of intimacy—no small miracle in a place that’s almost frantic with activity. Regulars snuggle up to one of two bars to flirt with bartenders, watch ESPN, and nibble snacks, while business types and local celebs like TCU football coach Gary Patterson hold court at tables. The aroma of butter floats upward from the exquisite filet, redolent of the kitchen’s spicy salt-and-pepper blend. Even more luxe, the New York strip induces a serious swoon with its juicy interior. Few things—save perhaps the giant golden bangles of fried onion— can beat the signature crab cake appetizer, ready to be swabbed with sumptuous Cajun lobster sauce. Staffers remain sweet and unruffled, no matter how busy they are or how long you lollygag at your table. 812 Main, 817-877-3999 or delfriscos.com. Dinner Mon—Thur 5—10, Fri & Sat 5—11, Sun 5—9. Also located in Dallas and Houston (as of November 19).
Duce, Fort Worth
• USDA Prime
• Wet-aged for 21 days, then dry-aged in-house for 3 to 7 days
• Seared over flames and finished in oven
Tim Love, the owner of locally famous Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, has finally found the right identity for Duce, his erstwhile Euro-bistro. Now a self-proclaimed “modern steakhouse,” the nearly-two-year-old place has become a destination for a bubbly bar crowd that often sticks around for a spot of supper. Ensconced in an airy room with frosted glass and blond woods, you can be torn between simply listening to the twice-weekly live jazz or giving yourself over to the contemporary menu. Do both, as the music provides a tony backdrop for enjoying whimsies like the taradito sampler. This brilliant Peruvian rendition of sashimi presents combinations like wild salmon with chile paste and tropical fruit and hamachi with minced pear, serrano, and fried garlic. The steaks are lovely, if lonely, on their stark plates. The best cut is the notably tender hanger steak, served sliced on the bias. And, hands down, the best side dish is the pancetta-wrapped asparagus topped with a pearly quail egg, sunny-side up. 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-377-4400 or eatdrinkliveduce.com. Lunch Tue—Sat 11:30—2:30. Dinner Tue—Sat 5—midnight. Closed Sun & Mon.
Steakhouse at the San Luis, Galveston
• USDA Prime
• Dry-aged for 45 days
When Galveston-born chain-restaurant mogul Tilman Fertitta tackles a one-off, he pulls out all the stops. With its mahogany-toned paneling, brass-studded brown leather banquettes, and heraldic lithographs, the curving room off the San Luis Resort lobby feels like one of those private clubs that only recently began admitting women. Among the beef-eaters’ selections, a sixteen-ounce ribeye won the day: Despite being ordered medium, it was juicy and packed with meaty flavor. The twelve-ounce filet mignon suffered the common flaw of that cut; though perfectly medium-rare and fork tender, it lacked deep beefy taste. At $59—the market price that night—the buttery, tender Wagyu steak was a pricey adventure. It had been cut surprisingly thin, but overtones of grain and corn added complexity to the flavor. The sides came skillfully prepared and were more than ample: The crunchy chopped salad could have fed three, the green beans with shallots four, and the one-pound baked potato an army. Happily, the chocolate-amaretto soufflé was perfect for one, with a couple of spoonfuls to share. 5222 Seawall Blvd., in the San Luis Resort; 409-744-1500 or sanluisresort.com. Dinner Tue—Thur 6—10, Fri & Sat 6—11. Closed Sun & Mon.
Wildcatter Steakhouse, Graham
• USDA top Choice
• Wet-aged for 21 days or more
• Grilled over mesquite
Quick—grab your official state highway map, locate the north-central Texas town of Graham (it’s in grid H-15), and run your finger just southeast of town on Texas Highway 16. That’s where your next road trip should take you. The Wildcatter, which opened in December 2004, is a restaurant, resort, spa, and working ranch. It’s located on 1,500 acres atop a ridge that provides a spectacular view of the rolling hills. Start with the smoked cream-cheese-stuffed jalapeños, which come wrapped in bacon and served with homemade ranch dressing. Then cool down with a crisp salad. The one-inch ribeye is grilled to a luscious rosy pink, with juices so abundant they can swamp the plump, slightly charred asparagus. The filet shines as well, a generous medallion of beef that yields to the barest pressure of a knife. If there is a danger here, it’s that the house blend of salt, pepper, beef base, and “secret” ingredients is too strong. Less, frankly, would be more. But with a final glass of wine chosen from a list that earned Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence in 2006 and 2007 and a slice of homemade chocolate cake layered with heavenly “pudding” (think icing), you’ll be happy just to linger and take in the view. 6062 Texas Hwy. 16, about seven miles southeast of Graham; 888-462-9277 or wildcattersteakhouse.com. Open Wed & Thur 5—9, Fri & Sat 5—10, Sun 11—2. Closed Mon & Tue.
Grey Moss Inn, Helotes
• USDA Top Choice
• Grilled over mesquite
The number of couples who have held secret rendezvous here must be astronomical. But how could they resist? Romance fills the air like incense at this oak-shaded cottage in the woods. The flagstone terrace offers the most-secluded tables, but the dining room’s twinkle lights and Provençal-print curtains have a warm appeal too. Now in its seventy-eighth year, the restaurant is prospering under chef Jeff White. The steaks are excellent, grilled over mesquite coals and doused in the Witches’ Brew, a secret basting sauce. Ribeyes and filets arrive precisely cooked, with a delectable char; so does the fabulous venison T-bone, a special that should be snapped up when offered. Sides range from a special of highly creditable potato gnocchi and predictable stuffed twice-baked potatoes to the odd signature cumin-and-cheese squash casserole. If sides are variable, however, the desserts are spectacular, especially the lovely flourless chocolate Queen Nell’s Cake and a creative special, a poppy-seed-pound-cake “tart” that is actually a cake cup brimming with fresh raspberries in a thin butterscotch sabayon. 19010 Scenic Loop Rd. in