Boy, it’s been a long time since we’ve had an installment of “Eateries Near Thrifteries,” the occasional series in which Chow, Baby fuels up at delicious dives before an afternoon digathon through stained (if it’s the Salvation Army) used clothing and as-seen-on-tv kitchen utensils.

Why the hiatus? Well, Chow, Baby’s last raise, a year and a half ago (gee, has it really been that long?), brought it nearly to the level of paying retail. Not full retail, obviously, but several of the shops in North East Mall have sales racks within Chow, Baby’s means.


Of course it’s even more important to lunch ahead before hitting the mall, lest sugar crash force a visit to the food court – or worse, to one of the chirpy chains dotting the grounds. Chow, Baby has never been to North East Mall’s R.J. Gator’s Hometown Grill & Bar but is willing to bet a week’s salary, such as it is, that R.J. Gator’s cocktails are whimsically named and its fish is menu-described as “grilled to perfection.” Double or nothing says they call their appetizers “Gatorizers.” No, thank you.

Just across from the mall, Vie à Paris French Bakery (954 Melbourne Rd., Hurst) calls a ham & cheese croissant a “Ham & Cheese Croissant” ($4.45), and broccoli cheese soup is listed as “Broccoli Cheese Soup” (cup $2.55). So refreshing. Admittedly, the excitement at each bite was partly due to Chow, Baby’s low mall-proximal standards – Look! The ham is real, not pressed and formed and slightly slimy! The Swiss cheese has a flavor! The croissant is buttery-flaky; the soup is flecked with authentic broccoli and has no Cheez Whiz aftertaste; the sausage roll ($2.45) has a bona fide sausage inside. A case of cheese- or fruit-filled danish (most $1.55) and two cases of “dessert pastries” ($1.45-$2.95) ensured that Chow, Baby would store up sufficient shopping energy. Let’s see: a wedge of blueberry cake topped with real blueberries; a pretty little mango mousse sprigged with mint; a slice of cheesecake in the proper stick-of-butter shape … . OK, let’s go spend some money!

But not at the mall, not when there’s a big Goodwill right down the street (825 W. Pipeline Rd., Hurst), chock-full of broken-in jeans and still-fuzzy flannel jammies (“classy cat” print, $4.95). Sure, Chow, Baby could have picked up Dillard’s cowboy-boot-print pajamas ($52), but then it couldn’t have afforded a dinner of camarones vallarta ($12.95) – big shrimp stuffed with jack cheese and wrapped in bacon, swimming in a subtle white wine-cilantro sauce – at Antonio’s (8316 Bedford-Euless Rd., N. Richland Hills). And possibly not even Antonio’s chunky, lime-y, lightly salty guacamole (grande $4.95), for which, unlike clothing, super-freshness is worth paying full price. Free with purchase: a shopping-stress-melting hug from Antonio, who is the latest addition to Chow, Baby’s collection of handsome and charming Latin hosts, and a comfy leather seat in the sunshine-and-cobalt bistro-beautiful restaurant.

Midnight-snack time found Chow, Baby munching on big, tender chunks of chipotle-sauced carnitas ($9.95, and thanks to reader Diane for the pork tip) whilst clad in its new-used jammies – the classy cats are wearing Audrey Hepburn sunglasses and drinking champagne! so adorable! – and wondering if people who can afford great food and new clothes could really be any happier than this. Be interesting to find out someday.

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