Tuesday, August 9, 2022 Aug 9, 2022
82° F Dallas, TX

Restaurant Reviews

By D Magazine |


Move over, Campisi’s. Patrizio’s signature crab claws Just took first place h the crab daws competition. Chef Brad Alters daims that his recipe for success is “So simple it’s sickening.” “A little lemon, a lot of garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper” is only part of the story. The key is his “crab man,” who patrols the Texas shores for Texas blue crabs (the season is peaking now) and loads up his Suburban or a Southwest Airlines cargo crate, depending on the dairy catch, and delivers them (even on Sundays) to Albers’ kitchen door. Soft and delicate, they slip off the exoskeleton and mett in your mouth like, well, butter. There seemed to be a thousand claws on the plate, and when they were gone we sopped up the sauce with bread. Oh, yes-we N eat dinner. We tried the new chicken and mushroom lasagna (good, but rich), the baked ziti ( we had leftovers for breakfast), and the open-faced ravioli (sounded like a bad idea but was surprisingly light and tasty). The Gaesar salad was sent back because it was too salty-we could actually see the salt on the lettuce. Our gentle waiter replaced it with a delicious cheese plzza served on a silver tray-not exactly the perfect piece for our day’s food pyramid, but good. The prices aren’t what you’d expect with Escada and Calvin Klein just a kiss away; they’re dictated by food costs, sometimes rather oddly-Linguine Primavera costs $8.01. When you see the bot torn line on the bill, you realize this is not a gimmick. Highland Park Village, Mockingbird at Preston, 214-522-7B78. $$



It seems self-explanatory: “Salsa, Smoke, and Sizzle” is how Tin Star bills itself. But inside, wediscovered this new Uptown restaurant was anything but simple. The folks behind Tin Star have tried hard to find the next concept that can play Peoria-and they seem to have thought of everything. Except the customer. Choosing an item from this menu is as complicated as deciding on a pair of running shoes. You can have too many choices.

So we walked in and stood there awhile, trying to ligure out what to do next. A triangle roped off in front of the main part of the counter made us think that Tin Star had table service, but there were menus on each stanchion, making us think it was a self-serve operation. There are two cash registers at the bar, one with no sign and the other, six feet away, with a sign that reads “Pick Up and ReOrders”. Re-order? Totally confused, we were rescued by a nice lady who motioned for us to order at the bar and recommended several dishes. By this time? we felt slightly pressured by the line forming behind us, and unfortunately, the menu made ordering incredibly complicated. For example: “#18-Big Spring Chicken-West Texas fried chicken sautéed with mushrooms, thick chopped bacon, and lemon butter, then drizzled with pureed chipo-tle and served with integrated (black and white) beans and very tiny round pasta.”

This place doesn’t need a chef-it needs an editor.

And a traffic cop.

After we ordered, we were given an electric coaster, which we had to juggle with the bowl of chips and the bowls for the salsa trolley. By the time of our second visit, they’d added trays to help us balance everything while we helped ourselves at the drink station all the way on the other side of the restaurant. And just as we had managed to get all this to a table, our coaster started flashing, so we had to go back to the counter to pick up our West Texas fried chicken sautéed with mushrooms, thick chopped bacon, and lemon butter then drizzled with pureed chipotle and served with integrated (black and white) beans and very tiny round pasta. We know that right now restaurant help is particularly difficult to find and keep, but this kind of Byzantine service ordeal is enough to make you stay home and cook.

The small, thin-crusted pizza we had was topped with a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce and dotted with chunks of grilled chicken and onions, then covered in jack cheese. The Big Spring chicken (see above) tasted far better than its Faulknerian description read: Lightly fried chicken strips sat on top of tiny round pasta that looked like BB’s, or big couscous, and the integrated beans-black and white- were firm and blended well with the chipotle sauce. Soft tacos filled with tempura shrimp, fruit pico de gallo, bacon, and cilantro were interesting, and the Thai taco stuffed with chicken, black beans, and julienne vegetables was good, too. It could have used a touch of hot chili oil. But the restaurant lost us again when we were served a cheeseburger taco-a big cheese-topped patty wrapped in a flour tortilla. We’re Texans; we agree that that almost everything tastes better wrapped in a tortilla. Almost. Tin Star, 2626 Howell St. (across from the Quadrangle), 214-999-0059. $.


One-world-on-a-plate food concepts can be confusing even to the experienced eater. So when the minds behind Soho formulated their food philosophy, they decided to keep it simple. Chef Chris Finch learned from his former boss Richard Chamberlain the concept of choosing one or two things and doing them well. So when he developed Soho’s menu. Finch picked two cuisines to feature. And instead of fusing them on the plates, Finch features Asian and Italian dishes on the menu.

Finch and Soho owner Hamid Moallem chose the name because the Soho area in New York represents a marriage of neighborhoods. Newly opened in the Okeanos space on the comer of Monfort and Belt Line (maybe the best dining corner in the city), Soho has been stripped of the yellow and aqua walls and been re-created as a sleek and sexy space. Stunning halogen spotlights beam laser patterns of fish on the walls, and there is a serpentine lacquered walk-up bar in the back. French doors along one wall open to a delightful patio, and dark black banquettes offer a more seductive place to sit.

In such a sophisticated setting-or anywhere, really-we felt a little silly ordering a pupu platter. We haven’t had pupu since the old Trader Vic days, but it came in a lovely round wooden bowl with a built-in Lazy Susan laden with beef satay marinated in peanut, huge tempura shrimp, and fresh vegetables wrapped in rice paper. The crisp initial flavor of fresh ginger finished with a pleasing spicy taste. The only disappointment was the cala-mari, which was thickly breaded in commeal, masking the flavor of the fish.

An entrée of hibachi filet mignon size-tuna was grilled to preference (ours was just slightly seared), a beautiful thick steak served on a bed of stir-fried vegetables in ponzu sauce, served with two towers of rice paper-wrapped wasabi mashed potatoes. “Mash of the day”-perhaps herbed mash or gorgonzola mash-once again illustrated the keep-it-simple concept. Our Italian selection was a penne pasta with grilled chicken and artichoke hearts-it sounds drab, but it was livened by a fresh tomato sauce with fresh garlic and sprightly tarragon. The Mahi Mahi is the dish that would lure us back to pseudo-Soho: its light ginger and lemongrass crust, grilled to tender, bedded on nutty red wehani rice and encircled with a soy-lemon sauce.

A great dining experience is the sum of a series of perfect details: Soho’s presentations were Zen-like and lovely. The Turkish-made stemware feels good in your hand, the tastes are clean and clear, and the service is zealous. We were probably recognized, so reluctantly we have to give Hamid points for being on the ball. An armagnac poached pear with toasted walnut and rice mascarpone cheese was our last taste of simple elegance done well. Soho, 5290 Bell Line Rd., Addison, 972-490-8686. $$.


No one cooks anymore. That’s just a fact. But at Genghis Grill, perhaps the only Mongolian barbecue in Dallas, you can pretend to cook.

It’s an odd, potentially risky set-up: You get a stainless steel bowl from the stack and choose your ingedients from a cafeteria line on ice. First, bins of raw chicken, lamb, beef, pork, shrimp, or tofu (kept quite cold), then bins of cut-up vegetables and your choice of sesame, canola, or olive oil, then a ladle of sauce (six choices) and a final sprinkle of dry seasonings (black pepper? chili? cumin?) before you give your bowl to the grillmaster. He tosses it on a giant round griddle (heated to 650 degrees) and cooks it quick, like Kobe steakhouse chefs do, then serves it back to you in the bowl with another one of rice, or a tortilla, if you prefer.

You go back to your table to taste your creation and presto!-you’re a restaurant critic. Too much soy? Next time, maybe, you should ladle on another dollop of Mongolian pepper sauce or garlic. Perhaps a little more crunch- bean sprouts? cabbage?-is what your dinner needs to be perfect. And maybe you blew it. What were you thinking, piling pineapple, lamb, and barbecue sauce on the same dish? That’s OK. Leave your bowl on the table and try again. Mongolian barbecue is all you can eat, one price for the meal.

It struck us as a strange concept, and somewhat awkward at first. We wanted to relax before dinner with a drink (all the wines are between $15 and $20 a bottle) and a nibble, but you have to go through the whole cooking ritual before you can do dial-just like home. Hey, is mis really dining out?

Anyway, you can spice your dinner with an Asian flavor, adopt a Southwest seasoning ’ philosophy, or stick with meat and potatoes-it’s up to you. We were pleased with our concoctions and impressed with our own cooking talent,and Genghis Grill provides some basic recipes for people who don’t know the difference between tamarind and teriyaki. Our recipe suggestion: Cook some pork with a handful of sesame seeds, snow peas, water chestnuts, red onion, and chili pepper, a ladle of sesame oil, and two ladles of gingery black bean sauce. Then wrap it in a tortilla. Genghis Grill, 1915 Greenville Ave., 214-841-9990. $-$$.


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 kiel-basa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection. Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world of meat, go first-class here. 6600 Snider Plaza, 214-987-9188. $.

Red Hot & Blue. RHB specializes in pulled pork and dry ribs-that is, Southern-style, as opposed to Texas-style, barbecue. It’s all good, though there are gimmicky touches like the fried onion loaf. The “blues” are on the walls, in the form of concert posters, and in your ears. Friendly service. 9810 N. Central Expwy., 214-368-7427; 5017 W. Plano Pkwy., Ste. 100, Piano, 972-248-3866. $.

D BEST Sonny Bryan’s. For 40 years, Sonny Bryan’s meaty ribs, moist brisket, and classic barbecue sauce have been me standard by which all other Dallas barbecue is judged. For the classic barbecue experience, return to the original Inwood Road joint, sit on the hood of your car, and gnaw on tender smoked ribs, chopped beef, and giant onion rings. 2202 Inwood Rd. 214-357-7120; multiple locations. $.


D REVISITS Highland Park Pharmacy. The scariest news we heard all year was that die Highland Park Pharmacy had closed. Gotcha, right? Of course, it hasn’t closed, but hearing the horrible rumor made us realize that if it does, we will finally have to pack our bags and leave town. We can only describe the atmosphere as reassuring. Not hip, happening, or high-style-comforting, and not in a creepy, Pleasantville kind of way. The Pharmacy is clean, but a little dingy, and definitely dowdy. You might see a mom with her kid on an outing; you’ll definitely see several single lunchers, guys in ties. And there we are, having fled to the haven on a bad day, the kind of day that can only be comforted by a grilled cheese (we like it without mayo) on Sunbeam and a chocolate milkshake. Others love the Palm Beach (pimiento cheese to you) sandwich or the tuna salad with cherry cokes. For us, the grilled cheese is the only thing-the American slices melted to glue, the bread buttery and crisp. Chips are extra. We called when we heard the horrible rumor and a waitress answered, when asked to verify it, “’Lord no, honey, we’re not goin’ anywhere!” Lunch only. 3229 Knox St, 214-521-2126.$.

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 focaccia, and Caesar salads. 4203 Lindberg Dr., Addison, 972-934-8730. $.

Street’s Famous Sandwiches. A sandwich can be just a sandwich, but at Street’s it’s more like a meal. Fresh ingredients are key: Turkeys, roasts, and desserts are baked on the spot. As for the sides, Chinese sesame noodles, cole slaw, and potato salad are fine filler. But you might skip those and go straight from your sandwich to the rum cake. If you’re lucky it will still be warm, with the rum freshly sprinkled on top. 4246 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-2505; multiple locations. $.


The Rock Bottom Brewery. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asia-go cheese dip or signature green pork chili. 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. $$.

D REVISITS Routh Street Brewery. Breweries have come and gone in Dallas in the past few years. Mostly gone, But Routh Street Brewery has survived- no. thrived-because it’s got a lot more ambience than a roomscape of giant copper tanks, because the food is as good as the beer, because the beer is good. But you don’t even have to like beer to like Routh Street Brewery. Sitting on the Austin stone-and-wood patio on a mild night. we felt like we’d been beamed to the Hill Country for dinner. The food, with a German-Texas accent, complements beer and wine equally well. The pork chop was big-juicy, and pink; ale-steamed mussels were plentiful and aromatic, the brew giving the delicate shellfish a little more heft than they usually have: and the vegetable Reuben (ask for it-it’s not on the menu} is a brilliant invention-carroway-scent-ed sauerkraut with melted Swiss on dark pumpernickel. 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$.


Angry Dog. The menu is standard bar cuisine, including some great burgers, nachos, and sandwiches, but it extends 10 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 $4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St.. 214-741-4406.$.

The Prince of Hamburgers. The crispy-edged. toasty bun, the slim but beefy-tasting, just-cooked patty, and the simple but fresh garnitures combine to make the quintessential American sandwich. Prince sticks to the classic accompaniments: thick shakes, incredibly frosty root beer, fries, and fabulous onion rings, all brought to you by a real live person. 5200 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-9081. $.

Purple Cow. This burger-and-shake diner uses Blue Bell ice cream and features 10 flavors of milkshakes, including the signature Purple Cow and the Peanut Butter and Jelly. The Blue-Cheeseburger is a great variation on standard soda-shop fare, dripping with rich, creamy blue cheese. But the reason we’ll go back is the grilled Palm Beach-a hot pimiento cheese sandwich that oozes down your arms. It’s worth the price of the dry cleaning bill. 110 Preston Royal Village, 214-373-0037 $.

Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought the university years were the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries (a basket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese), because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave., 2l4-826-6850;’l49_10 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$.

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


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. $-$$.

Boyal China. Royal China serves the same neighborhood clientele thai has been faithfully eating here since Buck Kao and his family opened the place in 1974. Appetizers are still in peak performance, including a wonderful hoi and sour soup and perfectly steamed pan-fried pork dumpling. But the General’s Chicken tends to look and taste like Chicken McNuggets in a sweet orange sauce, and the moo shu pork reminds us of a Taco Bell Gordita. 201 Preston Royal Center, 214-361-1771.$-$$.

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

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


Cafe Brazil. “Brazil” here is a coffee cue, but this cafe is no1 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 il has to be. Breakfasts are particularly notable. 6420 N. Central Expwy.. 214-691-7791: multiple locations. $.

Cosmic Cup. The counterculture’s barely made a dent in the Dallas psyche, a fact that 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.$.


Deli News. This plainly authentic deli has continued to demonstrate that you don’t have to be from New York to know the Real Thing when you taste it. Hot cabbage borscht. potato pancakes, and rye-wrapped pastrami are all wonderful. 4805 Frankford, 972-733-3354. $-$$.

Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family has been dishing out potato kntshes, Staffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple lor more than a decade. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd., 214-373-3333. $.


Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-Eire 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.$$.


D BEST Bistro A. Peripatetic chef Avner Samuel’s latest venture is his best yet, and better yet. Bistro A looks like it’s going to be around awhile. It’s made sleepy Snider Plaza a destination, drawing well-heeled diners in for stylish fare that’s beautifully presented. Dishes with Middle Eastern influences are especially good, but the chef does equally well with simple steak fries, and casserole-roasted chicken could be the best bird in town. 6815 Snider Plaza, 214-373-9911. $$-$$$.

Bread Winners. Three different menus a day are all imaginative. But the buttermilk pan-fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and cream gravy is the real winner-lightly battered and fried fork-tender chicken over leek mashed potatoes and cream gravy so good it makes the bland bread better. 3301 MeKinney Ave.. 214-754-4940.$-$$.

Deep Ellum Cafe. The first legitimate restaurant in Deep Ellum has a lot of competition now. and though this is still one of the most pleasant places to be in downtown, sometimes the food is not so pleasant. The kitchen seems bored with the standards like chicken and dill dumplings and Vietnamese chicken salad; specials are a better bet. Sit outside if you can. 2704 Elm St., 214-741-9012.$-$$.

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

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 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 $36, the fixed-price, four-course, “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2715 Elm St., 214-748-7666.$$-$$$.

St. Pate’s Dancing Martin. 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 wiih your beer. Beware the Diahlo 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. $-$$.

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.$$.

D BEST 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. $$.

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


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

Clair Do Luna. Tucked behind some trees in the comer 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, Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that doesn’t mesh with the modem world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a bed of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200.$$$.

Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: fine 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.$$.

D BEST 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 can get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tart is just as subtly good. Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre comes with the the best, yes, French fries in town. 4514 Travis St., 214-528-1081.$$-$$$.

The Pyramid Room. An evening here can be more of a learning experience than a special occasion. Arthur Riddles’ piano-playing fills the interstices, but service is sl-o-o-o-w. And the food is uneven. The table d ’hole menu is a good deal-$68 for four courses with wine. $44 without. Cream of carrot soup with celery root and gorgonzola croutons is good, hot, and thick, with a spicy nose. As for the main courses, a fan of rare duck slices with a wonderful apple-pineapple wild rice goes perfectly with an Indigo Hills pinot noir, the food and the wine forming a perfect circle on the palate. Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St., 214-720-5249. $$$.

Tramontane. This cozy little dining room has charming murals on the walls and an inviting-looking bar, but service and food vary. Some high points:Thesteak 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. $$.


Bon Vivant Market. Longtime Dallas chef Dan 0*Leary is the food mind behind this all-purpose market. Bon Vivant has plenty of room to navigate a basket around the central island tilled with prepared meals (veal meatloaf, lasagna), past the bakery (crusty Euro-country loaves), to the grill area (juicy chicken skewers) and sandwich bar. Plus, there’s a real wine department and tables for eating in. 1801 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-818-1177.$-$$.

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

Izmir Dell. Dallas’ new fascination with Middle Eastern food means there have been long lines at Cafe Izmir since it opened. You can avoid those crowds now by ordering in from the Izmir to go, just down Greenville from the original cafe. Gyros, tenderloin, mozzarella, grilled vegetable, and chicken sandwiches, pita, hummus, couscous, and eggplant dip are all available for pick-up or phone-in orders. And this is the place to go if you need rosewater at 9 p.m. 3607 Greenville Ave., 214-824-8484. $-$$.

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. $-$$.

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. $-$$.


Kostas Cafe. The food is simply Greek and simply good. Appetizer do’s: saganaki and dolmas (musts, really). Entrée don’t: souvlaki (tough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave., 214-987-3225. $$.

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


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 entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-5681.$-$$.

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

D REVISITS Mama’s Daughters Diner. It’s hard to even talk about home cooking with a straight face anymore-not just because no one cooks at home anymore but because when they do. the menu does not usually include boiled greens. Or fried okra. Or, most regrettably, chocolate cream pie, Fried chicken has become fast food: black-eyed peas are an annual occasion. But over on Industrial. Mama’s Daughters Diner has ’em lined up out the door for the Deep South, deep fat cuisine that’s still euphemistically called home cooking. And our only qualm about our lunch was our place in line-would there be any chocolate pie left by the time it was our turn to order? It was the first thing we asked our briskly cordial waitress, and then we could eat in relief, knowing pie was ours: Fried chicken, with bones, green beans cooked beyond tenderness with a little pot likker, combread. and mashed potatoes. It’s more lunch than we eat in a week, but we ate it all. and the prize was the pie-tall. dark, topped with clouds of meringue, perfect with our last sips of dark iced tea. 2014 Irving Blvd., 214-742-8646. $.

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. $-$$.


Alfonso’s. The menu touches on all the basics, and the house marinara and buttery rolls have held a rapt following for years. An appetizer of artichoke hearts gently warmed in le mon-butter is simply transporting. Lake Highland Village, 718 N. Buckner Blvd. at Northcliff Drive, 214-327-7777. $.

Angela’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.$.

Avanti. Avanti has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood cafe in spite of every obstacle. The fried calamari with tomato and basil sauce is greaseless, and the crunchy batter is light and tasty. We’re slightly disappointed with the grilled veal medallions, but the Italian sausage seasoned with lots of fennel and sautéed with onions and bell peppers on top of angel hair pasta covered in a light marinara is gutsier. 2720 McKinney Ave., 214-871-4955, $$.

Cafe Cipriani. This is one of the best Italian restaurants in town. Owner Salvino Zannetti doesn’t compromise on his ingredients; he orders his cheese from a deli in New York-as close to Italy as you can get in Dallas. And the lasagna is the real standout-layers of homemade noodles, with just enough ground veal to give the dish substance without making it too heavy. 220 Las Colinas Blvd., Irving. 972-869-0713.$$.

II Sorrento. Who wouldn’t love the over-the-top, chichi atmosphere at II Sorrento-the canopy of plastic grapevines, the fortune-teller in her niche? It’s completely winning. But the food doesn’t always match the extravagant spirit of the decor. The salad plates still come chilled, but the lettuce is tossed in a pint of Golden Goddess dress-ing. Housemade gnocchi is plump and perfectly cooked, but the marinara sauce is the victim of a salt murderer in the kitchen. 8616 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-352-8759.$$.

Maggiano’s Little Italy. Chicken Giardina is four huge half-breasts, fried and smothered to death with sautéed vegetables. The calamari is only inoffensive. But the lamb chops with rosemary garlic are excellent-rosy, juicy, and fragrant-and the fet-tucine alfredo is cooked correctly, sauced in a coat-the-spoon cream. To bring it back to basics, and to the dish that sums up the Maggiano’s experience, don’t miss the spaghetti and meatballs, 205 NorthPark Center, 214-360-0707. $$-$$$.

D REVISITS Mi Piaci. Our service start-ed out slow-we waited 10 minutes before anyone approached our tables. We could get a whiff of cigar smoke, and the room was a little noisy. It’s hard to make up for a first impression, but 20 minutes into our meal we finally sat back with a glass of our favorite Tignanello (probably die only place in town to enjoy this super-Tuscan by the glass) and nibbled the fresh breadsticks. We would live. And once the entrée orders were placed, the pace picked up. Housemade is a term Mi Piaci doesn’t take lightly-the kitchen makes its own pastas (some available in half-orders) and cures its own meats (great salami and sausage). Every 3ther ingredient is either imported or hand-picked. A bowl of the Tuscan classic ribollita- basically minestrone mixed with bread, making it a rich thick soup-would have been enough for a meal. But we never know when to stop getting too much of a good thing and continued with an orgy of food: spicy penne all’ arrabbiata three thin scallops of veal perched on a pile of portabella mushrooms; asparagus and cheese tortellini with a fragile Marsala sauce. We saw the bottom of our risotto plate, which avoided the usual Dallas glueyness and was properly creamy instead, the arborio rice stirred with shrimp, scallops, saffron, and arugula. 14854 Montfort, 972-943-8424. $$-$$$.

D BEST Modo Mio. Here is a “labor of love” restaurant that has overcome the obstacle of doing business in an ugly strip mall by serving some of the best Italian food in town. Chef/owner Rino Brigliadori turns out deliciously plump gnocchi lightly coated in tomato sauce, and his simple seafood specials are always perfectly prepared. 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 cost the Uptown original its reputation for dependably fine Italian dining. The formerly flawless food has been less consistent lately: The veal chop is huge and tender, but zabaglione is not too much more than froth. The crowd is festive as always. 2911 Routh St., 214-871-7377; 5348 Belt Line Rd., 972-726-9555. $$.

Terilli’s. A Lower Greenville fixture, Terilli’s packs in a semi-sophisticated crowd for such-as-it-is jazz and an eclectic menu featuring the signature item with the silly name: “Italcho’s” (crisp chips of pizza dough topped with moz-zarella 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.$$.

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 McKinneyAve.,2l4-521-2244.$$.


Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red, and fresh. From the robata bar, try the char-grilled sirloin-thinly sliced, bite-sized morsels of rare tenderloin dipped in ponzu sauce. Gulf shrimp, sautéed in a light ginger sauce, is fragrant and firm. And our all-time favorite dish-simple to make, but hard to make well-is the miso soup. We believe this hot, nourishing version has healing properties, like a global chicken soup. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-361-0220. $$.

D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range 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 Rd., Plano. 972-881-0328. $$.

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, $$.

Tel Tei. We still haven’t tasted the kobe beef (which comes from cattle fed with beer and massaged with sake), but Tei Tei is a destination restaurant anyway. The “kinki fish” is a whole fish (snapper), slashed to the bone so the flesh lifts out easily with chopsticks, To eat the soft-shell crab, abandon the Eastern eating utensils and resort to the god-given: fingers. 2906 N. Henderson Ave., 214-828-2400. $$-$$$.

D BEST Teppo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the city’s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination. 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. $$-$$$.


Caribbean Grill. The owner, Roland Frederick, delivers jumbo shrimp marinated in coconut milk, lightly fried and rolled in coconut shreds- one of the best appetizers we’ve had all year. Jerk chicken is moist inside, with a thin crusty coating of spices, and the dipping sauce is a killer honey-mustard concoction spiced with hot relish (chow) from Trinidad. The only disappointment is the crab in the paella-the rice is perfectly cooked with the chicken, sausage, and shrimp, but the crab tends to be fishy. Stay busy with Roland’s large selection of bottled hot sauces, and soothe your burning tongues with his homemade key lime pie. 3068 Forest Ln., 972-241-9113,$-$$.

Gloria’s. Everyone’s favorite Oak Cliff restaurant has opened yet another branch, this time on already overloaded Greenville. There’s the inevitable streetside al fresco scene with mar-garitas and nachos on every table, but the glory of Gloria’s was, is now, and ever shall be its Salvadoran menu, available at every location. Don’t miss the pupusas (cheese-stuffed com tortillas) or the banana leaf tamales. 3715 Greenville Ave., 214-874-0088; multiple locations. $-$$.

Samba Room. It’s impossible not to feel transported to an exotic Havana night-huge palm trees, windows covered by wooden-slat shutters, warm browns, ochre, and cobalt blue set the mellow, sexy tone for the whole room. Arepas-beef marinated in sherry, cooked with onion and peppers, then shredded into a mound and surrounded by triangles of griddled sweet com cakes topped with a slight drizzle of sour cream-are superb. An entree of palomilla is enough for four-strips of flank steak rolled over caramelized onions and served on a mound of black beans and rice. A silver martini shaker filled with long, thin strips of Yuca Frita-fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-makes trench fries obsolete. 4514 Travis Street, 214-522-4137,$$.

Texas de Brazil. No need for menus here-it’s one price fits all. Skewer-swagging waiters slice varied cuts of slow-roasted (and extremely flavorful) filet, picanha, rack of lamb, top sirloin, and pork loin from their swords right onto your plate. The salad bar features 30 hefty items besides salad, including tabbouleh and marinated mushrooms, and the required feijoada (the national dish of Brazil). 15101 Addison Rd., 972-385-1000.$$$.


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 is varied and reasonable. Entrées and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that will hold your attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes have been devoured. 4537 ColeAve.,214-559-0325.$$.

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 die 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. $$-$$$.

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 Méditerranée and Toscana. 7709 Inwood Rd., 214-351-0094.$$$.


Avila’s. The create-your-own enchiladas are always a good idea, and the chili relleno reminds us why we like this family-owned place. Stuffed with cheese and topped with a delicious ranchera sauce, the peppers are left unbreaded so that the pungent flavor of the pepper is what you notice, not fried batter. 4714 Maple Ave., 214-520-2700. $.

Casa Rosa. There’s almost always a table available at the pink-tinted Casa Rosa, but only because the place is so big. The appeal of the food would certainly pack a smaller place. Casa Rosa does well with standards-except the chimichanga-but the real finds here are the more unusual dishes such as the goat cheese chile relleno and the mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village, 214-350-5227. $-$$.

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. $. Margaritas.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicain. Javier’s hook is Mexico City Mexican food, and the atmosphere isn’t Tex-Mex kitschy but sophisticated. Salsa is nicely warmed, and margaritas are the real thing. Filete Cantinflas may look like a fried puck, but inside the stiff crust is a cheese-stuffed filet mignon with a brick-colored chile sauce-it’s too rich to eat and too good not to try. 4912 Cole Ave., 214-521-4211.$$.

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.$.

Mario’s Chiquita. A Dallas classic, this restaurant eschews velvet paintings and kitsch in favor of a pretty, casual decor and offers upscale Mexico City-style fare, as well as some of the best Tex-Mex combinations in town. 221 W. Parker Rd., Ste. 400, Piano, 972-423-2977. $-$$.

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. $-$$.

D BEST 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. Best lunch deals in town. 2914 Main St., 214-748-7140.$-$$.

Omega’s. It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega’s. But fortunately Omega’s is also a great place to lunch, and it’s even a comfortable place to eat alone. This friendly little cafe on a Deep Ellum side street serves a complimentary cup of chile con queso with the warmed salsa and tostados. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food. 212 N. Crowdus St., 214-744-6842. $.

Pape & 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. $. Margaritas.

Plano Tortilla Factory. If you live in Piano, then this little place should be at 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. 18m St., Piano, 972-423-6980. $.

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. $-$$. Margaritas.

Taco Diner. The name sounds slightly retro. But the lacos at the Diner are real Mexican soft tacos, not drive-through, crunchy. greasy Tex-Mex mutations. The com tortillas are the star here; no matter what you wrap them around, the result is good-chicken with cojita cheese, grilled pork, and meaty mushrooms are all complemented by the fragrant masa tortillas. 4011 Villanova, 214-696-4944. $. Margaritas.


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

All Baba. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley and adorned with slick olives, That and a stack of hot pita could do you, but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh, mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulghur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-8235. $-$$.

Ararat This is Middle Eastern ambience all the way, but we love Ararat because the food is some of the most exotic in town. Main courses are complicated, generous plates, filled with big chunks of lamb in a fiery dark tomato sauce with orange-red bulghur pilaf and a Persian rice pilaf threaded with vermicelli. Skewered shrimp is served on a bed of a complex pomegranate sauce deepened with dates and quartered figs, Simple tastes can settle for roast lamb in a rosemary sauce. 2934 MainSt.,214-744-l555.$$.

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. This remains one of the best little restaurants in Dallas. The space is small, the service is friendly, and the choices are simple-all you have to say is “meat” or “veg,” and the food starts coming. The mezes platter-hummus, baba ghanoush, and Russian chicken salad, all designed to spread on warm pita bread-is a regular. Wash it down with a bottle of the Boutari and you’ll be happy. 3711 Greenville Ave., 214-826-7788. $$.


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 $26.95 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.$$.


Beau Nash. The beautiful dining room is aging gracefully, and the light-sparkled, romantic Conservatory at night remains one of the delights of Dallas dining. The Cobb salad and smoked chicken corn chowder still win Best of Kind, and desserts are a dream-try the rich pillow of mocha mousse sandwiched between two dark chocolate cake slices. Hotel Crescent Court, 2215 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-3240. $$-$$$.

Chaparral Club. The ancho-rubbed chicken (with bones!) can be a little salty, but the creamy goat-cheese stuffing guarantees moist meat. The bone-in filet, along with truffled mashed potatoes and cubed root vegetables sautéed together, make a plate thai satisfies all senses. Don’t miss The Perfect Dessert: a satiny sphere of white chocolate” split and filled with fresh blueberries and raspberries sliding around in a pool of creme Anglaise. Sink into the leather seats in the bar and listen to David Williams playing a jazzy version of “Cheek to Cheek”-some pleasures never age. Adam’s Mark Hotel, 400 N. Olive St., 214-922-8000. $$-$$$.

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

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

The Mercury. Though we still think the place is too chic for a neighborhood restaurant, the food has improved since the opening months. The swordfish. perfectly marked from the grill, is balanced by a warm artichoke salad and a corn relish. The grilled shrimp with avocado and a “gazpacho” sauce is equally lovely to took at, though you won’t look at it for long. 1418 Preston Forest Sq., 972-960-7774.$$.

Partgi. Menus still change weekly, and the food is prepared to order, by hand. Service can be a little flaky, but the food-specials and perennials-is excellent, The famous beef tenderloin with mustard sauce and ’smashed’ potatoes is as good as ever, the beef rare and unusually flavorful, the potatoes buttery and just lumpy. It’s been on the menu since Parigi opened. A long lime. 3311 Oak LawnAve.,214-521-0295.$$.

Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plaies here present classic ideas with imaginative 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.$$.


D BEST 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 ami the wannabes are 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 KnoxSt.,214-219-2782. $$-$$$.

Daddy Jack’s. With pricey lobsters the rage all over town, Chaplin brings the delicacy back to realistic prices. Mark your calendars: Weekdays, a one-pounder is only $10.95; weekends, they’re still a bargain (they come with baked potato and corn). Sunday and Mondays it’s all you can eat for $34.95. 5940 Royal Ln., 214-378-6767. $$.

Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill. This Jack Chaplin restaurant offers lively service and food thai 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. $$.

D BEST Lombardi Mare. The stylishly polished interior is a real mind-blower, and so is the food. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, steamed mussels, and lobster. A polenta-crusted salmon served with red cabbage was a perfect meal. If we had to choose one place to entertain an out-of-towner, Lombardi Mare would be our choice. 5100 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-1233.$$.

D REVISITS Newport’s. If you ever need a cab. you can find one waiting in front of Newport’s. When it opened in 1984, Newport’s was the local big fish restaurant. Since then, it has taken advantage of a West End location to attract multitudes of out-of-towners. Built over an old brick well in the Dallas Brewery, this multilevel, touristy-looking restaurant features an antique ship mounted over it. But you won’t find typical tourist food here; instead, enjoy an imaginative seafood menu that we classify loosely as New England seafood with Asian and Cajun influences. Sounds weird, but occasionally it works. The New England Clam Chowder was a bust-thick and globby like cream gravy and, not to be picky, isn’t it supposed to taste like clams? Asian shrimp dumplings, billed as “lightly fried,” were mushy wads of dough surrounding something that resembled shrimp. But after the dismal start, entrées were surprisingly good. Grilled tilapia was imaginatively served with a side of sautéed apples, cilantro, and toasted pecans- the light, delicate fish contrasted with the warm, sweet apples and the crunch of the pecans. We would go back for that and for the fact that our server, for once, gave us an honest opinion. When we asked about the spicy lobster linguini she opined, “Well, it’s not spicy, and there isn’t a lot of lobster.” We opted for tuna, and there was lots of it-a three-inch pan-seared hunk served in a bowl of rice and covered with sautéed portabellas and roasted peppers-almost wonderful. except for the lake of teriyaki sauce drowning the rice. 703 McKinney Ave., 214-954-0220. $$-$$$.

S&D Oyster Company. S & D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butterflied, lightly fried, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce-heavy on the pickle. And no meal here would be complete without a slice of the famous key lime pie. 2701 McKinney Ave., 214-880-0111.$$.

Truluck’s Steak & Stone Crab. Stone crabs are a new delicacy in Dallas, and they’re sweet and rich. They’re also easy to eat; the kitchen cracks them for you so all you have to do is break in and fish for the meat. You can eat other stuff with your crab (mediocre salad, onion rings, cole slaw, creamed spinach) but all you’ll remember is the claws and cake-four layers of dark chocolate cake covered with a whipped milk-chocolate icing. 5001 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-3079:2401 McKinney Ave., 214-220-2401. $$-$$$.


No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Mart’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 BEST Star Canyon. Chef-owner Slephan Pyles has created a Dallas destination with his innovative New Texas Cuisine. An appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made mozzarella is a rare case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. And the bone-in cowboy ribeye on a bed of pinto beans, covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile, should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’ top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. $$-$$$.

Y.0. Ranch. Though this is frontier fare, the kitchen can have a light touch. Delicately grilled, semi-boneless quail is delicious, and the special two-inch, 12-ounce pork chop is as moist and tender as a filet mignon. However, the buck stops short with an undercooked top sirloin. And the bar scene rocks with Jerry Jeff Walker tunes and cigar-smoking buckaroos-the perfect place to take your Yankee guests. 702 Ross Ave., 214-744-3287. $-$$.


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-an assortment of olives, oxtail stew, the potato omelet called a tortilla, braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St., 214-528-1731.$$.


Capital Grills. The menu has a funny, East Coast fuddy-duddiness: It features a “wedge” salad, a quarter head of iceberg with blue cheese and bacon. Perfectly cooked lamb chops come with mint jelly. And there’s a Delmonico steak on the menu-a porterhouse-style cut you don’t often see labeled that way anymore, It’s a perfectly marbled piece of beefcake, rich and buttery. Sides-from asparagus at $6.75 to the affordable $4 potato-are extra, of course, and have plenty to share. 500 Crescent Court, Ste. 135, 214-303-0500. $$-$$$.

D BEST Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House. Prime rib and a trimmed-to-lean ribeye are robustly rare and complemented with garlic mashed potatoes. Figure in service that is, if not clairvoyant, almost uncannily empathetic, and you’ll have some grasp of the comfortable ambience mat keeps this cigar-friendly outpost filled even on weekday evenings. 5330 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-$$$.

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. No complaints about the meats {and at these prices there shouldn’t be)-you could cut the porterhouse with a fork (if it weren’t two-and-a-half inches thick). But the onion rings are our favorite dish. Each three-inch ring has the perfect ratio of breading to onion, but somehow, the fry doesn’t separate from the onion-you get batter with every bite. The lobster tail isn’t worth the price. But this is one place where you get what you pay for. 5251 Spring Valley Rd., 972-490-9000. $$$.

The Palm. The four-pound lobster {at $20 a pound!) is sweet and tender, but the 24-ounce New York strip tends to be overcooked. The Palm staffers are all veterans, and so are most of the customers, but don’t be intimidated by the chummy atmosphere. This is a club anyone with $80 to spare for a lobster can join. 701 RossAve..214-698-0470.$$-$$$.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. This is the best beef we’ve eaten in Dallas lately. The porterhouse, regally alone and ungarnished, arrives at the perfect degree of doneness and is still actually hot, Mushrooms- crimini and shiitake, in a port reduction-and onion rings, thick-cut and thinly breaded, are both preferable to another potato. And we appreciate the diminutive (just three-and-a-half pounds!) Maine lobster, perfectly steamed and cracked, and only $64. Even dessert, which frequently seems like an insult in a steakhouse, is spectacular. 10477 Lombardy Ln., 214-366-2000. $$-$$$.

Stone Trail Steakhouse. Lavish decor, live music for late dancing, an upscale menu and wine list mark this sprawling steak 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); seafood and other meats provide variety. Dinner only. 14833 Midway Rd., 972-701-9600. $$-$$$.

Sullivan’s Steakhouse. The knockout punch is a 24-ounce, bone-in ribeye coated with lots of fresh ground pepper, perfectly cooked to medium rare. Smoked pork chops are grilled and served with a side of sweet, smoked apples. The side dishes are only average; the horseradish mashed potatoes could have used a little more horseradish, and the doughnut-sized onion rings are heavily beer-breaded and greasy. 17795 Dallas Pkwy., 972-267-9398. $$$.

Three Forks. The special pepper sirloin is mealy and chewy, and the peppercorn sauce is dull. And the trout swims in a weak brown sauce accompanied by a few lonely roasted pecans. But we do love the salad, a mix of mesclun, red oak leaf lettuce, and sliced green apple, topped with roasted pecans and crumbly Maytag blue cheese, all lightly dressed in a sweet vinaigrette. 17776 Dallas Pkwy., 972-267-1776. $$-$$$.


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.$$.

D BEST 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., 214-887-8793. $$.

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. $-$$.


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. $-$$.

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.$-$$.


D REVISITS Angelo’s. Not much has changed since St. Patrick’s Day 1958, when Angelo George served his first plate of hickory-smoked brisket at Angelo’s. The big, wood-paneled dance hall of a room is lined with a self-service buffet line, cold-drink coolers, and chip racks on a linoleum floor. You grab a round tray and a frosted stein of Bud and eat from styrofoam plates under antler heads mounted on the walls. We have gone to Angelo’s for years and have been disappointed occasionally with the fat quotient on their ribs; recently, we have found lots of gristle, but more often than not they are lean, tender and moist. The chicken, served “while it lasts,” goes fast-it’s juicy and smoked off the bone. All the usual sides- beans, cole slaw-stand up to the ribs, but we wish they’d put more punch in their thin, vinegar-based sauce. 2533 White Settlement Rd.. Fort Worth, 817-332-0357. $.

Angeluna. The patio swarms with an artsy Chanel-and-Chardonnay crowd before and after events at the Bass Performance Hall across the street. The “one-world-on-a-plate” menu features designer pizzas, pastas, and spinach and mushroom salads corralled by delicate potato rings. Who cares if it’s more about style than substance? After all, the parent company is in Aspen. 215 E. 4th St., Fori 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 corn tortillas. Order it first and then spend some lime with the menu- everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-8633. $$.

Cacharel. This easily lops Arlington’s dining scene, such as it is, with its French country decor and New French cuisine. The fixed-price menu ($34.50) is a great deal. A la carte menu also available. 2221 E. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 910, Arlington, metro 817-640-9981. $$$.

Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St.. Fort Worth. 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.

D BEST Grape Escape. The gimmick here is education-Grape Escape is trying to do the same thing for wine that brew pubs did for beer. So you order “flights” of the grape of your choice, and the waiter brings a four-glass tasting of say. chardonnay, from Sonoma, Napa, Australia, and New Zealand. Compare and contrast. The food is designed around the wine, so you can change direction mid-meal-start with white wine and suggested matches, finish with red wine and cheese. The selection of small plates-merguez sausages, paté, salads, stuffed potatoes, pizzettes-adds up to a full meal that’s lots of fun. 500 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817-336-9463. $$.

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.” 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. $$.

Randall’s Gourmet Cheesecake Company. It’s a wonderfully romantic, candle-lit French cafe serving delightful classic specialties and more than 20 wines by the glass. Beef tenderloin medallions served with rosemary-roasted shallots come with crunchy haricots verts and garlic mashed potatoes. But the pièce de résistance is a savory cheesecake, made of parmesan and feta cheese baked with basil pesto, asparagus, mushrooms, and Kalamata olives. 907 Houston St., Fort Worth. 817-336-2253,$$.

Resta. Reata’s upscale “cowboy cuisine” includes a chicken-fried steak die size of a boot and steaks with Mexican side dishes. A special of blackened salmon is covered with a roasted corn, red pepper, and cilantro relish with small cubes of queso fresco. But the Vaquero Sampler, a huge platter of Mexican selections (shredded chicken chili rel-lenos. cacciota cheese enchiladas, a beef tamale, barbecue shrimp enchiladas, and rice and beans) is an undistinguishable mess. The view is nice, but the food doesn’t always match up. 500 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-336-1009. $$-$$$.

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 belter spot in Sundance Square for a casual, imaginative meal. Basics include sandwiches, salads, breakfast, gourmet coffees, and homemade desserts. This is the rare restaurant that’s quick enough for just a bite, but whose smart decor, great coffee, and excellent food make it perfect for lingering. 353 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 817-335-3354. $.

Just Say Cheesecake

Self-proctaimed Dallas dessert diva Mazelle Ablon has made a career out of saving room for dessert. After 18 years in the wholesale business, she’s taking retail orders for her decadent and delicious cheesecakes made from fresh ingredients. Flavors Include plain vanilla, praline chocolate chip, and key lime. For the total experience, try the unique Specialty Sampler-16 slices, two each of eight flavors.

To order: Go to www.mazelles.com or call 972-620-0006.

Vortex Mex

It’s street food, and you eat it on the street The little aluminum trailer serves hand tacos from the window. That’s all. Tender shredded beef, pork, chicken, or sautéed vegetables and sauce, wrapped in a flour tortilla. Bet you cant eat just one. Vortex Mex is across the street from (and owned by) the Green Room.

2712 Elm St., 214-651-8228.

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