Chow, Baby: Wednesday, February 22, 2006
In the Loop

In the velvet darkness, the blue neon light burns bright at The Loop (404 Airport Fwy. at Brown Trail, Bedford). Unsure which Janet it was playing — Susan Sarandon’s character in The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Janet Leigh in Psycho — Chow, Baby approached the lonely restaurant with some trepidation. Though it’s on one of the busiest highways in the Metroplex, the Loop feels paranormally isolated, bordered on one side by a desolate gas station and on the other by scrub brush. Heaven only knows what kind of creepy goings-on go on in there.

But the Loop is just a diner and a pretty good one at that. The beautifully redecorated former McDonald’s has a wide menu of breakfast-all-day (top pick: gyros omelet, $6.29), sandwiches (like the diner-authentic patty melt on rye with perfectly grilled onions, $5.59), and entrées out the wazoo. The sesame chicken ($8.99) fooled Chow, Baby, who was expecting a Chinese-style dish; it was actually a simple grilled breast sprinkled with sesame seeds and dressed with tender grilled vegetables. Shrimp scampi ($9.99), much better than Olive Garden’s, came with the same grilled veggies, a good thing, and roasted potatoes, not so good — rice would have been better, to sop up the garlicky sauce. Chicken-fried steak ($7.99 with fresh-fried okra and real mashed) passed all the tests; the lasagna ($7.99), meaty and sweet-sauced, was satisfying. That’s just a few of the smorgasbord-of-cuisines offerings, but the immensely capable and personable waitress/acting manager Leigh — not a Janet Leigh, more like spunky Vivien Leigh in That Hamilton Woman, mmm — will help you decide. No dynamic tension here, just great service and good roadside grub.

Art for Eats’ Sake

From old movies to old tv: So Perry Mason, investigating a murder in a gallery, says to Paul Drake, “Paul, do you know much about art?” And chick-magnet Paul says drolly — he did everything drolly, that was his genius — “Me? I don’t even know what I like.” This line is one of Chow, Baby’s all-time favorites, and it explains why Chow, Baby goes to museums mainly for the food. Even more mainly, for Café Modern’s incredibly decadent chocolate soup ($7). It’s made with Callebaut bittersweet, a Belgian cooking chocolate; since it’s already melted, you skip the boring mastication stage and go straight from the first sugar rush to the aftertaste of rich warmth coating your insides. Traditionally — that is, the one other time Chow, Baby had it, in another city — this soup-fondue is served with black-pepper ice cream, but Café Modern wisely pairs it with crispy-edged Grand Marnier-flavored marshmallows, the better for dunking.

After dessert, Chow, Baby and its sugarpie enjoyed artistic selections from Café Modern’s “Winter Brunch” menu: for a starter, a roulade of smoked salmon and wasabi-infused cream cheese ($7), followed by the Modern Omelet ($13), a pesto-cream-topped pastiche of smoked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. The cranberry-pecan pancakes ($9) were notable for having cranberries actually cooked inside the cakes (cf. previous Chow, Baby rants on “banana pancakes” with bananas appearing only as a topping), plus a great apple cider-maple “reduction,” a.k.a. syrup. All delicious, but it’s the indulgent chocolate soup that lures Chow, Baby back. As Della Street said in The Case of the Velvet Claws, “It’s a new obsession for me.”

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