Saturday, January 29, 2022 Jan 29, 2022
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Restaurant Review

Restaurant Reviews

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NEWCOMERS

BARCELONA

BARCELONA IS MUCH MORE STYLISH THAN lapas bars in Spain, which are really work-ingmen’s places. Tapas in Spain are not a trend, they’re a way of life. Sort of like McDonald’s here. You may have never seen satay on a tapas menu before. Tapas in Spain, of course, are Spanish food. Greenville Avenue is global. So Barcelona, one of the bars masquerading as a restaurant that make Greenville date heaven, serves snack food from all over the world. Il was full every time we visited because of that bar-like, non-committal ambience, but it can be taken a little too far. We were ignored until we complained, then we were treated with anxious care. And some soft red wine later, we found ourselves ordering chicken satay and mezes. Barcelona’s menu was devised by one of the opening team at Cafe Izmir- we wish he’d brought their recipe for hummus with him. Barcelona’s chickpea purée is overprocessed and grainy. The tab-bouleh, too. tastes like it’s been in the Cuisinart too long. Olives were excellent, but how much does the kitchen have to do with thai? The tortilla, the stacked potato omelet that is the quintessential Spanish tapa, was only mediocre-cheesy and stale. Best was the buffalo burger-juicy and lean on a toasted roll. Can we call it the McTapa? 2100 Greenville Ave., 214-826-8600. $-$$. (L-7)

BLUE CONCH

HYDRANGEAS BLOOM BLUE IN THE SOUTHEAST. In Dallas, they open up pink. Same plant, different color. A thing can lake on an entirely different coloration, look different, seem fundamentally different when you move it from one habitai to another, So it’s not surprising that the charmingly tacky part of Florida transplanted to a newly tacky part of Lower Skillman and Live Oak streets just loses its tenuous charm. Blue Conch’s cheap, white-painted picnic benches and harsh lights might seem appealingly and artlessly natural if they were on a dock somewhere near the Atlantic with the smell of salt in the air and the slacker, beachside lifestyle all around. Inside a strip storefront in Dallas, they just look like a place you want to leave fast. If you do decide to stay, you might be reassured by the firm, fresh, sweet chilled shrimp available by the dozen or half with a basket of nostalgia-inducing, individually wrapped saltines. Certainly the mar-garitas-made by the recipe developed at Blue Goose (the Conch’s sibling restaurant)-have a seductive, or at least obliterative, quality. Unfortunately, then we asked for the grilled salmon tacos and were served fried grouper tacos instead. The thick white fish was coated with a thick cornbread crust, piled with shredded cabbage, slices of avocado, and wrapped in flour tortillas. The menu at Blue Conch is supposedly a compilation of favorite recipes from dives all over the Sunshine State, gathered by the homesick owner of this establishment, who had to move to Gainesville with his family. So it features, besides conch fritters and gator tail, a Sloppy Joe sandwich, named for Hemingway’s favorite bar in Key West. This was an ungodly bird’s nest of fibrous brisket slivers (cooked earlier in the day. we surmised, and theoretically reheated for us) piled messily on a soft bun and sided with way loo many Ruffles, If this is anything like Papa’s favorite sandwich, we’ll eat some blue hydrangeas. 1919 Skillman St., 214-824-1170. $$. (L-6)

FOGO DE CHAO

What could be less PC, gastronomi-cally speaking, than chicken hearts on a stick? Whatever our opinion of PETA. and despite the fact that pretty much everyone prefers leather shoes, few of us want to admit to a lust for dead meat, at least in any recognizable, edible form. But most of us are closet carnivores, and if chic is at stake, if the place is elegant and expensive enough, or the ambience is exotic enough, principles can be ignored and protein piled on the plate without a qualm. Fogo de Chao, a churrascaria with branches in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, certainly qualifies as exotic, even if its third store is in distinctly prosaic Addison. Supposedly, this is traditional cookery from southern Brazil, and we can only suppose the woody decor is South American ranch style. We downed a traditional caipirinha (a little like a sweet margarita, made with lots of lime wedges crushed with sugar and cachaca, sugarcane liquor) and headed for the salad bar, a cruciform buffet as plentiful as a cafeteria line, only this was merely the beginning of the meal. Overwhelming abundance is the theme at Fogo de Chao. And once we turned our chip over to indicate the secret carnivore within us was ready to eat, a neverending parade of meat on long skewers was delivered by gaucho guys in amazing trousers and belts. That’s how the chain of chicken hearts arrived on our plates. And they were good, too. fine-grained and slightly smoking from the grill. Dinner in a churrascaria is an unforgettable highlight of a visit to Brazil. And it was certainly the highlight of our visit to Addison. But it’s hard to imagine going to Addison for the sake of Fogo de Chao more frequently than one might go to Arlington for the sake of Hurricane Harbor. The most interesting part of the meal was that, because several cuts of lamb, pork, chicken, and beef are served similarly, dinner can result in a kind of horizontal tasting of an animal– comparing the difference in texture and flavor of beef fillet and round, or lamb leg and loin. Or, say, chicken thigh and heart. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-7300. $$. (K-4)

BARBECUE

D REVISITS Bakers Ribs. Nothing fancy about this place. We entered the Greenville Avenue location and walked across peanut shells, to belly up to the self-service counter to order from a standard list of barbeque joint choice;;. With antlers, bikes. and assorted random items hanging above our heads and country music blaring, we loaded up our trays with piles of sliced beef, pork, turkey, chicken, and ribs. The pulled pork was tasty and moist, but heavy with fat. The sliced beef swimming in spicy sauce fared better. Cayenne-seasoned St. Louis-cut ribs were meaty and perfectly cooked. The side dishes are the usual pickings for a barbecue place- potato salad, cole saw, and beans-and were acceptable but needed more personality. We’ve had less disappointing experiences at the Commerce Street location. 2724 Commerce St., 214-748-5^-33 (L-7); 4844 Greenville Ave., 214-373-0(182 (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, aid 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.. 214-8M-9064. $. (K-7)

BREW PUBS

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

Hubcap Brewery & Kite hen. The menu’s range of food is wider than ;he 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 fist, and the main drawthe 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 asiago 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. The food has slipped a bit, but the hand-crafted brew remains some of the finest in Dallas. An elegant hill country lodge motif with antler chandeliers, dark leather booths, and soft lighting make it a sexy spot. Shy away from the weinerschnitzle; roasted pork tenderloin with shallot-flavored mashed potatoes fared better. 3011 Routh St.. 214-922-8835. $$. (K-7)

Two Rows Restaurant & Brewery. A crisp, cozy place with a predictably young, energetic staff and a menu that provides information (including how many fat grams) as well as social commentary (check out the Central Expressway Jackhammer Ale). 5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300, 214-696-BREW. $-$$.
Yegua Creek Brewing Co. Recently snatching a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (the second time in three years) for its Scotch Ale, Yegua Creek continues to brew stellar suds. A home-grown brew pub, it meets the usual size requirements, but its menu strays from the burger/pizza path into less-traveled Southwest byways with mixed success. 2920 N. Henderson Ave., 214-824-BREW. $$. (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 $4.50, For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St.. 214-741-4406.$. (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 crème) to tempt the weak. 3230 McKinney Ave., 214-999-9444. $. (L-7)

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

The Ozena Westex Grill and Bar. “Mellow” is the operative word. Set back amid a tangle of trees, this popular gathering spot provides a surprisingly cool, green, countrified retreat in the city. A bottle of domestic beer starts at $2.75, there are abundant lunch specials, and the portions are very generous. 4615 Greenville Ave., 214-265-9105. $-$$. (L-6)

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

D REVISITS Texas Hamburgers. The line was out the door at this joint decorated in Texas kitsch that sits on a sleazy stretch of Market Center Drive. Surrounded by stuffed armadillos. Texas flags, and cowboy memorabilia, we stood in line inhaling (he smoke of sizzling meal. We found a booth and sat among good old boys and Armani-clad Design Center sophisticates. Besides great half- and third-pound burgers accompanied by fresh fixings–including a thick slab of Bermuda onion-this place serves some great meatloaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. The vegetable sides we tried-steamed spinach and buttered carrots-were a little watery, but passable. Final hint: Skip the fries and go for the double-dipped onion rings or fried jalapenos. 1616 Market Center Blvd., 214-747-2222. $. ( K-7)

New Digs for Watel’s



he funky little French cafe recently acquired a more urbane polish by moving into the space formerly occupied by Yellow at McKinney Avenue and Worthington Street. Many will miss the sloping floor and slightly tattered, make-do atmosphere of the old place at the run-down end of McKinney, but the new, more prestigious address should attract the notice of profile-conscious Dallas diners who never made it down to that end of town.

Waters, 2719 McKinney Ave., 214-720-0323.

CAJUN/CREOLE

Copeland’s of New Orleans.

Cajun staples are complemented by an array of more creative appetizers and entrées. The blackened red-fish 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 sporty, 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. $. (L-7)

Lulu’s Bait Shack. The tackiest place in town and proud of it. Cajun cuisine with regional nuances ranging from hot to hotter. For tamer tongues, try the Chicken Rockafella with oysters, cheese, and spinach. 2621 McKinney Ave., 214-969-1927. $-$$. (L-7)

CHINESE

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

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

Jasmine. Ersatz nightclub ambience collides with hustle-bustle service, but freshly prepared cuisine fortunately transcends both. Exquisite Ming chicken, redolent with spices and served in a crispy cold iceberg lettuce shell, was almost a meal in itself. 4002 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-991-6867. $-$$. (K-4)

May Dragon. An inscrutable strip center location belies one of the city’s best Chinese restaurants- Just stay away from the neon sweet and sour stuff, and you’ll he happy. Try a duck, instead, 4848 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-392-9998. $$. (K-4)

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

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

Taiwan Restaurant One of the big-time Chinese restaurants 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 $5.95 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 Tai’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 11 want to take some home, but shlepping garlic-laden Chinese through the mall does inhibit further shopping. In the Galleria, 13350Dallas Pkwy. al 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

Deli News. This New York-style deli is uninviting with rudely inattentive service-perhaps a stab al regional authenticity, though only a deli outside the Big Apple would dare to serve this pitiful chicken soup. The bagels are excellent. 500 Crescent Court. Maple Avenue at Cedar Springs Road, 214-922-3354, $-$$. (K-7)

Gilbert’s. The deli menu doesn’t disappoint. from the finest grilled Reuben in town to overstuffed sandwiches on good rye. You can order from an extensive breakfast menu all day long and even chug down a Dr. Brown’s soda or a chocolate egg cream. 11661 Preston Rd.. 214-373-3333. $. (K-4)

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

EASTERN EUROPEAN

Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-sized beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd., Ste. 150, 972-239-K060. $$. (K-4)

ECLECTIC

Bread Winners. The menu here reflects a mélange of influences, from homey to refined Asian. A mustard-grilled pork chop comes partnered with scalloped sweet potatoes, and a grilled tuna steak wears a tropical salsa of spiced diced frail. 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 fine view of the bandstand in this suave food-and-jazz emporium that’s brought a new night-life dimension to Lowes! Skillman. Steaks and seafood are main menu draws, pleasant service and a well-tuned bar keep die all-aged faithful happy between sets. 1925 Skillman St., 214-823-2725. $$, (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. Tie 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)

Doolittle’s. Make of it v, hat you will, this slick combination restaurant/bar offers a buffet of menu and music styles ranging from chicken and dumplings to martinis, modem 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 -203 9. $$. (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 thai “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., 214-954-1)486 (L-7); 1133 N. Zang Blvd., 214-943-644?. (breakfast and lunch only this location) $$. ;K-8)

East Side Grill. This little neighborhood pub offers down-home dishes with kicky accents that lift them above common bar food. Notable examples: Chicken-fried steak with terrific twice-baked mashed potatoes and a healthy stir-fry of vegetables. 2916 N. Henderson Ave., 214-828-2801. $. (L-7)

8.0 Restaurant and Bar. Get 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. Stay 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 artist >. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St.. 2I4-9″’9-0880. $-$$. (K-7)

Firehouse. This restajr;nt 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. Bui there’s plenty for those who feel faint at the site of a jalapeno. Try the roasted garlic and eggplant dip served in a whole roasted onion. 1928 Greenville Ave., 214-826-2468. $$-$5$ (L-7)

D BEST The Grape. The secret is that Dallas’ oldest and best wine bai is really one of its oldest and best restaurants– dim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter how often the chef Changes), and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave., 21^-828-1981.$$. (L-7)

D BEST The Green Room. This ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of me 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. At S34, the fixed-price, four-course, “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2715 Elm St., 214-748-ROOM. $$. (L-7)

Jungle Red. Colorful decor combines the feel of a Caribbean nightclub with Peewee’s Playhouse-zany is 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, too: 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)

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

Mel Hollen’s Bar and 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-l)

Sipango. The Cal-Ital menu offers selections various enough to allow for grazing as well as course-by-course dining at this currently cool cafe-cum-nightspot. Service 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 Marlin. 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, $. (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 the inviting bar area is the best way to end to your meal unless the stars invite you out to the upstairs terrace. 4514 Travis St., 214-521-2175.$$.
The Thomas Avenue Beverage Company. Chef Michael Smith serves a healthy mix of Southwest, Cajun. and New American cuisine at this old-style pub in brand-new Uptown. The roast pork chop with spinach sautéed with apple butter literally melts off the bone. The menu changes weekly, based on availability of fresh ingredients. 2901 Thomas Ave., 214-979-0452. $-$$. (L-7)

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

FRENCH/CONTINENTAL

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

D REVISITS Arthur’s. Having marked its half-century milepost, this steakhouse-cum-continental restaurant still deserves its like-a-rock reputation for dependably upscale adult dining. Unlike edgier establishments that make eating out an exhausting exercise in social posturing, our last visit found this clubby scene serene as always, its chandelier-lit setting and suave staff attentions perfectly tuned and timed to assure stress-free comfort. Well, almost perfectly-the curved banquettes in our romantic alcove were so low and deeply cushioned that our companion was moved to suggest we ask for phone books to sit on. And the steak tartare that used to be mixed tableside came from the kitchen blister-ingly spiked with Tabasco. But a fist-sized tenderloin filet was swooningly wonderful, and the music drifting from the restaurant’s merry lounge across the hall laced the air with just the right near-naughty nuance to make us feel festive. 8350 N. Central Expwy. (in Campbell Center), 214-361-8833. $$$. (M-3)

D BEST Barclays. Don’t come to Barclays expecting to find a pint of bitters and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms 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)

D REVISITS Clair de Lune on a Wednesday night to get out of the rain. Tucked behind some trees in the corner of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant surprised us with delicious food and impeccable service. Our waiter car-ingly discussed the menu and made our wine selection effortless by tailoring a delicious bordeaux to our entrées and pocketbook. A classic house-made pork paté served with diced onion, trench cornichons, and mustard was perfectly seasoned, Poitrine de canard-a splendidly moist duck breast served with a delicate port wine sauc;-was delicious and almost enough for two, Lulled by French music and a fire in the ^replace, we lingered late without guilt over an extra glass of wine and a decadent chocolate soufflé. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Road, 214-987-2028. $$. (K-5)

The French Room. Hotel Adolphus’ gorgeous crown jewel comes close to perfection. One entrée plate presents roasted duck breast on lemon thyme polenta in ruby port wine sauce; another holds roasted veal tenderloin with Brie cheese and pear gratin on truffled opal basil risotto. 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 entrées alike are first-rate. If you’re not up lb- one of the excellent meals, enjoy a glass of wine and a sampling of cheese or one of then” many patés. 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. $$-$$$.

Lavendou. If you’re in search of a classic French meal, head to Lavendou and get textbook Provence-from the food down to the yellow and blue decor. Duck with black currants would please even the pickiest Francophile and pomme frites are pure Paris. Lavendou is as capitalist as they come, though-patrons can purchase pottery from their line of ochre and lavender objets. 19009 Preston Rd., 972-248-1911. $$-$$$. (K-31)

Old Warsaw. Hanging en to a reputation as one of Dallas’ oldest elite restaurants is tough business, but La Vieille Varsovie is valiant. It lakes effort to find much fault with the fancy food- from appetizers to dessert, the meal is an anachronistic treat. Servers, however, are only acceptably pleasant. 2610 Maple Ave., 214-528-0032. $SS.(K-7)

D BEST The Pyramid Room, niai 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 cream hors d’oeuvre passed our lips that we were doomed, once again, to a near-flawless dining experience. Each dish seems to outdo another. Food credits here mostly belong to Chef de Cuisine Michael Weinstein, one assumes, with input from David Holben, now executive chef at sibling restaurants 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 setting; live music shapes the proper evening mood. And chef Rich Hollister’s food delivers sophisticated fulfillment. The by-the-glass wine selection is broad, and service strikes the correct balance between attention and discretion. 3020 Greenville Ave., 214-826-0940. $$. (L-6)

Tramontana. An unassuming little cafe that delivers more than it modestly promises. Savor the soups: Deep-flavored French onion was topped with fine Gruyère cheese, and the haricots vert have a strong, fresh presence in the creamed green bean potage. Entrées, too, exceeded our expectations, and desserts are made in-house. 8220B Westchester Dr., 214-368-4188. 5-$$. (L-6)

Watel’s. Sure, you’ll find weird organ meats like calves’ brains doctored with capers and veal kidneys touched with mushrooms to satisfy the strand of old-world gastronomic esoteri-ca that quivers in your palate. But you’ll also find exquisite contrasts like delicate rare tuna coated with crunchy peppercorns and tightly structured grilled shrimp with red pepper coulis-all served in a crisp, clean space. 1923 McKinney Ave,, 214-720-0323. $$. (L-7)

What Eisa. 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 decadent Blum cake, with its cascades of sugary crisps, to a simple dish of berries. 5757 N. Lovers Ln., 214-351-3366. $$. (K-6)

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

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

Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. The new cafe in the old store offers excellent food in confusing surroundings. A marinated salmon sandwich with caramelized onions, a beef tenderloin Caesar salad, and a tangy hearts of palm salad are all standouts. Marty’s is now a true wine bar with weekly wine-by-the-glass selections featuring some of the most distinctive pours from the world’s major wine regions-at jaw-dropping-ly reasonable prices ($4-$ 10). 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-4070. $-$$. (K-7)

GREEK

Kostas Cafe. The food is simply Greek and simply good. Appetizer do’s: saganaki and dolmas (musts, really). Entrée don’ts: souvlaki (tough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave., 214-987-3225. $$. (L-6)

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. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122, 214-521-2233.$$. (L-7)

HOME COOKING

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

Casa Linda Cafeteria. The hairnet is alive in Casa Linda, behind the virtually endless serving counter at this culinary heir to the Highland Park Cafeteria. We are always amazed at the quantity of food selections here-a dozen salads, 30 entrées (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 entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-5681.$. (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 tie room empty of patrons. 8224 Park Ln., 21053-4348. $. (L-5)

Doody’s Roadhouse. trainable goals are the key to success–why can’t aspiring restaurateurs remember that? The owner of Doody’s did. It’s a casual neighborhood joint where locals drop in for food and drink md fill the patio on pretty days. Food here is strictly no frills and trend-free. Spinach dip. Buffalo wings. Burgers. In huge portions. 2847 N. Henderson Ave., 214-828-9600. $-$$. (L-7)

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

INDIAN

D BEST Bombay Cricket Club. The food here is cricket with us, especially the incendiary chicken vindaloo, the soothing saag paneer (chunks of homemade cheese in creamed spinach), the curry-kissed aloo ben-gan, which combines eggplant, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes, and the leg of lamb from the tandoor. 2504 Maple Ave., 214-871-l333.$-$$.(K-7)

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

ITALIAN

Alessio’s. We grazed on complimentary bruschetta and fresh vegetables while reviewing the pricey menu and a difficult-to-read chalkboard describing the even pricier evening specials. This is a Dallas favorite, especially for romantics, but we’re not in love with the value since inconsistency mars the food, 4117 Lomo Alto Dr., 214-5:11-3585. $$-$$$. (K-7)

Angelo’s Italian Grill. When you think of classic Italian favorites, what triggers your Pavlovian response? Lasagna? Spaghetti? Scampi? Chicken parmesan? Pizza? This homey place has it all. Each meal comes with a Caesar salad and out-of-the-oven garlic rolls. The wine list is extensive. even by the glass. 6341 La Vista Dr.. 214-8:13-5566. $, (L-7)

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

Coco Pazzo. 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)

Joey’s. Owner Joey Vallone and chef have created a menu of innovative Italian fare. If you aren’t a “High Profile” regular, chances are you’ll spend most of your evening at the bar of this dizzyingly decorated hot spot. Try the tower of vegetables glued together with Fontina cheese or the rigatoni Vallone with artichokes, asparagus tips, and Louisiana head-on prawns. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-0074. $$. (K-7)

La Doha Vita. Lakewood’s favorite wood-burning oven is as comfortable a place for pizza and wine as it is for pastry and coffee. The high-ceilinged room with tall windows is a good place to linger if the crowds don’t push you out. Service is unpretentious and friendly; pizzas and pastas are good but not weird. 1924 Abrams Pkwy., 214-821-2608. $-$$. (L-7)

D BEST Mi Piaci. At all times, these hipper-than-hip rooms arc filled with people who look like they just stepped off the fashion pages. The menu focuses on classic Tuscan cuisine, with homemade pasta, made-to-order risotto, and superb breads. You’ll always see serious waiters expertly de boning 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. 112, 972-671-MODO. $$. (K-2)

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

Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and floors and odd faucet-like lighting of this trendy 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)

Terilli’s. A Lower Greenville fixture, Terilli’s packs in a semi-sophisticated crowd for suchas-it-is jazz and an eclectic menu featuring the signature item with the silly name: “Ilalcho’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 that Terilli’s is more than the sum of its parts. 2815 Greenville Ave., 214-827-3993. $$,
JAPANESE

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

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

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 Stoneleigh 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 coot. Sushi on McKinney remains a popular stop for everything from introductory hand rolls to more esoteric Eastern concoctions. And, somehow, the scene here has stayed cool even in the un-hip ’90s. 4502 McKinney Ave,, 214-521-0969. $-$$. (K-7)

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 Plano, 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 excit-ing sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination as well. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modem decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials. 2014 Greenville Ave., 214-826-8989. $$-$$$. (L-7)

MEDITERRANEAN

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

The Bistro. Don’t restrict dinner to a single starter, one entrée, and dessert. That option’s still on the menu at this quiet restaurant, but so’s the opportunity to sample hot and cold teasers of every Mediterranean sort from a listing of more than 30, plus daily specials. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Road, 214-352-1997.$-$$. (K-5)

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 entrée. 1S111 Preston ltd. at Frankford Road, Ste. 120, 972-447-0066. $$-$$$. (K-2)

PoPoLo’s. Wins the popularity contest in its restaurant-free Preston Hollow neighborhood, though against 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, 972-385-845:5 (K-3); 2618 Elm St., 214-744-0820. $$.(L-7)

Toscana. There are flaws: 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. $S. (K-6)

Winter Warmth

A perfectly seasonal soup, the BLT bisque at 8.0 has the substantial texture of whipped potatoes. The creation of chef Michael Kobelt, the soup is infused with smoky bacon, enriched with cheese, and it’s hot the whole way down. Great for a cold winter day.

8.0 Restaurant & Bar, In the Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St. 214-979-0880.

MEXICAN

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

Cantina Laredo. 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)

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

Dos Charros. This is food for people who break into a sweat at the sight of a habanera 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 Rower boxes, but some solidly good food conies out of the kitchen. This is a great family spot with a reasonable all-you-can-eat special. 2205 W. Parker Rd., Plano. 972-596-6783.$.(L-2)

Escondido’s. The rickety surroundings exude genuine “dump” appeal, which simply means that the food should be as good as the place is bad. And for the most part, it is. 2210 Butler St., 214-634-2056. $. (K-7)

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Touted as Dallas’ best “interior” Mexican restaurant. Javier’s lives up to its own high standards. Entrées range from excellent seafood dishes to tender cabrito, though some regulars never stray from the legendary filet Durango. 4912 Cole Ave., 214-521-4211.$$. (L-6)

La Galle Doce. Those who don’t like seafood will appreciate more traditional Mexican offerings served in this old Oak Cliff house, such as spinach enchiladas carefully covered with green sauce. And La Calle Doce’s celebrated hot sauce remains a winner. 415 W. 12th St., 214-941-4304. $-$$. (K-8)

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

La Valentina. A taste of big city Mexico in suburbia. The beautiful menu makes fascinating reading which doesn’t always translate to the plate. The polio en mole poblano tops a chicken breast with a sensuous sauce that includes 54 types of chilies. spices, and a touch of chocolate, resulting in a richly layered smoky-sweet flavor. Forget that fascinating menu when it’s time for dessert and ask for the dan. 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. $-$S. (L-2)

Martin’s Cocina. The kitchen here does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrées that weigh in at less than 1.000 calories each, including the four chiles rellenos. Martin himself lost 100 pounds eating his own food. But only skimp if you want to-the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa. its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. 7726 Ferguson Rd., 214-319-8834. $-$$. (N-5)

Mattito’s. A bustling family restaurant that inherited its menu from Matt Martinez Jr. Don’t miss the chile relleno, topped not only with the usual sauce, cheese, and sour cream but also with chopped pecans for crunch and raisins for sweetness. Save some calories for the homemade flan and sopaipillas. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort Drive. Addison, 972-503-8100. (K-3); 431 i Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-8181. $.(K-7)

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

Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution has dished up definitive Tex-Mex food to addicts who stand in line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enriquez satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with house specialties. Service is cheerful; the setting 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 ail six locations, the food is dependably good and lines are still dependably long. Cool your heels with a margarita. 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 tea 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)

Monterrey. The setting is gardenlike, the service is attentive, and the food in this family-run Lakewood establishment is fresh, fresh, fresh. 1611 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2026. $. (M-5)

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

D REVISITS Omega. A decade ago. if you wanted to find your friends at 3 in the morning, you could pretty much bet they’d be eating cheese enchiladas at Guadalajara on Ross Avenue. It was a kind of night life ritual recovery room. These days, if we all didn’t go to bed so early, it’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega. We don’t, 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 you a complimentary cup of chile con queso with the wanned salsa and the lightest, thinnest, nearly translucent tostados we’ve ever tasted. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but that’s OK-the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food and sometimes you need to recover at lunch, just from a morning. 212 N. Crowdus St., 214-744-6842. $. (L-7)

D REVISITS Pepe & Mito’s. Pepe & Mito’s makes up for the obscurity of its corner location at the dark end of Elm Street with an interior that doesn’t stop at mere garishness. The vivid walls and bright lights make you reach for sunglasses at midnight and mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-everything on our last visit was excellent, from chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked) to cilantro-laced salsa served as rapidly as we needed. Standards like nachos and enchiladas are dependable here, but the surprise is that occasionally this kitchen turns out breathtak-ingly good food. Tamales, for instance, are utterly remarkable; they’re as long as enchiladas, filled with a complicated spiced black bean paste, and covered with a clear green tomatillo sauce as fresh as lemons. And chicken and beef taquitos, folded then fried, are still the best we’ve had in town. 2935 Elm St., 214-741-1901.$. (L-7)

Plana 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)

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

MIDDLE EASTERN

Al-Amir. The Mediterranean meets the rising sun at Al Amir, which took the place of a Japanese restaurant. The result is an odd, melting-pot ambience. Concentrate on the plate- Middle Eastern expectations are well-met with good renditions of hummus, baba ghanoush, and lamb. But there are also some less well-known dishes to try 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 gets cozy at night, but those who tolerate early evening daylight are rewarded with a happy hour. Solid service tops off a superb all-around experience. 5450 W. Lovers Ln.. Ste. 222, 214-902-0919. $-$$. (K-6)

D BEST Cafe Izmir. A unique dining experi-ence: In this popular and dunning little cafe, dines choose a vegetarian or a meat-based meal rather than ordering from a menu. And then a parade of delightful food appears–lemon-zested tabbouleh, hummus. Mediterranean cole slaw, pita quarters, grilled kabob tubes of ground beef and marinated chicken, and lamb. A scarce Greek red wine called Boutari Maossa is a happy find here, and the sweet Turkish coffee in fragile cups is as irresistible as the desserts. 3711 Greenville Ave., 214-826-7788. $$. (L-7)

Hedary’s. George Hedary is back with a comfortable clone of the Fort Worth original, menu and all, in Far North Dallas. But the question is: Can one Lebanese oven produce enough of the family’s famed pila 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 what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu–is a bargain at $25.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music 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. $$.(L-6)

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

Beau Nash. The genteel bustle of a world-class hotel makes dinner ai 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 and thoughtful.

Hotel Crescent Court, 2215 Cedar Springs Rd? 214-871-3240. $$-$$$. (K-7)

City Cafe. Basic California-style food comes graced with a Cajun touch 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-dinner 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. $$. (L-7)

Gershwin’s. Pretty people, pretty food, pretty prices set the scene for power lunching in this California-influenced Upper Greenville emporium, where on-track careerists linger over creative fare noontimes and gather after work to share single malts, tall foods, and to people-watch. An outstanding wine list, too. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln.. 214-373-7171. $$-$$$. (L-5)

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 crème brulée. Westin Galleria, 13440 Dallas Pkwy., 972-851-2882. S$-$$$. (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 Greek. 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 kitchen king of this elegant room-with-a-view is Ron Rosenbaum and his new menu broadens Nana’s focus from Southwestern to Regional American. We found the transition mostly hard to fault. Service is supremely suave and caring, the accouterments define luxe, and the ambience is as comfortably refined as always in this upscale establishment. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel Tower, 2201 Stemmons Fwy., 214-761-7479. $$$. (K-7)

D REVISITS Natchez. Can a restaurant be low-key and upbeat at the same time? This one can-Natchez has doubled its size by taking in the space next door and turning it into a bar and smoking lounge area as laid back as the 13-table original. Cool jazz on the tapes reminds you of when songs had words. A warm ambience and service attitude convey the feel of a comfortable neighborhood gathering place. If this sounds like nostalgia speaking, be advised: Natchez has a new chef, too. Kenny Bowers, a Daddy Jack’s alum who owned Allen Street Cafe for a time, is adding his own creative touches to the short but sophisticated Southern-rooted bill of fare without displacing longtime menu favorites. We found thick-sliced grilled pork loin in créole mustard sauce subtly terrific and huge sea scallops pure delight in a shallot-laden herb sauce. 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 are watching what you eat, eat half of the real thing. Chicken-fried steak is not meant to be breaded with cracker crumbs and baked. 2800 Routh St., 214-849-0000. $$. (L-7)

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 die 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

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., 214-871-9! 19. $$. (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 lobster brandy could grace a tonier table, but here it’s served with an ear of corn. 2723 Elm St., 214-653-3949. $$. (L-7)

D BEST Fish. This elegant downtown spot doesn’t seem too inviting al first glance, but inside it is airy and elegant. Peruse the menu while sipping on the restaurant’s signature cocktail: Veuve Clicquot champagne. Fish’s other temptations include the acclaimed Green Soup-a shallow bowl piled high with shells, legs, and tails protruding recklessly from a broth. 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 com for$10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd? Addison. 972-774-9518. $$. (K-4)

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

Mainstream Fish House. This hands-on operation 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 sautéed chicken. Housed in the old Dallas Brewery and Bottling works, Newport’s three-tiered dining room actually holds a huge, open Artesian well that once fed the pre-Prohibition brewing operation. 703 McKinney Ave.. 214-954-0220. $$. (K-7)

Okeanos by Avner. Simple but classy modern 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. 102B, Addison, 972-490-8686. $$. (K-4)

Picardys Shrimp Shop. New American inventiveness at family-style prices. Picardys finds a regional inspiration tor most of its mostly shrimp dishes: Coconut tempura shrimp are tender, juicy, and pleasantly sweet; a side of honey-sour sauce added a potent bite, despite the damp blanket of rice pilaf. Grilled shrimp nachos, with shrimp, black beans, white cheese, and salsa, were light and chewy. Picardys’ kid-friendly atmosphere is a plus. 680ft Snider Plaza, 214-373-4099. $-$$. (L-6)

SAD Oyster Company. Serving fresh seafood in an authentic New Orleans atmosphere for more years than we <;are to remember, S&D has become a mainstay of quality. 2701 McKinney Ave.. 214.-880-0111. $$. (K-7)

Sea Grill. The setting may be strip mall, but the food, right down to he 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 Grab. 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)

In a Hurry? Try a Kurry.

The Kurry King holds court In the new shed in the Fa ’mers Market. His fiery, sub-continental-inspired blends of fragrant turmeric, cumin, and chili come with a bag of rice and lentils (called dal in India). All you have to do for dinner is boll the water and empty the bag. Of course, you could jazz things up with chicken, meat, or market vegetables.

Kurry King, 972-205-1940.

SOUTHWESTERN

D REVISITS Flying Burro. There’s a vast distinction between Tex-Mex and New Mex-Mex, a difference that’s been debated for decades mostly because both cuisines use the same vocabulary for completely different things. To New Mexicans, chili, for instance, isn’t the meaty stew we Texans top with cheese and onions. It’s a thin sauce based on a certain kind of ground red chili peppers or a simple blend of fresh green chilies. Chile con queso isn’t the orange, glutinous non-dairy dip we eat with football, but a complicated and very hot mixture of chopped chilies and shredded cheese, so robust it can overcome a chip. 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 it isn’t Tex-Mex either. Enchiladas are stacked though, and they do come topped with an egg. So when you order at Flying Burro, be careful. You may not be asking for what you want. 2831 Greenville Ave., 214-827-2112. $. (L-6)

Sam’s Data. Sticking to the Southwestern theme after others abandoned il 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 that most visitors would like to go but usually usually can’t–tables are booked for weeks ahead. It’s worth giving it a shot. Superchef Stephan Pyles has a gift for slipping happy surprises into even the most mundane-sounding dishes. For instance, coriander-cured venison lived up to its 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.0. Ranch. This food may be dubbed “early Texas cooking,” but we doubt many Old West ranch cooks whipped up this sophisticated a menu, starting with the seafood corn cake, a vast flapjack concealing nuggets of crab, shrimp, oysters, and com kernels. Entrées range from basic steaks (we enjoyed a huge. glorious ribeye) to turkey, catfish, shrimp, and the Muy Grande Tex-Mex Platter, 702 Ross Ave., 214-744-3287. $-$$. (K-7)

SPANISH

Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas cafe is as tiny a place as the tapas. And besides the two dozen or so tapas always available, a daily changing blackboard lists many more, including everything from potato omelet to 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. Entrées include exceptional paella valenciana-a lovely presentation of mussels, clams, shrimp, chicken, and calamari with saffron rice and peas. Home of the friendliest staff in Dallas, this place is trying hard and succeeding. 4131 Lomo Alto Dr., 214-599-9563. $$. (K-6)

STEAKHOUSES

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

D BEST Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House. Prime rib and a trimmedto-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 meal 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 ;l 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 entrées, plus starters and a list of à la carte sides. 3408 Preston Rd., 972-867-2122 (K-l); 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122. $$. (L-6)

Morton’s of Chicago. Understatement reigns here, from dark wood to etched glass, starched while linens and muled 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 Al Biernat has built this steak-and-Iobster New York import into the downtown power-lunch spot. Come to see-and-be-seen, and maybe even to cut ;i deal, but don’t come for the food. Over the past several months our samplings have gone from bland to worse. Is the problem turnover in the kitchen or bad buying at corporate headquarters? 701 Ross Ave.. 214-698-0470. $$-$$$. (K-7)

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

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

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 à la carte-including eight types of potatoes-most of them will serve two. There is a huge wine list. and for serious grape lovers, the restaurant has a wine room for tastings. 5922 Cedar Springs Rd.. 214-902-8080 (K-7); 17840 Dallas Pkwy., 972-250-2244. $5$. (K-2)

Stone Trail Steakhouse. Lavish decor, live music for late dancing, an upscale menu and wine list mark this sprawling st<:ak spread as the brainchild of restaurateur Tony Taherzadeh, former owner of Farfallo and Papillon. A clubby ambience and prescient service support terrific beef treatments (try the bone-in ribeye, 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 like y :;pot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll hive 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. 5190 Beltline Rd. at Mont-fort Drive, Addison, 972-960-2999. $$. (K-3)

D REVISITS Royal Thai. Small, dimly lit. furnished with ornate Thai antiques and traditional arts. Royal Thai is a pleasantly upscale change from the starkly serviceable linoleum and Formica interiors of so many Thai restaurants. And for many years, it was easy to say Royal Thai had the best Thai food in town, too. Bui there’s a lot more competition now than there was when this restaurant opened, and Dallas palates are more sophisticated when it comes to judging the relative merits of pad Thai and gang ped. Perhaps that’s why on our last visit, some of our favorite treats seemed as humdrum as linoleum. Chicken packets, wrapped in tenderizing banana leaves, seemed dry and flavorless. Curries were still as fragrant and benefited from their presentation under a little domed top, but service was perfunctory, and the whole experience was not the little gem we thought we could count on. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave., 214-691-3555. $-$$. (L-6)

Toys Cafe. This hol;-in-the-wall joint has all the elements of a great neighborhood “find.” We were welcomed warmly by three friendly Asian women and [he 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

D REVISITS Mai’s. Mai’s is one of those places that has lots of loyal customers. On our recent visit, we found the place packed with Asians and non-Asians who all seemed to know tie menu by heart. They certainly don’t come for intimate ambience-it’s all linoleum, formica, and fake plants, and the service is always brisk. But somehow ? all works. 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. Our regular pick is #64-a bowl of soft rice noodles and stir-fried bean curd in a peanut sauce topped with shredded cucumber, lettuce, bean sprouts, mint, and cilantro. Be sure and try the legendary Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. 4812 Bryan St., 214-826-9887. $. (L-7)

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

Angela’s Barbecue. The Fort Worth landmark is one of the bookends of Dallas-Fort Worth area barbecue, its Dallas counterpart being the original Sonny Bryan’s. Famous for fabulous ribs smoked so tender the meat falls off the bone at the slightest nudge from the incisors, which are properly enjoyed with a couple of Shiners, sitting under a dozen taxidermified 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-cuisine” menu features multicultural dishes with arty presentations. Don’t miss Joe’s Shrimp Paesano–lightly breaded jumbo prawns sautéed in vodka-lemon butter. Skip the goat’s milk ice cream and splurge on the Key lime tart. 215 E. 4th St., Fort Worth, 817-334-0080. $$. (B-9)

Benito’s. Like a familiar, old friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from time to time, but some things never change, like the food. The queso flameado. with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and served with fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or corn tortillas. Order it first and then spend some time with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-8633. $$.(B-9)

D REVISITS Bistro Louise. Louise Lamensdorf ’s bid to broaden her bistro into takeout sounded like a fine idea when she announced it some months ago. Bistro Louise food chez nous? We couldn’t wait to try it. Perhaps we should have waited longer. Assured when we called ahead that we could place our order any time after the place opened for cocktails at 5 p.m.. we arrived promptly to do so-and waited more than an hour for it to be filled by a staff that seemed curiously challenged by the interruption in their normal pre-dinner routine. More important, the delay of our drive back to Dallas cost the food the cutting edge of its perfection: While the famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin traveled well, even delicate reheating of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals failed to restore it. Never have we been more reminded that presentation and ambience are as integral to dining pleasure as the food itself. Savored in the sunny bistro, the cuisine works Mediterranean magic. We recommend enjoying 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. 222] 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)

Casa Jose. The best Tex-Mex cafe in Arlington offers all the regular Tex-Mex dishes but specializes in soft flour tortilla tacos. Their thick, slightly chewy, warm, handmade flour tortillas offer a tasty base from which to build a taco. 2030 S. Cooper St.. Arlington, {metro) 817-265-5423.$. (A-5)

Daddio’s Downtown Nearly Jazz Cafe. The Greek salad is the best in town, and the rest of the menu gives a unique Texas tone to classic Greek specialties. Breakfast and lunch only, except on Friday and Saturday, when you can listen to music while enjoying dinner. 715 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-926-7000. $. (B-9)

Forest Park Cafe. A Franco-Texan neighborhood bistro atmosphere with a slightly quaint menu that features crêpes and patés, as well as simple sandwiches and handmade vegetable ravioli with roasted tomato sauce. Stellar Saturday and Sunday branches 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 comer 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 restaurant. Its location near the Stockyards is a rambling plantation that can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” On a balmy night, wait for a spot outside by the pool and order the enchilada dinner. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-626-4356. $$. (B-9)

D REVISITS Kincaid’s. The actual truth is a Kincaid’s hamburger is too big to get your mouth around and too good not to try. Ask any one of the zillions who have swarmed this plain little ex-grocery market and named its burgers the best in Cowtown, best in Texas, and in one juried case, even best in the U.S.A. Lunching business types stand hip to hip with blue-collared brethren at long counters or share space on benches alongside checkered oilcloth-topped tables to inhale half-pound patties of choice chuck that are ground, hand-shaped, and grilled daily for stacking with the works on big, soft buns that prompt our only timid criticism: Personally, we’d rather see firmer buns and a little less beef. But hey, who are we to tinker with a legend? 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-732-2881.$. (A-9)

Piccolo Mondo. This neighborhood Italian restaurant is a suburban s’ rip-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) 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 te 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-walled, country French atmosphere is charming and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817-727-2781. $$$. (B-9)

Sundance Deli & Market There’s no better spot in Sundance Square for a casual, imaginative meal. Basics include sandwiches, salads, breakfast, gourmet coffees, and homemade desserts. This is the rare restaurant that’s quick enough for just a bite, Dut 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 special:; supplement a range of regular entrées that would make a coastal restaurant proud. 1540 S. University Dr., Ste. 120, Fort Worth, 817-877-3474. $$. (A-9)

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