If you’ve been to Fred’s Texas Café over the past couple of days, you’ve probably noticed something a little different about the place: namely, a camera crew.
The off-West 7th Street institution will be the subject of an upcoming episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the Food Network show that follows host and celebrity chef Guy Fieri around the country as he spotlights some of the best places to get world-class grub in a comfy setting. When asked why Fred’s was chosen, network liaisons were tight-lipped. But Fred’s chef and owner Terry Chandler has a theory: The show’s web site (www.foodnetwork.com) encourages viewers to e-mail their favorites. Evidently, Chandler said, a lot of his loyal clientele e-mailed the network about Fred’s.
Chandler has been characteristically ebullient about the exposure. And what did the lovingly nicknamed Outlaw Chef cook over the course of the past couple of days for the spiky-haired Fieri, whose favorite comment about good food seems to be “It’s money”?
“Pretty much everything on the damn menu,” Chandler said, including the Fred Burger, taco cheese fries, and the beefsteak ranchero.
Though some regulars were – or pretended to be – curmudgeonly about the fuss, most of them were nonplussed. On Sunday, for the restaurant’s weekly “hangover brunch,” a couple of good-natured locals gave up their seats for Golden Globe- and Screen Actors Guild-winning actor and political activist Martin S
heen, who was in town doing who knows what. (He has friends here.) And customers don’t appear to be blanching at the legalese on a sandwich board out front that says that by entering, he or she permits Food Network to use his or her image in perpetuity.
“People seem more than willing to make accommodations to be on TV,” said Chandler’s wife, Jennifer Chandler.
The place has been packed, and not just because it’s cozy or because the food’s good or because of both of the above but also because the three-man crew eats up a lot of Fred’s real estate.
But here’s the $64,0000 question: Does Fred’s qualify as a “dive”?
As recently as a couple of years ago, there wasn’t any debate: Fred’s was a dive, a small rustic spot that served savory yet inexpensive burgers and chicken-fried steak, where you could get a schooner of “cold-ass” beer and either go sit on the “back porch” and let the day pass by or play a round of washers. But along came two fires, a break-in, and the wave of upscale development that is currently sweeping the West 7th corridor. Chandler was left with little choice but to up the price of some of his staples to recoup part of his losses – and also to take advantage of all of the newcomers that are supposed to be brought to the area by the raging development.
One thing’s for certain. Fred’s still looks like a dive. And, dive-y or not, it’s the only North Texas location to be featured thus far on the show, according to the network’s web site. No air date has been set. – Laurie Barker James
The great Fran Lebowitz once observed that if you removed all of the gay influence from American popular culture, you’d be left with The Price Is Right and, well, that’s about it. The range of subject matter influenced by queer tastemakers could fill several encyclopedia volumes and would include entries that might surprise heteros who think they’ve got all homosexuals pigeonholed as effete, Stoli-sipping quipsters with abs you can grate cheese on.
The acceptance and celebration of ironically named “alternative male body types” – the hairy, chubby, balding look that describes a good 85 percent of U.S. men – finds fierce expression in the gay subculture of “bears.” We’re not talking the forest kind that keeps Stephen Colbert up at night; rather, a universe where Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, and Leonardo DiCaprio are dull-as-dishwater girly boys, and James Gandolfini, Seth Rogen, and Kevin James are, like, way hot.
The Trinity River Bears, a Tarrant County social organization for gay and bisexual men who are big and hairy or who simply dig the less-slender look, are holding their first brunch meeting of 2009 at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday at Los Vaqueros, 2629 N. Main St. in the Stockyards. Rumor has it that this is an exceptionally friendly, open bunch and that “eat fewer carbs” is not high on the group’s list of New Year’s resolutions. – Jimmy Fowler
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