Chow, Baby: Wednesday, January 16, 2003
Jubilee’s New Clothes

Once upon a time there lived a Chow, Baby, who thought so much of restaurants that it spent all of Fort Worth Weekly’s money in order to visit them; its only ambition was to be always well fed. This regent of an epicurean empire did not care about soldiers or falcon hunting, and the theater did not amuse it; the only thing, in fact, it thought anything of was to dine out. It had a meal for every hour of the day; and as one would say of a king, “He is meeting his cabinet,” so one could say of it, “Chow, Baby is pulling into the parking lot.”

One fine winter’s eve Chow, Baby gathered its honest old ministers and traveled far past civilization to the eastern edge of West Texas and the hamlet of Willow Park. ’Twas a merry entourage, as the destination was Jubilee Trailhouse, a phoenix risen from the ashes of the much-loved Jubilee Café on West 7th St., widely known as A Fort Worth Institution until a handsome prince bought the concern and turned it into 7th Street Café, and the Queen of Chicken-Fried Steak banished herself to Parker County.

The coachman skillfully navigated Exit 418 of the interstate known as 20, and soon there was much rejoicing as the gracious manservant Curtis brought plate after plate of hot food. But alas: Chow, Baby’s chicken-fried chicken breast ($7.95) tasted of old grease, and its green beans smelt of cabbage, and its mashed potatoes were cold. Yet the ministers emitted cries of glee with every bite: “Oh, yes, this is every bit as good as the old Jubilee!” “Yes, yes, just as tasty!” “Oh, Chow, Baby, you must try this delightful chicken-fried steak [$7.95],” said one, passing its plate, “as yummy as at the old Jubilee, whose chicken-fried could be cut with a fork.” Chow, Baby pared away an inch and a half of excess crust, bent its fork almost double on the rubbery meat inside, and with the help of a knife finally wrestled a piece away from the whole, but was not happy for the effort, and a bit uneasy besides, for it did not want its ministers to think that Chow, Baby had lost its taste.

As the courtiers raved over the flavors and urged tidbits upon one another, Chow, Baby pretended to nod contentedly, though it truly found Hawkeye’s Grilled Chicken Breast ($7.95) desiccated and flavorless and the bland pot roast ($8.95) shamefully lacking in vegetables. “What is this?” thought Chow, Baby. “I do not taste anything good at all. Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be Chow, Baby? Oh, this is too horrible!” Yet the ministers continued to chew with great dignity, as if they ate delicious food.

Finally Chow, Baby could bear the charade no longer, and spoke its mind: “This food sucks.” “Good heavens! Listen to the voice of Chow, Baby,” said a statesman, and one whispered to another what had been said. “No, it’s not very good at all,” cried the whole table at last, and all dropped their forks, and pushed aside their plates, and called for slices of Ms. Tilly’s Famous Pies, for banana cream and chunky apple and rich German chocolate ($2.50), which indeed were every bit as good as at the old Jubilee, and so Chow, Baby and its courtiers ate pie happily ever after. The end.

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