Veteran restaurateurs Janet and Phil Cobb (Mi Piaci) had their Gucci thinking caps on when they chose to model Salve! after Milan, Italy, the haute couture capital of the world.
We felt the urge to strike a pose after we stepped into the sleek open dining room designed to look like the high-style eateries that are tucked between the big-name designer boutiques of the Quadrilatero in Milan. Sexy curved booths line the celadon-glazed walls and low-to-the-floor, industrial-style gray chairs flank white-clothed tables. High-back chairs upholstered in bright orange are randomly set about the room and jar the eye 1 ike a Versaci gown in a room full of DKNY. We wouldn’t have been surprised to find Georgio Armani and Jean Paul Gaultier sitting in a comer, debating hemlines over cappuccino.
To assemble the Salve! staff, the Cobbs drew heavily from Mi Piaci. Corporate chef Kevin Ascolese puts his Toll Tag to work by shuttling between the two kitchens, while newly recruited executive chef Sharon Hague, fresh from a successful run at the Zodiac Room, prepares to strut her stuff solo. Pastry chef David Brawly. who mastered his cookie cutters in the kitchens of 21 Club and Tavern on the Green in New York, moved Uptown from Mi Piaci and spends his days baking authentic Italian breads and desserts. To keep things entertaining. former Mansion maitre d” to the stars Wayne Broadwell works the room effortlessly, kissing the hands of the Dallas dining elite.
Like Mi Piaci, home-style Tuscan cuisine is the backbone of the menu, but Salve! has adapted to the neighborhood (and to the times) with several alternative dining choices. A casual all-day bar menu features pizza and calzones prepared In a wood-burning oven, a panini del Giorno (ask for the cheese with white truffle oil). and hearty Tuscan soup laced with pasta ribbons. In the evenings, several small plate selections such as baked orechiette pasta bubbling in spicy arrabbiata sauce and baby chicken basted in a balsamic glaze do the job for those who end up making a meal out of an extended happy hour.
When a friend and I visited Salve!, we saw the extensive dinner menu as the perfect opportunity for a genuine Italian feast. We started with a plate of thinly sliced beef carpaccio drizzled with olive oil that we easily si iced with a fork and dipped in mustard sauce. The prepared-at-tableside Insalate Salve! wasn’t all show; we could smell the basil while our waiter tossed the greens. And the deep red tomatoes were so sweet we had to wonder if Janet loaded her Fendi Baguette with fresh produce from an Italian market and smuggled them through customs.
A primi plate of just cut malfutti pasta was delightfully al dente and basted lightly with extra virgin olive oil and covered with those same pleasant plum tomatoes and basil. The seduction of a potentially perfect risotto is impossible to pass up and-prego!-the kitchen hit the mark. Swirled with truffle oil, porcini mushrooms, and asparagus, the firm Italian rice dish alone would have satiated us.
But the Brodetto Adriatica stole the show: A pile of clams, mussels, shrimp, and spiny lobster tail were as fresh as a Mediterranean breeze mixed with the gentle perfume of saffron.
For the finale, a warm chocolate pear cake spiced with ginger served warm with house-made cinnamon gelato was the talk of the room. However, we ended up fork fighting over the tartufo-a double chocolate gelato truffle studded with brandied cherries and rolled in dark chocolate shavings.
Until Salve! came along, Dallas diners were all dressed up with only a few places to go for authentic Italian food. Now the Cobbs have us worried about squeezing back into our Armani suit. 2120 McKinney Ave. (between Olive and Pearl). 214-220-0070. $$-$$$. -Nancy Nichols
Like sands through the hourglass, so goes the Popolos saga. The story began when North Dallas businessman Maury Jaffer opened what he thought was the perfect restaurant-a smart but casual room with simple European comfort food: pasta, pizza, and grilled meats. It worked. Locals swarmed in for the food, and a nightly bar scene came to life in Preston Hollow. Unfortunately, Jaffer was soon seduced by the big bucks of the FoodStar empire. At the time FoodStar was basking in the success of Mediterraneo at the Quadrangle’s new $1 million interior, and corporate headquarters looked at Popolos as their next golden concept. Jaffer lost total control and sadly watched his baby almost get thrown out with the bathwater of bankruptcy as Mediterraneo and Popolos went under.
But the story has a happy ending. A few months ago, the restaurant fell back into Jaffer’s hands and one of his first calls was to original chef Los Akins. Together they resurrected the menu, making only a few changes. A fresh coat of sage green paint warmed the room and Dallas artist Christy Black reworked the colors of her whimsical bistro murals to match the décor. Before the construction crew could get the doors open, loyal regulars were stopping in excitedly asking for the opening date.
A few nights after the reopening, we drifted in for a drink at the bar and ended up sharing a salad and a thin-crust pizza. We watched the chef roll the dough to a quarter-inch pie and spread the surface with layers of roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, caper, garlic, and fresh basil. He shoved it in the wood-burning oven and while it cooked, we sampled one of the new salads-an inspired mixture of red and green oak lettuces tossed with grilled artichokes, tomatoes, sugar and spice walnuts, crumbled blue cheese, and honey mustard vinaigrette.
Satisfied with our pizza, we returned a few days later to test our old favorites. Chicken piccata didn’t miss a beat: A lovely lemon caper sauce covered two huge breasts of chicken (all the portions are enough for two) resting on homemade scallion mashed potatoes. The dish has been so popular Akins added veal and salmon to the piccata list.
Crème brulée is the common denominator for Dallas dessert menus, and even though we hate to risk the calories, we found Popolos’ version worthy. Actually, we scraped the light and creamy custard off the bottom of the bowl. But for customers with-out Sansabelt pants, there’s always the fat-free angel food cake bruschetta topped with berries and low-fat maple sour cream. 707 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-692-5497. $$.-N.N.
Abacus. Kent Rathbun’s kitchen is a stage; dinner is a show. Lobster shooters are served sake-style-six cups contains a chunk of lobster tossed back with a shot of coconut milk. red curry, and sake. Entrées of pan-seared wall-eyed pike with scallion whipped potatoes and pork loin with pumpkin risotto are inspired meat and mash variations. 4511 McKinney Ave. 214-559-3111.$$$.
Citizen. Tuna tartare served on the base of an upside down martini glass and sake served in wooden boxes may be as tricky 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 ai around $15 an ounce. 3858 Oak Lawn. 214-522-7253. $$$.
D BEST Liberty. Annie Wong, the mother of Thai food in Dallas, still owns three all-Thai restaurants, but Liberty is where her imagination is freed. Romantically and softly lit, with beaded candleshades on each table and bamboo birdcages animated with twinkling Christmas lights, the brightly lit kitchen makes Liberty into real dinner theater, and Wong is the star. What makes her food different is what makes any chef’s food special: imagination. 5631 Alta Ave. 214-887-8795.$$.
D BEST Peaty Sue Barbecue. Though Sonny Bryan’s still wins in the beef sandwich category, the définitive 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 Hour 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, chowing on great red-stripe brisket, ribs, and homemade Mom-style pie. No, really-Sammy’s is a family-run enterprise, and all the Pritchards pitch in. 2126 Leonard St. 214-880-9064. $.
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 ot”your car, and gnaw on tender smoked ribs, chopped beef, and giant onion rings. 2202 Inwood Rd. 214-357-7120. Multiple locations. $.
Highland Park Pharmacy. We can only describe the Pharmacy atmosphere as reassuring. Some people love the Palm Beach (pimento cheese to you) sandwich or the tuna salad with cherry cokes. For us, the grilled cheese is the winner-American slices melted to glue, the bread buttery and crisp. Chips are extra; sodas and milkshakes are priceless. Lunch only. 3229 Knox St. 214-521-2126.$
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 line tiller, 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 $4,50. For serious beer drinkers, there are 120 beers to choose from. 2726 Commerce St. 214-741-4406.$. Y
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 It) flavors of milkshakes, including the signature Purple Cow and the Peanut Butter and Jelly. The Blue-Cheeseburger is a great variation on standard soda-shop fare, dripping with rich, creamy blue cheese. But the reason we’ll go back is the grilled Palm Beach-a hot pimento cheese sandwich that oozes down your arms. It’s worth the price of the dry cleaning bill. 110 Preston Royal Village. 214-373-0037. $. V
Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought that college was the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries (a basket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese) because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6850: 14910 Midway Rd., Addison. 972-991-8811.$.
Stoneleigh R 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. $.
Texas Hamburgers. This Texas kitsch joint is rilled with stuffed armadillos, Texas Mags, cowboy memorabilia, good ol’ boys, and Armani-clad Design Center sophisticates. Besides great half- and third-pound burgers accompanied by fresh fixings, this place serves some great meat-loaf with a tasty tomato sauce laden with celery, onions, and peppers. 1616 Market Center BIvd. 214-747-2222.$.
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, mini, lettuce, and sprouts-each dish delightful, fresh, excellent. 3555 W. Walnut St., Garland. 972-272-2188.$-$$.
D BEST Jenny Ho s Szechwan Pavillon. After 20 years of trying. Jenny Ho s is serving some of the best Chinese in town. We never eat here (or takeout) without a plate of twice-cooked pork-paper thin squares of pork stir-fried in black bean sauce with thick cuts of carrots and crisp vegetables. If you are lucky enough to live nearby, they’ll deliver. 8409 Preston Rd. 214-368-4303. $-$$.
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.$-$$.
Taiwan. Taiwan has had the same chef, owner, and location for 18 years, so it must be doing something right. The Princess Beef-delicate strips of beef with crunchy celery cubes and peanuts in a hot, spicy brown sauce-tastes as good as it looks. And the hot and sour soup is delicious, with fresh shrimp and pork, and mercifully lacking in that disconcerting, jiggly cornstarch texture that so often makes us push our bowl away. 4980 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-387-2333. $-$$.
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 alt wonderful. 4805 Frankford. 972-733-3354. $-$$.
Gilbert’s. All you Yankees pining for the comforts of the Carnegie Deli, stop whining. The Gilbert family has been dishing out potato knishes, stuffed derma, and kasha varnishkas as good as any in the Big Apple for more than a decade. They also have a decent plate of spaghetti and meatballs for the shiksa in your group. 11661 Preston Rd. 214-373-3333.$.
Athénée Café, Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-size beef rolls oven-roasted in delicate cabbage leaves with a red wine sauce, just like Grandma in Transylvania used to make. Other highlights: Rumanian sausage and veal chop. The wine list is adequate. 5365 Spring Valley Rd., Ste. 150. 972-239-8060. $$.
Bistro A. Peripatetic chef Avner Samuel’s latest venture is his best yet, and belter 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.$$-$$$.
Cork. The list of wines by the glass, ports, sherries, and champagnes is staggering considering the small space. The food is simple but perfectly matched to the concept. Pick your wines, then customize a cheese plate to match. Lovely patés and olive mixes also make more substantial meals, and you can linger long, foregoing dinner. 2709 McKinney Ave. 214-303-0302. $.
Dream Café. 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 me best hamburger substitute in town. The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh St, 214-954-0486. $-$$.
Firehouse. We’ve had no problems with new chef Bill Lewis’ version of “International Hot and Spicy Cuisine.” Trendy tamarind-soy marinated pork chops are served with a tongue-soothing mango salsa. Surprisingly, our favorite dish isn’t spicy at all–the warm chocolate devil’s food cake surrounded by Milwaukee Joe’s vanilla ice cream comes garnished with a chunk of homemade pistachio brittle, 1928 Greenville Ave. 214-826-2468. $$.
Genghis Grill. You get a stainless steel bowl from the stack and choose your ingredients from a cafeteria line on ice: bins of meat and vegetables, along with your choice of oils and seasonings. Then you give your bow] 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 diet 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 polished. 2715 Elm St. 214-748-7666. $$-$$S.
Piano Café. A feast of vegetables accompanies each meal at this suburban bistro, and most people leave with leftovers. Freshly grilled roast chicken with red pesto penne draws loyal fans. There’s a decent wine list and a winner of a dessert list. 1915 N. Central Expwy., Ste, 500, Piano. 972-516-0865. $$.
Routh Street. The microbrewery has closed, and the successful “Hill Country Cuisine” concept has been tweaked to include “Texas Comfort.” We managed to find some comfort in the chicken-fried steak fit was better than average) and the grilled bratworst plate (even without the beer). Both remained iconic tastes of Texas heritage. 3011 Routh St. 214-922-8835. $$.
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 something to talk about (because there’s no TV hanging from the ceiling and the noise level is reasonable, conversation is called for). The professional and friendly staff makes the process manageable, Bread and cheese are staples of the age-just like chips and queso, but you can’t spear a tostado. And the meal is as good as melted cheese, sautéed meat, and melted chocolate can be. 2108 Greenville Ave. 214-827-8878. $$-$$$.
Soho. The imaginative one-world-on-a-plate concept isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The mahi mahi with a 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 Bell Line Rd., Addison. 972-490-8686. $$.
Tin Star. Tex-Mex meets the world under the I “Salsa. Smoke, and Sizzle” style. Stick to thin-crusted pizza topped with a smoky-sweet bar-becue sauce and dotted with chunks of grilled chicken and onions. Soft tacos filled with tem-pura shrimp, fruit pica de gallo. bacon, and cilantro is a bizarre combination that somehow works. But the restaurant may lose you with the cheeseburger taco-a big cheese-topped patty wrapped in a flour tortilla. We’re Texans; we agree that that almost everything tastes better wrapped in a tortilla. Almost. 2626 Howell St. (across from the Quadrangle). 214-999-0059. $.
Addison Café. It’s called “Le French Bistro.” but in reality, Addison Café is a restaurant serving classically prepared French and New American dishes, which has kept them in business for 15 years. Tournedos of beef are cooked medium-rare and served in a textbook bordelaise sauce. And dark chocolate mousse is worth every hip-luigung calorie. 5290 Belt Line [email protected] Montfort Dr.. Ste. 108, Addison. 972-991-8824. $$-$$$.
The Bistro. The list of small plates at this tapas bistro has been pared down to 14 from 30 selections, but they’re all exciting, and the wine list is one of the most extensive and inexpensive in town. That means the Bistro caters to you-you can drop in for a few small plates and a bottle of wine or settle in for a full-course meal at a reasonable price. 5405 W. Lovers Ln. @ Inwood Rd. 214-352-1997.$-$$.
Chez Gerard. Which is more to be celebrated, French thrift or French style? Skin-thin petals of veal liver, sautéed with onions and grapes in port wine sauce, become the gourmand’s liver and onions-or is it the peasant’s foie gras? Whatever. 4444 McKinney Ave. 214-522-6865.$$-$$$.
Clair De Lune. Tucked behind some trees in the 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. @ 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 that doesn’t mesh with the modem world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a bed of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish, Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St. 214-742-8200. $$$.
Jennivine. The charming old house is as popular a pop-the-question romantic spot as ever. Wood floors, quaint bar candles, flowers, and fine food are the setting for a nice selection of wines by the glass. The tilapia is a perfectly tender filet on a layer of lemony orzo with red cabbage and a tablespoon of sweet potatoes. And the chocolate mousse here is classic-bittersweet, firm, and topped with fresh whipped cream. 3605 McKinney Ave. 214-528-6010. $$.
D BEST L’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral remind you of traditional delights: The civilized dining room is softly lit, tables are draped in starchy white, and the menu is stubbornly, traditionally French. Begin your meal with a bowl of onion soup, about as recherché as you can get, but some ideas need no improvement. The onion tart is just as subtly good. Lamb is cooked perfectly medium rare, and steak au poivre comes with the 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. $$.
The Pyramid Room, The table d’hote menu is a good deal-S6H for four courses with wine, $44 without. Cream of carrot soup with celery root and gorgonzola croutons is good. hot. and thick, with a spicy nose. As for the main courses, a fan of rare duck slices with a wonderful apple-pineapple wild rice goes perfectly with an Indigo Hills pinot noir, the food and the wine forming a perfect circle on the palate. Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St. 214-720-5249.$$$.
D BEST The Ratera. 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.$$$.
St. Martin’s. Rich paneling, soft-lit paintings, and touches of muted gold update the famous romantic setting; live music shapes the proper evening mood; and the food delivers sophisticated fulfillment. The l\v-1he-glass wine selection is broad, and service strikes the correct balance between attention and discretion. 3020 Greenville Ave. 214-826-0940. $$-$$$.
Voltaire. Ail the elements of line dining have been taken to surreal extremes. The wine list is 15,000 strong while the menu is surprisingly minimal. There are three fish dishes and four plats de Voltaire including a lovely lobster harissa with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a warm Thai-scented sauce. 5150 Keller Springs Rd. @ North Dallas Tollway. 972-239-8988. $$$.
GOURMET TO GO
City Café To Go. Does anybody cook from scratch anymore? According to the servers at City Café 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. $-$$.
City Harvest. We can always count on the infamous King Ranch Casserole-a comforting blend of chicken, cheese and chilies-to take the edge off of a hard day at the office. You can dine in or takeout from a list of other old favorites including Frito pie and mom’s meat-loaf. 939 N. Edgefield Ave. 214-943-2650. $.
Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings ol’ it gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-151.1.$.
Izmir Deli. You can avoid the crowds al Café Izmir by ordering in from the Izmir Deli, just down Greenville from the original café. Gyros, tenderloin, mozzarella, grilled vegetable, and chicken sandwiches, pita, hummus, couscous, and eggplant dip are all available for pick-up or phone-in orders. And this is the place to go if you need rosewater al 9 p.m. 3607 Greenville Ave. 214-824-8484. $-$$.
Marty’s Café 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 Café TuGogh features full table service, it’s on ils way to becoming one of the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-4070. $-$$.
Kostas Café. If you can’t get to Greece anytime soon, sample the saganaki at Kostas. The fried kasseri cheese soaked in brandy comes to the table flaming and is ceremoniously doused with fresh lemon juice with a loud “Opa!” from the waiter. All the classics–spanakopita, moussaka, and souvlaki-are authentically pie-pared, and the family atmosphere makes eating off your neighbor’s plate seem like a warm gesture. 4914 Greenville Ave. 214-987-3225, $$.
Z Café. Pizza 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 dits contemporary Greek café, and they don’t take reservations, except for large parlies. Bui die herbed lamb souvlaki, folded in thick warm pita and sauced with tart yogurt, is worth a wait. Ziziki’s menu has featured the same idiosyncratic version of Mediterranean food since it opened-it’s a good thing when some things don’t change. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122. 214-521-2233.$$.
Barbec’s, Barbec’s regulars love the tabloid newsprint menu, the hearty, what-can-1-get-you-Hon? waitresses, the awesome anytime breakfasts. The food ranges from pretty good to good, but it’s all cheap. And they’ve always got those legendary beer biscuits, sweet and high and truly loved by all. Great meringues. 8949 Garland Rd. 214-321-5597. $.
Celebration. Bring your appetite to this longtime mecca for Dallas home-cooking purisis. Entrées run the gamut from broiled fresh fish to pot roast to fried chicken, all accompanied by an endless supply of vegetables. Don’t worry if your entrée seems small-you can reorder as often as you wish. 4503 W. Lovers Ln, 214-351-568].$-$$.
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. $.
Natalie’s. It’s the ultimate neighborhood spot: The portions are large, and the prices are small. The meatloaf is a popular choice: For 57.95 you get an eight-by-three-inch slab of finely ground meat with a light tomato sauce on top. mixed crisp steamed vegetables, and a hunk of mashed potatoes. But the secret to Natalie’s success is the cinnamon rolls. We always order extra to take home for the next morning. 5944 Royal Ln. 214-739-0362.$.
Poor Richard’s Café. Honest home-cooked food, featuring a huge spread of the one meal Mom told you never to leave home without-breakfast. 2442 Ave. K @ 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 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. $$.
Madras Pavilion. The unforgettable aromas of jasmine, coriander, and turmeric greet you at the door. Lunch is an Indian food-orgy buffet that includes unusual (for Dallas) Northern Indian specialties-a bargain at $6.99, In the evening, you can choose from an extensive menu that includes a large list of dosai (thin rice crêpes with vegetarian fillings) and vadas (crunchy lentil cakes). Cold raita, fresh coriander leaves, salads of chopped carrots, cucumber, and onions, are just a few of the refreshing condiments supplied to ease the heat. 101 S. Coit @ Beltline, Dal Rich Shopping Center. 972-671-3672.$-$$
Alfonso’s. If you don’t live in east Dallas, it’s time to load the kids in the car and take a round (rip for dinner. Basic Italian favorites are cooked the old-fashioned way-heavy on the garlic and butter. Chicken Francesc and the hot homemade garlic (and we mean garlic) rolls are alone worth the trip. Lake Highland Village. 718 N. Buckner Blvd. @ Northcliff Dr. 214-327-7777. $.
Amore. Amore has all the 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.$$.
Café Cipriani. Owner Salvino Zannetti doesn’t compromise on his ingredients; he orders his cheese from a deli in New York-as close to Italy as you can get in Dallas. And the lasagna is the real standout-layers of homemade noodles, with just enough ground veal to give the dish substance without making il too heavy. 220 Las Colinas Blvd., Irving. 972-869-0713.$$.
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 butler and capers and the nightly specials (maybe a pecan crusted flounder) never disappoint. 6135 Luther Ln. 214-361-6984. $$.
Avanti. Avanti has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood café in spite of every’ obstacle. The fried calamari with tomato and basil sauce is greaseless, and the crunchy batter is light and tasty. We’re slightly disappointed with the grilled veal medallions, but the Italian sausage seasoned with lots of fennel and sautéed with onions and bell peppers on lop of angel hair pasta covered in a light mari-nara is gutsier. 2720 Mc Kinney Ave. 214-871 -4955. $$.
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 entrées (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.$$. 9
lam’s. The menu is priced per portion and per “la familia.” And it’s thoroughly Italian in thai a “la familia” platter is plenty for a family, including parents, several children, and grandparents. Vitello Pugliese, for example, is thickly breaded slices of veal, smothered in tomato sauce allegedly enriched with goat cheese and loaded with purple kalamata olives. 250 Spanish Village. 972-866-0888. $$.
.D BEST Mi Piaci House-made is a term Mi Piaci doesn’t take lightly-the kitchen makes its own pastas and cures its own meats. Every other ingredient is either imported or hand-picked. A bowl of the Tuscan classic ribollita could be enough for a meal. But don’t neglect the spicy penne arrabbiata. the three thin scallops of veal perched on a pile of portobello mushrooms, or the asparagus and cheese tortelli-ni with a fragile Marsala sauce. 14854 Montfort. 972-934-8424. $$-$$$.
D BEST Modo Mio. 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, but special sea bass in tomato broth is an offering we will never refuse. 18352 Dallas Pkwy. 972-671-6636,$$. ’i
Hero’s. Chef Luigi Lama has been serving pink garlic bread and Caesar salad for 15 years, but we prefer his Linguinie Fra Diavlo-a steaming plate of sea scallops, gulf shrimp, and mushrooms in a spicy marinara sauce. Of course, the regular pasta dishes are above average, and his homemade white chocolate ice cream has customers driving long distances just for dessert. 2104 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6376.$$.
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. Farfalle con Salsiccia, pasta butterflies with dainty slices of sausage and a light bath of rich tomato cream sauce, is a little too light-handed. But you’ll be sold on the chocolate hazelnut gelato cone. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. @ LBJ. 972-788-1177.$$.
Patrizio’s. Move over, Campisi’s. Patrizio’s signature crab claws just took first place in the crab claws competition. Soft and delicate, they slip off the exoskeleton and melt in your mouth like, well, butter. Oh, yes-you should eat dinner, too: There’s the chicken and mushroom lasagna (good, but rich) and the baked ziti (we had leftovers for breakfast). The prices aren’t what you’d expect with Escada and Calvin Klein just a kiss away. Highland Park Village, Mockingbird @ Preston. 214-522-7878. 5$. “
Ruggeri’s. We’re happy to report that our old I favorite chicken parmigiano remains unscathed. It’s still served sautéed to the appropriate firmness without becoming blobby or covered with too much tomato sauce and moz-zarella cheese. Even on busy weekends, service flows evenly. 2911 Routh St. 214-871-7377; Beltline Rd. 972-726-9555. $$.
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: “ltalchos” (crisp chips of pizza dough lopped with mozzarella and a choice of toppings). Food ranges from pretty good to so-so. but devotees find that Terilli’s is more than the sum of its parts. 2815 Greenville Ave. 214-827-3993. $$.
Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red. and fresh. From the rohata bar, try the char-grilled sirloin-thinly sliced, bite-sized morsels of rare tenderloin dipped in ponzu sauce. Gulf shrimp, sautéed in a light ginger sauce, is fragrant and firm. And our all-time favorite dish–simple to make, but hard to make well-is the miso soup. We believe this hot, nourishing version has healing properties, like a global chicken soup. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-361-0220. $$.
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. $$-$$$.
Fishbowl. 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. Dinner only. 3214 Knox St. 214-521-2695.
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. @ Parker Rd., Piano. 972-881-0328.$$.
D BEST Tel Tel. We still haven’t tasted the kobe beef (which comes from cattle fed with beer and massaged with sake). but Tei Tei is a destination restaurant anyway. The “kinki fish” is a whole fish (snapper) slashed to the bone, so the flesh lifts out easily with chopsticks. To eat the soft-shell crab, abandon the Eastern eating utensils and resort to the god-given: fingers. 2906 N. Henderson Ave. 214-828-2400. $$-$$$.
D BEST Teapo. Our only yakitori bar is also one of the city s most exciting sushi bars and a favorite weekend date destination. High-energy atmosphere, highly chic modem décor, and high-quality food make this one of Dallas” best Japanese restaurants, even though the menu is mostly skewers and sushi. Be sure to try the specials. 2014 Greenville Ave. 214-826-8989. $$-$$$.
Caribbean Grill. Jumbo shrimp marinated in coconut milk, lightly fried and rolled in coconut shreds, is one of the best appetizers we’ve had all year. Jerk chicken is moist inside, with a thin crusty coating of spices, and the dipping sauce is a killer honey-mustard concoction spiced with hot relish (chow) from Trinidad. Stay busy with their large selection of bottled hot sauces and soothe your burning tongues with homemade key lime pie. 3068 Forest Ln. 972-241-9113.$-$$.
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. $$.
D REVISITS Gloria’s. Gloria’s in Oak Cliff was serving pupusas and other exotic Salvadorian and Mexican dishes long before the hot Latin cuisine craze was cool The hand-made com tortilla stuffed with cheese and pork is not only delicious, but it’s also the perfect utensil to sop up the juice from a side of black beans. We convinced our Mexican food-loving companions to try Gloria’s Super Sampler to get a feel for the Salvadorian side of the menu. After one bite of tamale wrapped and steamed in a fresh banana leaf stuffed with spiced chicken, potatoes, and sweet peppers, they swore off the comhusk-wrapped version forever. All of us were hard-pressed to remember a better tasting flank steak: a thin cut of charbroiled marinated meat that sliced easily with the touch of a fork. The sweetness of the accompanying fried plan-lain and the mild flavor of yucca formed a fabulous trio of tastes and textures. We found a short-but inspired-list of Mexican specialties and our friends were quite happy with pork tenderloin fajitas cooked with loads of onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Other Latin kitchens in town would do well to gel their hands on Gloria’s recipe for chocolate flan-the creamy custard coated in caramel melted easily in our mouths. 371? Greenville Ave. 214-874-0088.$-$$.
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 grid-died 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.$$.
Adelmo’s, Some go for the food, some go for the intimacy, but almost everybody finds a reason to go back to this well-hidden gem. Service is unhurried and patient, and the wine list is varied and reasonable. Entrees and appetizers alike feature creatively bold sauces that will hold your attention long after the main ingredients of the dishes have been devoured. 4537 Cole Ave. 214-559-0325. $$.
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. 214-559-3888. $$-$$$.
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 [email protected] Midway. 214-350-6135.$$.
Tony’s Wine Warehouse. This place is basically a wine warehouse with some tables crammed in the back and a kitchen turning out above-average Mediterranean fare. Veal medallions gently sautéed with port wine, roasted garlic, and shiitake mushrooms paired nicely with a Nuit Saint Georges we picked from a bin on the floor. The wine prices are retail; there is no corkage fee. 2904 Oak Lawn. 214-520-9463. $$.
D BEST Avila’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. $. 9
Galle 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 vegetables and rice shouldn’t be missed. 1925 Skillman. 214-824-9900; 415 W. 12th Si. 214-941-4304. $$.
Casa Navarro. This little café in a former 7-Eleven specializes in the same unpretentious cheesy fare we used to love before Tex-Mex became chic. The beer is bring-your-own, and on Wednesdays the enchilada plate is S3.75 all day long. Sopapillas. once the darling dessert at every Tex-Mex joint, are still handmade, light, and greaseless. such a surprisingly elegant finish to the meal that we wished we’d brought our demitasse. too. 11742-A Marsh Ln. @ Forest. 972-357-0141. $.
Casa Rosa. There’s almost always a table available at the pink-tinted Casa Rosa, but only because the place is so big. The appeal of the food would certainly pack a smaller place. Casa Rosa does well with standards-except the chimichanga-but the real finds here are the more unusual dishes such as the goat cheese chile relleno and the mushroom enchiladas. 165 Inwood Village. 214-350-5227.
D BEST Ciudad. Monica Greene, the genius behind Monica’s Aca y Alla, ups her own ante by delivering dishes based on true Mexico City-style cuisine. Tender barbecued pork wrapped in fresh corn tortillas mixes easily with a tropical fruit salsa and an 8-ounce beef tenderloin topped with melted asadero cheese is surrounded with a spicy red tomato sauce and a side of epazote-scented black beans. Par favor, save room for elegant desserts. 3X88 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 135. 214-219-3141. $$-$$$.
Cuquita’s. You won’t find a list of Tex-Mex combination plates or even a margarita here, but you will find authentic specialties like beef tongue simmering in a pepper-studded tomato sauce and tender fillets of pork sautéed with onions and spices. Everything goes down easy with a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade or a Bohemia. 2326 N. Henderson Ave. 214-823-1859. $. Beer only.
Javier’s Gourmet Mexicain. Javier’s hook is Mexico City Mexican food, and the atmosphere isn’t Tex-Mex kitschy but sophisticated. Salsa is nicely wanned, and margaritas are the real thing, Filete Cantinflas may look like a fried puck, but inside the stiff crust is a cheese-stuffed filet mignon with a brick-colored chile sauce-it’s too rich to eat and too good not to try. 4912 Cole Ave. 214-521-4211. $$.
Luna De Noche, 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 @ Lookout. Garland. 972-414-3616. $-$$. Margaritas.
Martin’s Cocina. The kitchen here does magic things with seafood (shrimp especially) and offers a listing of entrees that weigh in at less than 1,000 calories each, including the four chiles rellenos. But only skimp if you want to–the most basic combination plate starts with a lettuce-topped chalupa, its toasty tortilla thickly spread with guacamole. 7726 Ferguson Rd. 214-319-8834.$-$$.
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 Belt Line Rd. @ Montfort Dr., Addison. 972-503-8100. $-$$.
D BEST Matt’s Rancho Martinez. The place is filled with the faithful at every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr. 214-823-5517. $-$$.
D BEST Monica’s, Monica Greene continues 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 spinaeh-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 mar-garitas are only 50 cents. 2914 Main St. 214-748-7140.
Omega’s. It’s easy to imagine ending evenings at Omega’s. But fortunately. Omega’s is also a great place to lunch, and it’s even a comfortable place to eat alone. This friendly little café 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. $.
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, and 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. $.
Taco Dinar. The name sounds slightly retro. Bui 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.
AI-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. $$.
Ali Baba. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley and adorned with slick olives. That and a stack of hot pita could do you. but the grilled chicken is irresistible, and the tabbouleh, mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulghur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctuous chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave. 214-823-8235. $-$$.
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 (ill it is stew on the bone. OK, hummus is good, too. 2217 Greenville Ave. 214-824-7794. $$.
Café Istanbul. The tiny kitchen overachieves on most of its Turkish dishes, especially if you like it spicy. The dining room gels cozy ai night, but those who tolerate early evening daylight are rewarded with a happy hour. Solid service tops off a superb all-around experience. 5450 W. Lovers Ln., Ste, 222. 214-902-0919.$-$$.
D BEST Café 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. $$.
Hedary’s. The original Hedary’s was a destination restaurant in Fort Worth long before hum-mus became hip. Maybe it’s just the Dallas location that’s stopped trying. More garlic in the baba ghanoush. please. Less leathery lahvosh. You have to watch that kibbe; it tends to get dry if it’s cooked too long. Where’s that nice Greek red we like with our lamb? We know better now. 7915 Bell Line Rd. 972-233-1080. $$.
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 S26.l>5 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.$$.
Antares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-high, revolving restaurant appears to be finding its wings at last. Huge sea scallops were sparked with chile-peanut dressing; grilled beefsteak tomatoes and shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a roasted shallot vinaigrette. Reunion Tower. 3(10 Reunion Blvd. 214-$51-1234. $$-$$$.
Chaparral Club. The ancho-rubbed chicken (with bones! ) can be a little salty, but the creamy goal-cheese stuffing guarantees moist meat. The bone-in filet, along with truffled mashed potatoes and cubed root vegetables sautéed together, make a plate that satisfies all senses. Don’t miss The Perfect Dessert: a satiny sphere of while chocolate split and tilled with fresh blueberries and raspberries sliding around in a pool of crème Anglaise. Adam’s Mark Hotel, 400 N. Olive St. 214-922-8000. $$-$$$.
Guthrie’s. Luckily Guthrie’s sits next to our parking lot downtown. That makes it easy to dash over for a quick luncheon comfort-food fix of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. Chef William Guthrie gets creative at night and turns out brilliant versions of pork schnitzel with sautéed mushroom and a killer version offish and chips. 400 S. Ervay. 214-760-7900. $-$$.
D BEST Laurels. Rising star executive chef and general manager Danielle Custer brings her cutting-edge cuisine to Westin Park Central’s 20ih 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 Greek. This isn’t dinner; it’s a dining experience. A dramatic, country club-like, members-only dining experience. The Grande Dame of Dallas continues to live up to its legend-Chef Dean Fearing’s upscale Southwestern menu includes his classic lobster tacos and tortilla soup. The price? If you have to ask. you can’t afford it. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-526-2121.$$$.
Parigi. Menus still change weekly, and the food is prepared to order, by hand. Service can be a little flaky, but the food-specials and perennial;;-is excellent. The famous beef tenderloin with mustard sauce and ’”smashed” potatoes is as good as ever, (he beef rare and unusually flavorful, the potatoes buttery and just lumpy. It’s been on the menu since Parigi opened. A long time. 3311 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-521-0295.$$.
Rooster. The room is as easily gracious as a family dining room. And the staff offers naturally Southern-style hospitality. The traditional Senate bean soup is authentic-substantial and scented with smoky ham-and the breadbasket is tilled 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.$$.
Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied, but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobello in town. 8201 Preston Rd. 214-265-7389. $$.
Tillman’s Corner, The signature New American dishes of late owner and chef Ricky Tillman still take 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 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. @ Bishop. 214-942-0988.$-$$.
AquaKnox. Since the lounge was turned into Fishbowl, the sexy blue chenille dining room of AquaKnox feels like half a restaurant. The décor isn’t the only boat [hat’s been rocked here. We’ve had a good meal-brilliantly seared beef tenderloin with chipotle mashed potatoes-and we’ve had a bad meal-salty red snapper with gooey corn pudding. Bui overall Stephan Pyles seems to have steadied the course with the addition of new executive chef Ethan Powell. 3214 Knox St. 214-219-2782.$$$.
Café Pacific. Café Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas’ mom reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. Menu favorites like calamari. clam chowder, Caesar salad, salmon, and red snapper are superbly prepared and presented by an experienced staff. 24 Highland Park Village. 214-526-1170.$$-$$$.
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. $$$.
Fishmonger’s. Over the years, we’ve had good and bad experiences at Fishmonger’s, but never great ones. The crawfish étoufée’s only resemblance to Cajun cuisine is the fact that it looks like the muddy Mississippi. Tuna fajitas. a weird diversion from the mostly Cajun-themed menu, are tasteless strips of grilled tuna rolled in tortillas and served with a tortilla soup made with shrimp. But seafood gumbo is surprisingly well-flavored and filled with loads of okra, tomato, and baby shrimp. 1915 N. Central Expwy. 972-423-3699. $-$$.
lefty’s. The menu is small, but Lefty’s features everything you’d expect a good lobster house to have, including beef for those who don’t like seafood. One bargain: the one-pound lobster with baked potato and com for $10.95. 4021 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-774-9518. $$.
D REVISITS Lombardi Mare. Half the fun of eating at Lombardi Mare is the whimsical décor. The other half is playing “blind bivalve bluff.” Few seafood kitchens in town offer as many varieties of oysters, so we took advantage of the opportunity and invented a game to determine a winner. Our waiter knew more about these messy little mollusks than we wanted to know, but if the subject comes up on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, we know which friend we’ll phone. Within minutes we had a round platter with our final four contestants: Warehams (Massachusetts), Kumomotos (Japan), Hog Islands (Washington State), Malepeques (Prince Edward Island). We judged freshness (they were all fresh), plumpness (they were all plump), sliminess (they were all slimy). Our final answer: We couldn’t really tell the difference since they slid down our throats before we could taste them, but first prize went to the Kumomotos for tenderness. Eventually we moved on to bigger fish and were disappointed to find our favorite polenta crusted salmon smaller than usual. Expecting a thick deep pink filet, we were served a dry half-inch slab. Our visit was on a Monday night, usually low tide for most seafood kitchens, but (he pasta with lobster, shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, and asparagus tossed in a light citrus cream sauce restored our faith in Alberto Lombardi’s touch. Village On The Parkway. Montfort and Belt Line. 972-503-1233. $$$.
D REVISITS Mainstream. We can’t bring ourselves to eat seafood stew out of a hollowed-out bread bowl, but the last time we visited the house specialty was a big hit with most of the tables within our earshot. While all the other Mainstream locations have drifted down stream, the Preston Forest area still lines up on weekends for casual seafood at reasonable prices. Maybe it’s just the spillover of folks not willing to wait for a table a few doors down at big sister Mi Cocina. or maybe it’s the blue frozen margari-tas, but it certainly can’t be the food we were served. Everything-shrimp cocktail, clam chowder (heavy on the potatoes and weak on the clams), fish tacos (where’s the fish?), and jumbo fried shrimp (fried is the operative word)-was no better than average. For the money it’s not a bad meal, but we remember a time when the food was worth waiting in line for. 11661 Preston @ Forest. 214-739-3474. $-$$. Margaritas.
Newport’s. Enjoy an imaginative seafood menu thai we classify loosely as New England seafood with Asian and Cajun influences. Grilled tilapia is imaginatively served with a side of sautéed apples, cilantro, and toasted pecans. And the tuna is a three-inch pan-seared hunk served in a bowl of rice and covered with sautéed portobellos and roasted peppers- almost wonderful, except for the lake of teriyaki sauce drowning the rice. 703 McKinney Ave. 214-954-0220.$$-$$$.
Nicholini’s. Don’t be fooled by the neon tights outside, because once your seated in the intimate dining room, the experience is elegant. We love the herb-crusted orange roughy sauced sparingly with citrus paprika glaze. Attentive service and consistent food have the tables packed with neighborhood diners who all seem to know each other. 17370 Preston Rd. 972-735-9868. $$.
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 fireplace on the patio overlooking the parking lot. feels comfortable. You can get an oversized platter filled with more than a pound of fresh crab, about 30 medium boiled shrimp, two ears of 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. @ Coit. 972-267-8979. $-$$.
S&D Oyster Company. S&D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butterflied. lightly fried, and served with a dollop of tartar sauce–heavy on the pickle. And no meal here would be complete without a slice of the famous key lime pie. 2701 McKinney Ave. 214-880-0111.$$.
Blue Mesa. Blue Mesa has wisely stuck with its original concept of Southwestern fare: The tableside guacamole is truly a marvel, with avocados as smooth as congealed cream. Adobe pie. the signature dish, is as good as ever, as is the warm salsa and yam and tortilla chips. But the menu at the Lincoln Plaza includes a new chur-rascaria section and a number of new entrées. New Mexican-style blue com chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce are richer than anything ever dreamed up in Santa Fe-they have a definite (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 Belt Line Rd. 972-934-0165.$$.
No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms and onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Matt’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr. is a legend-in his own neighborhood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr. 214-328-9078. $$-$$$.
D BEST Star Canyon. Chef-owner Stephan Pyles has created a Dallas destination with his innovative New Texas Cuisine. An appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made mozzarella is a rare case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. And the bone-in cowboy ribeye on a bed of pinto beans, covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile, should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’ top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-520-7827. $$-$$$.
Y.0. Ranch. Though this is frontier fare, the kitchen can have a light touch. Delicately grilled, semi-boneless quail is delicious, and the special two-inch, 12-ounce pork chop is as moist and tender as a filet mignon. However, the buck stops short with an undercooked top sirloin. And the bar scene rocks with Jerry Jeff Walker tunes and cigar-smoking buckaroos- the perfect place to take your Yankee guests. 702 Ross Ave. 214-744-3287. $-$$.
Café 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 Café 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. $$.
Seville at the Stoneleigh. The menu is more than tapas at this upscale Spanish dining room that resembles chi-chi spots in Spain. Five varieties of paella headline the show and a tenderly braised rabbit comes served hunter-style in rich brown gravy that accents the mild-flavored meat. An extensive list of tapas makes it easy to make a meal with a combination of small plates. 2927 Maple Ave. 214-871-7111. $$$.
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 goal cheese. 4217 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-219-2201. $$-$$$.
D BEST 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 slick of butter in each serving. And the slight sweet glaze on Bob’s signature whole carrots side dish is a nice contrast to the beef. The atmosphere here is as comfortable as your grandmother’s dining room, but the restaurant is crowded with the Ross Perot and Jerry Jones set. 4300 Lemmon Ave. 214-528-9446. $$-$$$.
Capital Grille. Normally we wouldn’t touch a high dollar surf-and-turf chain restaurant with a 10-foot expense account, but here we make an exception. An 18-ounce Delmonico strip almost two inches thick was served hot on the outside with a cool pink center. But the surf stole our hearts-lobster tilled with chunks of lobster, rock crab, and shrimp lightly breaded was a tasty bargain at $65. 500 Crescent Court. 214-303-0500. $$$.
D BEST Chamberlain’s.Richard Chamberlain makes tine dining simple and elegant. You won’t find any singing cowboys or 20-page wine lists. Prime rib. a beautiful hand-cut aged beef, is perfectly seasoned with coarse salt and chunks of fresh cracked black pepper. We could pass on the meat here and still be happy with bowls of green beans and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and buttered com freshly shucked from the cob. 5330 Beltline Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467. $$-$$$.
Charolais. Clair and John Rubede (Clair de Lune) have opened a new steak joint with a French twist-the menu only offers France’s favorite Charolais beef. But the seafood entrees rule. Redrish stuffed with shrimp and crab is delicately sauced with lemon butter and the broiled chicken isn’t just a token dish- c’est magnifique. 5950 Royal Ln. @ Preston. 214-692-0900.$$$
Kirby’s Steakhouse. One 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., Plano. 972-867-2122. $$.
Nick & Sam’s. Nick & Sam’s is a steakhouse first, but it’s trying-and succeeding-to be more. For instance, there’s a raw bar at the far end of the building, and the lobby bar area is a wine cellar with more than 300 wines. We ate the traditional steakhouse meal-a wedge salad with creamy lumps of Maytag blue cheese. Surf ’n’ Turf (snowy sweet lobster tail and soft filet), and a prime aged “cowboy steak” with sides. The most successful twist on the traditional steakhouse is the setting itself. This is not a faux men’s club-no brass, etched glass. or hunting paintings. 3008 Maple Ave. 214-871-7663.$$-$$$.
The Palm. The four-pound lobster (at $20 a pound!) is sweet and tender, but the 24-ounce New York strip tends to be overcooked. The Palm staffers are all veterans, and so are most of the customers, but don’t be intimidated by the chummy atmosphere. This is a club anyone with $80 to spare fora lobster can join, 701 Ross Ave. 214-698-0470. $$-$$$.
Chow Thai. A strip shopping center doesn’t seen a likely spot for a Thai food epiphany, but you’ll have one here. Excellent Thai classics like vegetables in a fiery green curry and Pad Thai taste clean and light. A dessert of fresh mango atop sticky rice is a spectacular ending. 5290 Belt Line Rd. @ Montfort Dr., Addison. 972-960-2999. $$.
Mango. This is the second restaurant from the folks who brought Chow Thai to Dallas. Playful proportions and offbeat hues color Mango California-cool. House special Mee Sea Go is ar ocean broth full of scallops, shrimp, and cala-mari. Pad Thai is appropriately sweet and crunchy with peanuts. 4701 West Park, Piano. 972-599-0289.$-$$.
Royal Thai. Furnished with ornate Thai antiques and traditional arts. Royal Thai is a pleasantly upscale change from the starkly serviceable interiors of so many Thai restaurants. Chicken packets are wrapped in tenderizing banana leaves. Curries are fragrant and benefit from their presentation under a little domed top. 5500 Greenville Ave. 214-691-3555. $-$$.
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.2l4-521-4811.$.
Mai’s. Mai’s is one of those places that has lots of loyal customers. The menu is stocked with authentic Vietnamese specialties, including lots of noodle and rice entrées and the classic hot pots: exotic meats, vegetables, and spices cooked and served in clay pots. Be sure and try the legendary Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. 4812 Bryan St. 214-826-9887.$.
Mai’s Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened the first Vietnamese reslaurant 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. $-$$.
Miss Saigon. Texas-size portions abound at this authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Egg rolls the diameter of baby bottles, a mound of fried rice, a pile of lemon grass chicken, and three plate-sized mu shoo pancakes stuffed with Mongolian beef were all delicious and kept us fed for three days. 12300 Inwood Rd. 972-503-7110.$$.
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.$$.
Benito’s. Like an old familiar friend, Benito’s appearance may be spruced up from time to time, but some things never change-like the food. The queso flame-ado, with or without chorizo, is flamed tableside and served with fresh pica de gallo and hot flour or com tortillas. Order it first, and then spend some time with the menu- everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave., Fon Worth. 817-332-8633.$$.
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. $$.
Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St., Fort Worth. 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.
D BEST Grape Escape. The gimmick here is education-Grape bscape is trying to do the same thing for wine thai brew pubs did for beer. So you order “flights” of the grape of your choice, and the waiter brings a four-glass tasting of say, chardonnay, from Sonoma, Napa, Australia, and New Zealand. Compare and contrast. The food is designed around the wine, so you can change direction mid-meal-start with white wine and suggested matches, finish with red wine and cheese. The selection of small plates-merguez sausages, paté, salads, stuffed potatoes, pizzettes-adds up to a full meal that’s lots of fun. 500 Commerce Su Fort Worth. 817-336-9463. $$.
Joe T. Garcia’s Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery. Although no! 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.$$.
D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restaurant. Us location near the Stockyards can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool, and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-626-4356. $$.
Kincaid’s. It’s organized chaos at lunch, but there isn’t a frown in the lime-green room. The burgers are worth the drive from Dallas, and so are the sides: fried okra, deviled eggs, and pimiento cheese-stuffed jatapenos. 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 café 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. $$.
Saint Emillion. Some are surprised to see this Fort Worth restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the area. But the brick-walled, country French atmosphere is charming, and the food is mostly terrific. The wine list features many vintages from the Saint Emilion region, as you might expect. 3617 W. 7th St., Fort Worth. 817-727-2781. $$$.
Sundance Market and Del. 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. 353 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth. 817-335-3354. $.
Move over Krispy Kreme, sopaipillas are making a comeback. Roughly translated, sopaipillas are “little pillows,” but we couldn’t go to sleep after the sugar rush we got from a platter of the tiny triangles. Traditionally served as a bread or stuffed with meat, Rafa’s deep-fried yeasty puffs come dusted with powdered sugar and plenty of honey for dipping. Finding room for dessert in Mexican restaurants is always difficult, but Rafa’s offers some tower fat specialties that make it easier to splurge on a high-calorie dessert. But first things first. We loved the seasoned red snapper topped with crab-meat, wrapped in foil and cooked in its natural juices and served with yellow rice. For the full-on Tex-Mex feast, we tried the dependable Rafa’s Plate-a hefty beef enchilada with chili con carne, a sour cream-covered chicken enchilada, and a crispy beef taco topped with guacamole. Calories be damned, we savored every bite of our sopaipillas without guilt. 5617 Lovers Ln. 214-357-2080. $-$$.
BRUNCH SPOTS TO TAKE YOUR MOM FOR MOTHER’S DAY
Hofstetler’s Spargel Café
EAT YOUR WORDS
DEMYSTIFYING INDIAN FOOD
BIRIYANI-rice dish with spiced meat or vegetables.
DAHL-curries made from dried lentils and beans.
KOFTA-meat or vegetable dumpling.
KORMA-a curried dish of lamb or chicken with vegetables.
LASSI-a yogurt drink with sugar sometimes sweetened with fruit.
NAN-flatbread cooked in a tandoor oven.
PANEER-Indian curd cheese similar to tofu.
SAAG-cooked leafy greens
SAMOSA-triangular pastry filled with vegetables or meat.
TIKKA-meat marinated in spicy yogurt and baked in a tandoor oven.
OFF THE PLATE
“I plan to make Aqua-Knox the destination dining room on the Dallas map. “
-New executive chef Ethan Powell on his move from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.
S I D E D I S H
Parisian decadence is alive and well at the Hotel St. Germain. The stylish parlor is now a champagne bar serving a limited menu of elegant house-made patés, smoked salmon, and fancy desserts. Plush couches, glimmering candlelight, and white-gloved butlers provide the backdrop for toasts of bubbly for caviar dreams.
Hotel St. Germain, 2516 Maple Ave. 214-871-2516. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-11 p.m.
S I D E D I S H
It’s hard to get too excited about a cuisine that claims purple cakes baked with plastic figurines inside, mudbugs, and Justin Wilson as taste sensations, but Cajun food has a hit at T-Beaux’s Baitcamp and Bar. The Blackjack would make Paul Prudhomme proud-the spicy blackened burger is topped with Monterey Jack cheese-and you don’t need to worry about breaking a tooth when you bite in.
T-Beaux’s Baitcamp and Bar, 4830 McKinney Ave. 214-521-4444.
Thomas Avenue Beverage Company
The Uptown neighborhood surrounding Thomas Avenue Beverage Company has lost most of its original bohemian charm to the upscale condos that are multiplying at an alarming rate, but TABC remains the quintessential corner hangout. We felt like we had stepped onto the set of Cheers after we opened the brass- handled doors to find a long wooden bar dividing two brick-floored dining rooms. But the similarities to the TV show stop with the ambience-it’s not a beer and burger pub, although they do serve both. With a small but sophisticated kitchen, chef Kerry Kelly has elevated TABC to the level of other finer restaurants in town. One member of our dining brigade was somewhat of a regular, and as soon as we were seated, our waitress greeted him with, “We have your favorite sea bass tonight.” Chef Kelly is having fun in the kitchen and it shows on the ever-changing menu. He rotates Southwestern, Cuban with Italian, Indian and anything in between to keep the regulars happy and himself amused. What the kitchen does with pork is porcine perfection. Grilled Cuban pork loin with plantain-blasted potatoes and red onion confit was a knockout. My date marveled at the hot shrimp stir-fry with Asian risotto that was accented with a faint lemon grass coconut cream sauce-not your average bar food. On the other end of the taste spectrum, the tikka grilled chicken was a near perfect version of the Indian delight, as were the curried yellow lentils. Our favorite dish of the night wasn’t listed under entrees- the grilled Boston lettuce salad with warm bacon and Bleu cheese dressing was reason to celebrate. Cheers. 2901 Thomas Ave. 214-979-0452.$$. “