Restaurant Reviews

NEWCOMERS

AQUAKNOX

Tongues are wagging from coast to coast over Stephen Pyles’ splashy seafood spot on newly swank Knox Street. The dowdy Highland Park Cafeteria has been transformed into a knockout, “50s-style supper club furnished with sexy azure chenille booths. The rich and the wannabes are sipping bright blue Aquatinis in the separate but equally elegant lounge, eating from a simpler menu that includes platters of splendidly fresh jumbo shrimp, oysters, and clams, and small-plate versions of the dinner entrees, making this an excellent option for those who want a taste of the high life without a high tab.

The restaurant’s see-and-be-seen design didn’t just provide visions of blondes and blue fish-unfortunately, we also witnessed a few glitches. Pyles takes a big gamble by exposing the kitchen to the dining room. We had glimpses of line cooks popping food into their mouths. It’s tough on the chefs to demand perfect food as well as perfect behavior, but that’s the standard Pyles set in his previous restaurants.

A luscious red snapper in red curry masa directed our attention back to the plate. Beautifully presented in a cut-out banana leaf, its balance was an example of the attention to detail typical of Pyles. More typical than the artichokes with the chokes that topped a 2-inch slab of sea bass swimming on olive oil-poached tomatoes. And a cara-melized banana sandwiched between layers of peanut butter ice cream with a dollop of hot fudge was ecstasy in the mouth.

Pyles and company have always set high standards and encouraged us to expect the best. So the mistakes were unacceptable. Right now, the novelty and cachet can carry them. But you can’t rely on good looks forever, so we expect they’ll get their shrimp together soon. 3214 Knox St., 214-219-2782. $$$. (L-l)-Nancy Nichols

MEDITERRANEO, THE QUADRANGLE

WHAT STARTED OUT AS THE RIVIERA’S SIB-ling is in the process of replication-the new one in The Quadrangle will probably be the prototype for future Mediterraneos. Although I prefer the idea of a unique, chef-tended treasure to a chain of corporate-run restaurants, so far, Mediterraneo’s baby steps into big business seem steady.

It’s a pretty restaurant, stylishly minimalist but surprisingly warm and welcoming for a space so large and spare. The light helped-a complexion-enhancing golden glow from wall sconces on walls painted with slightly rustic swirls.

The food-remember, I hate chains- was hard to find fault with. Problems were with execution, not with the basic concept. The best food is a balance of old and new ideas. You want to see some trends on a menu, but there’s no reason to reject classic combinations. Crusts, for instance, have been a big deal lately: At Mediter-raneo, halibut was mysteriously crab-crusted. A piece of salmon had a polenta crust-which, badly done, could be the Italian gentrification of a corny dog-but it was wonderful, even if the salmon was a little overcooked. Lamb was crusted with goat cheese, which I think is really a vocabulary error, but lamb and goat cheese were meant by the Maker to be eaten together, whatever you label it.

The risotto was slightly overcooked, but the flavor was marvelous, a pool of wine reduction around the edges of the bowl slowly seeping into the grains of rice mingled with shreds of pheasant meat. And, to end with the beginning, the appetizer was perfect, a lahvosh crust sesame-sprinkled cracker strewn with lumps of goat cheese, pitted kalamataolives,dried tomatoes, and onion compote barely sweetened with apple-all elements that married naturally.

David Holben is a superlative chef, and David Woodward has proven himself at Mediterraneo on Frankford. It’ll be interesting to see how far they can extend the quality control. 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0002. $$$. (K-7)-Mary Brown Malouf

PALOMINO EURO BISTRO

A NEW BREED OF UPSCALE CHAIN RESTAUrant has evolved, and Palomino, which started in Seattle and has spread like Starbucks across the country, is a perfect example. All the things connoisseurs despise about chains (the assembly-line sameness, the absence of a chef’s sensibility, the formulaic food) are here, but they’re camouflaged with expensive-looking decoration and a menu filled with buzzwords.

“Polenta with wood oven glazed mushrooms” certainly sounded like a good dish, but these bland polenta triangles tasted like Texas toast, cut thick, fried, and covered with button mushrooms in a syrupy demi-glace. Caesar salad was coated with pungent dressing, which our waitress assured us was made with honest eggs, as well as chopped anchovies and wafers of real, if stale, Parmigiana. Caramelized onion and spinach were layered with stinky fontina, chevre, and olives on a cracker-crusted pizza, and grilled chicken with apricot sauce could have been served on an airplane. The “lamb burger” was the best lunch we had, a ball of ground lamb topped with cucumber, tomato, and yogurt.

The Palomino Cuvee (a slightly pink, berry-flavored champagne) was created expressly for the chain. We felt celebratory, and a glass of champagne seemed like just the thing. To our collective horror, the strawberry garnish stuck on the side of my friend’s frosty flute was furry with mold.

Palomino is designed from the outside in-a gaudy, anti-gourmet palace, whose appearance promises more than you get. The decorating was attended to. The kitchen is more careless. 500 Crescent Court, Ste. 165, Maple Avenue at Cedar Springs Road, 214-999-1222. $$. (K-7)-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 for a barbecue place-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. $.

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. $. (L-6)

Red Hot & Blue. A place to pig out literally: RHB specializes in pulled pork and dry ribs- that is, Southern-style, as opposed to Texas-style, barbecue. It’s all good, though there are gimmicky touches like the fried onion loaf. For lone star diehards, there is plenty of beef, too. The “blues” are on the walls, in the form of concert posters, and in your ears. Friendly waitstaff. 9810 N. Central Expwy., 214-368-7427 (L-5); 5017 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 100, Piano, 972-248-3866. $. (K-2)

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

D REVISITS Sonny Bryan’s. Forty years ago this month. Sonny Bryan hung a horseshoe over a cash register, put some logs in the smoker, and opened a barbecue joint on Inwood Road. His meaty ribs, moist brisket, and classic barbecue sauce have become the standard for which all other Dallas barbecue is judged. We’ve eaten our share at the West End and St. Paul locations, which maintain original tastes in fancier settings with some fancier dishes-like huge baked potatoes stuffed with chicken or chopped beef. (The fryerless St. Paul location doesn’t serve the famous onion rings.) For the classic barbecue experience, we returned to the original Inwood Road joint. Sitting on the hood of our car in a cloud of smoke billowing from the smoker, we gnawed on tenderly smoked ribs and chopped beef, spilling sauce all over ourselves and our car. The spinoff locations may have a wider array of choices, but we’re forever faithful to the worn-out school desks and the weathered Pearl Beer clocks at Inwood. 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)-N.N.

BREW PUBS

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

Hubcap Brewery & Kitchen. The menu’s range of food is wider than the kitchen’s in this casual, cavernous West End brew pub, where bar-food standards and steaks are a better choice than more innovative selections. Prices are modest, service friendly and fast, and the main draw- the Colorado-rooted pub’s own house brews- outstanding enough to command a following. 1701 N. Market St., Ste. 130., 214-651-0808. $-$$, (K-7)

The Rock Bottom Brewery. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asi-ago cheese dip or signature green pork chili. How’s the beer? Thought you’d never ask. Six regular brews range from ultra-light (Coyote Western Ale and Palomino Pale Ale) to deep and roasty (Pelican Brown Ale and our fave, Roadrunner Stout). 4050 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-404-7456. $$. (K-4)

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 fared better. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$. (K-7)

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

BURGERS/CASUAL

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 S4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St., 214-741-4406.$, (L-7)

Cafe Express. Fresh, health-conscious, budget-friendly, and efficient is the goal at this amusingly designed cafe. The wholesome and healthy emphasis can be found in the salads, sandwiches, chicken, and pastas. But beware: There are a bevy of burgers (like the blue cheese and bacon burger) and a bountiful display of desserts (like chocolate pot de creme) to tempt the weak. 3230 McKinney Ave., 214-999-9444. $. (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. $. (K-6)

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

Texas Hamburgers. The 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. S. ( K-7)

CAJUN/CREOLE

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

Crescent City Cafe. Crescent City still dishes out solid New Orleans chow in authentic French Quarter surroundings and remains one of our favorite “glad-you-thought-of-that-place” alternatives. Though the fried food can be spotty, the gumbo’s rich and the po’ boys are consistently good. The seafood salad makes a great alternative for anybody counting calories. 2615 Commerce St., 214-745-1900. S. (L-7)

CHINESE

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

D REVISITS August Moon. This popular spot has been around so long, we rashly expected food and service to be as polished as the handsome decor. Instead, three out of four dishes were barely edible: Thick, doughy wraps on crab Rangoon and pot stickers overwhelmed their minimal contents, and a shrimp cuke billed as crispy and light was gummy and tasteless. Imperial rolls, served with crisp julienned veggies and lettuce leaves for wrapping, were quite nice. And although a companion’s pad Thai rice noodle stir fry was fiery and good, his request that scallops be substituted for its shrimp was denied, despite his offer to pay extra-it seemed the computer, which was our language-challenged waiter’s only contact with the kitchen, provided no means of conveying a custom order. Perhaps the kitchen itself is automated? 15030 Preston Rd. at Belt Line Road. 972-383-7227 (K-4); 2300 N. Central Expwy., Piano. 972-881-0071. $5. (M-2)-Betty Cook

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

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

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. S$. (K-4)

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

Royal China. Bucky Kao was dishing out Chinese food at his Preston Royal outpost before the world got so small that global became a cuisine. It’s still family-run, which means service can waver, but the dry-stirred beef never seems to. 201 Preston Royal Village, 214-361-1771. $.(K-5)

Taiwan Restaurant. One of the big-lime Chinese restaurants in Dallas, Taiwan only stumbles when it’s too sure of itself. The upstairs dining rooms overlook only a parking lot. Focus on the tableside view, instead- plates are garnished with surreally carved vegetables. Lunch specials are a steal, ranging from S5.95 to $9.45. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 200, Addison, 972-387-2333. $-$$. (K-4)

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

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

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

DELI

D REVISITS Deli News Can there be a liv-ing soul that doesn’t lust after delicatessen food? Surely not. While upscale restaurants have come and gone in Crescent Court’s elite environs, this bigger-than-most, cleaner-than-most, but 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. From its blanket-sized bill of fare to the plate of crisp half-dills brought gratis before we ordered. Deli News struck the right chord of near-insouciance as to service and full satisfaction as to food on our visit. Hot cabbage borscht, heady with flavor, delivered a Russian accent; a potato pancake was engagingly crisp. A mile-high, triple-decker sandwich of chopped liver, sliced egg, tomato, and onion had to be dismantled for eating (no complaints), and a rye -wrapped pile of hot pastrami was totally wonderful. All this plus Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray tonic on the side left us with only one regret: We’ll never be able to eat our way through this whole menu. 500 Crescent Court, Maple Avenue at Cedar Springs Road, 214-922-3354. $-$$. (K-7)-B.C.

D REVISITS Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop your whining. The Gilbert family enters their 11th year of dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha var-nishkas as good as any in the Big Apple. You won’t find potato salad drowning in French’s mustard and complicated with hard-boiled eggs and olives; Gilbert’s version is true 13th Avenue style: heavy on mayonnaise with subtle hints of vinegar and sugar. Overstuffed sandwiches of every deli meat imaginable tower 6 inches high. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. Great bakery items include homemade bagels and thick cheesecake, You can always find a family member behind the cash register kibitzing across the room to a regular. The only thing missing is the honking of cabs and somebody waiting outside to steal your wallet. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-373-3333. 1 (K-4)-N.N.

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

EASTERN EUROPEAN

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

ECLECTIC

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

The Brick Boom. Tables on tiers raked amphitheater-style give live jazz lovers a line 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. $S. (L-6)

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

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-front or back-if you can. 2704 Elm St., 214-741 -9012. $-$$. (L-7)

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

Dream Cafe. This Quadrangle eatery’s pastoral-in-city setting seems particularly appropriate for the Dream Cafe’s menu, though there are those who insist that “dream” refers to the often seemingly somnolent service. The Dream Cafe’s famed breakfast menu remains an intriguing blend-solid egg dishes to entice the power-breakfast crowd and granola for those who want to start the day on a more spiritual, healthful note. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St., 214-954-0486 (L-7); 1133 N. Zang Blvd.. 214-943-6448. (breakfast and lunch only this location) $$. (K-8)

D REVISITS East Side Grill. East Side is attached at the hip-hep. rather-to The Barley House bar, and in the rock-paper-scissors scheme of things, bar covers grill. The bar food-nachos, quesadillas- fulfills its purpose with little fanfare. Entrees vary. The jalapeno honey barbecue chicken is spicy, sloppy, and tasty, accompanied with scrumptious mashed potatoes and vegetables drowned in soy. The chicken-fried steak is humbly good. When asked, the waitress, who was delivering beer as often as food, recommended the signature dish, the barleyroni: rigatoni with jack, cheddar, Parmesan, and feta cheeses. The kitchen must have forgotten the first two. Our polite waitress offered to put the unfinished barleyroni in a box but warned thai it’s never as good on the second day. She should try it on the first. Tuesdays beware: It’s $2 pint night next door, and food can Lie dulled by noise and smoke. Wednesdays reward: It’s half-price night. 2916 N. Henderson Ave.. 214-828-2801. $. (L-7)-Adam McGill

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

Firehouse. This restaurant is the ultimate in food cross-dressing. Chef Bruno Giovanni Mella displays great dexterity in crossing pork chops with mango salsa or andouille sausage with barbecued shrimp. Fire-eaters have hit the mother lode. But there’s plenty for those who feet 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 de 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. The secret is that Dallas’ oldest and best wine bar is really one of its oldest and best restaurantsdim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter how often the chef changes), and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave., 214-828-1981.$$. (L-7)

D BEST The Green Room. This ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of the most inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The menu is eclectically uptown, and the decor is strictly downtown rock ’n’ roll. The contrast between them is cool. Ai $34, the fixed-price, four-course, “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2713 Elm St.. 214-748-ROOM. $$. (L-7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Pete’s Dancing Martin. The marlin 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. J. (L-8)

Tarazza. This menu borrows ideas from all over the world-a Japanese version of Italian risotto, a French duck confit salad, a Thai soup-adds its own spin, and leaves taste buds dancing. Listening to piano music at (he inviting bar area is the best way to end to your meal unless the stars invite you out to the upstairs terrace. 45)4Travis St., 214-521-2175. $$.(L-7)

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

Yvette. The menu here suits 1 he Cadillac setting-dark wood, etched glass, and red velvet curtains. Over-the-top Yvette, part-owned by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Barry Switzer, does score some absolute touchdowns. like a perfect Caesar salad and a Dover sole so tender and nicely seasoned it’s gone before you have lime to appreciate It 14775 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-503-9777. $$-$$$. (K-4)

FRENCH/CONTINENTAL

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

Arthur’s. Having marked its half-century mile-post, this continental steakhouse still deserves its reputation for dependably upscale adult dining. It’s clubby and suave in a retro kind of way, A fist-sized tenderloin Met was wonderful, and the martinis are ample. 8350 N. Central Expwy. (in Campbell Center), 214-361-8833. $$$.(M-3)

D BEST Barclays. Don’t come to Barclays expecting i” find a pint of bitters and hangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms was of regal status. And if you’re looking for that perfect place to “pop” the question or celebrate something special, look no further; this place is a gem-a real bobby-dazzler. 2917 Fairmont St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$. (K-7)

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 pate 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)

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

Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: fine food in fine surroundings at a fair price. Appetizers and entrees 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 pates. 3605 McKinney Ave.. 214-528-6010. $$. (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. $$-$S$. (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, l’hai overused word, opulence, must be hauled out again-the Fairmont Hotel’s flagship restaurant demands it. Here is service and ambience that beggar less extravagant description. The food, too, deserves superlatives. You can hardly ask for more cosseting at any price than that provided by this serenely cosmopolitan restaurant. Fairmont Hotel. 1717 N. Akard St.. 214-720-5249. $$$. (K-7)

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

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

D REVISITS Tramontana. This cozy little dining room has charming murals on the walls and an inviting-looking bar. Unfortunately, there was no bartender to waiter, either-at least as far as our table was concerned. And we were almost the only table taken. So a simple little cafe dinner turned into a major, painful production. Once the food did arrive, it was as offhand as the service: Rubbery shrimp cakes would be better named shrimp frittata; trout amandine lacked almonds; the vegetable melange (or “melee” as one disgruntled diner expressed it sourly) lacked flavor. There were some high points: The steak was perfectly good-flavorful red meat with a simple emphatic wine reduction-and the salad was a mix of lovely, flowerlike greens with pungent, mouth-cleaning flavors. 8220B Westchester Dr., 214-36K-41S8. $$. (L-6)-M.B.M.

Watel’s. Sure, you’ll and 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)

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

GOURMET TO GO

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

Eatzis. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz. through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-1515. $-$$. (K-7)

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

Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. The new cafe in the old store offers excellent food in confusing surroundings. A marinated salmon sandwich with caramelized onions, a beef tenderloin Caesar salad, and a tangy hearts of palm salad are all standouts. Marty s is now a true wine bar with weekly wine-by-;he-glass selections featuring some of the most distinctive pours from the world’s major wine regions-at jaw-dropping-ly reasonable prices (S4-S10). 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-4070. $-$$. (K-7)

Sigel’sFresh 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). Entree don’ts: souvlaki (lough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave., 214-987-3225. $$. (L-6)

D BEST Ziziki’s. The wood bar is one of the places to be seen 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. 45 [4 Travis St.. Ste. 122,214-521-2233. $$. (L-7)

HOME COOKING

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

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

Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. In this former residence are several dining areas, each housing a few tables. 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 entree seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-568l.$.(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 fine only in your dreams of classic soul-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. $. (L-5)

Poor Richard’s Cafe. Honest home-cooked food, featuring a huge spread of the one meal Mom told you never to leave borne without-breakfast. 2442 Ave. K at Park Boulevard, Piano, 972-423-1524. S. (M-2)

INDIAN

D REVISITS Bombay Gricket Club. The bay windows in the warm. pink room are hung with what grandmothers used to call “glass curtains”: sheer panels thai filter only the harshness-not the brilliance-of the light. Of course, this is the sort of thing you notice in the middle of the day. but lunch is a good time to visit the Cricket Club. Lunch buffets are an Indian restaurant tradition, and Bombay Cricket Club’s lineup is excellent. The offerings, kept hot in chafing dishes, are not that unusual-saag paneer (creamed spinach), mercurochrome-colored tandoor chicken, korma, fragrant rice, curried vegetables. But the quality is steady at lunch, which for some restaurants is a time not to try very hard. And the lovely thing is thai Bombay Cricket Club doesn’t stint on service, even when it’s a buffet. 2508 Maple Ave., 214-871 -1333.$-$S.(K-7)-M.B.M.

India Palace. Delicate spices imbue truly fine Indian cuisine. And. similar to a line perfume, too much is an assault on the senses, too little and there’s no magic. India Palace has kept the proper balance for nearly a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. 12817 Preston Rd., Ste. 105, 972-392-0190. $-$$. (K-4)

ITALIAN

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

Angelo’s Italian Grill. When you think of classic Italian favorites, what triggers your Pavlovian response? Lasagna? Spaghetti? Scampi? Chicken parmesan? Pizza? This homey place has it all. Each meal comes with a Caesar salad and oui-of-t:lie-oven garlic rolls. The wine list is extensive, even by the glass. 6341 La Vista Dr.. 214-823-5566. $. (L-7)

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

Coco Pazzo. Both Dallas locations of Coco Pazzo (links in the chain owned by noted New York restaurateur Pino Luongo) are a little less rustica and quite a bit glitzier than one might find in the Italian countryside. Food is similarly stylish, but usually very good, particularly pastas and desserts. 2504 McKinney Ave., 214-871-2606. (L-7); 15101 Addison Rd., Addison, 972-960-2606. $$-$$$. (K-4)

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 lips, 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 aie good but not weird. 1924 Abrams Pkwy., 214-821-2608. $-$$. (L-7)

D BEST Mi Piacl At all times, these hippe 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, anil superb breads. You’ll always see serious waiters expertly deboning the meltingly tender Dover sole for savvy diners. Our only complaint: The noise level can get pretty high. 14854 Montfort Dr., 972-934-8424. $$. (K-4)

Modo Mio. “Cucina Rustica Italiana” off the Dallas North Tollway. Charming decor, 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. 1I2,972-67I-MODO. $$. (K-2)

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

Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and floors and odd faucet-like lighting of ibis trendy dining spot give this Cedar Springs mainstay shower-like 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)

D REVISITS Ruggeri’s. Has success at its newer Addison spinoff been at some cost to the Uptown original’s reputation for dependably line Italian dining? Or did we simply happen by on a slightly off evening? Whichever, the soft-shell crab alia Ruggeri, which has forever been a favorite here, was a shocking disappointment, its shell half-past crunch able edibility, its meal soggy. A huge, tender veal chop, battered and sauteed. was as fawless as it should have been for its top-of-the-menu price, but a Zabaglione dessert was a heavy custard rather than the expected ethereal froth. Coupled with our waiter’s all-too-frequent efforts to steer us toward upper-end food and wine selections, our meal’s unevenness made us long for the days when the owner’s presence guaranteed the stellar quality for which this restaurant is known–although we must admit the crowd seemed as festive as always. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-7377 (K-7); 5348 Belt Line Rd. 972-726-9555. $$-$$$. (K-4)-B.C.

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

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

JAPANESE

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

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

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

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., 214-521-0969.5-$$. (K-7)

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

D BEST Teppo. 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. $$-$$$. (L-7)

MEDITERRANEAN

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

The Bistro. Don’t restrict dinner to a single starter, one entree, and dessert. That option’s still on the menu at this quiet restaurant, but so’s the opportunity 1o sample hot and cold teasers of every Mediterranean sort from a listing of more than 30. plus daily specials. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Road, 214-352-1997. $-$$. (K-6)

D BEST Mediterraneo. Chef David Holben’s exquisite culinary artistry, a casually elegant decor, and efficient, non-stuffy service combine to create a sublimely magical Mediterranean bistro that’s a sibling to the very successful Riviera. Of particular interest: Mediterraneo’s $9.95 luncheon menu includes appetizer and entree. 18111 Preston Rd. at Frankford Road, Ste. 120,972-447-(X)66. $$-$$$. (K-2)

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

Sambuca. Both of Sambuca’s locations are wonderfully vibrant restaurants featuring innovative Mediterranean cuisine for those who enjoy their meals with jazz. Each location presents well-known groups seven nights a week, but the decibel level prohibits any casual dinner conversation during performances. The food is tasty and satisfying, utilizing lots of spices, garlic, and herbs. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison. 972-385-8455 (K-3): 2618 Elm St., 214-744-0820. $$. (L-7)

MEXICAN

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

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

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

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. $. (K-6)

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

Dos Charros. This is food for people who break into a sweat at the sight of a habanero chile. The extensive menu has plenty of seafood choices and healthful options added to the list of traditional favorites. 108 University Village Shopping Center, Belt Line and Piano roads, 972-783-7671.$. (M-4)

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

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Touted as Dallas’ best “interior” Mexican restaurant, Javier’s lives up to its own high standards. Entrees range from excellent seafood dishes to tender cabrito, though some regulars never stray from the legendary filet Durango. 4912 Cole Ave., 2I4-521-421l.$$. (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. $-$$. (K-8)

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

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

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, Plano. 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 [,000 calories each, including the four chiles rellenos. Martin himself lost 100 pounds eating his own food. But only skimp if you want to-the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa, its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. 7726 Ferguson Rd., 214-3 19-8834. $-$$. (N-5)

D REVISITS Mattito’s. The lineage is a little confusing. Matt Martinez Jr. himself doesn’t have anything to do with Maltilo’s. even though it’s named after him. But he did develop the recipes, and those didn’t change when he left. So if you have to have an emergency chile relleno or a griddled flauta, and you don’t have time to go to Mart’s Lakewood restaurant, Mattito’s is the spot. It’s a big bam of a place, but the service is snappy, and what it lacks in charm, it makes up for in efficiency. A weekday dinner, with kids, is the test of any establishment-the demand for good food fast, without the dehumanization of automated service, but at close to the same speed, is a challenge most restaurants don’t even want to try to meet. On our last visit, Mattito’s managed it all, customizing a combination plate to a child’s preference and bringing the beers with the necessary alacrity. 5290 Bell Line Rd. at Montfort Drive, Addison, 972-503-8100 (K3K 4311 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-8181. $. (K-7)-M.B.M.

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

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

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

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

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

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. $. (L-7)

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)

Harm 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. $. (M-2)

Rodollo’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. $. (K-9)

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

M DOLE 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 here. 7402 Greenville ! Ave., 214-739-2647. $$. (L-5)

Cafe Istanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gels 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 die sweet Turkish coffee in fragile cups is as irresistible as the desserts. 3711 Greenville Ave., 214-826-7788. $$. (L-7)

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

MOROCCAN

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

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

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

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

City Cafe. Basic California-style food comes graced with a Cajun 1ouch here, a hint of the Southwest there. The menu changes every two weeks, but a few customer favorites, like the succulent tomato soup, appear regularly. Check out the award-winning wine list and the nice choice of after-dmner drinks. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351 -2233. $$. (K-6)

Dakota’s. Choices from the wood-burning grill in this handsome, underground, downtown restaurant seldom disappoint, and pastas can be excellent also. Bargain-seekers will love the daily $15.95, three-course “twilight menu.” 600 N. Akard St., 214-740-4001. %$.
D REVISITS Fog City Diner. There’s never been a big problem with the food, but ever since this San Francisco satellite landed at the comer of McKinney and Maple avenues, it’s been plagued with service problems. That is the diners have been plagued. But at our last lunch here, the fog had cleared and the staff seemed focused. We were seated promptly and pleasantly. The menu has always been satisfyingly familiar with enough finesse and invention to make you feel like you’ve dined, not merely fed. At lunch. Fog City seems to be full of trysting business types and Crescent refugees. Service was smooth, and the salmon, bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich was particularly good-each element actually excellent, and the sum superlative. Banana bread milk chocolate bread pudding was too much for a lunch dessert, but that was our mistake. 2401 McKinney Ave., 214-220-2401. $$. (K-7) -M.B.M.

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. $$-$$$. (L-5)

D REVISITS Colng 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-all of which is to say that original founders Oona and Ettori Settembre. chef and manager respectively, are back. Chef Michael Schumacher, who worked with Oona in Hofstetter’s. has made the transition seamless: For entrees, try’ pork tenderloin in a raspberry-balsamic glaze with corn and mushroom risotto or crispy roasted duck on gingered dry cherry sauce. For soups, try potato leek if it’s offered; for desserts, go for the satin chocolate mousse pie. Call for reservations-this tiny space is packed on any given evening. 4345 W. Northwest Hwy. at Midway Road. 214-350-6165. $$-$$$. (K-6) -B.C.

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

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)

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

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

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 creole mustard sauce is subtly terrific, and huge sea scallops are pure delight. 2810 N. Henderson Ave., 214-821-4552. $$. (L-7)

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

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

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

Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. Like the room, the plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin here is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd., 214-265-7389. $$. (K-6)

SEAFOOD

Blue Conch. Blue Conch’s cheap, white-painted picnic benches and harsh lights might seem appealing if they were somewhere near the Atlantic. In Dallas, they don’t. You might be reassured by the firm, fresh, chilled shrimp with a basket of saltines. The menu is a compilation of favorite recipes from dives all over the Sunshine State. So it features, besides conch fritters and gator tail, a Sloppy Joe sandwich, named for Hemingway’s favorite bar in Key West. 1919 Skillman St., 214-824-1170. $. (L-6)

Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas’ most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. 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)

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

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

Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill. This Jack Chaplin restaurant offers lively service and food that manage to combine homey familiarity with twists of near-elegance. For example, a grilled red snapper topped with shrimp and blister brandy could grace a tonier table, but here it’s served with an ear of corn, 2723 Elm St., 214-6S3-394& $$. (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 SI0.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-774-9518.$$. (K-4)

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

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

Newport’s. Some of the freshest seafood you’ll find in land-locked North Texas, Choose from mesquite-grilled fish, seared, blackened, or fried seafood, and sauteed 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., 2 i 4-954-0220, $$. (K-7)

Okoanos by Avner. Simple hut classy modem seafood restaurant with one of Dallas’ top chefs in the kitchen. Okeanos highlights Chef Avner Samuel’s global and visual way with food, and just about every plate is not only perfectly prepared but pretty, too. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. IC2B. Addison. 972-490-8686. $$. (K-4)

Picardys Shrimp Shop. New American inventiveness at family-style prices. Picardys finds a regional inspirat on for most of its mostly sin imp dishes: Coconut tempura shrimp are tender, juicy, and pleasantly sweet: a side of honey-sour sauce added a potent bite, despite the damp blanket of rice pilaf. Grilled shrimp nachos, with shrimp, black beans, white cheese, and salsa, were light and chewy. Picardys’ 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., 214-880-01II. $$. (K-7)

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

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

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-but enchiladas are stacked and come topped with an egg. 2831 Greenville Ave., 214-827-2112. $. (L-6)

Sam’s Cafe. Sticking to the Southwestern theme after others abandoned it for global, Sam’s still serves King Ranch casserole. There’s a good-sized bar, with a house specialty called the “Grand Canyon”–a 32-ounce margarita. In the Preston Center Shopping Center, 8411 Preston Rd., Ste. 112, 214-739-2288 (K-6); 100 Crescent Court, Ste. 140, 214-855-2233.$$. (K-7)

D BEST Star Canyon.A real star, this is the place dun most visitors would like to go but usually usually can’t-tables are booked for weeks ahead. It’s worth giving it a shot. Superchef Stephan Pyles has a gift for slipping happy surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes. For instance, coriander-cured venison lived up to its reputation, grilled rare and sliced into rosy petals complemented by whipped yam and an assertive dried-fruit empanada. Service is friendly and fast, and the decor is legendary. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. $$. (K-7)

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

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 tortilla, the stacked potato omelet that is the quintessential Spanish tapa, and the buffalo burger-juicy and lean on a toasted roll. 2100 Greenville Ave., 214-826-8600. $. (L-6)

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 crisp-fried baby smelt, from wine-poached rabbit to blood sausage. That last is a near-religious experience. 4501 Travis St., 214-528-1731. $$. (L-6)

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

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

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 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-934-2467. $$-$$$. (K-4)

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

Kirby’s Steakhouse. Unlike the in-town reincarnation of the venerated 1950s original, this vast place has Piano-style prosperity written all over it-all upscale splendor with a mid-scale attitude (confidently casual service and ambience, an at-ease clientele outfitted for comfort from Dockers to Nikes.) The menu’s the same, though–mostly steaks, with the usual few seafood and fowl entrees, plus starters and a list of a la carte sides. 3408 Preston Rd., 972-867-2122 (K-1 ); 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122. $$. (L-6)

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

The Palm. General manager AI Biernat has built this steak-and-lobster New York import into the downtown power-lunch spot. Come to see-and-be-seen, and maybe even to cut a deal. It seems the kitchen has been working hard to right recent food faux pas. 701 Ross Ave., 214-698-0470. $$-$$$. (K-7)

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

Randy’s Steakhousa. A meal in this cozy, Victorian home-curn-restaurant can make you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s. But your friends hav^ never served steaks like these. Graded prime and cut by hand, these beauties tasted rich and buttery. The 10 seafood selections offer plenty of alternate choices, and all meals come with rich, cheesy potatoes au gratin or a baked potato and fresh vegetables. 7026 Main St., Frisco. 972-335-3066.$$-$$$. (K-1)

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

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

THAI

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

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. $-$$. (L-6)

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

VIETNAMESE

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 entrees 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. $. (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 personal 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 traditional, 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, silting under a dozen taxidermified beast heads. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth. 817-332-0357. (A-9)

Angeluna. Come to see-and-be-seen, but not heard. The food somewhat redeems the jack-hammer decibel levels. The “one-world-cui-sine” menu features multicultural dishes with arty presentations, Don’t miss Joe’s Shrimp Paesano-lightly breaded jumbo prawns sauteed in vodka-lemon butter. Skip the goat’s milk ice cream and splurge on the Key lime tart. 215 E. 4th St., Fort Worth, S17-334-0080. $$. (B-9)

Benito’s. Like a familiar, old friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from time to time, but some things never change, like the food. The queso flameado, with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and served with fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or 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-I 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. (south from 1-30), Fort Worth, 817-922-9244. $$. (A-10)

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

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 lone to classic Greek specialties. Breakfast and lunch only. except on Friday and Saturday, when you can listen to music while enjoying dinner. 715 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-926-7000. $. (B-9)

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

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

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

Kincald’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 at 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)

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Vivant Feeds North Dallas

ongtime Dallas chef Dan O’Leary is the food mind behind this all-purpose market owned by Jim and Leslie Ingendorf. It profits from Eatzi’s errors down south-Son Vivant has plenty of room to navigate a basket around the central island filled with prepared food (veal meatloaf with mushrooms was real company food; lasagna was terrific), past the bakery (crusty Euro-country loaves), to the grid area (chicken skewers were Juicy even when we reheated them), and sandwich bar. Plus, there’s a real wine department and tables for eating in, If you don’t really want to take out.

Bon Vivant Market, 1801 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-818-1177.

Morgen’s Choice Chocolates

ex Morgan is the only master chocolatier in Dallas, and though his creams and truffles are best, it’s his selection of specialty seasonal chocolates-made from molds that Morgen’s been collecting for years-that sets this chocolate factory apart. There’s something new and beautiful (and delicious) every Valentine’s Day.

Morgen Chocolates, 4516 McKinney Ave., 214-520-2462.

Asian Groceries

t’s not just another supermarket, although you might not know that at first glance-the linoleum-floored layout is just like your neighborhood Tom Thumb. Check out the frozen foods. You’ll find milk fish balls and jute leaves instead of Lean Cuisines. Hong Kong Market has probably the most extensive selection of oriental groceries in the city: The produce section displays more kinds of oriental cabbage than you knew existed, there are aisles of noodles, a wide selection of woks, and the seafood section looks like an aquarium. The sign posted over the tanks says it all. “Do not play with live seafood. Hong Kong Marketplace will not be responsible if you get hurt.”

Hong Kong Marketplace, 9780 Walnut St. at Audelia Road, 972-457-9888.

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