Here in the land of ribs, fajitas, and chicken-fried, Chow, Baby can understand that it’s hard to be a good Lentenite, which may explain why so many people wimp out with lame sacrifices like chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol, and fast women. But for those who are kicking vices old-school this year, traditional meat-denial is made easier with the Lenten menu at La Playa Maya (five area locations, if you generously include Weatherford).
The vibrant seaside-café décor at the Westside La Playa Maya (6209 Sunset Dr., off Camp Bowie Boulevard) primes the taste buds for the “Menu Especial de Cuaresma,” a one-page insert in La Playa’s regular menu. If you remind your server to bring the dessert, it’s a three-course meal that begins with sopa de lentejas, a flavorful lentil soup. Then choose from four entrées: chile relleno, a big roasted cheese-stuffed poblano, very nice ($8.65); chile relleno marinero, crammed with scallops, shrimp, red snapper, and crawfish, really nice ($10.95); a wonderful Veracruz-style enchiladas del mar, spilling over with shrimp and crabmeat and a lighter-than-it-looks cream cheese sauce ($9.75); and the yucky tortitas de camaron, two shrimp cakes that didn’t taste of shrimp at all and that had the incongruent consistency of a veggie burger, though redeemed by a lovely nutty, mildly spicy cascabel sauce ($8.45).
The finale is a fantastic capirotada, a traditional Lenten dessert that’s at heart a bread pudding: toasted bread soaked in a syrup of Mexican brown sugar with cinnamon and other spices, plus raisins and coconut shreds. Thus in one delightful meal, efficient Chow, Baby covered 40 days’ worth of Lenten duties: self-denial (no meat), penitence (sorry I dissed the tortitas; it’s probably just an acquired taste), almsgiving (larger-than-warranted tip), and prayer (please, please, more capirotada). Now to find some fast women.
At the Crossroads
It doesn’t help Chow, Baby’s tenuous hold on reality when one minute it’s driving from a big-box store at I-30 and Loop 820 to another big-box store on Eastchase Parkway, and the next minute it’s in the middle of nowhere. Like on a back road halfway to Abilene or something. Nothing but scrub-filled lots adjoin this lonely road, until suddenly a dusty four-way stop sign materializes at three corners of bleakness and one small, run-down strip anchored by a generic gas station. Next to that is D. Jay’s Kountry Kitchen (7403 John T. White Rd.). Chow, Baby can take a hint.
Amid the “God Is Good” signs plastered about, D. Jay’s has a church-basement feel, a chicken-livers aroma, and the day’s offerings chalked on a board. Chow, Baby never did figure out the pricing – plates are $6 to $9.50 depending on … on … well, whatever. Meats weren’t all that: Smothered pork chops were toothy rather than fall-apart; fried chicken lost its crunch after too long on the steam table; conversely, the baked chicken had dried out. But oh, the loving sides. black-eyed peas with okra, mac & three gooey cheeses, green beans with ham hocks, thick red beans with sausage, and of course well-seasoned mixed greens (turnip and collard, no romaine) The highlight of the church-lady desserts ($2.50) was a nutmeggy sweet-potato pie with perfect crust. D. Jay’s is a nice find, and Chow, Baby only hopes it can find the place again.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.