In the Loop
Though it’s on one of the busiest highways in the Metroplex, the Loop feels paranormally isolated, bordered on one side by a desolate gas station and on the other by scrub brush. Heaven only knows what kind of creepy goings-on go on in there.
But the Loop is just a diner and a pretty good one at that. The beautifully redecorated former McDonald’s has a wide menu of breakfast-all-day (top pick: gyros omelet, $6.29), sandwiches (like the diner-authentic patty melt on rye with perfectly grilled onions, $5.59), and entrées out the wazoo. The sesame chicken ($8.99) fooled Chow, Baby, who was expecting a Chinese-style dish; it was actually a simple grilled breast sprinkled with sesame seeds and dressed with tender grilled vegetables. Shrimp scampi ($9.99), much better than Olive Garden’s, came with the same grilled veggies, a good thing, and roasted potatoes, not so good – rice would have been better, to sop up the garlicky sauce. Chicken-fried steak ($7.99 with fresh-fried okra and real mashed) passed all the tests; the lasagna ($7.99), meaty and sweet-sauced, was satisfying. That’s just a few of the smorgasbord-of-cuisines offerings, but the immensely capable and personable waitress/acting manager Leigh – not a Janet Leigh, more like spunky Vivien Leigh in That Hamilton Woman, mmm – will help you decide. No dynamic tension here, just great service and good roadside grub.
Art for Eats’ Sake
From old movies to old tv: So Perry Mason, investigating a murder in a gallery, says to Paul Drake, “Paul, do you know much about art?” And chick-magnet Paul says drolly – he did everything drolly, that was his genius – “Me? I don’t even know what I like.” This line is one of Chow, Baby’s all-time favorites, and it explains why Chow, Baby goes to museums mainly for the food. Even more mainly, for Café Modern’s incredibly decadent chocolate soup ($7). It’s made with Callebaut bittersweet, a Belgian cooking chocolate; since it’s already melted, you skip the boring mastication stage and go straight from the first sugar rush to the aftertaste of rich warmth coating your insides. Traditionally – that is, the one other time Chow, Baby had it, in another city – this soup-fondue is served with black-pepper ice cream, but Café Modern wisely pairs it with crispy-edged Grand Marnier-flavored marshmallows, the better for dunking.
After dessert, Chow, Baby and its sugarpie enjoyed artistic selections from Café Modern’s “Winter Brunch” menu: for a starter, a roulade of smoked salmon and wasabi-infused cream cheese ($7), followed by the Modern Omelet ($13), a pesto-cream-topped pastiche of smoked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. The cranberry-pecan pancakes ($9) were notable for having cranberries actually cooked inside the cakes (cf. previous Chow, Baby rants on “banana pancakes” with bananas appearing only as a topping), plus a great apple cider-maple “reduction,” a.k.a. syrup. All delicious, but it’s the indulgent chocolate soup that lures Chow, Baby back. As Della Street said in The Case of the Velvet Claws, “It’s a new obsession for me.”
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.