Chow, Baby: Wednesday, May 02, 2007
What a Difference Bouquet Makes

Yeah, it’s “just” a cold, but Chow, Baby sure feels like crap. The ears are stopped up, the nose is stopped up, and the tongue interprets everything it contacts as salt water of varying viscosity. Obviously, reviewing restaurants is tough when the reviewer has no sense of taste (there’s a shot to be made there, but Chow, Baby’s too drained), not to mention that the stomach is refusing visitors right now. Unfortunately Chow, Baby didn’t foresee this coming a month in advance, as required by the Weekly’s sick-leave policy. So it’s business as usual, except that Chow, Baby really wants its mommy.

Chow, Baby chose its first stop carefully and selfishly (as opposed to how it usually picks restaurants: randomly and selfishly). The Weekly had reviewed Front Porch Café, 5426 Jacksboro Hwy. in Sansom Park, just a few months ago (“Go with the Flo,” January 10, 2007), so Chow, Baby already knew this was just the kind of low-key, comfort-food joint that its aching body ached for. Plus, if necessary, Chow, Baby could plagiarize some taste-describing adjectives without getting sued, probably. But as we settled in the kitsch-stuffed room and a mommy-like lady brought us iced tea (looked like iced tea, anyway), a strange thing happened. Like on those Science Channel documentaries about people who’ve had portions of their brains go missing, Chow, Baby could sense its gray matter rewiring itself: less circuitry to the useless nose, ears, and tongue; more receptors for “Boy, these eggs are springy! And very yellow!” Yes, colors and textures were suddenly vivid and mesmerizing. The beloved’s mushroom burger ($5.49) was a pre-Raphaelite masterpiece of brunette burger, tan-and-black mushrooms, bright green lettuce, rosy tomato, and lustrous beads of mustard. Onion rings were supple yet crunchy, speckled with darker crumbs that danced into the lap at each bite. Chow, Baby’s bouncy eggs came with thin, boneless pork chops ($6.75) that had the cutest grill marks and the slightest sheen of grease. It all looked as delicious as the earlier reviewer said it was.

Maybe this isn’t such a bad deal, trading smell and taste for a whole new visual and tactile awareness. Except that Chow, Baby’s visit to Division Street Diner (1800 W. Division St., Arlington) was cut short by a violent and prolonged coughing fit and the resulting take-it-outside glares of other diners, so it didn’t get to fully appreciate the comfy chairs or the surprisingly modernistic décor (the outside looks like an office building). Sympathetic server Debbie offered to deliver Chow, Baby’s gasped order to the parking lot, and, my, the plate-lunch specials ($6.95) are lovely, even in go-boxes. The slabs of pot roast fell apart at the faintest touch, yet the day-glo carrots and adorable little potatoes were flawlessly firm, a neat cooking-timing trick. The same roast — Chow, Baby normally wouldn’t have noticed this — was used for the beef stroganoff, a creamy mound of meat and mushrooms on silky noodles. The sides were so darling Chow, Baby almost cried (also by this time Chow, Baby was high on prescription cough syrup): teeny broccoli florets with golden raisins, what looked and felt like real butter on the pillowy whipped potatoes, a stunning spinach and strawberry salad. What a wonderful lunch Chow, Baby had, and it didn’t even take a bite.

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