The University of Texas – the real one, in Austin – recently tracked Chow, Baby down again after eight fundraising-free years. Nearly every week now brings an embossed letter from the Dean of Liberal Arts, or a Texas Exes postcard, or even a missive from the College of Communication, though Chow, Baby took only a single class there (media law, the one thing aspiring journalists shouldn’t learn on the job).
Gimme, gimme, gimme. And for what? What did UT-The Real One ever give Chow, Baby? Besides a sound classical education (as if being able to quote from the Aeneid ever comes in handy), paid job training at the best student newspaper in the country (at the time), an irrational prejudice against frat boys and bowheads (quidquid id est, timeo Danaos, etc.), and an irrational fondness for Texadelphia (the original location is across the street from The Daily Texan). But that was then. What has UT-Austin done for Chow, Baby lately?
These days, it’s UT’s far-north campus in Arlington that provides Chow, Baby with heavily subsidized intellectual stimulation and cheap, scrumptious, campus-area meals. Just a few weeks ago, for example, Chow, Baby stopped in at Mi Tierra (603 W. Abram St.) for a fantastic Cuban pressed sandwich ($6), piled high with ham and fresh-roasted pork and served with tostones (deep-fried plantain slices). The visit was a stop on the way to hear a talk on “Life, the Universe, and Everything” by celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson ($free!!!), courtesy of UTA’s Maverick Speakers Series (www.uta.edu/events). These talks really can change your outlook on life: After listening to civil rights expert Lani Guinier’s thought-provoking address on diversity, Chow, Baby hit Fuzzy’s Taco Shop (510 E. Abram St.) for a few Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos ($1.99 each), which, even though they come with lettuce and feta, are just as valuable and important as real tacos. Pretty much.
Some of UTA’s free events even come with free food!!!, though Chow, Baby skipped the food-service-truck-catered vegetable lasagna at Peter Suber’s provocative speech about open access in scholarly publishing and instead skipped over to Potager Café (315 S. Mesquite St., lunch only) for open access to whatever owner Cynthia Chippendale found in her garden that morning or obtained from local vendors and artisans. On that day, it was a lovely green salad with shallots and berries; juicy chicken in tarragon sauce; chickpea tofu for the vegans, but it was yummy nonetheless; an exquisite goat-cheese quiche; and fresh-baked bread. And much more. For this fantastic meal – which Chow, Baby enjoyed while sitting in a tiny purple chair at a tiny purple table like a princess at a tea party – Chow, Baby paid $32. Does that seem too high? Don’t blame the restaurant. Except for the all-natural sodas ($2), Potager has no fixed prices. You pay what you think your meal was worth, and even Chow, Baby, who spends most of its days mulling that very issue, had trouble coming up with a fair total. Turns out most people pay $10 or so.
Potager is the kind of place you’d expect to find in Austin – a restaurant that makes the most of seasonal food, a menu that Virgil would hail as varium et mutable, a freestyle décor, a cash-only honor system. But that plus sociologist Barbara Ehrenreich (free, March 25)? Who’s the cool campus now?
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