Open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., for dinner Monday through Saturday 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Closed Sunday. AE, MC, V. Reservations suggested. Street parking. Prices: Main courses $3.50 to $7.00, appetizers $2 to $3, desserts $2.
If you don't take it too seriously, Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud is a restaurant of sufficient delights. But you could hardly take it too seriously after you have called the information operator to ask the number of Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud, and then had to spell it twice before the operator believed you. And you could hardly take too seriously a restaurant the color of shrimp bisque, hung with mementos of an era not just bygone, but never really there. Nor can you take too seriously a restaurant that cannot properly spell mementos on its menu.
In other words, BW&MM is a pretty little bauble of a restaurant, where you can have a pretty little meal at a nice little price, and live happily ever after.
BW&MM doesn't do a lot of cooking. It sort of puts things together, but they are generally tasty things that coexist compatibly. Nearly half of the main dishes are cold: caesar spinach salad with homemade croutons and deep red tomatoes, a cold roast beef sandwich truly rare (with roquefort dressing that is too shy with the roquefort), smoked turkey sandwich with "fresh" avocado (is there any other kind?), another avocado -- not designated "fresh" but presumably so -- stuffed with curried tuna, and a "polo" plate of Nova Scotia salmon with a raisin-pumpernickel bagel.
However, the fantasy theme of BW&MM got carried away with the smoked salmon, a technicolor Day-Glo orange about the color of a Popsicle. When I protested to the waiter, he answered with a long spiel about that being the true color of the best salmon. I believed that about as much as I believe the back-of-the-menu tale of the two-continent, multi-decade origin of the restaurant, which nobody is meant to take seriously. The smoked salmon, no matter what the waiter recites, is tinted fish, slippery textured and with a most unpleasant chemical aftertaste. Our protests and uneaten platter brought not a budge or nod from the waiter. Skip the salmon.
You can also skip the broccoli quiche, which seems to be a regular among the specials. Its crust is excellent, short and flaky; its appearance is charming, puffed and browned. But the filling tastes sharp, bitter, like ground uncooked broccoli and onion. Two tries brought two failures.
Okay, so the main dishes aren't great. The pasta of the day, canneloni on two different days, was a fluffy ricotta filling in light and tender homemade noodles; it is an enjoyable little casserole, though a bit tearoomy in it seasoning. Eggs baked in tomatoes, with a core of cheese (seemingly the same as the canneloni filling) and a parmesan topping, is a clever dish, easy to make and full of good flavors. But it would be much improved with shorter baking; the eggs should undulate rather than stand firm. The menu also list mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat, but that's often another fantasy when the kitchen is out of crabmeat. Finally among the main dishes is an oven-baked sandwich of cheddar, Canadian bacon and tomato.
Although the main dishes bare the kitchen's flaws, by that time you like BW&MM anyway. The greeting has undoubtedly been cheery, and the room looks light and lovely, furnished with a couple of formal antique sideboards among the Formica and flowers and whimsical mementos. Besides, you have been half-filled on the loaf of raisin-pumpernickel served with orange-flavored butter. (Nothing is ordinary here, my dear.) You may have started with hummus, a subtle and fluffy version served with a pile of warmed pita triangles, or with snails (eight per portion at last count) in a buttery crumb topping with plenty of garlic and rosemary.
You will certainly have noticed that the prices, particularly for downtown, are modest enough to allow leeway in your expectations. Most of the main dishes are $4, and a full dinner won't cost much more than $10. One caution, however, is that the specials were priced higher: $5 for the quiche and $6 for the chicken salad. Though the latter was an attractive plate with large, moist pieces of chicken and the marinated zucchini that accompanied several other plates, it was overpriced compared to the rest of the menu. An ever-refilled cup of good coffee is 75 cents.
The best comes last. BW&MM regularly has two desserts, and you might want to indulge in both. The strawberry shortcake is a spectacle of a platter of fresh and lightly sugared berries with a truly wonderful flaky biscuit that resembles shortcake. And the thick drift of whipped cream is the real thing. One can hope also to find mocha pie, its bottom layer a nutty crunch, its middle nearly fudge, its topping a pale mocha cream. Madness, as either Bootsie, Winky or Miss Maud might cheer.