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DINER'S GUIDE

Ten Top Tongues' Tastes of Choice

It's a big country with food that's getting better all the time, so coming up with the best restaurants in America could be a daunting task. We tackled it by asking the food critics in 10 cities their favorites. Prices listed are for dinner.

The 10 cities:
Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington

Meet Phyllis Richman, food critic for the Washington Post, online at OBS: click on Talking Rolodex


ATLANTA

Hordes will flock to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Christiane Lauterbach, the dining critic for Atlanta Magazine, suggests some of the finer places to dine.

Brasserie Le Coze
3393 Peachtree Rd., Lenox Square Mall; 404-266-1440
French Bistro; Entrees $10 to $20
Best French restaurant in town; authentic, unpretentious food.
Buckhead Diner
3073 Piedmont Rd.; 404-266-1440
American; Entrees $7.50 to $17.50
The glamour spot of the Big Peach, creative American cuisine coupled with visiting celebrities such as Elton John.
The Dining Room
3434 Peachtree Rd. NE,; 404-237-2700
Creative continental; Prix fixe, $56, $80 w/ wine.
The best restaurant in Atlanta; renowned chef Gunter Seeger creates daring and fresh seasonal cuisine.
Flying Biscuit Cafe
1655 McClendon Ave. at Clifton Rd.; 404-687-8888
Southern-reg.; Entrees $5.95 to $12.95
The best breakfast, available all day, great biscuits, vegetarian specialties, and full-scale dishes as well.
The Horseradish Grill
4320 Powers Ferry Rd.; 404-255-7277
Southern-reg.; Entrees $8.95 to $18.95
Traditional southern cooking translated for the modern world.

BOSTON

Mat Schaffer, the restaurant critic for Boston Magazine, makes his picks.

Grill 23 & Bar
161 Berkeley St.; 617-542-2255
American; Entrees $18 to $28
Try the prime sirloin; it's aged 21 days and grilled to taste.
Carl's Pagoda
23 Tyler St.; 617-357-9837
Chinese; Entrees $4.75 to $17.95
Asking for the menu at this hole-in-the-wall Cantonese restaurant brands you a neophyte so remember: tomato soup, clams in black bean sauce, fried oysters, whole steamed fish, ginger lobster, chicken and broccoli, Carl's special steak, scrambled eggs and shrimp, Chinese sausage and broccoli, and pork lo mein with Carl's rice.
East Coast Grill
1271 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 617-491-6568
American; Entrees $11.75 to $18.25
Aggressively seasoned meats, poultry, seafood cooked over wood. Served in a crowded, noisy, fun atmosphere.
Hamersley's Bistro
553 Tremont St.; 617-423-2700
French Provencale; Entrees $19 to $28
Simple, sophisticated, honest, delicious food; the cassoulet and seafood will transport you to Provence.
Rowes Wharf Restaurant
70 Rowes Wharf; 617-439-3995
New England; Entrees $18 to $35
Exceptional cuisine well worth the price; try the house-cured maple-smoked Atlanta salmon.

CHICAGO

Phil Vitell, the restaurant critic for the Chicago Tribune, names his top picks.

Aruns
4156 N. Kedzie Ave.; 312-539-1909
Thai; Entrees $13.95 to $23.95
A beautiful dining room with museum-quality art is combined with culinary excellence.
Everest
440 South La Salle St.; 312-663-8920
French; Entrees $28 to $32
Located on the 40th floor of a building. Try the pork cheeks with lentils.
Topolobampo Frontera Grill
445 N. Clark St.; 312-661-1434
Mexican; Entrees $14 to $21, Grill, $8 to $17
Two restaurants in one space, Topolobampo is a smaller, more upscale dining room, while Frontera is more crowded and casual. Both offer unsurpassed regional Mexican food.
Trio
1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston; 708-733-8746
Fusion-American; Entrees $23 to $38
Brilliant cross-cultural cuisine served in dazzlingly artistic presentations often including slabs of granite or marble.
Vivere
71 W. Munroe; 312-332-4040
Italian; Entrees $16 to $22
Light, stylishly presented, contemporary Italian food.

DALLAS

Dallas Morning News lifestyles editor Dotty Griffith's favorites are less upscale than the renowned Mansion at Turtle Creek, and a little more off the beaten path.

City Cafe
5757 W. Lovers Lane; 214-351-2233
Regional American; Entrees $13 to $19.
Seasonally based, creative food with a menu that changes every two weeks.
Matt's Rancho Martinez
Lakewood Plaza 6312 La Vista Dr.; 214-823-5517
Tex-Mex; Entrees $7.25 to $15.75
Stupendous chiles rellenos.
The Palm Restaurant
701 Ross Ave. at Market; 214-698-0470
American; Entrees $14 to $25
Steaks, lobsters, and the beautiful people crowd.
Star Canyon
3102 Oaklawn Ave, Suite 144; 214-520-7827
New Texas; Entrees $14 to $23
Sophisticated food with Texas roots. Favorite dish: chilled shrimp and jicama soup with fresh buttermilk and basil.
Sonny Bryan's
2202 Inwood Rd.; 214-357-7120
Traditional Bar-B-Q; $5 to $12
Ribs and brisket so good that people often stop in on their way to the airport.

LOS ANGELES

Irene Virbila, the restaurant editor for the Los Angeles Times, made picks that varied as much in style as they did in price--from under $10 all the way up to $300.

The Bar Bistro at Citrus
6703 Melrose Ave.; 213-857-0034
French; Entrees $9.50 to $17.50
French comfort food from the same kitchen as Michel Richard's French-California flagship, Citrus.
Campanile
624 S. La Brea Blvd.; 213-938-1447
California-Mediterranean; Entrees $15 to $26
Great breakfasts and lunches. At dinner try the flattened grilled chicken with parsley salad or the bistecca fiorentina.
Chinois on Main
2709 Main St., Santa Monica; 310-329-9025
East-West fusion; Entrees $19 to $29
Wolfgang Puck's--the creator of L.A. restaurant/institution, Spago--best restaurant yet.
Ginza Sushi-Ko
218 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills 90210; 310-247-8939
Japanese; Entrees $200 to $300
The most expensive restaurant in Los Angeles, this exquisite little sushi bar has the fish flown in daily from Japan.
Valentino
3115 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica; 310-829-4313
Italian; Entrees $18 to $25
Possibly the best Northern Italian restaurant in North America. Instead of ordering from the menu, ask chef Piero Selvaggio to prepare a series of small courses.

MIAMI

Not just for grandparents anymore, Miami these days is hot, filled with celebrities, models, and great restaurants. Geoffrey Tomb, a restaurant critic at the Miami Herald, surveys the scene.

Chef Allen's Restaurant
19088 N.E. 29th Ave.,; 305-935-2900
Fusion-American; Entrees $22.95 to $29.95
Don't miss the 16-ounce veal chop with double mustard sauce, wild-mushroom risotto, and ginger-flavored calabaza.
Didiers
2530 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-567-2444
Neo-French; Entrees $14.75 to $23.95
Lush, earthy combinations such as essence of farm cream in lentils with poached salmon.
Le Sandwicherie
229 14th St.; 305-532-8934
Casual fare; Entrees $5 to $10
Open till 5 a.m. on weekends, this sidewalk joint is as likely to serve people in tuxedoes as cab drivers.
Osteria del Teatro
1443 Washington Ave.; 305-538-7850
Italian; $14 to $24
Excellent Italian food and maybe the best restaurant in town. Emphasis is on seafood.
The Raleigh Restaurant
1775 Collins Ave.; 305-534-1775
Creative American; Entrees $9 to $19
A 1940s gem; the ghost of Esther Williams lives here. Sit outside and order the warm goat cheeseDpotato cakes.

NEW YORK

Five restaurants, impossible! That was Florence Fabricant, a food and restaurant columnist for the New York Times, who couldn't get her list down to five. We let her cheat a little.

Cité
120 W. 51st St.; 212-956-7100
Fusion French; Entrees $19.50 to $26.50
The food here reflects chef Claude Proistros's great French heritage intertwined with the vibrancy of his 10 years in Brazil--all in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
Gotham Bar and Grill
12 E. 12th St.; 212-620-4020
American; Entrees $10 to $32
The finesse of Alfred Portale's food arranged in breathtaking pinnacles matches the celebratory, high-ceilinged space in which it is so deftly served.
Le Bernadin
155 W. 51st St.; 212-489-1515
French; Entrees $68
Sublime seafood. Two greats: Winey sea bass with mashed potatoes or silken roast cod.
Le Cirque
58 E. 65th St.; 212-794-9292
French; Entrees $22 to $32
A wondrous restaurant, tiny copper casseroles with exotic mushrooms, a simple bouquet of vegetables bathed in olive oil, and heady lobster risotto.
Nobu
105 Hudson St.; 212-219-0500
Fusion; Dinner $45 to $50
The most inventively delicious food in town: Deep-fried kelp adorns roasted lobster nuggets or caviar on seared tuna.
Remi
145 W. 53rd St.; 212-581-4242
Italian; Entrees $15 to $28
Francesco Antonnuci unerringly commands pasta, risotto, foie gras, anchovies, duck, salmon, and zabaglione.

SAN FRANCISCO

The challenge of good eating in San Francisco is the transient nature of restaurants there, says Michael Bauer, the restaurant critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. His picks:

The French Laundry
6040 Washington St., Yountville; 707-944-2380
French; Prix Fixe $49
The $49 menu includes five courses all reminiscient of a three-star country restaurant in France.
Fringale
570 Fourth St. at Bryant; 415-543-0573
French; Entrees $10 to $15
The best casual French restaurant in San Francisco; don't miss the mussels flecked with parsley and fried garlic.
Masas
648 Bush St.; 415-989-7154
French; Prix Fixe $68 to $75
A great special-occasion restaurant with a four- to six-course classic French menu.
Yank Sing
427 Battery St.; 415-781-1111
Chinese; Entrees $10 to $15
Unparalleled dim sum, minced squab in crunchy lettuce cups, and Peking duck with sweet, doughy buns.
Zuni Cafe
1658 Market; 415-552-2522
American; Entrees $10 to $28
Great people-watching and casual food. Signature dishes: chicken with bread salad and hamburger on foccacia.

SEATTLE

Tom Sietsema, the food and restaurant critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, defines his favorite restaurants by the ones he returns to over and over again. Five of his regulars:

Cafe Campagne
1600 Post Alley; 206-728-2233
French; Entrees $6.95 to $14.95
A fantastic, gourmet meal-to-go place with a tiny bar serving samplings of upscale wine and appetizers.
Lampreia
2400 First Ave.; 206-443-3301
American; Entrees $19 to $22
A luxurious and seasonal menu; opt for the cheese course after dinner, which includes handcrafted local samples.
Macrina Bakery
2408 First Ave.; 206-448-4032
American; Entrees $8 to $20
The bakery is well known for its rustic loaves and European coffee cakes, but the witty little cafe adjoining the bakery also turns out excellent lunches and dinners.
Pirosmani
2220 Queen Ann Ave.; 206-285-3360
Georgian; Entrees $16-$22
Inspired food from the Republic of Georgia, which also embraces the sunny flavors of the Mediterranean.
The Herb Farm
32804 Southeast IssaquahDFall City Rd., Fall City; 206-784-2222
Regional; Prix Fixe $115
An extraordinary restaurant 30 minutes east of Seattle. The prix fixe price includes nine herb-infused courses.

WASHINGTON

Phyllis Richman, the food critic for the Washington Post, recommends:

Galileo
1110 21st St., NW; 202-293-7191
Italian; Entrees $18 to $28
Chef Roberto Donna's pappardelle and risotto with first-of-the-season alba truffles are famous.
Inn at Little Washington
Middle & Main St., Washington, Va.; 703-675-3800
New American; Full course $78 to $98
Self-taught American chef Patrick O`Connell coaxes wonders out of local ingredients such as Virginia ham, Chesapeake Bay crabs, berries, and herbs. A bit of a drive from the District.
Jean-Louis at the Watergate
2650 Virginia Ave., NW; 202-298-4488
French; Full course $45 to $95
Fans know to make sure that Jean-Louis will be in town when they make a reservation.
Kinkead's
2000 Pennsylvannia Ave., NW; 202-296-7700
American; Entrees $14.50 to $24
Regional seafood shines here in an informal and energetic atmosphere.
Obelisk
2029 P St., NW; 202-872-1180
Italian; Prix Fixe $38
A tiny restaurant that personifies Italian simplicity--excellent wine and grappa.


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