2026 P St. NW 887-0900 Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Prices: Appetizers $1.50 to $6.50, sandwiches and main dishes $3 to $12. Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
Would the trio of imaginary proprietors behind this P Street fixture recognize what has become of their namesake?
Yes. And no. Once the grand dame of the block, Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud has been joined in recent times by, among others, Galileo and Cafe Japone, fanciful eateries both. The competition on this blooming restaurant row is thus stiffer. And so's the assessment of Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud.
First, the bad news: Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud isn't as generous as it used to be. No longer does it welcome guests with a complimentary loaf of its raisin pumpernickel bread. This moist and crusty nosh is now listed as an appetizer, and costs $1.50 a half loaf, $2.59 for a whole. And this restaurant isn't the bargain it once was, either. Entrees are presented in small casserole dishes that look more like generous appetizer portions than main dish servings, with the hot items averaging $10.
On the bright side, the dining room has retained its whimsical appeal. Small and narrow, with walls the color of shrimp bisque, it's filled with what are meant to pass as mementos of Bootsie and company: an assemblage of black and white photographs, a hat collection and a few staid-looking sideboards.
Almost as precious as the eating area are a few of the dishes: Bootsie's "Strip Ts," for instance, and Winky's polo plate of smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagel. (Which raises the question: How many patrons actually order the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with its accompaniments of a bottomless glass of milk and six chocolate chip cookies?)
The menu is updated to include some terrific new dishes. Don't miss the pale pink, creamy gazpacho Toledo, a refreshing soup that comes with a little plate of croutons, diced onion and tomato for garnishing. But pass up the sandwiches, which tend not to be as special as one might expect from a tablecloth restaurant.
Surprisingly, a dish involving a minimum of cooking -- wild rice salad -- turned out to be one of the menu's best. A blend of moist, nutty wild rice with bacon, diced celery, tomatoes and peppers, it was as colorful and tasty and imaginative a dish as I encountered at Bootsie, Winky & Miss Maud. The free range chicken salad, mixed with walnuts and broccoli and bound in a light mayonnaise, was less unusual but nonetheless flavorful and fresh.
Among hot dishes, there's a timid hand with the seasonings. The salmon in parchment was a lovely piece of fish, surrounded with crunchy snow peas and leeks, but it had all the flavor of a diet dinner. The barbecued chicken was another disappointment. Far from being the gutsy dish I expected, it was a casserole of cubed chicken, served over rice and topped with a tame, sweet sauce of little distinction. The kitchen managed to bungle a pretty straightforward chicken breast with broccoli and mozzarella cheese; as far as taste was concerned, I've had better at 40,000 feet.
You're in better luck here with the pasta, either a satisfying spinach and cheese cannelloni or, better, spinach fettuccine baked with chunks of chicken in a creamy sauce redolent of rosemary.
Rounding out main courses are such homey concoctions as chicken pot pie and baked scalloped ham with potatoes.
Endings are as sweet as ever. In fact, the fine double lemon layered pie, a relative newcomer, may tear loyal fans away from such long-lived desserts as the fresh strawberry shortcake and the mocha buttercrunch pie. The chocolate glop -- that's the menu's moniker -- resembles unbaked brownie batter, and is sure to win the hearts of those who think of raw cookie dough and its ilk as the ultimate in desserts.Tom Sietsema is on the staff of The Washington Post Food section.