Chow, Baby knew it was going to enjoy its lunch at Zapata’s Cocina Mexicana (702 N. Henderson St., lunch only). One, it was reader-recommended (thanks again, Matthew!), and reader tips are always jake.

Two, anything would be better than the building’s previous occupant, Red’s Pit Bar-Be-Cue, which Chow, Baby somehow managed to hit on a bad day for half a dozen visits in a row. Three, thanks to Matthew’s description of Zapata’s – authentic Southern Mexican down to the cabbage in the red enchiladas – a couple of Chow, Baby’s fave pals agreed to come along and help eat.

High expectations, and yet Zapata’s surpassed them. Pal Jason said his chile relleno with beef ($8.95) – a lightly fried poblano stuffed with grilled beef, topped with a rich tomato-and-chili ancho cream sauce – was the best he’d ever had, and Chow, Baby figures anybody who can ask for a straw in Spanish must know what he’s talking about Mexican-food-wise. Pal James gave up some bites of his grilled chicken with rajas ($9.95), and even though Chow, Baby had never had this dish before, Zapata’s must be the best: a boneless breast topped with strips (“rajas”) of roasted poblano chiles, topped with melted Chihuahua cheese as creamy as a Mornay sauce.

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The pièce de résistance, though, was Chow, Baby’s mole chicken ($7.95). This was one of those dishes where you find yourself giving thanks and praise to Pan, the Greek god of cooking utensils, after every bite. And when you’re done eating you just want to cuddle. In a nod to North American tastes, the chunks of chicken were boneless and white, but the mole was pure Mexican: a dark, earthy sauce with notes of chocolate, cilantro, cinnamon, ground nuts and seeds, roasted tomatoes and chiles, and Pan know what else. Lucky for Zapata’s they don’t (yet) have flan on the menu, or Chow, Baby would still be there.

Nawlins for True

Chow, Baby knew it was going to enjoy its afternoon snack at Pierre’s Mardi Gras Café (3260 W. Euless Blvd. #7, Euless). One, it was recommended by longtime legman Steve, who has never, ever bum-tipped Chow, Baby. Two, the owner’s name is Roosevelt Pierre, and how cool is that? Three – actually those two were enough for Chow, Baby to rush on over.

Again, expectations surpassed. Now, the atmosphere isn’t that great. The Pierre family, who used to do catering in the late Ninth Ward of New Orleans, have fancied up this strip-mall space with a few Mardi Gras masks and posters, but there’s not much you can do with four booths, two tables, and landlord-white walls. The aroma of gumbo and jambalaya more than makes up for the plain décor, though. And this is the real deal: The seafood gumbo ($6) even came with a crab leg sticking out, and every grain of rice in the shrimp-heavy jambalaya (side $3.50) was coated with bayou goodness. Chow, Baby continued its snack with two po-boys ($6 each), a roast beef with gravy that wasn’t New Orleans-authentic but was tasty nonetheless, and a hot sausage with provolone ($6) that was both. Bread pudding ($2.50 for a gigantic slice) was gooey, cinnamonny, raisin-studded decadence. Pierre’s official grand opening is Thursday, with free tastings all day from 11:30 am until the food is gone; make sure you get there before Chow, Baby does.

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