HOFSTETTER’S SPARGEL CAFE
MAYBE ITS THAT PARTICULAR SHADE OF green. Maybe it’s the way co-owner Kala Gregor patrols the room like a Montessori teacher, never interfering unless necessary, just monitoring everyone’s meal from a distance, making sure dinner is progressing as it should. But somehow, the chemistry at Spargel Cafe is correct-food, atmosphere, and service combine to create that fourth thing restaurants aim for thai is greater than the sum of the parts.
Cafe Salad, topped with grilled asparagus, (a restaurant signature because “spar-gel” means asparagus) filled a plate with delicate greens overlaid with three fat spears, properly peeled and discreetly sheeted with Parmesan. We liked the special swordfish. baby-pink and nested in angel hair with vegetables. Lamb in mint pesto was a little strong on the pesto side, but we loved the spaetzle. the most primitive of pastas, simply buttered. The thin piece of sea bass came in sweet balsamic balanced by capers. Rich prinzen schnitzel, from the old menu, was lapped with basil cream and topped with strands of sweet fried carrot. But the special risotto with smoked chicken and mushrooms had the overpowering smokiness of hot dogs-you couldn’t taste anything else, Only ketchup could have come through.
None of Spargel’s elements is a star on its own: The green room is quietly decorated, a big impressionistic mural on one wall, pots of wheat grass on every table. The food has been updated and refined for the new Lovers Lane location, with one corner of the menu devoted to old Hofstet-ter schnitzel favorites. Our waiter was friendly and knowledgeable, as any waiter should be. But we lingered at the table after dessert because the evening had been gracious and easy and because we felt as comfortable as we would at a friend’s dinner table. Is there a greater compliment you can pay a restaurant?
Hofstetter’s Spargel Cafe. 4326 Lovers Lane, 214-368-3002. $$-$$$
-Mary Brown Malouf
There are probably diners who groan when they hear Avner Samuel’s name, This guy has moved too much, talked too much, been talked about too much. The whole town knows about his bad temper and erratic career. But what the hell. We still watch Jerry Jones’ Cowboys don’t we? And Avner’s performance is more reliable than theirs. I .say, face the plate, forget the reputation, and get it while you can, because the food at Avner’s new Bistro A in Snider Plaza is, as usual, some of the best cooking in town.
The new restaurant is a stylishly casual venue in a New York deep space with an open kitchen. Under the direction of Karim Alaoui, the front of the house runs well. Avner is not officially present-the menu lists Eric [Cellar as chef de cuisine-but Avner is out front and in the kitchen, looking, for once, more anxious than arrogant.
He insisted we try a round of Egyptian falafel nested in the bottom of an enormous white bowl-the kind of artlessly lovely presentation at which Avner excels. We chose other appetizers from the menu: baked oysters Rockefeller, lavishly topped with bacon and spinach; little rounds of rare rabbit loin served on intensely green and garlicky risotto: the signature foie gras, quivering under a sweet balsamic glaze.
At lunch, the roasted chicken came beautifully presented en casserole, half a small brown bird with bones and skin, surrounded by turnips, potatoes, carrots. This may be a fluke, but the chicken was juicy, the potatoes weren’t starchy but earthy and clean-flavored (when’s the last time you noticed the flavor of a potato?). The tortilla soup was presented so each ingredient was a star: chicken dice, crisp tortilla strips. avocado chunks, and cheese shreds were flooded tableside with hoi chile-scented chicken broth. The Bistro A pizza wasn’t one; it was a round of crisp lahvosh spread with hummus, scattered with lamb strips, chiffonade of mint, and pine nuts.
It’s that attention to detail that distinguishes Avner’s cooking-let’s hope he pays as much attention to management and temper. 6815 Snider Plaza, 214-373-9911. $$$.
IF YOU BELIEVE THAT WHAT GREENVILLE Avenue needs is another patio where you can drink margaritas streetside, then you’ll be glad to know that Gloria’s, everyone’s favorite Oak Cliff restaurant, has opened a branch right down the street from the Granada. I still regret the necessity of driving south to eat Salvadoran pupusas, but I can’t say I’m sorry to have pupusas right here in my neighborhood. There are times when accessibility helps define quality.
The new Gloria’s has industrial-high ceilings, concrete floors, and doors that open onto the patio-which is full even when the dining room is empty because most of the people we saw were using this as a kind of J. Pepe’s annex, a place to drink beer and margaritas and eat enchiladas and nachos. Don’t misunderstand me. Gloria’s enchiladas are good, but it’s the Salva-doran food that makes Gloria’s great.
Not that this is difficult, complicated food. Pupusas are just corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and pork; tamales are the usual masa, steamed even more softly in a banana leaf instead of a corn husk. And the yucca and plantain are simply fried exercises in subtlety. Even the upscale stuff is easy-pork tenderloin is pounded and griddled quickly. Period. But the honesty is the beauty of it. Add accessibility and you’ve got a real winner. 3715 Greenville Ave., 214 874-0088.$-$$.
Baker’s Ribs. Nothing fancy about this place. Load up your tray with piles of sliced beef, pork, turkey, chicken, cayenne-seasoned St. Louis-cut ribs, and the usual side dishes: potato salad, cole slaw, and beans. We still prefer the Commerce Street location. 2724 Commerce St., 214-748-5433; 4844 Greenville Ave., 214-373-0082; 488 W. 1-30 at Belt Line Road, Garland. 972-226-7447.$.
Peggy Sue Barbecue. This ’50s-style joint in Snider Plaza is serving some of the best BBQ in town. Terrific appetizers include Texas Torpedoes-cream cheese-filled fried jalapenos. Baby back ribs, chicken, polish kielbasa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection. Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world of meat, go first-class here. 6600 Snider Plaza, 214-987-9)88. $.
Red Hot & Ban. A place to pig out literally: RHB specializes in pulled pork and dry ribs-that is, Southern-style, as opposed to Texas-style, barbecue. It’s all good, though there are gimmicky touches like the fried onion loaf. The “blues” are on the walls, in the form of concert posters. and in your ears. Friendly waitstaff. 9810 N. Central Expwy.. 214-368-7427; 5017 W. Plano Pkwy.. Ste. 100, Plano, 972-248-3866. $.
Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue for the banking crowd at bankers’ hours. Everyday at lunch, Sammy’s is full of white-collar types, ties thrown over their shoulders, chowing on great red-stripe brisket, ribs, and homemade Mom-style pie. No, really-Sammy’s is a family-run enterprise, and all the Pritchards pitch in. 2126 Leonard St., 214-880-9064.$.
D BEST Sonny Bryan’s. For 40 years, Sonny Bryan’s meaty ribs, moisi brisket, and classic barbecue sauce have been the standard by which all other Dallas barbecue is judged. The West End and St. Paul locations maintain the original tastes in fancier settings, but for the classic barbecue experience, return to the original Inwood Road joint, sit on the hood of your car, and gnaw on tenderly smoked ribs and chopped beef. 2202 Inwood Rd? 214-357-7120; 302 N. Market St., 214-744-1610; 325 N. St. Paul St. (in the tunnel), 214-979-0102; 4701 Frankford Rd? 972-447-0102; Macy’s 3rd level, Galleria. 972-851-5131.$.
Copper Tank Brewing Company. The beer may be microbrewed, but the setting is macro. This huge pub-an Austin import-functions as a sports bar, watering hole, and restaurant. While the beer wins awards, the food also deserves some attention, too. Our favorite pretzel replacement: onion rings with a zesty apple-horseradish dipping sauce. 2600 Main St., 214-744-2739. $.
D BEST Routh Street Brewery and Grill. Although the food has slipped a little, the hand-crafted brew remains some of the finest in Dallas, and an elegant hill country lodge motif with soft lighting makes it a sexy spot for a beer joint. Shy away from the weiner-schnitzle; roasted pork tenderloin fares better. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$.
Yegua Creek Brewing Co. Tins home-grown brew pub continues to brew stellar suds, but its menu strays from the burger/pizza path into less-trav-eled Southwest byways with mixed success. 2920 N. Henderson Ave., 214-824-BREW. $$.
Angry Dog. The menu is standard bar cuisine. including some great burgers, nachos, and sandwiches, but it extends to include some inspiring options. The Angry Dog-a grilled, all-beef hot dog split and served open-faced covered with grilled onions, chili, and cheese-is truly fantastic and a bargain at $4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St., 214-741-4406.$.
Cafe Express. Fresh, health-conscious, budget-friendly, and efficient is the goal at this amus-ingly designed cafe. The wholesome and healthy emphasis can be found in the salads, sandwiches, chicken, and pastas. But beware: There are a bevy of burgers and a bountiful display of desserts to tempt the weak. 3230 McKinney Ave., 214-999-9444. $.
Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers. Perhaps Dallas’ best rendition of the all-American hamburger is served at Chip’s. Both locations have an atmosphere as wholesome as a Beach Boys song, and the food is fast and fresh, too. A return to a time of innocence, when a good time could be fueled by nothing more than fries and a shake. The skinny onions rings. rich pig sandwich, and hot dogs are just lagniappe. 4501 Cole Ave., 214-526-1092; 4530 Lovers Ln., 214-691-2447. S.
Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought the university years were the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries ta basket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese), because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$.
D REVISITS Stoneleigh P. It was no sur-prise at all to look down and see a ketchup packet on the windowsill at the P. Everyone smuggles in ketchup because the place proudly and oddly refuses to serve it. If only we could have smuggled in some French fries, too. and maybe even a burger, then we would have had a decent lunch. As it was, even the contraband ketchup couldn’t help the boring, meatless garden burger. The famous lentil soup was cold, and the homemade potato chips are not as good as Zapp’s out of the bag. From the small salad menu we selected the tomato version which was just that: a plate of tomatoes-not particularly red, ripe, or beautiful, just the usual watery pink ones. The famous pumpernickel hamburger buns were stale and crumbly, and the best thing about [he Stoneleigh’s rancho deluxe burger, served on an equally crumbly “rustica” bun. was the chipotle mayonnaise. You wish for good food the way you wish for ketchup at the P. so why do we keep going back? Some things are inexplicable. 2926 Maple Ave.. 214-871-2346. $.
Texas Hamburgers. This Texas kitsch joint is filled with stuffed armadillos. Texas flags, cowboy memorabilia, good old boys, and Armani-clad Design Center sophisticates. Besides great half- and third-pound burgers accompanied by fresh fixings, this place serves some great meatloaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. 1616 Market Center Blvd., 214-747-2222.$.
Copeland’s of New Orleans. Cajun staples are complemented by an array of more creative appetizers and entrées. The blackened redfish is nicely done if a bit tame. What’s more, every staff member from the manager on down is friendly and polite. 5353 Belt Line Rd.. Addison.’972-6Gl-1883.5$.
Crescent City Cafe. Crescent City still dishes out solid New Orleans chow in authentic French Quarter surroundings. Though the fried food can be spotty, the gumbo’s rich and the po’ boys are consistently good. 2615 Commerce St., 214-745-1900. $.
Arc-En-Ciel. The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare, but everyone really goes there to eat Vietnamese. Our last meal we ordered in a leisurely way. a few dishes at a lime-pristine Imperial rolls: shrimp pounded and molded on sugarcane; grilled pork to roll in rice paper with rice noodles, cilantro, mint, lettuce, and sprouts-each dish delightful, fresh, excellent. 3555 W. Walnut St.. Garland, 972-272-2188; 2208 New York Ave., Arlington, 817-469-9999.$-$$.
Cafe Panda. The personnel here roll out the red carpet and the mostly excellent food reflects a meticulous attention to detail, performing some service rituals as complex as the cuisine. Start with quail curl and watch as a team of servers performs a near-ballet in bringing it to your table. And finish with tableside French-pressed coffee. 7979 Inwood Rd.. Ste. 121. 214-902-9500. $-$$.
May Dragon. An inscrutable strip center location belies one of the city’s best Chinese restaurants. Just stay away from the neon sweet and sour stuff, and you’ll be happy. Try a duck, instead. 4848 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 972-392-9998.$$.
New Big Wong. Large lunches are served here in fast-food time, but a leisurely dinner rewards experimentation. The menu is large, and largely authentic, serving a wide variety of wiggly sea creatures. The setting is plain and the service friendly. 2121 S. Greenville Ave., 2)4-821-4198.$.
Szechuan Pavilion. One of the lop Chinese restaurants in a city with tar loo lew to choose from. Service here is smooth and the usual Szechuan specialties are good. Pot stickers filled with juicy pork and a whole crispy fish are worth waiting for. 8409 Preston Rd.. 214-368-4303. $$.
Taiwan Restaurant. One of the big-time Chinese restaurants in Dallas, Taiwan only stumbles when it’s loo sure of itself. The upstairs dining rooms overlook a parking lot. so focus on the tableside view, instead-plates are garnished with surreally carved vegetables Lunch specials are a steal. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 200, Addison, 972-387-2333. $-$$.
Uncle Chow. The menu might be small, bill the flavor’s all there, especially il you start with the pan-fried chicken dumplings, jam-packed with lender white meat. 19021 Midway Rd.. 972-306-CHOW. $.
D REVISITS Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan. It seems silly to negotiate six floors of mall parking to eat Chinese food, but in this case it’s worth it. High above the budding Tara Lipinskis on the ice rink, we settled into a serene early ’80s feng shui interior (designed before feng shui was cool) of deep burgundy lacquered wood contrasting with coo! green walls. Not much has changed here over the last 15 years. Bow-tie chid waiters still formally dish oui classic hoi Hunan spe-cialties tableside. Past favorites still shine: Crispy beef with broccoli sizzling in spicy orange sauce and Uncle Tai’s Chicken flamed with jalapenos lightly coated with black bean sauce served on a bed of slightly wilted water-cress. But your meal isn’t complete without a handful of the spice-coaled crispy walnuts. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ. 972-934-9998.$$
Cafe Society. Dallas’ most authentic coffeehouse not only roasts its own beans but offers a comfortable but hip environment for serious discussion, flirtation, hanging out, listening to music, and feeling generally plugged-in and with it. 209 Henry St.. 214-745-1964. $.
Cafe Brazil. “Brazil” here is a coffee cue, but this cafe is not just another java joint. The brews are varied and the laid-back attitude of all three locations make them comfortable chat rooms, but the food is better than it has to be. Breakfasts are particularly notable. 642(1 N. Centra] Expwy., 214-691-7791: 2221 Abrams Rd.. 214-826-9522; 2815 Elm St., 214-747-2730. $.
Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family enters their 11th year of dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha vamishkas as good as any in the Big Apple. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-373-3333. $.
Street’s Famous Sandwiches. We are impressed by the creative combos of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, and “Gene’s Favorite” is ours, too-grilled chicken and onions with melted provolone and spicy Dijon. Sides include a cheese tortellini salad with walnuts. Chinese sesame noodles, potato salad, and coleslaw. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-526-2505. $.
Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-size beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd.. Ste. 150, 972-239-8060. $$.
Bread Winners. One of the prettiest, most atmospheric Old South settings anywhere in Dallas, this Uptown eatery is a favorite for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner (Wednesday through Sunday!. Big triangles of grilled polenta lavished in fresh marinara make a main-dish starter; a single wedge of strawberry chocolate tone serves two. 3301 McKinney Ave., 214-754-4940. $-$$.
Deep Ellum Cafe. The first legitimate restaurant in Deep Ellum has a lot of competition now, and though this is still one of the most pleasant places to be in downtown, sometimes the food is not so pleasant. The kitchen seems bored with the standards like chicken and dill dump- lings and Vietnamese chicken salad; specials are a better bet. Sit outside if you can. 2704 Elm St., 214-741-9012. $-$$.
8.0 Restaurant and Bar. This hip joint is still hopping with pretty people sipping blue mar-garitas and noshing upscale bar food like thick. 8-ounce burgers and chicken nachos. Lines are out the door at lunch and cocktail hour in the summer, and the patio is swarming with guys and girls cruising for girls and guys. Blaring music makes table conversation nearly impossible, but mural-covered walls painted by local artists make il a funky place to sit back and watch the show. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St.. 214-979-0880. $-$$.
Firehouse. This restaurant is the ultimate in food cross-dressing. Chef Bruno Giovanni Mella displays great dexterity in crossing pork chops with mango salsa or andouille sausage with barbecued shrimp. Fire-eaters have hit the mother lode. But there’s plenty for those who feel faint at the site of a jalapeno. Try the roasted garlic and eggplant dip served in a whole roasted onion. 1928 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-2468.$$-$$$.
Fogo de Chao. A churrascaria in Addison with branches in Porto Alegre and Sào Paulo. Fogo de Chao serves traditional cookery from southern Brazil, starting with the caipirinha (a little like a sweet margarita, with cachaca, a sugarcane liquor). Overwhelming abundance is the theme: A neverending parade of meat on long skewers is delivered by gaucho guys in amazing trousers and belts. Very exotic. 4300 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-503-7300. $$.
D BEST The Grape. The secret is that Dallas’ oldest and best wine bar is really one of its oldest and best restaurants- dim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter how often the chef changes), and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave.. 214-828-1981. $$.
D BEST The Green Room. This ’90s bistro continues to dish out some of the most inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The menu is eclectically uptown, and the decor is strictly downtown rock ’n’ roll. The contrast between them is cool. At $34. the fixed-price, four-course. “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2715 Elm St.. 214-748-ROOM. $$.
Jungle Red. Colorful decor combines the feel of a Caribbean nightclub with Peewee’s Playhouse-zany is the operative word and more so if you indulge in a frozen fruit drink swirling away in the machines behind the bar. The food is a hybrid, too: a tropical blend of Saturday morning sweetness with seafood and fruit. Fish or shrimp tacos are best bets. 3 102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-5733. $-$$.
D REVISITS Kathleen’s Art Cafe. We hadn’t been here for a while, and we won’t be going back any time soon. We love the concept of a funky cafe showcasing eclectic food and local artists, but on our recent visit Kathleen’s version of both proved dull. An appetizer of “coconut crusted shrimp” was crusted, but where was the coconut? A tender lamb ossobuco with roasted vegetables melted from the bone, but where was the flavor? We had to doctor every bite with salt and pepper to bring out any taste. Desserts ranged from dismal to delicious. Forunately, a moist raisin-packed, triple-layer carrot cake reminded us why we went there in the first place, but the apricot pie was tasteless, and the crust reeked of freezer burn. The art wasn’t tasty, either. 4424 Lovers Lane, 214-691-2355. $-$$
Mark’s on Henderson. Chef-owner Mark Jenson has turned this intimate 13-table bistro into a grown-up wine bar by serving hot food. Browse the cellar and choose a bottle or sample international wines by the glass. A moderately priced chalkboard menu lists an eclectic selection of daily entrées such as Russian chicken-a breast covered with a sauce loaded with grilled onions and cilantro. 2926 Henderson Ave., 214-841 -0900. $$.
Sipango. The Cal-Ital menu offers selections various enough to allow for grazing as well as course-by-course dining at this currently cool cafe-cum-nightspot. Service is overly amiable, with some timing lapses. Once the too-loud cocktail pianist makes way for a combo, conversation is possible and people-watching is its own entertainment. 4513 Travis St.. 214-522-2411.$$.
St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin. The martin doesn’t mean seafood, it’s just a clue that the owner likes to fish. The only seafood here is the dancing tuna sandwich; mostly, the food is simply designed to go with your beer. Beware the Diablo Tempestuous, pasta doused in fiery jalapeno-tomato sauce. It’s so hot it comes with a chaser of chocolate milk. 2730 Commerce St., 214-698-1511. $.
Tarantino’s The overall ambience-a dark. New York cafe-shaped space dominated by a long bar-is best at night, when the slight scruffiness is hidden by dim light and the place looks avant instead of under-financed. The food goes back to the basics of Italian and Spanish cuisine, served tapas-style. The take on traditional osso buco, based on a rich, gamy lamb shank instead of veal, is food you lust after. 3611 Parry Ave., 214-821-2224. Dinner only. $$.
Tarazza. This menu borrows ideas from all over the world-a Japanese version of Italian risotto, a French duck conf?t salad, a Thai soup-adds its own spin, and leaves taste buds dancing. Listening to piano music at the inviting bar area is the best way to end to your meal unless the stars invite you out to the upstairs terrace. 4514 Travis St., 214-521-2175. $$.
Yvette. The menu here suits the Cadillac setting-dark wood, etched glass, and red velvet curtains. Over-the-top Yvette, part-owned by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Barry Switzer, does score some absolute touchdowns, like a perfect Caesar salad and a Dover sole so tender it’s gone before you have time to appreciate it. 14775 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-503-9777. $$-$$S.
Addison Cafe. It’s called “Le French Bistro,” but in reality, Addison Cafe is a restaurant serving classically prepared French and New American dishes, which has kept them in business for 14 years. Tournedos of beef are cooked medium rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce, A thick slab of fennel-crusted sea bass seasoned with kalamata olives is poached to perfection. And the decadent dark chocolate mousse is definitely worth every hip-hugging calorie. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 108 at Montfort Drive, Addison, 972-991-8824. $$.
D BEST Barclays. Don’t come to Barclays expecting to find a pint of bitters and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms is of regal status. And if you’re looking for that perfect place to “pop” the question or celebrate something special, look no further-this place is a gem. 2917 Fairmount St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$.
Chez Gerard. Which is more to be celebrated, French thrift or French style? Skin-thin petals of veal liver, sautéed with onions and grapes in port wine sauce, become the gourmand’s liver and onions-or is it the peasant’s foie gras? Whatever. 4444 McKinney Ave., 214-522-6865. $$-$$$.
Clair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the corner of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant delights with delicious food and impeccable service. A classic house-made pork paté is served with diced onion. French cornichons, and mustard. Poitrine de canard, a splendidly moist duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Road. 214-987-2028.$$.
French Room, This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling. Versai lies-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that doesn’t mesh with the modem world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a tied of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato conf?t with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200.$$$.
Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: tine food in fine surroundings at a fair price. Appetizers and entrées alike are first-rate, if you’re not up for one of the excellent meals, enjoy a glass of wine and a sampling of cheese or one of their many patés. 3605 McKinney Ave., 214-528-6010. $$.
L’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit. tables are draped in starchy white. and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you could get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tart is just as subtly good. Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre conies with the the best, yes, French fries in town. 4514 Travis St., 214-528-1081. $$-$$$.
La Mirabelle. Thoroughly retro not only in its ambience, which stresses traditional comfort, and in its food, which is precisely and personally prepared French, but in its service, which actually claims to coddle the customer. Enjoy reading the menu, but don’t order a thing until you hear the specials of the day. That’s where the treasures are. 17610 Midway Rd., 972-733-0202. $$-$$$.
Lavendou. If you’re in search of a classic French meal, head to Lavendou and get textbook Provence-from the food down to the yellow-and-blue decor. Duck with black currants would please even the pickiest Francophile, and pomme frites are pure Paris. Lavendou is as capitalist as they come, though-patrons can purchase pottery from their line of ochre-and-lavender objets. 19009 Preston Rd.. 972-248-1911. $$-$$$.
D BEST The Pyramid Room. That overused word, opulence, must be hauled out again-the Fairmont Hotel’s flagship restaurant demands it. Here is service and ambience that beggar less extravagant description. The food, too, deserves superlatives. You can hardly ask for more cosseting at any price than that provided by this serenely cosmopolitan restaurant. Fairmont Hotel. 1717 N. Akard St., 214-720-5249. $$$.
D BEST The Riviera. We knew the moment an airy avocado cream hors d’oeuvre passed our lips that we were doomed, once again, to a near-flawless dining experience. Each dish seems to outdo another. Food credits here mostly belong to Chef de Cuisine Frank Harris, one assumes, with input from David Holben, now executive chef at sibling restaurants Mediterraneo and Toscana. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094.$$$.
Tramontana. This cozy little dining room has charming murals on the walls and an inviting-looking bar. but service and food vary. Some high points: The steak is perfectly good-flavorful red meat with a simple emphatic wine reduction-and the salad is a mix of lovely, flowerlike greens with pungent, mouth-cleaning flavors. 8220B Westchester Dr., 214-368-4188.$$.
Watel’s. Sure, you’ll find weird organ meats like calves’ brains doctored with capers and veal kidneys touched with mushrooms to satisfy the strand of old-world gastronomic esoteri-ca that quivers in your palate. 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. $$.
What Else. Serious, well-prepared French country cooking in a cozy dining room. Tender duck-leg confit falls off the bone and is accompanied by a creamy risotto. A classic tarte tatin-upside-down apple tart-is authentic. Pay-by-the course menu reminds us that eating French food doesn’t have to be an intimidating or expensive experience. 1915 Greenville Ave., 214-874-WHAT. $$-$$$.
GOURMET TO GO
Bon Vivant Market. Longtime Dallas chef Dan O’Leary is the food mind behind this all-purpose market. Bon Vivant has plenty of room to navigate a basket around the central island filled with prepared meals (veal meatloaf, lasagna), past the bakery (crusty Euro-country loaves), to the grill area (juicy chicken skewers) and sandwich bar. Plus, there’s a real wine department and tables for eating in. 1801 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-818-1177. $-$$.
D REVISITS City Cafe To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? If so, you’d never know it from listening to the friendly servers at City Cafe To Go. According to them, most people don’t even know how to use a regular oven to reheat the precooked food they buy there. They all want microwave instructions. But for those of you who can handle 350 degrees for 20 minutes, most of the dishes are tasty and reheat beautifully. We sprinkled a little water over a thickly sliced rare leg of lamb with chard and sun-dried tomatoes, popped it into the oven, and soon it was perfectly moist and warm. However, a chicken breast stuffed with cara-melized onions, spinach, and goat cheese was rolled too thick to completely reheat without becoming a bit dry on the outside. We loved the apple pizza: a thick slice of thinly sliced apples layered with sugar and cinnamon covered with two inches of nut-laden crumble topping. 5757 Lovers Lane, 214-351-3366,$-$$
City Harvest This neighborhood favorite is open every day and-even on weekdays- serves real morning food. Downtowners take note: Oak Cliff is easy for lunch (buy a bag of Zapp’s chips and a triple chocolate chunk cookie to go with the pesto chicken salad deluxe sandwich), and you can pick up dinner to go while you eat. 939 N. Edgefield Ave., 214-943-2630.$-$$.
Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-526-1515. $-$$.
Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food-there was never a problem with that. At night, when the blond, light-filled Cafe TuGogh features full table service, it’s on its way to becoming one of the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-526-4(170. $-$$.
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. $.
Sigel’s Fresh Market. Besides the stellar cheese counter, dozens of kinds of imported pasta. great selection of olive oils, and other gourmet comestibles, the little deli adjoining Sigel’s liquor store sells perhaps the best roast chicken to go in town. And it’s a deal, too. 15003 Inwood Rd., 972-387-9804. $.
Ziziki’s. You can hardly get a prime-lime table
at this contemporary Greek cafe, and they don’t take reservations, except for large parties. But the herbed lamb souvlaki, folded in thick warm pita and sauced with tart yogurt, is worth a wait. Ziziki’s menu has featured the same idiosyncratic version of Mediterranean food since it opened-it’s a good thing when some things don’t change. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122.214-521-2233.$$.
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. $.
Casa Linda Cafeteria. The hairnet is alive in Casa Linda, behind the virtually endless counter at this culinary heir to the Highland Park Cafeteria. We are always amazed at the quantity of food selections here-a dozen salads. 30 entrees (even though too many of them are 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. $.
Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. Entrées run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast to fried chicken, all accompanied by an endless supply of vegetables. Don’t worry if your entree seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln? 214-351-5681.$.
DC’s Cafe. You’ve been in powder rooms bigger than this super-clean little place, but you’ve had home cooking this tine only in your dreams of classic soul-food plate lunches a! penny-ante prices. Pork chops, meatloaf, catfish et at come with three sides; business is about half-and-half eat-in and takeout, and we’ve never seen the room empty of patrons. 8224 Park Ln., 214-363-4348. $.
Poor Richard’s Cafe. Honest home-cooked food, featuring a huge spread of the one meal Mom told you never to leave home without-breakfast. 2442 Ave. K at Park Boulevard, Piano, 972-423-1524. $.
D BEST Bombay Cricket Club. Lunch buffets are an Indian restaurant tradition, and Bombay Cricket Club’s lineup is excellent. A pretty setting, unfailingly polite service, and excellent food make this one of the top Indian restaurants in town. The quality is steady at lunch, which for some restaurants seems to be a time not to try very hard. 2508 Maple Ave., 214-871-1333.$-$$.
India Palace. Delicate spices imbue truly fine Indian cuisine. And, similar to a fine perfume, too much is an assault on the senses, too little and there’s no magic. India Palace has kept the proper balance for nearly a decade and .shows no signs of slowing down. 12817 Preston Rd., Ste. 105,972-392-0190.$-$$.
Angelo’s Italian Grill. When you think of classic Italian favorites, what triggers your Pavlovian response? Lasagna? Spaghetti? Scampi? Chicken parmesan? Pizza? This homey place has it all. Each meal comes with a Caesar salad and out-of-the-oven garlic rolls. The wine list is extensive, even by the glass. 6341 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5566. $.
Campisi’s Egyptian. It’s dark, outdated, and frankly, a dump. The food is predictable and mostly pedestrian, except the famous pizza. But all an institution has to do in order to succeed is endure. Dallas loves Campisi’s and has for decades. Cash or check only. 5610 E. Mockingbird Ln? 214-827-0355. $.
lane’s. The menu is priced per portion and per “la familia.” And it’s thoroughly Italian in that a “la familia” platter is plenty for a family, including parents, several children, grandparents. Vitello Pugliese. for example, is thickly breaded slices of veal, smothered in tomato sauce allegedly enriched with goal cheese and loaded with purple kalamata olives. 250 Spanish Village, 972-866-0888. $$.
D REVISITS Isola Goza. The parking lot just doesn’t help the ambience. But, frankly, neither does The Market in NorthPark Center. Of course, you wish there was an ocean instead of a parking lot, but you know that’s impossible. The best you could hope for from a restaurant in NorthPark is some retail compatibility. The thin-crusted pizza was the star of our last dinner-a perfectly proportioned layering of bread and topping, just held together with cheese. Fettuccine was unap-pealingly glued to the pasta bowl, with a thick red sauce that tasted complex and satisfying in spite of its pre-made appearance. Still, the fare at Isola Goza is sophisticated and good and deserves a better setting. The Market, NorthPark Center, Park Lane at Central Expressway, 214-691-0488. $$.
La Dolce Vita. Lakewood’s favorite wood-burning oven is as comfortable a place for pizza and wine as it is for pastry and coffee. The high-ceilinged room with tall windows is a good place to linger if the crowds don’t push you out. Service is unpretentious and friendly; pizzas and pastas are good but not weird. 1924 Abrams Pkwy., 214-821-2608. $-$$.
D BEST Mi Piaci. At all times, these hip-per-than-hip rooms are filled with people who look like they just stepped off the fashion pages. The menu focuses on classic Tuscan cuisine, with homemade pasta, made-to-order risotto, and superb breads. You’ll always see waiters expertly deboning the tender Dover sole for savvy diners. Our only complaint: The noise level can get pretty high. 14854 Montfort Dr., 972-934-8424. $$.
Modo Mio. “”Cucina Rustica Italiana” off the Dallas North Tollway. Charming decor, excellent staff, and innovative menu. Gnocchi Modo Mio isn’t Rome, but it beats the pants off local imitations, and the tiramisu has the perfect proportion of mascarpone to ladyfin-gers. The overall service is efficient and unobtrusive-this packed restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. 18352 Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 112, 972-671 -MODO. $$.
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. $$.
Ruggeri’s. It could be that success at its newer Addison spinoff has cos! the Uptown original its reputation for dependably fine Italian dining. The formerly flawless food has been less consistent lately: The veal chop was huge and tender, but zabaglione was too much more than froth. The crowd is festive as always. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-7377; 5348 Belt Line Rd. 972-726-9555. $$-$$$.
Toscana. You’ll gladly pay top dollar for Executive Chef David Holben’s fancy versions of Tuscan-based dishes. Appetizers alone are worth the visit: Pan-seared, lemon-thyme calamari is light and delicious, and lightly creamed grilled com soup with toasted pine nuts is reminiscent of the hearty Tuscan soups of Florence. Indulge in tiramisu bread pudding with a Frangelico anglaise sauce. 4900 McKinney Ave., 214-521-2244.$$.
Vitto’s. Oak Cliff and Oak Lawn Vitto’s have the same minimalist interior-mirrors, sculptural iron screens, questionable art, and laminate tables. The menu attempts several ambitious dishes-including some veal preparations-but most people stick to the pasta and pizza. We like the “different” pizzas: one topped with spinach, goat cheese, and red peppers; the other with garlic, spinach, bacon, and pepperoni. 3211 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-522-9955; 316 W. 7th St., 214-946-1212. $-$$.
Chaya. Cold beer and warm, salted edamame- so much better than pretzels-will make you happy to start. Sushi is consistently good, even the beginner sushi rolls: Rich salmon skin centers contrast nicely with the very sticky rice. For non-sushi lovers, the skewers from the robata-yaki (grill) are good, especially the chicken chunks of moist thigh meat and cubes of succulent swordfish. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-361-0220. $$.
Deep Sushi. Remember thai American sushi is as much style as substance, and you’ll be happy here. There’s a lotta style, and even some good sushi, if you fish carefully. Watch out for the dragon lady roll, a combination of tuna, avocado, and rice flashed with incendiary wasabi, red pepper sauce, and Japanese yellow mustard wrapped in seaweed and sliced. 2624 Elm St., 214-651-1177. $$-$$$.
Sen ice tends to from sublime to abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. at Parker Road. Piano, 972-881-0328. $$.
Rock & Roll Sushi. Rock ’n’ roll is here to stay, and obviously, so is sushi. Rock & Roll Sushi’s California concept is part fish, part gimmick. Around the circular bar is a stream with a flotilla of lacquered boats bearing sushi. The things we like best are the least traditional, and at lunch, the bento boxes are a good deal. 6109-B Berkshire Ln., 214-987-1966.$$-$$$.
Sushi on McKinney. One of the first sushi bars in Dallas to cash in on the ’80s notion that sushi is cool, Sushi on McKinney remains a popular stop for everything from introductory hand rolls to more esoteric Eastern concoctions. And, somehow, the scene here has stayed cool, even in the un-hip ’90s. 4502 McKinney Ave., 214-521-0969.$-$$.
Sushi Sake. Sushi Sake is half-hidden in a Fleetwood Square strip that we’d call hard to Find if so many aficionados weren’t finding it. Many of them are admirers from chef-owner Takashi Soda’s former days as sushi chef of Nakamoto in Piano, and they find here a warmly upbeat ambience, willing attendance to every need, an arresting selection of sakes, hot and cold-and of course, good food. 220 W. Campbell Rd., 972-470-0722. $$.
D BEST Teppo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the city’s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination as well. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modem decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials. 2014 Greenville Ave., 214-826-8989. $$-$$$.
Adelmo’s. Some go for the food, some go for the intimacy, but almost everybody finds a rea-son to go back to this well-hidden gem. Service is unhurried and patient, and the wine list varied and reasonable. Entrées and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that will hold your attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes had been devoured. 4537 Cole Ave., 214-559-0325. $$.
The Bistro. Don’t restrict dinner to a single starter, entrée, and dessert. That option’s still on the menu at this quiet restaurant, but so’s the opportunity to sample more than 30 hot and cold teasers of every Mediterranean sort, plus daily specials. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at In wood Road. 214-352-1997.$-$$.
D BEST Mediterraneo. The Quadrangle location will probably be the prototype for future Mediterraneos. It’s a pretty restaurant, stylishly minimalist but surprisingly warm and welcoming, and the food-a balance of old and new ideas-is hard to find fault with. Crusts are all the rage: Halibut is mysteriously crab crusted, salmon has a polenta crust, and lamb is crusted with goat cheese. The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St., 214-979-0002; 18111 Preston Rd. at Frankford Road. Ste. 120, 972-447-0066. $$-$$$.
Sambuca. Both locations are vibrant restaurants featuring innovative Mediterranean cuisine for those who enjoy their meals with jazz. Each presents well-known groups seven nights a week, but the decibel level prohibits any casual dinner conversation during performances. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison, 972-385-8455; 2618 Elm St., 214-744-0820. $$.
D BEST Avila’s. This is the food you’d come home to if you could and leave home for if you must, starting with the eye-watering salsa. Beef tacos are brim-full of good, greaseless ground beef, and a plump enchilada is perfectly partnered with a soft cheese taco. The refried beans are outstanding. Service is pleasant; the restaurant is immaculate. 4714 Maple Ave., 214-520-2700. $.
Casa Rosa. There’s almost always a table avail-able at pink-tinted Casa Rosa, but only because the place is so big. The appeal of the food would pack a smaller place. Casa Rosa does well with standards-except the chimi-changa-but the finds here are the more unusual dishes like goat cheese chile relleno and mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village, 214-350-5227.$.
Chuy’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. $.
El Norte. The decor varies from the authentic look of specials painted directly on the walls to cheesy plastic flamingos in the flower boxes, but some solidly good food comes out of the kitchen. This is a great family spot with a reasonable, all-you-can-eat special. 2205 W. Parker Rd., Piano, 972-596-6783. $.
Herrera’s. In the early ’70s, we used to grab a six-pack and line up on the sidewalk around the original Alamo-like Herrera’s on Maple Avenue waiting for one of nine tables and a No. 10: one tostada with guacamole, one cheese enchilada, and a soft cheese taco. Twenty-five years and six locations later, they continue to serve the same No. 10, along with other reliable Tex-Mex favorites, in tacky surroundings. 4001 Maple Ave., 214-528-9644; 5427 Denton Dr.. 214-630-2599; 2853 W. Illinois Ave., 214-330-6426; 1905 N. Josey Ln., 972-242-4912; 9404 Ovella Ave., 214-956-0150; 3790 Belt Line Rd., 972-488-2202. $.
Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Javier’s lives up to its own high standards. Entrées range from excellent seafood dishes to tender cabrito, though some regulars never stray from the legendary filet Durango. 4912 Cole Ave., 214-521-421l. $$.
La Calle Doce. Far from slicker Belt Line and Greenville Avenue eateries, this old house is home to some seriously good Mexican-style seafood. Sit on the porch and dine on a spicy gazpacho-like octopus cocktail served in huge goblets or shrimp, stuffed with crabmeat, covered with chili con queso and tasting much better than it sounds. 415 W. 12th St., 214-941-4304.$-$$.
Las Cazuelas. This tiny East Dallas jewel serves up marvelous food, starting with the killer salsa that’s made with fresh cilantro, onion, and tomato essences. On Mondays, the special caldo de res, chunky with beef and vegetables, is fabulous, as is the super-hot chile relleno. 4933 Columbia Ave.. 214-827-1889.$.
La Valentina. A taste of big city Mexico in suburbia. The beautiful menu makes fascinating reading that doesn’t always translate to the plate. The polio en mole poblano tops chicken with a sensuous sauce that includes 54 types of chilies, spices, and a touch of chocolate, resulting in a richly layered smoky-sweet flavor. Forget that fascinating menu when it’s time for dessert and ask for the flan. 14866 Montfort Dr., Addison. 972-726-0202. $$.
Martin’s Cocina. The kitchen here does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrées that weigh in at less than 1,000 calories each, including the four chiles rellenos. But only skimp if you want to-the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa, its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. 7726 Ferguson Rd., 214-319-8834.$-$$.
D BEST Matt’s Rancho Martinez, The place is filled with the faithful at every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517. $-$$.
Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution has dished up definitive Tex-Mex food to addicts who stand in line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enriquez satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with house specialties. Service is cheerful; the setting is no-frills comfortable. The bad news: beer and wine only. 4322 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-1020. $.
Mi Cocina. This chain has expanded so rapidly, you’d think Dallasites had just discovered Tex-Mex. But at all six locations, the food is dependably good and lines are still dependably long. The menu features upscale dishes in addition to basic tacos and enchiladas-tacos habanas are stuffed with chicken and covered with ground chili and cilantro; Latin stir-fry fajitas provide a new option for vegetarians. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-265-7704; 77 Highland Park Village. 214-521-6426; 18352 Dallas Pkwy. at Frankford Road. 972-250-6426; 7201 Skillman St., 214-503-6426; The Galleria. 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ Freeway. 972-239-6426; 509 Main St., Fort Worth. 817-877-3600.$-$$.
Monica Aca Y Alla. This cool place has been around long enough to be a tradition in these days of restaurants that open and close-especially in Deep Ellum. The ambitious menu offers intriguing Southwestern-inspired options as well as more standard Tex-Mex, in a hip and hopping ambience. 2914 Main St.. 214-748-7140.$$.
Nuevo Leon. Excellent Mex-Mex food in a comfortable old Greenville Avenue location draws a mixed crowd but enthusiastic reviews, Cabrito is good, mole is excellent, carnitas are the best. 2013 Greenville Ave., 214-887-8148; 12895 Josey Ln., 972-488-1984. $-$$.
Omega. It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega. But fortunately Omega is also a great place to lunch, and it’s even a comfortable place to eat alone. This friendly little cafe on a Deep Ellum side street serves a complimentary cup of chile con queso with the wanned salsa and tostados. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food. 212 N. Crowdus St., 214-744-6842. $.
Pope & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of the best in town. 2935 Elm St., 214-741-1901. $.
Piano Tortilla Factory, If you live in Piano, then this little place should be on the top of your list for a quick bite, takeout, or delivery. Piano Tortilla Factory’s appeal doesn’t end with the food-the friendly owner is quick to strike up a conversation and make you feel welcome. Low prices are a bonus, too. 1009 E. 18th St., Piano. 972-423-6980. $.
D REVISITS Prime’s. The after-hours chefs’ hangout is everyone’s favorite Tex-Mex joint all the time. The long bar encourages a Cheers-like cameraderie and the kitchen produces cantina-quality food. The tiny tacos are particularly terrific, but enchiladas, flautas, and guacamole are good. too. And if you’re not very hungry, this is just the place to while away a margarita. 3309 McKinney Ave, 214-220-0510. $
Rafa’s. One Dallas institution replaced another when Raphael’s (now Rafa’s) opened in Mr. Peppe’s old space on Lovers Lane. The arched brick wine cellar is bright orange, and the pastoral Swiss view has been replaced by pictures of many Aztec gods and one happy tomato. The place could still use a few velvet paintings, but the tablescape is complete: Light. fresh chips, vinegary salsa, and fast margaritas are the intro to a meal that’s quintessential Dallas Mexican. 5617 W. Lovers Ln.. 214-357-2080. $-$$.
Rodolfo’s. Start with the home-fried chips, huge half-tortilla rounds served with a full-bodied salsa. Then try the Big Tex-Mex dinner or the Number 0 (yes, they start numbering at zero). The star on the Number 0 plate is the Idaho enchiladas made of, yes. mashed potatoes, pleasantly spiced and available with a choice of seven different sauces. 2002 S. Edgefield Ave., 214-942-1211.$.
Ali Baba. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley and adorned with slick olives. Thai and a stack of hot pita could do you. but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh, mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulgur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8235.$-$$.
Basha. Basha was one of the first in the wave of Middle Eastern restaurants that have opened in Dallas in the last few years. And it remains one of the best of a good lot. The menu is less predictable than many of Dallas’ Lebanese restaurants, offering dishes outside the usual selection of hummus, baba ghanoush. rice, and grilled everything. Breast of chicken breaded in crushed pistachios is an excellent idea-so is fragrant lamb shank, cooked till it is stew on the bone. OK. hummus is good. too. 2217 Greenville Ave., 214-824-7794. $$.
Cafe Istanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gets cozy at night, but those who tolerate early evening daylight are rewarded with a happy hour. Solid service tops off a superb all-around experience. 5450 W. Lovers Ln., Ste. 222, 214-902-0919.$-$$.
D BEST Cafe Izmir. A unique dining experi-ence: In this popular and charming little cafe, diners choose a vegetarian or a meat-based meal rather than ordering from a menu. And then a parade of delightful food appears-lemon-zested tabbouleh, hummus. Mediterranean cole slaw, pita quarters, grilled kabob tubes of ground beef and marinated chicken, and lamb. A scarce Greek red wine called Boutari Maossa is a happy find here, and the sweet Turkish coffee in fragile cups is as irresistible as the desserts. 3711 Greenville Ave., 214-826-7788. $$.
D BEST Marrakesh. Just what is Mora cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful, The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu-is a bargain at $25.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and finger-cymbales her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104. $$.
Americus on Preston. The setting is only so-so, but chef Michael McMullen turns out American food with a southern spin that transcends the dolled-up strip-mall location. Lamb chops over blue cheese grits, roast chicken with thyme-mashed potatoes, and minted creme brulee were the opposite of the decor: fresh and imaginative. Live music could make Americus a one-stop for weekend evenings. 19009 Preston Rd., 972-381-0028.$S$
Antares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-high, revolving restaurant appears to be rinding its wings at last. Huge sea scallops were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a roasted shallot vinaigrette. Reunion Tower, 300 Reunion Blvd., 214-651-1234. $$$.
Anzu. The Nakamotos spent a considerable amount of money to alter Anzu’s entrance so its feng shui would be perfectly balanced. Maybe it helps the consistently balanced flavors in the bento boxes. Lunch at this orientally inclined restaurant has always been one of the best deals in town-a beautiful arrangement of tempura and sushi or a plate of Asian-influenced fish or chicken, served gracefully, under a flock of origami birds, for less than $ 10. 4620 McKinney Ave., 214-526-7398. $$.
Beau Nash. The genteel bustle of a world-class hotel makes dinner at this restaurant seem like a special occasion. Good picks: a portobello tart or moist-hearted Atlantic salmon. Bad pick: a salad of Belgian endive and unforgivably dry and yellow mache. Service throughout is immaculate and thoughtful. Hotel Crescent Court, 2215 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-3240.$$-$$$.
City Cafe. This California-inspired, mostly family-run cafe opened over a dozen years ago but remains in the top tier of Dallas restaurants. The charming but dim dining room is furnished with cottage antiques, and the food is classic, with a wake-up flash of invention. Fresh tomato basil soup is famous. The service is confident and careful, and the American wine list is one of the best in town. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-2233.$$.
D REVISITS Dakota’s. The pad of paper and pen beside the plate are the first clue to Dakota’s lunchtime target. That’s if you didn’t notice the standard lunchtime uniforms around every table-pin-stripes preferred. This handsome, underground restaurant has been No. I with Dallas’ busi-ness-for-lunch bunch since it opened nearly 15 years ago. It’s a sign of the times that the num-ber of men and women is nearly equal now, but pinstripes still prevail. The menu is corre-spondingly conservative, focusing on grilled meats and predictable pastas, with imaginative New American touches on some dishes, like the venison sausage in the quesadillas and the tortilla crust on the halibut. There are also some odd touches, like the pineapple muffins offered as one of the breads from the hot box hung like an accordion around a server’s neck. The surf and turf combination could have used, not more imagination, but attention-the steak was too tough to cut and too flavorless to chew. It would have been better business, perhaps, to pay a little more for a better piece of meat. 600 N. Akard St., 214-740-4001. $$.
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.$$-$$$.
Laurels. Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Sheraton Park Central’s 20th floor. Incomprehensible dishes like pear soup with plum wine crème fra?che don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. You have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate and the results are brilliant. Sheraton Park Central. 12720 Merit Dr., 972-385-3000. $$$.
The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner, it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining lives up to its legend-the atmosphere is inimitably posh, the food is predictably innovative. The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd.. 214-526-2121. $$$.
Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food-there was never a problem with that. At night, when the blond, light-filled Cafe TuGogh features full table service, it’s on its way to becoming one of the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-4070. $-$$.
The Mercury. This New American grill in Preston Forest tries a little too hard: The sleek interior, designer-dim lighting, and jazzy soundtrack all seem a little too Manhattan. The service, though, is enthusiastic and professional beyond expectation. But there is a gap between the food promised by the menu and the dishes delivered. Tuna at lunch is nicely cooked but the pappardelle with roasted chicken tastes like leftovers. 1991 Forest Ln., Ste. 1418, 972-960-7774. S$-$$$.
Nana Grill. The new menu broadens Nana’s focus from Southwestern to Regional American. Service is supremely suave and caring, the accouterments define luxe, and the ambience is as comfortably refined as always in this upscale establishment. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel Tower. 2201 Stemmons Fwy., 214-761-7479. $$$.
Natchez. This restaurant is low-key and upbeat at the same time. Warm ambience and service convey the feel of a comfortable neighborhood gathering place with a short but sophisticated Southern-rooted bill of fare. Grilled pork loin in créole mustard sauce Is subtly terrific, and huge sea scallops are pure delight. 2810 N. Henderson Ave., 214-821-4552. $$,
Rooster. The room is as easily gracious as a family dining room. And the staff offers natu-rally Southern-style hospitality. The traditional Senate bean soup is authentic-substantial and scented with smoky ham-and the bread-basket is filled with corn muffins and bacon biscuits. The catfish, thick and white as cake. is crusted with molasses and pecans, then sauced with brown butter. 3521 Oak Grove Ave., 214-521-1234.$$$.
Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plates here present classic ideas with imagina-tive updates. The menu is varied but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd.. 214-265-7389. $$.
AquaKnox. Stephan Pyles’ swanky seafood spot has commanded national attention, and the swell decor and meticulous food mostly merit it. Luscious red snapper in red curry masa is an example of the global approach to seafood. The rich and the wannabes are sipping bright blue Aquatinis in the elegant lounge, eating from a simpler menu that includes platters of fresh shrimp, oysters, clams, and small-plate versions of the dinner entrees, an excellent option for those who want a taste of the high life without the high tab. 3214 Knox St., 214-219-2782.$$$.
Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas” most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. Menu favorites like calamari, clam chowder, Caesar salad, salmon, and red snapper are superbly prepared and presented by an experienced waitstaff. 24 Highland Park Village. 214-526-1170. $$-$$$.
Daddy Jack’s. Chef Jack Chaplin’s tiny restaurant with its casual, cozy atmosphere is perfect for a date or for breezing in after a day at the lake. But forget about atmosphere. What we’re really talking about is fantastic, though richly prepared, seafood. Also worth noting are the relaxed, efficient service and fair prices: The experience is worth every penny. 1916 Greenville Ave., 214-826-4910. $$.
Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill. This Jack Chaplin restaurant offers lively service and food that manage to combine homey familiarity with twists of near-elegance. For example, a grilled red snapper topped with shrimp and lobster brandy could grace a tonier table, but here it’s served with an ear of com. 2723 Elm St., 214-653-3949. $$.
Fish. This elegant downtown spot got very hot very fast, and it may have gone to their heads. Not only have we seen inconsistencies in the food, but service has been snooty. When they’re on, the acclaimed Green Soup-a shallow bowl piled high with shells, legs, and tails protruding recklessly from a broth-is divine. Late-night menu from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 302 S. Houston St., 214-747-3474. $$-$$$.
D BEST Lombardi Mare. Don’t be put off by the nondescript exterior; the interior is a mind-blower. Lighting fixtures designed to appear like a school of fish swim across the ceiling. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels, and lobster, and finish with Tuscan pudding. 5100 Belt Line Rd.. Addison, 972-503-1233.$$..
Picardys Shrimp Shop. New American inventiveness at family-style prices. Picardys finds a regional inspiration for most of its mostly shrimp dishes: Coconut tempura shrimp are tender, juicy, and pleasantly sweet; a side of honey-sour sauce added a potent bite. Grilled shrimp nachos, with shrimp, black beans, white cheese, and salsa, were light and chewy. Picardys’ kid-friendly atmosphere is a plus. 6800 Snider Plaza, 214-373-4099. $-$$.
S&D Oyster Company. Serving fresh seafood in an authentic New Orleans atmosphere for more years than we care to remember, S&D has become a mainstay of quality. 2701 McKinney Ave., 214-880-0111. $$.
Blue Mesa. Blue Mesa has become a dining mainstay, faithful to its Southwest mission and consistently good. Adobe pie, the signature dish, is a treat, the bowl-shaped mound of cornmeal enclosing a stew-like filling of seasoned chicken. Guacamole, barely seasoned and creamy, is some of the best in town. Our only quibble is the Blue Mesa margarita: We want to be warned when we’re going to be served a blue drink-so we can order something else. Village on the Parkway, Tollway at Belt Line Road. 972-934-0165. $-$$.
Flying Burro. The Burro’s brand of Mexican food isn’t purely New Mexican-there’s more meat and cheese richness on this menu than most New Mexicans (except those from California) can afford to relish. Enchiladas are stacked and come topped with an egg. 2831 Greenville Ave., 214-827-2112. $.
No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Matt’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr. is a legend-in his own neighborhood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr., 214-328-9078. $$-$$$.
D REVISITS Sam’s Cafe The southwestern theme seems a little dated now, and Sam’s has long since lost the cachet it had when it opened. The celebrity luster it had when Mariel Hemingway was nursing her baby there is gone, but its convenient location at the Crescent means it’s still popular with local business types and out-of-towners. The menu is mostly main-streamed New Southwest, food that succeeds more with heft than invention. The southwest pot roast, for instance, which filled a dinner plate and two later lunches, was a hunk of tender beef allegedly spiced with chili and sided with a mountain of mashed potatoes. Sedona spring roils were more questionable, a novelty item that wrapped flour tortillas around chopped chicken and vegetables with an unpleasantly smooth barbecue sauce. Still, our waiter was personable and friendly, and if I was from out of town and didn’t know where to eat in Dallas, Sam’s would do. Sam’s Cafe, 100 Crescent Court, 214-555-2233 $$
D BEST Star Canyon. Chef-owner Stephan Pyles has created a Dallas destitution with his innovative New Texas Cuisine. An appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made moz-zarella is a rare case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. And the bone-in cowboy rib-eye on a bed of pinto beans and covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’ top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. $$.
Barcelona. Tapas in Spain, of course, are Spanish food. Greenville Avenue is global. So Barcelona serves snack food from all over the world, such as chicken satay, mezes, and tab-bouleh, as well as the stacked potato omelet that is the quintessential Spanish tapa and the buffalo burger-juicy and lean on a toasted roll. 2100 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-8600. $.
Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas bar remains its best and everybody knows it, Even midweek, this little two-room restaurant has customers waiting at the bar for one of the mismatched tables in the storefront space. For those who insist, there is a prix-fixe, three-course dinner menu, but Cafe Madrid is a great place to linger over a succession of small dishes. 4501 Travis St., 214-528-1731-$$.
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. $$-$$$.
D BEST Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House. Prime riband a trimmed-to-lean ribeye are robustly rare and complemented with garlic mashed potatoes. Figure in service that is, if not clairvoyant, almost uncannily empathetic, and you’ll have some grasp of the comfortable ambience that keeps this cigar-friendly outpost filled even on weekday evenings. 5330 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467.$$-$$$.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. Filets are virtually perfect, fashioned from cuts of meat as thick as couch cushions, and the wine list is varied. Even the vegetables are great. Not for the faint of pocketbook, but it’s worth serious consideration when you’re in the mood to blow it out red-meat style. 5251 Spring Valley Rd.. 972-490-9000. $$-$$$.
Kirby’s Steakhouse. Unlike the in-town reincarnation of the 1950s original, this vast place has Piano-style prosperity written all over it-upscale splendor with a midscale attitude. The menu’s the same, though- mostly steaks, with the usual few seafood and fowl entrées, plus starters and a list of à la carte sides. 3408 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-867-2122; 3525 Greenville Ave.. 214-821-2122.$$.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The steaks are served sizzling with butter, and although you have to order side dishes à la carte, most of them will serve two. There is a huge wine list, and for serious grape lovers, the restaurant has a wine room for tastings. 5922 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-902-8080; 17840 Dallas Pkwy,, 972-250-2244. $$$.
Chow Thai. A strip shopping center doesn’t seem a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll have one here. Excellent Thai classics like vegetables in a fiery green curry and pad Thai taste clean and light. A dessert of fresh mango atop sticky rice is a spectacular ending. 5290 Beltline Rd. at Montfort Drive, Addison, 972-960-2999. $$.
Liberty. Annie Wong, the mother of Thai food in Dallas, still owns three all-Thai restaurants, but Liberty is where her imagination is freed. Romantically and softly lit, with beaded candleshades on each table and bamboo birdcages animated with twinkling Christmas lights, the brightly lit kitchen makes Liberty into real dinner theater, and Wong is the star. What makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alta Ave., 214-887-8795. $$.
Royal Thai, Furnished with ornate Thai antiques and traditional arts. Royal Thai is a pleasantly upscale change from the starkly serviceable interiors of so many Thai restaurants. Chicken packets are wrapped in tenderizing banana leaves. Curries are fragrant and benefit from their presentation under a little domed top. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave., 214-691-3555.$-$$.
Toy’s Cafe. This hole-in-the-wall joint has all the elements of a great neighborhood “find.” The tantalizing aroma of curry and garlic is welcoming. Thai iced tea is a hit; eggplant and tofu in a Thai green curry coconut milk is perfectly prepared. Fresh squid salad with Thai herbs is fresh and tasty. 4422-B Lemmon Ave., 214-528-7233. $.
Mai’s. Mai’s is one of those places that has lots of loyal customers. The menu is stocked with authentic Vietnamese specialties, including lots of noodle and rice entrées and the classic hot pots: exotic meats, vegetables, and spices cooked and served in clay pots. Be sure and try the legendary Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. 4812 Bryan St., 214-826-9887.$.
Mai’s Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened the first Vietnamese restaurant in Dallas, and her food is still terrific at her little restaurant in Snider Plaza. The hot pots are especially good–“hot chic” is the regulars’ favorite. 6912 Snider Plaza. 214-361-8220. $-$$.
Saigon Bistro. Authentic Vietnamese food translated into English. Saigon Bistro aims for the authenticity of a point-and-order Vietnamese restaurant, without the risk. The menu lets you know what to expect, and this is one of the only places in town that serves “festive beef,” a special occasion dinner in Vietnam-one you shouldn’t miss. 17390 Preston Rd., Ste. 490, 972-380-2766. $-$$.
Angela’s Barbecue. The Fort Worth landmark is one of the bookends of Dallas-Fort Worth area barbecue, its Dallas counterpart being the original Sonny Bryan’s. Famous for fabulous ribs smoked so tender the meat falls off the bone at the slightest nudge from the incisors, which are properly enjoyed with a couple of Shiners. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth, 817-332-0357. $.
Angeluna. Come to see and be seen, but not heard. The food somewhat redeems the jack-hammer decibel levels. The “one-world-cuisine” features multicultural dishes with arty presentations. Don’t miss Joe’s Shrimp Pae-sano-lightly breaded jumbo prawns sautéed in vodka-lemon butter. Skip the goat’s milk ice cream and splurge on the Key lime tart. 215 E. 4th St., Fort Worth, 817-334-0080. $$.
Benito’s. Like an old familiar friend, Benito’s
appearance may be spruced up from time to time, but some things never change-like the food. The queso flameado, with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and served with fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or com tortillas. Order it first and then spend some time with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth. 817-332-8633. $$.
Bistro Louise. This gem of a bistro offers takeout now, but the staff seems curiously challenged by the idea. The famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin travel well, but even delicate reheating of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals fails to restore it. Savored in the sunny bistro, the cuisine works Mediterranean magic. 2900 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth, 817-922-9244.$$.
Cacharel. With country French decor, this fixed-price ($34.50) refuge easily tops Arlington’s dining scene, such as it is, with its ninth-floor business building location as well as its New French cuisine. 2221 E. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 910. Metro 817-640-9981. $$$.
Daddio’s Downtown Nearly Jazz Cafe. The Greek salad is the best in town, and the rest of the menu gives a unique Texas tone to classic Greek specialties. Breakfast and lunch only, except on Friday and Saturday, when you can listen to music while enjoying dinner. 715 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-926-7000. $.
Forest Park Cafe. A Franco-Texan neighborhood bistro atmosphere with a quaint menu that features crêpes and patés, as well as sandwiches and vegetable ravioli with roasted tomato sauce. Stellar Saturday and Sunday brunches have become a West Side tradition. 2418 Forest Park Blvd., 817-921-4567. $.
Joe T. Garcia’s Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery. Although not as fancy as its cousin around the corner, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to tamales. Breakfast is a work of art here. And on your way out, the bakery, in an alcove off the dining room, sells traditional Mexican breads, rolls, and sweet rolls. 2122 N. Main St., Fori Worth, 817-626-5770. $$.
D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restau-rant. Its location near the Stockyards is a rambling plantation that can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-626-4356. $$.
Kincaid’s. The truth is that a Kincaid’s hamburger is too big to get your mouth around and too good not to try. Lunching business types stand hip to hip with blue-collared brethren at counters or share benches at tables to inhale half-pound patties of choice chuck that are ground, hand-shaped, and grilled daily. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd.. Fort Worth, 817-732-2881. $.
D BEST Reata. The flavors purveyed (upscale, ranch contemporary I are crisp and deftly defined. With a good wine list, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a thick glaze of Western decor (including a menu finished in leather), you’d have to be a pretty crusty cowboy not to be roped in. 35th floor. Bank One Tower, 500 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-336-1009.$$-$$$.
Reflections. Surely among the most gracefully romantic dining settings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Worthington Hotel’s flagship restaurant in downtown Fort Worth offers a refined escape from high-decibel stress. Intuitive service and avant bill of fare live up to the ambience. Delicate pan-seared foie gras with sautéed apples and grilled, whiskey-sauced ostrich medallions with red lentil risotto are representative of the kitchen’s inventions. 200 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-882-1660 or 800-433-5677. $$$.
Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, country French atmosphere is charming and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St.. Fort Worth. 817-727-2781. $$$.
Sundance Deli & Market. There’s no better spot in Sundance Square for a casual, imaginative meal-the rare restaurant that’s quick enough for just a bite, but whose smart decor, great coffee, and excellent food make it perfect for lingering. 353 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 817-335-3354.$.
Water Street Seafood Company. Although Fort Worth is landlocked, there’s still serviceable seafood to be had. The dining room could use a few more walls and a few less tables, but plenty of daily specials supplement a range of regular entrées that would make a coastal restaurant proud. 1540 S. University Dr., Ste. 120, Fort Worth, 817-877-3474. $$.
Through the Grapevine
The Stoneleigh Hotel, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, looks like the perfect setting for “Clue”: (The butler did it. In the secret room.) So it’s not much of a surprise to find out there was a mystery in the old hotel: a secret room untouched since its creation more than 50 years ago. Now the “Grape Room,” named for the carved paneling, is available for private dinners and events.
The Stoneleigh Hotel, 214-871-2523
Because of The Food Channel, cooking is the hottest national pastime even for armchair enthusiasts. For more active types with Emeril-like aspirations. You Tou-Can Cook in Preston Center offers all kinds of hands-on cooking classes for adults and children. Groceries, recipes, and equipment are all provided.
You Tou-Can Cook, 214-346-9090.
Frrozen Hot Chocolate, the near-addictive concoction from the legendary ice cream boutique Serendipity in New York City, is extremely seductive: Two couples have gotten married in a bathtub filled with the stuff. Now, for the first time, Frrozen Hot Chocolate is available in Dallas. The Tie-Coon In Preston Center East sells it in kits, complete with mix and sundae dish so you can try its indescribable deliciousness at home. Near your bathtub.
Tie Coon Trading Co., 4015 Villanova (Preston Center East), 214-369-3437.