Chow, Baby: Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Back in Balance

J. Gilliganís (400 E. Abram St., Arlington) has a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and chicken-fried, though itís as much beer bar and music club as restaurant ó call it a college hangout for all ages. The crowd hanging out at Chow, Babyís latest visit had fun potential: students, musicians, and a few eager beavers Chow, Baby recognized from its internet-dating-site cruises, er, pop-culture research. As this is the Big Three among hormone-driven groups of people, it was odd that except for bartender/food-runner/ex-Slow Roosevelt drummer Aaron, who handled the Monday-night mob with sexy assurance, the room had no letís-get-it-on atmosphere whatsoever. Maybe itís the blinding neon beer signs, the basement rec-room aura. Or maybe everybody had given up and was there for the Irish nachos.

Thatís why Chow, Baby was there. Thereís a legend around Arlington, an ancient whispered legend, one that Chow, Baby never felt the need to check out until now. And thankfully, itís true. Lonely boys and girls, listen up: J. Gilís Irish nachos ($5.95) truly are better than sex. Itís too simple to describe these as ďlike nachos but with potatoes instead of chips,Ē or list the ingredients (tons of cheese, bacon bits, chives, onions, tomatoes, and japs broiled over thick-cut potatoes). Itís the incredible sense of to-the-core satisfaction and well-being that comes from the fat, carbs, and salt, soooooooo good and then you want to curl up and snooze a bit. Now that Chow, Babyís had them, it wants them every day for the rest of its life.

Knowing where to get pure primal satisfaction freed Chow, Baby to arouse its tastebuds with a long-denied indulgence and not fear the consequences. Sadly, August isnít a good oyster month. Thatís not necessarily true these days, what with year-round oyster farms, but Chow, Baby is old-fashioned (at least until the third date): August oysters should be served with huge shrimp and a few, not too many, pieces of octopus and other sea babies in a spicy, cilantro-y, tomato-rich cocktail sauce. It should be called vuelve a la vida (ďreturn to life,Ē yes, that kind of coming to life) and it should be available in Mexican restaurants all over town. Chow, Baby got itself some at La Playa Maya (3200 Hemphill St).

Chow, Baby has decided to simplify its relationship with La Playa Maya. Itís great with the seafood, but not so much with the meat dishes. The worst part is going at lunch: Thereís all these six- and eight-tops filled with some ďgang from work,Ē and you know thereís one person, probably the IT guy, who begged, ďLetís go somewhere else; I donít really like seafood.Ē And the gang gangs up him: ďLa Playa has meat dishes too, you know.Ē Now he has to go or be a bad sport, and Chow, Baby has to watch seven people loving their filete empanizado (fried catfish filet, $7.85 lunch) and one sad sack picking at cold, dead non-sizzling fajitas ($6.95 lunch).

So the new deal is, Chow, Baby gets its ceviche Yucateco ($7.95), jumbo-shrimped coctel Maya ($10.85), and vuelve a la vida to go, and drives home very fast so itís still fresh and cold. Then, because all seafood has an oyster effect on Chow, Baby, it drives very fast to J. Gilliganís for nacho release. Some things are still better shared, though; La Playa Mayaís creamy, firm flan ($3.55) can chill in the fridge until Chow, Baby finds somebody equally delicious to enjoy it with.

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