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Café Zol, Houston and Medina Oven & Bar, Dallas
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Houston This charming spot offers an intriguing selection of what it calls “Scandinavian tapas.” The lobster chowder with crawfish and the Exotic House Salad of greens, grapes, and kiwi whetted our appetite for an amalgam of flavors and textures. Give serious consideration to the shrimp in phyllo with spinach and Gorgonzola. And if you can’t make up your mind between the Swedish or Danish meatballs, have both (the Swedish ones are boiled and made of beef and pork, while the Danish, the more popular choice, are a pan-seared mix of beef and turkey). Lunchtime specials include comfort foods like chicken and dumplings and some tempting open-faced sandwiches. Bar. 2411 S. Shepherd Dr (713-522-4700). Open Mon–Sat 11–midnight. Closed Sun. $$ W+
Medina Oven & Bar
Dallas We like the intimacy of this Victory Park newcomer, where dramatic wrought iron, tile floors, tantalizing aromas, and vivid colors evoke visions of Morocco. A generous platter of pita bread with hummus, smoked eggplant, and harissa preceded the Marrakesh chicken tagine: braised breast meat served atop sliced potatoes in a savory lemon-infused sauce that just begged to be sopped up with puffy pita. Bar. 2304 Victory Park Ln (214-979-0003). Open Mon–Thur 11–10, Fri 11–11, Sat noon–11, Sun noon–10. $$ W+