Are they what they eat? A revealing look at the dining habits of some of Dallas’ top chefs.

CHEFS GET THEIR IDEAS ABOUT cooking from eating. Here’s the inside scoop on where Dallas’ top chefs eat when they go out:

Joey Vallone is scion of one of Texas’ most famous restaurant families, but his very own Dallas venture has received mixed critical reviews. Nevertheless, Joey’s never fails to be filled with Dallas society types. His personal taste is for something simpler than the food at his restaurant (where the dishes tend to be as complicated as the dizzying decor ). Vallone “just adores sushi.’’ He says the spicy tuna hand rolls at Deep Sushi are “the best’” and he also likes yellowtail and salmon at Anzu on Upper McKinney Avenue. A final confession clues us to the sweet tooth that could invent something as cloying as Joey’s nutty pecan

salad: “I can’t stop eating Anzu’s chocolate-stuffed fortune cookies.” Vallone says helplessly.

Anzu is also a favorite of Stephan Pyles. chef-owner of Star Canyon and AquaKnox. Entrees at Pyles’ new AquaKnox go as much as $24, but he appreciates a deal when he sees one, and neigh-3oring Anzu’s bento boxes are only around $6 at lunch (a meal his own restaurants don’t serve). Pyles prefers places that welcome him warmly-like one of the family. (Or like a famous chef, Stephan?) You’ll find him at Thai Taste-especially when founding chef Annie Wong makes a rare appearance in the kitchen (call ahead so you’ll know). He stops in at Mia’s frequently for Tex-Mex. (Hmmm-we can’t help but wonder. Does Stephan Pyles have to reserve his chile relleno on Tuesday nights just like everybody else?)

Mia’s son. Mico Rodriguez, is chef-owner of the many Mi Cocinas. His defection from Mom to found a Tex-Mex empire caused something of a family spat at the time (if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy ), but now he loves to eat at the family restaurant. Rodriguez is a highprotein guy: He likes prime sirloin al Bob’s Steak & Chop House, the veal chop at Adelmo’s on Cole Avenue, and burgers al the perpetually secretive Rosie’s on Greenville Avenue, “where no one can find you.” (No sign, no address.)

Matt Martinez Jr.. owner of No Place and Matt’s Rancho Martinez in Lakewood, is the son of the so-called “king of Mexican food” in Austin but proclaims himself a meatball person.” One of his favorite getaways is the venerable Pietro’s off Lower Greenville, the first place he ate when he came to Dallas because. “I’m a creature of habit.” We’ve all seen frog legs Martinez on Martinez’s restaurant menus, so it’s no sur-prise that another favorite eatery is Tasty China, where Martinez is sure “the frog legs are alive when you order them.”

Classy guy Gene Street, founder of Good Eats and the recently opened Cool River Cafe. goes to Matt’s Rancho Martinez because he likes ’’truck stop-style enchiladas” and complains that most places don’t put enough onions in with the cheese. He also confides that the folks at El Chico “roll ’em for mo special.” (But that doesn’t mean they’ll do the same for you, gentle reader, Street is in the process of trying to buy El Chico.)

Phil Cobb, Street’s one-time business partner, and his wife, Janet Colgin Cobb, own Mi Piacl, an upscale and authentic Italian restaurant in Addison. They go for the pad Thai at Chow Thai, an upscale and authentic Thai restaurant in Addison. They also like the bubble and squeak (and “everything else”) at Barclays, perhaps because Barclays is refreshingly not in Addison. (And because Barclays’ British tare is not authentic?)

Nick Barclay, chef-owner of Barclays, says he’s a “214 snob. I hate to go past Mockingbird Lane.” So he hangs in his own neighborhood on the days he’s not in his kitchen, scarfing down duck confit with radicchio and pistou at What Else on Lower Greenville and the garlic chicken at Ali Baba down the street. When the weather’s hot. he likes cold beer and shrimp in the shells at Aw Shucks, and if he wants to “get dressed up and do the big deal” he heads out to his “buddy Dean’s.” (That is, The Mansion.) And in an comradely display of cooperative back-scratching. Dean Fearing, chef at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, says he loves Nick “s place. Partly because of the food, partly because they’re buds, mostly because it’s open on Sundays and Mondays, traditional chefs’ days off.

Richard Chamberlain, chef-owner of Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House, admits he tends “to be frugal on my own dime.” So he and his wife, Lisa, eat cheese fried lobster at Arc-En-Ciel in Garland. Lisa, he says, “can’t be without” the rare beef salad for more than a week. It’s made with a stump-the-chef mystery herb that looks like marjoram. Chamberlain says, and tastes like marjoram, but isn’t. (What is it?) Chamberlain has eaten a lot of Lisa’s salad trying to figure it out. Chamberlain’s restaurant is an American steakhouse, so it’s no surprise that his new favorite is Fogo de Chao. the Brazilian steakhouse. He doesn’ t go there too often because, the big guy says, “I eat too much.” (He especially likes the lamb and the exotic salad bar’s hearts of palm and white asparagus.) Still, ever-mindful of the quality-to-dollars ratio. Chamberlain considers Fogo de Chao the “best value in town.”

Proving that parents are ruled by children. Jim and Liz Baron, owners of the Blue Mesa restaurants, dine at Arc-En-Ciel at daughter Katie’s request. Arc-En-Ciel is the No. 1 location for Vietnamese wedding receptions and “Katie likes to peep at the bride,” says Liz. The Barons always get the shrimp on sugar cane that you wrap in rice paper and the beef in lime. Liz calls ahead to sec about the wedding situation, because often the reception features “some really bad Asian interpretation of rock-and-roll.

David Holben, chef-owner of The Riviera and principal of FoodStar Restaurant Group, the newly formed company which owns both the Mediterraneo restaurants and Toscana, has to consider his family’s tastes, too, when they dine out. At Yamaguchi’s on Inwood Road, everyone’s happy. David likes the dragon lady rolls. Wife Marni, a vegetarian, likes the soba noodles and seaweed. The kids “love the rice and miso.” (Sounds like there are some food groups to spare, but hey.)

When she’s not at The Grape, the Dallas wine bar (now an institution) she co-founded 25 years ago. Terlingua veteran Kathy McDaniel e-plores the Mexican res-taurants in East Dallas (the kind, she says, where “you’re the only Anglo”). She likes Cuquita’s across from Jerry’s Supermarket on Henderson Avenue (a source for good com on (he cob and a deal on Mexican cassettes every weekend in the parking lot) for its homemade tortillas and pork guisado. and she and her friend Kevin picnic on tamales from El Popular on their way to the Farmers Market on Sundays. La Acapulquena on Samuel Boulevard is another fave-the Mexican seafood cocktail (newest trend dish to cross the border) is doused in hot, hot, hot red sauce and the guacamole tastes like “they just smashed the avocado one minute before bringing it oat,” says McDaniel.

Monica Greene, chef-owner of Monica Aca y Alla, loves eggplant with curry and garlic shrimp with broccoli at Thai Toy on Lemmon Avenue because it makes her feel “like she’s not in Dallas.” (So does Aca y Alla, Monica.) Similarly, she likes Pomodoro’s pasta because ’”I don’t think the food is too Americanized.”She considers the French Room the “most special place” in Dallas because “it is not as pretentious” as The Mansion. “The sur-roundings are so grand, the escargots are so good, and the sweetbreads arc the best I’ve ever had,” says Greene.

Paula Lambert’s inspiration for The Mozzarella Company’s goat cheese wrapped in hoja santo leaves came from a dish Stephan

Pyles made for a dinner for

Julia Child.

(He wrapped salmon in the herb, but Paula’s mind is always on cheese.)

No offensa to Tetsuji Yamaguchi, but the best sushi chef in Dallas is Michelle Carpenter, who works behind the sushi bar at Yamaguchi’s restaurant on Inwood Road.

It’s a Taj Mahal without the dome,” says Gene Street, the man who created the Black-eyed Pea and is the “brain” behind the brawny Cool River Cafe, a 23,000- square-foot restaurant on 3 acres in Las Colinas. The tequila “library” has 16 leather sofas, the bar has 20 billiards tables and requires 12 bartenders. The fully stocked river surrounding the restaurant is 25 feet wide and has three waterfalls. “We found a bank that just keeps loaning us money,” he says.

Grillmeister Chamberlain orders 2,000 pounds of beef a week from Stockyards in Chicago.

Chamberlain’s cuts their own steaks from whole pieces of beef. His secret to seasoning steak (or any beef): “Oversalt it.”

comes to spending dining dollars: comes to spending dining dollars: Folks in Dallas spend $125 per capita a year on Mexican food, $8 on French food, and only $1 a year on German food.

Joey Vallone of Joey’s cooks dinner for his dogs. Jake is a Rottweiler- a finicky eater. Chuck is a porker bulldog who will eat anything. Joey usually cooks lean beef filet for them, but the dogs’ favorite food is osso buco.

Iceberg lettuce is the favorite secret ingredient of Kent Rathbun, executive chef of dani foods. He likes it for the things everyone else hates about it: its everlasting crispness and its mild flavor.


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