So the music is good and the drinks aren't any more of a rip off than anywhere else, but does Boogie Woogies deliver grub as tasty as their choreographed group dance? Answering this question became goal fulfillment. I have always wanted to be that mysterious woman at the bar--the one who walks in alone wearing a slinky black dress and orders a stiff drink while dragging on a long cigarette. I've never had the guts to do it (or the desire to smoke anything but slow drivers), but I figured Tuesday afternoon might thin my potential audience and give me an excuse to be mysterious in jeans instead of satin.
Arriving around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was a bit surprised to see an empty dining room. I wondered if BW was closed or had stopped serving lunch, but the bartender/waitress/line cook said I could sit anywhere. I chose a high, round table by a window overlooking 8th Street where I could watch downtownies hurrying along in their starched pants and kitten heels. One other table was occupied, and the food looked decent. I found what I expected to find on the menu--basic bar food with a few twists. The appetizers included chicken in various forms, popcorn shrimp and garlic bread. Soups and salads followed with "Nakita's homemade dressings" and "Karma's special recipes" (both of whom no longer work in the kitchen), and the entree list was pretty standard other than a build-your-own pizza.
I went for the special--a $7 blackened chicken salad for $5.50. My server/cook recommended the dish, and I settled down to wait. Looking around in the afternoon light, I noticed all the details you miss when the place is slamming--a rich blue ceiling, stained glass everywhere and dim lamps. Atmosphere? Check.
Having noticed the distinct lack of other diners, I was sure my lunch would be out before I could copy the ingredients of a Black Apple Manhattan. But instead, I waited and waited, entertaining myself by tallying the bald heads that passed below (14). During the lull, my waitress was chatty and accommodating, letting me know that two tables constituted a "rush" at lunchtime. To be fair, not many people probably know BW serves lunch, and even fewer think to dine at a place they normally associate with alcohol, loud music and crowds. That being said, I hoped the food would prove them wrong, but as it approached, I began to doubt.
The bowl my meal came in was very small, more like a side than a main dish. The salad was arranged Cobb style, with greens on the bottom and ingredients sectioned on top. On the outside were four chunks of pineapple, sliced mushrooms, three artichoke hearts, one sliced strawberry and a pile of diced onions and tomatoes. The black olives and cheddar cheese had been removed at my request, and the "hot-bacon-mustard" dressing came on the side in a cup almost as big as the plate. It had obviously been microwaved, and the flavor reminded me of fast-food nugget-dipping sauce. The greens were fresh, and the chicken breast was juicy and tender but lacked the spice I expected. The other bits all had the same colorless, flavorless quality, like pizza toppings masquerading as a gourmet salad.
BW remains a killer place to spend an evening. As for mysterious lunches, I'm with Karma and Nakita.
--Erin Ryan is downsizing her collection of alter egos.