If “stuffed and smothered” is your favorite cuisine, boy howdy, has Chow, Baby found the restaurant for you. Seems like everything on this menu is stuffed with crab meat and smothered with Asiago cheese sauce.
Oh, except for the mushrooms- they’re stuffed with three cheeses, smothered in garlic butter, and named “What Nots.” Sounds familiar, you say? Yep, but now you don’t have to enjoy Chef Franson Nwaeze’s yummy creations inside a gas station.
You still can, if you want – the original Chef Point Café is going strong inside the Conoco station at 5901 Watauga Rd. (and, thank goodness, has no plans to close). But Chef Franson also has just taken over the kitchen and dining area at Sparks. The rear of the building is still a nightclub/sports bar/live music venue, but he has put up a new sign in front: Chef Point II (5209 Rufe Snow Dr., North Richland Hills). The menu has many of the same bistro-tinged comfort-food dishes (pizza, pasta, seafood, grilled steak and chops) as the original Chef Point. And though this room hasn’t been refurbished since it was Tippin’s Restaurant and Pie Pantry, the ambiance is certainly a big step up from a gas station.
Ah, but there’s the rub. Chef Franson’s cuisine is still classier than its surroundings (mostly; the cheese fries with plastic-y American cheese fit right in) – but since the surroundings aren’t quite as low-rent, the contrast isn’t as dramatic. Here a perfect New York strip steak ($16.99), stuffed with Canadian bacon and smoked cheddar cheese, earned a “yes, quite good,” as opposed to the “omigod this is INCREDIBLE!!!” surprise of getting something like that in a Conoco. Same for the stuffed & smothered flounder, or the s&s chicken, or the s&s blackened pork chop (all $14.99): very nice here, but stunning at a gas station. It’s odd: The dishes at Chef Point II are mostly quite good (creative, well-prepared, tasty), the service is fine, the prices are appropriate. But the slightly better atmosphere makes for a less thrilling dining experience. Next time, Chow, Baby’s filling up at the Conoco.
The Pappas restaurant empire (Pappadeaux, Pappasito’s, yeah we get it) has always made Chow, Baby’s skin crawl at the very thought, just like Chili’s and Bennigan’s and Applebee’s and all those loud, perky-hostessed, focus-group-tested, boring-food-pushing corporate chains. (Except Macaroni Grill. For some reason Chow, Baby sorta likes that one.) But on Independence Day we couldn’t find an open indie, so there we were at Pappas Burger, just opened in the Pappas Campus at 2700 West Fwy., – the first Pappas Burger outside of Houston. Chow, Baby supposes we should feel honored.
Didn’t need fireworks after the blast of hostess perk, but after that everything was tolerable. Pappas Burger Nachos ($6.95) were like something you’d get at a movie theater, and the beloved’s portobello mushroom sandwich ($6.25) was mushy. But the guac ($4.50 with chips) was freshmade and chunky, and Chow, Baby’s blue-cheese burger was marvelous, prime beef cooked to order and topped with hickory-smoked bacon and spicy onion rings. Almost worth the $9.75. And even though the place was packed, service was almost too conscientious. Accordingly, Chow, Baby gives Pappas Burger the highest praise its various prejudices will allow: If you must go to a loud, perky-hostessed chain restaurant, you could do a lot worse than this one.
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