Virginia B. Wood's three sure-fire dining suggestions that will provide enough of a respite from traffic horrors to allow other drivers to suffer in the snarl while you relax over a delightful meal.

Traffic Problems Solved

If I really had a workable solution to our horrendous local traffic nightmare, I wouldn't still be living in a rent house and working for a living. What I do have is three sure-fire dining suggestions that will provide enough of a respite from the aforementioned traffic horrors to allow other drivers to suffer in the snarl while you relax over a delightful meal. I found myself in Northwest Hills one late afternoon recently, and rather than inch my way south along the MoPac with thousands of others, I ducked into Cafe Mia (3573 Far West Blvd, 342-9570) for an iced mocha latte and was pleasantly surprised to find many new menu items. Chef/owner Adrian Creasey has added several new sauté dishes as well as a list of pastas with prices ranging from $6.50 for spaghetti and meatballs to $9.25 for Sirloin Bearnaise. My favorite that particular day was the Trout à la Meuniere ($8.25), a fresh fillet lightly coated in seasoned flour and sautéed in lemon butter, served on a bed of orzo pasta and wilted spinach, a perfect light dinner. The Frutti di Mare ($8.50) offers a toothsome tangle of shrimp, mussels, and calamari in a spicy Sicilian sauce over plenty of penne pasta, and the Saltimbocca ($8.75) features fettuccine topped with pork tenderloin medallions, mushrooms, and spinach in a sage wine sauce. Each affordable entrée comes packed with simple, savory sauces and big hunks of fresh, homemade focaccia. Cafe Mia offers a comfortable place to eat in, and all the entrées work fine as takeout food as well. At the moment, the new items are only available at the Northwest location. Creasey plans to add a pasta and sauté line to his West Lake Hills outlet (3663 Bee Caves Rd., 327-1795) later this spring… If the idea of spending your entire lunch break stalled in downtown traffic has you brown bagging it at your desk, consider this: a brisk walk to Sardine Rouge (311 W. Sixth, 473-8642) will reward you with a dynamite lunch menu in a sophisticated setting with reliable professional service. Chef Jimmy Shumake's midday offerings reflect more of an Asian influence than the dinner menu, so look for artfully arranged salads with seared tuna and elegant bento boxes with fillings that change daily. Another great option here is to duck in after work, enjoy a cocktail in the swanky piano bar, and then order dinner between 6 and 7pm when you'll receive a 20% reduction on your food bill. What could be better than missing the five o'clock traffic and saving money at the same time?… The newest shelter from downtown's demon drivers has to be Eddie V's Edgewater Grille (301 E. Fifth, 472-1860), the happening new seafood house from the team that brought you Z'Tejas Cafe and Brio Vista. In only a couple of months, Eddie V's has already built a solid, loyal clientele, and it's easy to understand why. Pull in under the porte cochere at the end of the workday and the valet guys will make your car disappear until well after the traffic subsides. The inviting lounge and large, comfortable dining rooms are manned with staff members skilled in the art of hospitality. While this isn't exactly a bargain establishment, the justly priced seafood menu (no entrées over $20) offers genuine value for the money, the excellent a la carte side dishes are plenty big enough to share family-style, and the desserts are stupendous, both in size and in decadent satisfaction. Two absolutely don't-miss items are the gigantic crab cakes and the hot apple cobbler with cinnamon ice cream. Dine now, drive later.

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Café Mia, Eddie V.'s Edgewater Grille, Sardine Rouge

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