Chow, Baby: Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Good ’Wich of the East

Like everybody else in the world, Chow, Baby saw this “now officially a recession!” coming, and so over Thanksgiving week in New Orleans it began the transition to a sandwich economy: easing in with roasted-duck po-boys, barbecue-shrimp po-boys, french-fry po-boys (with gravy, of course), and, for breakfast, smoked-sausage po-boys. Here in Tarrant County, the equivalent in hand-held deliciousness is the Mexican torta, which contains fried or marinated or otherwise-made-scrumptious meat and fixin’s on a soft roll that’s shorter than a baguette but double the width, so it comes out about the same. But cheaper: Tortas generally go for $4-$6 in family-run taquerias in Mexican neighborhoods, so Chow, Baby set off for Hemphill Street to find itself a tasty new-economy lunch.
Before it even got out of the East Side, though, Chow, Baby noticed that the mystical red shack at Miller Avenue and Rosedale Street has done it again. Never fails. Throughout Chow, Baby’s barbecue kick last winter, the place housed Smoky Joe’s (not to be confused with Smokey’s on Lancaster); then this summer when Chow, Baby craved smothered pork chops, the shack transformed itself into homecooking Marilyn’s Café; and now it’s serendipitously Taqueria Tepito (1104 Miller Av.). Tepito offers the standard taqueria meats — asada, puerco, lengua, et cetera — in a variety of settings, including taco, quesadilla, gordita, and burrito. Chow, Baby’s overstuffed barbacoa torta ($5.50) was cushy, comforting, and too large for one meal. The leftover half made a fine dinner with a starter of pozole de puerco (also $5.50, also too large for just one meal), a rojo-sauced stew of hominy and pork chunks, with much seasoning and garnishment. What a wonderful cold-weather, recession-era meal.
The next day Chow, Baby set out again for Hemphill and stopped even sooner. The Dallas-based tortilleria La Nueva Puntada has opened its first Tarrant location at 4063 E. Lancaster Av., a block off Oakland Avenue. This is the old home of El Tepeyac, which was a great little place, but Chow, Baby already adores La Nueva Puntada for oh so many reasons: (1) Having proudly refused to look at the English side of the menu, Chow, Baby learned a useful new Spanish-food word: caseras (housemade, homemade, from “casa”). (2) The caseras tortillas are just $2/kilo. (3) The owners are not only exceedingly friendly and patient, they’re also from Zacatecas, and Chow, Baby is always looking for an excuse to tell the humorously self-deprecating story of how it wound up in Zacatecas that time (most recently, “On the Road to Izquierda,” Aug. 20.). And slightly more important than Chow, Baby’s amusing anecdotes: Where you have native Zacatecans, you know you’re going to have good cactus.
Thus Chow, Baby’s first purchase was not just any old torta, but an asada rojo con nopalitos, which, like the equally yummy bisteck con papas (each $4), was layered with flavorsome beef, tender vegetables, rice, beans, a little mayo, and a lot of garnish. Only by again leaving half for later did Chow, Baby manage to make room for La Nueva Puntada’s casera flan and party-in-the-mouth gelatina ($1.75 each). This eating on the cheap isn’t bad at all; Chow, Baby could easily keep it up until the economy is back to normal. That’ll be, what, a week or two?
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