Chow, Baby: Wednesday, May 15, 2003
A Cup of Conde, Please

Chow, Baby’s latest brilliant idea for fast, convenient, and cheap dining is to build its own office cafeteria. The plan will be based on the most beautiful in-house cafeteria in the world: the one in New York City’s Conde Nast building, where classy mags like Vogue, GQ, and Vanity Fair are published. The cafeteria’s main aisle is known as the catwalk, where skinny, well-shod women and men with oddly trimmed facial hair choose from whatever pan-world cuisine is fashionable this very instant. With yellow leather banquettes, blue titanium walls, and swoops of glass and blond wood, the Frank Gehry-designed space looks like if-The Matrix-had-a-disco. It’s drop-dead gorgeous. It cost about $30 million.

Obviously this would have to be scaled back a bit for the Fort Worth Weekly building. But plenty of office eateries manage some Conde Nast coolness on a Tarrant County budget. The Blue Tower Deli (soup, sandwiches, and a good $4 cheeseburger) in the Mallick Tower at Summit and 5th St, for example, has gorgeous blue walls, albeit of plaster. But in a building populated by lawyers and accountants, it gets a solid zero for trend-watching.

Fort Worth’s answer to 4 Times Square is The 101 (S. Jennings Ave) Building, a lovingly renovated historic edifice chock full of design and publishing firms. Slinky green-haired creative types lunch at the Wild Bunch, a Subway-style sandwich shop on the ground floor with a Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid motif. Nothing wrong with the subs — your standard array of hot and cold meats and fixin’s, generally $3-4 for a “six shooter” and $4-5 for a “twelve gauge” — but the best dish in the house is the lemonade cake ($1.29). Tastes like a lemon bar, but you don’t keel over from the sugar.

The smell of money led Chow, Baby to Plaza Garden in the Plaza Medical Center West, on 8th Ave near Rosedale. The Rich People’s Hospital, as it is known, sure isn’t making a profit off the food: Chow, Baby’s line dance resulted in a small fruit salad, barbecue chicken, green beans, dinner roll, and flan for $5.86. The “barbecue” of the chicken apparently referred to the method of preparation rather than any flavoring, but still not a bad meal.

The workers at City Hall Cafe put the “civil” in civil servant; amazingly, people who came to work at 6 am were still in a good mood at 9:45, when Chow, Baby rolled in for the breakfast special ($3.25). The eggs were fresh-scrambled and delicious, though the biscuits and hash browns were tired. The hot lunches change daily — typically enchiladas, chicken kebobs, or grilled fish — but the great price stays the same: plate with veggie and starch, $4.95. The best people-watching spot is just outside the café at the Wall of Mayors and City Managers: The weirdly bearded guys who used to run this town would fit right in at the Conde Nast cafeteria.

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