Chow, Baby: Wednesday, June 19, 2003
Yeah You Right

Chow, Mama won’t be seeing her eldest Baby quite as often, now that Tarrant County has a couple of fairly decent New Orleans-style eateries. And no, Chow, Baby is certainly not including the annoyingly feaux-Cajun Pappadeaux and Razzoo’s. However, Chow, Baby is setting aside its patented anti-chain rant (for the moment) to praise the Houston-based Crescent City Beignets, which last week opened its first of three planned Fort Worth locations.

Diners entering the restaurant in the Little Austin — ’scuse me, Chapel Hill — upscale strip mall are greeted with piped-in zydeco music and a manager explaining how to order (say “ben-yay”) and eat (don’t exhale, ever) the super-powdered doughnuts (order of three, $2.55). The powder is confectioners’ sugar, and if it wasn’t heaped on the beignets in exactly the proper ratio (1:1), it was pretty close. And the café au lait (coffee and chicory with steamed milk) was by far the best that Chow, Baby has ever had outside of its mama’s house.

The rest of the menu is a better-than-usual dumbing-down of a cuisine for the masses: not-too-spicy chicken & sausage gumbo (with salad, $6.45) and sandwiches and salads with no Big Easy heritage but for their names (the Royal Street, the Garden District; $5.45-$5.95). The only dish that Chow, Baby tried that completely sucked was the jambalaya, which tasted as if — well, you know how you make a really good casserole, and you stick the leftovers in the fridge, and then every time you open the fridge you pick out a piece of meat so that a few days later only the rice is left? That’s what this jambalaya tasted like. But better luck elsewhere: After a couple of bad starts and a conference with the manager — Vance, who has never actually been to New Orleans but has a worthy laissez les bon temps rouler attitude — Chow, Baby finally got its muffaletta (muff-uh-LOT-ta, $5.75) made right: piles of ham, salami, provolone, and olive salad, and not grilled, thank you very much. (Sheesh.)

There’s something about New Orleans-style French bread that can’t be replicated without 90 percent humidity, but the oyster po-boy ($6.99) at JD’s Cajun Café was pretty yeah-you-righteous all the same. Perfectly battered and fried gems of the Gulf are served either dressed (lettuce, tomato, mayo) or, at a connoisseur’s request, with just a little butter and “mynez.” The folks at JD’s claim to be natives of Bayou country, and Chow, Baby could find nothing, from the spicy, rich okra-based gumbo ($6.25) to the rum-sauced bread pudding ($3.25), to refute this. Only the atmosphere betrayed the mood: The bayou country doesn’t have clean, well-lighted strip malls like Matlock Oaks (818 SW Green Oaks Blvd), and it certainly doesn’t have Smooth Jazz 107.5 The Oasis tootling in the background. But if any restaurant has the ability to replicate Paw-Paw’s recipe for oyster stuffing, Chow, Baby will pin its hopes on JD’s. And then it will never have to go home for supper at all.

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