Chow, Baby: Wednesday, May 22, 2003
Basic Instincts

Mother’s Day can be difficult for those who, like Chow, Baby, are unable to bear children. Oh, they’re tolerable in small doses, if they’re mannerly and laugh at Chow, Baby’s jokes. But on the second Sunday of May, it seems that every restaurant in town is full of tiny, stubborn individualists who aren’t sure why they’re supposed to be nice to Mommy on this one day.

The Cotton Patch Café, at SH 121 and Hall Johnson Rd. in Grapevine, was full of the little screamers. Probably every one of the nearly two dozen small-town locations of the Nacogdoches-born chain was in the same fix, because that’s the kind of place Cotton Patch is: a family restaurant, in the pejorative sense. The menu features inoffensive home cooking, cutely named, adequately prepared, not too expensive, slowly but smilingly served. The ranchero décor includes photographs of early-20th-century Grapevine, interesting because Chow, Baby hadn’t known there was such a thing.

Chow, Baby’s Pot Roast Beast ($7.99) was a glump of unseasoned meat with nice transparent onions and firm carrots. The boneless “buffalo tenders” ($5.99) were zest-free; same for the chicken-fried steak ($6.99), big enough to hang off the plate but not good enough to finish. The cream gravy didn’t help matters; Chow, Baby’s spit is more flavorful. Though Chow, Baby’s companions didn’t seem to appreciate it when, inspired by the atmosphere, Chow, Baby cleaned their faces with a saliva’d napkin.

Martini & Saucy

In the things-always-go-its-way category: Just as Chow, Baby was getting really, really tired of budget dining and was jonesing (as William Safire might say) to spend $70 on lunch for two, up pops My Martini. This swanky bistro comes from the dream team that brought us Piranha Killer Sushi, two doors down in the tiny strip at N. Collins St. and NE Green Oaks Blvd.

Like a crying cowboy, the room melted Chow, Baby’s loins with its tough-tender cool warmth. Maroon velvet curtains balance concrete walls; upwards, half the ductwork is exposed, half shielded in modern undulations with pinpoint spots. Chow, Baby immediately determined to sell its East Side dream house, move into one of the singles pads across Green Oaks, become a young gorgeous ad rep, and get lucky here every night.

Chow, Baby drives recklessly enough when sober, but felt it would be rude to pass up the 14 house-specialty martinis. The Lemon Drop (Citron and lemon, $7) went down smooth and light, yet within seconds Chow, Baby was giggling at the menu description — “finger muddled” — of its companion’s Dirty Martini ($6) and ordering entrées with the same number of words as their price. The Lemongrass Pork Loin with Wilted Spinach and Potato Pancake (9 words, $9) was fabulous, as were the Prince Edwards Mussels with Tomato Shiitake Garlic Butter (8 words, $8), and, for dessert, Apple Walnut Galette with Cajeta (5 words, $5). The culinary details are, for some reason, a blur. And then Chow, Baby left the go boxes on the table. That’s it: No more drinking while dining.

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