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RESTAURANT REVIEW : Dalt’s Grill Does French Fries Right

Dalt’s Grill isn’t Morton’s, but then Burbank isn’t Beverly Hills, either. Like Morton’s, Dalt’s is usually chock-full of actors, writers and self-styled producers, but many of these industry big shots must be between projects just now.

How can we tell? The ’77 Corollas in the restaurant’s parking garage are a dead giveaway, unless we are dealing with some really eccentric big shots. Then there are all those T-shirts, and no, we are not talking Gianni Versace here.

Dalt’s has all the trappings for an authentic power lunch, though; Deco lamps perched on wooden pillars, a dark, rich, clubby look, and a nifty bar with a shimmering overhead light. The floor, tiled in those little black and white hexagons that you see in school bathrooms, might have been a slight misjudgment. Maybe someone thought it would make the younger executives feel more at home.

Dalt’s presents no problem for those of us with tight expense accounts. There is excellent value for the dollar in this menu full of finger foods, sandwiches and big, indulgent salads. There are even free refills on diet Pepsis. Take that, Peter Morton.

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The TGI Friday’s chain owns the restaurant, so the food is basically unpretentious. Start with the french fries, hand-cut every day and seasoned with a special blend of spices. Have them, in fact, in a large basket topped with bacon, melted cheese, chives and a giant gob of sour cream. (Oh, stop worrying. For all your agent knows, you could be playing two sets of tennis this afternoon.)

The body-conscious--and who isn’t, in this business?--will be pleased to know that most of the big-rep salads are available. I’d steer clear of both Caesars, though, especially the one topped with grilled turkey breast. The dressing is anemic, and the greens are limp.

The Cobb salad isn’t much better, I’m afraid. It comes without crumbled blue cheese, and some infidel in the kitchen has added sprouts to it. My personal choice would be the Southwestern: mixed greens with charbroiled chicken, tomatoes, avocado, Colby cheese, and a creditable pepper-cream house dressing. It’s a good idea, and the flavors blend nicely.

Sandwiches are a better bet here because they don’t monkey around to make an impression. There is a whole section of the menu devoted to club sandwiches, multilayered affairs on delicious whole wheat bread. A stand-up coleslaw comes with the sandwiches, and for an extra dollar you can have those good fries or some wonderfully crisp homemade potato chips.

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The chicken salad club is great, creamy with lots of well-done bacon and provolone cheese underneath. The hamburger club on toast with Thousand Island dressing is a bit heavy, but at least the meat is fresh and tasty. For those who don’t eat clubs, there is a Philly cheese steak with grilled peppers and onions. The steak is sliced nice and thin, but the whole thing is too oily.

The entrees have a Southwestern slant, with fajitas, quesadillas and taquitos commanding most of the attention. Fajitas are lean here, a good charbroiled steak variant or a tangy chicken version (with a bit too much garlic salt). The Southwestern quesadilla is a mountainous, gooey thing without a lot of style: a grilled flour tortilla with beef, jalapenos, onions, peppers, salsa, cheese, guacamole and much more. Go for Dalt’s taquitos instead. They’re crunchy and clean-tasting, with a good shredded chicken filling.

Chicken commands more respect than the other meats here, anyway. The oven-roasted chicken is in a dead heat with the fries for best thing to eat in this restaurant. It’s a half chicken basted in Dijon mustard, white wine and herbs, and the skin crisps up nicely in the oven without drying out the inside. Charbroiled breast of chicken on a bed of sauteed vegetables is fine, too, if a little nondescript.

I wouldn’t order much else from the entree list. The baby back ribs are gristly; the strip steak is tough, and the two pastas are kind of mushy. Chicken fingers, a dish you don’t see often these days, come breaded in a funny batter similar to one found on breaded clams in the Northeast.

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Sigh. You can always have more fries instead.

Dalt’s, with this crowd, could be mistaken for a kind of grown-up soda shop, and the dessert list includes a full-service soda fountain. Dalt’s drizzle cake is a good chocolate mocha concoction topped with vanilla ice cream, and the apple blackberry cobbler is even better, with its thick, crumbly topping rich with brown sugar.

Pass on the rubbery chocolate malt cake and the soggy key lime pie, though. Have a malt, a sundae or an ice cream soda instead. Who knows? As at Schwab’s, you might get discovered here. How do you suppose Lana Turner would have gone over in a T-shirt?

Recommended dishes; Dalt’s loaded fries, $3.95; Southwestern salad, $6.75; oven-roasted chicken, $7.75; chicken salad club, $4.95; Dalt’s drizzle cake, $2.95.

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Dalt’s Grill, 3500 W. Olive Ave., Burbank; (818) 953-7752. Lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Full bar. Parking in garage. All major cards. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $15 to $30.


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