One of many, many items on Chow, Baby’s list of “what are people thinking?” mysteries is the popularity of Jakes, whose burgers have gotten rave reviews from D magazine, the Dallas Observer, Texas Monthly, and even this rag. Sure, Chow, Baby was thrilled last spring when the Dallas-based mini-chain helped reverse the suburbanization of downtown by taking over the Dallas-based maxi-chain Chili’s space at 515 N. Main St. But not because of Jakes’ thin, overcooked patties on annoying poppy-seeds-everywhere buns; mostly just Yay, no more Chili’s!
And yet Jakes’ popularity thrives, perhaps because of the great fried pickle chips ($3.95), the comely “Jakettes” (servers, to grownups), or the lively/loud sports-bar-ish atmosphere. Or maybe the burgers are better than Chow, Baby, carrying perhaps a bit of Chili’s transference, remembered. Off to the newest Jakes (6333 Camp Bowie Blvd.), in the former home of Fuego, of which Chow, Baby has only the best memories (mmm, tuna carpaccio).
New mental game: Whenever an excruciatingly chipper hostess asks incredulously, “Just one?,” Chow, Baby quickly scans the room for the worst table and places a bet with itself. This turns Chow, Baby’s current slight hypersensitivity about being alone and unloved into a money-making opportunity. Score! Right on the aisle, and positioned for maximum front-door draft! Another fun challenge: The patties in Chow, Baby’s mushroom swiss burger ($6.29) were as dry as overdone meat can be — yet the bun was soaked with delicious meaty juice, falling apart like the bread in French onion soup. Where did all this aromatic juice come from? Do they ladle it onto the bun? Later research (peeking into the kitchen) revealed the secret: not a ladle, but a big pastry brush and a vat of meaty juice. But where does the vat come from? Does Ben E. Keith sell meat juice by the gallon? And if so, do they sell direct to the public? Chow, Baby will take six gallons. And then it can have the best of Jakes, without a bunch of poppy seeds stuck in its teeth.
The tide of Chow, Baby’s timing may be turning: For the first time in memory, it hit a restaurant —Burger Island (3930 Glade Rd., Colleyville) — on the right “special” day: Monday, which is Royal Bacon Cheeseburger day ($5.25). Now all of Burger Island’s burgers are pretty good; this local chain, with a dozen Metroplex locations, is one of those step-above-fast-food places — sure, it has plastic booths in scary-vibrant colors, but it also has friendly and grown-up staffers, made-to-order half-pound burgers, and sautéed-to-order toppings like onions, mushrooms, jalapeños, and bell peppers. And several kinds of cheese!
Chow, Baby was torn between the Hawaiian Cheeseburger (with pineapple, ham, and provolone, $5.95) and the Jungle Burger (with pretty much everything you can put on a burger, $5.95). But while trying to think of an island with a jungle on it other than Gilligan’s, Chow, Baby spotted the tiny Monday Special flier on the counter and earned itself a nicely juicy (from the meat, not a brush), perfectly medium-rare burger with fresh-cooked bacon and melting cheese, plus — gee, wasn’t this one of Chow, Baby’s brilliant New Year’s trend predictions? — a juicy fried egg on top. Chow, Baby, taking validation and juice where it can these days, scores itself another point.
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