Last fall, or maybe it was fall the year before, Chow, Baby secretly vowed that it wouldn’t utter the words “Grady’s new restaurant” again until it had sat its very own butt in the damn place.
Because even Chow, Baby’s infinite patience (hee, that’s funny) was getting burnt out on all the teasers: “Grady Spears’ new restaurant is in the works,” “80 West is opening in the spring ,” “80 West is opening in the spring ,” “Next month,” “Next month,” “Next month,” not to mention the wasted tire rubber from zooming out to the far end of Camp Bowie Boulevard to fact-check each such announcement. Michelin MXV4s aren’t cheap, you know.
But Grady’s new restaurant is now actually open (dinner only), and Chow, Baby has sat its very own butt in it. Of course, it’s not called 80 West and it’s not on 80 West; it’s called Grady’s, and it’s in the old Pegasus space (2443 Forest Park Blvd.) near Ruffino’s and Sapristi. So instead of a destination location, or even a hip restaurant row, we’re going for upscale-neighborhood hangout? Imagine that, Grady surprises Chow, Baby once again. The kitsch-free, grown-up décor features warm tones of rust, black, and smoked glass; from most seats, the only visible color comes from jade plants that top a partitioning half-wall. You may call it sleek and modern, if you wish; Chow, Baby thought it lacked oomph.
Before Chow, Baby gets into “But that’s OK, as the food is plenty oomphy,” here’s the thing about Grady Spears, founding chef of Reata, erstwhile collaborator in many of Fort Worth’s best past (mmm, Chisholm Club) and present (mmm, Lambert’s) cowboy-cuisine restaurants, cookbook author, Food Network idol, on and on. The guy is a star, no question. And yet when this chef-throb (yeah, he’s still got it) stops by the table to ask how your meal is, it’s not a courtesy call. He’s twisting his toque nervously, his brow scrunched, his eyes anxious, as he asks tentatively, “So, how is everything?” As if your stupid opinion really counts with him. It’s like he’s a regular person, only with charm.
Its lips unsealed, Chow, Baby will tell you what it told Grady: Wow. One stroke of the knife to pierce the crispy edge of the enormous beef tenderloin (10 oz., $34), and gravity does the rest – the knife just falls through the meltingly tender meat. On the side, a cute ramekin of penne and farmers cheese spiked with roasted green chiles had been quick-broiled until the penne points were scrumptiously crusty. Chow, Baby made the beloved order the Rahr-beer-battered chicken-fried steak ($18) because it was the cheapest entrée on the menu – which, with old faves like braised pork shank ($22) and blackberry crisp ($6), ought to be subtitled “Grady’s Greatest Hits” – and it turned out to be a great bargain: big as two hands, crispy and tender in all the right places, with extra-thick peppery cream gravy. Every swiped bite of accompanying “green onion mashers” was a stab at Chow, Baby’s culinary idiocy: How, in all these years, did it never think to add green onions to mashed potatoes? What an obvious, perfect pairing, as (seemingly) simple yet skillful as all the dishes on the menu. Grady’s new restaurant, Grady’s new restaurant, Grady’s new restaurant. Chow, Baby has a lot of catching up to do.
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