Restaurant Reviews



“A moderately upscale steak house” and a “playground for adults” is how Mike Archer. Sullivan’s chief operating officer, describes this 1940s Chicago-Style supper club, a trio of concepts, as restaurateurs call them, under one roof. We ’d sum it up as a Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups-there’s a crowded bar with a singles scene, a steak restaurant, and an adjoining lounge-Ringside at Sullivans- featuring live swing bands and dancing. But the concept that appealed to us (after checking out every cow palace in town) was the price range: While the average tab at Del Frisco’s (owned by the same Lone Star Steakhouse Corp.) is $60, the average check at Sullivan’s runs $35 to $40. Of course, that doesn’t include wine, cigars, martinis, or the main dining room has the requisite art deco touches; one side of the room is elevated and lined with a wall of books, exactly, we imagined, like the kind of retreat where Sullivan the boxer might have spent contemplative moments when not in the ring.

Our waiter was extremely friendly and helpful as well as knowledgeable about the wine list. “Nothing from California” was our request, and he guided us to a perfect Trapet Gevery Chambertin pinot noir in our price range. He did so well with the wine we told him to order the food for us. and the next thing we knew we had a frosty plate with a huge wedge of cold, crunchy iceberg lettuce lopped with a decadent creamy blue cheese dressing rippling over chunks of fresh blue cheese. (The salad comes with every entrée.) The entrees were delivered the minute the salads were finished-we assume the waiters at Sullivan’s are instructed to turn those tables main dining room has the requisite art deco touches; one side of the room is elevated and lined with a wall of books, exactly, we imagined, like the kind of retreat where Sullivan the boxer might have spent contemplative moments when not in the ring.

Our waiter was extremely friendly and helpful as well as knowledgeable about the wine list. “Nothing from California” was our request, and he guided us to a perfect Trapet Gevery Chambertin pinot noir in our price range. He did so well with the wine we told him to order the food for us. and the next thing we knew we had a frosty plate with a huge wedge of cold, crunchy iceberg lettuce lopped with a decadent creamy blue cheese dressing rippling over chunks of fresh blue cheese. (The salad comes with every entrée.) The entrees were delivered the minute the salads were finished-we assume the waiters at Sullivan’s are instructed to turn those tables fast so high volume can keep the prices low.

The knockout punch of the night was a 24-ounce, bone-in ribeye coaled with lots of fresh ground pepper, perfectly cooked to medium rare. We always feel a slightly self-destructive compulsion to stray from steak in a steak-house-at Sullivan’s, this decision worked out well for us. Smoked pork chops were grilled and served with a side of sweet, smoked apples-almost miraculously, the smoke aroma didn’t overpower the delicate taste of the meal or the fragrance of the apples, The 14-ounce lobster tail was the same caliber as the 20-ounce tail we sampled at Del Frisco’s-the only difference was the $56 we saved at Sullivan’s. The side dishes were only average, but the portions are huge as if to make up in quantity For what they lack in quality. (’It didn’t taste very good, but they served us lots of it,” we heard ourselves tell someone later. As if that were a good thing.) The horseradish mashed potatoes could have used a little more horseradish, and the doughnut-sized onion rings were heavily beer-breaded and greasy, giving off a glistening, donut-like glow.

The dessert was something we shouldn’t like-an unsophisticated gooey mess-but we also admit to liking cookie dough more than the actual cookie. Sullivan’s Steakhouse, 17795 North Dallas Pkwy., 972-267-9398, $$$.


Our ’60s sensibilities were Initially rattled by having to choose between “Evita” and “Che Guevara” when we made our way to the restroom. Somehow the days of protesting seem like an old movie when Latin revolutionaries have become concepts for dining-room restrooms. Of course, Hollywood (and therefore everyone else) has always had a love affair with pre-revolutionary Cuba. From Ricky Ricardo (“Lu-u-ucy. honey. I’m going to de club!”) to Robert Redford romancing Uma Thurman in Havana, the hot. humid, rum-soaked nights provide the perfect setting for passion, and that brings us straight to the subject of food. Doesn’t it? As we sipped our Cuba Libres and Mojitos at the Samba Room bar, we half expected to see Sonia Bragga and Raul Julia clinking crystal cognac glasses while gazing into each other’s eyes. From Hemingway’s dumpy seaside bars to swanky big-band nightclubs (remember those conga players with ruffled sleeves?), you can sense the island when you open the front door of the Samba Room.

It’s impossible not to relax and feel transported to some exotic Havana night. The sexy cherrywood lacquered bar is backed by a 25-foot mural of childhood memories by Cubanboni Dallasite Rolando Diaz. Huge palm trees, windows covered by wooden-slat shutters, warm browns, ochre, and cobalt blue set the mellow, sexy tone for the whole room. Ceiling-to-floor gauze curtains wind between the tables, dividing the cigar smokers from those of us who don’t inhale.

Chef Phil Butler, formerly the executive chef at Havana Cafe Cubano in Chicago. apparently isn’t only respected for his blend of seafood and meats with the flavors of sugar cane, rum, garlic, and fresh mojos: occasionally, he bursts out of the kitchen with his congas and performs a respectable version of “Babalu.”

His rhythms are just as sure in the kitchen. Bocaditas (small plates) include a salad of exotic greens with lender grilled chicken, sautéed red onion, avocado, and bacon lightly tossed in a sweet vinaigrette with a hint of blue cheese. Arepas-beef marinated in sherry and cooked with onion and peppers, then shredded into a mound and surrounded by three triangles of griddled sweet corn cakes lopped with a slight drizzle of sour cream- were superb. An entrée of Palomilla was enough for four-strips of flank steak rolled over caramelized onions and served on a mound of black beans and rice. A silver martini shaker tilled with long thin strips of Yuca Frita-fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-made french fries obsolete. Our only disappointment was a freezer-burned, dry. flour-less chocolate cake with ancho chile-spiced whipped cream.

It’s fun. it’s open late on the weekends, and the prices are extremely reasonable. Go for a Cuban sandwich and a beer, or go all out. Samba Room, 4514 Travis Street, 214-522-4137,$$.


What comes first, the neighborhood or the neighborhood restaurant? Usually the makeup of the community sets the tone for the type of restaurant that will work. But Luciano Kola is the first restaurant on his block. In fact, the block isn’t quite built yet. Antonio Ristorante is on the new roundabout. Addison Circle, what Addisonites are envisioning as a residential addition to what is mostly a strip-shopping community. The planned community (see Las Colinas) is still under construction-on our first visit to Antonio, there were only a few apartments open; on our second, the local gym was up and running. By the time you read this, the grass will be green and there will be a lake with swans and joggers galore. Meanwhile. Antonio defines the neighborhood.

Luciano is a Lombardi’s vet from the early days, and his new restaurant is a funky-free, spic-and-span version of the Lombardi ’s on Hall: red brick walls, green-and-white checked tablecloths. The servers are friendly but inexperienced, more what you would expect at Snuffer’s than at a “ristorante” with $20 entrées. We queried one server (with a note penciled on her hand reminding her not to miss a dentist appointment) about a wine priced at $44. She wasn’t familiar with it, so she tried to downsize us to the $36 “Chef special” wine. Her salesmanship skills were a little robotic; obviously she had been trained to push that wine (somebody has a piece of the vineyard). She said she really didn’t like red wine but this was one she could drink. Feeling a little shaky on her expertise, we made our own decisions about the food. As it turned out, it didn’t matter who made the decisions.

Focaccia arrived, gooey in the center and burned on the edges, more like a poor excuse for pizza; minestrone soup was indistinguishable from Campbell’s Chunky Vegetable. Manicotti-crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and covered in tomato sauce-was as bland and soft as cafeteria food. Lasagna Alia Romana, billed as Pope John Paul’s favorite dish, turned out to be meatball-stuffed lasagna noodles slacked with sausage and three cheeses-how can all those ingredients end up bland? The only tasty thing we tried was a mess of housemade sausage and peppers.

But they saved the worst for last. The Gran Marnier soufflé was rubbery from top to bottom. And zabaglione, the magical Italian concoction of egg yolks and sugar usually served overflowing in a frothy, foamy custard, was delivered Sara Lee style-more like cold, loose whipped cream covered with fruit. Surely this is heresy. It should be, Antonio Ristorante. 4985 Addison Circle. 972-458-1010.$$.


Baker’s Ribs. Nothing fancy about this place. Load up your tray with piles of sliced beef, pork, turkey, chicken, cayenne-seasoned St. Louis-cul ribs, and the usual side dishes: potato salad, cole slaw, and beans. We still prefer the Commerce Street location. 2724 Commerce St., 214-748-5433; multiple locations. $.

Peggy Sue Barbecue. This ’50s-style joint in Snider Plaza is serving some of the best BBQ in town. Terrific appetizers include Texas Torpedoes-cream cheese-filled fried jalapenos. Baby back ribs, chicken, Polish kiel-basa sausage, and brisket are smoked to perfection. Vegetables, usually second-class in the macho world of meal, go first-class here. 6600 Snider Plaza. 214-987-9188. $.

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

Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue for [lie 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, $.


Corner Bakery. Dallas has a number of excellent bakeries now, but the Comer Bakery holds its own. Country loaves are crusty, and the sweet stuff is all excellent. And the Bakery has a cafe side, serving pizza, tomato-sauced pasta, and sandwiches. 13350 N, Dallas Pkwy.. Ste. 2443, 972-934-7001 ; multiple locations. $.

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

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


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

The Bock Bottom Brewery. Generous appetizers could make their own meal, especially the asia-go cheese dip or signature green pork chili. Six regular brews range from ultra-light (Coyote Western Ale and Palomino Pale Ale) to deep and roasty (Pelican Brown Ale and our fave, Roadrunner Stout). 4050 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-404-7456. $$.

Routh Street Brewery and Grill. Although the food has slipped a little, the hand-crafted brew remains some of the finest in Dallas, and an elegant Hill Country lodge motif with soft lighting makes it a sexy spot fora beer joint, Shy away from the wienerschnitzel; roasted pork tenderloin fares better. 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. S.

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

Puff’s The Hickory Grill. Servers tend to be the ’90s version of the ’50s soda jerk-baggy-jeaned teens with good intentions and no grace. But the burgers, built from half a pound of chuck, grilled and smoked over hickory, on a special, Massimo-baked bun, are good. And the options are. too: cheese, bacon-mushroom, and a welcome revival of the old Goff’s hickory-sauced sandwich, livened up with jalapenos. 6112 Luther Lane, Preston Center, 214-361-6191. $.Margaritas.

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

Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought the university years were the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries (a basket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese), because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6850;’l4910 Midway Rd., Addison, 972-991-8811.$.

Stoneleigh P. Everyone smuggles in ketchup because the place proudly and oddly refuses to serve it. But even the contraband ketchup can’t help the boring, meatless garden burger, and the homemade potato chips are not as good as Zapp’s out of the bag. The best thing about the Stoneleigh’s 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. $.

Taxas Hamburgers. This Texas kitsch joint is filled with stuffed armadillos, Texas flags, cowboy memorabilia, good of boys, and Armani-clad Design Center sophisticates. Besides great half-arid third-pound burgers accompanied by fresh fixings, this place serves some great meatloaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. 1616 Market Center Blvd., 214-747-2222. $.


Copeland’s of New Orleans. Maybe it’s risky serving Cajun cuisine this far from the bayou, but some places get it right. Cajun staples are complemented by an array of more creative appetizers and entrées. The blackened redfish is nicely done if a bit tame. What’s more, every staff member from the manager on down is friendly and polite. 5353 Belt Line Rd., Addison,972-661-1883.$$.

Crescent City Cafe. Crescent City still dishes out solid New Orleans chow in authentic French Quarter surroundings. Though the fried food can be spotty, the gumbo’s rich and the po’ boys are consistently good. 2615 Commerce St., 214-745-1900.$.

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 cornmeal-crusted oysters are crisp-skinned delights. 2404 Cedar Springs Rd.. 214-740-1985.$$.


Arc-En-Giel. The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare, but everyone really goes there to eat Vietnamese. Our last meal we ordered in a leisurely way, a few dishes at a time-prisline 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. The personnel here roll out the red carpet, and the mostly excellent food reflects a meticulous attention to detail, performing some service rituals as complex as the cuisine. Start with quail curl and watch as a team of servers performs a near-ballet in bringing it to your table. And finish with tableside French-pressed coffee. 7979 Inwood Rd., Ste. 121, 214-902-9500. $-$$.

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 tried was 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. $-$$.

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

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. S-$$.

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., 214-82M198.$-$$.

Szechwan Pavilion. One of the lop 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. $-$$. Y

Taiwan. Taiwan has had the same chef, owner, and location for 18 years, so il 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 thai disconcerting, jiggly cornstarch texture thai so often makes us push our bowl away. 4980 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-387-2333. $-$$. Y

Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan. Not much has changed here over the last 15 years. Bow-tie clad waiters still formally dish oui classic hoi 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 hut 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 the Dallas psyche, a fact that makes Cosmic Cup almost a tourist attraction here. In other cities, there are whole neighborhoods lined with places like this. Most of the food is India-inspired, which makes vegetarian an easy philosophy-samosas. dal. curry. Good, and good for the soul. 2912 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-6157.$.


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. $.


Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-size beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd? Ste. 150, 972-239-8060. $$.


D BEST Bistro A. Peripatetic chef Avner Samuel s latest venture is his best yet, and better yet, Bistro A looks like it’s going to be around awhile. It’s made sleepy Snider Plaza a destination, drawing well-heeled diners in for stylish fare that’s beautifully presented. Dishes with Middle Eastern influences arc especially good, but the chef does equally well with simple steak fries, and casserole-roasted chicken could he the best bird in town. 681? 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-lender chicken over leek mashed potatoes and cream gravy so good it makes the bland bread belter. 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 goat 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. 5600 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 poufed with cream. We suppose you could call the Cheesecake Factor;’ “overwhelmingly eclectic.” Just remember, that’s not a good thing. 7700 Northwest Hwy., 214-3734844. $$-$$$.

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 belter bet. Sit outside if you can. 2704 Elm St., 214-741-9012. $-$$.

Dream Cafe. This Quadrangle eatery’s pastoral-in-city setting seems appropriate for the Dream Cafe’s menu, though there are those who insist that “dream” refers to the often seemingly somnolent service. The famed breakfast menu remains an intriguing blend; solid egg dishes to entice the power-breakfast crowd and granola for those who want to start the day on a more Spiritual, healthful note. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St., 214-954-0486. $-$$.

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. $-$$.

Firehouse. Maybe chef Bruno Mello-the inspiration behind Firehouse–has stretched himself too thin with side ventures, or maybe he’s just tired. Whatever the case, the food here has slipped a bit. The Sicilian Firehouse chicken is a fire-eaters dream when it’s not drowning m habanero sauce. Great appetizers include a whole roasted onion tilled with spicy garlic and eggplant dip. 1928 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-2468. $$-$$$.

Going Gourmet This place is a delicious blend of French bistro and neighborhood favorite: small, intimate, humming with conversation. The food’s a creative melange of Continental, Mediterranean, and New American influences, and the wine you bring yourself. Call for reservations–this tiny space is packed on any given evening. 4345 W. Northwest Hwy. at Midway Rd. 214-350-6135. $$-$$$.

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 mailer how often the chef changes), and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave., 214-828-1981. $$.

D BEST The Green Room. This’90s bistro continues to dish out some of the most inventive cuisine to be found between New York and L.A. The menu is eclectically uptown, and the decor is strictly downtown rock ’n’ roll. The contrast between them is cool. At $36, the fixed-price, four-course, “Feed Me” menu is the best deal in town. 2715 Elm St.. 214-748-7666.$$-$$$.

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

Simply Fondue. You choose one kind of cheese for your first stick-and-dip course, and the waiter does a cooking show for you tableside. mixing white wine, cheese, and a little mustard in the fondue pot. For the main course you can choose to cook in hot oil or hot broth; for dessert it’s dark or milk chocolate. It. seems like an awful lot of work for a meal you’re paying someone else to cook. And not so simple. 2108^Grecnville 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 rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. A thick slab of fennel-crusted sea bass seasoned with kalamata olives is poached to pep- fection. And dark chocolate mousse is worth every hip-hugging calorie. 52lX) Belt Line Rd., Ste. 108 at Montfort Dn.Addison, 972-991-8824. $$-$$$.

D BEST Barclays.Don’t come to Barclays expecting to find a pint of bitters and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms is of regal status. And if you’re looking for that perfect place to “pop” the question or celebrate something special, look no further-this place is a gem. 2917 Fairmount St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$.

Chez Gerard. Which is more to be celebrated, French thrift or French style? Skin-thin petals of veal liver, sautéed with onions and grapes in port wine sauce, become the gourmand’s liver and onions-or is it the peasant’s foie gras? Whatever. 4444_McKinney Ave., 214-522-6865. $$-$$$.

Clair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the corner of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant delights with delicious food and impeccable service. A classic house-made pork paté is served with diced onion. French cornichons, and mustard. Poitrine de canard, a splendidly moist duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Road, 214-987-2028.$$-$$$.

French Room. This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling, Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that 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 goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus. 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200.$$$.

Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: fine food in tine surroundings at a fair price. Appetizers and entrées alike are first-rate. If you’re not up for one of the excellent meals, enjoy a glass of wine and a sampling of cheese or one of their many patés. 3605 McKinney Ave., 214-528-6010. $$.

D BEST L’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral , remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit, tables are draped in starchy while, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you could get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tail is just as subtly good, Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. A thick slab of fennel-crusted sea bass seasoned with kalamata olives is poached to pep- fection. And dark chocolate mousse is worth every hip-hugging calorie. 52lX) Belt Line Rd., Ste. 108 at Montfort Dn.Addison, 972-991-8824. $$-$$$.

D BEST Barclays.Don’t come to Barclays expecting to find a pint of bitters and bangers and mash. This is upper-crust English fare with a European twist. Potato ravioli stuffed with Stilton cheese and wild mushrooms is of regal status. And if you’re looking for that perfect place to “pop” the question or celebrate something special, look no further-this place is a gem. 2917 Fairmount St., 214-855-0700. $$-$$$.

Chez Gerard. Which is more to be celebrated, French thrift or French style? Skin-thin petals of veal liver, sautéed with onions and grapes in port wine sauce, become the gourmand’s liver and onions-or is it the peasant’s foie gras? Whatever. 4444_McKinney Ave., 214-522-6865. $$-$$$.

Clair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the corner of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant delights with delicious food and impeccable service. A classic house-made pork paté is served with diced onion. French cornichons, and mustard. Poitrine de canard, a splendidly moist duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Road, 214-987-2028.$$-$$$.

French Room. This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling, Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that 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 goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus. 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200.$$$.

Jennivine. Jennivine’s slightly anachronistic atmosphere, a quaint old house stranded in the massive new Uptown apartments, still delivers one of Dallas’ most unexpected dining experiences: fine food in tine surroundings at a fair price. Appetizers and entrées alike are first-rate. If you’re not up for one of the excellent meals, enjoy a glass of wine and a sampling of cheese or one of their many patés. 3605 McKinney Ave., 214-528-6010. $$.

D BEST L’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral , remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit, tables are draped in starchy while, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you could get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tail 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.$$-$$$.

La Mirabello. Thoroughly retro not only in its ambience, which stresses traditional comfort, and in its food, which is precisely and personally prepared French, but also in its service, which, actually claims to coddle the customer. Enjoy reading the menu, but don’t order a thing until you bear the specials of the day. That’s where the treasures are. 17610 Midway Rd? 972-733-0202. $$-$$$.

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 tucked into a tutu-like frill of purple kale, decorated with two swishes and a swirl of orange red-pepper sauce.19009 Preston Rd? 972-248-1911.$$-$$$.

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. $$$.

D REVISITS The Pyramid Room. We had a reservation and were all dressed up for the occasion, but we didn’t impress the hostess at The Pyramid Room. To be fair, we suspect she might have been the coat-check girl subbing for the maitre d’. At any rate, we waited live or 10 minutes to be seated while she concentrated on validating other people’s parking-a penny ante start to a high-stakes dinner. The Pyramid is still considered the grande dame of Dallas dining-the room is opulent, and the style is grand-but our evening here turned out to be more of a learning experience than a special occasion. Arthur Riddles’ piano-playing filled the interstices between, but service was sl-o-o-o-w. And the food was uneven. The “napoleon” of rubbery mozzarella-layered red and yellow tomatoes was dressed in roasted garlic tomato coulis that looked like Kraft French dressing with thawed peas scattered around like they’d been dropped on the plate in some terrible accident. And our “chicken empanada” turned out to hold seafood. The table d’hote menu was a good deal-$68 for four courses with wine, $44 without. Cream of carrot soup with celery root and gorgonzola croutons was good, hot. and thick, with a spicy nose-though it would have tasted belter if we hadn’t been drumming our fingers by the time it arrived. As for the main courses, a fan of rare duck slices with a wonderful apple-pineapple wild rice was perfectly paired with an Indigo Hills pinot noir, the food and the wine farming a perfect circle on the palate. Unfortunately, service continued at its geologic pace, so we had to leave the table before the end of the meal, and when we came back later to cash in our dessert chip, the kitchen was closed. The bar help wouldn’t even bring us a sherbet. 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. $$-$$$.

Watel’s. Sure, you’ll find weird organ meats like calves’ brains doctored with capers and veal kidneys touched with mushrooms to satisfy the strand of old-world gastronomic esoterica that quivers in your palate. But you’ll also find exquisite contrasts like delicate rare tuna coated with crunchy peppercorns and lightly structured grilled shrimp with red pepper coulis-all served in a crisp, clean space. 2719 McKinney Ave., 214-720-0323.$$.


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

City Cafe To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? According to the friendly 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 350 degrees for 20 minutes, most of the dishes (for instance, a thickly sliced rare leg of lamb with charred, sun-dried tomatoes) are tasty and reheat beautifully. We love the apple pizza: a thick slice of thinly sliced apples layered with sugar and cinnamon, covered with two inches of nut-laden crumble lopping. 5757 Lovers Ln., 214-351-3366. $-$$.

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

Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak LawnAve..2l4-526-1515.$.

Izmir Ml. 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 ail available for pick-up or phone-in orders. And this is the place to go if you need rosewater at 9 p.m. 3607 Greenville Ave., 214-824-8484. $-$$

Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food-there was never a problem with that. At night, when the blond, light-filled Cafe TuGogh features full table service, it’s on its way to becoming one of the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-4070. $-$$.

Sigel’s Fresh Market. Besides the stellar cheese counter, dozens of kinds of imported pasta, great selection of olive oils, and other gourmet comestibles, the little deli adjoining Sigel’s liquor store sells perhaps the best roast chicken to go in town-and it’s a deal, too. 15003 lnwood Rd., 972-387-9804. 5-$$.


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.$$.


Barbec’s. Barbec’s regulars love the tabloid newsprint menu, the hearty, what-can-1-get-you-Hon? waitresses, the awesome anytime breakfasts. The food ranges from pretty good to good, but it’s all cheap. And they’ve always got those legendary beer biscuits, sweet and high and truly loved by all. Great meringues. 8949 Garland Rd? 214-321-5597. $.

Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. Entrées run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast to fried chicken, all accompanied by an endless supply of vegetables. Don’t worry if your entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-5681.$-$$.

DC’s Cafe. You’ve been in powder rooms bigger than this super-clean little place, but you’ve had home cooking this fine only in your dreams of classic soul-food plate lunches 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.

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 Mines, 214-352-0051. $.

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


D BEST Bombay Cricket Club. Lunch buffets are an Indian restaurant tradition, and Bombay Cricket Club’s lineup is excellent. A pretty setting, unfailingly polite service, and excellent food make this one of the top Indian restaurants in town. Trie quality is steady at lunch, which for some restaurants seems to be a time not to try very hard. 2508 MapleAve.,214-871-1333.$$.

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


Alfonso’s. The menu touches on all the basics, and the house marinara and buttery roils 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 Dr.,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 lie an anomaly here. It’s loo bad because the 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. $$.

Avanti. Avanti has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood cafe in spite of every obstacle, The fried calamari with tomato and basil sauce is greaseless, and the crunchy batter is light and tasty. We’re slightly disappointed with the grilled veal medallions, but the Italian sausage seasoned with lots of fennel and sautéed with onions and bell peppers on top of angel hair pasta covered in a light marinara is gutsier. 2720 McKinney Ave.. 214-8714955, $$.

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. $$.

D REVISITS Campisi’s.We didn’t expect too much from Campisi’s “sommelier,” but we were in an adventurous mood and wanted something other than the run-of-the-mill “Chianti.” Call us crazy—we asked the waiter for his suggestion, and he pointed to the wine list and said, “Try this one. It’s really good.” Thai was helpful. When we inquired why it was so good he replied, “It has really good flavor.” So what if we were eating from melamine plates and the table was sel with ’50s-style red votives-anyone, anywhere, serving wine should know how to sell it a little. This guy could have fooled us with a “dry, fruity flavor” line. We were there to check out Campisi’s addition, 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. We decided that 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. Visibility didn’t help very much. We didn’t like the famous pizza either that night, and it wasn’t just our by-then sour mood-the crust was tough and tasted like it had been reheated. We’d lie embarrassed to bring anyone to try this Dallas tradition. 5610 E. Mockingbird Ln.. 214-827-0355.$-$$.

D REVISITS llSorrento. We glanced at the notes of our recent visit to 11 Sorrento, and across the top of the page was scrawled in huge letters: S-A-L-T. Sorry to say that one of our favorite icons of Dallas dining was having a bad night. Who wouldn’t love the over-the-top, chichi atmosphere al II Sorrento-the canopy of plastic grapevines, the fake courtyard, the fortuneteller in her niche? It’s completely winning. But the food didn’t match the extravagant spirit of the decor. Maybe the kitchen has finally succumbed to the taste of their aging clientele. The salad plates still come chilled, but the lettuce was tossed in a pint of Golden Goddess dressing. (So many salads are overdressed-don’t kitchens have any kind of salad-dressing budgets these days?) And the bread still comes hot from the box of a strolling breadman. The menu boasts that II Sorrento’s Bolognese was “flow Appétit Magazine’s Choice.” but it was too mild for our mouths. Housemade gnocchi was plump and perfectly cooked, but the marinara sauce was another victim of the salt murderer in the kitchen. Our waiter, a business school dropout who may not have had a head for business but definitely had a palate for wine, guided us to a little-known Super Tuscan on the wine list (that is, if you can be super and little-known at the same time) for only $29. whose fullness of flavor made up for the food. 8616 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-352-8759. $$.

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

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

D BEST Ml Wad. At all times, these hip-per-than-hip rooms are filled with people who look like they just stepped off the fashion pages. The menu focuses on classic Tuscan cuisine, with homemade pasta, made-to-order risotto, and superb breads. You’ll always see waiters expertly deboning the tender Dover sole for savvy diners, Our only complaint: The noise level can get pretty high. 14854 Montfort Dr., 972-934-8424. $$-$$$.

D BEST Modo Mio. Here is a “labor of love restaurant that has overcome the obstacle of doing business in an ugly strip mall by serving some of the best Italian food in town. Chef/owner Rino Brigliadori turns out deliciously plump gnocchi lightly coated in tomato sauce, and his simple seafood specials are always perfectly prepared. 18352 Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 112. 972-671-MODO. $$.

D REVISITS Nicolas’s We were exhaust-ed from a marathon topping day at the Galleria (nothing wears us out like exercising our credit cards), but pondering the menus above the fast-food outlets in the bowels of the mall inspired one last (we like to think heroic) burst of energy: We took the elevator to the third level for a real meal, Nicola’s provided plenty of room between tables to accommodate our shopping bags, and sitting under the blue-skied ceiling, with angels flitting above us, we were able to relax, reflect on our alleged bargains, and successfully suppress our buyer’s remorse with a glass of Chianti. For a moment, it seemed as if we weren’t in a mall ai all. What makes Nicola’s food special is the same tiling that makes Ferragamo shoes special-attention to detail. For instance, Nicola’s makes their own cheeses and frozen desserts; we started with a deliriously light and creamy Mozzarella délia Casa-handmade cheese layered with grilled eggplant and oven-roasted peppers, finished with basil-infused oil and balsamic vinegar. Veal, sautéed with fresh spinach and garlic, tasted prettier than it looked-a lonely piece of thinly sliced brown meat in a translucent lemon sauce. Parfaite con Salsiccia, pasta butterflies with dainty slices of sausage and a light bath of rich tomato cream sauce, was a little too light-handed-we could hardly taste it. On the other hand, tiramisu suffered from too much of a good thing-mascarpone. But we were sold on our chocolate hazelnut gelato cone. In the Galleria, 13350JJallas Pkwy. at LBJ, 972-788-1177. $$.

Pomodoro. The white-tiled walls and floors and odd faucet-like lighting of this trendy dining spot give this Cedar Springs mainstay showerlike appeal. Bui this doesn’t take away from the charm of the little garlic trees that sit in the windows or the fresh flowers that grace each table, As for the food, Pomodoro deserves applause for consistent innovation. 2520 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-1924.$$.

Ruggeri’s, It could be that success at its newer Addison spinoff has cost the Uptown original its reputation for dependably fine Italian dining. The formerly flawless food has been less consistent lately; The veal chop was huge and lender, but zabaglione was not too much more than froth, The crowd is festive as always. 29] 1 Routh St. 214-871-7377; 5348 Belt Line Rd. 972-726-9555. $$.

Toscana. You’ll gladly pay top dollar for Executive Chef David Holben’s fancy versions of Tuscan-based dishes. Appetizers alone are worth the visit: Pan-seared, lemon-thyme calamari is light and delirious, and lightly creamed grilled com soup with toasted pine nuts is reminiscent of the hearty Tuscan soups of Florence, Indulge in tiramisu bread pudding with a Frangelico anglaise sauce. 4900 McKinney Ave., 214-521-2244,$$.

Vitto’s. 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 lopped with spinach, goal cheese, and red peppers; the other with garlic, spinach, bacon, and pepperoni. 316 W. 7th St., 214-946-1212. $-S$.


D REVISITS Chaya Sushi. It certainly doesn’t look like mut h from the street (Hint: It’s around the comer from the main strip), and inside it’s a basic neighborhood sushi joint-brick walls. 10 tables, and a sushi bar where you can watch knives in action. Service has improved since our first visit: On our last visit, our server wasn’t just knowledgeable about the ingredients in the rolls, she remembered what we liked and didn’t like, and when we told her one odd duck in our party didn’t like cucumbers, she came back to remind us that the spider roll we’d ordered had cucumber in it. (The obliging chef customized it.) We ordered the tuna roll-lean, deep red, and fresh. From the robata bar we tried the char-grilled sirloin-thinly sliced, bite-sized morsels of rare tenderloin, which we dipped in ponzu sauce. Gulf shrimp, sautéed in a light ginger sauce, was fragrant and firm. And our all-time favorite dish-simple to make, but hard to make well-was the miso soup. Hot and nourishing, the kind of food your mother always wanted you to eat, this version was clear-flavored, with no fishy aftertaste, and we believe it has healing properties, like a global chicken soup, 1(11 Preston Royal Shopping Center, 214-361-0220. $$.

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

D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range from sublime to abrupt at mis stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. at Parker Rd., Plano, 972-881-0328. S$.

Sushi on McKinney. One of the first sushi bars in Dallas to cash in on the ’80s notion that sushi is cool, Sushi on McKinney remains a popular stop for everything from introductory hand rolls to more esoteric Eastern concoctions. And, somehow, the scene here has stayed cool, even in the un-hip ’90s. 4502 McKinney Ave.. 214-521-0969.$-$$.

Sushi Sake. Sushi Sake is half-hidden in a Fleetwood Square strip that we’d call hard to find if so many aficionados weren’t finding it. Many of them are admirers from chef-owner Takashi Soda’s former days as sushi chef of Nakamoto in Piano, and they find here a warmly upbeat ambiance, willing attendance to every need, an arresting selection of sakes, hot and cold-and of course, good food. 220 W. Campbell Rd., 972-470-0722. $$.

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

D BEST Teppo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the city’s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination as well. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modem decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials, 2014 Greenville Ave.. 214-826-8989. $$-$$$.


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

Fogo de Chao. A churrascaria in Addison with branches in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, Fogo de Chao serves traditional cookery from south-em Brazil, starting with the caipirinha (a little like a sweet margarita, with cachaca, a sugarcane liquor). Overwhelming abundance is the theme: A neverending parade of meat on long skewers is delivered by gaucho guys in amazing trousers and belts. Very exotic. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-503-7300. $$.

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-sniffed com tortillas) or the banana leaf tamales. 3715 Greenville Ave., 214-874-0088; multiple locations. $-$$.

Texas de Brazil. No need for menus here-it’s one price fits all. You’re handed a round card, red on one side for “Nao Obrigado” (“No. thank you”) and green on the other for”Sim Por Favor” (“Yes, please”). Once you turn it green side up. the onslaught begins. 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 varied and reasonable. Entrées and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that will hold your attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes had been devoured. 4537 Cole Ave.. 214-559-0325. $$.

The Bistro. The list of small plaies at this lapas bistro has been pared down to 14 from 30 selections, but they’re all exciting, and the 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 Lit a reasonable price. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Rd., 214-352-1997.$-$$.

Mediterraneo. The Quadrangle location will probably be the prototype tor future Mediterraneos. It’s a pretty restaurant, stylishly minimalist but surprisingly warm and welcoming, and the food-a balance of old and new ideas-is hard to find fault with. Crusts are all the rage: Halibut is mysteriously crab crusted, salmon has a polenta crust, and lamb is crusted wish goat cheese, The Quadrangle. 2800 Routh St.. 214-979-0002; 18111 Preston Rd, at Frankford Rd., Ste. 120,972-447-0066. $$-$$$.

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. $$.

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. $$.


Avlla’s. The create-your-own enchiladas aie 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 the pungent flavor of the pepper is what you notice, not fried baiter. 4714 Maple Ave.. 214-520-2700. $.

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. Pork camitas feature pork slow-cooked to shreds and wrapped in a tortilla with fresh grilled vegetables and spicy rice. But the dop-pelganger Tex-Mex side of the menu is not so good. Undercooked, stuffed jalapenos are so lough you can’t bile 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 S3.75 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 demi-tasse, too. 11742-A Marsh Lane at Forest, 972-357-0141. $.

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, 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., Plano, 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 cheese enchilada, and a soft cheese taco. Twenty-five years and six locations later, they continue to serve the same No. 10, along with other reliable Tex-Mex favorites, in tacky surroundings. 4001 Maple Ave., 214-528-9644; 5427 Denton Dr., 214-630-2599; multiple locations. $. Margaritas in some locations.

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

La Calle Doce. Far from slicker Belt Line and Greenville Avenue eateries, this old house is home to some seriously good Mexican-style seafood. Sit on the porch and dine on a spicy gazpacho-like octopus cocktail served in huge goblets or shrimp, stuffed with crabmeat, covered with chili con queso and tasting much belter 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 Valertina. A taste of big city Mexico in suburbia. The beautiful menu makes fascinating reading that doesn’t always translate to the plate. The polio en mole poblano tops chicken with a sensuous sauce that includes 54 types of chilies, spices, and a touch of chocolate, resulting in a richly layered smoky-sweet flavor. Forget thai fascinating menu when it’s time for dessert and ask for the flan. 14866 Montfort Dr., Addison, 972-726-0202. $$-$$$.

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

Martin’s Cocina. The kitchen here does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrées that weigh in al 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 Mart’s Rancho Martinez. The place is filled with the faithful at every meal because the 11 aulas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr., 214-823-5517.$-$$.

D BEST “Monlca 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.$-$$.

Mia’s. For 14 years, this venerable institution has dished up definitive Tex-Mex food to addicts who stand in line on Tuesdays, when owner Ana Enriquez satisfies their lust for her incomparable chiles rellenos. Other days, they make do with house specialties. Service is cheerful; the setting is no-frills comfortable. The had news: beer and wine only. 4322 Lemmon Ave.. 214-526-1020. $.

Nuevo Leon. Excellent Mex-Mex food in a comfortable old Greenville Avenue location draws a mixed crowd but enthusiastic reviews. Cabrito is good, mole is excellent, carnitas are the best. 2013 Greenville Ave., 214-887-8148; multiple locations. $-$$.

Omega’s. It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega’s. Bui 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 wanned salsa and tostados. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food. 212 N. Crowdus St., 214-744-6842. $.

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 litlle place should be on the top of your list for a quick bite, takeout, or delivery. Piano Tortilla Factory’s appeal doesn’t end with the food–the friendly owner is quick to strike up a conversation and make you feel welcome. Low prices are a bonus, too. 1009 E. 18th St., Piano, 972-423-6980. $.

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 queso 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: 3309 McKinney. 214-220-0510. $

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 atari numbering at zero). The star on the Number 0 plate is the Idaho enchiladas made of. yes, mashed potatoes, pleasantly spiced and available with a choice of seven different sauces. 2002 S. Edgefield Ave.. 214-942-1211.$.

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. 4011 Villanova, 214-696-4944. $. 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. Trial 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 (he most exotic in town, Main courses are complicated, generous plates, filled with big chunks of lamb in a fiery dark tomato sauce with orange-red bulghur pilaf and a Persian rice pilaf threaded with vermicelli. Skewered shrimp is served on a bed of a complex pomegranate sauce deepened with dates and quartered figs, Simple tastes can settle for roast lamb in a rosemary sauce. 2934 MainSt.,214-744-l555.$$.

Basha. Basha was one of the first in the wave of Middle Eastern restaurants thai have opened in Dallas in the last few years. And it remains one Of the best of a good lot. The menu is less predictable than many of Dallas’ Lebanese restaurants, offering dishes outside the usual selection of hummus, baba ghanoush, rice, and grilled everything. Breast of chicken breaded in crushed pistachios is an excellent idea-so is fragrant lamb shank, cooked till it is stew on the bone. OK, hummus is good, too. 2217 Greenville Ave.. 214-824-7794. $$.

Cafe Istanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gets cozy at night, but those who tolerate early evening daylight are rewarded with a happy hour. Solid service tops off a superb all-around experience. 5450 W. Lovers Ln., Ste. 222.214-902-0919. $-$$.

D BEST Cafe Izmir. 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 Fort 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 vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu-is a bargain at $26.95 per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and finger-cymbales her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln., 214-357-4104.$$.


Anzu. The Nakamotos spent a considerable amount of money to alter Anzu’s entrance so its feng shui would be perfectly balanced. Maybe it helps the consistently balanced flavors in the bento boxes. Lunch at this orientally inclined restaurant has always been one of the best deals in town-a beautiful arrangement of tempura and sushi or a plate of Asian-influenced fish or chicken, served gracefully, under a flock of origami birds, for less than 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 Hie rich pillow of mocha mousse sandwiched between two dark chocolate cake slices. Hotel Crescent Court. 2215 Cedar Springs Rd., 214-871-3240. $$-$$$.

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

City Cafe. This California-inspired, mostly family-run cafe opened over a dozen years ago but remains in the top tier of Dallas restaurants. The charming but dim dining room is furnished with cottage antiques, and the food is classic, with a wake-up flash of invention. Fresh tomato basil soup is famous. The service is confident and careful, and the American wine list is one of the best in town. 5757 W. Lovers Ln., 214-351-2233. $$.

Dakota’s. The pad of paper and pen beside die 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 the venison sausage in the quesadillas and die 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. $$.

Landmark Restaurant Landmark’s menu may make you wish for an atlas and a thesaurus to find your way around, but if you’ll close your eyes, forget about the origin of your vegetables, and eat them, you’ll have a great trip. The New American food here, under the direction of Jim Anile, is ultra-imaginative, if highly complicated. And the gently refurbished room remains one of the most gracious in town. In the Melrose,_30I5 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-521-5151. $$-$$$.

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

The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner, it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining lives up 10 its legend-the atmosphere is inimitably posh, the food is predictably innovative, The price? If you have to ask. you can’t afford it. 2821 Turlle Creek Blvd., 214-526-2121. $$$.

The Mercury.Though we still think the place is too chic for a neighborhood restaurant, the food has improved since the opening months. The swordfish. perfectly marked from the grill, is balanced by a warm artichoke salad and a corn relish. The grilled shrimp with avocado and a “gazpacho” sauce is equally lovely to 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. In the Wyndham Anatole Hotel Tower, 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. 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.$$. Y

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 paté with pears, frogs’ legs, roast duck, and quail, are a wonderful relief from beef and ’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. Stephan Pyles’ swanky seafood spot has commanded national attention, and the swell decor and meticulous food mostly merit it. Luscious red snapper in red curry masa is an example of the global approach to seafood. The rich and (he wannabes are eating from a simpler menu that includes platters of fresh shrimp, oysters, clams, and small-plate versions of the dinner entrées, 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, Chaplin brings the delicacy back to realistic prices. Mark your calendars: Weekdays, a one-pounder is only $10.95; weekends, they are still a bargain (they come with baked potato and com). Sunday and Mondays it’s all you can eat for $34.95. 5940 Royal Ln., 214-378-6767.$$.

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

Fish. This elegant downtown spot got very hot very fast, and il 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. $$-$$$.

Lefty’s. The menu is small, but Lefty’s features everything you’d expect a good lobster house to have, including beef for those who don’t like seafood. One bargain: the one-pound lobster with baked potato and com for $10.95.4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison, 972-774-9518.$$.

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. Some of the freshest seafood you’ll find in landlocked North Texas. Choose from mesquite-grilled fish, seared, blackened, or fried seafood, and sautéed chicken. Housed in the old Dallas Brewery and Bottling works, Newport’s three-tiered dining room actually holds a huge, open Artesian well that once fed the pre-Prohib-ition brewing operation. 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, anil salsa, are light and chewy. Picardys’ kid-friendly atmosphere is a plus. 6800 Snider Plaza, 214-373-4099. $-$$.

S&D Oyster Company. S & D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butterflied. lightly fried, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce-heavy on the pickle. And no meal here would be complete without a slice of the famous key lime pie. 2701 McKinneyAve.,214-880-0lll.$$.

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 lakes 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 Stoak & Stone Crab. Stone crabs arc a new delicacy in Dallas, and they’re sweet and rich. They’re also easy to eat; the kitchen cracks them for you so all you have to do is break in and fish for the Meat You can eat other stuff with your crab (mediocre salad, onion rings, cole slaw, creamed spinach) but all you’ll remember is the claws and cake-four layers of dark chocolate cake covered with B whipped milk-chocolate icing. 5001 Bell Line Rd? Addison. 972-503-3079: 24(11 McKinney Ave., 214-220-2401. $$-$$$.


Hying 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 Greenville Ave., 214-827-2112. $.

No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Mart’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr. is a legend-in his own neighborhood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr., 214-328-9078. $$-$$$.

Sam’s Cafe The menu is mostly mainstreamed New Southwest, food that succeeds more with heft than invention. The Southwest pot mast, 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 flour 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 appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made mozzarella is a rare case of tall food lasting as good lis il looks. And the bone-in cowboy ribeye on a lied of pinto beans, covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile, should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’ top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-520-7827. $$-$$$.

YO. Ranch. Though this is frontier fare, the kitchen can have a Sight 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 stops short with an undercooked top sirloin. And the bar scene rocks with Jerry Jeff Walker tunes and cigar-smoking buckaroos- the perfect place to lake your Yankee guests. 702 Ross Ave., 214-744-3287.$-$$.


Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas bar remains its best, and everybody knows It. Even midweek, this little two-room restaurant has customers waiting at the bar for one of the mismatched tables in the storefront space. For those who insist; there is a prix-fixe, three-course dinner menu, but Cafe Madrid is a great place To linger over a succession of small dishes-an assortment of olives, oxtail stew, the potato omelet called a tortilla, braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St, 214-528-1731. $$.


Blernat’s. ’The dinner menu’s specially 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 portobel-lo mushroom and tomato fanned around a hummock of baked goat cheese. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-219-2201. $$-$$$.

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

Capital Grille. The menu has a funny. East Coast fuddy-duddiness: It features a “wedge” salad, a quarter head of iceberg with hlue 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 S4 potato-are extra, of course, and have plenty to share. 500 Crescent Court, Ste. 135,214-303-0500.$$-$$$.

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

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, the prime rib was pure retro-quality, and the onion rings might be the best in Dallas, 3525 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2122; 3408 Preston Rd.. Plano, 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.$$-$$$.

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

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

Paul’s Porterhouse. Devoted fans of ibis 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 entree decision; so might the taxidermy decor. 10960 Composite Dr.. 214-357-0279. $$-$$$.

Randy’s Steakhouse. A meal in this cozy, Victorian home-cum-restaurant can make you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s. Bui 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.SS-$$$.

Stone Trail Steakhouse. Lavish decor, live music for late dancing, an upscale menu and wine list mark this sprawling steak spread as the brainchild of restaurateur Tony Taherzadeh, former owner of Farfallo and Papillon. A clubby ambience and prescient service support terrific beef treatments (try the bone-in ribeye); seafood and other meats provide variety. Dinner only. 14833 Midway Rd., 972-701-9600. $$-$$$.


Chow Thai. A strip shopping center doesn’t seem a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll have one here. Excellent Thai classics like vegetables in a fiery green curry and pad Thai taste clean and light. A dessert of fresh mango atop sticky rice is a spectacular ending. 5290 Beltline Rd. at Montfort Dr., 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 eandleshades on each table and bamboo birdcages animated with twinkling Christmas lights, the brightly lit kitchen makes Liberty into real dinner theater, and Wong is the star. What makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alta Ave.. 214-887-8795.$$.

Royal Thai. Furnished with ornate Thai antiques and traditional arts. Royal Thai is a pleasantly upscale change from the starkly serviceable interiors of so many Thai restaurants. Chicken packets are wrapped in tenderizing banana leaves. Curries are fragrant and benefit from their presentation under a little domed top. In Old Town, 5500 Greenville Ave.. 214-691-3555. $-$$.


Mar’s. The menu is stocked with authentic Vietnamese specialties, including lots of noodle and rice entrées and the classic hot pots; exotic meals, 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 stilt terrific at her little restaurant in Snider Plaza, The hot pots are especially good-“hot chic” is the regulars” favorite. 6912 Snider Plaza, 214-361-8220. $-$$.

Saigon Bistro. 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 tow? that serves “festive beef.’” a special occasion dinner in Vietnam-one you shouldn’t miss. 17390 Preston Rd.. Ste. 490, 972-380-2766. $-$$.


D BEST Angelo’s Barbecue. The Foil Worth landmark is one of the bookends of Dallas-Fort Worth area barbecue. its Dallas counterpart being the original Sonny Bryan’s, Famous for fabulous ribs smoked so lender the meat falls off the bone at the slightest nudge-and are properly enjoyed with a couple of Shiners. 1533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth. 817-332-0357.$.

Angeluna. The patio swarms with an artsy Chanel-and-Chardonnay crowd before and after events at the Bass Performance Hall across the street. The “one-world-on-a-plate” menu features designer pizzas, pastas, and spinach and mushroom salads corralled by delicate potato rings. Who cares if it’s more about Style than substance? After all, the parent company is in Aspen. 215 E. 4th Si., Fort Worth. 817-334-0080. $$.

Bistro Louise. This gem of a bistro offers lakeout now. but the staff seems curiously challenged by the idea. The famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin travel well, but even delicate reheat-ing of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals fails to restore it. Savored in the sunny bistro, the cuisine works Mediterranean magic. Enjoy il there as often as possible. 2900 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth, 817-922-9244. $$.

Blue Mesa. Sec listing in Dallas Southwestern. University Park Village, 1600 S. University, Fort Worth, 817-332-6372. $-$$.

Cacharel. This easily lops Arlington’s dining scene, such as it is. with its French country decor and New French cuisine. The fixed-price menu ($34.50) is a great deal. A la carte menu 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 hut beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St., Fort Worth, 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.

8.0. See listing in Dallas Eclectic. 111 E. 3rd, Fort Worth. 817-336-0880. $-$$.

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

D BEST Joe T. Garcla’s Mexican Dishes, The quintessential Fori Worth restaurant. Its location near the Stockyards is a rambling plantation that can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either, 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-626-4356. $$.

Kincaid’s. The truth is that a Kincaid’s hamburger is too big to get your mouth around and too good not to try. Lunching business types stand hip to hip with blue-collared brethren at long counters or share benches at tables to inhale half-pound patties of choice chuck that are ground, hand-Shaped, and grilled daily. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd.. Fort Worth. 817-732-2881.$

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

D REVISITS Randall’s Gourmet Cheesecake Company, The only thing this place has going against it is its name. Despite the expectations set up by the 1960s-sounding pop moniker, (his is not a warehouse-sized, brass-and-glass dessert factory with a menu of over-the-top standards. It’s a wonderfully romantic, candle-lit French cafe serving delightful classic specialties and more than 20 wines by the glass. We made a meal combining several small plates, starting with a classic onion soup-the rich beef and veal broth brimming with caramelized onions and lopped with toasted Gruyère cheese. A sampler planer allowed vis to taste two patés-a slice of cognac-scented, coarse country paté studded with pistachio and a ramekin of smooth goose liver foie gras speckled with black truffle. We combined the pales will) four excellent cheeses: Morbier, Stilton, English Leicester, and a spicy Havarti. Beef tenderloin medallions served with rosemary-roasted shallots came with crunchy haricots verts and garlic mashed potatoes. But in a completely surprising turn of events, the piece de resistance was, actually, cheesecake. A savory one, made of parmesan and feta cheese baked with basil pesto, asparagus, mushrooms, and Kalamata olives. The name of the Death by Chocolate cheesecake, on the other hand, is a warning to be heeded. 907 Houston St., 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 eovered with a roasted com. red pepper, and cilantro relish with small cubes of queso fresco. But the Vaquera Sampler, a huge planer of Mexican selections (shredded chicken chili rellenos, cacciota cheese enchiladas, a beef tamale, barbecue shrimp enchiladas, and rice and beans) is an undistinguish-able mess. The view is nice, but the food does not always match up. 500 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-336-1009.$$-$$$.

Reflections. Surely among the most gracefully romantic dining settings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Worthington Hotel’s flagship restaurant in downtown Fort Worth offers a refined escape from high-decibel stress. Intuitive service and avant bill of fare live up to the ambience, Delicate pan-seated foie gras with sautéed apples and grilled, whiskey-sauced ostrich medallions with red lentil risotto are representative of the kitchen’s inventions. 200 Main St., Fori Worth, 817-882 1660 or 800-433-5677. $$$.

Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of lop 1.0 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. 7(h St., Fort Worth. 817-727-2781.$$$.

Sundance Défi A Market There’s no better spot in Sundance Square for a casual, imaginative meal. Basics include sandwiches, salads, breakfast, gourmet coffees, and homemade desserts. This is the rare restaurant that’s quick enough for just a bile, but whose smart decor, great coffee, and excellent food make it perfectl for lingering. 353 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-335-3354. $.

Water Street Seafood Company. Although Fort Worth is landlocked, there’s still serviceable seafood to be had. The dining room could use 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,$$.

Del Frisco’s

Dee Lincoln runs her steak joint as tightly as “Miss Kitty” ran her Gunsmoke saloon. But lately, Dee has faced something Miss Kitty never did-competition. With the now Three Forks opening right there on her butcher-laden Mock, It’s bean tough for our Miss Kitty, but we found she can still hold her own on the range. Del Frisco’s was as packed as ever with smug, cigar-smoking carnivores looking like they were members of the club-dark wood walls, white cloths, fireplace, and Frank Sinatra crooning over the stereo. Our waiter scared us with his deep-throated Brooklyn cab driver greeting ’”Hey, talk to me”), and fearing broken knuckles, we ordered the two most expensive Items on the menu: a 24-ounce prime porterhouse ($29.95) and a 32-ounce lobster tall ($105). We split the two entrées between the four of us, partly because we have a budget to watch, but mainly because 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. No complaints about the meats, either (and at these prices the, shouldn’t be)-we could have cut the porterhouse with a fork (If it weren’t two-and-a-half inches thick). Next time well stick with steak because the lobster tail wasn’t worth the price-most of the flavor had been sacrificed to the broiler. But this is one place you get what you pay for, and if your waiter doesn’t ensure it, Miss Kitty will. 5251 Spring Valley Rd., 972-490-9000. $$$.

Sup La Table

Gravy separators. Cherry pitters. Eiffel Tower cookie cutters? One of the top culinary stores in the country, Sur La Table’s new Dallas location is a treasure chest of cooking tools, necessities, luxuries, and oddities. Besides equipment and a vast selection of cookbooks, Sur La Table offers cooking classes by local and global chefs. Like most treasures, this one Is a little hard to find-look behind Sipango, off Travis Street, near Knox. 4527 Travis St., Ste A, 214-219-4404.

Winos of the World

Darryl Beeson, the spiffily dressed wine cellar master of the Mansion, is also an undiscovered comedian. He’ll be taking his natural place on the stage with internationally known sommelier (and SMU grad) Andrea Immer when she comes to Dallas for a casual wine tasting at the Mansion. For beginners and seasoned palates with a good sense of humor. Thurs., May 20, at 6:30 p.m. The Mansion on Turtle Creek, 2821 Turtle Greek Blvd. 214-559-2100. $85 per person.


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