Chow, Baby is the people’s food critic. Just think of me as your light in dim places, (or sometimes a canary for your culinary coal mine). This week I thought I’d dip into the ol’ mailbag and go where ye send me. As it turns out, Chow, Baby readers have excellent taste — in both restaurants and columnists.

Responding to a report I did a while ago on Korea House BBQ (“Sleuthing with Spice Girls,” Aug. 10, 2011), Susan in Fort Worth suggested that I try Sam Won Garden Korean Restaurant (5201 McCart St.), her nominee for the best Korean food in town. She was right on. Sorry, Korea House — you’re not even close.

The place is as authentic a Korean experience as one could hope for at a strip mall in southwest Fort Worth. The accompanying condiments, or banchan, alone are worth the visit. The marinated, red-flecked squares of radishes, crispy bean sprouts, sweet pickled cucumber slices, and the savory, spicy kimchi were all top-notch. On my server’s recommendation I went for the dolsot bibimbop. In addition to the great fun of just saying the name, the dish turned out to be unbelievably fresh-tasting, with veggies, red pepper paste, a fried egg, and rice served in a hot stone bowl that cooked the egg. I conquered my spice cowardice and soldiered through the heat and the taste of my own tears. I was impressed with the myriad nuances of the dish: Each bite added some new and surprising element. It was an impressive experience. I can’t believe this place has flown under my radar for so long.

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A while back, I spent a week going to the Stockyards for lunch every day with mixed results (“Cruisin’ the Yards,” June 20). But Josh, a loyal Chow, Baby foot soldier, insists that I missed the best of the bunch by skipping Los Vaqueros (2629 N. Main St.). I was immediately struck by the size of the place. Most Northside eateries are a little on the cramped side, but you can really stretch out your legs there. It also has a nice vintage feel, with autographed pictures of bygone celebrities adorning the wall and an old gas station sign out in the parking lot.

There’s a lot to like about the food too. Since I came near closing time, I opted for the Los Vaqueros platter ($11.95), believing that a place wouldn’t name a dish after itself unless it was pretty good. And it was good — but not great. The dish is served on two plates, one with a standard-issue beef taco and the other with guacamole, a fried tortilla topped with queso, a ground beef enchilada, and a pork tamale topped with chile con carne. The enchilada was the highlight; the rest of the plate was competently bland. The red salsa is a must-try, however. It’s a little on the chunky side, with just enough heat to make you reach for your water, but not  enough to cause you to tear up.

Finally, another regular e-mailer, Dan, could no longer contain his outrage at the fact that I hadn’t yet tried Thailicious (4601 W. Fwy, Ste. 206), even though it has been open only a month. After visiting for lunch, I understand why he was upset. The restaurant is located in the Chapel Hill center at I-30, and the vibe is relaxed upscale. Though the place is small, its chandeliers, comfortable booths, and efficient use of space make the place seem much larger — it’s like walking into Narnia.

Though it wasn’t the most adventurous choice, the pad Thai ($9.50) with pork, stir-fried noodles, fried tofu, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions, and crushed peanuts was a beautiful communion of sweet, spicy, grassy, and rich. The veggies were fresh and vibrant, and the pork was tender and moist. The entrée had a bit of a kick but is officially spice coward-approved. The Wild Bangkok dish ($9.50), on the other hand, provided a runny nose with every bite, although the heat didn’t mask the vibrant flavor of the bamboo shoots, baby corn, bell peppers, and basil. Both entrées were served with little half-moons of veggie pot stickers, slathered in a sweet sesame sauce.

Thanks to Susan, Josh, and Dan for the e-mails. I try to visit as many reader-suggested places as I can, so please keep the ideas coming.

And to those less helpful correspondents: Yes, old Chow, Baby ruled. No, I do not write my copy in crayon. And no, I’m not interested in holding onto large sums of money for some African prince.


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  1. Chow, you finally made it to Sam Won! I’m glad you enjoyed it – it’s one of my favorite restaurants in Fort Worth. If you go back be sure to try the galbi tang soup, and ask for the japchae banchan… both are unbelievably good. My current favorite is dongchimi, available for the summer only… it’s a cold dish with springy noodles topped with a cold water kimchi broth… an amazingly refreshing way to face the Texas heat.