Chow, Baby: Wednesday, May 30, 2002
Reata Redux

A little more than a year after leaving its tornado-damaged aerie in the Bank One building, Reata reopened this week in the old Caravan of Dreams space at Third and Houston. Chow, Baby, natch, was first in the lunch line — and found that you can’t go home on the range again. Oy, what a disappointment: The décor was garish, the service was rude, the food was horrible, and —

Sike! (Were you faked out?) Here’s the truth: Reata is back, and it’s the same as it ever was, except where it’s better. At 22,000 square feet — Chow, Baby counted — the new Reata is half again as big as the old. The main dining room, the spacious Great Plains Room, is clad in comfy yet refined ranch house duds, including the saddle and chaps used by the guy who played Hoss on Bonanza. The Library Bar, with its wall of handtooled leather, and the Justin Bar, with boots on display and 60 varieties of vodka on the shelves, are both so homey-hip they make Chow, Baby wish it had a circle of friends to hang out with. On the roof are more dining and drinking areas — and yes, the beloved dome, grotto, and waterfall are all put to beautiful use.

Seated in the Great Plains Room with its back to the windows, Chow, Baby was thrilled to be handed that old heavy leather menu. The first challenge: Order an old favorite, or make a new friend? For a starter, Chow, Baby waxed nostalgic over the jalapeno and cilantro soup (cup, $3.95) but settled on the new jumbo shrimp with cowboy cocktail sauce ($9.95). A-plus for fanciful presentation (outer-space ranch?) and the biggest shrimp Chow, Baby has ever seen outside of Central Market.

Remember the old BLT with apple-smoked bacon? Remember the spiced pecans on the field-greens salad with goat cheese? Chow, Baby remembers them like it was yesterday. No, it was Tuesday, at a Saddle Pack Combo lunch ($7.95). Chow, Baby also made a new friend in the marvelously tender smothered pork sandwich with sun-dried tomato cream ($6.95), and a new enemy in the tablemate whose plate kept getting raided.

One huge flaw in the dessert menu: No more crème brulée! Oooh, but there are still the dessert tacos and the apple crisp. And the new kids: berry cobbler, pecan pie, something called Molten Chocolate Cake with Drunken Berries. Impossible to choose. Chow, Baby’s charming, efficient, and knowledgeable server came to the rescue with the dessert sampler ($7.95 per person, two-person minimum), and quite a sugar rush it was. That molten cake is a keeper. Now if only Reata would create a dinner sampler, so Chow, Baby could have it all: wonderful old pepper-crusted tenderloin and promising new pork chop stuffed with roasted pears. Thank heaven for tablemates.

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