Restaurant Review Extravaganza (Week of March 8th)

Here are some of this week's most noteworthy restaurant reviews from across the country:

Broward-Palm Beach

El Guanaco Taqueria y Antojitos

We were already stuffed when we started looking at dessert, having just feasted on fluffy pupusas larded with stringy cheese, crispy fried tostones, and pollo à la plancha smothered with a rustic sofrito of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. But after all that food, what my friend and I really longed for was something sweet to put a sugary punctuation mark at the end of our meal. More >>

Dallas

Tramontana

This ain't your mother's bistro. No, it's your grandmother's. And if you visit Tramontana of an evening, though not too long past the witching hour of 8, you'll likely see a few other people's grannies here too. They'll be accompanied by nicely dressed adult grandchildren and, if some have been bribed to come along, a younger great-grandkid or two, urged to stifle yawns during Meemaw's birthday dinner or risk being cut out of the will. More >>

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Sara Kerens
"If you like your restaurants immutable--same food, same clientele, same scenery--you'll love Tramontana."

Houston

Doyle's

Spaghetti "Works" at Doyle's on 34th Street near T.C. Jester is a heaping pile of spaghetti with the restaurant's Sicilian-style meat and mushroom sugo ladled over the top. Two humongous meatballs perch on the summit of spaghetti. Then comes a topping of melted mozzarella cheese. It is the kind of spaghetti dinner that once defined Italian food in America. More >>

Kansas City

Hamburger Mary's

It's here, it's queer and it serves beer: Hamburger Mary's, a restaurant that does for America's favorite sandwich what Liberace did for classical music. It's flamboyant in every sense of the word, right down to the color of the building. Previously home to Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q and, more recently, a short-lived boxing-themed bar, the building where Southwest Boulevard meets Baltimore in the Crossroads is now the color of a grape-flavored all-day sucker. More >>

Los Angeles

Tasty Noodle House

Tasty Noodle House isthe prototypical Asian restaurant stuck in a corner of the prototypical San Gabriel mall, a few glass-topped tables, a couple of flat screens tuned to the soaps, a half-dozen pretty food photographs posted in the picture window outside. Golden Deli, which is the strip-mall superstar in this part of the world, is just a couple of storefronts to the east. More >>

Miami

Blade Sushi

Blade looks pretty sharp, especially for a dark, windowless room with a low ceiling. Multiple industrial textures (raw wood, stone, concrete, glass) and sexy lighting lend the subterranean space a sleek, lounge-like appeal, even if it's reminiscent of a slots-less casino. A bar that winds across the room features three sushi stations and a whole lotta shakin' of cocktails. More >>

Minneapolis

Piccolo Restaurant

To quickly differentiate the residents who are invested in a neighborhood from those who aren't, just wait till it snows. For the former, it's typically a point of pride (or guilt, perhaps) to keep their sidewalks scraped down to raw concrete. The latter take less responsibility for their share of the commons, leaving the fluffy stuff to be packed down by passersby until the whole stretch turns icy and treacherous. More >>

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Rachel Hutton
The chioggia beet terrine at Piccolo.

New York

Northern Spy

Named after a haunting 1940s showtune, the East Village's Old Devil Moon mounted a menu of what might be called "transgressional cuisine"--things that even the most brazen junk-food addict would concede are not particularly good for you, like Cajun nachos and chicken-fried tofu. When Northern Spy replaced it last November, it was as if the Healthy and Sustainable Fairy had descended from a recycled-water cloud, and affected the substitution with a flick of her wand. More >>

Orange County

Sophy's Thai and Cambodian

Long Beach's Anaheim Street is to Cambodians what OC's Bolsa Avenue is to Vietnamese. And for close to eight years, one of the most successful and beloved restaurants there was Sophy's Thai and Cambodian. But in late 2008--a year after the largest community of Khmers outside Southeast Asia finally got city officials to designate them as the country's first Cambodia Town--Sophy's was forced to move out. Its landlord refused to renew the lease. More >>

Phoenix

La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop

I have a good feeling about La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop.

A few days ago, I bumped into a couple of pals at this new spot on 16th Street, and one of them seemed surprised that we actually had the run of the place. More >>

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Jackie Mercandetti
"Scrumptious tacos (left) and deep-fried quesadillas are getting La Condesa a lot of buzz."

Seattle

Mistral Kitchen

It was after dark on a Friday, the floor three-quarters committed, and I was scribbling careful, blind notes along the seam of my blue jeans, my hand moving out of sight beneath the edge of the counter that runs the length of Mistral Kitchen's open center line. More >>

St. Louis

Balaban's Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar

If Balaban's Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar is meant to evoke nostalgia, then I must admit upfront that I'm not the ideal audience. I wasn't yet born when Herbie Balaban opened his iconic restaurant in the Central West End; by the time I did review it, 35 years later, it was in its final iteration, the menu purged of beef Wellington, cucumber bisque and other Balaban's classics, the see-and-be-seen bar purged of smokers (and, thus, vacant). I liked this "new" Balaban's, but St. Louis diners didn't cotton to the changes: In January 2008 the restaurant closed its doors. More >>