Chow, Baby’s high turnover in legpeople is due not to the zero pay or the lousy benefits (would it kill Chow, Baby to say “thank you” once in a while?), but because eventually they notice the correlation between tipping Chow, Baby to a neat new restaurant and that restaurant’s speedy demise. The obvious conclusion is that Chow, Baby is some kind of diner-energy vampire, pretending to support indies but actually feeding off their life force until they turn into a Chili’s. It all makes sense now, right? That’s why senior associate legman Michael B. – whose previous tips include Deer Creek, J&D’s Backyard Barbecue, and Trinity River Bistro, all belly-up shortly after a Chow, Baby visit – hesitated to pass on his latest find. He wants it to liiiive. But he was compelled to share, because Al Wadi Café (2712 Brown Tr., Bedford) is one of those places where the whole time you’re there, you’re thinking, “I can’t wait to go tell everybody I know about this place!”
In the same tiny strip mall where Chow, Baby killed off That Chicago Place a couple of years back, Al Wadi has popped up with fresh, vibrant Lebanese and Greek dishes in big portions, at reasonable prices, in a nicer-than-expected room, with enthusiastic service: the whole shebang. And with lots of charming touches, like the made-to-order qahwa (Lebanese coffee with a hint of cardamom, $2.45) served on a pretty brass platter with a doily. A doily! Pita was harmonized to each dish: warm, crispy chips for the thick, ultra-garlicky lentil soup ($2.95); thin, airy slices for scooping nutty hummus topped with lightly spiced chicken shawarma ($7.95); thick and sturdy wedges for supporting juicy lamb/beef strips from the gyro platter ($7.95 lunch, $10.95 dinner). Lamb chops ($10.95/$14.95) were cooked in what Chow, Baby thinks of as Lebanese style, since that’s the same way still-alive Beirut Rock in Arlington makes them: burnt to a lovely crisp outside, with a well-done but surprisingly still juicy inside. Nice.
Chow, Baby is already planning its next visit: pastitsio and moussaka from the Greek side, kebabs and shawarma from the Lebanese, and, for comparison’s sake, both the Lebanese stuffed grape leaves ($5.95) and the Greek dolmas ($4.25). Falafel and spanakopita. Baklava and rice pudding. Hookah on the patio. Just this once, Chow, Baby will use its supernatural powers for good, and keep Al Wadi around a while.
You Can Call Me Jay Jay Jay Jay
Jay Jay Café II (1001 S. Bowen Rd., Arlington) doesn’t have the friendly service or cozy, all-wickered-up ambiance of its parent, in Fielder Plaza; truth be told, Sonny is rather institutional, with fluorescent lights, buzzing ovens, and old people eating liver and onions. (Nothing against old people, of course; Chow, Baby fully plans on being one itself someday, preferably of the grouchy “Get off my lawn, you lousy kids” variety.) But Jay Jay Junior does have its mama’s great homestyle cooking: country breakfasts, meat-and-two plates, juicy burgers, lots, lots more. Chow, Baby’s colossal chicken-fried chicken ($7.79) was hand-battered and fried to a glorious crispy-edged tenderness, wonderful with chunky mashed potatoes and fresh-fried okra. Kisses to the cook – not the kiss-of-death kind of kisses, but the kind that are as juicy and sweet as blueberry pie ($2.50). Mmm-wah.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.