City Cafe
Chef Jason Gorman has done many wonderful things during his short time at the 16-year-old City Café. But among his finest is this: potato Stilton agnolotti (Piedmont-style ravioli) in herb truffle butter sauce. It's hard to overstate what a rich, balanced and focused culinary eruption this project becomes in the mouth. Arranged in a circle around the plate, the smooth pillows are delicate (almost like a pastry in character) but forceful, merging smoothly with the butter sauce. They're topped with diminutive cauliflower florets and baby carrots strafed with crumbles of Stilton cheese. The dish comes with a choice of grilled chicken breast or grilled shrimp. Yet the best thing about this dish is that it's also among the least expensive entrées at City Café, coming in at roughly 18 bucks. Which means it's a responsible way to gradually squander the kid's college fund, at least more responsible than prime steaks would be.

Sure it has great crud 'n guts breakfasts and lunches and hamburgers that could silence a Mack transaxle. But the best thing about the Lakewood Café is that it's open 24 hours, so you can get a handle on your ladle any time of the day or night and slip on some nutrition.

Café Patrique is soaked in loud yellows and reds, almost to the point of chroma dementia. But the most daring design movement in this takeout cafeteria is the rest rooms. The men's room is drenched in red with various phrases of wisdom scrawled on the walls in yellow concerning life, laughter and good eating, the kind of wisdom you might find in a fortune cookie or an Oprah rerun. The toilet seats and toilet paper dispensers have also been subjected to graffiti. Under the rest room sinks is a basketball hoop and net. It's cute really, but isn't the term "nothin' but net" more apropos to the bowl with the flush lever?

India Palace Restaurant & Bar
India Palace specializes in Balti dishes: an Indian cooking technique that utilizes a cast-iron pot similar to a wok. Onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds are combined into a rich sauce that bathes the centerpiece (such as beef) of the dish. And the effect is rich and aromatic. Plus, India Palace makes enthusiastic use of buffet tables at selected times and is drenched in luscious pink with burgundy accent points. Maybe not as yummy as the food, but this décor has a profound effect if you close your eyes tightly and imagine you're dining inside a delicate piece of lingerie.
La Duni Latin Cafe
Oh, how cozy this place is. La Duni is owner Espartaco Borga's quest to craft a Latin Brasserie with homestyle food from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Cuba served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All the homespun recipes are authentic, and to that end, he succeeds spectacularly with enhancements such as house-baked goods and wine program agility that is as sophisticated as it is functional. La Duni's wine list catalogs some 89 wines, all of them from Spain or South America and all of them available in more ways than you can order a religious experience. They'll serve your wine by the half-glass, by the glass, by the half-bottle, by the bottle--hell, they'd probably pour some in your Calvin's if you asked them to. And like all religious experiences, wine makes a swell breakfast beverage, no matter how you order it.

The Riviera is practically a Dallas Institution, distinguished by its suave continental food and sensibility. To that end, its service execution is tight and remorselessly efficient. While it embraces a level of formality that can leave you a little chilly, it's impressive nonetheless: attentive and well-orchestrated to the point of dizziness. Wine glasses are whisked away immediately after the wine is ordered and replaced to reflect the appropriate type of wine. The ensuing service is impeccable, right to the wiping of the dribbles from the neck lip of the wine bottle. Glasses are filled as soon as the supply in the glass gets low, as if a pair of eyes hovers over the table waiting for the wine level in the glass to drop below 2 ounces. Servers are well-briefed on the menu, answering detailed questions without so much as a brain-strained hiccup. It's the kind of professionalism and coddling you wish the IRS would employ. But then you'd have to tip them. And who could survive that?
Cantina Laredo
The perfect chip is thin, lightly salted, freshly fried and devoid of translucent, grease-saturated blemishes. The perfect salsa is Cantina Laredo's tawny tomatillo brew, served warm and full of rich, smoky flavor imparted by chipotle peppers. And if that weren't enough, the restaurant has another version that, served cool, is a skillful complement: a bracingly fresh red tomato-based salsa with garlic, onion and cilantro. We've tasted plenty of fine salsas in Dallas, including those at Gloria's, El Ranchito and Cuquita's, but Cantina Laredo's is the most distinctive and remains the best.
Culver's
You've probably never heard of the place, because it's the lone North Texas outpost of a Wisconsin-based chain known for its great malts, shakes, sundaes and frozen custard--so much better than the vaguely dairy, soft-serve substance extruded from machines at Dairy Queen and Sonic. But we'll travel a long way for the purest, tastiest, old-fashioned drive-in hamburger experience: fresh ground chuck seared on a 475-degree grill, served on a butter-stroked bun and accompanied by crinkle-cut fries in a paper sleeve. You can actually taste this meat, because it wasn't steamed on a grill (hello, McDonald's), nuked in a microwave (yo, Burger King) or entombed in a walk-in freezer. Your "ButterBurger" is always made to perfection, since Culver's maintains strict control of quality and vendors. And a regular cheeseburger costs only $1.79.
This exotic confectionery serves up lots of enticing and imaginative flavors of ice cream such as rose geranium blossom, French lavender, red ginger and red port, and orchid vanilla. Palate-cleansing sorbets include margarita; peach and champagne with mint. Available at Whole Foods Markets. Go ahead. Lap a bloom.
Veggie Garden
Veggie Garden is Chinese food without livestock or pets. This restaurant serves fare void of animal products, preservatives, food coloring or MSG. Veggies are stir-fried, sautéed and otherwise cooked and sauced with simulated scraps of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp and fish made of soy proteins. Yum yum.

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