Saturday, November 26, 2022 Nov 26, 2022
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Restaurant Reviews

By D Magazine |


One year later, we return to I998’s top’5 restaurants.

We won’t hesitate to remind you that Dallas is still better known for its successful chains than for its fine dining rooms. So it’s no surprise thai of our five best restaurants last year, all but one have plans to expand into other markets. It’s encouraging, though, to finally see the growth at the top tier.

This year, partners Michael Cox and Stephan Pyles produced our first high-end export by recreating StarCanyon in Las Vegas. That doesn’t mean thai that owners Pyles and Cox aren’t still providing AquaKnox, one of our top five new picks last year, with the kind of obsessive attention that great restaurants require.

Pyles and Cox are constantly tinkering. For example. Cox originally conceived of the lounge at AquaKnox as a separate entity from the restaurant – but customers decided it was an annex so Star Concepts brought out the designers again, installed deluxe booth seating so there were spaces for intimate chatting and nibbling, draped the big windows in velvet to absorb a little of the sound, added whimsical new light fixtures that soften the glow and create more intimacy with light and shadow. It turns out people who came to drink wanted to eat, so the menu in the lounge was expanded and now AquaKnox is the coolest place in town to drop in for a drink and stay for dinner. And the clumsily-named 13-ingre-dient wok-fried purple rice is the most substantial bar dish imaginable-a hearty, stick-to-your ribs. exotic Asian risotto (with lobster. if you choose). The Aqua Royale Platter is an aquarium-full of seafood, salmon tartar, lobster tail, oysters, clams, and shrimp. If you’re serious about bar snacks, try the Aqua Nuts – they are what they sound like.

It’s reassuring how responsive Pyles and Cox are to their customers’ requests and preferences (we won’t use as strong a word as “demands”’}. Trie question is how far can personal fine-tuning go when the owners are busy with labor disputes at the new place in Vegas? It’s all a matter of good service of course – which with partner Michael Cox is a matter of moral principle.

Meanwhile. Pyles’ inspiration and mother of all Thai cooks in Dallas, Annie Wong. continues to grow the restaurant that earned our number one rating-mostly because of its freshness-last year. Liberty pioneered both off-Greenville restaurant real estate and food style and the colony has thrived. Everybody wants Annie’s advice and owner Jeff Yarbrough says that keeping Annie Wong from giving it away is one of Liberty’s big challenges. “Annie has a million relatives,*’ says Yarbrough. “And she helps them all open restaurants.”

Yarbrough’s own goal is to expand in Texas this year-he wants a “small collection” of restaurants as opposed to a chain. He”s looking for possible Liberty locations in Houston and Austin. He continues to update the restaurant’s wine selection, looking for flavors that fit Asian foods-the list now includes some French Bordeaux as well as Fess Parker’s Reisling.

Chef Annie has created a dozen new dishes and runs regular specials like the “Red Sea” noodles with seafood and red curry, which is the current rave. Annie loves Matt Martinez: she talked with him about Texas-style grilling and came up with a little pork and chicken Thai taco which she tested on a group of foodies (including national critic John Mariani) this spring.

Another top-five winner ready to stretch its legs is Grape Escape, Miche! Baudouin’s wine bar in Sundance Square. There are no immediate plans to expand right now, but business at the Foil Worth store is up 20% and Grape Escape was designed to be a multi-unit business-it is fine-tuned and it runs itself. (So much so that Baudouin opened another restaurant, Encore, to keep himself busy in the kitchen.) see page?

Grape Escape’s menu almost preps itself- pate and cheese are purchased. The portabel-lo mushroom-filled potato skins, the French fries and cold tenderloin plate, and the pizzas, all delicious and low-maintenance, are the best sellers. Baudouin’s conviction that the only way to learn about wine is to drink it inspired him to open what amounts to a snob-free wine appreciation course that beer-drinkers can experience without apprehension – and with better-than-pretzels snacks. A sure thing in Texas where there are a lot of frequent fliers drinking flights of merlot (the top seller), chardonnay (runner-up), and champagne (Miss Congeniality, of course).

Baudouin recently did a study on Grape Bscape’s clientele – they average 30-50 years old and are usualy women. “Which brings men.” points out Baudouin. “And our main problem is getting the Lipstick off the glasses.”,

Tarantino’s. the family-run, downtown, against-all-odds café that nearly topped our list last year, has more complicated problems than lipstick on a wine glass. Like all of last year’s picks, Tarantino’s is an idiosyncratic, highly original chef-run restaurant. It:’s a wildly successful (if you measure by crowds), amazingly under-financed, young restaurant that’s zoomed from peak to valley and back in less than a week. Over and over. Part of the problem is the sibling management (difficult even when you’re not in business together); part of it is lack of funds. Young Patrick Tarantino, the chef enfant, is as temperamental as young chefs usually are and the kitchen has frequently run out of food, or discontinued dishes that have become best-sellers. During the last year, Patrick has left the restaurant twice for other chef positions, only to return. Brother Matt Tarantino has left to open a resort/spa in Arkansas, and Peter Tarantino is left on Exposition to make his dreams come true through sheer stubbornness. And persistently good food. Never give up.

Speaking of temperament, Avner Samuel’s seems to be under control. His Bistro A’s fifth-place position in last year’s rankings were probationary simply because we’ve seen Avner come and go more times than Patrick Tarantino has had birthdays. (Well, almost.) But Bistro A is still vibrantly alive in Snider Plaza and the defensive chef is making it better all the time. The wine list changes every two weeks: the menu (plus specials) is now printed weekly. Yes, it’s a lot more work, but if Avner’s constantly pushing the restaurant to another creative level, he can’t get bored, can he? So he shops, buying smaller quantities, keeping it fresh. Recently the menu has featured a soft shell crab sandwich,Copper River salmon. Whiskey Bay salmon, fresh sardines.

“When we opened,” says Avner, “A lot of people placed bets we would last three months.”

Now he feels he is back and still cooking- and he’s not going anywhere.


Grape Escape-817-Encore-817-336-2004

Tarantino S-214-821-2224

Bistro A-214-373-9913



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 die Commerce Street location. 2724 Commerce St., 234-748-5433; multiple locations. $.

Peggy Sue Barbecue. Though Sonny Bryan’s still wins in the beef sandwich category, die definitive dish when you’re talking Texas barbecue, Peggy Sue’s beats Sonny’s by a rib in meats, side dishes, and sauces. And the smoked chicken que-sadillas alone are worth a trip. The ribs-baby backs and pork short ribs-are always moist, tender, and free of gristle. A new favorite is brisket fajitas -soft Hour tortillas filled with grilled barbecued brisket, onions, and green peppers. 6600 Snider Plaza, 214-987-9188. $.

Red Hot & Blue. The music helps the whole situation-lots of Elvis. Rufus Thomas, and Jerry Lee Lewis set the stage for a mind-set change. Red Hot & Blue’s version of pulled pork is the real thing: a sandwich with a pile of tender pork, along with a mound of crunchy, sweet cole slaw piled high on the sandwich. The dry ribs aren’t anything special until you add the Hoochie Coochie sauce-and spend 10 minutes with your tongue immersed in a glass of ice. 9810 N. Central Expwy., 214-368-7427. $.

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, moist brisket, and classic barbecue sauce have been the 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. $.


Harry’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs. Harry’s serves real Chicago dogs, topped with onions, mustard, peppers, and the authentic neon-green relish-he also serves them smothered with Texas chili, sauerkraut, and pretty much everything else. You have to have custard after a Harry’s dog-even if you’re too full. It’s smoother than crème brulée ever thought about being, and every day there’s a different selection of flavors. This is the kind of place that gives you hope for American culture. 3113 Knox St.. 214-520-3113. $.

Highland Park Pharmacy. We can only describe the Pharmacy atmosphere as reassuring. Some people love the Palm Beach (pimiento cheese to you) sandwich or die tuna salad with cherry cokes. For us, the grilled cheese is the on))’ thing-the American slices melted to glue, the bread buttery and crisp. Chips are extra; sodas and milkshakes are priceless. Lunch only. 3229 KnoxSt.,214-521-2126.$.

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. 972^04-7456. $$.

D BEST Routh Street Brewery. This place has thrived because the food is as good as die beer. The food, with a German-Texas accent, complements beer and wine equally well. The pork chop is big, juicy, and pink; ale-steamed mussels are plentiful and aromatic; and the vegetable Reuben (ask for it -it’s not on the menu) is a brilliant invention-car-roway-scented 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 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 $4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St.. 214-741-4406.$.

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 onion rings, rich pig sandwich, and hot dogs are just lagniappe. 4501 Cole Ave.. 214-526-1092: 4530 Lovers Ln., 214-691-2447. $.

D BEST 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.. 214-526-908l.$.

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 (are, dripping with rich, creamy blue cheese. But the reason we’ll go back is the grilled Palm Beach -a hot pimiento cheese sandwich thai 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., 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$.

Stoneteigh P. Everyone smuggles in ketchup because the place proudly and oddly refuses to serve il. 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 oui of the bag. The best thing about the Stoneleigh’s rancho 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.$.

Texas Hamburgers. This Texas kitsch joint is filled with stuffed armadillos, Texas Hags, cowboy memorabilia, good ol’ 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.$.


Crescent City Gafe. 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.$.

Margaux’s. Cafe Margaux owner Kay Agnew has reopened yet again, in a smaller space wearing a suitably shorter name and with a menu that includes lunch on weekdays and dinner on Thursday only. Shrimp and sausage gumbo is the real thing, and commeal-crustedoysters are crisp-skinned delights. 2404 Cedar Springs Rd..2l4-740-1985.$$.


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 al a time -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.$-$$.

Cafe Panda. If you can’t find what you’re hungry for on the menu at Cafe Panda, you’ll have to go to China, Usually, you have to know 24 hours ahead (hat you are in the mood for this Mandarin delicacy, but at Cafe Panda, Peking duck can be an impulse buy. The downside: Fire Cracker Shrimp, billed as a hot dish-“buckle your seal: belt, this shrimp will bring one bumpy night,” warns the menu-is anything but spicy. The Kung Pao Chicken could use some more fire as well. 7979 Inwood Rd, 214-902-9500. $$.

Cathy’s Pacific. Chef/nutritionist Cathy Liu continues to succeed in combining authentic Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese techniques with healthy twists. The best dish we’ve tried is the Szechuan Shrimp: fresh shrimp stir-fried with corn, sweet peppers, and onions lightly coated in a black bean sauce. The dishes we ordered “extra hot” were not, so if you like your food scorching, ask the kitchen to crank it up. 5950-A Royal Lane at Preston, 214-739-3378. $-$$.

May Dragon. An inscrutable strip center location belies one of the city’s best Chinese restaurants. Stay away from the neon sweet and sour stuff, and you’ll be happy. 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., 214-821-4198.$-$$.

Royal China. Royal China serves the same neighborhood clientele that 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 hot 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. 201 Preston Royal Center. 214-361-1771. $-$$.

Szochwan 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. $-$$.

Taiwan. Taiwan has had the same chef, owner, and location for 18 years, so it must be doing something right. The Princess Beef-delicate strips of beef with crunchy celery cubes and peanuts in a hot, spicy brown sauce-tastes as good as it looks. And the hot and sour soup is delicious, with fresh shrimp and pork, and mercifully lacking in that disconcerting, jiggly cornstarch texture that so often makes us push our bowl away. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-387-2333. $-$$.

Uncle Tais Hunan Yuan. Not much has changed here over the past 15 years. Bow-tie. 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 flamed 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 not just another Java joint. The brews are varied, and the laid-back attitude of all three locations make them comfortable chat rooms, but the food is better than it has to be. Breakfasts are particularly notable. 6420 N. Central Expwy., 214-691-7791 ; multiple locations. $.

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. $.

Cosmic Cup. The counterculture’s barely made a dent in me 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. $.


Dell 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 knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple for 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. $.


Athenée 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. $$.


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. 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. Beware of spotty service. 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 McKinney Ave., 214-754-4940.$-$$.

Cafe Express. The food here is dependably good. Penne pasta salad is served with loads of torn spinach leaves and julienned crisp vegetables, all topped with black olives and red peppers. It’s a feast for the eyes, and we dare you to finish it. Cavatelli with broccoli, mushrooms, and goaf cheese is steaming hot. The only glitch to this fast food improvement is that sometimes it’s so hard to find a table, you have to take the food and eat it in the car. 5601) W. Lovers Ln., 214-352-2211; multiple locations. $.

The Cheesecake Factory. The menu is an encyclopedia of every dish that’s hit the big time in the past five years: bruschetta. pot stickers, spring rolls, calamari. buffalo wings, meat loaf. pork chops, crab cakes, fish tacos, roasted chicken, ribs, and pasta, pasta, pasta. And there are several dozen kinds of cheesecake, all sauced and garnished and pouted with cream. We suppose you could call the Cheesecake Factory “overwhelmingly eclectic.” Just remember, that’s not a good thing. 7700 Northwest Hwy., 214-373-4844. $$-$$$.

Cork. The list of wines by the glass, ports, sherries, and champagnes is staggering considering the small space. The food is simple but perfectly matched to the concept. Pick your wines, then customize a cheese plate to match. Lovely patés and olive mixes also make more substantial meals, and you can linger long, foregoing dinner. 2709 McKinney Ave., 214-303-0302. $.

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.$-$$.

Dream Cafe. One of Dallas’ original organically oriented menus, old favorites like the California Dreaming (mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil on grilled sourdough bread) and the basic Global Dinner (a simple bowl of brown rice and beans covered with melted jack cheese) are as good as ever. The One for John-a grilled marinated tempeh burger-is the best hamburger substitute in town. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St.. 214-954-0486.$-$$.

8.0 Restaurant and Bar. This hip joint is still hopping with pretty people sipping blue margaritas 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 die tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave., 214-828-1981. $$.

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

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

St Pete’s Dancing Martin. The marlin doesn’t mean seafood; it’s just a clue that the owner likes to fish. The only seafood here is the dancing tuna sandwich; mostly, the food is simply designed to go with your beer. Beware the Diablo Tempestuous, pasta doused in fiery jalapeno-tomato sauce. It’s so hot it comes with a chaser of chocolate milk. 2730 Commerce St., 214-698-1511.$-$$.

Simply Fondue. The appeal of Simply Fondue is lost on us-if you’re not going to stay home and cook, why would you go out and cook? Still, the place is always booked. Cooking together evidently gives young couples something to talk about {because there’s no TV hanging from the ceiling and the noise level is reasonable, conversation is called for). The professional and friendly staff makes the process manageable. Bread and cheese are staples of the age-just like chips and queso, but you can’t spear a tostado. And the meal is as good as melted cheese, sautéed meat, and melted chocolate can be. 2108 Greenville Ave., 214-827-8878. $$-$$$.

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 ils own entertainment. 4513 Travis St., 214-522-2411.$$.

Sono. The imaginative one-world-on-a-plate concept isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The Mahi Mahi is the dish that would lure us back to pseudo-Soho: its light ginger and lemon-grass crust, grilled to tender, bedded on nutty red wehani rice and encircled with a soy-lemon sauce. An armagnac poached pear with toasted walnut and rice mascarpone cheese is simple elegance done well. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-490-8686. $$.

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. $$.

Tin Star. Tex-Mex meets the world under the “Salsa, Smoke, and Sizzle” style. Stick to thin-crusted pizza topped with a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce and dotted with chunks of grilled chicken and onions. Soft tacos filled with tem-pura shrimp, fruit pico de gallo, bacon, and cilantro is a bizarre combination that somehow works. But the restaurant may lose you with the 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. 2626 Howell St. (across from the Quadrangle), 214-999-0059. $.


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 15 years. Tournedos of beef are cooked medium-rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. 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. $$-$$$.

The Bistro. The list of small plaies at this tapas bistro has been pared down to 14 from 30 selections, but they’re all exciting, and me wine list is one of the most extensive and inexpensive in town. That means the Bistro caters to you-you can drop in for a few small plates and a bottle of wine or settle in for a full-course meal at a reasonable price. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Rd. 214-352-1997. $-$$.9

Blzú. This is the beginning of the Gallic flood we’ve been predicting. It’s a bistro-you can order omelettes for lunch (we like the tomato-basil one), steak tartare, and pommes frites. The patés, including a smooth-as-cream chicken liver mousse and a coarse country meat loaf, are fragrant and spicy, a great lunch with the Bizú salad: a loss of pear slivers, mature spinach leaves, feta, and raspberry vinaigrette. 2504 McKinney Ave.. 214-303-1002. $$.

Chez Gerard. Which is more to lie 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. $$-$$$.

French Boom. 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 mat doesn’t mesh with the modern 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 gout cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200.$$$.

Jennivina. The charming old house is as popular a pop-the-question romantic spot as ever. Wood floors, quaint bar candles, flowers, and line food are the setting for a nice selection of wines by the glass. The tilapia is a perfectly tender filet on a layer of lemony orzo with red cabbage and a tablespoon of sweet potatoes. And the chocolaté mousse here is classic-bittersweet, firm, and lopped with fresh whipped cream. 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.$$-$$$.

Lavendou. Despite the fact that our waiter didn’t know the difference between smooth and coarse paté, someone in the kitchen cooks with a French accent. Delicious French specialties come garnished a la Francaise within an inch of their life: For instance, a tender tilapia came lucked into a tutu-like frill of purple kale, decorated with two swishes and a swirl of orange red-pepper sauce. 19009 Preston Rd.. 972-248-I9I1.$$-S$$.

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

The Pyramid Room. Hie table d’hote 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, tile foot! and the wine forming a perfect circle on the palate. Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N.Akard St., 214-720-5249.$$$.

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

Water’s. French food may be the latest trend on McKinney, hut Watel’s has been the top French bistro on the block for 11 years. And the new. sleeker digs haven’t had any effect on the quality of the food. The menu, which has always contained unusual organ offerings like calf brains, veal kidneys, and sweetbreads, has weathered the wars of nouvelle cuisine. A splendid classic duck leg confit appropriately slips off the bone with each bite, and the accompanying risotto is just rich enough. Although the roast pork loin can be dry, the tasty apple and calvados sauce would make a meal out of shoe leather. 2719 McKinney Ave., 214-720-0323.$$.


City Cafe To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? According to the servers at City Cafe To Go, 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 it, most of the dishes (for instance, a thickly sliced rare leg of lamb with charred, sun-dried tomatoes) are tasty and reheat beautifully. 5757 Lovers Ln.. 214-351-3366.5-$$.

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 l, and you can pick up dinner to go while you eat. 939 N. Edgefield Ave.. 214-943-2650. $-$$.

Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear die 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. $.

Izmir Deli. 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 die 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. $-$$.


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 Ziziki’s. 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.$$.


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 entrées (even though too many of them are geriatrically under-seasoned), 20 sides, 10 types of bread, a dozen desserts. There’s a to-go section full of salads, soups, etc. 300 Casa Linda Plaza; 214-324-5000. $.

Celebration. Bring your appetite to this long-lime 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 fine only in your dreams of classic soul-food plate lunches at penny-ante prices, Pork chops, meatloaf, catfish et al. come with three sides; business is about half-and-half eat-in and takeout, and we’ve never seen the room empty of patrons. 8224 Park Ln., 214-363-4348. $.

Lucky’s Cafe, You can get about anything you want at Lucky”s, on the menu and off. You’ll be delighted with the Cajun-style, mesquite-grilled catfish. It’s moist and flaky, and the spinach casserole side dish, which easily could be soggy, isn’t. But you’d still have to be drunk to eat the touted “sleaziest, cheesiest grilled cheese in town.” It’s a globby mess of cheddar and swiss cheese, tomato, green chiles, and bacon. 3531 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-522-3500. $.

Mama’s Daughters Diner. Mama’s Daughters Diner has ’em lined up out the door for the Deep South, deep fat cuisine that’s euphemistically called home cooking: fried chicken, with bones, green beans cooked beyond tenderness with cornbread and mashed potatoes. The prize is the chocolate pie-tall, dark, and topped with clouds of meringue. 2014 Irving Blvd., 214-742-8646. $.

Mecca. The place is sunny, cheerfully decorated with flowers in Spam and Manwich cans. The pro waitresses keep the coffee cups filled and call the customers “hon.” Ridiculously large plates of banana pancakes, thick-cut bacon, eggs over easy, great big biscuits, and reassuring hash browns, served at an appropriate morning pace, add up to an eye-blinkingly low tab. Good morning. 10422 Harry Hines.214-352-0051. $.


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. $-$$.


Alessio’s. The minestrone left our tastebuds bored, and the fettucine was pasty, with undercooked pieces of chicken and flavorless veal piccata. Alessio’s has an established reputation for being a sophisticated Italian ristorante. Not from where we were sitting. Next time we’ll wear our Escada -if we make a better impression on Alessio’s, maybe Alessio’s will make a better impression on us. 4117 Lomo Alto Dr., 214-521-3585.$$-$$$.

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 lemon-butter is simply transporting. Lake Highland Village. 718 N. Buckner Blvd. at Northcliff Drive, 214-327-7777.$.

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.$.

Arcodoro. The bar’s always loud and crowded, and if you want to pick up pizza instead of people, you’ll be an anomaly here. It’s too bad because die food is quite good. The salads are nicely dressed, the pizzas are thin with big bubbling brown crusts, and the special, a pork chop with sage, is good, too. The only problem is, the prices seem steep for bar food. And that’s what Arcodoro feels like. 2520 Cedar Springs. 214-871-1924.$$.

Avant!. Avant i 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 sauteed with onions and bell peppers on top of angel hair pasta covered in a light marinara is gutsier. 2720 McKinney Ave..214-87-4955.$$.

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.$$.

Campisi’s. Campisi’s recent addition is a big, new cheesy room adjoining the small, old cheesy room Campisi’s is famous, or infamous, however you feel about its ambience, and you don”t change a legend lightly. They should have left well enough alone; Campisi’s red sauce isn’t that great even in the original dining room, where it’s so dim you can’t see it. As for the famous pizza. the crust tends to be tough and tastes like it’s been reheated. We’d be embarrassed to bring anyone to try this Dallas tradition. 5610 E. Mockingbird Ln.. 214-827-0355.$-$$.

II Sorrento. Who wouldn’t love the over-the-top, chichi atmosphere ai [[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 dressing. 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. $$.

Isola Gozo. The parking lot just doesn’t help the ambience. But the best you could hope for from a restaurant in NorthPark is some retail compat-ibility. Thin-crusted pizza is always the star-a perfectly proportioned layering of bread and topping, just held together with cheese. The fare at Isola Gozo is sophisticated and good and deserves a better setting. NorthPark Center. Park Lane at Central Expressway, 214-691 -0488. $$.

Maggiano’s little Italy. Chicken Giardina is four huge half-breasts, fried and smothered to death with sautéed vegetables. But the lamb chops with rosemary garlic are excellent -rosy, juicy, and fragrant-and the fettuccine 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. $$-$$$.

Ml Piaci. Housemade is a term Mi Piaci doesn’t take lightly -the kitchen makes its own pastas and cures its own meats. Every other ingredient is either imported or hand-picked. A bowl of the Tuscan classic ribollita could be enough for a meal. But don’t neglect the spicy penne air arrab-biata. the three thin scallops of veal perched on a pile of portobello mushrooms,or the asparagus and cheese tortellini with a fragile Marsala sauce. 14854 Montfort, 972-943-8424. $$-$$$.

D BEST Modo Mio. Here is a “labor of love” restaurant thai 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. 112.972-671-6636.$$.

Nicola’s. Nicola’s makes its own cheeses and frozen desserts-the deliriously light and creamy Mozzarella della Casa includes handmade, cheese layered with grilled eggplant and oven-roasted peppers, finished with basil-infused oil and balsamic vinegar. Farfalle con Salsiccia. pasta butterflies with dainty slices of sausage and a light bath of rich tomato cream sauce, is a little too light-handed. But you’ll be sold on the chocolate hazelnut gelato cone. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ, 972-788-1177. $$.

Patrizio’s. Move over. Campisi’s. Patrizio’s signature crab claws just took first place in the crab claws competition, Soft and delicate, they slip off the exoskeleton and melt in your mouth like. well, butter. Oh. yes-you should eat dinner, too: there’s the chicken and mushroom lasagna (good, but rich) and the baked ziti (we had leftovers for breakfast). The prices aren’t what you’d expect with Escada and Calvin Klein just a kiss away. Highland Park Village. Mockingbird at Prestos 214-522-7878. $$.

Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and floors and odd. faucet-like lighting of this trendy dining spot give this Cedar Springs mainstay showerlike 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 (lawless food lias 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. 291 ] Routh St., 214-873-7377; 5348 Bell Line Rd., 972-726-9555.$$.

Terilli’sA Lower Greenville fixture. Terilli’s packs in a semi-sophistioated 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 moz7,iire11a and a choice of toppings). Pood ranges from pretty good to so-so. but devotees find that Terilli’s is more than the sum of its pans. 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 corn 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.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. goaf cheese, and red peppers; (he other with garlic, spinach, bacon, and pepperoni. 316 W. 7th St,.214-946-l212.S-$$.


Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red. and fresh. From the robata bar. try the char-grilled sirloin- thinly sliced, bite-srzed 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 lends 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., Piano. 972-881-0328. $$.

Sushi m 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 at the Stoneleigh. Sushi at the Stoneleigh is less of a production than many sushi bars, making it as much a bar as a sushi bar. That is. it’s very comfortable to drop in for a beer, some edamame, and a couple of excellent salmon skin rolls. Sushi, from traditional yel-lowtail to the chef’s concoctions (generally, themes on hot peppers, like the jalapeno roll and the 4-1-1 roll), is good, and the kitchen pretty much limits itself to sushi, which is wise. 2917 Maple Ave., 214-871-7111. $$- $$$.

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., Richardson. 972^70-0722. $$.

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. S$-S$$.

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 modern 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. Jumbo shrimp marinated in coconut milk, lightly fried and rolled in coconut shreds, is 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. Stay busy with their large selection of bottled hot sauces, and soothe your burning tongues with homemade key lime pie. 3068 Forest Ln.. 972-241-9113. $-$$.

Fogo de Chao. This is not a place for the faint of heart. Or the not-very-hungry. Once you’ve signaled “go” by turning your ordering chip from red to green, you are immediately barraged by gaucho-clad waiters waving huge skewers of assorted meats. The “Lombo”-pork loin crusted with parmesan-can be dry. but the Frallinha (bottom sirloin) is tender, and the Picanha (rump steak with lots of garlic) will make you send the other waiters away. The centerpiece of the restaurant is the beautiful salad bar-vegetarians who can get past the carnivorous atmosphere will find nirvana in die Form of big bowls of steamed asparagus, mozzarella cheese balls, fejoada. rice, marinated red peppers, hearts of palm, and sun-dried tomatoes. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-7300. $$.

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 corn 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. A silver martini shaker filled with long, thin strips of Yuca Frita-fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-makes french fries obsolete. 4514TravisStreet,214-522-4137,$$.

Texas do 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 Cole Ave., 214-559-0325-$$.

PoPoLo’s. The ownership of this neighborhood restaurant has changed, but the food seems to have stayed the same: mediocre Mediterranean-inspired pizza, pastas, and mix-and-match meats and sauces. An herb-crusted pork tenderloin is dry inside and charred outside, and the rosemary-garlic glaze is nothing special. Pizza used to be the standby here, but when Marco’s is right across the street, you have to try harder than this. 707 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-692-5497. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St.. 214-979-0002. $$.

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.$$$.

Sambuca. Both locations are vibrant restaurants featuring innovative Mediterranean cuisine for those who enjoy their meals with jazz, Each presents well-known groups nightly, but the decibel level prohibits any casual dinner conversation during performances. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison, 972-385-8455; 2618 Elm St., 214-744-0820. $$.


Anamia’s. The basics-cheese enchiladas, cheese tacos, guacamole, and beef tacos-are all above average, the surprise being the usually boring beef taco full of chili powder-spiced beef. Shrimp comes wafting the scent of lime, covered with nuggets of sautéed garlic, on a bed of sautéed celery, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and jalapenos. For two bucks, you can get an order of sopapillas–a platter of three gold puffs sent from heaven with a little honey. 600 E. Sandy Lake Rd., Coppell. 972-304-0321. $. Margaritas.

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 baiter. 4714MapIeAve.,2l4-520-2700.$.

Blue Goose. Size does matter. And so, evidently, does noise, if you’re trying to deduce the Blue Goose’s formula for success. But the food at the Goose is consistently good as well as generous. The cheese enchiladas and flautas are as fat as tamales; the chile rellenos come as a piccadillo-filled pair. And the Homer Price tortilla machine turns out the thick, powdery Hour tortillas that fold around some of the best fajita meat around. 2905 Greenville Ave., 214-823-6786. $$.

Cantina Laredo. The rule is, stick to Mex-Mex food at Cantina, and you’ll probably be happy. Chicken tacos cascabel enfold hot peppered, orange-scented, stewed chicken in a soft, fresh tortilla. But the doppelganger Tex-Mex side of the menu is not so good. Undercooked, stuffed jalapenos are so tough you can’t bite through them. 250 Preston Royal Center. 214-265-1610; multiple locations. $$.

Casa Navarro. This little cafe in a former 7-Eleven specializes in the same unpretentious. cheesy fare we used to love before Tex-Mex became chic. The beer is bring-your-own, and on Wednesdays the enchilada plate is $3.75 all day long. Sopapillas. once the darling dessert at every Tex-Mex joint, are still handmade, light, and greaseless, such a surprisingly elegant finish to the meal that we wished we’d brought our demitasse. too. 11742-AMarsh Lane at Forest. 972-357-0141.$.

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.

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.$.

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

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. $. Margaritas.

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 i cheese enchilada, and a soft cheese taco. Twen-ty-five years and six locations later, they con-tinue 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; multiple loca-tions. S. Margaritas in some locations.

Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Javier’s hook is Mexico City Mexican food, and the atmos-phere 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.4912ColeAve.,214-521-42U.$$.

La Galle Dace. Far from slicker Bell 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 gazpaeho-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 thai 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 entrees 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 rilled with the faithful at every meal because the Hautes are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you dont mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517.$-$$.

Ml Cocina. This chain has expanded so rapidly, you’d think Dallasites had just discovered Tex-Mex. But at all eight 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; multiple locations. $-$$. Margaritas.

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.$-$$.

Nuevo Leon. Nuevo Leon has the uncanny knack of blending perfectly with a neighborhood while serving the same menu at every location. Somehow, the carnitas al pastor are hearty, country fare in Farmers Branch (the original location), fiesta party fare on Greenville Avenue, and mod-Mex in the latest location on Oak Lawn. Service is slick, and the food is excellent-fat enchiladas, avocado like cold cream, thick tortillas. So far, this is a winning formula. 3211 Oak Lawn. 214-522-3331; multiple locations. $-$$.

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. $.

Pepe & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of the best in town. 2935 Elm St., 214-741-1901. $. Margaritas.

Piano Tortilla Factory. If you live in Piano, then this little place should be ai 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. 1 18th St.. Piano, 972423-6980. $.

Primo’s, On the “Mex” side of the Tex-Mex fare, enchiladas come with Cheddar cheese gurgling in thick chili con came and topped with more cheese. The cheese-fest continues with a “Tex” version of a chili relleno: a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper, dipped in a quest) and egg batter, then deep-fried. The amount of money the kitchen spends on cheese could probably put a man on the moon-there is even grated cheese on the side salads. We ate it all. 14905 Midway. Addison. 972-661-2287: 3309McKinnev.214-22O-0510.$.

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). Trie 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. 2(X)2 S. Edgefield Ave., 214-942-1211.$.

Taco Diner. The name sounds slightly retro. But the tacos 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. Service is hit-or-miss. 4011 Villanova, 214-696-4944. S. Margaritas,


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. 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 abed of a complex pomegranate sauce deepened with dates and quartered figs. Simple tastes can settle for roast lamb in a rosemary sauce. 2934 Main St., 214-744-1555.$$.

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 die 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.$-$$.

Gate 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.$$.

Hedary’s. The original Hedary’s was a destination restaurant in Fori Worth long before hummus became hip. Maybe it’s just the Dallas location that’s stopped trying. More garlic in the baba ghanoush, please. Less leathery lahvosh. You have to watch that kibbe; it tends to get dry if it’s cooked too long. Where’s that nice Greek red we like with our lamb? We know better now. 7915 Belt Line Rd, 972-233-1080.$$.


D BEST Marrakesh. Just what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetable* 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 S26.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and finger-cymbales her way around die room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104. $$.


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 a great deal-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 man S10.4620 McKinney Ave., 214-526-7398.$$.

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 com chowder still win Best of Kind, and desserts are a dream -try die 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 audio-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 dial 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 crème Anglaise. Adam’s Mark Hotel. 400 N. Olive St.. 214-922-8000. $$-$$$.

City Cafe. This California-inspired, mostly family-run cafe opened over a dozen years ago but remains in die 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 die best. 5757 W. Lovers Ln.. 214-351-2233.$$.

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-pinstripes preferred. The menu is correspondingly conservative, focusing on grilled meats and predictable pastas, with imaginative New American touches on some dishes, like die venison sausage in the quesadillas and the tortilla crust on the halibut. For a business meal, though, the noise level needs to come way down. 600 N. Akard St.. 214-740-4001. $$.

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

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

D BEST Laurels. Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Westin 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. Westin 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 com relish. The grilled shrimp with avocado and a “gazpacho” sauce is equally lovely to look at. though you won’t look at it for long. 1418 Preston Forest Sq., 972-960-7774.$$.

Nana Grill. The new menu broadens Nana’s focus from Southwestern to Regional American. Service is supremely suave and caring, the accoutrements define luxe, and the ambience is as comfortably refined as always in this upscale establishment. Wyndham Anatole Hotel, 2201 Stemmons Frwy., 214-761-7479. $$-$$$.

Parigi. 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 longtime. 3311 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-0295.$$.

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 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.$$.

York Street. As Dallas restaurants get bigger and bigger, this little chef-owned cafe seems smaller and smaller. And its value rises as the qualities we love about it become rarer and rarer. The choices of elegant food-pheasant pate with peat’s, frogs’ legs, roast duck, and quail, are a wonderful relief from beef and chicken. It’s easy for dinner to spin into hours of conversation just because the atmosphere is so conducive to it. 6047 Lewis St., 214-826-0968. $$-$$$.


D BEST AquaKnox. Stephen 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 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 staff. 24 Highland Park Village, 214-526-1170. $$-$$$.

Daddy Jack’s. With pricey lobsters the rage all over town, Jack 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; 1916 Greenville Ave., 214-826-4910. $$.

Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill. This Chaplin restaurant offers lively service and food that manage to combine homey familiarity with twists of near-elegance. For example, a grilled red snapper topped with shrimp and lobster brandy could grace a tonier table, but here it’s served with an ear of corn. 2723 Elm St., 214-653-3949. $$.

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. 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.$$.

Newport’s. Enjoy ail imaginative seafood menu that we classify loosely as New England seafood with Asian and Cajun influences. Grilled tilapia is imaginatively served with a side of sautéed apples, cilantro, and toasted pecans. And the tuna is a three-inch pan-seared hunk served in a bowl of rice and covered with sautéed portobellos and roasted peppers- almost wonderful, except for the lake of teriyaki sauce drowning the rice. 703 McKinney Ave., 214-954-0220.$$-$$$.

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, are light and chewy. Picardys’ kid-friendly atmosphere is a plus. 6800 Snider Plaza, 214-373-4099.$-$$.

Rockfish. Rockfish is cozy and uncontrived; even the cute stuff, like the tin-pail light fixtures, and the out-of-place ambience, like the rock fireplace on the patio overlooking the parking lot, feels comfortable. You can get an oversized platter filled with more than a pound of fresh crab, about 30 medium boiled shrimp, two ears of corn, several new potatoes, and a foot of sausage for $22.99. Our main problem with Rockfish is that it’s a neighborhood restaurant. but it’s not in our neighborhood. 7639 Campbell Rd. (at Coit). 972-267-8979,$-$$.

SAD 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.$$.

Sea Grill. Mall sprawl makes this Piano oasis hard to find, which would make its unflagging popularity hard to explain if Chef Andy Tun’s highly creative takes on seafood were not so arresting. Dip a half-dozen raw oysters in Tun’s tangy grapefruit-horseradish sauce, and you’ll wonder why you ever overwhelmed such delicacy with ketchup. And your fork’s own weight slides through the barely seared jumbo sea scallop or a moist-hearted cut of grilled tuna. 2205 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 180. Piano. 972-509-5542. $$.

Truluck’s Steak & Stone Crab. Stone crabs are a new delicacy in Dalla*, 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 meal. 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. $$-$$$.


Blue Mesa. Blue Mesa has wisely stuck with its original concept of Southwestern fare: The tableside guacamole is truly a marvel, with avocados as smooth as congealed cream. Adobe pie, the signature dish, is as good as ever, as is the warm salsa and yam and tortilla chips. But the menu at the new Lincoln Plaza location is mostly new. There’s a new churrascaria section and a number of new entrées. New Mexican-style blue com chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce are richer than anything ever dreamed up in Santa Fe-they have a definite (ami welcome) Texas richness and come with a com cake and gingered rice, a nice relief from the usual Spanish. 7700 W. Northwest Hwy., 214-378-8686; 5100 Belt Line Rd., 972-934-0165, $$.

Flying Burro. The Burro’s brand of Mexican food isn’t purely New Mexican-there’s more meal 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 GreenvilleAve..214-827-21l2.$.

No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms anil onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison conies with Man’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. $$-$$$.

Sam’s Cafe The menu is mostly mainstreamed New Southwest, food that succeeds more with heft than invention. The Southwest pot roast, a hunk of tender beef allegedly spiced with chili and sided with a mountain of mashed potatoes. fills a dinner plate and two later lunches. Sedona spring rolls are a novelty item that wraps Hour tortillas around chopped chicken and vegetables with an unpleasantly smooth barbecue sauce. 100 Crescent Court. 214-555-2233.$$.

D BEST Star Canyon. Chef-owner Stephan Pyles has created a Dallas destination with his innovative New Texas Cuisine, An appetiser 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’ lop attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. S$-$$$.

Y.O. Ranch. Though this is frontier fare, the kilchen 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 lender as a filet mignon. However, the buck slops 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. Dallai 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 omelette called a tortilla, braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St.. 214-528-1731. $$.


Biernat’s. The dinner menu’s specialty section features prime rib, rack of lamb, and jumbo lobsters. The entrées reveal the imagination of a chef who has more on his mind than meat. The sea bass is moist, but the two mainstays-steak and lobster-are a problem. As for the lunch menu, the steak sandwich comes off well, and so do the slices of grilled and balsamic-dressed portobello mushroom and tomato fanned around a hummock of baked goat cheese. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave.. 214-219-2201. $$-$$$.

Bob’s Steak and Chop House. We usually forego filets, preferring a more flavorful cut. but the three-inch 9-ounce is beautifully marbled and cooked perfectly pink and tender. The New York strip steak is also outstanding. It’s impossible not to love the “smashed” potatoes-they’re wickedly mashed with about a stick of butter in each serving. And the slight sweet glaze on Bob’s signature whole carrots side dish is a nice contrast to the beef. The atmosphere here is as comfortable as your grandmother’s dining room, but the restaurant is crowded with the Ross Perot and Jerry Jones set. 4300 Lemmon Ave., 214-528-9446. $$-$$$.

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

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. No complaints about the meals (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., 972^190-9000. $$$.

Kirby’s Steakhouse. One recent dinner had six happy Yankee carnivores whistling Dixie, but more recently we were served a puck-like filet sitting alone on a parsley-less plate. And we didn’t understand what made the mashed potatoes “famous”-we tasted nothing more than potatoes whipped with lots of pepper. On the other hand, service was attentive, and the prime rib was pure retro-quality. 3525 Greenville Ave.. 214-821-2122;J408 Preston Rd., Piano, 972-867-2122.$$.

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

Nick & Sam’s. Nick & Sam’s is a steakhouse first, but it’s trying-and succeeding-to be more. For instance, there’s a raw bar at the far end of the building, and the lobby bar area is a wine cellar with more than 300 wines. We ate the traditional steakhouse meal-a wedge salad with creamy lumps of Maytag blue cheese. Surf ’n ’ Turf (snowy sweet lobster tail and soft filet), and a prime aged “cowboy steak” with sides. The most successful twist on the traditional steakhouse is the setting itself. This is not a faux men’s club-no brass,etched glass, or hunting paintings. 3008 Maple Ave., 214-871-7663, $$-$$$.

The Palm. The four-pound lobster (at $20 a ; pound!) is sweet and tender, but the 24-ounce I 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 Ross Ave., 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. $$-$$$.

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

Bandy’s Steakhouse. A meal in this cozy, Victorian home-cum-restaurant can make you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s. But your friends never served steaks like these. Graded prime and cut by hand, these beauties are rich and buttery. Ten seafood selections offer plenty of alternate choices. 7026 Main St.. Frisco, 972- 335-3066.$$-$$$.

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 Taher-zadeh, 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 coaled 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. Prices are less than you’d expect. 17795 Dallas Pkwy., 972-267-9393.$$.

Texas Land and Cattle. It’s nice to see that Texas Land and Cattle doesn’t have a $30 filet on the menu-their prices top out at $18.95. and that includes a salad or soup and one side. The place has a kitschy, Texas-log-cabin ambience with concrete floors and deer heads mounted on die wall. The 16-ounce pepper-smoked sirloin is delivered sliced and is as rich and juicy as prime rib, perfectly cooked and delicious. The trail quail are grilled and dry-we prefer pan frying. And a huge baked sweet potato served with cinnamon-sugar sauce and butter is a nice diversion from boring baked Idahoes. 3130 Lemmon Ave., 214-526-4664. $$,

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 Belt Line 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. Whal makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alia Ave.. 214-887-8795. $$.

Royal Thai. Furnished with omate 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. $-$$.

Thai Garden. Thai Garden serves homestyle Thai; a beautiful plate of beef satay skewered and grilled comes with a light creamy peanut sauce. The takeout is top-notch, too: Even the usually lowly Lo Mein is an elegant mixture of soft noodles, bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery in a silky broth. Rice pudding made with sweetened black rice blended with a salty sweet coconut milk and topped with fresh lotus seed and fruit is a treat. 6090 Campbell Rd., Ste. 124, 972-248-8861. $-$$.

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 m 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 these places thai has lots of loyal customers. The menu is slocked 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 regular’s’ 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. 972-380-2766.5-$$.


Angelo’s. The big. wood-paneled dunce 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. 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.8l7-332-0357.$.

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., 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 pieu de gallo and hot Hour 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. Enjoy it there as often as possible. 2900 S. Hulen St.. Fort Worth. 817-922-9244. $$.

Cacharel. This easily tops 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. $$-$$$.

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.. Fort Worth,’ 817-926-7000. $.

8.0. See listing in Dallas Eclectic. 1J1 E. 3rd, Fort Worth. 817-336-0880. $-$$.

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.$$.

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, die bakery, in an alcove off the dining room, sells traditional Mexican breads, rolls. and sweet rolls. 2122 N. Main St., Fort Worth, 817-626-5770.$$.

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 die 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. It’s organized chaos at lunch, but there isn’t a frown in the lime-green room. The burgers are worth the drive from Dallas, and so are the sides: fried okra, deviled eggs, and pimiento cheese-stuffed jalapenos. If you can manage, have homemade banana pudding for dessert. It’s been a while since we left a restaurant this satisfied for only $5. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-732-2881. $.

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

D BEST 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, (tut Hie piece de resistance 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,$$.

Reata. Reata’s upscale “cowboy cuisine” includes a chicken-fried steak the 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. Sit in the north dining room and watch the sun sink in the west and the Dallas skyline twinkle in the east. 500 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-336-I009. $$-$$$.

Reflections. Maybe you don’t expect high romance in Fort Worth, but maybe you should. Reflections is 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 sauteed 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 lop 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.. FortWorth.8I7-727-2781.$$$.

Sundance Market and Deli. Every neighborhood could use a Sundance Market and Deli. Urbanites can stop in for a few staples-there s a refrigerated case with prepared meals, chilled beer and wine, fresh produce, and even a large variety of funky gifts. A cafeteria line offers specialty soups, salads, and spuds. Our favorite is the pastrami, bacon, Swiss, and tomato with spicy mustard grilled on fresh pumpernickel. 353 Throckmorton, Fort Worth. 817-335-3354. $.

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


Café Highland Park

The people watching at Café Highland Park is as good as the food. During our last visit we sat on the patio surrounded by such an unusual mix of diners we expected Woody Allen to emerge from behind a camera and shout “Action!” At the table next sat four seventies guys in dark glasses and huge gold chains drinking Coronas from a tableside champagne bucket, while a half-empty bottle of Chivas Regal sat as a centerpiece. They looked up from their conversation only long enough to watch the salesgirls from Chanel exit from the back door after a long day of selling sandals to the women who were seated at all the other tables. The fountain in the center of the terrace set the scene for the tiny outdoor café (which would look at home somewhere along the Mediterranean) and also functions as a convenient resting-place for cell phones. At the sound of a ring, conversation stopped as everyone reached for their phone. The whole terrace of diners giggled collectively at the necessary absurdity. Once the phones were answered and the meal was served we delighted in a delicious Chicken Jerusalem-a chicken breast served over couscous accented with mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and a light lemon sauce, The cheese ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese came served in a flavorful tomato saffron broth with a hint of pesto. We lingered long after dinner over a white chocolate mousse decorated with raspberries to watch the rest of the neighborhood show. Highland Park Village (Preston and Mockingbird) 214-521-7300, FB, $$-$$$


Sticky Rice is Very Nice

This dish is Thailand’s answer to the sweet tooth. Made with a special sweet rice that sticks together when cooked, covered with sweet coconut milk, and topped with fresh sliced mangoes. Its. the perfect way to cool your palate after a fiery green curry.

Chow Thai, 5290 Beltline Road at Montfort, Addison, 372-960-2999.


The Smoothie Guy

Downtown Dallas in August isn’t exactly a tropical paradise. Most people bring a lunch or grab a bite at the nearest source of air conditioning. But we’ve found relief at La Fiesta Fruits, where you can cool off with a cocktail-a fruit cocktail that is. La Fiesta sells big cups of fresh-cut wedges of almost every fruit, and custom smoothies. You can pick up a bag of mixed fruit for the whole gang. 1530 Main #105,1201 Main &P402, 1627 Pacific #81

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