Chow, Baby: Wednesday, December 12, 2002
The 2 a.m. Munch-Off

You’ve been partying all evening. Now it’s 2 a.m., and the alcohol is starting to wear off while the hangover is coming around the bend. You need to get some food in your slowly cartwheeling stomach. Oh, and you’re near S. University. What to do? Chow, Baby’s auto-response has always been “Ol South, duh,” until it recently heard a couple of complaints about cold food and chilly service. One guy said he’d rather go to IHOP! Clearly, Chow, Baby had to see for itself if Ol South is still the wee-hour restaurant of choice. The plan: Chow, Baby and two buddies would eat at all three 24-hour joints along S. University, bam bam bam, splitting one “signature” breakfast at each place: Denny’s All-American Slam and a side of pancakes; Ol South’s Dutch babies; IHOP’s Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity. Prices were about the same, so we would judge food, atmosphere, and service.

Denny’s service was so bad it was funny. Half of the items on the Slam were wrong, some because “Oh, we’re out of that” — information Chow, Baby could have used when ordering, 15 minutes earlier — and some because the waitress (name withheld because Chow, Baby is tired of being blamed for incompetent people getting fired) seemed, um, stupid. Chow, Baby liked the eggs, scrambled with lots of cheese, but the rubbery pancakes and teeny “slices” of bacon were losers. As for the sausage, well, Chow, Baby has eaten veggie links with more meat in them. Overall score: Sucks.

Sorry to disagree with the recent reports, but Chow, Baby fell in love with Ol South all over again at the first butter-oozing bite of an apple-stuffed Dutch baby crepe. The capable and gracious Kelly checked on us occasionally but never hovered. Overall score: Perfect. How to reconcile that with said recent reports? One of Chow, Baby’s buddies took the credit, for having begged to sit in the smoking section. At Ol South, he argued, the smoking section is next to the kitchen, so it gets better service and hotter food. And tolerant waitresses. Plus it’s a great hang-out spot. Maybe so — Chow, Baby was too focused on stealing more than its share of the second Dutch baby to debate.

IHOP’s service was pretty much the opposite of Denny’s. Our waitress, Delfina, was pleasant and efficient — we didn’t see much of her, but that’s because she brought everything we needed on her first trip. The scrambled eggs were horrible — Chow, Baby wasn’t convinced the overprocessed foam chunks actually were eggs — but the bacon and the sausage were the best we’d had all day, and the strawberry-preserves-topped pancakes were a lot closer to fluffy than hockey-puckey. Overall score: Fine and dandy.

Bottom line: If you crave reliably good food and service, go to IHOP for the 2 a.m. munches. If you’re completely wasted (and somebody else is driving), head to Denny’s for reliably bland food, though you’ll probably pass out before it arrives. If delicious comfort food and friendly service is what your tum-tum needs, brave the smoking section at Ol South. Dutch-baby sated, Chow, Baby must go wash its hair now.

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