Chow, Baby: Wednesday February 13, 2003
Derailed, Re-railed

Chow, Baby Andretti was on Spur 280 near downtown when suddenly, and for reasons totally unrelated to accelerating like a maniac, the Chowbabymobile blew a necessary bit of its engine, coasted gently off the highway, and stalled in the middle of the Butler Place housing project. (A big shout-out to new pals Will and Will’s uncle, who scrounged up the duct tape that got the Baby’s baby back on the road.) Serendipitously, this unexpected exit (Chambers St.) turned out to be a shortcut to the Fort Worth Rail Market. What with Convention Center construction and every-other-street bulldozing, it’s nigh impossible to drive directly from anywhere to the Rail Market to see what favorite little shops and restaurants have gone out of business overnight. And to check out the new kids, of course.

Suppenhaus, which sounds more appealing than “House of Soup,” dishes up a killer beef barley ($2.50/$5), though the mushroom soup’s mouth-feel was of canned rather than homemade creaminess. The small sandwich menu includes a nice smoked turkey and hard-boiled egg on pumpernickel ($4.95), and there’s a make-your-own-salad option. Don’t be frightened by the $3.90/slice price tag on the apple pie; Chow, Baby split a huge piece with an equally bottomless-stomached friend, and both were satisfied. Next door to Suppenhaus, Pizza by Design has installed a huge circular oven where it cooks up wafer-thin-crust pizzas to order. We tested the Rail Market (8´´, $6), with fresh basil, red and green peppers, mushrooms, and — very disappointing — canned jalapeños. The mozzarella was plentiful, though, and the tomato sauce nicely spiced. Here’s hoping these two places stick around a while.

Next Stop, St. Moritz

You know how you go visit your childhood home, and it’s so much smaller than you remembered, and you’re momentarily confused as to whether you grew or it shrunk? Similar thing happened to Chow, Baby last week, upon its first visit in years to 8.0 in Sundance Square. As old-timers will recall, back in the days before Bass Hall revitalized our fair square, 8.0 was one of the few downtown decent-dining options, with food that ranged between adequate and excellent and a too-cool-for-school atmosphere that teetered between self-consciously hip and tragically trendy. The whole place generally gave Chow, Baby the eye-rolling snickers.

But now 8.0 feels just like a normal downtown bistro. So what’s different? Is 8.0 less cool than it was, or is Chow, Baby — hard to imagine — even more cool than before? Chow, Baby pondered as it slurped a bread-bowl of lobster & crab bisque ($5.50), so yummy that it went back the next day for a second helping. An inventive appetizer of fried shrimp stuffed with basil, jalapeño, and goat cheese ($8.95) was better after the distracting jalapeño was surgically removed, but the 5 Flavor Chicken ($10.25), Asian-herb-crusted grilled chicken served with glass noodles, was perfect as it was.

Service: great; atmosphere: comfortable; prices: high, but portions are large enough for two. Lots of people were not wearing all-black, and nobody mentioned Dallas even once. If this is the hot new style, guess that makes Chow, Baby one of the Beautiful People.

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