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Restaurant Reviews

By D Magazine |

NEWCOMERS

PF CHANG’S

THE PARKING LOT LOOKS LIKE A SOLD-OUT Rangers game. The line goes out the door, and. although there are replicas of the emperor’s horses outside, it’s hard to tell whether this crowd is here for lettuce wraps or line dancing. PF Chang’s bills itself as Chinese food, American bistro style-which means, not surprisingly, that it’s not Chinese at all. It’s a restaurant based on Chinese food, but Chinese food that’s altered for mass appeal to mid-American tastes.

We were dining late, but the tight-jeaned crowd around us was faster and more frenzied than we were. We ordered a bottle of Boony Doon Pacific Rim Riesling. Our waitress proceeded to pour the entire bottle between the three of us- practically laying her head on the table to make sure we all got equal portions. Whether or not we wanted them. I have never seen wine service like this in my life; this looked like a fraternity contest more than high-dollar restaurant dining.

Lettuce wraps are the big seller at PF Chang’s, pushed by the servers as if they were a new creation of the chef’s when actually they’ve been popular (even in Dallas Chinese restaurants) for a decade. Here they resemble what a McLettuce wrap might be like: tasteless iceberg wrapped around (how shall I say it?) inoffensive chicken niblets mixed with unidentifiable vegetable morsels.

Proportion is critical in Chinese cuisine-proportion and texture-but this food was excesssively unified. The chicken, vegetable, and iceberg all competed in their insipidity. No wonder everyone was ordering these.

Hot and sour soup was a gelatinously thickened goop. Beef Szechuan was a pile of dehydrated, underseasoned beef tidbits over rice. This style of beef is supposed to be cooked until dry, but this was a dish that exemplified the Bering Straits bridge perfectly. The Sioux could have carried this mix for miles and been nourished nicely.

Dallasites are still conservative about cuisines they didn’t eat as children. One assumes that Duluth has the same attitude. But a restaurant like PF Chang’s (soon to open in NorthPark, the epicenter of North Dallas culture), feeds the fear, serving food that appeals to the need for novelty, while offering not much more than Billy Bob’s. It’s comfort level they’re selling here, not cuisine. But they’re selling it well; there are already three locations of this chain and more links are on the way. 18323 N. Dallas Pkwy., 972-818-3336. $$

-Mary BrownMalouf



CHAMPAGNE

THE NAME SOUNDS ALL NOEL COWARD, BUT the place looks more like something from a John LeCarre Cold War spy story: old East Berlin’s version of a fancy restaurant. What should be a glamorous and golden example of downtown Dallas’ rebirth. housed in the art deco splendor of the restored Renaissance lobby of the George Dahl-designed Titche-Goettinger building, is actually drab and dreary. Ill-lit, cheaply finished, sloppily manned, but expensive. This Champagne is flat.

As always, first impressions count (or, in this case, subtract). The hostess, wearing khakis and a white golf shirt, seated us at a window table that looked like fun from the sidewalk outside, but was uncomfortable. We were diners on display. Besides, we didn’t think we wanted our entrees to slide off the table (we thought differently later), and this table had more slope than could be fixed with eight matchbooks.

We moved to another table and the over-jovial waiter offered us pre-prandial drinks but never mentioned what he should have been selling-we had to ask what champagnes were poured by the glass. No wonder it hadn’t come up: there were only three-Perrier Jouet. Veuve CI iquot, Taittinger-which seems outrageously unimaginative in a time when there are so many good bubbles being bottled.

You’d think that a restaurant called Champagne would make some attempt to capitalize on its name. Where was the champagne sorbet? What about champagne cocktails? But this is the kind of half-baked thinking that characterized our whole dinner.

Executive chef Bruno Mella is the mind behind the menu, and he’s come up with a list of high-faluting, high-priced Frenchy dishes that sound suited to the idea of a restaurant called Champagne but vastly overshot the reality. Our waiter described every dish we asked about as “to die for.” Maybe that was a polite way of saying it was all oversalted, because that was the overriding flavor.

Maryland blue crab in crepes was a good example of the high tone Mella is aiming for and missing. The crepes were tough, and their crab-cream filling was unbelievably salty. Tournedos Rossini would have been an acceptable fancy dinner in 1968. A horrible spinach salad was served lukewarm, we never got bread, and the butter was refrigerator-stale.

We drank a glass of chardonnay, wanted another, and the waiter brought sauvi-gnon blanc as a substitute from a wine room that looks like a duty-free shop at the airport.

Never mind. There’s plenty of room to put in a pool hall here. Downtown needs one of those, too. 1900 Elm (at St. Paul). 214-747-4653.$$$

-M.B.M.



GUTHRIE’S

THE WEEK’S WEATHER REPORT APPLIED TO the ambience: hot and smoky. Guthrie’s, William Guthrie’s new downtown cafe, suffered technical difficulties when it first opened-Ventahood problems, service syntax. But it was full anyway because the downtown dining scene has had a Help Wanted sign out for so long.

There are very few places to eat for a population who does not want to leave their parking garage just for nourishment. And who isn’t sick of paying $7 for a chicken salad sandwich at Neiman’s Fresh Market?

Guthrie’s, wisely, doesn’t aim too high: chef/owner William Guthrie has in mind the kind of old-fashioned blue-plate special sort of place that used to anchor every small town square. He serves breakfast, lunch, and early supper.

The wooden booths are unsurprisingly uncomfortable-are cushions coming?-but the high ceilings and fans and photos of old cafes and diners does remind you of a time when downtowns were a gathering place.

You’re suppposed to place your order at the counter, pick up your drink and silverware, and wait for your order to be called. It doesn’t always work, do I need to say that? One day, our salad, forgotten by the server who had promised to deliver it, retrieved by us, was an unromanced plate of torn romaine leaves with a plastic cup of dressing on the side. Another day. theexpe-ditor called out the name of the dish we’d ordered, as well as the number, and someone else picked up the order. It doesn’t matter how small the restaurant is, the service has to work efficiently in terms of the customer.

Guthrie, formerly chef at Hotel Saint-Germaine, doesn’t quite have the front of the house organized, but the food is mostly down-to-earth and fine. Half a roast chicken was crisp-skinned and moist, mashed potatoes were real, and ricotta ravioli comes with a nicely balanced tomato sauce.

Unfortunately, Guthrie’s seems too far removed from the past it’s trying to replicate and too disconnected from the future to work well. But I expect William will work out the service glitches. In the meantime, it beats Neiman’s chicken salad deal, big-lime. 400 S. Ervay, 214-760-7900. $

-M.BM.

BARBECUE

Baker’s Ribs. Nothing fancy about this place. Load up your tray with piles of .sliced beef, pork, turkey, chicken, cayenne-seasoned Si. 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; 4844 Greenville Ave., 214-373-0082: 488 W. 1-30 at Belt Line Road, Garland. 972-226-7447. $.

Peggy Sue Barbecue. This ’50s-style joint in Snider Plaza is serving some of the best BBQ in town. Terrific appetizers include Texas Torpedoes-cream cheese-filled fried jalapenos. Baby back ribs, chicken, polish kielbasa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection. Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world of meat, go first-class here. 6600 Snider Plaza, 214-987-9188.$.

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. The “blues” are on the walls, in the form of concert posters, and in your ears. Friendly service. 9810 N. Central Expwy., 214-368-7427; 5017 W. Piano Pkwy.. Ste. 100. Piano, 972-248-3866. $.

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

D BEST Sonny Bryan’s. For 40 years. Sonny D BEST 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; 302 N. Market St., 214-744-1610; 325 N. St. Paul St. (in the tunnel), 214-979-0102; 4701 Frankford Rd.. 972-447-0102; Macy’s, 3rd level, Galleria. 972-851-5131. $.



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.$.

D BEST Routh Street Brewery and Gril. 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. $$.

Yegua Creek Brewing Co. This home-grown brew pub continues to brew stellar suds, but its menu : strays from the burger/pizza path into less-traveled Southwest byways with mixed success. 2920 N. Henderson Ave.. 214-824-BREW. $$.



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 $4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St., 214-741-4406.$.

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 and a bountiful display of desserts to tempt the weak. 3230 McKinney Ave., 214-999-9444; 5600 W. Lovers Ln? 214-352-2211. $.

Chip’s Old-Fashioncd 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; 4530 Lovers Ln? 214-691-2447. $.

Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought the university years were the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries (a basket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese), because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$.

Stoneleigh P. Everyone smuggles in ketchup because the place proudly and oddly refuses to serve it. But even the contraband ketchup can’t help the boring, meatless garden burger, and the homemade potato chips are not as good as Zapp’s out of the bag. The best thing about the Stoneleigh’s rancho deluxe burger, served on an equally crumbly “rustica” bun, was the chipotle mayonnaise. Maybe that explains the condiment ban. 2926 Maple Ave., 214-871-2346.$.

Texas Hamburgers. This Texas kitsch joint is filled with stuffed armadillos, Texas flags, cowboy memorabilia, good old boys, and Armani-clad Design Center sophisticates. Besides great half- and third-pound burgers accompanied by fresh fixings, this place serves some great meatloaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. 1616 Market Center Blvd.. 214-747-2222. $.



CAJUN/CREOLE

Copland’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. $$.

Crescent City Cafe. Crescent City still dishes out 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. $.



CHINESE

Arc-En Ciel. The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare, but 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, mint, lettuce, and sprouts-each dish delightful, fresh, excellent. 3555 W. Walnut St.. Garland. 972-272-2188; 2208 New York Ave.. Arlington, 817-469-9999, $-$$.

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.$-$$.

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 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-392-9998. $$.

Hew Big Wong. Large lunches are served here in fast-food lime, 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., 214-82M198.$.

Szechuan Pavilion. One of the top Chinese restaurants in a city with far too few to choose from. Service here is smooth and the usual Szechuan specialties are good. Pot stickers filled with juicy pork and a whole crispy fish are worth waiting for. 8409 Preston Rd? 214-368-4303. $$.

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. $-$$.

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

Uncle Tars Hunan Yuan. Not much has changed ; here over the last 15 years. Bow-tie clad waiters still formally dish out classic hot Hunan specialties tableside. Past favorites still shine: Crispy Beef with broccoli sizzling in spicy orange sauce and Uncle Tai’s Chicken flamed with jalapenos lightly coated with black bean sauce served on a bed of slightly wilted watercress. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ, 972-934-9998. $$



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. $.

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



DELI

Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family enters their 11th year of dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha vamishkas 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. $.

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. $.



EASTERN EUROPEAN

Athenée 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. $$.



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 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. $-$$.

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 if you can. 2704 Elm St., 214-741-9012.$-$$.

8.0 Restaurant and Bar. This hip joint is still hopping with pretty people sipping blue mar-garitas and noshing upscale bar food like thick, 8-ounce burgers and chicken nachos. Lines are out the door at lunch and cocktail hour in the summer, and the patio is swarming with guys and girls cruising for girls and guys. Blaring music makes table conversation nearly impossible, but mural-covered walls painted by local artists make it a funky place to sit back and watch the show. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0880. $-$$.

Fogo de Chao. A churrascaria in Addison with branches in Porto Alegre and Sào Paulo. Fogo de Chao serves traditional cookery from southern Brazil, starting with the 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. $$.

D BEST The Grape. The secrei is Dallas’ oldest and best wine bai 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. $$.

D BEST The Green Room. This ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of the most inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The menu is eclectically uptown, and the decor is strictly downtown rock 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.$$.

Kathleen’s Art Cafe, We love the concept of a funky cafe showcasing eclectic food and local artists, but lately Kathleen’s version of both proved dull. We doctor every bite with salt and pepper to bring out any taste. Desserts ranged from dismal to delicious. 4424 Lovers Lane, 214-691-2355.$-$$

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

St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin. The martin 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. $.

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. The take on traditional osso buco. based on a rich, gamy lamb shank instead of veal, is food you lust after. 3611 Parry Ave.. 214-821-2224. Dinner only. $$.

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

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, does score some absolute touchdowns, like a perfect Caesar salad and a Dover sole so tender it’s gone before you have time to appreciate it. 14775 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-503-9777. $$-$$$.



FRENCH/CONTINENTAL

Addison Cafe. It’s called “Le French Bistro,” but in reality, Addison Cafe is a restaurant serving classically prepared French and New American dishes, which has kept them in business for 14 years. Tournedos of beef are cooked medium rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. A thick slab of fennel-crusted sea bass seasoned with kalamata olives is poached to perfection. And dark chocolate mousse is worth every hip-hugging calorie. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 108 at Montfort Drive, Addison. 972-991-8824. $$.

D BEST Barclays. Don’t come to Barclays expecting to find 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-rhis place is a gem. 2917 Fairmount St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$.

Chez Gerard. Which is more to be celebrated, French thrift or French style? Skin-thin petals of veal liver, sautéed with onions and grapes in port wine sauce, become the gourmand’s liver and onions-or is it the peasant’s foie gras? Whatever. 4444 McKinney Ave., 214-522-6865. $$-$$$.

Clair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the corner 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 moisl duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Road, 214-987-2028.$$.

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 modem 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. $$$.

Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: line 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’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit, tables are draped in starchy white, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you could get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tart is just as subtly good. Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre comes with the the best, yes, French fries in town. 4514 Travis St., 214-528-1081. $$-$$$.

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. $$-$$$.

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

D BEST The Riviera. We knew the momem 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. $$$.

Tramontana. 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. 822QB Westchester Dr.. 214-368-4188.$$.

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. Bui 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. $$.



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. 1801 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-818-1177. $-$$.

City Cafe To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? According to (he friendly servers at City Cafe To Go. most people don’t even know how to use a regular oven to reheat the precooked food they buy there. They all want microwave instructions. But for those of you who can handle 350 degrees for 20 minutes, most of the dishes (for instance, a thickly sliced rare leg of lamb with chard and sun-dried tomatoes) are tasty and reheat beautifully. We love the apple pizza: a thick slice of thinly sliced apples layered with sugar and cinnamon covered with two inches of nut-laden crumble topping. 5757 Lovers Lane, 214-351-3366,$-$$

City Harvest This neighborhood favorite is open every day and-even on weekdays-serves real morning food. Downtowners take note: Oak Cliff is easy for lunch (buy a bag of Zapp’s chips and a triple chocolate chunk cookie to go with the pesto chicken salad deluxe sandwich), and you can pick up dinner to go while you eat. 939 N. Edgefield Ave., 214-943-2650. $-$$.

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. $-$$.

Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food-there was never a problem with that. At night, when the blond, tight-filled Cafe TuGogh features full table service, it’s on its way to becoming one of” the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-526-070. $-$$.

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. $.

Sige!’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. $.



GREEK

Ziziki’s. You can hardly get a prime-time table at this contemporary Greek cafe, and they don’t take reservations, except for large parties. But the herbed lamb souvlaki, folded in thick warm pita and sauced with tart yogurt, is worth a wait. Ziziki’s menu has featured the same idiosyncratic version of Mediterranean food since it opened-it’s a good thing when some things don’t change. 4514 Travis St, Ste. 122, 214-521-2233. $$.



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 ail 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. $.

Casa Linda Cafeteria. The hairnet is alive in Casa Linda, behind the virtually endless 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 too many of them are gerialrically 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. $.

Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecea for Dallas home-cooking purists. 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.$.

DC’s Cafe. You’ve been in powder rooms bigger than this super-clean little place, but you’ve had home cooking this fine only in your dreams of classic sou I-food plate lunches at penny-ante prices. Pork chops, meatloaf. catfish et al come with three sides; business is about half-and-half eat-in and takeout, and we’ve never seen the room empty of patrons. 8224 Park Ln.. 214-363-4348. $.

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.$.



INDIAN

D BEST Bombay Cricket Club. Lunch buffets BEST are an Indian restaurant and Bombay Cricket Club’s lineup is excellent. A pretty setting, unfailingly polite service, and excellent food make this one of the lop 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. $-$$.

India Palace. Delicate spices imbue truly fine Indian cuisine. And. similar to a fine perfume, too much is an assault on (he senses, too little I 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.$-$$.



ITALIAN

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. $.

Campisl’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. $.

lano’s. The menu is priced per portion and per “la familia.” And it’s thoroughly Italian in that a “la familia” platter is plenty for a family, including parents, several children, grandparents. Vitello Pugliese, for example, is thickly breaded slices of veal, smothered in tomato sauce allegedly enriched with goat cheese and loaded with purple kalamata olives. 250 Spanish Village. 972-866-0888. $$.

Isola Goza. The parking lot just doesn’t help the ambience. But the best you could hope for from a restaurant in NorthPark is some retail compatibility. Thin-crusted pizza is always the star-a perfectly proportioned layering of bread and topping, just held together with cheese. The fare at Isola Goza is sophisticated and good and deserves a better setting. The Market, NorthPark Center. Park Lane at Central Expressway, 214-691-0488. $$.

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. $-$$.

D BEST Mi Piaci. Ai all nines, these hipper D BEST 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. $$.

Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and doors 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. $$.

Ruggeri’s. It could be that success at its newer Addison spinoff has cost the Uptown original its reputation for dependably line 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; 5348 Belt Line Rd. 972-726-9555. $$-$$$.

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 com 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. $$.

Vitto’s. Oak Cliff and Oak Lawn Vitto’s have the same minimalist interior-mirrors, sculptural iron screens, questionable art, and laminate tables. The menu attempts several ambitious dishes-including some veal preparations-but most people stick to die pasta and pizza. We like the “different” pizzas: one topped with spinach, goat cheese, and red peppers; the other with garlic, spinach, bacon, and pepperoni. 3211 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-522-9955; 316 W. 7th St., 214-946-1212. $-$$.



JAPANESE

Chaya. Cold beer and warm, salted edamame- so much better than pretzels-will make you happy to start. Sushi is consistently good, even the beginner sushi rolls: Rich salmon skin centers contrast nicely with the very sticky rice. For non-sushi lovers, the skewers from the robata-yaki (grill) are good, especially the chicken chunks of moist thigh meat and cubes of succulent swordfish. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-361-0220. $$.

D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range from sublime to abrupt al 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. $$.

Rock & Roll Sushi. Rock V roll is here to stay, and obviously, so is sushi. Rock & Roll Sushi’s California concept is part fish, part gimmick. Around the circular bar is a stream with a flotilla of lacquered boats bearing sushi. The things we like best are the least traditional, and at lunch, the bento boxes are a good deal. 6109-B Berkshire Ln., 214-987-1966. $$-$$$.

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.$-$$.

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

D BEST Tappo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the city’s most exciting 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. $$-$$$.



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. $$.

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

D BEST Mediterraneo. The Quadrangle location will probably be the pro totype 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; 18111 Preston Rd. at Frankford Road. Ste. 120,972-447-0066.$$-$$$.

Sambuca. Both locations are vibrant restaurants featuring innovative Mediterranean cuisine for those who enjoy their meals with jazz. Each presents well-known groups seven nights a week, but the decibel level prohibits any casual dinner conversation during performances. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison. 972-385-8455; 2618 Elm St., 214-744-0820. $$.



MEXICAN

D BEST Avila’s. This 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 refried beans are outstanding. Service is pleasant; the restaurant is immaculate. 47)4 Maple Ave., 214-520-2700. $.

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. Forest Park Shopping Center, 11742 Marsh Ln.,Ste. A, 214-357-0141.$.

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 chimi-changa-but the finds here are the more unusual dishes like goat cheese chile relleno and mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village, 214-350-5227.$.

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. $.

Herrera’s. In the early ’70s, we used to grab a six-pack and line up on the sidewalk around the original Alamo-like Herrera’s on Maple Avenue waiting for one of nine tables and a No. 10: one tostada with guacamole, one cheese enchilada, and a soft cheese taco. 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. 4001 Maple Ave., 214-528-9644; 5427 Denton Dr.. 214-630-2599; 2853 W. Illinois Ave., 214-330-6426; 1905 N. Josey Ln., 972-242-4912; 9404 Ovella Ave., 214-956-0150; 3790 Belt Line Rd., 972-488-2202. $.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. 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., 214-521-211.$$.

La Calle Doce. Far from slicker Belt Line and Greenville Avenue eateries, this old house is home to some seriously good Mexican-style seafood. Sit on the porch and dine on a spicy gazpacho-like octopus cocktail served in huge goblets or shrimp, stuffed with crabmeat, covered with chili con queso and tasting much better than it sounds. 415 W. 12th St., 214-941-4304. $-$$.

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. $.

La Valentina. A taste of big city Mexico in suburbia. The beautiful menu makes fascinating reading that doesn’t always translate to the plaie. The polio en mole poblano tops chicken 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. $$.

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. $-$$.

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. 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.$-$$.

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; 4311 Oak LawnAve?2l4-526-8181.$.

D BEST Matt’s Rancho Martinez. The place is filled with the faithful at every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, he chile relleno is food for the gods, and even Fa combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517. $-$$.

Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution lias^hshed up definitive Tex-Mex food to addi^s who stand in line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enriquez satisfies their lust for her incompwrabie chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do?wi(h house specialties. Service is cheerful; the setting is no-frills comfortable. The bad news: beer and wine only. 4322 Lemmon Ave 214-526-1020. $.

Mi Cocina. This! chain has expanded so rapidly, you’d think D^llasites had just discovered Tex-Mex. But at a’ six locations, the food is dependably good and lines are still dependably long. The meenu features upscale dishes in addition to basic tacos and enchiladas-tacos habanas are stuffed with chicken and covered with ground chili and cilantro; Latin stir-fry fajitas provide a new option for vegetarians, 11661 Preston Rd., 214-265-7704; 77 Highland Park Village, 214-521-6426; 18352 Dallas Pkwy at Frankford Road, 972-250-6426; 7201 Skillman St., 214-503-6426; The Galler-ia, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LB J Freeway. 972-239-6426-; 509 Main St., Fort Worth. 837-877-3600. $-$$.

Monica tea Y Alia. 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.$$.

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, camitas are the best. 2013 Greenville Ave., 214-887-8148; 12895-losey Ln., 972-488-1984. $-$$.

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. $.

Pope & Mlto’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.$.

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

Primo’s. The after-hours chefs” hangout is everyone’s favorite Tex-Mex joint all the time. The long bar encourages a Cheers-like camer-aderie and the kitchen produces cantina-quali-ty food. The tiny tacos are particularly terrific, but enchiladas, flautas, and guacamole are good, too. And if you’re not very hungry, this is just the place to while away a margarita. 3309 McKinney Ave, 214-220-0510. $

Bafa’s. One Dallas institution replaced another when Raphael’s (now Rafa’s) opened in Mr. Peppe’s old space on Lovers Lane. The arched brick wine cellar is bright orange, and the pastoral Swiss view has been replaced by pictures of many Aztec gods and one happy tomato. The place could still use a few velvet paintings, but the tablescape is complete: Light, fresh chips, vinegary salsa, and fast margaritas are the intro to a meal that’s quintessential Dallas Mexican. 5617 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-2080. $-$$.

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



MIDDLE EASTERN

Al-Amir. The Mediterranean meets the rising sun at Al Amir, which took the place of a Japanese restaurant. The result is an odd, melting-pot ambience. Concentrate on the plate– Middle Eastern expectations are well-met with good renditions of hummus, baba ghanoush, and lamb. But there are also some less well-known dishes to try. 7402 Greenville Ave., 214-739-2647.$$.

All 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.$-$$.

Basha. Basha was one of the first in the wave of Middle Eastern restaurants that have opened in Dallas in the last few years. And it remains one of the best of a good lot. The menu is less predictable than many of Dallas’ Lebanese restaurants, offering dishes outside the usual selection of hummus, baba ghanoush, rice, and grilled everything. Breast of chicken breaded in crushed pistachios is an excellent idea-so is fragrant lamb shank, cooked till it is stew on the bone. OK, hummus is good, too. 2217 Greenville Ave., 214-824-7794. $$.

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. $-$$.

D BEST Cafe Izmir. A unique dining experience: In this popular and charming little cafe, diners choose a vegetarian or a meat-based meal rather than orderIing from a menu. And then a parade of delightful food appears-lemon-zested tab- M bouleh. hummus. Mediterranean cole slaw, J pita quarters, grilled kabob tubes of ground I 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., 214-8226 7788. $$.

Hedary’s. George Hedary is back with a comfortable clone of the Fort Worth original. menu and all. in North Dallas. Order the menu’s maza appetizer and you El gel a dozen sampler starters. And tiny cups of Lebanese coffee keep you awake on the drive home. 7915 Belt Line Rd.. 972-233-10880. $$.



MOROCCAN

D BEST Marrakesh. Just what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious coml\nations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin–wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu-is a bargainat S25.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-E;istem music accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and tinger-cymbales her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104.$$.



NEW AMERICAN

Americus on Preston. The setting is only so-so, but chef Michael McMullen turns out American food with a southern spin thai transcends the dolled-up strip-mall location. Lamb chops over blue cheese grits, roast chicken with thyme-mashed potatoes, and minted creme brake were the opposite of the decor: fresh and imaginative. Live music could make Americus a one-stop for weekend evenings. 19009 Preston Rd., 972-381-0028.$$$

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

Anzu. The Nakamotos spent a considerable amount of money to alter Anzu’s entrance so its feng shui would be perfectly balanced. Maybe it helps the consistently balanced flavors in the bento boxes. Lunch at this orientally inclined restaurant has always been one of the best deals in town-a beautiful arrangement of tempura and sushi or a plate of Asian-influenced fish or chicken, served gracefully, under a flock of origami birds, for less than $10. 4620 McKinney Ave., 214-526-7398. $$.

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.$$-$$$.

City Cafe. This California-inspired, mostly family-run cafe opened over a dozen years ago but remains in the top tier ofDailas restaurants. The charming but dim dining room is furnished with cottage antiques, and the food is classic, with a wake-up flash of invention. Fresh tomato basil soup is famous. The service, is confident and careful, and the American wine list is one of the best in town. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-2233. $$.

Dakota’s. The pad of paper and pen beside the plate are the first clue to Dakota’s lunchtime target. That’s if you didn’t notice the standard lunchtime uniforms around every table-pinstripes preferred. The menu is correspondingly conservative, focusing on grilled meats and predictable pastas, with imaginative New American touches on some dishes, like the venison sausage in the quesadillas and the tortilla crust on the halibut. For a business meal, though, the noise level needs to come way down. 600 N. Akard St, 214-740-4001. $$.

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 crealive 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. $$-$$$.

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, ln the Melrose, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151.$$-$$$.

Laurels. Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Sheraton Park Central’s 20th floor. Incomprehensible dishes like pear soup with plum wine crème fraiche don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. You have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate and the results are brilliant, Sheraton Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000. $$$.

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. $$$.

The Mercury. This New American grill in Preston Forest tries a little too hard: The sleek interior, designer-dim lighting, and jazzy soundtrack all seem a little too Manhattan. The service, though, is enthusiastic and professional beyond expectation. But there is a gap between the food promised by the menu and the dishes delivered. Tuna at lunch is nicely cooked but the pappardelle with roasted chicken tastes like leftovers. 1991 Forest Ln., Ste. 1418, 972-960-7774. $$-$$$.

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.$$$.

Natchez. This restaurant is low-key and upbeat at the same time. Warm ambience and service convey me feel of a comfortable neighborhood gathering place with a short but sophisticated Southern-rooted bill of fare. Grilled pork loin in créole mustard sauce is subtly terrific, and huge sea scallops are pure delight. 2810 N.Henderson Ave., 214-821-4552.$$.

Rooster. The room is as easily gracious as a family dining room. And the staff offers naturally Southern-style hospitality. The traditional Senate bean soup is authentic-substantial and scented with smoky ham-and the breadbasket is filled with com muffins and bacon biscuits. The catfish, thick and white as cake, is crusted with molasses and pecans, then sauced with brown butter. 3521 Oak Grove Ave., 214-521-1234. $$$.



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 the 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 entrees, an excellent option for those who want a taste of the high life without the high tab. 3214 Knox St.. 214-219-2782.$$$.

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 staff. 24 Highland Park Village, 214-526-1170. $$-$$$.

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

Daddy 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. $$.

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. $$.

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 com for $10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-774-9518.$$.

D BEST Lombardi Mare. Don l be put off by D BEST the nondescript exterior; the interior is a mind-blower. Lighting fixtures designed to appear like a school offish swim across the ceiling. 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.$$.

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-Prohibit ion brewing operation. 703 McKinney Ave., 214-954-0220. $$.

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. $-$$.

SAO 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.$$.

Sea Drill. Malt sprawl makes this Piano oasis hard to find, which would make its unflagging popularity hard to explain if Chef Andy Tun’s highly creative takes on seafood were not so arresting. Dip a half-dozen raw oysters in Tun’s tangy grapefruit-horseradish sauce, and you’ll wonder why you ever overwhelmed such delicacy with ketchup. And your fork’s own weight slides through the barely seared jumbo sea scallop or a moist-hearted cut of grilled tuna. 2205 N. Central Expwy.. Ste. 180. Piano. 972-509-5542. $$.

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. $$-$$$.



SOUTHWESTERN

Bluue Mesa. Blue Mesa has become a dining mainstay, faithful to its Southwest mission and consistently good. Adobe pie, the signature dish, is a treat, the bowl-shaped mound of commeal enclosing a stew-like filling of seasoned chicken. Guacamole. barely seasoned and creamy, is some of the best in town. Our only quibble is the Blue Mesa margarita: We want to be warned when we’re going to be served a blue drink-so we can order something else. Village on the Parkway, Tollway at Belt Line Road, 972-934-0165. $-$$.

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,, 214-827-2112. $.

No Placo. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Matt’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr. is a legend-in his own neighborhood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr., 214-328-9078. $$-$$$.

Sam’s Cafe The southwestern theme seems a little dated now, and Sam’s has long since lost the cachet it had when it opened. The celebrity luster it had when Mariel Hemingway was nursing her baby there is gone, but its convenient location at the Crescent means it’s still popular with local business types and out-of-towners. The menu is mostly mainsireamed New Southwest, food that succeeds more with heft than invention. The southwest pot roast, for instance, which filled a dinner plate and two later lunches, was a hunk of tender beef allegedly spiced with chili and sided with a mountain of mashed potatoes. Sedona spring rolls were more questionable, a novelty item that wrapped flour tortillas around chopped chicken and vegetables with an unpleasantly smooth barbecue sauce. Still, our waiter was personable and friendly, and if I was from out of town and didn’t know where to eat in Dallas. Sam’s would do. Sam’s Cafe, 100 Crescent Court, 214-555-2233 $$

D BEST Star Canyon. Che! ownei Stephan Pyles lus created a Dallas destina lion with his innovative New Texas Cuisine. An appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made mozzarella is a rare case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. And the bone-in cowboy ribeye 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. $$.

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 com kernels. Entrées range from basic steaks to turkey, catfish, shrimp, and the Muy Grande Tex-Mex Platter. 702 Ross Ave., 214-744-3287. $-$$.



SPANISH

Barcelona. Tapas in Spain, of course, are Spanish food. Greenville Avenue is global. So Barcelona serves snack food from all over the world, such as chicken satay, mezes, and tab* bouleh. as well as the slacked potato omelet that is the quintessential Spanish lapa and the buffalo burger-juicy and lean on a toasted roll. 2100 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-8600. $.

Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first lapas bar remains its best and everybody knows it. Even midweek, this little two-room restaurant has customers waiting at the bar for one of the mismatched tables in the storefront space. For those who insist, there is a prix-fixe, three-course dinner menu, but Cafe Madrid is a great place to linger over a succession of small dishes-an assortment of olives, oxtail stew, the potato omelet called a tortilla, braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St., 214-528-1731, $$.

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. 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., 214-599-9563. $$.



STEAKHOUSES

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

D BEST Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House. D BEST 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 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-$$$.

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. Even the vegetables are great. Not for the faint of pocketbook, but it’s worth serious consideration when you’re in the mood to blow it out red-meat style. 5251 Spring Valley Rd., 972-490-9000. $$-$$$.

Kirby’s Staakhouse. Unlike the in-town reincar-; nation of the 1950s original, this vast place has Piano-style prosperity written all over it- upscale splendor with a midscale attitude. The menu’s the same, though-mostly steaks, with the usual few seafood and fowl entrees, plus starters and a list of à la carte sides. 3408 Preston Rd., Piano. 972-867-2122; 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122. $$.

Morton’s of Chicago. Understatement reigns

: here, from dark wood to etched glass, starched white linens and muted Sinatra, and more than ; 30 martini varieties. And, of course, there are : steaks-big. beautiful steaks. 501 Elm St.. 214-741-2277.$$$.

The Palm. General manager AI Biemat has built this steak-and-lobster New York import into the downtown power-lunch spot. Come to see and be seen, and maybe even to cut a deal. It seems the kitchen has been working hard to right recent food faux pas. 701 Ross Ave., 214-698-0470. $$-$$$.

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.$$$.

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 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. 7026 Main St., Frisco. 972-335-3066.$$-$$$.

Birth’s Chris Steak House. The steaks are served sizzling with butter, and although you have to order side dishes à la carte, 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; 17840 Dallas Pkwy.. 972-250-2244. $$$.

Stone Trail Steakhouse. Lavish decor, live music for late dancing, an upscale menu and wine list mark this sprawling steak spread as the brain-child 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. $$$.



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. $$.

Liberty. Annie Wong, 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 lit 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 Alta Ave., 214-887-8795.$$.

Boyal 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. $-$$.

Toy’s Cafe. This hole-in-the-wall joint has all the elements of a great neighborhood “find.” The tantalizing aroma of curry and garlic is welcoming. Thai iced tea is a hit; eggplant and tofu in a Thai green curry coconut milk is perfectly prepared. Fresh squid salad with Thai herbs is fresh and tasty. 4422-B Lemmon Ave., 214-528-7233.$.



VIETNAMEST

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.$.

Mai’s Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened (he 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. $-$$.

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. $-$$.

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. $-$$.



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 orig-inal 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. 2533 White Settlement Rd.. Fort Worth, 817-332-0357. $.

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 com tortillas. Order it first and then spend some time with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-8633. $$.

Bistro Louisa. 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. $$.

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 ils New French cuisine. 2221 E. Lamar Blvd.. Ste. 910. Metro 817-640-9981. $$$.

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. $$-$$$.

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

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

D BEST Joe T. Gardas Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fori Worth restau rant. Its location near the Stockyards is a rambling plantation that can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution’” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool and order the enchiladas. The only setback to the restaurant’s traditionalism? Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-626-4356. $$.

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

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

D BEST Reata. The flavors purveyed D Best (upscale, ranch-contemporan, ; 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. $$-$$$.

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. $$$.

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.$$$.

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

Water Street Seafood Company. Although Fort Worth is 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 entrees that would make a coastal restaurant proud. 1540 S. University Dr., Ste. 120, Fort Worth, 817-877-3474. $$.

SIDE DISH

Travelers’ Treats

Coming back from vacation to the vast sterility of DFW Airport can be a spiritual crash landing. But there Is one soul-sustaining spot along the miles of concourses. Alberto Lombardi, the same guy who introduced Dallas to new Italian food, has put an Italian spin on ice cream at his ice cream oasis, Lombardi’s Bacio, which serves dozens of flavors of gelato (everyone knows that the Italians make the best ice cream, right?) at the airport.

We had to choose among hazelnut, kiwi, roasted almond, green apple, mango and..,I lose count. We chose chocolate and vanilla, of course. If a scoop won’t satisfy your sweet tooth, Bacio also serves crème brulée and tiramisu. (And good sandwiches, too. But who wants nourishment when you can have ice cream?)

Lombardl’s Bacio, Terminal 2E at

Dallas-Fort Worth International

Airport. Phone 972-574-4360. Open

whenever the airport is.

SIDE DISH

Whole Foods, Organic Art

Whole Foods wants to sell you more than groceries; it wants to sell you health, harmony, and a good life. That explains why, In addition to the organic produce, natural meats, whole-grain everything, and huge pharmo-pseudical department, there’s the 10-minute massage parlor and the new “gallery” at the store on Lower Greenville.

In cooperation with the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, the store will feature a rotating show of works by self-taught artists-for whom making art comes completely naturally, no additives like art school or formal training.

Whole Foods, 2218 Greenville, 214-824-1744.

SIDEDISH

Fiesta’s Freshest

If you have a craving for guacamole on Wednesday, you don’t want to wait until Friday to get it. But you usually have to because it’s virtually impossible to find a ripe avocado in a grocery store. Green paperweights every produce section has In abundance, but then you have to do the paper-bag trick: hide them in the dark until they soften up and become mash-able. Or you can make It easy and get Immediate satisfaction, too: buy your avocadoes at Fiesta, where they are always ripe.

Fiesta Mart, 5334 Ross, 214-827-1653. 611 W. Jefferson Blvd., 3030 S. Lancaster, 214-302-4000.

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