One night back when Chow, Baby was a carefree New Orleans teenager, it was dispatched to the family’s favorite Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner.
But instead of enduring the expected 20-minute wait, Chow Baby was handed a huge bag as soon as it walked through the lion-motif doors. The other waiting customer – as Caucasian as Chow, Baby, but 30 years older and of opposite coloring and build – said, “Wait, no, that must be mine.” The take-out manager checked the name on the bag, glanced at his two customers, and, exaggerating his Chinese accent, sing-songed “Oh, so sorry. You all look alike.”
The other customer hestitated, looking confused, but Chow, Baby was rolling. (What would Asian deadpan humor be called – deadwok humor? Or is that racist?) And was reminded of all this the other day upon entering Cajun Corner, 1115 E. Pioneer Pkwy., Arlington. The staffers here look like the same folks who ran this joint’s previous incarnation, a Vietnamese restaurant, but Chow, Baby, um, couldn’t tell for sure. (Racist? Partly, but also bad memory.) Not that it matters: South Louisiana has a large Vietnamese population, so surely every Vietnamese person in the world now knows the glories of okra. (Racist? No, it’s a joke.)
Cajun Corner has tables, but it mostly does take-out – hurrah, Cajun fast food finally comes to the Metroplex. Don’t know if everything’s made to order – there were some suspiciously microwave-sounding “dings” from the back – but the seafood sure tasted fresh-fried. A combo basket ($9.95) held lots of battered shrimp plus cornmeal-breaded oysters and catfish nuggets, all spiked with cayenne. Good hot fries, too. Red beans with sausage ($5.50) weren’t “authentic” – the beans were smooshed all wrong – but were nonetheless quite tasty and filling. The losers were the roux-less and strange gumbo ($5.50) and equally bland étouffée ($5.50). Even Chow, Baby’s midnight-snacking ghost hasn’t touched those leftovers. Discrimination? Yeah, discriminating taste.
Back to the Past
Here’s another in the occasional series that Chow, Baby still hasn’t found a better name for: Fort Worth Institutions That Chow, Baby Shame-Facedly Confesses It Hadn’t Been to Before. Except that Chow, Baby’s first-ever visit to Margie’s Original Italian Kitchen (9805 Camp Bowie West ) sure didn’t feel like its first. Margie’s was founded in 1953, and it’s a safe bet that not much has changed since then. Chow, Baby was charmed by the checkered tablecloths, ultra-dim lighting, hanging garlic ropes, and period jukebox, though a little frightened by the chairs hanging from the ceiling. Oddly, no straw-wrapped Chianti bottles with candles stuck in them; they would have fit right in.
The food matches the era of the décor: no trendy fresh-grated pepper or parmesan, and all of Chow, Baby’s pasta was cooked half past al dente. Dishes contained 1950s levels of salt and butter, and the garnish of choice is minced parsley. Time-warp eerie. The best part of the poached-of-flavor chicken picatta ($13.95) was the side salad: chopped romaine, tomatoes, and red onions topped with crisp bacon and a housemade Italian vinaigrette. Chow, Baby did love its porterhouse pork chop (a blackboard special, $17.95), though it was partnered with more overcooked, parsley-dusted fettuccine. Luckily, Margie’s is 1950s where it really counts: housemade tiramisu with raspberry sauce ($4.95). My stars, Chow, Baby will have to turn off the Roy Rogers Show reruns and fire up the DeLorean for more of that.
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