Chow, Baby: Wednesday, August 15, 2002
A Laurel for Hearty Italian

The cream sauce probably wouldn’t hold up well, but if Chow, Baby had to choose one appetizer to take on an extended desert island stay, it would be the stuffed mushrooms ($5.95) at Palermo’s Italian Café. The fresh fungi are crammed with a mixture of crabmeat and aged cheeses, then broiled to perfection (to borrow a phrase from chain-restaurant menus) and set swimming in a wonderfully rich and garlicky cream sauce. “More bread,” cried the eager-to-sop Chow, Baby, and dream-waiter Kenny was Johnny-on-the-spot with hot, crusty loaves topped with melted mozzarella and tomato slices ($2.95) .

Kenny was just one of a stream of joys at this West Magnolia eatery. The large space (the former home of Jerry Van Dyke’s retro soda shop) was near-elegantly cozy by candlelight, yet the bill fit nicely into a cheapskate’s budget. Parmigiana subs and stromboli are in the $4—$5 range. Pasta dishes run $4.50 — $7.25. All but one of the chicken, veal, and seafood entrées are under $10. (An overheard revising-the-menu conversation indicated these prices may be changing soon. Can’t blame them.)

Palermo’s slips only when it reaches too high: House specialty Tortellini Siciliano ($7.25), with black olives and ham, was gooey and surprisingly bland. Chow, Baby henceforth will stick with homey classics like the baked pasta combo ($5.95). Though underneath all the cheese it was impossible to tell lasagna from manicotti and cannelloni from ravioli, all was heartwarming and hearty. Best of all, Chow, Baby had plenty left over for a midnight snack.

Queen of the Dessert

I can’t survive, I can’t stay alive ... . The house rules are “No Smoking” and “No Loudmouths,” but Chow, Baby ventured into disco-blaring Coffee House Gallery at Jennings and Pennsylvania anyway. Behold: a casual, comfortable, friendly scene. Overstuffed couches, fresh coffee, great art, and surprisingly good food await explorers to the suddenly chic neighborhood of South Fort Worth.

Come on down and do what you’ve got to do ... . Coffee House Gallery is a magnet for the hip and attractive. At night, patrons of nearby gay bars Magnolia Station and 651 Club come by for a break from the dance floors. During the day, hot young designers and editors from the media-hip 101 (S. Jennings) Building stroll down for freshly prepared salads of grilled chicken, portobello, or asparagus ($5.50); deli sandwiches ($4.95—$7.50), and burgers (check the board). Until 11am (and not a moment later, reported a hip designer friend who was denied migas at 11:01 one day), try the breakfast tacos or French toast ($4.95—$5.95). Dinner is lunch plus blue plate and green plate (vegetarian) specials.

My heart is full of love and desire for you ... . Proprietor Gregory Story is also resident artist and occasional cook. Chow, Baby, who not only doesn’t know much about art but isn’t even sure what it likes, is mesmerized by his sensuously colorful abstracts with titles like “a failed attempt at restraining my feelings for you.” Particularly enjoyable with a cappuccino and a slice of marvelous strawberry cheesecake close by.

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