Chow, Baby: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The Word in Anglo is Good

Big, big news in the Eateries Near Thrifteries department: Picosos Mexican Restaurant (1950 Menefee Av.) has given frugal Chow, Baby another northwest destination for spending a little and getting a lot. Owner John Villanueva and his family have turned the old Moose Lodge (the rooftop sign is still there!) into a 1960s spaghetti Western vision of a Mexican town center: a softly weather-beaten, rambling main building; a side patio with strolling mariachis (on most weekends), trellises, and tiki torches; and a back patio that looms over the Jacksboro Highway Thrift Town and offers a grand southern view. That hilltop outlook isn’t a feature of most spaghetti Westerns, but inside we get back to the theme, with rooms decorated with lassos, sombreros, saddles, and pretty señoritas in peasant blouses and flouncy skirts.
With all the lovely visuals, it’s pure bonus that Picosos’ food is so good. And our servers, distant at first (Chow, Baby attributes that to outfit embarrassment), grew more genial as the dinner slowly but comfortably progressed. Warm chips and cilantro-fresh salsa were set on the table along with, thank you very much, ice water. Guacamole, cheap at $5.95, was chunky-mashed fresh at the table in a molcajete (that means “three-legged bumpy bowl” in Anglo), and though it was a big portion, we devoured it in about two seconds. The superb-from-the-first-bite chicken molé ($8.95) smelled like chocolate and tingled like chipotle, with the long-simmered chicken falling to pieces beneath the blanket of thick, rich sauce.
The star of the show was the appropriately named El Gordo (in Anglo, “the fat man”), a sizzling fajita platter of beef, chicken, shrimp, and — that’s “and,” not “or” — sausage, brought to the table on a brasero (“tabletop hibachi thingie”). El Gordo costs $12.95 per person, but we ordered one person’s worth and it was enough to feed about seven; took us half an hour to eat it all. That brought us to a tough choice: have dessert or get to Thrift Town before it closed.Vanilla flan ($3.50) while watching the sparkly lights of River Oaks was the right decision.
Worth the Wait, and Wait, and Wait
Smokey’s BBQ (5300 E. Lancaster Av.), bless its heart, has been a thorn in Chow, Baby’s East Side all year long. On a first visit just after Smokey’s opened, Chow, Baby found it to be not up to snuff (“Dry Chow,” Jan. 9). This could be either because Smokey’s is a loser or because the owners simply hadn’t gotten their act together yet. Chow, Baby is usually pretty good at discerning which, but Smokey’s would require further research.
On Chow, Baby’s first revisit attempt a few months later, Smokey’s had stopped making barbecue and just the day before started making wings. They smelled good, but Chow, Baby wasn’t about to make a too-soon judgment again. Revisit attempt #2, two weeks later: Out of wings, but they had just the day before started up barbecue again “due to popular demand” (Thurs-Sat). OK, see you in a couple of weeks. Actual revisit: A fabulous chopped-beef sandwich ($3.75), piled high with juicy meat and crusty flavor bits, and a half-dozen fresh-fried wings ($3.99) in Chow, Baby’s choice of the only flavor they weren’t out of, a mild yet piquant lemon pepper. Smokey’s still has some flow problems, but when they got it, it’s good.

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