Getting to the heart

Pappas Brothers is belly-full of old-fashioned decadence

Pappas Brothers cellar is stuffed with bottles from some of these producers. Cabernet Sauvignon from Grace Family Vineyards is among the most sought-after wines in the country. And the restaurant claims to have the largest known vertical collection of wines from Grace (other than the winery), with every vintage represented from 1982 through 1994. Maybe there's a heart surgeon out there willing to trade services for a bottle or two of that.

But beef and wine aren't the only things Pappas Brothers does with a good bit of polish. The shrimp cocktail, set up like an outdoor orchestra shell with shredded lettuce stuffed into a cupped red cabbage leaf resting on its side, had firm, succulent shrimp--just as you would expect.

Broiled salmon with jumbo shrimp, lump crabmeat, and diced tomatoes in a white wine sauce, was moist, flaky, and encased with a delicate crust. And despite the bright rareness in the center, the fish wasn't the slightest bit mushy or...fishy.

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Pappas Brothers Steakhouse

10477 Lombardy Lane
Dallas, TX 75220

Category: Restaurant > Fine Dining

Region: Northwest Dallas

Yet not everything here is successful. A side of roasted wild mushrooms was dry and leathery with a marinade that seemed to strip out the natural earthy flavors. Crab cakes topped with shoestring potatoes and moistened with a flavorful beurre blanc were doughy and a bit short on crabmeat. Bone-in venison, a special, lacked the characteristic rich, nutty flavor of this game meat. Plus, the wine reduction poured over it was viscous with muddled, lazy flavors. But a side of rib-sticking chunky mashed potatoes with bacon bits was hearty and flavorful.

And you can skip the sticky, gooed peach cobbler for dessert. Mired in sweetness, the cobbler had wedges of fruit that lacked tanginess.

It doesn't matter, though. You suck on a cigar or sip Scotch for dessert, and this is probably what the Pappas folks would rather have you do. The emphasis is on lingering.

This bustling, handsome venue with oak, mahogany, and pine paneling, cushy oxblood leather booths, and smooth, white pillars reaching into disk moldings in the ceiling is rich with comfortable elegance. Clustered on a few of the walls are black and white and sepia-toned Pappas family photos, which warm the highly polished ambience up a bit. Giving the neo-traditional decor a bit of edge are a few stark, modern touches such as the black granite fountain with polished metal spouts near the front door.

This place is a maze of varied dining spaces including a wine room, a long narrow area that looks vaguely like a dining car, and a bright, meticulously set counter in front of the open kitchen. Plus, the cigar room, lit by chandeliers ringed with buffalo silhouettes and furnished with leather chairs and sofas, is a good place to park and let your tract get to work on the prime beef lodged in your belly.

Service is uniformly gracious, efficient, and attentive, and the servers seem to know a little about the place. Our server said the restaurant design mimics a 1940s Chicago version of a traditional Texas steakhouse--which seems odd. Why would you want a knock-off in the home of the real thing?

Pappas Brothers Steakhouse is the second upscale eatery for Houston-based Pappas Restaurants Inc. (the first opened in Houston in 1995), which operates some 60 restaurants in Texas, Atlanta, and Chicago. The roster includes Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchens, Pappasitos Cantina restaurants, Pappas Bar-B-Que, and Pappamia Cucina Italiana.

As this venue firmly confirms, the upscale steakhouse phenomenon afflicting Dallas offers zero in the way of culinary imagination. It's the same standard stuff--shrimp cocktail, a half-dozen varieties of steak, lobster, a fish species or two, boilerplate sides such as mashed potatoes and creamed spinach--offered at a quality level in the same general ballpark as everywhere else. The meat is all flamed on the same type of high-performance broilers. The distinctions among these venues are often most pronounced in the service and the ambience. Pappas Brothers is intelligently elegant with a modest energy level to keep things interesting.

If your heart is in it, the dinner hits the spot, and the wine will keep a healthy balance between your good and bad cholesterol. You do remember your cholesterol levels, don't you?

Pappas Brothers Steakhouse.10477 Lombardy Lane (Stemmons near Northwest Highway.) (214) 366-2222. Open for dinner Monday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 5-11 p.m. $$$$

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