Chow, Baby: Wednesday July 23, 2003
Signs from Above

One of Chow, Baby’s favorite driving games, second only to shrieking at cell-phone-using, lane-drifting morons, is closing its eyes for five minutes or so while cruising the highways. The eye-opening payoff is in trying to discern solely from the chain configurations exactly what ’burb you’re now in. For 20 points: If you see a Chili’s on the southeast corner and a Don Pablo’s on the northwest, where are you? OK, what if both are on the north side? (Answers below.)

Billboard-watching is another fine distraction: There goes “ZiegenBock: Making Fun of Punier States Since 1845” — as if this brew were some outlaw small-batch out of Amarillo rather than one of 38 beer and “malternative” products from Missouri-based macrobrewer Anheuser-Busch. More disturbing to Chow, Baby than Lone Star-hitching is sibling-ignoring, as evidenced by a huge board near downtown that touts the fabulous Byblos and Hedary’s but omits Celaborelle Phoenician Buffet, also owned by a Hedary family member.

Celaborelle is the discount outlet of Middle Eastern dining. The setting, in a refurbished historic house at 2257 Hemphill, is not nearly as exotic as hookah-festooned Byblos’, and the variety of the buffet can’t touch Hedary’s Sunday brunch ($11.95). But Celaborelle’s dishes are not last season’s; everything on the $5.95 buffet (lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Fri-Sat) — from tangy hummus and yogurt, through kafta, kibbi, and falafel, all the way to seven varieties of baklava — tastes fresh-made and oh, so good. Chow, Baby was frightened earlier this summer when Celaborelle closed its doors for awhile, but happily it’s now business as usual. Chow, Baby is pleased to do the advertising for them.

On I-30 near Fielder is this message writ large: “Mezza Restaurant: Because We’ve Never Heard of You Either.” Charmed, Chow, Baby ignored all other signs, including speed-limit ones, to zoom to 1015 Cedarland Blvd, off Collins and Randol Mill. And just a few blocks from the Ballpark appeared a magical villa, nestled in herb gardens and tomato plants and vines of green and white eggplant. This produce is lovingly featured in the Mediterranean-eclectic menu, to which chef/co-owner Jacque Arnondin adds Creole/Cajun touches like the authentically perky remoulade sauce that graced our fried asparagus appetizer ($4.95). Fresh-picked grape leaves enveloped spiced beef and rice for scrumptious dolmas ($7.50); Chow, Baby’s ravioli stuffed with shrimp scampi (dinner special, $14.95) was the best of all worlds. Mezza also grows the figs for the marvelously spicy fig-habanero barbecue sauce that perked up Chow, Baby’s companion’s grilled pork tenderloin ($16.95), served with just-picked-rosemary mashed potatoes.

After all that deliciousness, crème brûlée and tiramisu ($5.95 each) seemed merely average. Happily, Mezza (sadly, now open for dinner only) is playing to its first-course strengths with a new Tuesday and Thursday all-evening-long happy hour of half-priced appetizers: dolmas, baked brie with fresh basil, fried eggplant, and other goodies from its gardens.

Answers: (a) Airport Fwy at Central Dr, Bedford; (b) Are you nuts, driving blind for that long? You’re at Hwy 183 and Belt Line in Irving. Turn around and play again.

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