CI U DAD
Monica Greene, the genius behind Monica’s Aca Y Alla, wants to open Dallas minds to the glories of traditional Mexican cuisine. Her new restaurant is devoted to the passionate food of Mexico, with its complex flavors, spirited ingredients, and time-honored preparations.
Mexico City-bom Monica lured Joanne Bondy. once the banquet chef at the Fairmont, from the security of her recent job at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Biloxi to the perils of a restaurant start-up. Together they have created Ciudad, a true Mexico City dining experience.
As soon as we settled into our chairs, the comforting aroma of freshly-baked bread and com tortillas greeted us. Minutes after we ordered, a platter of 12-inch long flautas filled with duck arrived, with a miniature copper bucket of ginger-pineapple pica de gallo. Tender barbecued pork wrapped in fresh com tortillas mixed easily with a tropical fruit salsa. Fish tacos were may bueno-the deep fried batter didn’t mask the taste of the tender white fish inside. All the tacqueria selections were served traditional-style with five dipping sauces- mango relish, roasted pumpkin and tomatillo. blistered green and red tomato, avocado salsa, and corn and red bell pepper chow.
As the appetizer plates were cleared, a mango ice intermezzo cleansed our palate. Once the entrees arrived, our mouths danced with the flavors of Mexico for the next half an hour. Four two-inch-thick lamb chops crusted in cumin were perfectly pink in the center, and the tomato fennel salsa played beautifully off the gamy taste of the lamb. An eight-ounce beef tenderloin topped with melted asadero cheese sat surrounded by a spicy red tomato sauce next to a scoop of black beans fragrant with epazote.
But as usual, Monica saved the best surprise for last. Pastry chef Chris Vaughn’s Edificio Ciudad Chocolate is a confectionary mon-ument to the architecture of ancient Mexico. Three triangles of thin chocolate almond wafers form an eight-inch pyramid that rises up through a ring of spun sugar clouds. Once we removed the delicate sugar garnish, the sides fell to the plate revealing a hidden treasure of rich dark chocolate mousse.
The word of the moment in Dallas restaurant circles is “global,” meaning the mixing and matching of various ethnic fares. Here is a restaurant unabashedly and almost grandly dedicated to the heritage of a great and underappreciated national cuisine. 3888 Oak Lawn. Suite 135. 214-219-3141.$$-$$$.
SEVILLE AT THE STONELEIGH
The only change we detected in the classically continental dining room that once housed Ewald’s was the new ceramic salt and pepper shakers. Everything else-the draped windows, upholstered banquettes, even some of the staff-remain.
Thankfully, the menu is different. The Stoneleigh has gone upscale Spanish-like thechi-chi spots in Spain that don’t start serving until 11 p.m. An extensive list of tapas makes it easy to make a meal with a combination of small plates, but the backbone of the kitchen shows in the depth of the dinner menu.
For starters we sampled six of the tapas selections. Tortilla Espanola was a wedge of thinly-sliced potatoes stacked two-inches high and topped with baked egg. The potatoes remained firm and the egg layer was light. Chorizo in puff pastry was good, but nothing special. The empanadilla de Lomo was an inspired pork-filled pillow of dough that tasted faintly like a sopapilla and was light and greaseless despite being pan-fried.
Five varieties of paella headlined the show. The Valenciana arrived with saffron and garlic-suffused rice perfectly slow-stirred with chicken (watch the bones), mussels, scallops, and shrimp. Tenderly-braised rabbit was served hunter-style in rich brown gravy that wasn’t too heavy for the mild-flavored meat. We would have liked to have tried the sautéed monkfish finished off with artichoke hearts that we ordered, but our waiter brought us the filet of snapper on a bed of tomatoes and chopped garlic, instead. It looked so good we never considered sending it back.
The evening would have been an over-the-top success if it hadn’t been for the service. We can’t pin the sloppiness on opening night jitters-our waiter was openly bored with his job. After serving the wrong entree, he opened a bottle of wine on one side of the table and lazily reached across the table to fill our glasses.
The Stoneleigh Hotel likes to think of itself as Dallas’ premier boutique hotel. Seville’s kitchen will do a lot to maintain that reputation. If Seville’s service doesn’t ruin it.
2927 MapleAve. 214-871-7111.$$$.
D BEST Abacus. Kent Rath bun s kitchen is a stage; dinner is a show. Lobster shooters are served sake-style-six cups contains a chunk of lobster tossed back with a shot of coconut milk, red curry, and sake. Entrées of pan-seared wall-eyed pike with scallion whipped potatoes and pork loin with pumpkin risotto are inspired meat and mash variations. 4511 McKinney Ave. 214-559-3111.$$$.
Citizen. Tuna tartare is served on the vase of an upside down martini glass and sake is served in wooden boxes may be as iricky as the décor but somehow it all works. A stunningly simple slab of black cod is served solo on a banana leaf, a blond miso anchoring the ethereal fish. And Kobe beef, grilled and sliced, is the ultimate extravagance at around S15 an ounce. 3858 Oak Lawn. 214-522-7253. $$$.
D BEST Peggy Sue Barbecue. Though Sonny Bryan’s still wins in the beef sandwich category, the definitive dish when you’re talking Texas barbecue, Peggy Sue’s beats Sonny’s by a rib in meats, side dishes, and sauces. And the smoked chicken quesadillas alone are worth a trip. The ribs- baby backs and pork short ribs-are always moist, tender, and free of gristle. A new favorite is brisket fajitas-soft flour tortillas filled with grilled barbecued brisket, onions, and green peppers. 6600 Snider Plaza. 214-987-9188.$.
Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue for the banking crowd at bankers’ hours. Everyday at lunch, Sammy’s is full of white-collar types, ties thrown over their shoulders, ehowing 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. $.
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 lnwood Rd. 214-357-7120. Multiple locations. $.
Highland Park Pharmacy. We can only describe the Pharmacy atmosphere as reassuring. Some people love the Palm Beach (pimienlo cheese to you) sandwich or the tuna salad with cherry cokes. For us. the grilled cheese is the winner- | American slices melted to glue, the bread but-tery and crisp. Chips are extra; sodas and milk-shakes are priceless. Lunch only. 3229 Knox St. 214-521-2126.$.
Streets Famous Sandwiches. A sandwich can be just a sandwich, but at Street’s it’s more like a meat. 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. $.
Wild About Harry’s. Harry’s serves real Chicago dogs, topped with onions, mustard, peppers, and the authentic neon-green relish-he also serves them smothered with Texas chili, sauerkraut, and pretty much everything else. You have to have custard after a Harry’s dog-even if you’re too full. It’s smoother than crème brulée ever thought about being, and every day there’s a different selection of flavors. This is the kind of place that gives you hope for American culture. 3113 Knox St. 214-520-3113.$.
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 ail-American ham-burger is served at Chip’s. Both locations have an atmosphere as wholesome as a Beach Boys song, and the food is fast and fresh, too. A return to a time of innocence, when a good time could be fueled by nothing more than fries and a shake. The skinny onion rings, rich pig sandwich, and hot dogs are just lagniappe. 4501 Cole Ave. 214-526-1092: 4530 Lovers Ln. 214-691-2447. $.
D BEST The Prince of Hamburgers. The crispy-edged, tously 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 veal live person. 5200 Lemmon Ave. 214-526-9081.$.
Purple Cow. This burger-and-shake diner uses Blue Bell ice cream and features 10 flavors of milkshakes, including the signature Purple Cow and the Peanut Butler and Jelly. The Blue-Cheeseburger is a great variation on standard soda-shop fare, dripping with rich, creamy blue cheese. But the reason we’ll go back is the grilled Palm Beach-a hot pimiento cheese sandwich that oozes down your arms. It’s worth the price of the dry cleaning bill. 110 Preston Royal Village. 214-373-0037. $.
Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought that college was the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries (a basket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese) because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd.. Addison. 972-991-8811. $.
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. $.
Arc-En-Ciel. The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare. but everyone really goes there to eat Vietnamese. We ordered our last meal in a leisurely way, a few dishes at a time. Pristine Imperial rolls; shrimp pounded and molded on sugarcane; grilled pork to roll in rice paper with rice noodles, cilantro. mint, lettuce, and sprouts–each dish delightful, fresh, excellent. 3555 W. Walnut St.. Garland. 972-272-2188.$-$$.
Cafe Panda. If you can’t find what you’re hungry for on the menu at Cafe Panda, you’ll have to go to China. Usually, you have to know 24 hours ahead that you are in the mood for this Mandarin delicacy, but at Cafe Panda, Peking duck can be an impulse buy. The downside: Fire Cracker Shrimp, billed as a hot dish- ’’buckle your seat bell, this shrimp will bring one bumpy night.” warns the menu-is anything but spicy. The Kung Pao Chicken could use some more fire as well. 7979 Inwood Rd. 214-902-9500.$$. “
D BEST Jenny Ho’s Szechwan Pavilion. After 20 years of trying. Jenny Ho s is serving some of the best Chinese in town. We never eat here (or take out] without a plate of twice-cooked pork-paper thin squares of pork stir-fried in black bean sauce with thick cuts of carrots and crisp vegetables. If you are lucky enough to live nearby, they’ll deliver. 8409 Preston Rd. 214-368-4303. $-$$.
New Big Wong. Large lunches are served here in fast-food time, but a leisurely dinner rewards experimentation. The menu is large and largely authentic, serving a wide variety of wiggly sea creatures. The setting is plain and the service friendly. 2121 S. Greenville Ave. 214-821-4198. $-$$.
Royal China. Royal China serves the same neighborhood clientele that has been faithfully eating here since Buck Kao and his family opened the place in 1974. Appetizers are still in peak performance, including a wonderful hot and sour soup and perfectly steamed pan-fried pork dumpling. But the General’s Chicken tends to look and taste like Chicken McNuggetS in a sweet orange sauce. 201 Preston Royal Center. 214-361-1771.$-$$,
Taiwan. Taiwan has had the same chef, owner, and location for 18 years, so it must be doing something right. The Princess Beef-delicate strips of beef with crunchy celery cubes and peanuts in a hot, spicy brown sauce-tastes as good as it looks. And the hot and sour soup is delicious, with fresh shrimp and pork, and mercifully lacking in that disconcerting, jiggly cornstarch texture that so often makes us push our bowl away. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-387-2333, $-$$.
Undo Tal’s Hunan Yuan. Not much has changed here over the past 15 years. Bow-tie clad waiters still formally dish oui classic hot Hunan specialties tableside. Past favorites still shine, including the Crispy Beef with broccoli sizzling in spicy orange sauce and Uncle Tai’s Chicken flamed with jalapenos lightly coated with black bean sauce served on a bed of slightly wilted watercress, in the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ. 972-934-9998. $$.
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. $-$$.
Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family has been dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple for more than a decade. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd. 214-373-3333. $.
Athénée Cafe. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish–meatball-size beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like Grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd., Ste. 150. 972-239-8060. $$.
Bistro A. Peripatetic chef Avner Samuel’s latest venture is his best yet, and better yet, Bistro A looks like it’s going to be around awhile. Dishes with Middle Eastern influences are especially good, but the chef does equally well with simple steak fries, and casserole-roasted chicken could be the best bird in town. Beware of spotty service. 6815 Snider Plaza. 214-373-9911. $$-$$$.
Bread Winners. Three different menus a day are all imaginative. But the buttermilk pan-fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and cream gravy is the real winner-lightly battered and fried fork-tender chicken over leek mashed potatoes and cream gravy so good it makes the bland bread better. 3301 McKinney Ave. 214-754^940.$-$$.
Cork. The list of wines by the glass, ports, sherries, and champagnes is staggering considering the small space. The food is simple but perfectly matched to the concept. Pick your wines, then customize a cheese plate to match. Lovely patés and olive mixes also make more substantia] meals, and you can linger long, foregoing dinner. 2709 McKinney Ave. 214-303-0302. $.
Firehouse. We’ve had no problems with new chef Bill Lewis” version of International Hot and Spicy Cuisine. Trendy tamarind-soy marinated pork chops are served with a tongue-soothing mango salsa. Surprisingly, our favorite dish isn’t spicy at all-the warm chocolate devil’s food cake surrounded by Milwaukee Joe’s vanilla ice cream comes garnished with a chunk of homemade pistachio brittle. 1928 Greenville Ave. 214-826-2468. $$.
Genghis Grill. You get a stainless steel bowl from the stack and choose your ingredients from a cafeteria tine on ice: bins of meat and vegetables, along with your choice of oils and seasonings. Then you give your bowl to the grill-master, who tosses it on a giant round griddle, cooks it quick, then serves it back to you in the bowl. And Genghis Grill provides basic recipes for people who don’t know the difference between tamarind and teriyaki. 1915 Greenville Ave. 214-841-9990. $-$$.
D BEST The Grape. The secret is that Dallas’ oldest and best wine bar is really one of its oldest and best restaurants- dim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter [ how often the chef changes) and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave. 214-828-1981. $$.
D BEST The Green Room. Undoubtedly the grooviest cher and dining room ; in town. Marc Cassel’s “collision cuisine” menu includes a knockout prime strip steak served with lemon-horseradish potatoes and a delicate coconut-steamed rainbow trout. Don’t ; be fooled by the young staff, they know the menu and wine list and service is hip and pol-ished. 2715 Elm St. 214-748-7666. $$-$$$.
D REVISITS Routh Street. Routh Street Brewery is no more. The microbrewery has closed, the name has been changed, and the successful “Hill Country Cuisine” concept has been tweaked into a hodgepodge of selections now termed “Texas Comfort Food.” Recently, we sipped our last Pale Ale with regret (the sophisticated Austin stone fire-lit room was a natural setting for pairing finely-handcrafted beer with food inspired by the Texas Hill Country.)
We managed to find some comfort in the I chicken-fried steak (it was better than average) and the grilled brat worst plate (even without the beer)-both remained iconic tastes of i Texas heritage. Our guests from New York will normally believe anything, but we couldn’t convince them that the portabella mushroom sandwich with goat cheese and the basil papardelle with grilled shrimp had any ties to Texas. Sharing a bite of the semi-boneless ; grilled quail with our Yankee friends would have been nice, but the scrawny birds were quasi-meatless, and we had to work hard just to pick off a few bites. Sadly, there was too much I of the German Wiener schnitzel-the heavily breaded veal patty hung over the sides of the ; plate and dripped with oil. Stick with the Hill Country selections and shed a tear for the beer | 3011 Routh St., 214-922-8835. $$.
Simply Fondue. The appeal of Simply Fondue is lost on us-if you’re not going to stay home and cook, why would you go out and cook? ’. Still, the place is always booked. Cooking together evidently gives young couples some-thing to talk about (because there’s no TV hanging from the ceiling and the noise level is ; reasonable, conversation is called for). The professional and friendly staff makes the process manageable. Bread and cheese are staples of the age-just like chips and queso, but you can’t spear a tostado, And the meal is as good as melted cheese, sautéed meat, and melted chocolate can be. 2108 Greenville Ave. 214-827-8878. $$-$$$.
Soho. The imaginative one-world-on-a-plate concept isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The Mahi Mahi its light ginger and lemongrass crust, grilled to tender, bedded on nutty red wehani rice and encircled with a soy-lemon sauce is the dish that would lure us back to pseudo-Soho: An armagnac poached pear with toasted walnut and rice mascarpone cheese is simple elegance done well. 5290 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 972-490-8686. $$.
D BEST Tarantion’s. The overall ambience-a dark. New York cafe-shaped space dominated by a long bar-is best at night, when the slight scruffiness is hidden by dim light and the place looks avant instead of under-financed. The food goes back to the basics of Italian and Spanish cuisine, served tapas-style. The take on traditional osso buco, based on a rich, gamy lamb shank instead of veal, is food you lust after. 3611 Parry Ave. 214-821-2224. Dinner only. $$.
Addison Cafe. It’s called “Le French Bistro,” but in reality. Addison Cafe is a restaurant serving classically prepared French and New American dishes, which has kept them in business for IS years. Tournedos of beef are cooked medium-rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. And dark chocolate mousse is worth every hip-hugging calorie. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 108 at Montfort Dr.. Addison. 972-991 -8824. $$-$$$.
The Bistro. The list of small plates at this tapas bistro has been pared down to 14 from 30 selections, but they’re all exciting, and the wine list is one of the most extensive and inexpensive in town. That means the Bistro caters to you–you can drop in for a few small plates and a bottle of wine or settle in for a full-course meal al a reasonable price. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Rd. 214-352-1997. $-$$.
Bizu. This is the beginning of the Gallic flood we’ve been predicting. It’s a bistro-you can order omelettes for lunch (we like the tomato-basil one), steak tartare, and pommes frites. The patés, including a smooth-as-cream chicken liver mousse and a coarse country meat loaf, are fragrant and spicy, a great lunch with the Bizu salad: a toss of pear slivers, mature spinach leaves, feta, and raspberry vinaigrette. 2504 McKinney Ave. 214-303-1002. $$.
Clair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the corner of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant delights with delicious food and impeccable service. A classic house-made pork paté is served with diced onion, French cornichons, and mustard. Poitrine de canard, a splendidly moist duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Rd. 214-987-2028. $$-$$$.
French Room. This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceding, Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that doesn’t mesh with the modern world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a bed of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus. 1321 Commerce St. 214-742-8200. $$$.
Jennivine. The charming old house is as popular a pop-the-question romantic spot as ever. Wood floors, quaint bar candles, flowers, and fine food are the setting for a nice selection of wines by the glass. The tilapia is a perfectly tender filet on a layer of lemony orzo with red cabbage and a tablespoon of sweet potatoes. And the chocolate mousse here is classic-bittersweet, firm. and topped with fresh whipped cream. 3605 McKinneyAve. 214-528-6010.$$.
D BEST L’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit, tables are draped in starchy white, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you can get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tart is just as subtly good. Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre comes with the the best, yes. French fries in town. 4514 Travis St. 214-528-1081.$$-$$$.
La Mirabelle. Thoroughly retro not only in its ambience, which stresses traditional comfort, and in its food, which is precisely and personally prepared French, but also in its service. which actually claims to coddle the customer. Enjoy reading the menu, but don’t order a thing until you hear the specials of the day. That’s where the treasures are. 17610 Midway Rd. 972-733-0202. $$-$$$.
Paris Bistrot. Paris Bistrot spills out onto McKinney like a sidewalk café in Paris. We’re infatuated with the classic duck confit, coarse paté campagne, delicately julienned and turned vegetables, and lamb shank with rich creamy risotto. Chocolate mousse is the real thing. 2533 McKinney Ave. 214-720-0225. $$.
The Pyramid Room. The table d ’hote menu is a good deal-$68 for four courses with wine. $44 without. Cream of carrot soup with celery root and gorgonzola croutons is good, hot, and thick, with a spicy nose. As for the main courses, a fan of rare duck slices with a wonderful apple-pineapple wild rice goes perfectly with an Indigo Hills pinot noir. the food and the wine forming a perfect circle on the palate. Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St. 214-720-5249.$$$.
D BEST The Riviera. Chef Tom Fleming’s roasted rack of lamb swaddled in cracked black pepper and sautéed maple leaf duck breast served with a sour cherry baked apple compote are just two reasons The Riviera is at the top of every five-star dining list. Any night is reason enough to celebrate with a warm apple streusel and a scoop of Calvados ice cream paired with a glass of Moet & Chandon brut Rose. 7709 Inwood Rd. 214-351-0094.$$$.
Tramontane.This cozy little dining room has charming murals on the walls and an inviting-looking bar, but service and food vary. Some high points: The steak is perfectly good-flavorful red meat with a simple emphatic wine reduction-and the salad is a mix of lovely, flowerlike greens with pungent, mouth-cleaning flavors. 8220B Westchester Dr. 214-368-4188.$$.
D BEST Voltaire. All the elements of fine dining have been taken to surreal extremes. The wine list is 15,000 strong while the menu is surprisingly minimal. There are three fish dishes and four plats de Voltaire including a lovely lobster harissa with garlic-mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a warm Thai-scented sauce. 5150 Keller Springs Rd. at North Dallas Tollway. 972-239-8988. $$$.
Watel’s. French food may be the latest trend on McKinney, but Watel’s has been the top French bistro on the block for 11 years. And the new, sleeker digs haven’t had any effect on the quality of the food. The menu, which has always contained unusual organ offerings like calf brains, veal kidneys, and sweetbreads, has weathered the wars of nouvelle cuisine. A splendid classic duck leg confit appropriately slips off the bone with each bite, and the accompanying risotto is just rich enough. Although the roast pork loin can be dry. the tasty apple and calvados sauce would make a meal out of shoe leather. 2719 McKinney Ave. 214-720-0323.$$.
GOURMET TO GO
Ctty Cafe To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? According to the servers at City Cafe To Go. most people don’t even know how to use a regular oven to reheat the precooked food they buy there. They all want microwave instructions. But for those of you who can handle it, most of the dishes (for instance, a thickly sliced rare leg of lamb with charred, sun-dried tomatoes) are tasty and reheat beautifully. 5757 Lovers Ln. 214-351-3366. $-$$.
D REVISITS City Harvest. This hipp!e- esque hideaway in Oak Cliff has gone through some changes over the years to adjust to the needs of the neighborhood. Originally based on Marty’s in Oak Lawn. City Harvest has evolved from a boutique market to a small sit-down restaurant with take-out and catering services. The dining room divides the kitchen–refrigerated cases and food prep on one side and the stoves on the other-making it easy to scout the entrees as they crisscross the room. Our friendly chatter with the table next to us resulted in a sample bite of their Mom’s meatloaf to help us decide what to order. But our favorite dish is the infamous King Ranch Casserole that shows up at every Sunday potluck supper. We can always count on this mixture of chicken, cheese, and chilies to take the edge off of a hard day at the office. Frito pie is elevated from the elementary school lunchroom version-the Fritos here are still crunchy. not soggy. 939 N Edgefield Ave. 214-943-2650. $.
Eatzl’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-1515. $.
Izmir Deli. Dallas’new fascination with Middle Eastern food means there have been long lines at Cafe Izmir since it opened. You can avoid those crowds now by ordering in from the Izmir Deli, just down Greenville from the original cafe. Gyros, tenderloin, mozzarella. grilled vegetable, and chicken sandwiches, pita, hummus, couscous, and eggplant dip are all available for pick-up or phone-in orders. And this is the place to go if you need rosewater at 9 p.m. 3607 Greenville Ave. 214-824-8484. $-$$.
Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food-there was never a problem with that. At night, when the blond, light-filled Cafe TuGogh features full table service. it’s on its way to becoming one of the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-4070. $-$$.
Kostas Cafo. The food is simply Greek and simply good. Appetizer do’s: saganaki and dolmas (musts, really). Entree don’t: souvlaki (tough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave. 214-987-3225. $$.
Dbest z Cafe Pizza is topped with gyro meat, feta, tomatoes, and olives and the potato balls are a legacy of the former Little Gus. Breakfast omelettes take on the flavor of the neighborhood when they’re filled with chorizo, chili, and cheddar. The quintessential greasy spoon burger is a masterpiece topped with feta. grilled onions, and jalapenos. Breakfast and lunch only. 1924 Henderson. 214-821-0991.$.
D BEST Ziziki’s. You can hardly get a prime-time table at this contemporary Greek cafe, and they don’t take reservations, except for large parties. But the herbed lamb souvlaki. folded in thick warm pita and sauced with tart yogurt, is worth a wail. Ziziki’s menu has featured the same idiosyncratic version of Mediterranean food since it opened-it’s a good thing when some things don’t change. 4514 Travis St.. Ste. 122. 214-521-2233. $$.
Barbec’s. Barbec’s regulars love the tabloid newsprint menu, the hearty, whai-canget-you-Hon? waitresses, the awesome anytime breakfasts. The food ranges from pretty good to good, but it’s all cheap. And they’ve always got those legendary beer biscuits, sweet and high and truly loved by all. Great meringues. 8949 Garland Rd, 214-321-5597. $.
Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecea 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. $-5$.
Natalie’s. It’s the ultimate neighborhood spot: The portions are large, and the prices are small. The mealloaf is a popular choice: For $7.95 you get an eight-by-three-inch slab of finely ground meal with a light tomalo sauce on top. mixed crisp steamed vegetables, and a hunk of mashed potatoes. But the secret to Natalie’s success is the cinnamon rolls. We always order extra to take home for the next morning. 5944 Royal Ln. 214-739-0362.$.
India Palace. India Palace has long been considered one the best Indian restaurants in town. Recently merged with Bombay Cricket Club, we found the luster lacking. Service was unhelpful, so it was fortunate we knew what we wanted and it was easy- biryani. fragrant and studded with fruits, nuts, and lamb-and very good. The Vegetable Bhojan was an institutional presentation but tasted good. 12817 Preston Rd. 972-392-0190. $$.
Madras Pavilion. The unforgettable aromas of jasmine, coriander, and turmeric greet you at the door. Lunch is an Indian food-orgy buffet that includes unusual (for Dallas) selections of Northern Indian specialties-a bargain at $6.99. In the evening you can choose from an extensive menu that includes a large list of dosai (thin rice crepes with vegetarian fillings) and vadas (crunchy lentil cakes). Cold raita; fresh coriander leaves; and salads of chopped carrots, cucumber, and onions are just a few of the refreshing condiments supplied to ease the heat. 101 S Coit at Beltline, Dal Rich Shopping Center. 972-671-3672. $-$$.
Alfonso’s. If you don’t live in east Dallas, it’s time to load the kids in the car and take a round trip for dinner. Basic Italian favorites are cooked the old-fashioned way-heavy on the garlic and butter. Chicken Francese and the hot homemade garlic (and we mean garlic) rolls are alone worth the trip. Lake Highland Village. 718 N. Buckner Blvd. at Northcliff Dr. 214-327-7777.$.
Antonio Ristorante. This new restaurant is a funky-free, spie-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. Focaecia lends to be gooey in the center and burned on the edges; minestrone soup is indistinguishable from Campbell’s Chunky Vegetable. One of the only tasty things is a mess of housemade sausage and peppers. 4985 Addison Cir. 972-458-1010. $$.
Antonio Ristorante. This new restaurant is a funky-free, spic-and-span version of the Lombard!’s on Hall: red brick walls, grcen-and-white checked tablecloths. The servers are friendly but inexperienced, more what you would expect at Snuffer’s than at a “ristorante” with $20 entrées. Focaccia tends to be gooey in the center and burned on the edges; minestrone soup is indistinguishable from Campbell’s Chunky Vegetable. One of the only tasty things is a mess of housemade sausage and peppers. 4985 Addison Cir. 972-458-1010. $$.
Avanti. Avarrti has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood cafe in spite of every obstacle. The fried calamari with tomato and basil sauce is greaseless. and the crunchy batter is light and tasty. We’re slightly disappointed with the grilled veal medallions, but the Italian sausage seasoned with lots of fennel and sautéed with onions and bell peppers on top of angel hair pasta covered in a light marinara is gutsier. 2720 McKinney Ave. 214-871-4955, $$.
Cafe Cipriani. This is one of the best Italian restaurants in town. Owner Salvino Zannetti doesn’t compromise on his ingredients; he orders his cheese from a deli in New York-as close to Italy as you can get in Dallas. And the lasagna is the real standout-layers of homemade noodles, with just enough ground veal to give the dish substance without making it too heavy. 220 Las Colinas Blvd.. Irving. 972-869-0713.$$.
Café Expresso. Owner Dieter Paul offers an uncomplicated list of Italian specialties. Pastas and sauces are mix and match, and the same goes for the thin crusty individual pizzas. The kitchen also knocks out above average veal scaloppini with lemon butter and capers and the nightly specials (maybe a pecan crusted Bounder) never disappoint. 6135 Luther Ln. 214-361-6984,.$$.
Giovanni’s. The food is better than the service. Manicotti stuffed with cheese, spinach, and basil is just the way it should be-heavy on the oregano. The huge squares of ravioli plump with chunks of sweet lobster are surrounded sinfully by a brandy cream sauce. Ask for your check after the entrees (if you can find a waiter)-the tiramisu resembles a Sara Lee-cheesecake, with the addition of a thick caulk-like frosting. 18484 Preston Rd.. 972-596-8610.$$.
lano’s. The menu is priced per portion and per “la familia.” And it’s thoroughly Italian in that a “la familia” platter is plenty for a family, including parents, several children, and grandparents. Vitello Pugliese, for example, is thickly breaded slices of veal, smothered in tomato sauce allegedly enriched with goat cheese and loaded with purple kalamata olives. 250 Spanish Village. 972-866-0888. $$.
Mi Piaci. Housemade is a term Mi Piaci doesn’t take lightly-the kitchen makes its own pastas and cures its own meats. Every other ingredient is either imported or hand-picked. A bowl of the Tuscan classic ribollita could be enough for a meal. Bui don’t neglect the spicy penne arrabbiata, the three thin scallops of veal perched on a pile of portobello mushrooms, or the asparagus and cheese tortellini with a fragile Marsala sauce. 14854 Montfort. 972-934-8424. $$-$$$.
D REVISITS Modo Mio. The dining room has brick arches, the guy at the next table is wearing loafers, and the waiter knows when to talk and when to shut up. Sonny Corleone could he very happy here, and hey, what’s not to like. Chef owner Rino Brigliadori’s small traditional rustic Italian menu is consistently dependable, starting with the asparagus, eggplant, and goat cheese antipasto and finishing with the softly sweetened sorbets. In between, we have always been happy ordering gnocchi Modo Mio- pasta dumplings with tomato, pesto, and cream or the traditional tagliatelle Botognese. But recently, our waiter urged us to try any of the seafood entrees, so we veered off our usual course and savored a firm pink salmon sautéed with white wine, lemon, and capers. The special sea bass in tomato broth was an offering we will never refuse. 18352 Dallas Pkwy. 972-671-6636. $$.
Naro’s. Chef Luigi Lama has been serving pink garlic bread and Caesar salad for 15 years, but we prefer his Linguinie Fra Diavlo–a steaming plate of sea scallops, gulf shrimp, and mushrooms in a spicy marinara sauce. Of course, the regular pasta dishes are above average, and his homemade white chocolate ice cream has customers driving long distances just for dessert. 2104 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6376.$$.
Patrizio’s. Move over, Campisi’s. Patrizio’s signature crab claws just took first place in the crab claws competition. Soft and delicate, they slip off the exoskeleton and melt in your mouth like, well, butter. Oh, yes-you should eat dinner, too: There’s the chicken and mushroom lasagna (good, but rich) and the baked ziti (we had leftovers for breakfast). The prices aren’t what you’d expect with Escada and Calvin Klein just a kiss away. Highland Park Village, Mockingbird al Preston. 214-522-7878.$$.
Rodolpho’s. American I950s-siyle Italian food is the order of the day-hefty meaty lasagne and only average chicken parmigiana. We’ve never had the nerve to try anything from the “pasta with berries” section of the menu; we just stick to the angel hair pasta with spinach balls. The dumplings of ricotta and spinach scented with nutmeg make a wonderful light meal.5956 Royal at Preston, 214-368-5039. $$.
Ruggeri’s. We’re happy to report that our old favorite chicken parmigiano remains unscathed. It’s still served sautéed to the appropriate firmness without becoming blobby or covered with too much tomato sauce and moz-zarella cheese. Even on busy weekends, service Hows evenly. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-7377: Beltline Rd. 972-726-9555. $$.
Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red, and fresh. From the robata bar, try the char-grilled sirloin-thinly sliced, bite-sized morsels of rare tenderloin dipped in ponzu sauce. Gulf shrimp, sautéed in a light ginger sauce, is fragrant and firm. And our all-time favorite dish-simple to make, but hard to make well-\s the miso soup. We believe this hot. nourishing version has healing properties, like a global chicken soup. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-361-0220. $$.
Fishbdwl. The small but ambitious menu reflects the 1960s Pan-Asian concept: Trader Vic’s-style cocktails, sushi, sake, and noodles, all served tapas-style one small plate at a time. A meal is a series and may include a best seller like peanut chicken satay as well as Stephan Pyles” innovative version of mu shu pork tacos served with thai basil slaw. Lunch only. 3214 Knox St. 214-521-2695.
D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range from sublime to abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy at Parker Rd.. Piano. 972-881-0328. $$.
Tei Tei. We still haven’t tasted the kobe beef (which comes from cattle fed with beer and massaged with sake), but Tei Tei is a destination restaurant anyway. The “kinki fish” is a whole fish (snapper) slashed to the bone, so the flesh lifts out easily with chopsticks. To eat the soft-shell crab, abandon the Eastern eating utensils and resort to the god-given: fingers. 2906 N. Henderson Ave. 214-828-2400. $$-$$$.
DBEST Tcppo. Our only yakitori bar is also one or the cily’s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modern decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials. 2014 Greenville Ave. 214-826-8989. $$-$$$.
Caribbean Grill. Jumbo shrimp marinated in coconut milk, lightly fried and rolled in coconut shreds, is one of the best appetizers we’ve had all year. Jerk chicken is moist inside, with a thin crusty coating of spices, and the dipping sauce is a killer honey-mustard concoction spiced with hot relish (chow) from Trinidad. Stay busy with their large selection of bottled hot sauces and soothe your burning tongues with homemade key lime pie. 3068 Forest Ln. 972-241-9113. $-$$.
Fogo de Chao. This is not a place for the faint of heart. Or the not-very-hungry. Once you’ve signaled “go” by turning your ordering chip from red to green, you are immediately bar-raged by gaucho-clad waiters waving huge skewers of assorted meats. The “Lombo”- pork loin crusted with parmesan-can be dry. but the Frallinha (bottom sirloin) is tender, and the Picanha (rump steak with lots of garlic) will make you send the other waiters away. The centerpiece of the restaurant is the beautiful salad bar-vegetarians who can get past the carnivorous atmosphere will find nirvana in the form of big bowls of steamed asparagus, mozzarella cheese balls, rice, marinated red peppers, hearts of palm, and sun-dried tomatoes. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-7300.$$.
Samba Room. It’s impossible not to feel transported to an exotic Havana night-huge palm trees; windows covered by wooden-slat shutters; warm browns, ochre, and cobalt blue set the mellow. sexy tone for the whole room. Arepas-beef marinated in sherry, cooked with onion and peppers, then shredded into a mound and surrounded by triangles of griddled sweet com cakes topped with a slight drizzle of sour cream-are superb. A silver martini shaker filled with long, thin strips of Yuca Frita-fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-makes trench fries obsolete. 4514 Travis St. 214-522-4137. $$.
II Sole. Chef Tim Penn focuses on Mediterranean food, sometimes to brilliant effect. Long fingers of tender pan-fried cala-mari dip easily into a spicy red chile sauce. Wonderful warm putanesca pasta crowded with kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes, and garlic pops with flavor. Nice by-the-glass wine selection. 4515 Travis St., Travis Walk. 214-5.59-3888.$$-$$$.
D best Suze.The attitude is casual, sophisticated, and neighborhood friendly. The food is a funky blend of Mediterranean fare that rotates continually and includes Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in coconut milk, cilantro. and chipotle broth that should not be missed. Former Toscana wiz Gilbert Garza has proved he is a chef to be reckoned with-his double cut pork chops rubbed with red curry and topped with dried cherry sauce is a gastronomic work of art, 4345 W. Northwest Hwy. at Midway. 214-350-6135.$$.
Tony’s Wine Warehouse. This place is basically a wine warehouse with some tables crammed in the back and a kitchen turning out above-average Mediterranean fare. Veal medallions gently sautéed with port wine, roasted garlic, and shitake mushrooms paired nicely with a Nuit Saint Georges we picked from a bin on the floor. The wine prices are retail; there is no corkage fee. 2904 Oak Lawn. 214-520-9463. $$.
Anamia’s. The basics-cheese enchiladas, cheese tacos, guacaniole, and beef tacos-are all above average, the surprise being the usually boring beef taco full of chili powder-spiced beef. Shrimp comes wafting the scent of lime, covered with nuggets of sautéed garlic, on a bed of sautéed celery, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and jalapenos. For two bucks, you can get an order of sopapillas-a platter of three gold puffs sent from heaven with a little honey. 106 Denton Tap Rd.. Suite 240, Coppell. 972-304-0321.$. Margaritas.
D BEST Aviia’s. At Avila’s you can find all the flavors of Mexican food without the lard. Chili relleno isn’t battered and deep-fried, it’s gently roasted and stuffed with cheese or meat and covered in a light ranchera sauce. Enchiladas can be customized from a mix and match ingredients menu and is a must for vegetarians looking for a Tex-Mex fix. 4714 Maple Ave. 214-520-2700. $.
Calle Doce. The new Lakewood digs has the same menu and quality as the popular Oak Cliff location. Undoubtedly the best Mexican seafood in town, the fresh cold seafood cocktails-octopus, ceviche, and oysters-are full of spicy tomato sauce rilled with chunks of celery ami green peppers. The grilled whole catfish served with vegetable and rice shouldn’t be missed. 1925 Skillman. 214-824-9900; 415 W 12th St. 214-941-4304. $$.
Cantina Laredo. The rule is stick to Mex-Mex food at Cantina, and you’ll probably be happy. Chicken tacos cascabel enfold hot peppered, orange-scented, stewed chicken in a soft, fresh tortilla. But the doppelganger Tex-Mex side of the menu is not so good. Undercooked, stuffed jalapenos are so tough you can’t bite through them. 250 Preston Royal Center. 214-265-1610. Multiple locations. $$.
Casa Navarro. This little cafe in a former 7-Eleven specializes in the same unpretentious cheesy fare we used to love before Tex-Mex became chic. The beer is bring-your-own. and on Wednesdays the enchilada plate is $3.75 all day long. Sopapillas. once the darling dessert at every Tex-Mex joint, are still handmade, light, and greaseless. such a. surprisingly elegant finish to the meal that we wished we’d brought our demitasse, too. 11742-A Marsh Ln. at Forest. 972-357-0141. $.
D REVISITS Cuquita’s. Cuquita’s bland decor-beige walls, Naugahyde booths, and Formica tables-is probably an asset. If the atmosphere were half as enticing as the food, you would never get a table. Most nights, lines of neighborhood families patiently wait for Cuquita”s brand of traditional casual Mexican food. You won”! find a list of Tex-Mex combination plates or even a margarita here, but you will find authentic specialties like Lengua en salsa-a beef tongue simmering in a pepper-studded tomato sauce- and Guiso de Puerco, tender fillets of pork sautéed with onions and spices. Both dishes beg to be blanketed in the thin freshly-made corn tortillas hot off the griddle. The signature pozole is a wonderful soupy stew made from white hominy and pork swimming in a secret broth. Everything goes down easy with a glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade or a Bohemia. 2326 N Henderson. 214-S23-1859. $. Beer only.
Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Javier’s hook is Mexico City Mexican food, and the atmosphere isn’t Tex-Mex kitschy but sophisticated. Salsa is nicely warmed, and margaritas are the real thing. Filete Cantinflas may look like a fried puck, but inside the stiff crust is a cheese-stuffed filet mignon with a brick-colored chile sauce-it’s too rich to eat and too good not to try. 4912 Cole Ave. 214-521-4211. $$.
Las Cazuetas. 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. $.
Luna De Hoche. The secret is out in Garland. Luna Noche is playing in the Mexican food big leagues with stellar versions of cheese enchiladas, guacamole, and nachos. Thankfully the margaritas are more sour than sweet and the Polio Pepian is a juicy chicken breast simmering in delicious chicken broth, ancho chile, and pecans sauce. The fruit flau-tas are the best dessert find around.7602 Jupiter Road at Lookout, Garland. 972-414-3616.$-$$. Margaritas
Mattito’s. The Baja shrimp stuffed with Monterey jack cheese and fresh jalapenos then wrapped in bacon is a change of pace from our favorite Matt Martinez recipe chiles relieras stuffed with cheese and topped with ranchero sauce, sour cream, raisins and pecans. The gorditos we tried were dry and tasteless, but save room for chocolate caramel nachos-this is a destination dessert. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Monlfort Dr., Addison. 972-503-8100. $-$$.
D BEST Matt’s Rancho Marthnz. The place is filled with the faithful at every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr. 214-823-5517. $-$$.
D BEST Monica’s Aca Y Alla. Monica Greene continues to serve the best foodbargains in town. Most lunches are less than $5, and the choices are not your normal Tex- Mex combinations. We’ve gorged on green enchiladas, mushroom quesadillas, and spinach-jalapeno fettuccine with chicken. roasted corn, cilantro. and black beans in a cream shallot bechamel sauce. Tuesday food is half-price and Wednesday’s freshly squeezed lime margaritas are only 50 cents. 2914 Main St. 214-748-7140.
Nuevo Leon, Nuevo Leon has the uncanny knack of blending perfectly with a neighborhood while serving the same menu at every location. Somehow, the carnitas al pastor are hearty, country fare in Farmers Branch |the original location), fiesta party fare on Greenville Avenue, and mod-Mex in the latest location on Oak Lawn. Service is slick, and the food is excellent-fat enchiladas, avocado-like cold cream, thick tortillas. So far, this is a winning formula. 3211 Oak Lawn. 214-522-3331. Multiple locations. $-$$.
Omega’s. It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega’s. But fortunately. Omega’s is also a great place to lunch, and it’s even a comfortable place to eat alone. This friendly little cafe on a Deep Ellum side street serves a complimentary cup of chile con queso with the warmed salsa and tostados. There’s nothing particularly original about the menu, but the basic cheese-oozing enchilada plate is pure comfort food. 212 N. Crowdus St. 214-744-6842.$.
Pepe & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be–chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of” the best in town. 2935 Elm St. 214-741-1901. S. Margaritas.
Piano Tortilla Factory. If you live in Piano, then this little place should be al the lop 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. 972^23-6980. $.
Primo’s. On the “Mex” side of the Tex-Mex fare, enchiladas come with cheddar cheese gurgling in thick chili con came and topped with more cheese. The cheese-fest continues with a “Tex” version of a chili relleno: a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper, dipped in a queso and egg batter, then deep-fried. The amount of money the kitchen spends on cheese could probably put a man on the moon-there is even grated cheese on the side salads. We ate it all. 3309 McKinney. 214-220-0510.$.
Rate’s. One Dallas institution replaced another when Raphael’s (now Rafa’s) opened in Mr. Peppe’s old space on Lovers Lane. The arched brick wine cellar is bright orange, and the pastoral Swiss view has been replaced by pictures of many Aztec gods and one happy tomato. The place could still use a few velvet paintings. but the tablescape is complete: Light, fresh chips, vinegary salsa, and fast margaritas are the intro to a meal that’s quintessential Dallas Mexican. 5617 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-2080. $-$$. Margaritas.
Sol’s. The goal here seems to be to offer pretty good Mexican food in a pretty comfortable place to folks who live pretty close. Sol’s has found a niche where old-fashioned combination plates-oozing enchiladas, rich chili gravy, deep fried flautas, and lush guacamole-are all that’s required. Nachos come with a pile of sliced jalapenos. margaritas have plenty of tequila, and the set is tuned to Mexican TV. Really, what more do you want on a Sunday evening? 6434 Mockingbird Ln. 214 821-7911. $-$$.
Taco Diner. The name sounds slightly retro. But the taeos at the Diner are real Mexican soft tacos, not drive-through, crunchy, greasy Tex-Mex mutations. The com tortillas are the star here; no matter what you wrap them around, the result is good-chicken with cojita cheese, grilled pork, and meaty mushrooms are all complemented by the fragrant masa tortillas.
Service is hit-or-miss. 4011 Villanova. 214-696-4944. $. Margaritas.
AI- Amir. The Mediterranean meets the rising sun at Al Amir, which took the place of a Japanese restaurant. The result is an odd, melting-pot ambience. Concentrate on the plate-Middle Eastern expectations are well-met with good renditions of hummus, baba ghanoush. and lamb. But there are also some less well-known dishes to try. 7402 Greenville Ave. 214-739-2647. $$
Basha. Basha was one of the first in the wave of Middle Eastern restaurants that have opened in Dallas in the last few years. And it remains one of the best of a good lot. The menu is less predictable than many of Dallas’ Lebanese restaurants, offering dishes outside the usual selection of hummus, baba ghanoush. rice, and grilled everything. Breast of chicken breaded in crushed pistachios is an excellent idea-so is fragrant lamb shank, cooked till it is stew on the bone. OK. hummus is good, too. 2217 Greenville Ave. 214-824-7794. $$.
Cafe Istanbul. The liny 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 thai kibbe: it lends 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 Bell Line Rd. 972-233-1080. $$.
D BEST Marrakesh. Just what is Moroccan cuisine, and what is it doing in Dallas’? It is lamb and couscous and fresh vegetables spiced with mysterious combinations of nutmeg, paprika, and cumin-wonderful. The Moroccan Feast-a sample of almost everything on the menu-is a bargain at $26.9? per person. Vibrant Middle-Eastern music accompanies a veiled belly dancer in a purple bra who gyrates and finger-cymbals her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-4104. $$.
Antares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-high, revolving restaurant appears to be finding its wings at last. Huge sea scallops were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a roasted shallot vinaigrette. Reunion Tower. 300 Reunion Blvd. 214-651-1234. $$-$$$.
Beau Nash. The beautiful dining room is aging gracefully, and the light-sparkled, romantic conservatory at night remains one of the delights of Dallas dining. The Cobb salad and smoked chicken corn chowder still win Best of Kind, and desserts are a dream-try the rich pillow of mocha mousse sandwiched between two dark chocolate cake slices. Hotel Crescent Court, 2215 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-871-3240. $$-$$$.
Chaparral Club. The ancho-rubbed chicken (with bones! ) can be a little salty, but the creamy goat-cheese stuffing guarantees moist meat. The bone-in filet. along with truffled mashed potatoes and cubed root vegetables sautéed together, make a plate 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 crème Anglaise. Adam’s Mark Hotel. 400 N. Olive St. 214-922-8000. $$-$$$.
Guthrie’s. Luckily, Guthrie’s sits next to our parking lot downtown. That makes it easy to dash over for a quick luncheon comfort-food fix of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. Chef William Guthrie gets creative at night and turns out brilliant versions of pork schnitzel with sautéed mushroom and a killer version offish and chips. 400 S Ervay. 214-760-7900.$-$$.
D BEST Laurels. Rising suit executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Westin Park Central’s 20th floor. Incomprehensible dishes like pear soup with plum wine crème fraiche don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. You have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate, and the results are brilliant. Westin Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr. 972-385-3000. $$-$$$.
Maguire’s. The menu reads like a syllabus for a global cooking class-each entree tastes like the final exam. Uninspired versions of maple ginger salmon, peppercorn steak, and herb-marinated chicken anchor the selections. However, the house salad is a memorable blend of greens, roasted pecans, and blue cheese tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette, and the molten lava cake spills hot gooey chocolate at the touch of a fork. 17552 DaHas Pkwy. at Trinity Mills. 972-818-0068. $$.
The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner; it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-tike, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining continues to live up to its legend-the atmosphere is inimitably posh, and the food is predictably innovative. The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-526-2121.$$$.
The Mercury. Chef Chris Ward has taken control of the kitchen and is doing a bang-up job. A normally pedestrian potato soup was delivered thick and hot and the arugula pesto drizzled on top provided the perfect kick of flavor. Two savory pork chops resting easily beside a creamy rosemary risotto was easy on the eye and palate. 1418 Preston Forest Sq. 972-960-7774. $$.
Parfgf. Menus still change weekly, and the food is prepared to order, by hand. Sen-ice can be a little flaky, but the food-specials and perennials-is excellent. The famous beef tenderloin with mustard sauce and “smashed” potatoes is as good as ever, the beef rare and unusually flavorful, the potatoes buttery and just lumpy. It’s been on the menu since Parigi opened. A long time. 3311 OakLawnAve.2I4-52l-0295.$$.
Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied, but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd. 214-265-7389.$$.
Tillman’s Corner. The signature New American dishes of late owner and chef Ricky Tillman still take lop honors. Pork medallions with roasted chile sauce are tender and come nestled against light whipped potatoes scented with horseradish, and the salmon roasted on cedar planks is scented with a mild burgundy sauce. A slice of warm apple caramel pie is enough for two, and the Tillman’s special coffee-spiked with 3 liquors-is reason enough to sit back and relax in this home away from home. 324 W. 7th St. at Bishop, 214-942-0988. $-$$.
York Street. As Dallas restaurants get bigger and bigger, this little chef-owned cafe seems smaller and smaller. And its value rises as the qualities we love about it become rarer and rarer. The choices of elegant food-pheasant paté with pears, frogs’ legs, roast duck, and quail, are a wonderful relief from beef and chicken.It’s easy for dinner to spin into hours of conversation just because the atmosphere is so conducive to it. 6047 Lewis St. 214-826-0968. $$-$$$.
AquaKnox. Since the lounge was turned into Fishbowl, the sexy blue chenille dining room of AquaKnox feels like half a restaurant. The décor isn’t the only boat that’s been rocked here. We’ve had a good meal-brilliantly seared beef tenderloin with chipotle mashed potatoes-and we’ve had a bad meal-salty red snapper with gooey corn pudding. Bui overall Stephen Pyles seems to have steadied the course with the addition of new executive chef Ethan Powell. 3214 Knox St. 214-219-2782. $$$.
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. 148 214-526-1170. S$-$$$.
Fish. After a long float in troubled waters. Fish has plugged up the holes in the sinking standard of their food. The laurel scented Chilean sea bass with roasted sweet peppers and leeks has been tweaked and now includes jumbo shrimp and ginger rice. Delicious grilled, pepper-crusted sea scallops served on hot creamy risotto-flavored with lemon, red peppers and sweet basil is a comfort and a delight. 302 S. Houston St. 214-747-3474. $$$.
Fishmonger’s. Over the years, we’ve had good and bad experiences at Fishmonger’s, but never great ones. The crawfish étoitfée’s only resemblance to Cajun cuisine is the fact that it looks like the muddy Mississippi. Tuna fajitas, a weird diversion from the mostly Cajun-themed menu, are tasteless strips of grilled tuna rolled in tortillas and served with a tortilla soup made with shrimp. But seafood gumbo is surprisingly well-flavored and filled with loads of okra, tomato, and baby shrimp. 1915 N. Central Expwy. 972-423-3699. $-$$. “
D BEST Lombard! Mare, The stylishly polished interior is a real mind-blower, and so is the food. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, steamed mussels, and lobster. A polenta-crusted salmon served with red cabbage was a perfect meal. If we had to choose one place to entertain an out-of-town-er. Lombardi Mare would be our choice. 5 100 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-1233. $$.
Newport’s. Enjoy an imaginative seafood menu that we classify loosely as New England seafood with Asian and Cajun influences. Grilled tilapia is imaginatively served with a side of sautéed apples, cilantro. and toasted pecans. And the tuna is a three-inch pan-seared hunk served in a bowl of rice and covered with sautéed portobellos and roasted peppers- almost wonderful, except for the lake of teriyaki sauce drowning the rice. 703 McKinney Ave. 214-954-0220. $$-$$$.
NIchoNni’s. Don’t be fooled by the neon lights outside, because once your seated in the sexy dining room, the dining experience is elegant. We love the herb crusted orange roughy with a thin crunchy breading on a moist filet sauced sparingly with citrus paprika glaze. Attentive service and consistent food have the tables packed with neighborhood diners who all seem to know each other. 17370 Preston Rd. 972-735-9868. $S.
Rockfish. Rockfish is cozy and uncontrived; even the cute stuff, like the tin-pail light fixtures and the out-of-place ambience, like the rock fireplace on the patio overlooking the parking lot, feels comfortable. You can get an oversized platter rilled with more than a pound of fresh crab. about 30 medium boiled shrimp, two ears of com, several new potatoes, and a foot of sausage for $22.99. Our main problem with Rockfish is that it’s a neighborhood restaurant. but it’s not in our neighborhood. 7639 Campbell Rd. at Coit, 972-267-8979. $-$$.
D BEST S&D Oyster Company. S & D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butterflied. lightly fried, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce–heavy on the pickle. And no meal here would be complete without a slice of the famous key lime pie. 2701 McKinney Ave.214-880-01ll.$$.
Truluck’s Steak & Stone Crab. Stone crabs are a new delicacy in Dallas, and they’re sweet and rich. They’re also easy to eat: The kitchen cracks them for you. so all you have to do is break in and fish for the meat. You can eat other stuff with your crab (mediocre salad, onion rings, cole slaw, creamed spinach), but all you’ll remember is (he claws and cake-four layers of dark chocolate cake covered with a whipped milk-chocolate icing. 5001 Bell Line Rd.. Addison, 972-503-3079; 2401 McKinney Ave. 214-220-2401. S5-$$$.
No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Matt’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr. is a legend-in his own neighborhood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr. 214-328-9078. $$-$$$.
D BEST Star Canyon. Chef-owner Stephan Pyles has created a Dallas destination with his innovative New Texas Cuisine. An appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made mozzarella is a rare case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. And the bone-in cowboy ribeye on a bed of pinto beans, covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile, should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’ top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-520-7827. $$-$$$.
Y.O. Ranch. Though this is frontier fare, the kitchen can have a light touch. Delicately grilled, semi-boneless quail is delicious, and the special two-inch, 12-ounce pork chop is as moist and tender as a filet mignon. However, the buck stops short with an undercooked top sirloin. And the bar scene rocks with Jerry Jeff Walker tunes and cigar-smoking buckaroos- the perfect place to take your Yankee guests. 702 Ross Ave. 214-744-3287. $-$$.
Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas bar remains its best, and everybody knows it. Even midweek, this little two-room restaurant has customers waiting at the bar for one of the mismatched tables in the storefront space. For those who insist, there is a prix-fixe, three-course dinner menu, but Cafe Madrid is a great place to linger over a succession of small dishes-an assortment of olives, oxtail stew, the potato omelette called a tortilla, and braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St. 214-528-1731. $$.
AI Biernat’s. The dinner menu’s specialty section features prime rib. rack of lamb, and jumbo lobsters. The entrées reveal the imagination of a chef who has more on his mind than meat. The sea bass is moist, but the two mainstays-steak and lobster-are a problem. As for the lunch menu, the steak sandwich comes off well, and so do the slices of grilled and balsamic-dressed portobello mushroom and tomato fanned around a hummock of baked goat cheese. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-2 l*->-22oT. $$ $$$.
Bob’s Steak and Chop House. We usually forego filets, preferring a more flavorful cut. but the three-inch nine-ounce is beautifully marbled and cooked perfectly pink and tender. The New York strip steak is also outstanding. It’s impossible not to love the “smashed” potatoes-they’re wickedly mashed with about a stick of butler in each serving. And the slight sweet glaze on Bob’s signature whole carrots side dish is a nice contrast to the beef. The atmosphere here is as comfortable as your grandmother’s dining room, but the restaurant is crowded with the Ross Perot and Jerry Jones set. 4300 Lemmon Ave. 214-528-9446. $$-$$$.
D BEST Capital Grille. Many of the customers are well-heeled visitors who stroll over from their suites at the Hotel Crescent Court next door, and when there’s a big convention in town. Capital Grille is booked solid. Normally, we wouldn’t touch a high dollar surf-and-turf chain restaurant geared to those demographics with a ten-foot expense account. But for Capita! Grille, we’ll make an exception. The service has always been professional and knowledgeable. On a recent visit, our waiter finally answered a nagging food trivia question: Just what is the difference between a Delmonico and a New York Strip? Drum roll please: Nothing. With that foodie factoid out of the way. he went on to explain Capital Grille’s broiling method with the skill of a technical engineer-a 1.800 degree Vulcan broiler cooks the meat evenly from both sides at the same time. Of course. we had to test our newly found wisdom on the Delmonico-and the 18-ounee strip almost two inches thick served hot on the outside with a cool pink center didn’t disappoint. But the surf stole our hearts-lobster filled with chunks of lobster, rock crab, and shrimp lightly breaded and baked served with a buttery béchamel sauce was a tasty bargain at $65.00. 500 Crescent Court. 214-303-0500. S$$.
D BEST Chamberlain’s. Richard Chamberlain makes tine dining simple and elegant. You won’t find any singing cowboys or 20-page wine lists. Prime rib is a beautiful hand-cut aged beef is. perfectly seasoned with coarse salt and chunks of fresh cracked black pepper. We could pass on the meat here and still be happy with bowls of green beans and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and buttered com freshly shucked from the cob. 5330 Beltline Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-S$$.
Charolais. Clair and John Rubede (Clair de Lune) have opened a new steak joint with a French twist-the menu only offers France’s favorite Charolais beef. But the seafood entrees rule. Redtish stuffed with shrimp and crab is delicately sauced with lemon butter, and the broiled chicken isn’t just a token dish-c’est magnifique. 5950 Royal Ln. at Preston. 214-692-0900. $$$
Kirby’s Steakhouse. One recent dinner had six happy Yankee carnivores whistling Dixie, but more recently, we were served a puck-like filet sitting alone on a parsley-less plate. And we didn’t understand what made the mashed potatoes “famous”-we tasted nothing more than potatoes whipped with lots of pepper. On the other hand, service was attentive, and the prime rib was pure retro-quality. 3525 Greenville Ave. 214-821-2122; 3408 Preston Rd.. Piano. 972-867-2122. $$.
Nick & Sam’s. Nick & Sam’s is a steakhouse first, but it’s trying-and succeeding-to be more. For instance, there’s a raw bar at the far end of the building, and the lobby bar area is a wine cellar with more than 300 wines. We ate the traditional steakhouse meal-a wedge salad with creamy lumps of Maytag blue cheese. Surf ’n’ Turf (snowy sweet lobster tail and soft filet), and a prime aged “cowboy steak” with sides. The most successful twist on the traditional steakhouse is the setting itself. This is not a faux men’s clufj-no brass, etched glass, or hunting paintings. 3008 Maple Ave. 214-871-7663.5$-$$$.
The Palm. The four-pound lobster (at $20 a pound! ) is sweet and tender, but the 24-ounce New York strip tends to be overcooked. The Palm staffers are all veterans, and so are most of the customers, but don’t be intimidated by the chummy atmosphere. This is a club anyone with $80 to spare for a lobster can join. 701 Ross Ave. 214-698-0470. $$-$$$.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse. The knockout punch is a 24-ounce. bone-in ribeye coated with lots of fresh ground pepper, perfectly cooked to medium rare. Smoked pork chops are grilled and served with a side of sweet, smoked apples. The side dishes are only average; the horseradish mashed potatoes could have used a little more horseradish, and the doughnut-sized onion rings are heavily beer-breaded and greasy. Prices are less than you’d expect. I7795 Dallas Pkwy. 972-267-9393. $$.
Chow Thai. A strip shopping center doesn’t seem a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll have one here. Excellent Thai classics like vegetables in a fiery green curry and pad Thai taste clean and light. A dessert of fresh mango atop sticky rice is a spectacular ending. 5290 Belt Line Rd. at Montfort Dr.. Addison. 972-960-2999.5$.
D BESTLiberty. Annie Wong, the mother of Thai food in Dallas, still owns three all-Thai restaurants, but Liberty is where her imagination is freed. Romantically and softly lit, with beaded candleshades on each table and bamboo birdcages animated with twinkling Christmas lights, the brightly lit kitchen makes Liberty into real dinner theater, and Wong is the star. What makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alta Ave. 214-887-8795. $$.
Mango. This is the second restaurant from the folks who brought Cow Thai to Dallas. Playful proportions and offbeat hues color Mango California-cool as the noodle-slurpers. House special Mee Sea Go is an ocean broth full of scallops, shrimp, and cabman. Pad Thai, is appropriately sweet and crunchy with peanuts. 4701 West Park, Piano. 972-599-0289. $-$$.
Green Papaya. If you’re going to learn anything about pronouncing Vietnamese, learn to say pho correctly. The traditional Vietnamese bowl of broth comes thick with rice noodles and your choice of beef, chicken or meatballs. Most of the other traditional country dishes are good, but someone in the kitchen needs to adjust some of the uninspired seasonings. 3211 Oak LawnAve.214-52l-4811.$.
Mai’s. Mai’s is one of those places that has lots of loyal customers. The menu is stocked with authentic Vietnamese specialties, including lots of noodle and rice entrees and the classic hot pots: exotic meats, vegetables, and spices cooked and served in clay pots. Be sure and try the legendary Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. 4812 Bryan St. 214-826-9887. $.
Mai’s Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened the first Vietnamese restaurant in Dallas, and her food is still terrific at her little restaurant in Snider Plaza. The hot pots are especially good-“hot chic” is the regulars’ favorite. 6912 Snider Plaza. 214-361 -8220. $-$$.
Miss Saigon. Texas-size portions abound at this authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Egg rolls the diameter of baby bottles, a mound of fried rice, a pile of lemon grass chicken, and three plate-sized mu shoo pancakes stuffed with Mongolian beef were all delicious and kept us feed for three days. 12300 Inwood Rd. 972-503-7110.$$.
Angela’s. The big. wood-paneled dance hall of a room is lined with a self-service buffet line, cold-drink coolers, and chip racks on a linoleum floor. You grab a round tray and a frosted stein of Bud and eat from styrofoam plates under antler heads mounted on the walls. The chicken, served “while it lasts,” goes fast-it’s juicy and smoked off the bone. All the usual sides-beans, cole slaw-stand up to the ribs, but we wish they’d put more punch in their thin, vinegar-based sauce. 2533 White Settlement Rd., Fort Worth. 817-332-0357. $.
Angeluna. The patio swarms with an artsy Chanel-and-Chardonnay crowd before and after events at the Bass Performance Hall across the street. The “one-world-on-a-plate” menu features designer pizzas, pastas, and spinach and mushroom salads corralled by delicate potato rings. Who cares if it’s more about style than substance? After all. the parent company is in Aspen. 215 E. 4th St.. Fort Worth. 817-334-0080.$$.
Benito’s. Like an old familiar friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from time to time. but some things never change-like the food. The queso flameado, with or without chonzo, is flamed tableside and served with fresh pico de gallo and hot flour or com tortillas. Order it first, and then spend some time with the menu- everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave.. Fort Worth. 817-332-8633.$$.
Bistro Louisa. This gem of a bistro offers takeout now, but the staff seems curiously challenged by the idea. The famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin travel well, but even delicate reheating of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals fails to restore it. Savored in the sunny bistro, the cuisine works Mediterranean magic. Enjoy il there as often as possible. 2900 S^Hulen St., Fort Worth. 817-922-9244. S$.
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 (S34.50) is a great deal. A la carte menu also available. 2221 E. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 910. Arlington. Metro 817-640-9981. $$$.
Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St.. Fort Worth. 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.
D BEST Grape Escape. The gimmick here is education-Grape Escape is trying to do the same thing for wine that brew pubs did for beer. So you order “flights” of the grape of your choice, and the waiter brings a four-glass tasting of say, chardonnay. from Sonoma, Napa. Australia, and New Zealand. Compare and contrast. The food is designed around the wine, so you can change direction mid-meal-start with white wine and suggested matches, finish with red wine and cheese. The selection of small plates-merguez sausages. paté, salads, stuffed potatoes, pizzettes-adds up to a full meal that’s lots of fun. 500 Commerce St, Foil Worth. 817-336-9463. $$.
Joe T. Garcia’s Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery.
Although not as fancy as its cousin around the comer, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to tamales. Breakfast is a work of art here. And on your way out, the bakery, in an alcove off the dining room, sells traditional Mexican breads, rolls, and sweet rolls. 2122 N. Main St., Fort Worth. 817-626-5770.$$.
D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restaurant. Its location near the Stockyards can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool, and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-626-4356. $$.
Kincaid’s. It’s organized chaos at lunch, hut there isn’t a frown in the lime-green room. The burgers are worth the drive from Dallas, and so are the sides: fried okra, deviled eggs, and pimiento cheese-stuffed jalapenos. If you can manage, have homemade banana pudding for dessert. It’s been a while since we left a restaurant this satisfied for only $5. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-732-2881. $.
D BEST Randall’s Gourmet Cheesecake Company. It’s a wonderfully romantic, candle-lit French cafe serving delightful classic specialties. Beef tenderloin medallions served with rosemary-roasted shallots come with crunchy haricots verts and garlic mashed potatoes. But the pièce de résistance is a savory cheesecake, made of parmesan and feta cheese baked with basil pesto. asparagus, mushrooms, and Kalamata olives. 907 Houston St.,FortWorth.817-336-2253.$$. ?
Reata. Reata’s upscale “cowboy cuisine” includes a chicken-fried steak the size of a boot and steaks with Mexican side dishes. Sit in the north dining room and watch the sun sink in the west and the Dallas skyline twinkle in the east. 500 Throckmorton St.. Fort Worth. 817-336-1009.$$-$$$.
Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, country French atmosphere is charming, and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St.. Fort Worth. 817-727-2781, $$$.
Sundance Market and Deli. Every neighborhood could use a Sundance Market and Deli. Urbanités can stop in for a few staples-there’s a refrigerated case with prepared meals, chilled beer and wine, fresh produce, and even a large variety of funky gifts. A cafeteria line offers specialty soups, salads, and spuds. Our favorite is the pastrami, bacon, Swiss, and tomato with spicy mustard grilled on fresh pumpernickel. 353 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-335-3354. $.
If you cant get to Greece anytime soon, take a trip down Greenville and stop just south of Lover’s Lane at Kostas Cafe. Thrill seekers that we are, we ordered the Saganakl-Greek fried kasserl cheese soaked in brandy-just to watch our waiter Theo wind his way through the festive dining room with a platter of flambeed cheese. Once at our table, he doused the flame dramatically, squeezing a fresh lemon over the blaze. Simultaneously, half the restaurant Joined us for the ceremonial “Opa” chant. Warm triangles of pita accompanied hummus (that could have used more garlic). But other than that one bump, all the entrees we tried-spanakoplta (a spinach and feta pie topped with delicate phyllo pastry), mousaka (casserole of ground meat and eggplant covered with cream sauce), and souvlaki (grilled shish-kabob)-were without fault. Opa! 4914 Greenville Ave. 211-967-3225. $$.
TOP 10 CHOICES FOR OUTDOOR DINING:
Cork Wine Bar
Franki’s Li’l Europe
Café Highland Park
Q. Where can we go for dinner and dancing?
A renaissance of old Dallas, the Chaparral Club on the 38th floor of the Adam’s Mark is a subtly glamourous dining room with a dramatic Dallas skyline backdrop to dance the night away. An intimate, yet less expensive, option is the candlelit Northern Italian Cappuccino.
“I didn’t know how many friends I had until I got Popolo’s back.”
-original owner Maury Jeffer on the reopening of his popular Preston Royal eatery.
S I D E D I S H
Follow Your Heart Is owner Stone Evans’ answer to a challenge he says (but we can’t confirm) was issued by Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet” The 24-year-old self-described “fusion of drive, focus, and determination” is leading the way for us all by serving healthy vegetarian food that even the most dedicated carnivore will enjoy.
Follow Your Heart, Plaza of the Americas 600 H Pearl, Suite G 103, 214-953-0411
S I D E D I S H
Pastry chef Bill Hunter’s upscale desserts have been served at The Hotel Crescent Court, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, and the Fairmont. His new wholesale company, “Dessert By Design,” has expanded and now supplies cakes for all occasions to big-name restaurants, caterers, and retail outlets. However, our secret source says he’ll create his award-winning wedding cakes personally for brides “in the know.”
Desserts By Design
2156 W Northwest Hwy., #312
Appointment only: 972-910-8484
Toy’s Café may be the baby sister of well known Toy’s on Lemmon Avenue, but when it comes to preparing and presenting authentic That food, it has no problem competing with its older sibling. The Uptown location is billed as “vegetarian and seafood,” but the new site on Forest Lane Just east of Midway quickly added chicken specialties to adjust to the tastes of northwest Dallas. Stuck In a red-brick strip mall, Toy’s Cafe is a one room joint with grass-covered walls accented with an eclectic assortment of sickles and scythes. Elegant hand-woven black silk fabric embroidered with gold lamé covers the tables, and large Thai Airways travel posters advertising “Exotic Thailand” line the back wall. Every dish we sampled should have been promoted on those posters. Evil Jungle Prince (that’s E. J.P. for you regulars) is a vegetarian’s dream dish-spicy gonzo red devil sauce mixed with curried vegetables that hit our tongues like spicy lasers. The wimpy, i.e., non-curry, diners in our group raved over simple chicken and asparagus lightly stir-fried in a clear ginger soy sauce, Shrimp fingers-marinated shrimp wrapped in rice paper and deep-fried-disappeared faster than we could say “spicy mint leaves.” But as soon as we managed to utter those words, Toy waltzed out of the kitchen and delivered her special version of thick noodles smothered with fresh mint, mushrooms, and white pepper, and simmered in a light oyster sauce-a dish to rival anything served uptown. 3797 Forest Ln., Suite 107A. 972-481-1230. BYOB