Here’s a fun thing to do next time you get maddeningly stuck in traffic on East Loop 820, which for Chow, Baby is every single time it gets on East Loop 820: Pop off at Trinity Boulevard, cruise around the 97-acre Riverbend Business Park, and try to guess from the business names what actually goes on inside. Distinguished Digitizing.
Bagmaster. ZedaSoft. UTA/Fort Worth Campus – that one’s a bit easier. So is George’s Café (2337 Gravel Dr.), heralded with bright yellow banners at the corner of Building No. 32.
Interestingly, sort of, the proprietor/counterworker of George’s Café is not named George – it’s Pom; Mrs. George, slaving over the grill, is Julie. But Pom likes being called George (“It’s a friendly name, a good name”), and he likes knowing his customers’ names and their usuals. At heart George’s Café is an office-building deli, with a counter stacked with gum, mints, and fried pies, and an office-worker menu of grilled-to-order burgers ($2.59-$4.19), grilled and deli sandwiches (from $1.89 for grilled cheese to $4.49 for a smoked-chicken sub), fresh-fried seafood baskets (perfectly seasoned catfish fillets with fries and cole slaw, $6.49), plus salads, chicken-fried, and a few Tex-Mex items. Everything Chow, Baby tried was made fresh to order and tasted great – a blessing, given the state of East Loop 820 and the likelihood of Chow, Baby’s becoming a regular here.
Downtown at the Blue Tower Café in Mallick Tower (101 Summit Av.), Allen Lutes has taken the office deli in a new direction: gourmet. If Chow, Baby has the timeline right, which is doubtful, Chef Allen graduated from the Culinary School of Fort Worth, interned at the fabulous Bonnell’s, and then, on the brink of a presumably brilliant career, had a kid and decided not to work fabulous-restaurant hours anymore. Chow, Baby has heard of this family-first concept (not from its own family, of course) and completely supports it – except when it interferes with Chow, Baby’s own dining pleasure.
Ah, but Chef Allen has figured out a way around Chow, Baby’s concerns. First, when he took over the Blue Tower a few months ago, he immediately upscaled the breakfast and lunch menus. Now Tower workers can start their day with a frittata (spinach & mushroom or ham & cheese, $3.75). At lunch, handformed seasoned burgers (starting at $4.25) and piled-high sub sandwiches (most $4.50) are quite good, but the special treats are the paninis and grilled wraps. Chow, Baby ate most of its companion’s Reuben ($4.75) because the grilled rye bread was so addictive, trading half of its own not-N’awlins-authentic but still tasty hot muffaletta ($4.75).
But Chef Allen is just getting started. As part of his other business (so much for not working nights), a personal-chef service called Home Appetit, he keeps a deli shelf at Blue Tower stocked with complete dinners ($5.95-$7.95) like Cajun grilled pork chops, glazed meatloaf, and stuffed shells, which can be microwaved later or frozen for up to a week. Like TV dinners, except good. Chow, Baby’s dinner that night was a hungry-man portion of medium-rare beef tenderloin with a balsamic-port wine sauce, sided with roasted potatoes and al dente steamed asparagus. Fabulous. If you can make it past the Mallick Tower parking lot’s barricade of speed bumps, Blue Tower Café is the tasty place to escape downtown traffic.
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