Moving quickly from the Pet Peeve list into Berserk Button territory: people who whine that Chow, Baby eats in Arlington too much (averaging once every 2.89 weeks in 2010) and, in a non-overlapping yet equally maddening category, people who insist that Arlington has nothing but chain restaurants — somehow missing the fact that, hello, Chow, Baby manages to find a great Arlington indie once every 2.89 weeks. Here’s the latest: Iraqi Restaurant (520 W. Park Row Dr.), a divey but spanky-clean mom & pop & nephew ethnic joint with loud Arabic-language TV and fabulous, cheap food. Classic Arlington!
Iraqi Restaurant’s minimalist name complements its lo-fi menu: Unfortunately the place was out of vowel-light flafl ($3), but we relished our chicken, rice, soup ($10) and kebab, rice, soup ($10). Each great-smelling meal began with a bowl of light, fresh-tomato broth studded with herbs and potato chunks; next came a juicy, crispy-skinned fried chicken quarter for Chow, Baby and sumac-happy lamb-beef kabobs for the beloved, with mounds of what Chow, Baby is 90 percent positive was authentically spiced basmati rice. Other entrées (all $10) include meat, rice, soup and fish, rice, soup, plus other minimal-vowel items like meal kbdeh, which the restaurant was out of so Chow, Baby is still clueless, and tkh chicken, whose chunks of chargrilled spiced chicken looked and tasted rather like the Anglo-Indian dish chicken tikka. An intriguing linguistic/geographic puzzle, given that most of the dishes and spices were pure northern Middle Eastern. Chow, Baby will have to eat/investigate further.
The oh-my-Allah part of the meal was the kubba Mosul ($8), fried cracked-wheat patties with a savory filling of ground meats, pine nuts, raisins, and warm spices. Incredible. As was the rest of the meal, they were cooked to order by mom while TV-engrossed pop glowered kindly at his guests and cutie-pie nephew handled the service, mentioning in passing that a good percentage of their customers are ex-servicemen and -women. Iraq isn’t on Chow, Baby’s list of places to visit soon, so it’s once again very happy — but not surprised — to find a new and delicious cuisine in Arlington. Be back in your neighborhood in 2.89 weeks or so.
Grilling on All Cylinders
Stuart Hoses, which is in a very industrial — OK, bleak — section of Riverside Drive just north of I-30, is a great place for mechanic-wannabes and garage groupies to hang out all morning. It’s perfumed with that aphrodisiacal blend of WD-40, Gojo, and Loctite, plus they’ll talk high-performance fuel lines with you for hours, plus they know where you can grab a decent burger in the ’hood: Riverside C-Food Mart (100 N. Riverside Dr.).
Chow, Baby never would have entered this scary-looking place without a strong recommendation, without a firm grasp on three feet of wire-braided hose (the poor man’s nunchucks), and without having left word with someone about where it was headed, in case it was never seen again. Not unexpectedly, in the 15 minutes it took one counterman to cook a double cheeseburger (1/2 lb., $3.19), the other counterman’s largest seller by far was Colt 45, most of which were recycled right outside the door. Yet the burger was quite tasty, with fresh tomatoes, no skimping on the cheese, and bonus points for toasted bun. Probably would have been even tastier with a Billy Dee, now that Chow, Baby thinks about it.
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