Chow, Baby: Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Mommmm, I Don’t Need a Sweater

The good thing about last week’s warm-weather spike is that Chow, Baby got back into cruising mode and happened upon a couple of more hidden gems in Arlington strip malls. First case in point: Boo Boo’s quaint little luncheonette (1130 S. Bowen Rd.) has been serving sandwiches for 27 years right under Chow, Baby’s nose, in the sense that Chow, Baby occasionally drives along Bowen. But Chow, Baby had never thought to look behind road-fronting Bank of America to the core of the Woodland West Shopping Center, where dwells the homiest, creamiest, ham-studdedest broccoli-cheese soup in town (bowl, $2.50). Pair it with raspberry iced tea ($1) and one of the like-Mom-used-to-make sandwiches, including pb&j ($1.75), for the complete retro feel of unconditional parental love.

You know the Lunch Box, the sandwich shop on Camp Bowie? Boo Boo’s is the same kind of thing, but in down-to-earth Central Arlington rather than the hoitier West Side. Here the décor runs to Raggedy Ann dolls and ceramic angels; the loyal clientele are older and a bit more afraid of salt. The sandwiches are more Middle American — not just no pastrami, but not even any rye bread. Chow, Baby took a chance and found that wheat worked just fine with the fresh-made, piled-high egg salad ($3.45). A bacon avocado on wheat ($4.25) had wedges of fresh avocado (not guac), and was finished with spinach and tomato. Very nice. Chow, Baby is upset that it had never noticed this place, but can’t figure out who to blame (friends who’ve been eating there since childhood, lack of signage, anything but its own tunnelvision). Guess it’ll just go crying to its mommy.

No Lentil Soup for You

The bad thing about warm weather is that Semiramis Café (second case in point: it’s tucked in a strip mall at 803 W. Park Row, Arlington) makes hearty lentil soup ($2) only when it’s chilly outside. Even worse for Chow, Baby, who made a cross-town trip back for seconds, fool bel laban ($3.99) is also a cold-weather-only dish. And of course, now that it can’t have this incredibly satisfying meal-in-a-bowl — fava beans simmered in garlic and lemon, topped with yogurt and a slick of extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled with red pepper and cinnamon — Chow, Baby wants its “fool” all the more. Every day the temperature is over 70, Chow, Baby faces east and prays for snow.

In the meantime, there’s much to love about this hole-in-the-wall, a term Chow, Baby uses with all due fondness. Semiramis looks like a derelict deli, complete with wobbly chairs and wheezing Pepsi cooler (though here filled with yogurt drinks). The menu is Middle Eastern fast food plus a few American standards (hamburger, chicken fingers). On first visit Chow, Baby and sweetie got out super-cheap by filling up on underpriced appetizers — creamy-whipped hummus ($1.99); cute spinach pies (two for $1.50); and fried kibbah ($1.25), little bulgur wheat patties stuffed with juicy, spiced meat — before slurping on those fabulous fava beans. Next time, denied the beans, we were placated with an overstuffed gyro sandwich ($2.99) — we didn’t spot the spit, but the meat tasted fresh-carved — and a perfectly spiced chicken shwarma plate ($5.99). The owners, who are also the cooks, servers, genial hosts, and newlyweds, are from Damascus, and their food is Syriously (hah, wordplay) delicious, inexpensive, and well worth searching out even in warm weather.

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