Food&Drink

NEWCOMERS

JIMMY LU’S
YOU DON’T DEED LASIK SURGERY to see that the Dallas restaurant scene is booming. Cheesy plastic “Help Wanted” banners are flying everywhere. But competition for good service isn’t the only battle NEWCOMERS

JIMMY LU’S
YOU DON’T DEED LASIK SURGERY to see that the Dallas restaurant scene is booming. Cheesy plastic “Help Wanted” banners are flying everywhere. But competition for good service isn’t the only battle heating up in the war for the diner’s dollar; it’s a chef-eat-chef world. Toques are twisting all over town as chefs struggle to come up with the next new taste sensation to catapult them to the top of the restaurant chain.
The result? Frenetic fusion and customer confusion. The National Restaurant Association needs to establish an international general assembly to monitor the madness.
They could send their first peace-keeping envoy to the kitchen of Jimmy Lu’s, (he most recent restaurant contributing to the unsettling Americanization of Asian food trend creeping into our city. The new hot spot on the corner of Trinity Mills and the Tollway bills itself as an Asian Bistro, a misnomer for sure: The interior is neither small nor intimate, and the food isn’t down-to-earth neighborhood cuisine. The reality here is a stylishly modern-albeit cavernous- room and the portions for one are enough for two.
Lawyers must have written the menu-Jimmy Lu’s never actually promises Asian fusion, and the press release promises “cuisine with an Asian flair.” By the generic “cuisine” 1 assume they mean American, thereby explaining the basic meat-and-potatoes fare “flaired” with various curries and pepper sauces. Because they’re so shamelessly straightforward about their intentions, Til let them (slowly) off the butcher’s hook.
Our first time in. we had a great meal starting with a frozen mango margarita and a bowl of crispy fried wontons, which we dipped into small bowls of their two homemade sauces: a deadly delicious hot chili and a sweet and sour bursting with ginger. Next up, a winning plate of riblets stit-fried in a tangy Asian glaze. However, the oversteamed Har Kow dumplings that followed broke apart at the first touch of a chopstick. making the gooey shrimp mixture impossible to eat.
The much ballyhooed Jimmy’s orange tenderloin was also a bust-the thick orange sauce was surprisingly bland. On the other hand, the black pepper shrimp was amazing-two lightly breaded and fried butter-Hied colossal shrimp (at least half a pound) came with a rich sauce studded with chunks of peppercorns. The sauce was so tasty that we ordered extra. But here’s where I get lost. This lovely dish was served with a huge mound of “smashed” potatoes. I don’t care how much wasabi got smashed into them, this is a worrisome flair that needs to stopped. A gentle side of white rice would have balanced the heavy sauce arid the tender sweet meat perfectly.
Despite the pepper shrimp atrocity, I was anxious to return. Unfortunately, the second time around, the dumplings once again disintegrated into a soggy mess and the pan-seared pot stickers were void of flavor. I did manage to locate the poster dish for Americanized Asian food-wok-tossed chicken in a red curry sauce with asparagus and sprouts. A lovely dish with a lovely mild taste, surely satisfying to “curryphobics,” but hard-core lovers will be disappointed. The kitchen redeemed itself with a non-traditional but nonetheless knockout version of Kung Pao shrimp-large gulf shrimp mixed with scads of thinly sliced crisp carrots, strips of peppers, and plenty of toasted peanuts tossed in thick black bean sauce.
On both of my visits, service was stunningly efficient. The servers were well trained in the “friendly but not too familiar” style and were knowledgeable about the menu, reciting preparations with the accuracy of a chef. Charming service makes up for a light curry sauce every time, but no way could I overlook the cinnamon beef-a bowl of overcooked noodles mixed with cinnamon-flavored tenderloin all coagulated in a mystery brown sauce.
The next time an urge for Americanized Asian hits me, I’ll be back, if only for the chocolate firecrackers-long wonton wrappers filled with chocolate ganache deep-fried and served with a raspberry coulis dipping sauce. 17727 Dallas Pkwy. @ Trinity Mills Rd. 972-852-8888. $$. -N.N.
CIAO MARCO ITALIAN
CIAO MARCO IS A THRIVING TESTAMENT TO the time-proven cliché that the three keys to success are location, location, location. That and a passable marinara sauce. Located at Throckmorton and Cedar Springs, the restaurant is at the epicenter of Oak Lawn’s bustling nightlife. Ciao Marco makes it easy to do a little pasta, drink a little wine, and get out on the town. Convenient? You bet. But don’t confuse a well-chosen location with well-done cuisine. Ciao Marco’s Italian fare is uneven at best, but a few tasty treasures lurk beneath all the banality.
In fact, it took three visits before I discovered the smoked chicken ravioli. The mammoth pockets of pasta were nice and firm, revealing a generous mix of smoky, shredded poultry and ricotta cheese. An intense cream sauce with mushrooms pushed the dish to new and welcomed heights of decadent. A slight hint of basil helped offset all the richness. Likewise, the veal cannelloni was a wicked blend of ground beef, ricotta, mozzarella, and fresh herbs.
Unfortunately, prior visits to Ciao Marco unearthed some mediocre to downright tasteless choices. Grilled tuna topped with capors, artichokes, black olives, and sun-dried tomato relish sounded promising but arrived bland and dry. Enormous conchiglie shells stuffed with ricotta and topped with marinara reminded our table of the frozen food dinners of our college years-memories best left behind. The Mediterranean lin-guini-pasta tossed with black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, capers, and way too much olive oil and garlic-demanded a lighter touch. Even a basic Caesar salad was too tangy and cloying.
In hindsight, Ciao Marco’s dinner rolls should have been a tip-off to the heavy-handed meals to follow. Tough, doughy rolls were drenched in olive oil and chopped garlic. Some people at our table found them sadistically delightful, others-like myself- considered them pungent and inedible.
Oddly enough, however, this same bombastic culinary touch works on the pizzas. The cardiac pizza is a meat lover’s dream of beef, sausage, Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, and pepperoni. Garlic butter replaces the red sauce on the spinach bacon pizza, enhancing the pie’s ingredients instead of masking them. The Al fredo pizza was chewy and creamy, with well-seasoned sausage, chicken, and zucchini. Ciao Marco certainly doesn’t scrimp on its toppings, making for some mouth-filling slices.
Décor is limited to red and white walls- imagine that-and some framed art. Service is friendly, fast, and sometimes a bit flirty. ( Is that a plus or minus? You be the judge.) Like its sibling Vitto’s-that lone bastion of Italian fare in Oak Cliff-Ciao Marco serves a need: quick and convenient Italian food in an area besieged by Tex-Mex and hamburgers. Too bad its kitchen doesn’t practice that other cliché: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Or. at the very least, his palate. 4000 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-526-3636. $. -Todd Johnson

ASIAN FUSION
Abacus. Kent Rathbun’s kitchen is a stage; dinner is a show. Lobster shooters are served sake-style-six cups contain a chunk of lobster tossed back with a shot of coconut milk, red curry, and sake. Entrées of pan-seared walleyed pike with scallion whipped potatoes and pork loin with pumpkin risotto are inspired meat and mash variations. Dinner only. 4511 McKinney Ave, 214-559-3 111. $$$.
Citizen. Tuna tartare served on the base of an upside-down martini glass and sake served in wooden boxes may be as tricky as the décor. but somehow it all works. A stunningly simple slab of black cod is served solo on a banana leaf, a blond miso anchoring the ethereal fish. And Kobe beef, grilled and sliced, is the ultimate extravagance al around $15 an ounce. 3858 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-522-7253. $$$.
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. $$.

BAKERY/SANDWICHES
Celebrity Cafe & Bakery. All of the locations share the same name, but different owners operate them, so the hours and offerings vary. The sandwiches are always reliable-egg salad is spiked with mustard, and the Santa Barbara includes two pieces of marble rye stuffed with turkey, avocado, bacon, lettuce, and Monterey Jack cheese. The bakery case is crammed with cookies, cakes (Coca-Cola fudge!), sweet breads, and pies. 2418 Faitmount St @ McKinney Ave. 214-922-9866. S. Multiple locations.
Highland Park Pharmacy. We can only describe the Pharmacy atmosphere as reassuring. Some people love the Palm Beach sandwich (pimento cheese to you) 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 tine filler. But you might skip those and go straight from your sandwich to the rum cake. 3848 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-2505. Multiple locations. $.

BARBEQUE
D BEST Peggy Sue Barbecue. Though Sonny Bryan’s still wins in the beef sandwich category-the definitive dish when you’re talking Texas barbeque-Peggy Sue’s beats Sonny’s by a rib in meats, side dishes, and sauces. And the smoked chicken quesadillas alone are worth a (rip. A new favorite is brisket fajitas-soft flour tortillas tilled with grilled barbequed brisket, onions. and green peppers. 6600 Snider Plaza. 214-987-9188. $.
Red Hot & Blue. RHB specializes in pulled pork and dry ribs-that is, Southern-style, as opposed to Texas-style, barbeque. It’s all good, though there are gimmicky touches like the fried onion loaf. The “blues” are on the walls. in the form of concert posters, and in your ears. Friendly waitstaff. 9810 N. Centra! Expwy. 214-368-7427; 5017 W. Piano Pkwy., Ste. 100, Piano. 972-248-3866. $.
Sammy’s Barbecue. Barbeque tor 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 barbeque sauce have been the standard by which all other Dallas barbeque is judged. For the classic barbeque experience, return to the original Inwood Road joint, sit on the hood of your car. and gnaw on leader smoked ribs, chopped beef, and giant onion rings. 2202 Inwood Rd. 214-357-7120, Multiple locations. $.

BURGERS
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 hut 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. $.
Balls Hamburgers, The burgers are big. weighing in al a half-pound, but ’be flavor is only average. However, the silver-dollar sized burgers with grilled onions and pickles are real crowd-pleasers. And a humble hot dog– smothered in chili, cheese, and chopped onions-saves the day. 3404 Rankin St. 214-373-1717: 4343 W. Northwest Hwy. 214-352-2525 $.
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 Butter and Jelly. The Blue-Cheeseburger is a great variation on standard 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; 5934 Royal Ln., Ste. 110. 214-373-0037. $.
Snuffer’s. The burgers and frosty brew are a sensory way-back machine for those who thought that college was the prime of their life. They probably were, if you continue to eat things like Snuffer’s cheese fries (a basket of deep-fried strips, covered in gloriously greasy cheese) because you can’t last long if you eat this way often. 3526 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6850; 14910 Midway Rd., Addison. 972-991-8811. $.

CHINESE
Arc-En-Ciel. The kitchen employs separate cooks for the Chinese and Vietnamese fare, but everyone really goes there to eat Vietnamese. We ordered our last meal in a leisurely way, a few dishes at a time. Pristine Imperial rolls; shrimp pounded and molded on sugarcane; grilled pork to roll in rice paper with rice noodles, cilantro, mint, lettuce, and sprouts-each dish delightful, fresh, excellent. 3555 W. Walnut St., Garland. 972-272-2188. $-$$.
D BEST Jenny Ho’s Szechwan Pavilion. After 20 years of trying, Jenny Ho s is serving some of the best Chinese in town. We never eat here (or takeout) without a plate of twice-cooked pork-paper thin squares of pork stir-fried in black bean sauce with thick cuts of carrots and crisp vegetables. If you are lucky enough to live nearby, they’ll deliver. 8411 Preston Rd. 214-368-4303. $-$$.
Peking Duck. Most of the good Cantonese and northern Taiwan-influenced kitchens in town disappeared when the Szechwan craze swept Dallas in the mid-70s. But classical Mandarin is alive and well here with three “tastes” of authentic Peking duck dinners offered every night. 4043 Trinity Mills Rd. @ Midway Rd. 972-307-8638. $$.
Uncle Tai’s. The kitchen never fusses when asked to prepare old-time favorites no longer on the menu. Seafood lovers will swoon over Sa-Chai jumbo shrimp with baby com in a spicy tea-infused sauce. And the Hunan Chicken is lightly stir-fried in the best black bean sauce in Dallas. Service can be flaky or efficient. In the Galleria, 13350 Dallas Pkwy. @ LBJ Fwy. 972-934-9998. $$$.

DELI
D REVISITS Deli Mews. For most of us, the closest we come to Russian cuisine is a vodka martini during happy hour. But sometimes all we want is a good bowl of borscht and a few Siberian pel-menis. Luckily, Deli News peppers its New York-style goods with plenty of authentic Russian dishes. Hot cabbage borscht was tangy and steamy, soothed by a generous dab of sour cream. The pelmenis-eight homemade beef dumplings-were appealingly doughy. We dressed them up with some sautéed onions and cool sour cream, Shashlik mignon-grilled steak chunks, skewered with garlic potato wedges and veggies-was well seasoned and lender. Deli News also Americanizes many of its selections. Taking its moniker to heart, sandwiches are named after various networks-ABC, CBS, CNN. and MTV, to name a few-and served junior or classic size. The Hungry Reporter was a beast: corned beef, pastrami. Swiss, roast beef, brisket, provolone, cole slaw, and Thousand Island dressing. Though it was almost a carnivorous overload, the sandwich was tasty and certainly filling. (Needless to say, the Hungry Reporter only conies classic size.) Dark-stained wood and colorful Russian murals emphasize the deli’s European roots. Our only complaint was the eerie silence that met each of our meals and the erratic service-sometimes warm and gracious, other times abrupt. We expect a little more love from our Russians. 4805 Frankford Rd. 972-733-3354. $. -T.J.
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. $.

EASTERN EUROPEAN
Cafe Athenée. Dallas’ only Rumanian restaurant-are you surprised? Stuffed mountain cabbage is a fabulous signature dish-meatball-sized 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. $$.

ECLECTIC
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.$$-$$$.
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 conies garnished with a chunk of homemade pistachio brittle. Dinner only. 1928 Greenville Ave. 214-826-2468. $$.
Genghis Grill. You gel a stainless steel bowl from the stack and choose your ingredients from a cafeteria line on ice: bins of meat and vegetables, along with your choice of oils and seasonings. Then you give your bowl to the grillmas-ter, who tosses it on a giant round griddle, cooks it quick, then serves il back to you in the bowl. And Genghis Grill provides basic recipes for people who don’t know the difference between tamarind and teriyaki. 1915 Greenville Ave- 214-841 -9990; 4201 Belt Line Rd @ Midway Rd., Addison. 972-503-5995. $-$$.
The Grape. Whether you’re hoping for a marriage proposal or looking to get lucky, the chances of a “yes” are practically assured in this dark and romantic dining room. The seductive food doesn’t hurt either-the mushroom soup still thrills and grilled halibut is served with a dreamy creamed rice. As always, the wine is divine. 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. $$-$$$.
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. 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 tostada. And the meal is as good as melted cheese, sautéed meat, and melted chocolate can be, 2108 Greenville Ave. 214-827-8878. $$-$$$.
D REVISITS Sipango. Alter seven years, Sipango still serves as a safe haven for Dallas’ taut and trendy money crowd: a place to dance, dine, and imbibe without straying too far from the Park Cities. (After all. Deep Ellum is kind of scary, fight?) You have to give the old girl props, however. She has long, lovely legs and could dance all night. Too bad she can’t cook anymore. Ever since Marc Haines abandoned the kitchen, it’s been musical chefs at Sipango. Executive chef Dennis Deckard hasn’t done much to pull the restaurant out of its culinary doldrums. On a recent Saturday night, the dining area was only half full at 8:30 p.m. An appetizer of tuna and salmon carpaccio was a delicate yet rich beginning. But the promising start soon faltered. Sipango’s appetizer combo platter was mixed at best: crab cakes were soggy, cheese pizza was listless, and calamari was tough-though a toss of mixed peppers was a nice fiery touch. The Sipango Caesar was tart and lovely. But a tomato-mozzarella-asparagus salad looked anemic and lacked firmness and flavor. We enjoyed the subtle sea bass with creamy sweet roasted red pepper risotto-the hit of the evening. But the filet of beef was remarkably bland, and the spicy shrimp and spinach ravioli in a garlic and sherry cream sauce couldn’t deliver on its decadent description. We consoled ourselves with a heavenly banana cream pie and decided to join the festivities in the bar area where the room was packed and a house band played. “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” Not exactly words to live by when dining at Sipango. 4513 Travis St. 214-522-7684. $$. -T.J.
Soho. The imaginative one-world-on-a-plate concept isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The mahi-mahi with a light ginger and lemongrass crust, grilled to tender, bedded on nutty red wehani rice, and encircled with a soy-lemon sauce is the dish that would lure us back to pseudo-Soho. An armagnac poached pear with toasted walnut and rice mascarpone cheese is simple elegance done well. 5290 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972^190-8686. $$.
Thomas Avenue Beverage Company. TABC isn’t a beer and burger pub, although they do serve both. Chef Kerry Kelly has elevated the menu to the level other fine restaurants in town by rotating creative versions of Southwestern, Cuban, and Italian with any other cuisine that fits his mood. The tikka chicken is a great rendition of the Indian classic. 2901 Thomas Ave. 214-979-0452. $$.

FRENCH/CONTINENTAL
French Room. This is the prettiest dining room in Dallas. The rococo-style, cherub-flown ceiling, Versailles-length drapes, and candlelight make it the kind of place that doesn’t mesh with the modern world. It’s only natural to expect perfect food that matches the fairy-tale room. Sweetbread schnitzel is perfect, placed on a bed of asparagus ragout. Lamb ribeye is precisely matched with rosemary goat cheese polenta and tomato confit with basil, combining every Mediterranean high note in a single dish. Dinner only. Hotel Adolphus, 1321 Commerce St. 214-742-8200. $$$.
Hofstetter’s Spargel Cafe. Kala and Norbert Gregor gave their popular German eatery, Hofstetter’s. a new name and menu. Most of their trademark Germanic fare has been replaced by sassy Euro-Continental classics like salmon with a delicate dill beurre blanc sauce. However, diehards can still feast on their signature schnitzel, bratwurst. spaetzle, and. of course, the asparagus. 4326 Lovers Ln. 214-368-3002. $$.
D BEST L’Ancestral. Let L’Ancestral remind you or 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. $$-$$$.
Lavendou. Despile the fact that our waiter didn’t know the difference between smooth and coarse paté, someone in the kitchen cooks with a French accent. Delicious French specialities come garnished à la Francaise within an inch of their life: For instance, a tender tilapia came tucked in a tutu-like frill of purple kale, decorated with two swishes and a curl of orange red pepper sauce. 19009 Preston Rd. 972-248-1931.$$-$$$.
tola. This quaint Victorian home that until recently housed Barclays continues in the tradition of fine Continental fare with a user-friendly, fixed-price menu. Excellent sautéed foie gras and wild mushroom soup. Some of chef Jamie Sanford’s concoctions sound bizarre-mahi-mahi rubbed with cumin served with black beans and grapefruit butter sauce-but we’ve never been disappointed with the end result. Save room for dessert. 2917 Fairmount St. 214-855-0700. $$-$$$.
Old Warsaw. Hanging on to a reputation as one of Dallas’ oldest elite restaurants is tough, but La Vielle Varsovie is valiant. It takes effort to find much fault with the food–from appetizers to dessert, the meal is an anachronistic treat. Servers, however, are only acceptably pleasant. 2610 Maple Ave. 214-528-0032. $$$.
D REVISITS The Pyramid Grill. Don’t fret. The Pyramid Room might have downscaled to the Pyramid Grill, but. if anything, chef Claude Ferraci and the Fairmont Hotel are quickly returning this once-glorious dining experience to its previous grandeur, sans the formality. Service is polished and attentive, and the dining room still retains its beige-and-gold washed warmth with pyramid icons dotting the décor. And, yes. they still serve mid-course sorbets in ice-sculpted swans-the Pyramid signature. But now the menu is more focused and, under Ferraci’s skillful reign, dominated by heavy continental cuisine that won’t do your arteries any favors but will certainly please your palate. Maryland crab cakes with Thai sauce were moist and zesty. Tender escargots rest in a pool of garlic butter, sandwiched by flaky pastry. Lobster bisque seemed thin, though one tablemate found it rich enough. We swooned in agreement, however, over a 12-ounce veal rib chop-subtle, buttery, and perfectly cooked. All grilled entrées come with a choice of five sauces. A red wine reduction worked well with the ruby-rare, center-cm filet mignon but was too salty for the roast prime rib. By itself, the meat was cool. rich, and delicious. Sides like steamed asparagus, creamed spinach, and sautéed mushrooms were all done well, but beware of the old-fashioned mashed potatoes-they contain enough cream and butter to induce a coronary. If they fail, order the fluffy Grand Marnier soufflé or the warm melting chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream. That should push your heart over the edge, but at least you’ll roll into the emergency room one happy diner. Fairmont Hotel. 1717 North Akard St. 214-720-2020. $$$. -T.J.
The Riviera. Chef Tom Fleming’s roasted rack of lamb swaddled in cracked black pepper and sautéed maple leaf duck breast served with a sour cherry baked apple compote are just two reasons The Riviera is at the top of every five-star dining list. Any night is reason enough to celebrate with a warm apple streusel and a scoop of Calvados ice cream paired with a glass of Moet & Chandon brut Rose. Dinner only. 7709 Inwood Rd. 214-351-0094. $$$.
St. Martin’s. Rich paneling, soft-lit paintings, and touches of muted gold update the famous romantic setting: live music shapes the proper evening mood; and the food delivers sophisticated fulfillment. The by-the-glass wine selection is broad, and service strikes the correct balance between attention and discretion. 3020 Greenville Ave. 214-826-0940. $$-$$$.
Voltaire. Al! the elements of line dining have been taken to surreal extremes. The wine list is 15.000 strong. A small menu offers sophisticated seafood, poultry, and meat selections. including a lovely lobster harissa with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a warm Thai-scented sauce. 5150 Keller Springs Rd. @ Dallas North Tollway. 972-239-8988. $$$.
We/Oui. American food with a French accent in a high-energy (read: loud) dining room. Below the din. the paté is authentic and the desserts are charming, but in between, the canarda l’orange and the wine list are below average. 100 Crescent Court. 214-220-3990. $$.

GERMAN
D BEST Ruby’s. Kuby’s has been serving the best wurst in town since 1961. There is also a bakery and German convenience store, but the place really rocks on the weekends when they stay open for dinner. Waitresses are festooned in colorful dresses and deliver house specialties like schnitzel plates and brats on a bun to the sounds of a live oompah band. 6601 Snider Plaza. 214-363-2231.$.
Rhinehouse. The atmosphere is bare-bones German, but the food is worth a drive to McKinney. Silky spaetzle. ja. Crispy schnitzel, ach ja. Homemade marinated herring, ach gott, ja! They have imported beers on tap. including a double bock, and a deli case crammed with traditional German sausages. 1330 N. McDonald St., McKinney. 972-562-0124. $$.

GOURMET TO GO
City Cafe To Go. Docs 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. $-$$.
City Harvest We can always count on the infamous King Ranch Casserole-a comforting blend of chicken, cheese and chilies-to take the edge off of a hard day at the office. You can dine in or take out from a list of other old favorites including Frito pie and Mom’s meat-loaf. 939 N. Edgefield Ave. 214-943-2650. $.
Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s definitely lives up to its circus hype. Hear the strains of opera and waltz through the crowds collecting the already cooked makings of a gourmet dinner-down to the imported beer, fresh bread, and flowers. Or choose salads or sandwiches made to order. Checkout lines are infamously long. 3403 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-1515.$.
Izmir Dell. Dallas’ new fascination with Middle Eastern food means there have been long lines at Cafe Izmir since il opened. You can avoid those crowds by ordering in from the Izmir Deli, just down Greenville from the original cafe. Gyros, tenderloin, mozzarella. grilled vegetables, and chicken sandwiches, pita, hummus, couscous, and eggplant dip are all available for pick-up or phone-in orders. And this is [he place to go if you need rosewater at 9 p.m. 3607 Greenville Ave. 214-824-8484. $-$$.
Marty’s Cafe TuGogh. Marty’s latest version of its wine bar has changed everything but the name. And the food-there was never a problem with that. At night, when the blond, light-filled Cafe TuGogh features full table service, it’s on its way to becoming one of the best little bistros in town. 3316 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-526-4070. $-$$.
Sigel’s Fresh Market. Besides the stellar cheese counter, dozens of kinds of imported pasta, great selection of olive oils, and other gourmet comestibles, the little deli adjoining Sigel’s liquor store sells perhaps the best roast chicken to go in Dallas. And it’s a deal, loo. 15003 Inwood Rd. 972-387-9804. $.

GREEK
Kostas Cafe, 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 and a loud “Opa!” All the classics-spanakopita. moussaka, and sou-vlaki-are authentically prepared, and the family atmosphere makes eating off your neighbor’s plate seem like a warm gesture. 4914 Greenville Ave. 214-987-3225-$$.
Z Cafe. Pizza topped with gyro meat, feta, tomatoes, and olives and the potato balls are a legacy of the former Little Gus. Breakfast omelettes take on the flavor of the neighborhood when they’re tilled with chorizo, chili. and cheddar. The quintessential greasy spoon burger is a masterpiece topped with feta, grilled onions, and jalapehos. Breakfast and lunch only. 1924 Henderson Ave. 214-821-0991.$.
D BEST Ziziki’s. You can hardly get a prime-time table at this contemporary Greek cafe, and they don’t take reservations, except for large parties. But the herbed lamb souvlaki, folded in thick warm pita and sauced with tart yogurt, is worth a wait. Ziziki’s menu has featured the same idiosyncratic version of Mediterranean food since it opened-it’s a good thing some things don’t change. 4514 Travis St., Ste. 122. 214-521-2233; 15707 Coit Rd., Ste. A. 972-991-4433 $$.

HOME COOKING
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. $.
Natalie’s. It’s the ultimate neighborhood spot: The portions are large; the prices are small. The meatloaf is a popular choice: For $7.95 you get an 8-by-3-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 @ Park Blvd., Piano. 972-423-1524. $.

INDIAN
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 delicious. The Vegetable Bhojan was an institutional presentation but tasted good. 12817 Preston Rd. 972-392-0190. $$.
Madras Pavilion. The unforgettable aromas of jasmine, coriander, and turmeric greet you at the door. Lunch is an Indian food orgy buffet that includes unusual (for Dallas) Northern Indian specialties-a bargain at $6.99. In the evening, you can choose from an extensive menu that includes a large list of dosai (thin rice crêpes with vegetarian fillings) and vadas (crunchy lentil cakes). Cold raita, fresh coriander leaves, salads of chopped carrots, cucumber, and onions, are just a few of the refreshing condiments supplied to ease the heat. 101 S. Coit @ Belt Line Rd., Dal Rich Shopping Center. 972-671-3672. $-$$.
ITALIAN
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. @ Northcliff Dr. 214-327-7777. $.
Avanti. Avanti has maintained the feel of a small, intimate neighborhood cafe in spite of every obstacle. The fried calamari with tomato and basil sauce is greaseless, and the crunchy batter is light and tasty. We’re slightly disappointed with the grilled veal medallions, but the Italian sausage seasoned with lots of fennel and sautéed with onions and bell peppers on top of angel hair pasta covered in a light marinara is gutsier. 2720 McKinney Ave. 214-871-4955. $$.
Cafe Cipriani. This is one of the best Italian restaurants in town. Owner Salvino Zannetti doesn’t compromise on his ingredients; he orders his cheese from a deli in New York-as close to Italy as you can get in Dallas. And the lasagna is the real standout-layers of homemade noodles, with just enough ground veal to give the dish substance without making it too heavy. 220 Las Colinas Blvd., Irving. 972-869-0713. $$.
Cafe Expresso. Owner Dieter Paul offers an uncomplicated list of Italian specialties. Pastas and sauces are mix and match, and the same goes for the thin crusty individual pizzas. The kitchen also knocks out above average veal scaloppini with lemon butter and capers and the nightly specials (maybe a pecan-crusted flounder) never disappoint. 6135 Luther Ln. 214-361-6984.$$.
lano’s. The menu is priced per portion and per “la familia.” And it’s thoroughly Italian in that a “la familia” platter is plenty for a family, including parents, several children, and grandparents. Vitello Pugliese, for example, is thickly breaded slices of veal, smothered in tomato sauce allegedly enriched with goat cheese and loaded with purple kalamata olives. 250 Spanish Village. 972-866-0888. $$.
D BEST Mi Piaci. Hausemade 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 Monitor! Dr. 972-934-8424. $$-$$$.
D BEST Modo Mia 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. Dinner only. 18352 Dallas Pkwy. 972-671-6636, $$.
Nero’s. Chef Luigi Lama has been serving pink garlic bread and Caesar salad for 15 years, but we prefer his Linguinie Fra Diavlo-a steaming plate of sea scallops, gulf shrimp, and mushrooms in a spicy marinara sauce. Of course, the regular pasta dishes are above average, and his homemade white chocolate ice cream has customers driving long distances just for dessert. Dinner only. 2104 Greenville Ave. 214-826-6376. $$.
Patrizio. 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 Ln. @ Preston Rd. 214-522-7878; 1900 Preston Rd.. Ste. 343. Piano. 972-964-2200.$$.
Pavarotti’s. Pavarotti’s is one of the few places in North Dallas where parents can escape for a quick, semi-romantic meal. The baked lasagna Is a delightful casserole layered with noodles, meal, and cheese that somehow remains light. The linguine Pavarotti loaded with shrimp and chicken sautéed in a garlic white wine sauce is all the reason we need to return. 6757 Arapaho Rd. 972-991-2828. $$.
Bodolfo’s. American I950s-style Italian food is the order of the day-hefty lasagna and only average chicken parmigiana. We’ve never had the nerve to try anything from the “pasta with berries” section of the menu; we just stick to the angel hair pasta with spinach balls. The dumplings of ricotta and spinach scented with nutmeg make a wonderful light meal. 5956 Royal [email protected] Preston Rd. 214-368-5039. $$.
Salvo, Like sister restaurant Mi Piaci, home-style Tuscan is the backbone of Salve. Casual all-day dining in the bar features pizza, cal-zones, and panini. In the evenings, the extensive menu in the elegant dining room is the perfect opportunity for a sophisticated Italian feast. Brodetta Adriatica, a pile of clams. mussels, shrimp, and lobster is as fresh as a Mediterranean breeze perfumed with saffron. 2120 McKinney Ave. 214-220-0070. $$-$$$.

JAPANSES
Chaya Sushi. The tuna roll is lean, deep red. and fresh. From the robata bar. try the chargrilled sirloin-thinly sliced, bite-sized morsels of rare tenderloin dipped in ponzu sauce. Gulf shrimp, sautéed in a light ginger sauce, is fragrant and linn. 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. 101 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-361-0220. $$.
Deep Sushi. Traditional Japanese etiquette takes a back seat to a more laid-back, hip style of service and ambience. The edamame was excellent and lopped with just the right amount of shaved salt. But the daikon was missing from the agedashi tofu, and the spice promised in the spicy octopus and seaweed salad was MIA. 2624 Elm St. 214-651-1177. $$-$$$.
Fishbowl. The small but ambitious menu reflects the 1960s Pan-Asian concept: Trader Vic’s-style cocktails, sushi, sake, and noodles, all served tapas-style one small plate at a time. A meal is a series and may include a best seller like peanut chicken satay as well as Stephan Pyles” innovative version of mu shu pork tacos served with thai basil slaw. Dinner only. 3214 Knox St. 214-521-2695.
Nakamoto. Service tends to range from sublime to abrupt at this stylish, roomy Piano institution, but cuisine (tempura, sushi, and sashimi) remains uniformly excellent. 3309 N. Central Expwy. @ Parker Rd., Piano. 972-881-0328.$$.
Tei Tei . We still haven’t tasted the kobe beef (which comes from cattle fed with beer and massaged with sake), but Tei Tei is a destination restaurant anyway. The “kinki fish” is a whole fish (snapper) slashed to the bone, so the flesh lifts out easily with chopsticks. To eat the soft-shell crab, abandon the Eastern eating utensils and resort to the God-given: fingers. Dinner only. 2906 N. Henderson Ave. 214-828-2400.$$-$$$.
D BEST Teppo. Impeccable sushi and sashimi geared toward the advanced sushi addict. Live scallops, clams, and the Limoge-like savagari (tiny deep-fried crabs) satisfy a soulful need for great art and great food. For a courageous finish, try the quail egg shooters-a sake glass filled with fish roe. chives, lime, two quail eggs, and house-made ponzu sauce. Dinner only. 2014 Greenville Ave. 214-826-8989. $$-$$$.
Yamaguchi. Far from being wrapped up in the traditional trappings of sushi showmanship, Yamaguchi focuses on flavor and takes it seriously. Service is precise and caring, and entrées reflect a balance of tortuously fine flavor, fresh ingredients, and design on the plate. 7713 Inwood Rd. @ Lovers Ln. 214-350-8660. $$$.

LATIN AMERICAN
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. $-$$.
Fogo de Chao. This is not a place for the faint of heart. Or the not-very-hungry. Once you’ve signaled “go” by turning your ordering chip from red to green, you are immediately bar-raged by gaucho-clad waiters waving huge skewers of assorted meats. The Lombo-pork loin crusted with parmesan-can be dry. but the Frallinha {bottom sirloin) is tender, and the Picanha (rump steak with lots of garlic) will make you send the other waiters away. The centerpiece of the restaurant is the beautiful salad bar. 4300 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-503-7300. $$.
Gloria’s, Gloria’s was serving pupusas and other exotic Salvadorian and Mexican dishes before the hot Latin craze was cool. Discover the unique tastes with Gloria’s Super Sampler, starring a tamale stuffed with chicken wrapped and steamed in a fresh banana leaf. The chocolate flan coated in caramel should be on every menu in town. 3715 Greenville Ave. 214-874-0088. $-$$. Multiple locations.
Samba Room, it’s impossible not to feel transported to an exotic Havana night at the Samba Room. Arepas beef marinated in sherry, cooked with onion and peppers, then shredded into a mound and surrounded by triangles of griddled sweet com cakes lopped with a slight drizzle of sour cream-is superb. A silver martini shaker filled with long, thin snips of yuca frita–fried yuca seasoned with lime and garlic-makes French fries obsolete. Dinner only. 4314 Travis St. 214-522-4137. $$.
Texas de Brazil. No need for menus here-it “s one price fits all. Skewer-swagging waiters slice varied cuts of slow-roasted (and extremely flavorful) filet, picanha, rack of lamb, top sirloin, and pork loin from their swords right onto your plate. The salad bar features 30 hefty items besides salad, including tabbouleh and marinated mushrooms, and the required feijoa-da (the national dish of Brazil). 15101 Addison Rd., Addison. 972-385-1000; 2727 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-720-1414. $$$.

MEDITERRANEAN
Avanti Euro Bistro. The menu at this sexy spot circles the Mediterranean Sea, featuring French, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern delights. We marveled at a truly traditional veal Francaise delicately swirled with a cognac demi-glace and a Chicken Marrakesh bursting with a saffron lime flavor. Skip the crème brulée and go straight for the fresh pear poached in vintage port stuffed with a dollop of buttery mascarpone. 5001 Addison Circle, Addison. 972-386-7800, $$.
II Sole. Chef Tim Penn focuses on Mediterranean food, sometimes to brilliant effect. Long fingers of tender pan-fried cala-mari dip easily into a spicy red chile sauce. Wonderful warm putanesca pasta crowded with kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes, and garlic pops with flavor. Nice by-the-glass wine selection. 4515 Travis St., Ste. 201. 214-559-3888. $$-$$$.
Popolos. Popolos has reopened and most of the original staff and popular menu items are back. One visit we sat at the bar and nibbled thin-crusted pizza layered with tomato, kalamata olives, capers, and garlic. Another night we feasted on the always dependable (and enough for two) chicken piccata. For those without elastic-waist pants, the fat-free angel food cake bruschetta is a guilt-free ending. 707 Preston Royal Shopping Center. 214-692-5497. $$.
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. Dinner only. 4345 W. Northwest Hwy. @ Midway Rd. 214-350-6135. $$.
MEXICAN
D BEST Avila’s. At Avila’s you can find all the flavors of Mexican food without the lard. Chili relleno isn’t battered and deep-fried; it’s gently roasted and .stuffed with cheese or meat and covered in a light ranchera sauce. Enchiladas can be customized from a mix-and-match ingredients menu and is a must for vegetarians looking for a Tex-Mex fix. 4714 Maple Ave. 214-520-2700. $.
Casa Navarro. This little cafe in a former 7-Eleven specializes in the same unpretentious cheesy fare we used to love before Tex-Mex became chic. The beer is bring-your-own, and on Wednesdays the enchilada plate is $3.75 all day long. Sopaipillas. once the darling dessert at every Tex-Mex joint, are still handmade, light, and greaseless, such a surprisingly elegant finish to the meal that we wished we’d brought our demitasse, too. 11742A Marsh Ln. @ Forest Ln. 972-357-0141.$.
D BEST Ciudad. Monica Greene, the genius behind Monica’s Aca y Alla, ups her own ante by delivering dishes based on true Mexico City-style cuisine. Tender barbequed pork wrapped in fresh com tortillas mix easily with a tropical fruit salsa. and an 8-ounce beef tenderloin topped with melted asadero cheese is surrounded with a spicy red tomato sauce with a side of epazote-scented black beans. For favor, save room for elegant desserts. 3888 Oak Lawn Ave., Ste. 135.214-219-3141.$$-$$$.
Cuquita’s. You won’t find a list of Tex-Mex combination plates or even a margarita here, but you will find authentic specialties like beef tongue simmering in a pepper-studded tomato sauce and tender fillets of pork sautéed with onions and spices. Everything goes down easy with a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade or a Bohemia. 2326 N. Henderson Ave. 214-823-1859. $. Beer only.
Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano. Javier’s hook is Mexico City Mexican food, and the atmosphere isn’t Tex-Mex kitschy but sophisticated. Salsa is nicely warmed, and margaritas are the real thing. Filete Cantinflas may look like a fried puck, but inside the stiff crust is a cheese-stuffed filet mignon with a brick-colored chile sauce–it’s too rich to eat and too good not to try. 4912 Cole Ave. 214-521-4211. $$.
La 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 with chunks of celery and green peppers. The grilled whole catfish served with rice and vegetables shouldn’t be missed. 1925 Skillman St. 214-824-9900; 415 W. 12th St. 214-941-4304. $$.
Luna De Noche. The secret is out in Garland. Luna Nochc is playing in the Mexican food big leagues with stellar versions of cheese enchiladas, guacamole. and nachos. Thankfully the margaritas are more sour than sweet, and the Polio Pepian is a juicy chicken breast simmering in delicious chicken broth, ancho chile, and pecan sauce. The fruit flautas are the best dessert find around. 7602 Jupiter Rd. @ Lookout Dr.. Garland. 972-414-3616. $-$$. Margaritas.
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,$-$$.
D BEST Mart’s Rancho Martinez. The place is filled with the faithful al every meal because the flautas are the best in Dallas, the chile relleno is food for the gods, and even a combination plate satisfies, if you don’t mind processed cheese. 6332 La Vista Dr. 214-823-5517. $-$$.
D BEST Monica’s Aca y Alla. Monica Greene continues to serve the best 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 com. 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.
Pepe & Mito’s. The vivid walls and bright lights mean this cafe looks noisy even though it’s not usually crowded. It should be-chips worth mentioning (thick, warm, slightly overcooked), cilantro-laced salsa, and standards like nachos and enchiladas are excellent. Tamales are utterly remarkable, and chicken and beef taquitos are still some of the best in town. 2935 Elm St. 214-741-1901. $. Margaritas.
Rafa’s. We love the seasoned red snapper topped with crabmeat. wrapped in foil, and cooked in its natural juices. The full-on Tex-Mex regulars of hefty beef enchiladas and sour cream chicken enchiladas never fail. And we never leave without sinfully submerging a sopaipilla dusted with powdered sugar into a warm ramekin of honey. Closed Monday. 5917 W. Lovers Ln. 214-357-2080, $-$$.
Taco Diner. The name sounds slightly retro. Bui the tacos at the Diner are real Mexican soft tacos, not drive-through, crunehy, greasy Tex-Mex mutations. The corn 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 Dr. 214-696-4944, $. Margaritas.

MIDDLE EASTERN
Al-Amir. The Mediterranean meets the rising sun at Al Amir, which look 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. Dinner only. 7402 Greenville We. 214-739-2647. $$.
Ali Baba. Order hummus and you get a bowl swirled with the garlicky purée, pooled with yellow olive oil, dusted with parsley, and domed with slick olives. Thai and a stack of lot pita could do you, but the grilled chicken s irresistible, and the tabbouleh. mostly chopped parsley with bits of bulghur and tomato, is a perfect counterpoint to the unctu->us chickpea mash. 1905 Greenville Ave. 214-S23-8235. $-$$.
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 3outari, and you’ll be happy. Dinner only. $711 Greenville Ave. 214-826-7788. $$.
Queen of Sheba. Excellent Ethiopian specialties served in real style. Go straight to the Queen’s dinner-a feast that includes almost every-:hing on the menu presented beautifully on a silver platter. The banquet, a bargain at $30 per person, also includes a special hand-washing ceremony-once with an apéritif, again after sopping up the juice from the pureed lentils. 3527 McKinney Ave. @ Lemmon Ave. 214-521-0491.$$.

NEW AMERICAN
Antares. The Hyatt Regency’s sky-high, revolving restaurant appears to be finding its wings at last. Huge sea scallops were sparked with chile-peanut dressing: grilled beefsteak tomatoes and shiitake mushroom caps wore dollops of melted queso fresco in a roasted shallot vinaigrette. Reunion Tower. 300 Reunion Blvd. 214-651-1234. $$-$$$.
Beau Nash. The beautiful dining room is aging gracefully, and the light-sparkled, romantic conservatory at night remains one of the delights of Dallas dining. The Cobb salad and smoked chicken 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. 400 Crescent Court. 214-871-3240. $$-$$$.
Chaparral Club. The ancho-rubbed chicken (with bones!) can be a little salty, but the creamy goat-cheese stuffing guarantees moist meat. The bone-in filet, along with truffled mashed potatoes and cubed root vegetables sautéed together, make a plate that satisfies all senses. Don’t miss The Perfect Dessert: a satiny sphere of while chocolate split and filled with fresh blueberries and raspberries sliding around in a pool of crème Anglaise. Dinner only. Adam’s Mark Hotel. 400 N. Olive St. 214-777-6539.$$-$$$.
City Cafe. The sophisticated menu changes every three weeks-the perfect lure to go back and get hooked on chef Jason Gorman’s new creations. Recently we’ve tried a moist chicken breast rubbed with garlic and served with whipped potatoes scented with goat cheese and a nutty flavored Lake Victoria perch slowly braised with heirloom tomatoes. A popular h aim I for know-it-all-foodies. 5757 Lovers Ln. 214-351-2233. $$.
Guthrie’s. Luckily Guthrie’s sits next to our parking lot downtown. That makes it easy to dash over for a quick luncheon comfort-food fix of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. Chef William Guthrie gets creative at night and turns out brilliant versions of pork schnitzel with sautéed mushroom and a killer version of fish and chips. 400 S. Ervay St, 214-760-7900. $-$$.
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. 282] 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 long time. 3311 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-521-0295. $$.
Sevy’s. The thoroughly American Prairie-style interior perfectly complements chef-owner Jim Severson’s hearty American cuisine. The plates here present classic ideas with imaginative updates. The menu is varied, but beef is a reliable choice-the tenderloin is slightly hickory smoked. The marinated mushroom appetizer is the best portobelio in town. 8201 Preston Rd. 214-265-7389.$$.
Tramontana. Chef James Neel has successfully stretched his culinary skills. He and his wife. Lisa, have created a delightful New American menu with Italian and French accents. Osso buco fans, bring your own marrow forks–after devouring the veal braised in red wine, we brazenly blew the marrow out of the bones ourselves. A Key lime trifle was so tart it puckered our mouth, but the silky bananas foster cream pie soothed our souls. 8220-B Westchester Dr.. Preston Center. 214-368-4188. $$.
York Street. As Dallas restaurants get bigger and bigger, this little chef-owned cafe seems smaller and smaller. And its value rises as the qualities we love about it become rarer and rarer. The choices of elegant food-pheasant paté with pears, frogs” legs, roast duck, and quail- are a wonderful relief from beef and chicken. It’s easy for dinner to spin into hours of conversation because the atmosphere is so conducive to it. 6047 Lewis St. 214-826-0968. $$-$$$.

SEAFOOD
AquaKnox. Since the lounge was turned into Fishbowl. the sexy blue chenille dining room of AquaKnox feels like half a restaurant. The décor isn’t the only boat that’s been rocked here. We’ve had a good meal-brilliantly seared beef tenderloin with chipotle mashed potatoes-and we’ve had a bad meal-salty red snapper with gooey corn pudding. But overall Stephan Pyles seems to have steadied the course with the addition of new executive chef Ethan Powell. Dinner only. 3214 Knox St, 214-219-2782. $$$.
Cafe Pacific. Cafe Pacific continues to delight as one of Dallas’ most reliable luncheon and dinner restaurants, as well as the place to witness the social structure of Dallas’ power people in action. Menu favorites like calamari. clam chowder. Caesar salad, salmon, and red snapper are superbly prepared and presented by an experienced staff. 24 Highland Park Village. 214-526-1170.$$-$$$.
Lombardi Hare. Few seafood kitchens in town offer as many varieties of fresh oysters. Recently we were served a disappointing plate of polenta-crusted salmon, but the pasta covered with lobster, shrimp, scallops, crabmeat. and asparagus restored our faith in Alberto Lombardi’s touch. Perfect setting and food to impress out-of-towners. Village on the Parkway, Montfort Dr. @ Belt Line Rd. 972-503-1233.$$$.
Newport’s. Enjoy an imaginative seafood menu that we classify loosely as New England seafood with Asian and Cajun influences. Grilled tilapia is served with a side of sautéed apples. cilantro, and toasted pecans. And (he tuna is a three-inch pan-seared hunk served in a bowl of rice and covered with sautéed porto-bellos 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 lights outside, because once you’re seated in the sexy dining room, the dining 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.$$.
Rockfish. Rockfish is cozy and uncontrived: even the cute stuff and the out-of-place ambience feels comfortable. You can gel an oversized platter filled with more than a pound of fresh crab, about 30 medium boiled shrimp, two ears of com, several new potatoes, and a foot of sausage for $22.99. Our main problem with Rockfish is that it’s a neighborhood restaurant, but it’s not in our neighborhood. 7639 Campbell Rd. @ Coit. 972-267-8979; 4701 W. Park Blvd.. Piano. 972-599-2190. $-$$.
D BEST S&D Oyster Company. S&D can do anything with shrimp, and they have been doing it for longer than we care to remember (or admit we do). The fried shrimp is so delicately breaded you can still see the pink-skinned flesh through the crust. Then it’s butter-flied. 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.$$.
Truluck’s Steak & Stone Crab. Yes. Truluck’s has a large array of seafood and steak specialties, but the main reason to eat here is the crab claws. They serve four varieties-medium, large, jumbo, and colossal. Recently we conducted a taste test, ordering four different plates of pre-cracked claws. After much fork-fighting, we decided we loved the sweet fresh meat tucked inside all of them. At Truluck’s, size doesn’t matter. 5001 Belt Line Rd.. Addison. 972-503-3079; 2401 McKinney Ave. 214-220-2401.$$-$$$.

SOUTHWESTERN
Blue Mesa. Blue Mesa has wisely stuck 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. 7700 W.
Northwest Hwy. 214-378-8686; 5100 Belt Line Rd. 972-934-0165. $$.
No Place. Tender elk sirloin and boneless rabbit are sided with sautéed portobello mushrooms tnd onions. Better-than-beef chicken-fried venison comes with Malt’s famous smoked mashed potatoes. The food is why Matt Martinez Jr, is a legend-in his own neighbor-tood, anyway. 6325 La Vista Dr. 214-823-9077. $$.$$$.
D BESTStar Canyon. Chef-owner Stephan Pyles has created a Dallas destina-ion with his innovative “New Texas Cuisine,” ^n appetizer of fried green tomatoes stacked high with layers of Dallas-made mozzarella is a are case of tall food tasting as good as it looks. And the bone-in cowboy ribeye on a bed of pinto beans, covered with a mound of shoestring onion rings dusted with red chile, .should be listed in Fodor’s under Dallas’ top attractions. 3102 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-520-7827. $$-$$$.
Y.0. Ranch. Though this is frontier fare, the kitchen can have a light touch. Delicately grilled, semi-boneless quail is delicious, and the special two-inch, 12-ounce pork chop is as moist and tender as a filet mignon. However, the buck stops short with an undercooked top sirloin. And the bar scene rocks with Jerry Jeff Walker tunes and cigar-smoking buckaroos- the perfect place to take your Yankee guests. 702 Ross Ave. 214-744-3287. $-$$.

SPANISH
D BEST Cafe Madrid. Dallas’s first tapas bar remains its best, and everybody knows it. Even midweek, this little two-room restaurant has customers waiting al 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. Dinner only. 4501 Travis St. 214-528-1731.$$.
Seville at the Stoneleigh. The menu is more than tapas at this upscale Spanish dining room that resembles chichi spots in Spain. Five varieties of paella headline the show and a tenderly braised rabbit comes served hunter-style in rich brown gravy that accents the mild-flavored meat. An extensive list of tapus makes it easy to make a meal with a combination of small plates. 2927 Maple Ave. 214-871-7111. $$$.

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

D BEST Bob’s Steak and Chop House. We usually forego filets, preferring ii more flavorful cut, but the three-inch nine-ounce is beautifully marbled and cooked perfectly pink and tender. It’s impossible not to love the “smashed” potatoes-they’re wickedly mashed with about a stick of butter in each serving. And the slight sweet glaze on Bob’s signature whole carrots side dish is a nice contrast to the beef. The atmosphere here is as comfortable as your grandmother’s dining room, but die restaurant is crowded with the Ross Perot and Jerry Jones set. Dinner only. 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 filled with lightly breaded chunks of lobster, rock crab, and shrimp was a tasty bargain at $65. 500 Crescent Ct. 214-303-0500. $$$.
D BEST Chamberlain’s. Richard Chamberlain makes fine dining simple and elegant. You won’t find any singing cowboys or 20-page wine lists. Prime rib, a beautiful hand-cut aged beef, is perfectly seasoned with coarse salt and chunks of fresh cracked black pepper. We could pass on the meat here and still be happy with bowls of green beans and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and buttered corn freshly shucked from the cob. Dinner only. 5330 Belt Line Rd., Addison. 972-934-2467.$$-$$$.
Charolais. Clair and John Rubede (Clair de Lune) have opened a new steak joint with a French twist-the menu only offers France’s favorite Charolais beef. But the seafood entrees rule. Redfish stuffed with shrimp and crab is delicately sauced with lemon butter and the broiled chicken isn’t just a token dish- c’est magnifique. 5950 Royal Ln. @ Preston Rd. 214-692-0900. $$$.
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-and-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. 214-871-7444. $$-$$$.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. This is the best beef we’ve eaten in Dallas lately. The porterhouse, regally alone and ungarnished. arrives at the perfect degree of doneness and is still actually hot. Mushrooms-crimini and shiitake, in a port reduction-and thick-cut. thinly breaded onion rings are both preferable to another potato. And we appreciate the diminutive (only three-and-a-half pounds!) Maine lobster, perfectly steamed and cracked, and only $64. Even dessert, which frequently seems like an insult in a steakhouse, is spectacular. Dinner only. 10477 Lombardy Ln. 214-366-2000. $$-$$$.
Stone Trail Steakhouse. Lavish décor, live music for late dancing, an upscale menu and wine list mark this sprawling steak spread as the brainchild of restaurateur Tony Taherzadeh, former owner of Farfallo and Papillon. A clubby ambience and prescient service support terrific beef treatments [try the bone-in ribeye, an Everest of a steak); seafood and other meats provide variety. Dinner only, 14833 Midway Rd. 972-701-9600.$$$.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse. The knockout punch is a 24-ounce. bone-in ribeye coated with lots of fresh ground pepper, perfectly cooked to medium rare. Smoked pork chops are grilled and served with a side of sweet, smoked apples. The side dishes are only average: the horseradish mashed potatoes could have used a little more horseradish, and the donut-sized onion rings are heavily beer-breaded and greasy. Prices are less than you’d expect. Dinner only. 17795 N. Dallas Pkwy. 972-267-9393. $$.
THAI
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 That 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. $$.
Chow Thai Pacific Rim. A visual and gastronomic delight. Sample fresh shrimp and mango summer rolls and tapioca balls stuffed with sweet . radishes in the dim sum bar before moving into the main dining room where tea-smoked pork chops and a spicy beef salad await. Homemade ice cream is impossible to pass up . alongside the sugar-fried banana roll. 3309 Dallas Pkwy. @ Parker Rd.. Piano. 972-608-1883. $$
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 an ocean broth full of scallops. shrimp, and calamari. Pad Thai is appropriately sweet and crunchy with peanuts. 4701 W. Park Blvd., Piano. 972-599-0289. $-$$.
Royal Spice Thai Bistro. We could have stopped after the appetizers–sweet com fritters and spring rolls crunchy with cabbage-but the ; entrees are irresistible. We felt silly ordering “seafood oodles,” but the shallow bowl of flat pappardelle noodles piled with sautéed shrimp, scallops, calamari. and broccoli was a delicious S13 bargain. Sticky rice is very nice and covered with fresh mango. 5004 Addison Circle. 972-788-2223.$$.
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.$-$$.

VIETNAMESE
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 Oriental Cuisine. The Vietnamese menu is the one to go for. Proprietor Mai Pham opened the first Vietnamese restaurant in Dallas, and her food is still terrific at her little restaurant in Snider Plaza. The hot pots are especially good-“hot chic” is the regulars’ favorite. 6912 Snider Plaza. 214-361-8220. $-$$.
Hiss Saigon. Texas-sized portions abound at this authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Egg rolls the diameter of baby bottles, a mound of fried rice, a pile of lemon grass chicken, and three plate-sized mu shoo pancakes stuffed with Mongolian beef were all delicious and kept us fed for three days. 12300 In wood Rd. 972-503-7110.$$.
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. $-$$.
FORT WORTH
Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy. Usually we stick to hole-in-the-wall joints, avoiding slick contrived cantina-esque restaurants like the tap water in Mexico. But Abuelo’s gives us a few reasons to cross the line. We loved the house specialties of grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack and the medallions of chicken stuffed with chorizo. But the Tex-Mex offerings covered with pounds of cheese send us straight to the nearest bring-your-own-six-pack spot. 824 Airport Fwy., Hurst. 817-514-9355. $$.
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. $.

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 hot flour or com tortillas. Order it first, and then spend some time with the menu-everything on it is worth trying. 1450 W. Magnolia Ave.. Fort Worth. 817-332-8633. $$.

Cattlemen’s Steak House. Fort Worth ate cattle before cattle was cool, and Cattlemen’s is still the quintessential stockyard steakhouse. There’s not much but beef accompanied by rolls, potatoes, and iceberg lettuce salad, but the atmosphere is genuine cowboy. 2458 N. Main St.. Fort Worth. 817-624-3945. $$-$$$.

D BEST Grape Escape. The gimmick here is education-Grape Escape is trying to do the same thing for wine that brew-pubs did for beer. So you order “flights” of the grape of your choice, and the waiter brings a four-glass tasting of say, Chardonnay, from Sonoma, Napa, Australia, and New Zealand. Compare and contrast. The food is designed around the wine, so you can change direction mid-meal-start with white wine and suggested matches, finish with red wine and cheese. The selection of small plates-merguez sausages, paté, salads, stuffed potatoes, pizzettes-adds up to a full meal that’s lots of fun. Dinner only. 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 comer, the chefs do an excellent job preparing all the old favorites from burritos to tamales. Breakfast is a work of art here. And on your way out, the bakery, in an alcove off the dining room, sells traditional Mexican breads, rolls. and sweet rolls. 2122 N. Main St.. Fort Worth. 817-626-5770. $$.

D BEST Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Dishes. The quintessential Fort Worth restaurant. Its location near the Stockyards can handle the crowds for whom the restaurant’s status hovers somewhere between “institution” and “nirvana.” Wait for a spot outside by the pool, and order the enchiladas. Joe doesn’t do credit cards or reservations, either. 2201 N, Commerce St., Fon Worth. 8I7-626A356. $$.

D REVISITS Kincald’s. Connoisseurs of Kincaid’s aren’t satisfied when food critics refer to their half-pound burgers as “the best.” Anybody who has ever flipped a tie over their shoulder and made a new friend at one of the community tables by trading ooohs and aaahs will tell you thai adjectives like “perfect” or “exquisite” are more to the point. Kincaid’s was once a grocery store until, as Fort Worth legend has it. 1964. when the store’s butcher O.R. Gentry convinced owner Charles Kincaid to cook the leftover ground chuck. They set up a grill out back and the rest is history. The groceries disappeared and soon Kincaid’s Grocery evolved into Kincaid’s Hamburgers. The key to the burgers here is the lean ground chuck ground the day before they hit the griddle. Once cooked, the burger goes through a strict assembly regimen: warm bottom bun, mustard or mayo, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, then the meat, cheese, and lop bun. Place your order and wait just a few short minutes munching on a couple of deviled eggs before paying “honor-system style” at the cash register. The grocery shelves remain but now serve as a tabletop for stand-up eaters who read magazines below the inflatable toys that dangle from the ceiling. Anyway you look at it, eating a burger at Kincaid’s is a perfectly exquisite experience. 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd. Fort Worth. 817-732-2881, $.-N.N.

Pegasus. Fori Worth has good restaurant news-this newly opened eclectic spot with strong Middle Eastern touches is a winner. The mezze menu features hummus softly spiked with garlic, handmade dolmas stuffed with lamb and rice, and moist falafels served with an inspired fresh mango and mint coulis. A chocolate cappuccino tart smothered in Godiva chocolate sauce is nearly an overdose for chocoholics. 2443 Forest Park Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-922-0808. $$.

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. $$.

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. Dinner only. 3617 W. 7th St.. Fort Worth. 817-737-2781. $$$.

Sapristi. Chef/owner Bernard (St. Emilion) Tranche’s small bistro is charming: The music is refreshingly low and the wine list is solid. If you want to buy an extra bottle to take home, knock off half the price. The kitchen offers five preparations of mussels-those steamed in pesto broth and seasoned with black olives and vermouth are our favorite. 2148 Forest Park Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-924-7231. $$.
TIME FOR WINE ONLINE

Finally, a bottle of wine is just a point and click away. Until now, Texans haven’t been able to shop the Internet for wine deals because of the antiquated Texas laws that forbid shipment across state lines. But evineyard.com went straight to the state for a retail license and set up a virtual warehouse in Houston. The good news is you can shop online for wine priced at 10 to 40 percent below retail and have it delivered to your home. The bad news is that the “wet and dry” rules still apply: Wine can only be sent to “wet addresses” and, because the state doesn’t have a database that lists the streets accordingly, you may have to juggle where you have it shipped.
Christmas shopping just got a little easier- they even gift-wrap.
-N.N.

OFF THE
PLATE

“The situation in Texas is crazy, but we finally figured out how to deal with it. “
-evineyard.com VP Brett Lauter on finding a legal method to distribute Internet wine orders to Texas.
SIDE DISH
Time To Celebrate

When Celebration started serving family-style home cooking 30 years ago, the lines were long with customers waiting to feast on meatloaf and fried chicken served with community bowls of fresh vegetables. And, of course, some of the best pie in town. The lines are still there, but if you don’t feel like waiting, pop in next door to the new Celebration Market, where most of their goodies are pre-packed to reheat at home. Or, sleep in late on Thanksgiving morning and let them prepare your feast for 12-juicy turkey breast, mashed potatoes, veggies, stuffing, and pie. All for Just $170. – N.N.
4515 Lovers in., 214-351-2456.
WINE TALK

Fowl Play

There’s frost on your pumpkin, a harvest song in your heart, and the deep desire to give your family the bird-with a great bottle of wine. From gobblers to goblets, the time is now to set the holiday homecoming table for feasting family and friends. The following suggestions should lure your guests to celebrate the Joys of the communal table and remind them of the lost arts of conversation and all-day dining.

PFEFFINGEN GEWURZTRAMINER, SPATLESE, 1998, $12. Bet you never J figured you’d serve a German wine for American Thanksgiving. Well, try it. This exotic, aromatic late harvest Gewurz from the Pfalz region, the “Tuscany of Germany,” is high in sugar but low in acid-therefore high in alcohol and soft on the palate. With haunting sweet aromas, this creamy charmer pairs well with your foie gras appetizer or spicy pumpkin soup.

BLUE PYRENEES ESTATE CHARDONNAY, 1998, $22. This J Australian Estate Chardonnay is an intricate blend of five Chard clones. Although not sheepish, subtle French oak influences bespeak inspired blending. It’s a known fact that good wines start in the vineyard, but truly great wines exhibit the experience and creative flair of the winemaker, in this case Kim Hart. G’day for Turkey Day.
BARONE RICASOLI “FORMULAE” SANGIOVESE TOSCANA, 1998, $16. Our world tour continues to Italy, where we discovered this 100 percent Sangiovese from the noble house credited with the invention of Chianti. This superb ruby red has a full and Intense nose and a long and generous taste your guests will appreciate, especially with Cajun fried turkey. The Ricasolis were making wine in 1141 A.D.- 351 years before compadre Christoforo Columbo discovered America. Thanks!

PHOENIX VINEYARDS, NAPA VALLEY ESTATE MERLOT, 1998, $19. This big wine is a debut vintage. Youthful winemaker Aaron Bader, a self-proclaimed “Son of the Soil,” has built an unsullied reputation for excellent red wines. His soft, round Merlot has an aroma of spice and cassis and expresses eloquently the delicacy of its fruit. Bottling without fining or filtration yields a wine that pairs perfectly with your glazed holiday duck or ham.

-Susan Kendall and Sybil Kipriotis
NEIGHBORHOOD FIND

The Original Porkie’s Barbeque

To be considered a true, blue-collar barbeque joint, one must adhere to certain sweet-and-sticky requirements. First, at least two pickup trucks must be in the parking lot at lunchtime- designer SUVs don’t count. Second, the building must have had previous tenants, preferably fast food. And, finally, the name has to end with an apostrophe “s.” (Sonny Bryan’s and Sammy’s quickly come to mind.) Porkie’s passes the test easily: Four trucks, an old Arby’s, and, well, the name speaks for itself. So does the food. Beef brisket is lean enough with plenty of smoky flavor. Hot links, pork ribs, and chicken are standouts as well. Even the flaky, crispy catfish stays moist and grease-free-something you don’t see too often at a barbeque spot. But it’s the po’ boy sandwich that elevates Porkie’s into that pulled-pork pantheon of barbecue gods. Served on a fresh and firm baguette, the sliced beef, creamy cole slaw, and shredded Cheddar are drenched by a steamy, tangy sauce with just enough vinegar kick. Don’t forget to add a side of sugary turnip greens and potato salad. As the juices and sauce drip down your fingers and you swoon in barbeque bliss, remember that you are in the midst of authentic, sliced-beef greatness. If you need a reminder, just look out in the parking lot. – T.J.

6515 E. Northwest Hwy. @ Abrams Rd. 214-987-0424. $.

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