Chow, Baby: Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Exit, Smiling

Chow, Baby’s newest favorite-est waitress is Melinda, over at Rise & Shine on Altamesa, who says things like “If you don’t eat all that I’m going to rub the leftovers in your hair.” Chow, Baby and companion weren’t worried about our plate-cleaning abilities. When we set out for Rise & Shine, Chow, Baby’s typical-male companion promised he knew right where the restaurant was: “across from a church on Altamesa.” Turns out there are a lot of churches on Altamesa. Two hours later, after cruising from Everman to Lake Benbrook and back, we spied the place — across from St. Bartholomew, just west of McCart — and entered, starving.

Omelets are the specialty here, and unlike some mini-Mussolini places that cut you off at 10 or 11am, Rise & Shine serves breakfast all day (6am-2:30pm). This is probably because it takes all day to pick one of the 54 omelet varieties ($3.50-$4.75, with grits, home fries, or hash browns): Shall it be roast beef, mushroom, and garlic? Asparagus, cream cheese, and tomato? Cottage cheese and onion? Spaghetti sauce and jack cheese? Chow, Baby chose the corned beef hash and cheddar cheese omelet, made with three eggs and cooked to that perfect point where the cheese is melted gooey but the eggs aren’t too dry.

Rise & Shine has quite a spread of burgers, sandwiches, lunch plates, and salads, too; Chow, Baby’s companion’s chiliburger ($3.95) was a half pound or so of ground beef doused with heartwarming homemade chili, perfect on this cold, rainy day. What prompted Melinda’s threat was our side order of “biscuit debris” ($3.25), which turned out to be a meal in itself: two large homemade biscuits, split in half and swimming in cream gravy with melted cheese and morsels of ham and sausage. We couldn’t quite finish the dish, but Melinda let us leave without wearing it. Darn.

Chow, Baby had a much better guide on its excursion to Tastebuds. Not only had this escort been to the place before, and was able to backseat-drive straight to the corner of Riverside Dr. and Berry St., he offered many helpful tips along the way: “Hurry up before they run out of the broccoli-rice casserole.” “If they have the turkey tetrazzini today, get that. Or the lasagna.” “Be sure to save room for the pecan pie.” Please don’t talk about dessert while Chow, Baby’s trying to pay attention to the road.

Tastebuds has survived for 13 years in a teeny space (three tables; take-out is big here) in a shabby building in a neglected part of town. Must be the food, a zesty merger of Texas homecooking and Stop Six soul food. It’s mostly about the daily specials (around $6 for lunch, $8 for dinner); between its own lunch, its friends’ lunches, and take-out, Chow, Baby got to try the tetrazzini, baked chicken, double-cut baked pork chop, and a glazed jerk chicken breast almost too pretty to eat. They were wonderful. The sides — particularly the garlic mashed potatoes and, yes, the broccoli-rice casserole — are wonderful. The homemade soups are wonderful. The homemade desserts are wonderful. You should go.

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