As Chow, Baby has been complaining about its lack-of-love life for the last few months, it now feels duty-bound to report that it’s not lonesome tonight. Yes, Sweetie Mach II has entered the building.

Sparks had been flying for a while, but Chow, Baby knew it was a match last Saturday night – anyone who’s delighted to cruise from downtown to Lake Worth to the Stockyards in search of an interesting restaurant that’s open late in this early-bird town, without once proposing Chili’s, is clearly The One. After that, cute/smart/artistic is just icing. No Harley, either!

The reason for the 10 p.m. munchies was that earlier that evening, for the first time in its professional life, Chow, Baby didn’t get its money’s worth at a buffet. It seemed like a great idea: Chow, Baby could polka to Brave Combo, nosh on tastings from fine local restaurants, and rack up a few get-into-heaven points at the First United Methodist Church’s Fifth Street Festival, this year benefiting hurricane victims. With Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, Bistro Louise, and Kalamatas, among others, on the promised list, Chow, Baby figured it could easily slurp up enough worthy morsels to justify the $25 entry fee.

Well, this is one of the drawbacks to not knowing your way around a church: Chow, Baby couldn’t find a single one of the Big Three. Maybe the Rita threat had kept them away, or maybe they just saw Chow, Baby coming and hid in the, what do you call it, vespers or something. We did enjoy a scoop of ceviche from Michael’s Restaurant, some Hawaiian pork from Parthenon, Shrimpers’ kind attempt at seafood gumbo, and fabulous bites of Kahlua fudge cake from Hurst bakery/cafe Hot Chocolates. It was very nice of the restaurants to donate their cuisine for a worthy cause, but, well, Chow, Baby was still hungry.

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Two hours of cruising and many “No, this ‘Open’ sign is just for show” frustrations later, El Asadero, 1535 N. Main St., appeared to meet all requirements: It’s open until midnight on weekends, and it looks interesting. In a good way. Having toured Mexico (and grabbing any excuse to slip that in, to justify deducting this summer’s roadtrip), Chow, Baby now knows that too-bright lights, pale green walls, Jesus-on-velvet paintings, and general shabbiness are not just kitsch for Stockyards tourists. No, this décor is the real thing, as authentic as the Mexican-style soups, steaks, and seafood that the Villarreal family has been dishing out here for more than 20 years.

New sweetie, it turns out, is something of a nachos connoisseur and was thrilled with the shredded (not ground) beef, the proper amount of cheese (“too much is just right”), and the devil-in-disguise enchilada sauce on the Joshua’s Special ($4.95). Made-fresh-when-ordered guacamole (large $4.95) had the ideal salt-lime proportions for that perfect little zing. Though it wasn’t the polka, we did get to dance with the Chuleton ($9.95), a marvelously seasoned and perfectly charbroiled chuck steak, the thin-cut kind with lots of bones at weird angles so you have to keep turning the plate around and attacking the meat from various directions. The broiled onions heaped on top were al dente rather than caramelized, but very chili-dusted tasty, and cut long enough to play Lady and the Tramp scenes with. Woof. El Asadero is a keeper, and it’s not the only one.

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