Here we launch a new occasional series: Fort Worth Institutions That Chow, Baby Shame-Facedly Confesses It Hadn’t Been to Before.

We’ll come up with a better name later. We’ll come up with better examples later, too, as Babe’s Chicken Dinner House (104 N. Oak St., Roanoke) isn’t in Fort Worth. In fact, it’s completely outside Chow, Baby’s territorial jurisdiction, though Chow, Baby didn’t realize that until it spotted the “Welcome to Tarrant County” sign on the way home. And at that point Chow, Baby was so full of good chicken it didn’t care.

In case anybody else around here didn’t know it, Babe’s is housed in a 100-year-old hardware store in the center of tiny Roanoke – look for the big neon chicken on the roof and the hordes of hungry folk waiting outside. Inside is classic Texana: barnlike rafters, mismatched tables and chairs, walls adorned with rusty farm implements and whimsical proverbs about spurs, comely hey-hon waitresses. There’s no menu, because you get only two choices: A Babe’s dinner ($9.49) consists of either chicken-fried steak or half a fried chicken (yes, cut in pieces), plus all-you-can-eat salad (well, iceberg lettuce drenched in too-sweet vinaigrette), mashed potatoes, cream gravy, semi-creamed corn, and hot buttermilk biscuits.

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As for the main course, Chow, Baby must agree with Southern Living, which two years ago named Babe’s fried chicken one of the best in the South, and with Fort Worth Weekly readers, who just named it the best in Tarrant County (except that … oh, who cares). Each batch is fried to order, with a crunchy golden crust and juicy meat – even the breast was moist inside, and that’s hard to do. In a word, perfect. Sides were good to great, and the cream gravy was omigod-I-want-a-soup-spoon good. Thick, creamy, peppery, with a hint of grease – boy howdy. Possibly the best gravy in the history of the universe, and in itself well worth the trek to Roanoke.

Stayin’ Alive

Boy, Chow, Baby was smart, getting to Bee Gee’s (623 E. Hurst Blvd., Hurst) at quarter to 12 on a weekday. On its last visit, years ago – Bee Gee’s has been around for 25 of them – Chow, Baby could barely shove its way in past the noon rush from the Bell Helicopter plant just across Highway 10. But this time, the early bird caught a booth by the window and shared the good-ol’-gal waitress with only two other patrons, one a WWII submarine vet who began every monologue with “I tell you whut” and ended it by lighting yet another unfiltered cigarette. Chow, Baby was in love.

Bee Gee’s serves homestyle breakfast and lunch all day (6am-2pm), so Chow, Baby began with luscious blueberry pancakes ($4.59) – with the blueberries cooked in, thank you, not just plopped on top – and a side of bacon ($1.79) that was as crispy as requested. But at the lunch course, things started to go wrong. A cup of chili ($2.29) had an aftertaste of can, and the fabulous fresh toppings on the mushroom burger ($4.49) couldn’t compensate for the watery meat. And it’s now after one – where’s the lunch crowd? The admiral opined that Bell folks haven’t been coming in because the plant put in a cafeteria, but Chow, Baby thinks that’s jive talkin’: You can’t get blueberry pancakes like these at a company cafeteria, but you can sure get canned chili.

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