Chow, Baby: Thursday, April 21, 2004
Shoulda Had Dessert First

Shoulda Had Dessert First

You know how the Talmud, the Jewish book of laws, says you’re not supposed to price a merchant’s wares if you have no intention of buying? Apparently it’s wrong to raise false hopes. Anyway, Chow, Baby was over at Don Davis Nissan in Arlington test-driving the 350z convertible (MSRP $34,410) when it suddenly got a craving for something fast, stylish, and Japanese, yet within its $20 expense-account limit.

So it’s back to the worn-out but paid-off Chowbabymobile and over to Taisho, 4101 W. Green Oaks Blvd. This compact, pretty Japanese restaurant has it all: sushi bar, hibachi tables, regular dining rooms. For the point-and-mumble crowd there’s a nice big picture menu of sushi, sashimi, rolls, platters, bento boxes, noodle dishes, and various combinations of stuff. It’s hard for a first-time visitor to choose, especially when smothered by a hovering but unopinionated waiter. Under pressure, Chow, Baby pointed and mumbled at random: gyoza, juicy pan-fried dumplings ($3.95); a fabulous Rock and Roll ($4.95), a tight tube of avocado, cucumber, smelt egg, and crunchy shrimp tempura; and assorted sushi ($2.75-$3.95 per order of two pieces). All was fresh and tasty.

Hooray, dessert time: Chow, Baby pointed at the picture of banana tempura with house-made vanilla-bean ice cream ($3.95). And the waiter refused to bring it! Though Chow, Baby’s tummy still hasn’t adjusted to the time change, according to the kitchen clock it was 10 minutes past lunchtime (11:30am-2pm). Taisho was resolutely closed; there would be no fried bananas for Chow, Baby that day. Talk about raising false hopes.

When Frats Go Good

Chow, Baby hates navigating Hulen, but its fearless friend Tom doesn’t mind at all. And Tom loves burritos, but his girlfriend, otherwise perfect in every way (Tom hastens to add), doesn’t care for them much, so he rarely indulges. Tom drives Chow, Baby to Freebirds World Burrito, 4965 Overton Ridge Blvd, and everybody’s happy.

Everybody but Chow, Baby’s college buds, always hoping for some gratuitous Aggie-bashing. The first Texas Freebirds opened in College Station in 1990, and its early rep as a frat hangout has accompanied its spread to Austin, Houston, Dallas, and now Fort Worth. But this long-ago Longhorn was perfectly at ease in the clean, open, faux-industrial setting with the leggy Lady Liberty astride a suspended-from-the-ceiling Harley. The menu is, of course, ultra-simplified: You can get a burrito, a burrito in a bowl (“Bird Salad”), or burrito innards over chips (“Nacho Freebird”). To make it even easier, a server/mentor walks down the assembly line with you and, shouting over the blaring ’80s frat rock, helps you choose your burrito size, tortilla flavor (wheat, spinach, cayenne), fillings (rice, cheese, three kinds of beans, meat), sauce-heat level, and spicy extras (pico, guac, japs). Then she binds it in foil and charges you less than $6 for a pledge-sized meal or into the double digits for a Super Monster with everything.

The menu explains it all at, naturally, a third-grade reading level, plus it has a nice illustration of how to remove the foil and eat your burrito. Chow, Baby wishes it had noticed that before it dribbled half its delicious lunch all over the table. That’s conduct unbecoming a UT grad.

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