Chow, Baby: Wednesday, June 20, 2002
Eliminate the Negative

Chow, Baby’s self-assurance, usually large enough to seat a party of 12, has suddenly taken a hit. While cleaning out the office birdcage the other day, Chow, Baby happened to spot a Star-T review of a restaurant that had been mentioned in this space just a few weeks before. Having paid four visits to the house of undercooked chicken, tough pork chops, vanishing waiters, and so much more, Chow, Baby had confidently stated its opinion: mediocre food, inept service. The professional reviewer raved about the place, with but one criticism: The rolls were “somewhat dry.”

Is Chow, Baby’s gustatory judgment at fault? Nah. But if Chow, Baby wants to be a real, professional restaurant reviewer, it must learn to over-accentuate the positive, even if there isn’t any. To appear objective, Chow, Baby could point out one small fault, as long as it’s wrapped in a compliment — something like “The candied yams were large but a bit mushy for our taste” or “The tortilla pizza ... was tasty, but the thin crust was not up to holding the ingredients and quickly became too soggy.”

As a relative novice at mandatory all-good-news reviewing, Chow, Baby decided to start with some safe bets. Having never been steered wrong by a reader, Chow, Baby followed Lauren Nolte’s advice to visit the Skillet N’ Grill at Bowen and West Division in Arlington. At this classic diner, omelets, pancakes, and “hot off the grill” breakfasts are served all day (at the Skillet N’ Grill, that’s 5am-3pm), with sandwiches and homestyle plates available at lunchtime.

Settled in a gently used booth, Chow, Baby was served the ultimate diner breakfast: corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, grits, and rye toast ($5.69). The hash was nicely dry, the eggs were nicely not, and the grits, as any self-respecting Southerner would expect, were the 20-minute kind. Chow, Baby’s cohort enjoyed a fresh-made breakfast burrito stuffed with scrambled eggs, sausage, and potatoes ($5.19), though he wished it included some cheese or sour cream. (How’s that for burying a criticism in a compliment?) The food was plentiful and tasty; the service was friendly without being gooey; the view of West Division was appropriately industrial. A perfect diner experience.

Mike Salerno’s Italian Restaurant has only one flaw. The Camp Bowie establishment is seeking new digs — oh, they’re looking at sites nearby, but you can bet their new joint won’t bear the same charm as the one attached to the decrepit Western Hills Motel. Good ceiling stains are hard to find in that neighborhood.

Chow, Baby’s recent dinner was magnificent. The artichoke salad ($5.95) was stuffed with mushrooms, black olives, mozzarella, Canadian bacon and very little lettuce filler. Chicken piccata ($8.95) — a swarm of capers dotting the tender, perfectly cooked chicken breast, with a mound of angel-hair sopping up the ultra-lemony white wine sauce — was truly the best piccata Chow, Baby has ever tasted. And the tiramisu ($4), well, you would have thought a porno movie was being filmed, what with all the moaning and drooling going on. As hard as it tried, Chow, Baby just couldn’t find even a minor imperfection of food or service to mention amid the praise. This professional criticism is harder than it looks.

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