Chow, Baby: Wednesday, May 21, 2008
When Irish Eyes Are Crying

Letís deal with the Burning Question first: Yes, Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Amazingly better. Part of this is simply freshness, explained the publican at Mulliganís, which is a mile or two from the Dublin brewery; but itís also because the Guinness Police make regular visits to every pub to flush the lines. So your pint is always as clean and fresh as an Irish spring. Chow, Baby had many, many pints during its week on the Emerald Isle.
No surprise that Dublin is a drinking town, but sadly, itís far from a foodie mecca. Plus, given the weak dollar, every not-great meal was also heart-stoppingly expensive. Just for perspective ó Chow, Baby of course didnít eat there ó a Burger King combo meal costs about $12. For about the same price, Chow, Baby had a very good burger at indie Bůbůís Gourmet Burgers, whose ďtop quality prime young Irish heifer meatĒ was quite flavorful, particularly with a thick slice of Dubliner cheese, but was as dry as Irish wit. Up against the likes of Fredís, Star Cafť, and the Love Shack, it wouldnít even be in the running for Best Burger here. Poor Dubliners.
Well, youíd expect Texas to have the burger edge, but what about a real U.K. specialty? At Burdockís, Dublinís most famous fish íní chippery, $16.50 will get you a foot-size piece of fresh-fried, never-frozen cod and a mound of big, thick, soft potato chunks, all delightfully greasy. But theyíre not beer-battered with small-batch Amber Ale, like the nuggets in the Coveyís fish íní chips ($20; 3010 S. Hulen St.). Plus, on Chow, Babyís last visit the Covey even had quite the Irish pub atmosphere going, first because the dining room was closed and we got to eat in the noisy bar, and then because our server was as lackadaisical as though she were making a livable hourly wage and didnít depend on tips ó the European server-paying system, which Chow, Baby supports in theory (itís the fairest way) but hates in practice (for the third time, whereís my malt vinegar?). Chow, Baby will stick with cheap, delicious, and purposefully informal Zekeís Fish íní Chips (5920 Curzon Av.).
By far ó by far ó the best Irish meal Chow, Baby had was a $10 gyro (they call it by its Turkish name, dŲner kebab), at a quick-service Middle Eastern place called Sultan. Though the meat is shaped into a cone and roasted on a vertical spit like we see here, in Ireland the meat is all marinated fresh lamb, not a processed-beef-and-lamb mash. The meld of burnt-edge flavor crystals and juicy medium-rare meat on a huge soft pita was pure glory. Chow, Baby, who rarely revisits, went back to Sultan twice, the last time on the way to the airport so it could taunt the other Aer Lingus passengers. Back home, Chow, Babyís lamb source is Beirut Rock Cafť (1201 S. Cooper St., Arlington) for their housemade hummus topped with ground lamb ($6.99); cute little lamb meat pies (four for $4.49); lamb shish kabob ($9.99); lamb shank ($9.99) thatís better than the Irish stew at Dublinís Hairy Lemon; and Chow, Babyís newest addiction, grilled lamb chops ($13.99). (Beirutís default doneness is medium-well; speak up if you want different.) If only Beirut Rock served Guinness, Chow, Babyís little corner of Ireland in Texas would be perfect.
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