You don’t generally think of Fort Worth as a city focused on immediate gratification, a place like New York or New Orleans where your every sensual need can be met on demand on just about any street corner. But to Chow, Baby, “sensual need” means food, of course, and the great thing about our town is that you’re rarely forced to decide days in advance exactly when you’ll be hungry and for exactly what cuisine.
(The exception: Restaurant Week, www.krld.com, this year beginning Aug. 17. To maintain its anonymity Chow, Baby has reserved under “Bud Kennedy,” so pick a different nom de diner.) On any weekday or weeknight – which is when Chow, Baby, as a professional eater, usually “works” – you can waltz right into our best steakhouse or upscale-cowboy-cuisine joint or fancy Italian patio and be seated pretty much instantly. No reservation required.
It’s not just Zen-ish living-in-the-moment; it’s also a logic thing. How is Chow, Baby supposed to know on Monday afternoon that it will desire airline chicken, a dish it’d never even heard of, on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. sharp? That’s crazy talk. But Ellerbe Fine Foods (1501 W. Magnolia Ave.), the newest addition to Fort Worth’s best and only Restaurant Row, is already so freaking popular that sans reservation, it’s at least a 45-minute wait. On a weeknight. Also Ellerbe doesn’t have a bar for time-passing – it’s a casual-elegant-minimalist re-do of a former gas station – but luckily Benito’s and its tasty margaritas (extremely large, $8.75) are right across the street. So yes, it was 45 minutes of spontaneously ordered Cuervo that started Chow, Baby down giddy road, but it was Ellerbe’s Chef Molly McCook who wholly intoxicated Chow, Baby with her simple yet stunning modern-Southern cuisine based on fresh, seasonal, sustainable, as-local-as-possible ingredients.
Seemed a little frou-frou at first to have ingredient provenances listed on the menu like they were fine wine, but already with our starters we were getting into the spirit: “Man, these roasted Littlejohn Farms peppers and grilled Scott Farms eggplant are a perfect foil for the sautéed Anna Marie shrimp!” ($13.) And “Boy, this Bella Vista truffle oil really makes this roasted cauliflower soup pop!” ($7.) Regrettably for description purposes, right about this point in the meal the Cuervo and the headiness of the food began to affect Chow, Baby’s notetaking, resulting in a marked decrease in precision word-engineering and a huge increase in vulgar words like “totally” and “awesome.” Thus: The Chef’s Choice steak that night, a 10-ounce ribeye ($31) that was not too impressive when brought out (thinnish, not crispy-edged), turned out to be totally awesome, amazingly flavorful and tender, perfectly paired with “Sicilian candy” (whole roasted garlic from B&G Gardens) and herbed french fries. The unfortunately named airline chicken ($18), so-called because part of the wing is left on, was juicy-grilled awesomeness on a pool of creamy mascarpone polenta. Whiskey-sauced bread pudding ($7) was awesomely slightly gooey. Service, in the personage of can’t-stump-him Frank, was professional, personable, and overall rockin’ awesome. Chow, Baby, a poster child for the TiVo “Get It Precisely at the Instant You Want It” generation, would be willing, nay eager, to (gasp) make a reservation for its next thousand meals at Ellerbe. The food is that freaking awesome.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org.