Chow, Baby: Wednesday, July 09, 2003
1 Crow, Medium Rare

Hissy-fitting all the way, Chow, Baby was driven down South Hulen (yech) to a chain restaurant (augh), and greeted by a chirrupy-syrupy hostess (smack). The restaurant was Charleston’s, a stand-alone in the Tom Thumb-anchored strip at Hulen and Bellaire. It’s one of a dozen outposts of a Norman, Okla.-based chain that’s part of the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, which is a franchise partner of Dallas-based Brinker International (Macaroni Grill, Chili’s, Corner Bakery, Big Bowl). Charleston’s is done up in Macaroni Grill-style classy yet casual: dark wood, exposed brick, and fake gas lamps to match the hostess’ fake smile. Chow, Baby’s sweetie’s favorite co-worker had recommended this place, but Chow, Baby was soooo prepared to hate it.

In full I-dare-you-to-please-me mode, Chow, Baby ordered the stupidest-sounding appetizer on the menu: Shrimp Cargot ($8.95). But a perfectly bad mood was quickly ruined by waitress Laura B., a smart and efficient oasis in a sea of Hulenites. To make matters better, the Shrimp Cargot (served in an escargot plate, see) turned out to be yummy havarti-topped broiled shrimp swimming in ponds of garlic butter. It was a mighty fine dish.

Chow, Baby’s Caesar salad was weak, with no garlic or anchovy kick. The 10-oz Hawaiian top sirloin ($15.95), though, held the memory of its pineapple-soy sauce marinade, and was cooked just to Chow, Baby’s taste, on the cool side of medium rare. Sweetie’s hickory burger ($6.95) was a harmonious balance of beef, bacon, grated cheddar, onions, and smoky hickory sauce. One slice of key lime pie ($5.95) was plenty for two people, and it was deee-lightful, as zesty as the Caesar was not, plus a great nutty graham crust. As dumbed-down bean-counting chain-restaurant evil goes, Charleston’s is a pleasant surprise. Ask for Laura B.’s section.

Lamb It Up

Chow, Baby loves when relatives and friends come a-visiting, and Chow, Baby can show off Tarrant County’s culinary wizardry: the barbecue, the chicken-fried, the fresh-from-the-ranch steakhouses. But Chow, Baby’s presumably adopted sister is vegetarian. Chow, Baby loves her anyway, pretty much, and took her over to Tandoor Indian Restaurant in Arlington’s own Little United Nations, Fielder Plaza.

Chow, Baby has oft partaken of Tandoor’s fabulous lunch buffet ($6.40), a greatest-hits selection of Northern India curries and stews and tandoori meats and so much more. This rare dinner excursion was less cost-effective, but the service made Chow, Baby feel like royalty. Chicken korma ($10.95) was fit for a rajah, with tender meat simmered in a mild almond and cream sauce. Sis’ sag paneer ($8.95), spicy spinach and homemade cheese sautéed with cream, could have used some chunks of lamb (in Chow, Baby’s opinion), but Sis loved it as it was. Weirdo.

Our meal began with spicy potato-pea pies known as samosas ($2.75) and a yogurt salad called kashmiri raiti ($1.75), and ended with not enough room for dessert. Next time we’ll save tummy space for the kulfi pistewali and the shahi rasmalai — milk, cream, cheese, and pistachios sound good. Be better with lamb, though.

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