Chow, Baby: Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Neighborhood Watch

It was with great wariness that Chow, Baby approached Southern Recipes Grill (2715 N. Collins, Arlington). This pretty stand-alone building is the former home of Jango’s, which several years ago left such a bad taste in Chow, Baby’s mouth, literally as well as figuratively, that it still cringes at the memory. Like Xouba (pronounced SHOO-ba), a few blocks south and also long dead now, and still-alive My Martini to the north, Jango’s targeted the Screecher demographic[1] by hyper-emphasizing décor, atmosphere, and ersatz martinis while redheaded-stepchilding the dining side. It’s that bait-and-switch that pisses Chow, Baby off: You want to be a fancy “lounge” crammed with giggly young account executives from the nearby apartment complexes, that’s perfectly fine by me — but don’t tell me I’m going to get top-chef-created contemporary cuisine like scallop/shrimp/crab manicotti (Jango’s) or Peruvian-style ceviche (Xouba) or a fresh take on steak Oscar (My Martini), and then throw krap[2,3] on the plate like you just don’t care. This is what happens when a whole lot of culinary talent goes into creating and writing the menu but very little to executing it.[4]
With that long history of being sucker-punched by Ditto restaurants,[5] no wonder Chow, Baby entered Southern Recipes with suspicion and a trusty companion.[6] But right off the bat, a couple of things were different from the old Jango’s. For one, no screechers, though somebody in the bridge-club meeting in the side room was awfully excited about her four-hearts bid. For two, the motto: “Where Home Cooking from Scratch Is a Tradition” — that’s still a pretty big promise, but at least it’s promising substance over style. And Southern Recipes, to Chow, Baby’s pleasant surprise, delivered. Daily lunch specials ($6.95-$8.95) include items like beef tips, pot roast, and meatloaf, with soup or salad and two vegetables; unfortunately, everything Chow, Baby really wanted was offered on not-today.[7] To the regular menu, to choose from burgers, pastas, sandwiches, salads, and meat-and-threes, where Chow, Baby finally settled on two huge, lightly seasoned grilled pork chops ($9.95) with real mashed potatoes and sautéed mixed veggies, plus half of Laurie’s char-grilled chicken salad ($7.45), a gigantic breast sliced over greens and shredded cheese. Chow, Baby could find no flaw in either dish,[8] nor in its massive to-go order. Delicious food, perfectly imagined and executed, just as the menu promised? There goes the neighborhood.[9]
[1] “Omigod! Awesome!”
[2] A cross between “krab,” as in cheap tasteless fake seafood served to innocent, trusting customers, and “crap,” a word Chow, Baby doesn’t like to use in food contexts.
[3] For the record, the crab My Martini throws on the plate like they just don’t care is actually real crab.
[4] Because the staff is busy mixing Donkey Show martinis.
[5] “Ditto” in part because of their proximity to the Chester W. Ditto Golf Course at Green Oaks and Collins. The exception is Piranha Killer Sushi (851 N.E. Green Oaks Blvd.), which has never done Chow, Baby wrong except for seating it next to screechers.
[6] Fort Worth Weekly food writer Laurie Barker James. No way was Chow, Baby braving Ditto-land without serious back-up.
[7] Beef tips are on Mondays.
[8] Well, the housemade blue cheese dressing was whipped a tad too smooth. Didn’t have any chunks in it.
[9] Good riddance.

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