Chow, Baby: Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Cowboy Comfort

Chow, Baby had assumed that the reason its family members clamor for Reata (310 Houston St.) every time they flee here is simply because they like the food. New Orleans doesn’t have much in the way of Upscale Texas cuisine, after all, and it’s nice to try something different when you’re out of town, forced or not. Surprisingly, though, when Chow, Baby suggested during last week’s Gustav visit that its kin ranch-branch out a little, maybe try Bonnell’s, Olenjack’s, or its current fave, Lambert’s, the response was a whoa-nelly: Life as we knew it could be over (again). We’re a bit stressed. We need to go to Reata.
True, nothing says “You’re safely in Texas” like jalapeño cheddar grits topped with molasses-BBQ-glazed smoked quail (appetizer $9.95). Chow, Baby had never noticed before how comforting Reata’s menu is: Our other appetizer picks — bacon-wrapped shrimp resting peacefully on onion jam ($9.95) and unperturbed calamari strips with a cheery “cowboy” cocktail sauce ($9.95) — made us feel optimistic, like maybe Gustav would only power-scrub New Orleans instead of wiping it off the face of the earth. The sense of security was ably assisted by Reata’s sturdy décor of leather and wrought iron, with its subtext of “We recovered beautifully from a devastating natural disaster — you can too!”
As always at Reata, service was kindly and nurturing, this time in the form of Kevin shushing Chow, Baby’s fears about buffalo dryness. Buffalo’s extreme leanness is a feature if you care about calories and saturated fat, but a flaw if you live for chin dribbling — to have any juice, your buffalo steak or burger must be cooked quickly, at a high temperature, and as rare as you can take it. With Kevin’s fluid reassurances, Chow, Baby ordered the Chef’s Feature Buffalo Burger ($10.95), which that day had a Caesar theme going with romaine, asiago, and just enough dressing to let the luscious gamey-sweet meat sing. Very heartening, as were the family’s other usuals, soothing stacked chicken enchiladas ($9.95) and peaceful Alpine chicken breast ($18.95). We left feeling as grounded and placid as a herd of cows heading to sunny, serene, not-too-damaged pastures.
BBQ Fusion
Every once in a while a Gentle Reader queries: “Dear Baby, I have some friends coming in from Japan [Germany, Nigeria]; can you steer me to a good sushi [spätzle, groundnut stew] joint to take them to?” And Chow, Baby always replies: “Dear Missing the Whole Point of Traveling, Your friends can probably get decent sushi [or whatever] in Tokyo [or wherever]. Whyncha take them out for barbecue, chicken-fried, and tacos at [my current faves].” Sheesh. Does Chow, Baby take its New Orleans evacuees to Pierre’s Mardi Gras Café (2816 S. Cooper St. Arlington, and watch for a second location in downtown Arlington early next year)? No, Chow, Baby heads to Bartley’s (413 E. Northwest Hwy, Grapevine) to stock up on barbecue standards (meats $10.95/lb).
While the Louisiana exiles are busy digging into pure-Texas hickory-smoked ribs, hot links, and pork loin, with sides of pinto beans and excellently crunchy cole slaw, Chow, Baby fills up on Bartley’s real stand-out: Cajun smoked turkey, zestfully cayenne’d and with visible bits of bell pepper, onion, and celery, heavily smoked and wonderfully juicy. Funny, a whole houseful of New Orleanians, and ex-pat Chow, Baby is the only one getting homesick. Maybe Pierre’s beignets will take the edge off.

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