Chow, Baby: Wednesday, August 20, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Gravy on Troubled Waters

It’s been a busy week for Chow, Baby’s e-mail server. The same login brought a complaint from Harold R. about a lack of decent chicken-fried steak in this town and a rave from Jim A. over the chicken-fried at Julie’s Fresh Kitchen, 6256 McCart. Chow, Baby was torn: In previous communications, both men have earned their foodie cards, displaying intelligence, taste, and judgment. Most likely, both are also exceptionally good-looking. Whom to trust?

Sorry, Harold; Jim wins this round. One bite of Julie’s chicken-fried steak ($6.60) summoned all the clichés: nearly greaseless, fork-cuttable real beef, hand-cut and hand-tenderized, battered when you order it and not a moment before, topped with rich cream gravy. It’s served with a choice of two vegetables; of course, normal people will select the chunky homemade mashed potatoes and the crunchy fried okra. There are a dozen other options for the deviants.

Julie’s is one of those homecooked-breakfast-and-lunch-in-a-strip-mall spots that make Chow, Baby so happy it lives in Texas, even in August. Owners Jody and Cynthia Helton keep a nice menu of eggs and pancakes; daily specials like pot roast, chicken-and-dumplings, and meatloaf; burgers and catfish; and soup and salads, all served with fresh-baked yeast rolls and homemade not-sweet cornbread. Over made-from-scratch cobbler à la mode ($2.25), Chow, Baby reminisced about other joyful chicken-fried meals: at Fred’s, West Side Café, Tommy’s, 7th St. Café, Sandy’s, Main Street Café, intermittently at Dixie House — no, Chow, Baby can’t agree that Tarrant County is a chicken-fried desert. Sorry, Harold. Write again soon.

Bloody Good Soup

Nobody asked where to find the best pork liver/heart/stomach/blood soup in town, which is a shame because Chow, Baby knows the answer to that one: Phuong, Door 5 in the Vietnam Plaza cluster of restaurants and shops on Belknap near Beach. Chow, Baby was on a mission to broaden its horizons beyond its beloved standby Pho Nam (Door 1 in the same plaza) and its own-neighborhood Pho 747 on East Lancaster. This is because Chow, Baby, as it does every August, is eating everything in the county as research for September’s Best Of issue, and not because it had a particular craving for blood soup. Just so you know.

Of course, Phuong offers more than pork blood. The 16 goat dishes, all around $10, range from the simple (goat with broccoli) to the intriguing (goat with potato and Indian curry). Appetizers include fresh-made pork or shrimp rice-paper rolls ($2.75) and a choice of meats — roast pork, grilled beef, chicken-liver sausage — misleadingly described as “served with French bread” — they’re actually decent-sized sandwiches, darn near a meal for $2.75. Phuong also serves a decent pho, the traditional beef noodle soup ($4.25/$4.75), and a zillion combinations of rice or vermicelli with beef or pork or chicken or fish or shrimp or crab. Or goat. Unfortunately Chow, Baby left its to-go order of stir-fried goat and mushrooms ($9.75) in the car for several days, so that particular horizon remains unbroadened. Next visit for sure.


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