Chow, Baby: Wednesday, January 03, 2007
New Aquaintance, Ne’er Forgot

Good news, everyone: Chow, Baby’s standard Fresh New Year column — mourning the neato restaurants that have closed over the previous year and bitching y’all out for not supporting them — won’t work this time. One Chow, Baby-has-its-fingers-crossed new fave, Zapata’s Cocina Mexicana (702 N. Henderson St.), has survived its first few months in business well enough to add breakfast, from Zacatecas-style chilaquiles to Tejano migas with the best fried potatoes in town ($6.50). The delightful Portuguese Café (8545 Boat Club Rd.), which opened this summer, scared Chow, Baby when it didn’t answer its phone for a month, but that turned out to be merely a government-paperwork problem (immigration, not food). Joaquim Gameiro and his INS-approved family are back and better than ever, with new daily lunch and dinner specials — go on a Monday night for the Carne de Vinho e Alhos ($11), a Madeira Island specialty of pork marinated in wine and garlic. Save enough room for one of pastry chef/son David’s delightful desserts (orange roll cake, $3).

Our Restaurant Rows are looking rosy: Magnolia added teeny, pretty Nonna Tata (1400 W. Magnolia Av.), which, as you may have heard, makes the best, most Italian-authentic spaghetti carbonara in the county. And other good stuff, too. The newest resident of Soul Food Central is A Taste of Soul on Horne Street; Chow, Baby hasn’t yet made it over there for catfish and greens, but can’t wait. Chow, Baby also hasn’t yet visited Ferré (215 E. Fourth St., the former Angeluna space), the latest Sundance Square entry, because it keeps going back to Giant (500 Commerce St.). Because Giant keeps getting crazier. Now everything is a taco — short ribs, carrots, and mashed on a taco; brisket & sweet potato salad on a taco; crab and apple-tomato salsa on a taco. Crazy. And delicious.

Thanks to its recent expense-account raise plus a renewed addiction to cheap tacos, by the end of 2006 Chow, Baby wasn’t hurting financially as much as usual. Still, it’s happy to have the downmarket Chimy’s (sort of hidden at 1053 Foch St.; turn into the alley between the warehouses) join the cool club of Off Seventh restaurants. Chimy’s is the second location of the Lubbock cerveceria, and it definitely has a Tech vibe: outdoor patio, beer and lots of it, the kind of food that goes well with lots of beer, and zillions of happy college kids. Nachos, quesadillas, tacos (soft or crispy), and, uh, Chimy-changas are both cheap and overstuffed — they’re not for Mex-food connoisseurs, but Taco Bell regulars will go nuts.

For Tex-food connoisseurs, the big New Year’s excitement is that Olenjack’s Grille is set to open this month in one of Chow, Baby’s favorite restaurant rows (even if it is also a strip mall), Arlington’s Lincoln Square, in the old Flying Saucer space (770 Road to Six Flags E., Ste. 100). Chow, Baby’s drooled-over advance copy of the menu shows some signature Chef Brian dishes from his days at Reata and the Chisholm Club: flash-fried antelope ribs with jalapeño jelly; cornmeal-crusted oysters with bacon & chorizo relish. Of course he’ll have a nice grilled rib-eye — wait, where are the crispy red onion strings? This could be a deal-breaker. Unless ... ah, good: Trio of Crème Brulée will be in the house. OK then — 2007 will be a very good year.

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