in a hip and hopping ambience. 2914 Main St., 214-748-7140.$$. (L-7)

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? 972^88-1984. $-$$. (J-4)

Omega. It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega. But fortunately Omega is also a great place to lunch, and it’s even a comfortable place to eat alone. This friendly little cafe on a Deep Ellum side street serves a complimentary cup of chile con queso with the warmed salsa and tostados. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food. 212 N. Crowdus St., 214-744-6842. $.
Pepe & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of the best in town. 2935 Elm St., 214-741-1901. $. (L-7)



MIDDLE EASTERN



Alil Baba. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley and adorned with slick olives. That and a stack of hot pita could do you. but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh, mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulgur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8235.$-$$.(L-7)

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 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)



MOROCCAN



D BEST Marrakcsh. 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 accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and finger-cymbales her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104. $$. (L-6)



NEW AMERICAN



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 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)

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 $15.95, three-course “twilight menu.” 600 N. Akard St., 214-740-4001. $5. (L-7)

Fog City Diner. The menu here has always been satisfyingly familiar, with enough finesse and invention to make you feel like you’ve dined, not merely fed. Service is smooth, and the salmon, bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is particularly good-each element actually excellent, and the sum superlative. 2401 McKinney Ave., 214-220-2401.$$. (K-7)

Gershwin’s. Pretty people, pretty food, pretty prices set the scene for power lunching in this California-influenced Upper Greenville emporium, where on-track careerists linger over creative fare noontimes and gather after work to share single malts, tall foods, and to people-watch. An outstanding wine list, too. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-373-7171. $$-$$$.

Going Gourmet. This place is a delicious blend of French bistro and neighborhood favorite: small, intimate, humming with conversation. The food’s a creative melange of Continental, Mediterranean, and New American influences, and the wine you bring yourself. Call for reservations-this tiny space is packed on any given evening. 4345 W. Northwest Hwy. at Midway Road. 214-350-6135. $$-$$$. (K-6)

Landmark Restaurant. Landmark’s menu may make you wish for an atlas and a thesaurus to find your way around, but if you’ll close your eyes, forget about the origin of your vegetables, and eat them, you’ll have a great trip. The New American food here, under the direction of Jim Anile, is ultra-imaginative, if highly complicated. And the gently refurbished room remains one of the most gracious in town. In the Melrose, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151.$$-$$$. (K-7)

Laurels, Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Sheraton Park Central’s 20th flour. Incomprehensible dishes like pear soup with plum wine crème fraiche don’! make sense until you put them in your mouth. You just have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate and the results are brilliant. Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000. $$$. (L-4)

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. $$S. (K-7)

Nana Grill. The new menu broadens Nana’s focus from Southwestern to Regional American. 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)

Natchez. This restaurant is low-key and upbeat at the same time. Warm ambience and service convey the feel of a comfortable neighborhood gathering place with a short but sophisticated Southern-rooted bill of fare. Thick-sliced grilled pork loin in créole mustard sauce is subtly terrific, and huge sea scallops are pure delight. 28 ION. Henderson Ave., 214-821-4552.$$.(L~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. The plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd? 214-265-7389. $$. (K-6)



SEAFOOD



AquaKnox. Stephan Pyles’ swanky seafood spot has commanded national attention, and the swell decor and meticulous food mostly merit it. Luscious red snapper in red curry masa is an example of Chef Lisa Balliet’s global approach to seafood. The rich and the wannabes are sipping bright blue Aquatinis in the elegant lounge, eating from a simpler menu that includes platters of fresh shrimp, oysters, clams, and small-plate versions of the dinner entrées, an excellent option for those who want a taste of the high life without the high tab. 3214 Knox St., 214-219-2782. $$$. (L-7)

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. 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, 214-526-1170. $$-$$$. (K-6)

CDaddy Jack’s. Chef Jack Chaplin’s tiny restaurant with its casual, cozy atmosphere is perfect for a date or for breezing in after a day at the lake. But forget about 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 is 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. S$. (L-7)

Fish. This elegant downtown spot got very hot very fast, and it may have gone to their heads. Not only have we seen inconsistencies in the food, but service has been snooty. When they’re on, the acclaimed Green Soup-a shallow bowl piled high with shells, legs, and tails protruding recklessly from a broth-is divine. There’s a late menu nightly from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 302 S. Houston St., 214-747-3474. $$-$$$. (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, 972-774-9518.$$. (K-4)

D BEST Lombard Mare. Don’t be put off by the nondescript exterior; the inte-rior is a mind-blower. Lighting fixtures designed to appear like a school of fish swim across the ceiling. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, steamed mussels, and lobster, and finish with Tuscan pudding. 5100 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-503-1233. $$. (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)

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. 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)

SAD 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 Grill. 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. They come in four sizes, 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)



SOUTHWESTERN



Flying Burro. The Burro’s brand of Mexican food isn’t purely New Mexican-there’s more meat and cheese richness on this menu than most New Mexicans (except those from California) can afford to relish. Enchiladas are stacked and come topped with an egg. 2831 Greenville Ave., 214-827-2II2. S. (L-6)

D REVISITS No Place. Artist Rick Timmons’ mural-in-the-mak-ing shows local celebs like Blackie Sherrod painted larger-than-life next to legends like John Wayne. They’re all grouped around Matt Martinez Jr., who’s a legend in his own neighborhood, anyway. Only two evenings after its unannounced reopening, the new No Place (around the comer from its former site) is half-full of celebrants happy to hail the return of Lakewood’s favorite steak-and-game venue. We celebrated with a mixed grill of tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison came with Man’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The sizzling ribeyes our waiter passed under our gaze en route to another table were so seductive, we probably wouldn’t have ordered anything else if we’d seen them first. 6325 La Vista Dr., 214-328-9078. $$-$S$. (L-7)

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-size 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 REVISITS Star Canyon. On a recent visit, we were stampeded by a herd of conventioneers leaving loaded with souvenir T-shirts, coffee mugs, and cookbooks, confirming that chef-owner Stephan Pyles has created a Dallas destination with his innovative New Texas Cuisine. Despite the recent opening of glamorous sister restaurant AquaKno\. the big blondes and big bucks are still stopping here for power-grub dining. An appetizer of delicious fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made moz-zarella is a rare case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. However, the wood-roasted sea bass served with two wads of feta cheese was delivered tepid. The bone-in cowboy rib-eye on a bed of pinto beans and covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’ top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. $$. (K-7)

Y.D. 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. Entrées range from basic steaks to turkey, catfish, shrimp, and the Muy Grande Tex-Mex Platter. 702 Ross Ave., 214-744-3287. $-$$. (K-7)



SPANISH



Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas cafe is as tiny a place as the tapas. And besides the two dozen or so tapas always available, a daily changing blackboard lists many more, including everything from potato omelet to wine-poached rabbit to blood sausage. That last is a near-religious experience. 4501 Travis St.. 214-528-173I.S$.(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, is a standout. Entrees 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.. 214-599-9563. $$. (K-6)

SIEAKHOUSES



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

D BEST Chamberlain s Prime 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 this cigar-friendly outpost filled even on weekday evenings. 5330 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-$$$. (K-4)

Kirby’s Steakhouse. Unlike the in-town reincarnation of the 1950s original, this vast place ha) Piano-style prosperity written all over it-all upscale splendor with a midscale attitude. The menu’s the same, though-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 (K-1 ); 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122. $S. (L-6)

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, 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 are rich and buttery. Ten 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-I)

Stone Trail Steakhouse. Lavish decor, live music for late dancing, an upscale menu and wine list mark this sprawling steak spread as the brainchild of restaurateur Tony Taherzadeh. former owner of Farfallo and Papillon. A clubby ambience and prescient service support terrific beef treatments (try the bone-in ribeye); seafood and other meats provide variety. Dinner only. 14833 Midway Rd., 972-701-9600. $$$. (K-3)



THAI



Chow Thai. A strip shopping center 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 Montfort Drive, Addison. 972-960-2999. $$. (K-3)

Liberty. Annie Wong is a magic name to most Dallas chefs. The mother of Thai food in Dallas still owns three all-Thai restaurants, but Liberty is where her imagination is freed. Romantically and softly lit, with beaded can-dleshades on each table and bamboo birdcages animated with twinkling Christmas lights, the brightly tit kitchen makes Liberty into real dinner theater, and Wong is the star. What makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alia Ave., 214-887-8795. $$. (L-7)

Royal Thai. Furnished with ornate Thai antiques and traditional arts. Royal Thai is a pleasantly upscale change from the starkly serviceable interiors of so many Thai restaurants, Chicken packets are wrapped in tenderizing banana leaves. Curries are fragrant and benefit from their presentation under a little domed top. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave., 214-691-3555. $-S$.(L-6)



VIETNAMESE



Mai’s. Mai’s is one of those places that has lots of loyal customers. The menu is stocked with authentic Vietnamese specialties, including lots of noodle and rice entrées and the classic hot pots: exotic meats, vegetables, and spices cooked and served in clay pots. Be sure and try the legendary Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. 4812 Bryan St., 214-826-9887.5. (L-7)

Mai’s Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened the first Vietnamese restaurant in Dallas, and her food is still terrific at her little restaurant in Snider Plaza. The hot pots are especially good-“hot chic” is the regulars’ favorite. 6912 Snider Plaza, 214-361-8220. $-$$. (L-6)

Saigon Bistro. Authentic Vietnamese food translated into English. Saigon Bistro aims for the authenticity of a point-and-order Vietnamese restaurant, without the risk. The menu lets you know what to expect, and this is one of the only places in town that serves “festive beef,” a special occasion dinner in Vietnam- one you shouldn’t miss. 17390 Preston Rd., Ste. 490, 972-380-2766. $-$$. (K-3)

VietNam. A little bit of Southeast Asia transplanted to East Dallas. VietNam has very little Western influence to make the cultural transition easier. This is Vietnamese food designed for the Vietnamese community. But some things are universal-the appeal of hot soup, for instance. And VietNam’s hot pot, a comforting, steaming caldron of soup, noodles, and vegetables, is enough to share. 4302 Bryan St., 214-821-4542. $-$$. (L-7)



TARRANT COUNTY

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 beasts. 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 jackhammer decibel levels. The “one-world cuisine” 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 tart for dessert. 215 E. 4th St., Fort Worth, 817-334-0080. $$. (B-9)

Benito’s. Like an old familiar 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 corn 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)

Bistro Louise. This gem of a bistro offers takeout now, but the staff seems curiously challenged by the idea. The famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin travel well, but even delicate reheating of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals fails to restore it. Savored in the sunny bistro, the cuisine works Mediterranean magic. Enjoy it there as often as possible. 2900 S. Hulen St., 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)

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)

D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. I he 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.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-626-4356. $$. (B-9)

Kincaid’s, The actual truth is that a Kincaid’s hamburger is too big to get your mouth around and too good not to try. Lunching business types stand hip to hip with blue-collared brethren at long counters or share benches ai the checkered oilcloth-topped tables to inhale half-pound patties of choice chuck that are ground, hand-shaped, and grilled daily. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-732-2881.$. (A-9)

D BEST Reata. The flavors purveyed (upscale, ranch- contemporary) are 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)

Reflections. Surely among the most gracefully romantic dining settings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Worthington Hotel’s flagship restaurant in downtown Fort Worth offers a refined escape from high-decibel stress. Intuitive service and avant bill of fare live up to the ambience. Delicate pan-seared foie gras with sautéed apples and grilled, whiskey-sauced ostrich medallions with red lentil risotto are representative of the kitchen’s inventions. 200 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-882-1660 or 800-433-5677. $$$. (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)

Cathy’s Creed

We cook for your life, diet, and health” is Catherine Liu’s creed. She’s made a name for herself by emphasizing the healthful aspects of China’s oldest art form-first at Cathy’s Wok, a Chinese reinter-pretation of the American fast food restaurant, then at her second restau rant, Cathy’s Pacific, a gracious, global sit-down dining room. Her latest venture is another Cathy’s Wok at 3948 Legacy Rd. at Coit Road in Piano.

S I D E D I S H

The Computerized Maitre d’



Forget the leatherbound guest book and the discreet pencil with the convenient memory. Eric Rock, lead programmer for Dallas-based Rock Systems, has developed software that allows restaurants to track their dining room traffic, and along the way, develop a dossier on the diners. Galled RSViP, the program provides a page for every customer, so the restaurant has on record whether you prefer non-smoking or window seating; the dates of your birthday and anniversary; whether you’ve requested a birthday cake or special flowers; who referred you to the restaurant; and your reservation history. How often have you dined at this establishment? What was the date of your last visit? How many times have you cancelled your reservations? And (your sin revealed), how many times have you been a no-show? Sorry, sir. We’re full that evening.

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