It’s amazing, and rather sweet, how many readers have recently expressed concern for Chow, Baby’s budget. They have a point. Since Chow, Baby’s last allowance increase, back in ahem-boss-are-you-listening 2005, gas prices have doubled, making cruising the 897 square miles of Tarrant County in search of “Now Open!” signs a pricey practice.

Food costs have gone up, too, forcing restaurateurs to raise their prices – why, to look at just the Stuffed Mushrooms Index, Chow, Baby now has to pay $6.99 for Chef Point Café’s glorious three-cheese-filled, garlic-baked “What-Nots,” up from $3.99 since Chow, Baby’s last budget increase. Still worth it, though.

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Reader Jon G. was particularly concerned about the financial impact of Chow, Baby’s “extravagant” lamb lust, a souvenir of its most recent international research trip. (Those aren’t getting any cheaper, either, given how much the dollar has fallen since Chow, Baby’s last budget increase, in 2005.) Yes, Ireland awakened Chow, Baby’s taste for lamb chops, loin of lamb, rack of lamb, mmm … unfortunately, as Jon pointed out, those are “all indecently priced for regular consumption.” Jon’s regular lamb-consumption solution: Paul’s Donuts, Subs, and Gyros (1324 Hemphill St.).

Boy, talk about a value meal – Paul’s warm pita cradles tzatziki sauce, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions atop the highest pile of marinated beef/lamb Chow, Baby has seen in this country or any other. You can barely fold the darn thing in half. And all for – get this – just $3.99. The budget could even have accommodated a second one, but Chow, Baby was already full.

Speaking of gyro prices, reader Paul B. suggested we “add another $” to our listing for Greek House (2426 Forest Park Blvd.), where he had paid a whopping $9.85 for a gyro, fries, and drink. Ah, but Paul had made the movie-popcorn mistake of adding on the stratospheric-markup, low-utility extras. For the gyro alone, Greek House’s price has increased just 10 percent (now $5.54) since Chow, Baby’s last budget increase, in 2005. That price would be OK if Greek House hadn’t also cut quality since Chow, Baby’s last visit – this time, the cold, stiff pita was woefully understuffed with painfully dry meat, the toppings were scarce, and (maybe to save grill-labor costs?) the onions were raw. Not a value at any price.

Reader Moose Max tipped Chow, Baby to a budget-friendly Mexican place called Juan Jalapeño’s (1714 W. Randol Mill Rd., Arlington). Unfortunately Chow, Baby then lost a couple of days to musing whether “The Wacky Adventures of Moose Max and Juan Jalapeño” would make a good comic book or if it should just go straight to Pixar with the idea, and so missed out on “Taco Tuesday” (plate $3.99) and “All You Can Eat Wednesday” ($6.25). But Thursday was pretty cheap, too. The lunch specials ($4.50), generally one of this and one of that with unremarkable beans and rice, were more filling than thrilling. But the tacos ($1.85 each, not bad) were a treat, especially the juicy, slow-cooked pastor and the grill-flavored asada; they were sprinkled with feta, new to Chow, Baby in this context, but it worked. The value meal here is the super-stuffed grande burrito ($5.95), which, subtle gimme-a-raise hints notwithstanding, is super-tasty proof that Chow, Baby can eat quite well even if its last budget increase was in 2005. Don’t tell the boss.

Note: Chow, Baby learned just before deadline that Deer Creek BBQ Co., 9116 Camp Bowie Blvd West, reviewed in last week’s column, has closed. Sigh.

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