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 anil 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 Pla^a. 214-9X7-9188.$.
Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbecue lor the banking crowd at bankers’ hours. Everyday at lunch. Sammy’s is full of white-collar types, ties thrown over their shoulders, chowing on great red-stripe brisket, ribs, and homemade Mom-style pie. No, really-Sammy’s is a family-run enterprise, and all the Pritchards pitch in. 2126 Leonard Si. 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 Inwood Rd. 214-357-7120. Multiple locations. $.
Harry’s Old fashioned Hot Dogs. Harry’s serves real Chicago dogs, topped with onions, mustard, peppers, and the authentic neon-green relish– he also serves them smothered with Texas chili, sauerkraut, and pretty much everything else. You have to have custard after a Harry’s dog-even if you’re too full. It’s smoother than any crème brulée and every day there’s a different selection of flavors. This is the kind of place that gives you hope for American culture. 3113 Knox St. 214-520-3113. $.
Highland Park Pharmacy. We can only describe the Pharmacy atmosphere as reassuring. Some people love the Palm Beach (pimiento cheese to you) sandwich or the tuna salad with cherry cokes. For us. the grilled cheese is the winner- American slices melted to glue, the bread buttery and crisp. Chips are extra: sodas and milkshakes are priceless. Lunch only. 3221) Knox St. 214-521-2126.$.
Street’s Famous Sandwiches. A sandwich can be just a sandwich, but at Street’s it’s more like a meal. Fresh ingredients are key: turkeys, roasts, and desserts are baked on the spot. As for the sides. Chinese sesame noodles, cole slaw, and potato salad are fine filler. But you might skip those and go straight from your sandwich to the rum cake. If you’re lucky, it will still be warm, with the rum freshly sprinkled on top, 4246 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-2505. Multiple locations. $.
Wild About Harry’s. Harry’s serves real Chicago dogs, lopped 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. $.
D BEST Routt Street. This place has thrived because the food is as good as the beer. The food, with a German-Texas accent, complements beer and wine equally well. The pork chop is big, juicy, and pink; ale-steamed mussels are plentiful and aro-matic; and the vegetable Reuben (ask for it-it’s not on the menu} is a brilliant invention-car-roway-scented sauerkraut with melted Swiss on dark pumpernickel. 3011 Routh S1. 214-922-8835. $$.
Angry Dog. The menu is standard bar cuisine, including some great burgers, nachos. and sandwiches, but it extends to include some inspiring options. The- Angry Dog-a grilled, all-beef hot dog split and served open-faced, covered with grilled onions, chili, and cheese-is truly fantastic and a bargain at $4.50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from, 2726 Commerce St. 214-741-4406.$.
Chip’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers, Perhaps Dallas’ best rendition of the all-American hamburger is served at Chip’s. Both locations have an atmosphere as wholesome as a Beach Boys song, and the food is fast and fresh, too. A return to a time of innocence, when a good time could be fueled by nothing more than fries and a shake. The skinny onion rings, rich pig sandwich, and hot dogs are just lagniappe. 4501 Cole Ave. 214-526-1092: 4530 Lovers Ln. 214-691-2447. $.
D BEST The Prince of Hamburgers. The crispy-edged, toasty bun, the slim but beefy-tasting, just-cooked patty, and the simple but fresh garnitures combine to make the quintessential American sandwich. Prince sticks to the classic accompaniments: thick shakes, incredibly frosty root beer, fries, and fabulous onion rings, all brought to you by a real live person. 5200 Lemmon Ave. 214-526-9081.$.
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 thai oozes down your arms. It’s worth the price of the dry cleaning bill. 110 Preston Royal Village. 214-373-0037. $.
Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought thai 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. $.
Texas Hamburgers. This Texas kitsch joint is filled with stuffed armadillos, Texas Hags, cowboy memorabilia, good of boys, and Armani-clad Design Center sophisticates. Besides great half- and third-pound burgers accompanied by fresh fixings, this place serves some great meat-loaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. 1616 Market Center Blvd. 214-747-2222.$.
z Café. Z Café is the friendly ghost of Little Gus. the late eclectic East Dallas hangout. Owner Nicholas Zotas has kept the family tradition alive and disciples arc returning for potato balls, gyro sandwiches, and the updated Z burger-a delicious concoction of double meat, grilled onion, feta cheese, and jalapenos. Open only for breakfast and lunch. 1924 N. Henderson. 214-821-0991.$.
Arc-En-Giel. 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 belt, this shrimp will bring one bumpy night.” warns the menu-is anything hut 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 1 lie hoi 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 howl away. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-387-2333.$-$$.
Uncle Tai’s Hunan Yuan. Not much has changed here over the past 15 years. Bow-tie clad waiters still formally dish out classic hot Hunan specialties tableside. Past favorites still shine, including the Crispy Beef with broccoli sizzling in spicy orange sauce and Uncle Tai’s Chicken flamed with jalapenos lightly coated with black bean sauce served on a bed of slightly wilted watercress. In the Galleria. 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ 972-934-9998. $$.
Deli News. This plainly authentic deli has continued to demonstrate thai 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. $-$$.
Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for die comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family has been dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple for more than a decade. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd. 214-373-3333. $.
Athenée Cafe, Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-size beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like Grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop.
Bibendum. Although his Loyal group of chefs is manning the range, the menu is pure Avner Samuel-global tapas that allow you to combine tile tastes of Latin America, Asia, African, Middle Eastern, and any place in-between. You can nosh or gorge; it’s your call. But the chicken tikka, a classic Indian dish rarely done properly, is perfect here. 2515 McKinney. 214-303-0033. $$.
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-lender chicken over leek mashed potatoes and cream gravy so good it makes the bland bread better. 3301 McKinney Ave. 214-754-4940.$-$$.
Cork. The list of wines by the glass, ports, sherries, and champagnes is staggering considering the small space. The food is simple hut perfectly matched to the concept. Pick your wines, then customize a cheese plate to match. Lovely patés and olive mixes also make more substantial meals, and you can linger long, foregoing dinner, 2709 McKinney Ave. 214- 303-0302. $.
Dream Cafe. One of Dallas’ original organically oriented menus, old favorites like the California Dreaming (mozzarella. tomatoes, and basil on grilled sourdough bread) and the basic Global Dinner (a simple bowl of brown rice and beans covered with melted jack cheese) are as good as ever. The One for John-a grilled marinated tempeh burger-is the host hamburger substitute in town. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St. 214- 954-0486. $-$$.
Deep Ellum Cafe. The first legitimate restaurant in Deep Ellum has a lot of competition now, and though this is still one of the most pleasant places to be in downtown, sometimes the food is not so pleasant. The kitchen seems bored with the standards like chicken and dill dump-lings and Vietnamese chicken salad; specials are a better bet. Sil outside if you can. 2704 Elm St. 214-741-9012.$-$$.
Firehouse. We’ve had no problems with new chef Bill l-ewis”version of International Hot and Spicy Cuisine. Trendy tamarind-soy marinated pork chops are served with a tongue-soothing mango salsa. Surprisingly, our favorite dish isn’t spicy at all-the warm chocolate devil’s food cake surrounded by Milwaukee Joe’s vanilla ice cream comes garnished with a chunk of homemade pistachio brittle. 1928 Greenville Ave, 214-826-2468. $$.
Genghis Grill. You get a stainless steel bowl from the stack and choose your ingredients from a cafeteria line 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. $-$$.
The Grape. The secret is that Dallas’ oldest and best wine bar is really one of its oldest and best restaurants- dim and atmospheric, with a blackboard menu that remains interesting and enticing (no matter how often the chef changes) and the tiniest, most romantic bar in town. 2808 Greenville Ave. 214-828-1981. $$.
Piano Cafe. A feast of vegetables accompanies each meal at this suburban bistro, and most people leave with leftovers. Freshly grilled roast chicken with red pesto penne draws loyal fans. There’s a decent wine list and a winner of a dessert list. 1915 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 500, Plano. 972-516-0865. $$.
D BEST Routh Street Grill. This place has thrived because the food is as good as the beer. The food, with a German-Texas accent, complements beer and wine equally well. Tile pork chop is big, juicy, and pink: ale-steamed mussels are plentiful and aromatic: and the vegetable Reuben (ask for it-it’s not on the menu) is a brilliant invention-car-roway-scented sauerkraut with melted Swiss on dark pumpernickel. 3011 Routh St. 214-922-8835. $$.
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 hooked. Cooking together evidently gives young couples something to talk about (because there’s no TV hanging from the ceiling and the noise level is reasonable, conversation is called for). The professional and friendly staff makes the process manageable. Bread and cheese are staples of the age-just like chips and queso. but you can’t spear a lostado. 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 Beit Line Rd.. Addison. 972-190-8686. $$.
St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin. The marlin doesn’t mean seafood; it’s just a clue that (he owner likes to fish. The only seafood here is the dancing tuna sandwich; mostly, the food is simply designed to go with your beer. Beware the Diablo Tempestuous, pasta doused in fiery jalapeno-tomato sauce. It’s so hot it comes with a chaser of chocolate milk. 2730 Commerce St. 214-698-1511. $-$$.
D BEST Tarantino’s. The overall ambience- a dark. New York cafe-shaped space dominated by a long bar-is best at night, when the slight scruffiness is hidden by dim light and the place looks avant instead of under-financed. The food goes back to the basics of Italian and Spanish cuisine, served tapas-style, The take on traditional osso buco, based on a rich, gamy lamb shank instead of veal, is food you lust after. 3611 Parry Ave. 214-821-2224. Dinner only. $$.
Tin Star. Tex-Mex meets the world under the “Salsa, Smoke, and Sizzle” style. Stick to thin-crusted pizza topped with a smoky-sweet barbecue sauce and dotted with chunks of grilled chicken and onions, Soft tacos filled with tem-pura shrimp, fruit pico de gallo, bacon, and cilantro is a bizarre combination thai somehow works. But the restaurant may lose you with the cheeseburger taco-a big cheese-topped patty wrapped in a flour tortilla. We’re Texans; we agree that thai almost everything tastes belter wrapped in a tortilla. Almost. 2626 Howell St, (across from the Quadrangle), 214-999-0059. $.
Addison Cafe. It’s called “Le French Bistro.” but in reality, Addison Cafe is a restaurant serving classically prepared French and New American dishes, which has kept them in business for 15 years. Tournedos of beef are cooked medium-rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. And dark chocolate mousse is worth every hip-hugging calorie. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 108 at Montfort Dr., Addison, 972-991 -8824. $$-$$$.
The Bistro. The list of small plates at this tapas bistro has been pared down to 14 from 30 .selections, but they’re all exciting, and the wine list is one of the most extensive and inexpensive in town. That means the Bistro caters to you-you can drop in for a few small plates and a bottle of wine or .seule in for a full-course meal at a reasonable price. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. at Inwood Rd. 214-352-1997. $-$$.
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 chick-en liver mousse and a coarse country meat loaf, are fragrant and spicy, a great lunch with the Bizu salad: a loss of pear slivers, mature spinach leaves, feta, and raspberry vinaigrette. 2504McKinneyAve. 214-303-1002. $$.
Chez Gerard. Which is more to be celebrated. French thrift or French style? Skin-thin pelais of veal liver, sautéed with onions and grapes in port wine sauce, become the gourmand’s liver and onions-or is it the peasant’s foie gras? Whatever. 4444 McKinney Ave. 214-522- 6865. $$-$$$.
Glair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the comer of a small strip of shops in Preston Royal, this cozy French country restaurant delights with delicious food and impeccable service. A classic house-made pork paté is served with diced onion, French cornichons, and mustard. Poitrine de canard, a splendidly moist duck breast, is served with a delicate port wine sauce. 5934 Royal Ln. at Preston Rd. 214-987-2028. $$-$$$.
French Room. This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling, Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place thai doesn’t mesh with the modem world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a bed of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St. 214-742-8200. $$$.
Jennivine. The charming old house is as popular a pop-the-question romantic spot as ever. Wood floors, quaint bar candles, flowers, and line food are the setting for a nice selection of wines by the glass. The tilapia is a perfectly tender filet on a layer of lemony orzo with red cabbage and a tablespoon of sweet potatoes. And the chocolate mousse here is classic-bittersweet, firm. and topped with fresh whipped cream. 3605 McKinney Ave. 214-528-6010. $$.
D BEST L’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit. tables are draped in starchy white, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as yon can get, but some ideas need no improvement, The onion tan is just as subtly good. Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre comes with the the best, yes, French fries in town. 4514 Travis St. 214-528-1081. $$-$$$.
La Mirabelle. Thoroughly retro not only in its ambience, which stresses traditional comfort, and in its food, which is precisely and personally prepared French, but also in its service.
which actually claims to coddle the customer. Enjoy reading the menu, but don’t order a thing until you hear the specials of the day. That’s where the treasures are. 17610 Midway Rd. 972-733-0202. $$-$$$.
Paris Bistrot Jean Michel Sakouhi has opened a charming dining room offering authentic French classics delicately prepared. You can have a civilized lunch of grilled salmon on sautéed leeks swirled with a deep red beet sauce for less than S10. The kitchen doesn’t skimp on details-roasted chicken is restored to a regal status with both white and dark meat plump with clear juice. 2533 McKinney Ave. 214-720-0225. $-$$.
The Pyramid Room. The table J 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. $$$.
St. Martin’s. Rich paneling, soft-lit paintings, and (ouches of muted gold update the famous romantic setting; live music shapes the proper evening mood: and the food delivers sophisticated fulfillment. The by-the-g!ass wine selection is broad, and service strikes the correct balance between attention and discretion. 3020 Greenville Ave. 214-826-0940. $$-$$$.
Tramontana. This cozy little dining room has charming murals on the walls and an inviting-looking bar, but service and food vary. Some high points: The steak is perfectly good-flavorful red meat with a simple emphatic wine reduction-and the salad is a mix of lovely, flowerlike greens with pungent, mouth-cleaning flavors. 8220B Westchester Dr. 214-368-4188. $$.
Watel’s. 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. $$.
GOURMET TO GO
City Cafe To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? According to the servers at City Cafe To Go, most people don’t even know how to use a regular oven to reheat the precooked food they buy there. They all want microwave instructions. But for those of you who can handle it, most of the dishes (for instance, a thickly sliced rare leg of lamb with charred, sun-dried tomatoes) are tasty and reheat beautifully. 5757 Lovers Ln. 214-351-3366. $-$$.
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. $-$$.
Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-1515. $.
Izmir Deli. Dallas’ new fascination with Middle Eastern food means there have been long lines at Cafe Izmir since it opened. You can avoid those crowds now by ordering in from the Izmir Deli, just down Greenville from the original cafe. Gyros, tenderloin, mozzarella. grilled vegetable, and chicken sandwiches, pita, hummus, couscous, and eggplant dip are all available for pick-up or phone-in orders. And this is the place to go if you need rosewater at 9 p.m. 3607 Greenville Ave. 214-824-8484. $-$$.
Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food-(here 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. $-$$.
Kostas Cafe. The food is simply Greek and simply good. Appetizer do’s: saganaki and dolmas (musts, really). Entree don’t: souvlaki (tough and chewy). 4914 Greenville Ave. 214-987-3225. $$.
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. $$.
Barbec’s. Barbec’s regulars love the tabloid newsprint menu, the hearty. what-canget-you-Hon? waitresses, the awesome anytime breakfasts. The food ranges from pretty good to good, but it’s all cheap. And they’ve always got those legendary beer biscuits, sweet and high and truly loved by all. Great meringues. 8949 Garland Rd. 214-321-5597. $.
Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purists. Entrées run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast to fried chicken, all accompanied by an endless supply of vegetables. Don”t worry if your entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln. 214-351-5681. $-$$.
DC’s Cafe. You’ve been in powder rooms bigger than this super-clean little place, but you’ve had home cooking this line 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. $.
Mama’s Daughters Diner. Mama’s Daughters Diner has ’em lined up out the door for the Deep South. deep fat cuisine that’s euphemistically called home cooking: fried chicken, with bones, green beans cooked beyond tenderness with cornbread and mashed potatoes. The prize is the chocolate pie-tall, dark, and topped with clouds of meringue. 2014 Irving Blvd. 214-742-8646. $.
Natalie’s. It’s the ultimate neighborhood spot: The portions are large, and the prices are small. The meatloaf is a popular choice: For $7.95 you get an eight-by-three-inch slab of finely ground meat with a light tomato 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. $.
Poop 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 Blvd.. Piano. 972-423-1524. $.
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 unit 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. $$.
Alfonso’s. If you don’t live in east Dallas, it’s time to load the kids in the car and take a round trip for dinner. Basic Italian favorites are cooked the old-fashioned way-heavy on the garlic and butter. Chicken Francese and the hot homemade garlic (and we mean garlic) rolls are alone worth the trip. Lake Highland Village. 718 N. Buckner Blvd. at Northcliff Dr. 214-327-7777. $.
Amore. Amore has all (he elements of a successful neighborhood restaurant but the food, like most Italian food in town, is average. There’s plenty to choose from-the menu is loaded with chicken, seafood, and veal dishes with cream sauces presiding over tomato-based marinaras. Half plates make it easy for families with kids. 6931 Snider Plaza, 214-739-0502. $$.
Antonio Ristorante. This 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 $2(1 entrées. Focaccia 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.$$.
Avanti. Avanli has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood cafe in spite of every obstacle. The fried calamari with tomato and basil sauce is greaseless. and the crunchy batter is light and tasty. We’re slightly disappointed with the grilled veal medallions, but the Italian sausage seasoned with kits of fennel and sautéed with onions and bell peppers on top of angel hair pasta covered in a light marinara is gutsier. 2720 MeKinney Ave. 214-871-4955. $$.
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 home-made noodles, with just enough ground veal to give the dish substance without making it too heavy. 220 Las Colinas Blvd., Irving. 972-869-0713. $$.
lano’s. The menu is priced per portion and per “la familia.” And it’s thoroughly Italian in (hat a “la familia” platter is plenty for a family, including parents, several children, and grandparents. Vitello Pugliese, for example, is thickly breaded slices of veal, smothered in tomato sauce allegedly enriched with goal cheese and loaded with purple kalamata olives. 250 Spanish Village. 972-866-0888. $$.
Mi Piaci. Housemade is a term Mi Piaci doesn’t lake lightly-the kitchen makes its own pastas and cures its own meats. Every other ingredient is either imported or hand-picked. A bowl of the Tuscan classic ribollita could be enough for a meal. But don’t neglect the spicy penne arrabbia-ta, 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 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 -6636. $$.
Nero’s. Chef Luigi Lama has been serving pink garlic bread and Caesar salad for 15 years, but we prefer his Linguinie Fra Diavlo-a steaming plate of sea scallops, gulf shrimp, and mushrooms in a spicy marinara sauce. Of course, the regular pasta dishes are above average, and his homemade white chocolate ice cream has customers driving long distances just for dessert. 2104 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6376. $$.
Nicola’s. Nicola’s makes its own cheeses and frozen desserts-the deliciously light and creamy Mozzarella délia Casa includes handmade cheese layered with grilled eggplant and oven-roasted peppers, finished with basil-infused oil and balsamic vinegar. Fartai le con Salsiccia. pasta butterflies with dainty slices of sausage and a light bath of rich tomato cream sauce, is a little too light-handed. But you’ll be sold on the chocolate hazelnut gelato cone. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. at LBJ. 972-788-1177. $$.
Patrizlo’s. Move over, Campisi’s. Patrizio’s signature crab claws just took first place in the crab claws competition. Soft and delicate, they slip off the exoskeleton and melt in your mouth like, well, butter. Oh, yes-you should eat dinner, too: There’s the chicken and mushroom lasagna (good, but rich) and the baked ziti (we had leftovers for breakfast). The prices aren’t what you’d expect with Escada and Calvin Klein just a kiss away. Highland Park Village. Mockingbird at Preston. 214-522-7878. $$.
Ruggert’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 mozzarella cheese. Even on busy weekends, service flows evenly. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-7377; Beltline Rd” 972-726-9555. $$.
Terilli’s. A Lower Greenville fixture, Terilli’s packs in a semi-sophisticated crowd for such-as-it-is jazz and an eclectic menu featuring the signature item with the silly name: “Italcho’s” (crisp chips of pizza dough topped with mozzarella and a choice of top
plings). Food ranges from pretty good to so-so. but devotees find that Terilli’s is more than the sum of its parts. 2815 Greenville Ave. 214-827-3993. $$.
Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red. and fresh. From the robata bar, try the char-grilled sirloin-thinly sliced, bite-sized morsels of rare tenderloin dipped in ponzu sauce. Gulf shrimp, sautéed in a light ginger sauce, is fragrant and firm. And our all-time favorite dish-simple to make, but hard to make well-is the miso soup, We believe this hot, nourishing version has healing properties, like a global chicken soup. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-361-3220. $$.
Deep Sushi. Remember that American sushi is as much style as substance, and you’ll be happy here. There’s a lot of style, and even some good sushi, if you fish carefully. Watch out for the dragon lady roll, a combination of tuna, avocado, and rice flashed with incendiary wasabi, red pepper sauce, and Japanese yellow mustard wrapped in seaweed and sliced. 2624 Elm St. 214-651-1177. $$-$$$.
D BEST Nakamoto. Service tends to range from sublime to abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and Sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. at Parker Rd., Piano. 972-881-0328. $$.
Tei 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 vakitori bar is also one of the city s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modem decor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas’ best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skew-ers 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 moisi inside, with a thin crusty coating of spices, and the dipping sauce is a killer honey-mus- tard 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. $-$$.
Fogo de Chao. This is not a place for the faint of heart. Or the not-very-hungry. Once you’ve signaled “go” by turning your ordering chip from red to green, you are immediately bar-raged by gaucho-clad waiters waving huge skewers of assorted mails, The “Lombo”- pork loin crusted with parmesan-can be dry, but the Frallinha (bottom sirloin) is tender, and the Picanha (rump steak with lots of garlic) will make you send the other waiters away. The centerpiece of the restaurant is the beautiful salad bar-vegetarians who can get past the carnivorous atmosphere will find nirvana in the form of big bowls of steamed asparagus, mozzarella cheese halls, rice, marinated red peppers, hearts of palm, and sun-dried tomatoes. 4300 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 972-503-7300. $$.
Samba Boom. It’s impossible not to feel transported to an exotic Havana night-huge palm trees; windows covered by wooden-slat shutters; warm browns, ochre, and cobalt blue set the mellow, sexy tone for the whole room. Arepas-beef marinated in sherry, cooked with onion and peppers, then shredded into a mound and surrounded by triangles of griddled sweet com cakes topped with a slight drizzle of sour cream-are superb. A silver martini shaker filled with long, thin strips Of Yuca Frita-fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-makes french fries obsolete. 4514 Travis St. 214-522-4137. $$.
Adelmo’s. Some go for the food, some go for the intimacy, but almost everybody finds a reason to go back to this well-hidden gem. Service is unhurried and patient, and the wine list is varied and reasonable. Entrées and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that will hold your attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes have been devoured. 4537 Cole Ave. 214-559-0325. $$.
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. $$$.
Sure. The attitude is casual, sophisticated, and neighborhood friendly. The food is a funky-blend Of Mediterranean fare that rotates continually and includes Prince Edward island mussels steamed in coconut milk, cilantro. and chipotle broth that should not be missed. Former Toscana wiz Gilbert Garza has proved he is a chef to be reckoned with-his double cut pork chops rubbed with red curry and topped with dried cherry sauce is a gastronome work of art. 4345 W. Northwest Hwy. at Midway. 214-350-6135. $$.
namia’s.The basics-cheese enchiladas, cheese acos, guacamole, and beef tacos-are all above average, the surprise being the usually boring beef taco full of chili powder-spiced beef. Shrimp comes wafting the scent of lime, cov-ered with nuggets of sautéed garlic, on a bed of sautéed celery, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and jalapenos. For two bucks, you can gel an order of sopapillas-a platter of three gold puff’s sent from heaven with a little honey. 600 E. Sandy Lake Rd.. Coppell. 972-304-0321. $. Margaritas.
Avlla’s. At Avihi’s you can find all [he 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 cov-ered in a light ranchera sauce. Enchiladas can be customized from a mix and match ingredi-ents menu and is a must for vegetarians looking for a Tex-Mex fix. 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. But the doppelganger Tex-Mex side of the menu is not so good. Undercooked, stuffed jalapenos are so lough you can’t bite through them. 250 Preston Royal Center. 214-265-1610. Multiple locations. $$.
Calle Doce. The new Lakewood digs has the same menu and quality as the popular Oak Cliff location. Undoubtedly the best Mexican seafood in town, the fresh cold seafood cocktails-octopus, ceviche, and oysters-are full of spicy tomato sauce filled with chunks of celery and green peppers. The grilled whole catfish served with vegetable and rice shouldn’t be missed. 1925 Skillman. 214-824-9900; 415 W 12th St. 214-941-4304. $$.
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. $.
Casa Rosa. There’s almost always a table available at the pink-tinted Casa Rosa, but only because the place is so big. The appeal of the food would certainly puck a smaller place. Casa Rosa does well with standards-except the chimichanga-but the real finds here are the more unusual dishes such as the goat cheese chile relleno and the mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village. 214-350-5227. $-$$.
Javier’s Gourmet Mexicans. Javier’s hook is Mexico City Mexican food, and the atmosphere isn’t Tex-Mex kitschy but sophisticated. Salsa is nicely warmed, and margaritas are the real thing. Filete Cantinflas may look like a fried puck, but inside the stiff crust is a cheese-stuffed filet mignon with a brick-colored chile sauce-it’s loo rich to eat ami loo good not to try. 4912 Cole Ave. 214-521-1211. $$.
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. $.
Luna De Noche, The secret is out in Garland. Luna Noche is playing in (he 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. $-$$. Margaritas
Mario’s Chiquita. A Dallas classic, this restaurant eschews velvet paintings and kitsch in favor of a pretty, casual decor and offers upscale Mexico City-style fare, as well as some of the best Tex-Mex combinations in town. 221 W. Parker Rd., Ste. 400, Piano. 972-423-2977. $-$$.
Martin’s Cocina. The kitchen here does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrées thai weigh in at less than 1.000 calories each, including the four chiles rellenos. But only skimp if you want to-the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa, its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. 7726 Ferguson Rd. 214-319-8834. $-$$.
Mattito’s. The Baja shrimp stuffed with Monterey jack cheese and fresh jalapenos then wrapped in bacon is a change of pace from our favorite Matt Martinez recipe chiles rellenos stuffed with cheese and topped with ranchero sauce, sour cream, raisins and pecans. The gorditos we tried were dry and tasteless, but save room for chocolate caramel nachos-this is a destination dessert. 5290 Bell Line Rd. at Montfort Dr.. Addison. 972-503-8100. $-$$.
D BEST Mart’s Rancho Martinez. The place is filled with the faithful at every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods. and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr. 214-823-5517. $-$$.
D BEST Monica’s. Monica Greene contin-ues to serve the best food bargains in town. Most lunches are less than $5, and the choices are not your normal Tex-Mex combinations. We’ve gorged on green enchiladas, mushroom quesadillas, and spinach-jalapeno fettuccine with chicken, roasted corn, cilantro. and black beans in a cream shallot béchamel sauce. Tuesday food is half-price and Wednesday’s freshly squeezed lime margaritas are only 50 cents. 2914 Main St. 214-748-7140.
Nuevo Leon. Nuevo Leon has the uncanny knack of blending perfectly with a neighborhood while serving (he same menu at every location, Somehow, the carnitas al pastor are hearty, country fare in Farmers Branch (the original location), fiesta party fare on Greenville Avenue, and mod-Mex in the latest location on Oak Lawn. Service is slick, and the food is excellent-fat enchiladas, avocado-like cold cream, thick tortillas. So far, this is a winning formula. 3211 Oak Lawn. 214-522-3331. Multiple locations. $-$$.
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. $.
Pape & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of the best in town. 2935 Elm St. 214-741-1901. $. Margaritas.
Plano Tortilla Factory. If you live in Piano, then this little place should be at the top of your list for a quick bite, takeout, or delivery. Piano Tortilla Factory’s appeal doesn’t end with the food-the friendly owner is quick to strike up a conversation and make you feel welcome. Low prices are a bonus, too. 1009 E. 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. $.
Rafa’s. One Dallas institution replaced another ’when Raphael’s (now Rafa’s) opened in Mr. Peppe’s old space on Lovers Lane. The arched brick wine cellar is bright orange, and the pas-oral Swiss view has been replaced by pictures ’if 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. $-$$. Margaritas.
Rodolfo’s. Start with the home-fried chips, huge half-tortilla rounds served with a full-bodied salsa. Then try the Big Tex-Mex dinner or the Number 0 (yes, they start numbering at zero). The star on the Number 0 plate is the Idaho enchiladas made of. yes, mashed potatoes, pleasantly spiced and available with a choice of seven different sauces. 2002 S. Edgefield Ave. 214-942-1211. $.
Sol’s. The goal here seems to be to offer pretty good Mexican food in a pretty comfortable place to folks who live pretty close. Sol’s has found a niche where old-fashioned combination plates-oozing enchiladas, rich chili gravy, deep fried flautas. and lush guacamole-are all that’s required. Nachos come with a pile of sliced jalapenos, margaritas have plenty of tequila, and (lie set is tuned to Mexican TV. Really, what more do you want on a Sunday evening? 6434 Mockingbird Ln. 214 821-791l. $-$$.
Taco Diner. The name sounds slightly retro. But the tacos at the Diner are real Mexican soft tacos, not drive-through, crunchy. greasy Tex-Mex mutations. The com tortillas are the star here: no matter what you wrap them around, the result is good-chicken with cojita cheese, grilled pork, and meaty mushrooms are all complemented by the fragrant masa tortillas. Service is hit-or-miss. 4011 Villanova. 214-696-4944. $. Margaritas.
Al-Amir. The Mediterranean meets the rising sun at AI Amir, which took the place of a Japanese restaurant. The result is an odd. melting-pot ambience. Concentrate on the plate-Middle Eastern expectations are well-met with good renditions of hummus, baba ghanoush, and lamb. But there are also some less well-known dishes to try. 7402 Greenville Ave. 214-739-2647. $$.
All Baba. Order hummus and you gel a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley and adorned with slick olives. That and a stack of hot pita could do you. but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh. mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulghur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave. 214-823-8235. $-$$.
Basha. Basha was one of the first in the wave of Middle Eastern restaurants that have opened in Dallas in the last few years. And it remains one of the best of a good lot. The menu is less predictable than many of Dallas’ Lebanese restaurants, offering dishes outside the usual selection of hummus, baba ghanoush, rice, and grilled everything. Breast of chicken breaded in crushed pistachios is an excellent idea-so is fragrant lamb shank, cooked till it is stew on the bone. OK. hummus is good, too. 2217 Greenville Ave. 214-824-7794. $$.
Cafe Istanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gets cozy at night, but those who tolerate early evening daylight are rewarded with a happy hour. Solid service tops off a superb all-around experience. 5450 W. Lovers Ln.. Ste. 222. 214-902-0919. $-$$.
D BEST Cafe Izmir. 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? Il 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-cymbals her way around the room. 5207 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-4104. $$.
Airfares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-high, revolving restaurant appears to be rinding its wings at last. Huge sea scallops were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a roasted shallot vinaigrette. Reunion Tower, 300 Reunion Blvd. 214-651-1234. $$-$$$.
Anzu. The Nakamotos spent a considerable amount of money to alter Anzu’s entrance so its feng shui would be perfectly balanced, Maybe it helps the consistently balanced flavors in the bento boxes. Lunch at this orientally inclined restaurant has always been a great deal-a beautiful arrangement of tempura and sushi or a plate of Asian-influenced fish or chicken, served gracefully, under a flock of origami birds, for less than $10. 4620 McKinney Ave. 214-526-7398. $$.
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 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 roof vegetables sautéed together, make a plate that satisfies all senses. Don’t miss The Perfect Dessert: a satiny sphere of white chocolate split and tilled with fresh blueberries and raspberries sliding around in a pool of crème Anglaise. Adam’s Mark Hotel, 400 N. Olive St. 214-922-8000. $$-$$$.
City Care. This California-inspired, mostly family-run cafe opened over a do/en 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. 5757 W. Lovers Ln. 214-351-2233. $$.
Gershwin’s. Pretty people, pretty food, pretty prices set the scene for power lunching in this California-influenced Upper Greenville emporium, where on-track careerists linger over cre-alive tare noontimes and gather after work to share single malts, tall foods, and to people-watch. An outstanding wine list, too. 8442 Walnut Hill Ln. 214-373-7171. $$-$$$.
D BEST Laurels. Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Westin Park Central’s 20th floor. Incomprehensible dishes like pear soup with plum wine crème fraiche don’t make sense until you put them in your mouth. You have to trust Custer: She thinks with her palate, and the results are brilliant. Westin Park Central, 12720 Merit Dr. 972-385-3000. $$-$$$.
The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This isn’t dinner: it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas dining continues to live up to its legend-the atmosphere is inimitably posh, and the food is predictably innovative. The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-526-2121. $$$.
The Mercury. 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. $$.
Parigi. Menus still change weekly, and the food is prepared to order, by hand. Service can be a little flaky, but the food-specials and perennials-is excellent. The famous beef tenderloin with mustard sauce and “smashed” potatoes is as good as ever, the beef rare and unusually flavorful, the potatoes buttery and just lumpy. It’s been on the menu since Parigi opened. A longtime. 3311 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-521-0295. $$.
Rooster. The room is as easily gracious as a family dining room. And the staff offers naturally Southern-sty le hospitality. The traditional Senate bean soup is authentic-substantial and scented with smoky ham-and the breadbasket is filled with com muffins and bacon biscuits. The cattish, thick and white as cake, is crusted with molasses and pecans, then sauced with brown butter. 3521 Oak Grove Ave. 214-521-1234. $$.
Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied, but beef is a reli-able choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd. 214-265-7389. $$.
York Street. As Dallas restaurants get bigger and bigger, this little chef-owned cafe seems smaller and smaller. And its value rises as the qualities we love about, il 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. $$-$$$.
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 the wannabes are eating from a simpler menu that includes platters of fresh shrimp, oysters, clams, and small-plate versions of the dinner entrees, an excellent option for those who want a taste of the high life without the high tab. 3214 Knox St. 214-219-2782. $$-$$$.
Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas’ most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. Menu favorites like calamari, clam chowder. Caesar salad, salmon, and red snapper are superbly prepared and presented by an experienced staff. 24 Highland Park Village. 102 214-526-1170. $$-$$$.
Fishmonger’s. Over the years, we’ve had good and bad experiences at Fishmonger’s, but never great ones. The crawfish étoufée’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. $-$$.
D BEST Lombardi Mare. The stylishly polished interior is a real mind-blower, and so is the food. Feast on five types of farm-fresh oysters, steamed mussels, and lobster. A polenta-crusted salmon served with red cabbage was a perfect meal. If we had to choose one place to entertain an out-of-town-er. Lombardi Mare would be our choice. 5100 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 972-503-1233. $$.
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. pep-per-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. $$$.
Lefty’s. The menu is small, but Lefty’s features everything you’d expect a good lobster house to have, including beef for those who dont like seafood. One bargain: the one-pound lobster with baked potato and corn for $10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 972-774-9518.$$.
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 masted peppers- almost wonderful, except for the lake of teriyaki sauce drowning the rice. 703 McKinney Ave. 214-954-0220. $$-$$$.
Nicholini’s. Don’t he 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. $$.
Rockfish. Rockfish is cozy and uncontrived; even the cute stuff, like the tin-pail light fixtures and the out-of-place ambience, like the rock (ire-place on the patio overlooking the parking lot, feels comfortable. You can get an oversized plat- ter filled with more than a pound of fresh crab, about 30 medium boiled shrimp, two ears of corn, several new potatoes, and a foot of sausage for $22.99. Our main problem with Rockfish is thai it’s a neighborhood restaurant, but it’s not in our neighborhood. 7639 Campbell Rd. at Coit. 972-267-8979. $-$$.
S&D Oyster Company. S & D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butterflied, lightly fried, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce-heavy on the pickle. And no meal here would be complete without a slice of the famous key lime pie. 2701 McKinney Ave. 214-880-0111.$$.
Truluck’s Steak & Stone Crab. Stone crabs are a new delicacy in Dallas, and they’re sweet and rich. They’re also easy to eat: The kitchen cracks them for you. so all you have to do is break in and fish for the meat. You can eat other stuff with your crab (mediocre salad. onion rings, cole slaw, creamed spinach), but all you’ll remember is the claws and cake-four layers of dark choco-ate cake covered with a whipped milk-chocolate icing. 5001 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-3079: 240l_McKinney Ave. 214-220-2401. $$-$$$.
Vincent’s. This place hasn’t conformed to any current low-fat or global-spice trends; the signature Red Snapper a la Vincent’s is still a deli-ciously rich filet, lightly breaded, sautéed in loads of lemon butter, and topped with a huge clump of fresh crab. There is a lighter side: A lovely broiled halibut was sauced with about half the snapper’s butler. The whole experience is completely unhip and. therefore, completely comforting. 3004 N. Northwest Hwy. 214-352-2692; 2432 Preston at Park, Plano. 972-612-6208. $$-$$$.
Blue Mesa. Blue Mesa lias wisely sluck with its original concept of Southwestern fare: The table-side guacamole is truly a marvel, with avocados as smooth as congealed cream. Adobe pie. the signature dish, is as good as ever, as is the warm salsa and yam and tortilla chips. But the menu at the new Lincoln Plaza location is mostly new. There’s a new churrascaria section and a number of new entrees. New Mexican-style blue com chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce are richer than anything ever dreamed up in Santa Fe- they have a definite (and welcome) Texas richness and come with a com cake and gingered rice, a nice relief from the usual Spanish. 7700 W. Northwest Hwy. 214-378-8686; 5100 Bell Line Rd. 972-934-0165. $$.
Ho 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 Mail 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 slacked 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 OakLawnAve.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 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. $-$$.
Cafe Madrid. Dallas’ first tapas bar remains its best, and everybody knows it. Even midweek, this little two-room restaurant has customers waiting at the bar for one of the mismatched tables in the storefront space. For those who insist, there is a prix-fixe, three-course dinner menu, but Cafe Madrid is a great place to linger over a succession of small dishes-an assortment of olives, oxtail stew, the potato omelette called a tortilla, and braised lamb slices. 4501 Travis St. 214-528-1731. $$.
Biernat’s. The dinner menu’s specialty section features prime rib, rack of lamb, and jumbo lobsters. The entrées reveal the imagination of a chef who has more on bis mind than meat. The sea bass is moist, but the two mainstays-steak and lobster-are a problem. As tor the lunch menu, the steak sandwich comes off well, and so do the slices of grilled and balsamic-dressed portobello mushroom and tomato fanned around a hummock of baked goat cheese. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-219-2201. $$-$$$.
Bob’s Steak and Chop House. We usually forego filets, preferring a more flavorful cut. but the three-inch 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 butter in each serving, And the slight sweet glaze on Bob’s signature whole canots side dish is a nice contrast to the beef. The atmosphere here is as comfortable as your grandmother’s dining room, but the restaurant is crowded with the Ross Perot and Jerry Jones set. 4300 Lemmon Ave. 214-528-9446. $$-$$$.
Capital Grille. The menu lias a funny, East Coast fuddy-duddiness: It features a “wedge” salad, a quarter head of iceberg with blue cheese and bacon. Perfectly cooked lamb chops come with mint jelly. And there’s a Delmonico steak on the menu-a porterhouse-style cut you don’t often see labeled thai 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. Richard Chamberlain makes fine 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 howls of green beans and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and buttered com freshly shucked from the cob. 5330 Beltline 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 I 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. $$.
Nick & Sam’s. Nick & Sam’s is a steakhouse first, but it’s trying-and succeeding-to be more. For instance, there’s a raw bar at the far end of the building, and the lobby bar area is a wine cellar with more than 300 wines. We ate the traditional steakhouse meal-a wedge salad with creamy lumps of Maytag blue cheese. Surf ’n” Turf (snowy sweet lobster tail and soft filet), and a prime aged “cowboy steak” with sides. The most successful twist on the traditional steakhouse is the setting itself. This is not a faux men’s dut)-no brass, etched glass, or hunting paintings. 3008 Maple Ave. 214-871-7663. $$-$$$.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. This is the best beef we’ve eaten in Dallas lately. The porterhouse, regally alone and ungarnished, arrives at the perfect degree of doneness and is still actually hoi. Mushrooms-crimim and shiitake, in a port reduction-and onion rings, thick-cut and thinly breaded, are both preferable to another potato. And we appreciate the diminutive (just three-and-a-half pounds!) Maine lobster, perfectly steamed and cracked, and only S64. Even dessert, which frequently seems like an insult in a steakhouse. is spectacular. 10477 Lombardy Ln. 214-366-2000. $$-$$$.
The Palm. The four-pound lobster (at $20 a pound! ) is sweet and tender, but the 24-ounce New York strip lends to be overcooked. The Palm staffers are all veterans, and so are most of the customers, but don’t be intimidated by the chummy atmosphere. This is a club anyone with $80 to spare for a lobster can join. 701 Ross Ave. 214-698-0470. $$-$$$.
Bandy’s Steakhouse. A meal in this cozy Victorian home-cum-restaurant can make you feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s. But your friends never served steaks like these. Graded prime and cut by hand, these beauties are rich and buttery. Ten seafood selections offer plenty of alternate choices. 7026 Main St.., Frisco. 972-335-3066, $$-$$$.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse. The knockout punch is a 24-ounce, bone-in ribeye coated with lots of fresh ground pepper, perfectly cooked to medium rare. Smoked pork chops are grilled and served with a side of sweet, smoked apples. The side dishes are only average; the horseradish mashed potatoes could have used a little more horseradish, and the doughnut-sized onion rings are heavily beer-breaded and greasy. Prices are less than you’d expect. 17795 Dallas Pkwy. 972-267-9393. $$.
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. $$.
D BEST Liberty. Annie Wong, the mother of Thai food in Dallas, still owns three all-Thai restaurants, but Liberty is where her imagination is freed. Romantically and softly lit, with beaded candleshades on each table and bamboo birdcages animated with twinkling Christmas lights, the brightly lit kitchen makes Liberty into real dinner theater, and Wong is the star. What makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alta Ave. 214-887-8795. $$.
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. $-$$.
Thai Garden. Thai Garden serves homestyle Thai; a beautiful plate of beef satay skewered and grilled comes with a light creamy peanut sauce. The takeout is top-notch, too: Even the usually lowly Lo Mein is an elegant mixture of soft noodles, bean sprouts, cabbage, and celery in a silky broth. Rice pudding made with sweetened black rice blended with a salty-sweet coconut milk and topped with fresh lotus seed and fruit is a treat. 6090 Campbell Rd., Ste. 124.972-248-8861. $-$$.
Toy’s Cafe. This hole-in-the-wall joint has all the elements of a great neighborhood “find.” The tantalizing aroma of curry and garlic is welcoming. Thai iced lea is a hit; eggplant and tofu in a Thai green curry coconut milk is perfectly prepared. Fresh squid salad with Thai herbs is fresh and tasty. 4422-B Lemmon Ave. 214-528-7233. $.
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 Lawn Ave. 214-521-4811. $.
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 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 10 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. $-$$.
Miss Saigon. Texas-size portions abound at this authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Egg rolls the diameter of baby bottles, a mound of fried rice, a pile of lemon grass chicken, and three plate-sized mu shoo pancakes stuffed with Mongolian beef were all delicious and kept us feed for three days. 12300 Inwood Rd. 972-503-7110. $$.
VietNam. A little bit of Southeast Asia transplanted to East Dallas, VietNam has very little Western influence to make the cultural transition easier. This is Vietnamese food designed for the Vietnamese community. But some things are universal-the appeal of hot soup, for instance. And VietNam’s hot pot, a comforting, steaming cauldron of soup, noodles, and vegetables, is enough to share. 4302 Bryan St.. 214-821-4542. $-$$.
Angelo’s. The big, wood-paneled dance hall of a room is lined with a self-service buffet line, cold-drink coolers, and chip racks on a linoleum floor. You grab a round tray and a frosted stein of Bud and eat from styrofoam plates under antler heads mounted on the walls. The chicken, served “while it lasts.” goes fast- it’s juicy and smoked off the bone. All the usual sides-beans, cole slaw-stand up to the ribs, but we wish they’d put more punch in their thin, vinegar-based sauce. 2533 White Settlement Rd.. Fort Worth. 817-332-0357. $.
Angeluna. The patio swarms with an artsy Chanel-and-Chardonnay crowd before and after events at the Bass Performance Hall across the street. The klone-world~on-a-plale” menu features designer pizzas, pastas, and spinach and mushroom salads corralled by delicate potato rings. Who cares if it’s more about style than substance? After all, the parent company is in Aspen, 215 E, 4th Si.. Foil Worth. 817-334-0080. $$.
Benito’s. Like an old familiar friend. Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from lime to time, but some things never change-like the food. The queso flameado, with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and .served with fresh pico de gallo and hoi flour or com tortillas. Order it first, and then spend some time with the menu- everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave.. Fort Worth. 817-332-8633. $$.
Bistro Louise. This gem of a bistro offers takeout now. but the staff seems curiously challenged by the idea. The famed smoked duck and stuffed lamb loin travel well, but even delicate reheating of an appetizer of Brie roasted in pastry petals fails to restore it. Savored in the sunny bistro, the cuisine works Mediterranean magic. Enjoy it there as often as possible. 2900 S. Hulen St.. Fort Worth. 817-922-9244. $$.
Gacharel. This easily tops Arlington’s dining scene, such as it is. with its French country decor and New French cuisine. The fixed-price menu ($34.50) is a great deal. A la carte menu also available. 222 IE. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 910. Arlington. Metro 817-640-9981. $$$.
Cattlemen’s Steak House. Port Worth ate cattle before caille was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much hut beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St., Fort Worth. 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.
D BEST Grape Escape. The gimmick here is education-Grape Escape is trying to do the same thing for wine that brew pubs did for beer. So you order “flights” of the grape of your choice, and the waiter brings a four-glass lasting of say. chardonnay, from Sonoma, Napa, Australia, and New Zealand. Compare and contrast. The food is designed around the wine, so you can change direction mid-meal-start with white wine and suggested matches, finish with red wine and cheese. The selection of small plates-merguez sausages, paté, salads, stuffed potatoes, pizzettes-adds up to a full meal that’s lots of fun. 500 Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-336-9463. $$.
Joe T. Garcia’s Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery.Although not as fancy as its cousin around the corner, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to families. 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. $$.
D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restau-rant. Its location near the Stockyards can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool, and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Foil Worth. 817-626-4356. $$.
Kincaid’s. It’s organized chaos at lunch, but there isn’t a frown in the lime-green room. The burners 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 restau rant (his 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., Fort Worth. 817-336-2253. $$.
Reata Reata’s upscale “cowboy cuisine” includes a chicken-fried steak the size of a boot and steaks with Mexican side dishes. Sil in the north dining room and watch the sun sink in the west and the Dallas skyline twinkle in the east. 500 Throckmorton St, Fort Worth. 817-336-1009. $$-$$$.
Reflections. Surely among the most gracefully romantic dining settings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Worthington Hotel’s flagship restaurant in downtown Fort Worth offers a refined escape from high-decibel stress. Intuitive service and avant bill of fare live up to the ambience. Delicate pan-seared foie gras with sautéed apples and grilled, whiskey-sauced ostrich medallions with red lentil risotto are representative of the kitchen’s inventions. 200 Main St., Fort Worth. 817-882-1660 or 800-433-5677. $$$.
Saint Emilion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled. country French atmosphere is charming, and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W 7th St., Fort Worth. 817-727-2781. $$$.
Sundance Market and Deli. Every neighborhood could use a Sundance Market and Deli. Urbanités can stop in for a few staples-there’s a refrigerated ease with prepared meals, chilled beer and wine, fresh produce, and even a large variety of funky gifts. A cafeteria line offers specially soups, salads, and spuds. Our favorite is the pastrami, bacon, Swiss, and tomato with spicy mustard grilled on fresh pumpernickel. 353 Throckmorton St.. Fort Worth. S17-335-3354. $.
The Green Room
Marc Cassel Is undoubtedly the grooviest chef in town. The energy he radiates from his tiny kitchen at The Green Room fills the dining room with smooth, casual, and hip vibrations. As soon as we sat down, we felt part of the happy family of staff that Cassel has managed to assemble during a labor crunch that has left most Dallas restaurants void of personality. Our bandanna-clad, twenty-something waiter bounced up to the table and filled us In on the menu and specials with the skill and charm of a lifer. He knew how the dishes were prepared, right down to the pinch of sage that makes the citrus-marinated chicken breast pop, When we ordered a wine from the extensive list, he didn’t need a bin number or ask us topoint to our selection. The black musselssteamed in champagne and ginger appetizeris the best nine dollars we’ve spent lately-we lost count at 34 of the delicious little mol-lusks. Cassel’s collision cuisine also includesa knockout prime strip steak served withlemon-horseradish whipped potatoes and adelicate coconut-steamed rainbow trout.2715 Elm St. 214-748-7666. $$-$$$.
Get high on the real thing-Love. February 13th, The Cultural Cup presents a high tea featuring “Wholly Matrimony,” a humorous talk about 1,000 years of romance, by Judith Dyer. Proper bite-size finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and a variety of tea-time desserts will be washed down with Elixir D’Amour-a sexy St. Valentine tea made from rose petals and scented with oil of bergamot. Look out, Cupid.
Cultural Cup, 5346 Beit Line. 972-960-1521; 5956 Royal Ln. 214-368-5039.
Tillman’s Corner Restaurant and Club
When Tillman’s Corner opened in 1992, Oak Cliff residents really had something to cheer about. The casual, eclectic restaurants, filled with kitschy ’40s and ’50s memorabilia, quickly became a hangout for locals and a destination for office workers downtown. Soon the neighborhood will have even more reason to boast. The City of Dallas has allocated funds for the restoration of the Bishop Arts area, which is already one of the coolest parts of town. The funky brick warehouse-lined streets are turning Into an Oak Cliff-version of Travis Walk, and Tillman’s Corner Is the centerpiece. The signature New American dishes of late owner and chef Ricky Tillman still take top honors. Pork medallions with roasted chile sauce are tender and come nestled against light whipped potatoes scented with horseradish, and the salmon roasted on cedar planks is lightly sauced with a burgundy wine-based sauce. The crab cakes are heavy on breading and light on crab, but the spicy noodles and orange chipotle sauce make them palatable. A slice of warm apple caramel pie is enough for two, and the Tillman’s special coffee-spiked with Frangelica, Amaretto, and Kaluha-is reason enough to sit back and relax In this home away from home. 324 W. 7th St. at Bishop. 214-942-0988. $-$$.