Food is served cafeteria-style, which makes choosing from all the deliciousness that much more difficult. Tip: Ask the nice lady for a two-meat, three-veggie plate ($7.69) so you can try as much as possible, and a go-box because you won’t be able to finish it all. Definitely get the rich ‘n’ juicy chicken and dumplings if they’re available, and either the pot roast or the beef tips, both falling-apart tender and perfectly seasoned. No, get the meatloaf with tomato sauce. But don’t miss the smothered pork chops and baked chicken. Tip: Get a second two-meat plate.
Can’t go wrong with any of the homestyle veggies, from buttery mashed potatoes to bacon-spiked green beans to fresh-fried okra, but Chow, Baby insists you try the collard greens. Yeah, yeah, you don’t like greens; you think they’re bitter. These will change your mind. Don’t forget the hot-water cornbread, now. For dessert ($2.25): a couple of fruit cobblers with yummy-looking brown crusts, homemade banana pudding with real bananas, freshmade cakes and pies. Get them all; try a bit of each and put the rest in a go-box. Rest for a while at one of the long church-basement folding tables, and then go through the line again.
Finding Po’ Melvin’s (355 N. Carroll Av., Southlake) entailed driving around Southlake Town Square (1/5 square mile) for about 40 minutes, passing Taco Diner several times with increasing longing. A clutch of parked cars on the dark western edge of the complex was the only hint that the teeny-signed Po’ Melvin’s might be open for business. Inside, noise was a big clue. Tip: Don’t sit anywhere near the bar. Overhead, classic rock thumped through scratchy speakers; at the next table, a gaggle of preteen boys battled for honors in “No, I’ve Memorized More Phone Numbers Than You Have,” each proving his case with top-of-the-lungs recitation. Meanwhile, as order after order came out wrong and/or late, Chow, Baby and its beloved played a few rounds of “Is He Deaf or Is He Dumb?” with our waiter as the contestant and his tip as the table stakes.
We began with bland, runny soup – oops, the waiter had brought us the wrong starter. We began again with bland, runny seafood gumbo ($6.99). Maybe that’s just how they make it in Baton Rouge; though the menu promises “New Orleans Style” dishes, all the wall-o-bilia honors LSU, 80 miles and a world apart from the Big Easy. Roast beef “flavored and cooked New Orleans style” ($7.99 with three veggies), a concept that Chow, Baby is not familiar with, turned out to mean soaking in rich brown gravy (ah, like a debris po-boy; OK then), served with rice (which the waiter forgot to bring), and oversalted into inedibility. A side of red beans and rice, delivered long after the entrée, had Chow, Baby scrambling for the Tabasco and the salt. The collard greens, bitter as a runner-up’s tears, explained why so many people think they hate greens. It’s been a long time since Chow, Baby’s had such a po’ meal and such po’ service. Tip: Stay far, far away from Po’ Melvin’s.
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