Chow, Baby: Tuesday, December 30, 2008
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Once or Twice Is Good for the Soul

Chow, Baby had an honorable childhood nickname, a tribute to its courageous mutiny against the social and personal-grooming mandates of the time: “Rat’s Nest.” This was before Aveda Anti-Humectant was invented, and now the landscape is thinning a bit, but even today you can glance at Chow, Baby and easily picture this youthful brush rebellion. “Ah, Rat’s Nest, yeah, I can see that,” you would say.
Then you look at Keith Hicks, big ol’ bald-headed black dude, and you find out that his childhood nickname was … Buttons??? Presumably (meaning, Chow, Baby didn’t ask) because this guy was once an adorable little scamp? It’s really hard to imagine. True, many people were once adorable little scamps, and in fact the more you’re around Chef Keith the more you see it in his mischievous bright-as-buttons eyes. But still, Chow, Baby has that uncomfortable feeling you get when you know more than you should about somebody, and so you overshare back by disclosing your own, much less flattering, private info. “Rat’s Nest” would be an example.
Really, the only thing Chow, Baby needs to know about Chef Keith is right there on the menu of his somewhat-eponymous new restaurant, Buttons (4701 W. Freeway at Hulen St.). And what a glorious menu it is, sort of a greatest hits from Chef Keith’s Ovation creations with a few touches from previous stints at Gunsmoke, Cachonga, and Chop House. To answer the audience’s ooh-ooh-ooh question first: Yes, Keith’s famous chicken and waffles ($22) are there, still with those great sweet-potato fries. His flash-fried shrimp, homestyle pot roast, okra gumbo? All there, plus lots, lots more: seafood, pasta, and steaks, each given Chef Keith’s old-school, modern, downhome, global-fusion magic touch.
You can see why Rat’s Nest and Pepé Le Pew (the beloved, who once had diaper issues) couldn’t wait the respectable reviewer’s four to six weeks and instead hit Buttons on grand opening night (Monday before Christmas). Chow, Baby was prepared to cut some day-one slack, but it wasn’t necessary. Service from the lovely Ryan was pitch-perfect, as was the band, Second Nature, whose first set of EZ-funk instrumentals set a great room mood: relaxed, easy, fun. Our fried green tomatoes starter ($9) was more than perfect, so glorious with andouille sausage and over-easy egg that Chow, Baby got re-annoyed at all the inadequate versions it’s had this year. Steak and eggs ($36), with its cute mini cheese omelet and prosciutto-dotted mashed potatoes, and shrimp and jalapeño-cheese grits ($23) with red-eye gravy once again proved Chef Keith’s upscale genius with downhome dishes.
Our desserts, peach cobbler and apple pie ($6 each), did not sparkle, but Chow, Baby will gladly try again in four to six weeks. If it can wait that long. To use some 1970s fad words, inspired by Buttons’ funky décor — an homage to the period when Hicks was at his Buttons-est? — there’s a synergy, a gestalt to Buttons that’s greater than the sum of the food and music and service. It’s reflected in the clientele, a comfortably race- and age-diverse crowd, but it ultimately comes from Hicks. In his words: “I’ve always had a vision of creating a house of love, where people can come, relax, and allow us to feed their soul in two ways, both with food and with music.” And he has done exactly that with Buttons, because after just one wonderful evening, Chow, Baby’s soul is stuffed.
Contact Chow, Baby at chowbaby@fwweekly.com.


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