Cafe Madrid
Jerry Jeff Walker immortalized it in song. Chain restaurants often lace their margaritas with it. Even Boone's Farm has a version of the concoction. In spite of all that, we love that sangria wine. And at Spanish tapas bar Cafe Madrid, we really love it. Their sangria is a mixture of red wine and...well, we can't tell you the rest, something about a "trade secret." But whatever, the stuff is good, and in the summer months, you can opt for a white sangria that's made with cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, and some other stuff we can't tell you about. It's cool and refreshing and yummy, and the mystery just makes it all the more exciting. And if you like to do a little snacking with your drinking, the eatery's tapas selection offers some excellent complements to the fruity beverage. Just a note, though: If, like us, you've never been accused of being the brightest crayon in the box, and you can't figure out why the menu doesn't make sense, look to your right; the other side is in English. Yeah. Have some more sangria.

Freebirds World Burrito
Well, Dallas finally got The Bird. First it was College Station (in 1990), then Austin (in 1999) and Houston (in 2001), but it seemed Big D might get lost in the shuffle. So when Freebirds World Burrito opened this spring in the Old Town shopping center, the lines that formed outside made it clear that this grand opening was a long time coming. Freebirds makes the best burrito this side of the border, any border, ever. But the customer has a lot to do with that, considering all the options The Bird offers for its burritos. Sizes range from a half to a super monster, and there are four types of tortillas, six kinds of sauces and ingredients too numerous to mention. Let's just say there's a bunch of 'em, and they're mighty tasty. If you opt for the monster or super monster, though, be prepared for leftovers.

The Meridian Room
We used to think that our old college roommate's homemade pia coladas were the best possible use for pineapple juice. They were so good we almost didn't mind the brain freeze we got trying to hide the evidence from our dorm monitor. But, you see, we had yet to discover The Scza. While the name (pronounced skee-za) sounds like something you might hear on Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, and, in fact, it is off da hizzle fo' shizzle, there's nothing ghetto about this Meridian Room original. A combination of vanilla vodka, coconut rum and pineapple juice, The Scza is the perfect beverage for summer or spring or any other season. Admittedly, the drink is pretty girly, and the cherry that tops it off doesn't help matters, but take this opportunity to get in touch with your feminine side. And if you're able, do it on the first Monday of the month, when The Meridian Room hooks up with Good Records for Good Music Monday. You'll have the chance to listen to new releases, win prizes and sip on half-price draft beers. Definitely worth a trip to Exposition Park.

Cosmic Café
Catherine Downes
Dining vegetarian frequently involves ordering a salad (hold the ham cubes), second-guessing whether the soup may have been cooked with chicken stock or leaving hungry. None of these applies at Cosmic Café. It's all vegetarian, much of it is vegan and we still haven't found a dish we don't like. Though it's Indian-inspired, there are also enchiladas, beans and rice, salads, sandwiches, a burger (meatless, of course) and a personal pizza in addition to samosas, dahl, curried vegetables, nan and pappadam. The desserts are even vegan. You won't miss the meat, we promise. C'mon, even our mom likes it.
Peggy Sue BBQ
We suspect Peggy Sue's gets ignored by Texas Monthly and other established barbecue-rating agencies because it's in the Park Cities--and what-inna-world would those stiffs know about 'cue? We are here to assure you that the barbecue world is a classless society, and besides, Peggy Sue's wagon-wheel décor and early-'60s house music will make you feel right at home. Anyway, why fret over prissy details? Barbecue is about meat, and if you can find a sweeter, meltier, crunchy-on-the-outsidier example of a baby back rib, by all means, ship us a box of them right away. We also like Peggy Sue's big selection of sides, starting with the tangy vinegar-based coleslaw and the old-fashioned fries.
Sal's Pizza
For all but the heartiest eaters, $7 goes someplace at Sal's, someplace good. For $7, you can get a massive slice of Neapolitan (thin crust) pizza with one topping and a nice garden salad, or a bowl of ziti with fresh tomato sauce, or that old standby, a big plate of spaghetti. No wonder in these difficult times business seems as good as ever.

Ask Americans about their heritage and almost invariably they will mention some distant Irish or Italian ancestor who fled the old country during a famine or riot or depressing film festival. Reconnecting with our Irish roots is a simple matter involving buckets of whiskey and a bloody brawl. Finding the inner Italian, on the other hand, requires more authenticity. Arcodoro & Pomodoro prepares true Sardinian cuisine in a space designed to mimic the rustic elegance of an Italian street-side cafe. More important, they serve grappa--more than 12 varieties--and other traditional liqueurs. Nothing says "I'm Italian" better than a day spent sipping the vicious remnants of the grapevine, bottled neatly and served in a deceptively narrow glass. Grappa packs enough wallop to put hair on a woman's upper lip.

Ozona Grill & Bar
Be honest, most salsas that restaurants bring out with the premeal basket of chips taste pretty much the same. The only difference is whether they're mild, hot or nuclear. Unless, that is, you're dipping into Ozona's unique blend of fire-roasted tomatoes, jalapeos and lots of fresh garlic that make up a West Texas-style salsa that will have you returning for more. Served warm, it'll get the sweat beading but won't leave blisters on the roof of your mouth. And it's a bonus to be able to dip it or spread it over your entrée while seated in the recently remodeled tree-covered patio.
No, Frito pie wasn't invented in a double-wide disposal. Daisy Dean Doolin, mother of Elmer Doolin, the Frito Company founder, concocted the recipe in the kitchen of her San Antonio home way back in 1932 in the depth of the Great Depression. At Sonny Bryan's downtown tunnel location, they substitute chopped brisket for ground beef in the $4.99 Thursday Frito pie special, and it makes for a monster dish. The beef is mixed with Fritos corn chips, barbecue sauce, beans, chives and cheese. You also get a small drink. Dave "The Baron of Beef" Rummel, the store's manager, says Thursdays have become the shop's biggest day of the week partly because of the rising popularity of this down-home dish. Ham, sausage, chicken and the very tasty pulled pork are featured the other days of the week. In these lean times, Mrs. Doolin's hearty invention should keep you feeling fat until dinner, if not into the middle of next week.
Penne Pomodoro
The criteria here are a restaurant where you are comfortable taking the kids and where you actually like the food. Not an easy order, at least until you find the pasta pleasures offered at this reasonably priced Park Cities eatery. Sharply designed--it was the old Café A--with a nice sidewalk patio, Penne Pomodoro serves some of the best hearty pasta dishes in town. Given the liberal smattering of tykes around every time we've been there, it's obvious that the word is out: This is a family place. If you think your mother could make lasagna, you'll stop boasting after you try the massive, sizzling, subtly flavored square served here. For those looking for a little less calorie loading, there's a nice selection of fish specials, led by the spicy fisherman's stew.

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