Give and take-out

All the chat about Eatzi's has had a subtext: What about Marty's? Across the street from Brinker's new phenomenon is the pioneer of Dallas gourmet shops/take-outs, and comparisons between the two are inevitable. The problem is, they're completely misplaced. The two stores actually offer entirely different goods and services, and one could never replace the other. You could sum it up by saying Marty's is the Gazebo, while Eatzi's is the Gap. (I am not predicting the demise of Marty's.)

There are lots of obvious differences between the two, in purpose and in product. Marty's started out as a wine store and still has one of the finest collections of wine and most knowledgeable wine salespeople in the city. Eatzi's sells wine so it can say it does. Marty's first venture into food was cheese, of course, and its cheese selection is still the best in the city. Eatzi's cheese selection is smaller and only skims the surface. Eatzi's promotes its products; Marty's educates its customers; it even offers a monthly calendar that lists an olive seminar, cooking classes, and the like.

But the main difference is that Marty's is an individual, more idiosyncratic, with a stronger personality than Eatzi's, which is, after all, designed to replicate itself. Marty's kitchen is, like a restaurant's, chef-driven: Chef Melody Wolfertt presents different menus each week--Irish stew or corned beef for St. Patrick's Day; the choice of a Spago-inspired menu of salmon, golden caviar, and lobster; or the "director's menu" of Il Postino pasta envelopes, Sensible beef Wellington, and Apollo 13 moon pies for Oscar night. Passover filled the refrigerator case with gefullte-fish terrine and noodle kugel. But the menus reflect not only the season, but who's in the kitchen. Under Chef Melody, the food has more New American flair than it had in the hands of past French chefs.

And Marty's grocery selection goes deep: There's a great selection of olive oils and high-end stuff like caviar, as well as the latest in trendy foodstuffs--Hawaiian chocolate, true Modena balsamic vinegar for 63 bucks a bottle, honest-to-God 4-inch-tall cheesecake flown in from the Carnegie Deli in New York.

We picked up dinner at Marty's recently and that night feasted on a towering square of chicken lasagna, cleverly packed with the sauce on the side so reheating didn't dehydrate it. (Marty's offers a list of reheating instructions for all its foods as well as recommended portion sizes, which is a great service.) "Mom's" meat loaf had been molded in a tiny loaf pan, so each serving was moist and attractive. We paired it with a Southwestern salad made of black beans, corn kernels, cilantro, and peppers.

Fried chicken fingers were good cold and, of course, chicken salad, with white meat, almonds, and celery, made a great sandwich on some sliced bread from Empire. The only problem with Marty's is that it's only open till 6:30 p.m., making it difficult for those of us who don't plan ahead to pick up an evening meal.

The other great new shopping phenomenon in Dallas is Nordstrom's, and somewhere in the encyclopedic coverage of the store's opening, a fact was dropped--the amazing number of square feet of shopping space we have per capita in Dallas. According to the Texas Restaurant Association, Dallas residents spent more than 45 percent of their food dollars in restaurants. Add those two stats together, and you can see that Marty's is the perfect Dallas destination--a place where you can shop and eat and at the same time.

--Mary Brown Malouf

Marty's, Oak Lawn, 3316 Oak Lawn Ave., 526-4070. Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

(menu changes weekly)
Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream $16.50 per lb.
King-Sized Twice-Baked Potato $2.



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