Cafe Madrid
Tapas and tarps have a lot in common. A tarp is a waterproof cover designed to keep things from getting wet. Tapas, which means "covers," came into prominence in Spain in the 19th century when barflies began topping the mouths of little sherry glasses with slices of cured ham or sausage to keep out the dust and flies. Flies apparently are as fond of a chilled glass of bone-dry sherry as anyone. Though why a Spaniard would prefer flies socializing on a slice of cured meat to drunk and sterilized in a glass of fino is anyone's guess. Anyway, you can relive this 19th century appetizer tradition at Caf Madrid. With a cozy dining room furnished with old wooden tables and chairs, Madrid's little plates are always fresh and intriguing, from chopped octopus salad to anchovy filets in garlic to chewy marinated quail. Caf Madrid has a broad Spanish wine list organized by regions and a splendid selection of sherries.

Yes, the place gets a bit pricey as far as pricey places go, and, yes, it has a history of being a bit snobby as far as snobby places go, but look around and see what everyone is eating at Star Canyon. It's a big, fat, juicy hunk of rib-eye steak, and its been cooked with a tangy Southwestern sauce, and it's heaped with these amazingly thin onion rings, and the sauce and the rings mix and meld into a splendid goop of their own making. What can we say? It's just a great piece of meat that's worth the bucks and the attitude.
They're golden, crisp, well seasoned, moist, ample, and they make a terrific palate prelude to the "kiss of mint" condoms this place passes out at closing time.

Everyone now knows that real Mexicans rarely eat a steady diet of nachos, burritos, stiff tacos, and Mescal worms. Real Mexicans eat limp tacos and veal short ribs braised in red mole--at least the haute ones do. Monica Greene's Dallas interpretation of Mexico City cuisine is at once intriguing, dazzling, and soothing--from the clay-pot fish entres to the chicken tacos. Maybe they'll even drape a couple of Mescal worms on a salad every now and then.

Café Brazil
In Lakewood, Deep Ellum, University Park, and elsewhere, the groovy diners of Caf Brazil add character to neighborhoods and make for a great place to get everything from empanadas to blackened salmon and smoked turkey migas. Breakfasts are similarly excellent, and the French toast is a must. It's also not a bad place to snack on artichoke spinach dip or simply enjoy coffee. Though Caf Brazil is multiplying in number, it has not yet lost its authenticity or neighborhood feel. It also has an excellent (and tasty) vegetarian menu.

Sometimes it's hard to find a piece of catfish that doesn't taste like rank pond scum, or if it's farm-raised, like pond scum that's been to finishing school. That's why feline fish must be brutally abused and coated with assorted mixtures of grit such as granola or spicy birdseed before you boil it in 30 weight. We're not sure if this is the exact recipe at Texana, but their cornmeal catfish fillets are sure good: crisp, moist, and flaky. They take your mind off the sun-dried cow patties under glass positioned at the entryway.

Matt's Rancho Martinez
Taryn Walker
As legend would have it, the Bob Armstrong Dip at Matt's was christened after the former Texas land commissioner of the same name because he came up with the recipe for the specialty item during his frequent visits to the original Matt's in Austin. Also known to insiders as Bob Dip, it is a tasty appetizer chock-full of hot melted cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and taco meat. Choose only the strongest of chips, because the thickness of this queso can weigh them down. Of course, it can do the same to you if you get the bowl rather than the cup. We recommend the bowl.
It's not a sushi bar, and it's not a bistro--at least not in the traditional senses of such establishments. It's more like a brisk, clean comfortable hybrid that serves decent raw fish and thrilling little exotic specials such as monkfish liver, grilled smelt bursting with tarry roe, and Yumeya beef, a paper-thin sheet of marinated meat fashioned on the plate like a lotus leaf. Yumeya doesn't serve pomme frites, but it does serve sun-dried sardines. Think of what a small sack of these would do for a bagged burger.

Rockfish Seafood Grill
Never could a college student afford so much seafood as at Rockfish (maybe that should be a bumper sticker). This laid-back establishment has friendly, easy-going waiters, fast service, and good portions. Since its opening a year ago, the place has caught on with Richardson residents and students, so expect a wait. For a quick meal on the go, order the fried shrimp basket. These good-sized shrimp have a tasty batter that doesn't overpower and tangy cocktail sauce that'll clear your sinuses. Ask for more horseradish if it doesn't have enough kick for you. Grab a bucket of peanuts and throw the shells on the floor. Just don't throw them at other customers. They don't like that.

EatZi's Market & Bakery
Brandon LaJoie
There is something horrifying yet natural about seeing vultures and hyenas fight over the scraps of meat clinging to a zebra carcass. It highlights the animals' desperation for survival in the hard African landscape. What's our excuse for the skirmishes that occur at eatZi's? Sure, the food is great and pre-prepared for modern convenience. But, my God, are we savages? Go there to witness grown men and women fighting for pasta salads and sandwiches like Stalin-era Ukrainians fighting for scraps of horsemeat. The peak time for the food scramble is 9 p.m., when the closeout stickers are applied to the least fresh food, designating them as half-price.

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