Furthermore, Chow, Baby has never read a Sherlock Holmes mystery or eaten a single meal in England and so has no idea whether 221B Baker’s atmosphere and menu are “authentic.” Which means Chow, Baby has to decide if they’re “good.” That’s harder.
If a pub is a big room with pool tables on one side and a bar in the middle, made cozy by low ceilings and lots of wood, and packed with clean-cut young businessmen and overly animated not-so-young women, then 221B Baker is a nice one. It doesn’t get stupid with the Sherlock theme; the staff all have good teeth and they don’t smoke meerschaum pipes. The menu is half American bar food (potato skins, chicken wings, burgers) and half Brit pub dishes, with a few upscalies like ahi tuna steak.
At the insistence of Chow, Baby’s own scrumptious banger – yes, you knew that was coming – we started with a Scotch egg ($3.99), a hard-boiled egg encased in ground pork and rolled in bread crumbs, and deep-fried. Along with the British sausage roll ($4.50), a puff-pastry-enveloped banger (translation: gummy link sausage made from pork, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, and cloves), it came from the kitchen too fast to be anything but nuked from frozen. Both were satisfying if bland (thank goodness for the side-dollop of spicy mustard) and so presumably authentic. Same for the bangers & mash ($9.99) and the shepherd’s pie ($7.99), whose mashed-potato topping had the gritty texture of a mix (though sides of green beans and roasted red potatoes were fresh as dawn and nicely seasoned). Fast, filling, comforting, and mild: Chow, Baby doesn’t know from Brit cuisine, but this is perfect pub food.
When in Keller
There’s a perfectly good explanation for how Chow, Baby wound up at a family-style Italian restaurant in its least favorite part of Tarrant, the zero-lot-line fast-fab hell where North Richland Hills bleeds into Keller. But it’ll have to wait for another time (and another attempt to visit a Keller restaurant that said it would be open but wasn’t). For now, suffice to say that the hour was late, the wind was cold, heat is not one of the Chowbabymobile’s strong suits, and there was Niki’s (2041 Rufe Snow Dr., Ste. 209, Keller). Like Niki’s other location, on Davis Boulevard, it’s not bad for suburban Italian-American; the dishes are executed with competence but little imagination (on this visit, we tried chicken cordon bleu and chicken aristocrat, the priciest items on the menu at $9.95). Our server was sweet, which is Chow, Baby code for cute and earnest but not skillful: We had just started our zero-presentation but tasty sausage and big-shrimp appetizer ($7.95) when the salads arrived, and were still sopping up its tomato-basil sauce when the entrées came moments later.
Niki’s has a large menu (including pizza), cheap lunch specials, and a pleasant, homey atmosphere. Chow, Baby wouldn’t cross Loop 820 just to eat at a Niki’s, but if you’re stuck in the ‘burbs on a cold night and your first-choice restaurant has lied to you, it’s not a bad fallback.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org