We know the food will be wonderful. The neighboring loudmouths will leave any day now. The waitress will arrive any day now. No need to walk out. Everything will be fine.” This exchange was reconstructed later, because at the time, seated halfway between the blaring television and the Screecher Family, neither of us could hear a word the other said. Other senses were assaulted by the sea of dirty tables. We never did see a busboy. We rarely saw our waitress, and we never saw her smile.
Yet we had faith in Hedary’s, 6323 Camp Bowie Blvd. In the three decades since Leila and Antoine Hedary immigrated here from Lebanon, they’ve become the moguls of Middle Eastern dining in Fort Worth (the family empire includes Byblos and Celaborelle). They know their hummus. Everything would be fine. Everything would be fine. And the appetizers were, indeed: magdoos ($4.75), baked eggplant with walnuts, garlic, and spices; falafel ($6.25), which many restaurants overcook to golf-ball consistency, here still moist inside and delightful with freshly made tarator (lemon/tahini/garlic) sauce; grape leaves stuffed with ground sirloin and rice ($6.75 for six), redolent with cinnamon, with yogurt on the side for the perfect tart balance.
For an entrée, Chow, Baby really, really wanted the lamb chops. $27. Lamb chops. $27. Chow, Baby went for the lamb shawarma sandwich ($11.25). Which was great for the lightly grilled onions and tomatoes, the tarator sauce, the hot pita bread; but faith was challenged with every stringy yet tough (how do you do that, even?) bite of the gristly meat. Dessert will be fine, we hand-signed to each other (the Screechers were dawdling over coffee), and again we were right: shabiet ($3.75), the custard-filled pastry sprinkled with honey and crushed pistachios, was the proof that when invested properly, loyalty and commitment will pay off big. Lesson of the day: Keep the faith, Baby.
If Ever a Whiz
The thing people don’t realize is that “authentic” doesn’t always mean “good.” Which is why a pal’s report that Celine Little Deli (1116 8th Ave.) prepares authentic Philly cheesesteaks was cause for dismay: Chow, Baby has taken a lot of bullets for this job, but it must draw the line at Cheez Whiz – even though that’s the only acceptable cheese/cheez for thinly sliced beef grilled in grease, according to South Philly purists. Hoping desperately that Celine’s cook would be from a neighborhood that also admits mozzarella or provolone (or American, though Chow, Baby puts that in the “cheez” category), we entered the former gas station and heard … not the Rocky sounds of Philadelphia at all, but mellifluous gyros accents. Trusting the voice, Chow, Baby ordered the previously feared sandwich and a gyros platter as well (sandwich platters with fries and drink, $4.99; also pizza, salads, pasta).
The gyros sandwich had lettuce on it! The cheese-steak had Swiss cheese! Not complaining, just pointing out: not authentic. But oh, so good. Hot pita around the nicely seasoned gyro meat, lots of tomatoes, lots of good tzatziki sauce. As for the Philly, the meat, though not greasy enough, was high-grade; the Swiss was gooey-melted; the onions and peppers (peppers, by the way, are not “authentic”) were nicely grilled; and the bread was close enough to a traditional hoagie roll. Quick, hot, delicious lunches at great prices: The sandwiches may not be bona fide, but Celine Little Deli sure is.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.