Blue Goose Cantina

There may be better-tasting margaritas in town. There may be more authentic margaritas in town. But with a Blue Goose margarita, you will get 2 full ounces of tequila in your luscious, lime-kissed adult beverage, which means you will more quickly get lit--and that is, quite frankly, the point when drinking margaritas. No one says, "Honey, let's have a light supper, one margarita and then go to the book signing." No. People who drink margaritas say things like, "You're hot! Where do you go to school?" and, "C'mon, show us the bruise on your butt. Pleeeaaase." The best way to drink a Blue Goose margarita (or five) is this way: After getting paired up for 18 holes with Blue Goose owner-guy Bob, you should discover that not only is he a top-notch golfer, but that, when the mood strikes him, he will invite you to his establishment for drinks, for which he will pay. You should also discover that he will chat up the two young ladies next to you and announce to you and your two friends, "Boys, these girls are dead ready." He will then leave and allow you to make margarita-filled asses of yourselves, which will cause you to write a Best Of item that appears to be a tout for said margaritas but is in fact a thinly veiled apology to Becca and Sylvia, the dead-ready girls at the Blue Goose bar. Because good margaritas will make you do stuff like that. And Blue Goose has some damn good margaritas.

According to recent polls, a slight majority of Americans believe that Congress should curtail First Amendment rights. Freedom and liberty are bad things, apparently. Of course, people admit in those same polls to a certain amount of ignorance regarding the rights guaranteed by the initial addendum to the Constitution. This is why the founding fathers sought to limit voting rights: People are susceptible to cons, fictions and artificial ingredients. Simply put, the masses are not truly qualified to address key issues, and you need look no further than the popularity of margaritas to understand this. Bar patrons order the cocktails frozen, swirled, flavored and sweetened with sugar water--but they rarely order a real margarita. The original cocktail consisted of three ingredients (tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice) served up. It was tart and effective. The versions served by Monica's will kill enough brain cells to make the erosion of rights in the Bush-Rumsfeld-Ashcroft era seem quite acceptable.

Maguire's

Maguire's owner Mark Maguire laments that his North Dallas New American restaurant is a little too upscale for his tastes; his customers seem to keep pushing the check average up while he wrestles them by dropping prices. Maybe Maguire is a little off in that way. Maybe he doesn't understand that if you train your service staff to sincerely treat diners as special guests, they want to come to your restaurant and give you money; sometimes lots of it. People are funny that way. They like to unload cash on those who make them feel good. Maguire's servers don't miss a beat (and if they do, they quickly find it and replace it). They smile, they laugh, they know the menu, they're polite, and they watch for things that need to be done (even if you didn't notice the napkin slipped off your lap) and execute without the programmed jargon and choreography that can give dining that scripted-ad-libs-from-a-Dean Martin-celebrity-roast aura. Maguire is set to open a "casual" spot called M Grill & Tap on Cedar Springs in November. But if he doesn't watch his step, this one will scramble away from him up the scale ladder as well.

La Duni Latin Cafe

La Duni bills itself as the ultimate "Mestizo experience," a blend of "European traditions with Latin American soul," and nowhere is the blending more mysteriously seductive than in the chip salsa La Duni puts on the table. Made with fresh poblano, chipotle and serrano peppers and mixed dried chilies, all grilled with tomato, onion, garlic, lime and cilantro, the mojo salsa at La Duni is a global experience.

Prince of Hamburgers has a certain low-tech charm rarely found in fast-food restaurants, what with pneumatic tubes at Chick-Fil-A and TollTag drive-throughs at McDonald's. At Prince, you simply roll into a space, turn on your headlights for service and a carhop will kindly assist you. The menu is replete with drive-in staples such as several varieties of burgers, fries and the like. But when you make a beverage choice, it must be the legendary root beer, which they make themselves. The dark draft has a thick, Guinness-like head, and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it's weighty enough to be a meal in itself. If you still have room, have another.

Better than a year-round Greek festival, the Z Café's gyro sandwich is amazingly pleasing, and well it should be. Owner Nicholas Zotos (he couldn't be Greek by any chance, could he?) apparently makes sure his gyro sandwich has the kind of texture and flavor that made people start loving this sandwich in the first place. The Greek flat bread is so fresh, it feels and tastes like it just came out of the oven. The lamb meat is grilled and seasoned to perfection. The sandwich has just the right mix of sauce and tomatoes, without the usual overdose of onions. This is a gyro to drive for.

Lots of spaces in Dallas ply the fused stuff, the culinary caulk known as Tex-Mex. A few places ply genuine Mexican food, some even going so far as to represent the varied and distinct cuisines from around that nation. But no one in Dallas creates Mexican cuisine with the dazzle and verve of restaurateur Monica Greene and chef Joanne Bondy at Ciudad. The restaurant was conceived as a reflection of the sophisticated cuisine ambling around the menus of Mexico City--a sort of big-city chic lassoed and stuffed into a Dallas taco (Ciudad stuffs its tacos with goat). Now this cuisine ambles around Dallas, twisting some needed sophistication torque onto the typical Mexican flush. This twist is fueled with things like ceviche pumped with a vanilla-pineapple pico and lamb chops enveloped with cumin and aroused with tomato fennel salsa. No need for bean retreads or dried-out rice.

The Capital Grille

Understand something: The best cocktail isn't necessarily the one we drink every night. Then the winner in this category would be "Whatever alcohol is brown, in our cupboard and you can pour over ice." No, this category is reserved for the sort of drink that men and women can consume and say to themselves, "My, this is a refreshing way to get loaded." With that being the criterion, the winner is clearly the Stoli Doli at C-Grille. On the bar you will see a huge container filled with "jet-fresh" (meaning they're flown in the day they're picked, or somesuch) Dole pineapples, to which is added many, many fluid ounces of Stoli vodka. This marinates for five to seven days. The resulting nectar is served chilled in a cocktail glass or, if you prefer (as we do), in a tumbler on the rocks. Especially in the summer, but at all times of the year, this is a killer cocktail.

Well, they do actually serve coffee here, but unlike the mass confusion of corporate coffeehouses, they've pared it down to five or six delicious choices. But you won't miss the coffee once you notice the fully stocked bar. New Amsterdam manages to maintain the relaxed intimacy of a coffeehouse while providing a good selection of beers and liquors. Unlike the many bars that seem awkward and gaudy in the light of day, New Amsterdam is equally cozy whether you drop by on a Saturday afternoon or a Thursday night (and if you come by on Mondays, you might catch some live jazz). So put some change in the jukebox, order some (Irish) coffee and pull up a dilapidated chair--this just might be the place where everybody knows your name.

No, it isn't the waffles, though they're damn good. It's this little killer deal known as The Hearty Breakfast. For $5.45, Waffle Way will stuff your plumbing with two eggs, bacon or sausage and all the pancakes you can hold without busting or turning a shade of green that only Andy Warhol could love. They'll give you all the butter and syrup you need, too. It's good to be stuffed to the gills, or maybe the jowls, in the morning. If you have leaks in your plumbing, the feeling is doubly good.

The fried mushrooms at Snookie's are everything they should be: plump, juicy and not too greasy. These lightly battered balls of goodness are also just the right size--not so small that all you can taste is the crust, and not so large that the 'shroom overpowers. They're served with ranch dressing and horseradish sauce and extra-long toothpicks, which aid in easy dipping. And dip you will. The horseradish sauce is an excellent touch. At $4.25 and served in a plastic basket, Snookie's fried mushrooms aren't the epitome of class, but they go great with a couple of brewskis and some titillating barroom conversation.

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