Chow, Baby: Wednesday, April 10, 2003
Deep-Fry that Diet

Chow, Baby is not given to self-denial, but it does envy people who are on a diet, in one respect: the guilty pleasure of breaking it at Zeke’s Fish & Chips. True, Zeke’s keeps shrimp salad and baked catfish on hand for the size 2 wannabes, but just about everything else is wonderfully, gloriously, deliciously deep-fried. You name it — fish, fowl, veggie — Zeke’s will dunk it in batter and turn it into a golden crispy treat.

Zeke’s is unceremonious, in the Austin mode: Enter the shack (at 5920 Curzon, just off the 5900 block of Camp Bowie), choose from the menu above the counter, take a seat at a booth or in the muraled back garden, and wait for your meal to arrive. Chow, Baby ordered the fish & oyster combo ($8.25) and received a family dinner: three toy-submarine-sized pieces of thick-battered Icelandic cod, crusty on the outside and smoothly flaky within; more than half a dozen crunchity oysters in a peppery cornmeal ’do; a pile of pencil-stub hush puppies; a handful of tender deep-fried mushrooms; and spears of lightly cornmeal-coated eggplant. Only a professionally trained non-dieter like Chow, Baby could also fit in some of a companion’s fried okra and heavenly corn nuggets, both golden brown without and juicy-fresh within. Chow, Baby, who is happy to be built for comfort, not speed, highly recommends the homemade brownies (60 cents), too.

Stick to Those Ribs

It was one of those beautiful “Let’s see where this road goes” spring days when Chow, Baby and its sweetie left Weston Gardens, a contra-MegaMart gardening center on Anglin Drive in far south Fort Worth. (This was a futile expedition to find some budding beauty for Chow, Baby’s backyard, a rocky place where flower seed can find no purchase.) The country drive was equally abortive, as Anglin Drive continues for less than half a mile before hard-righting into Enon Avenue, the secondary drag of Everman, a south Tarrant County town of 6,000 souls and one barbecue joint that Chow, Baby could smell from blocks away. It smelled gooooood.

The perfume in the air comes from the ribs and beef slow-smoked out back behind Hickory Stick Bar-B-Q, at 900 E. Enon just off Forest Hill. The taste lived up to the promise: The charred brisket was so tender that it couldn’t be pierced with a fork but had to be shoveled in; the smoky sausage (combo plate, $8.10) was, if possible, even more flavorful. Standard sides — beans, potato salad, slaw, corn — were homestyle fresh.

The ramshackle joint looks as though no outsider had set foot there in 25 years, but a framed newspaper clipping proved that wrong: Hickory Stick was the 2001 Staff Choice for Best Barbecue in Fort Worth Weekly’s Best of the West-O-Plex. Either Chow, Baby’s last remaining memory chip is shot or it was out sick the day that one was decided, but all’s well that ends with creamy banana pudding.

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