Chow, Baby: Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Don’t Ask

The Star-Telegram runs an occasional feature called Ask the Restaurant Critic. Or maybe it’s a regular feature that Chow, Baby comes across only occasionally. Doesn’t matter; it’s such a great idea that Chow, Baby is thinking of stealing it. The mailbag dump covers all the bases: Readers think you care about them; it’s an easy way to fill space on a slow news day or if it’s too hot to leave the office; and as long as you pull a question that you already know the answer to, no research effort is required. Does that not have “Chow, Baby” written all over it?

It’d be easy to do, because readers ask Chow, Baby questions all the time, although usually not ones that are useful for column-padding purposes. For the most part, either the question is so general (“How did you get to be so brilliant?”) that Chow, Baby’s response could fill a book (titled “By Stealing Other People’s Ideas”), or Chow, Baby doesn’t know the answer and doesn’t feel like getting off its butt to find out. A good Ask Chow, Baby question would be both very specific and something Chow, Baby already knows the answer to. Example:

“Can you direct me to a place where the brisket isn’t all that but it’s worth going to for the potato salad?” Why, yes! That would be Bill’s Bar-B-Que, 600 N. Las Vegas Trail, a White Settlement landmark for some 40 years. Unfortunately the brisket (two-meat plate $7.95) appears to be left over from the first batch, though the good sauce masks the dry-and-tough somewhat. The beans, however, are al dente great, and the homemade potato salad is a shmushed-together marvel. It’s like egg-flavored mashed potatoes, which, now that Chow, Baby looks at that in bold type, doesn’t seem appetizing at all. But it’s really very good.

No, Chow, Baby gets questions like “Where is there good Greek food?” Jeez, check the archives. Chow, Baby has written about every Greek restaurant in the county ... whoops ... except, it seems, Pak-A-Pocket (5512-D Bellaire Dr. S.). Now here, a good question would be, “Chow, Baby, I know you wrote a wonderful column about Greek restaurants just seven months ago, but since through no fault of your own you didn’t have room to talk about every place in town, I was wondering if there was any dish you liked at any of the places you had to leave out. Again, through no fault of your own. All the better if it concerns a pet peeve of yours.” Why, yes! Pak-A-Pocket’s gyro sandwich ($3.85) is not classic with the meat — instead of the beef/lamb on a spit contraption, it’s a thinly sliced marinated steak, very tasty — but, and this is important (at least to Chow, Baby), it’s stuffed with onions, lots of tomatoes, and no lettuce. Lettuce does not belong in a gyro, dang it. Spinach pie ($2.10) doesn’t really belong in a bun, either, which is how Pak-A-Pocket makes it, but somehow that bothers Chow, Baby less. Friendly counter service and daily quick-lunch specials under $5 help make this place a winner.

Now that you’ve got the hang of “Ask Chow, Baby” — let’s not. Chow, Baby’s favorite question from its dear readers is “Say, have you heard about this interesting place I just stumbled across?” Keep those coming, and Chow, Baby will keep getting off its butt. Unless it’s a really hot day.

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