You know how kids get all happy when they get their hands on a really big box so big they can decorate it with markers, walk inside and pretend that it's a little caf?
You can do a lot with a box, especially if the box is an old Checker Auto store and you invest $300,000 in fixing it up. Metropolis co-owners Jeff Chevalier and Luis Ortiz did, and now that old box stands transformed on the corner of Colorado Avenue and 12th Street as the west side's newest lunch, dinner and night spot ... with a split personality.
The disco ball, jukebox and teal- and goldenrod-checkered dance floor with mirrored ceiling and walls? They scream nightclub. The jazzy style and the inviting mahogany bar? Martini-sipping lounge. But when you're gettin' down to live blues on the weekend or comparing presidential-candidate masks with your costumed cohorts at the upcoming Halloween ball, remember: Metropolis is primarily a dining establishment. So step off the linoleum, sit down at a table and get ready for a fine meal ... of bar food.
Not bad bar food, but with all of the lead-up, I expected better. Decidedly generic American, the menu offers the usual vaguely ethnic and regional choices. Appetizers include shrimp cocktail ($9.50), wings and breaded things ($5.95 to $8.50) and a couple of more, well, appetizing choices. On a recent visit, we tried the warm brie with toasted garlic and crostini ($9.95). The brie was fair, but the accompanying head of garlic barely spent enough time in the oven to break a sweat. We ran out of bread well before cheese, so perfectly good brie lay coagulating on the plate.
On a lunch visit, we tried to order the bacon-wrapped jalapeos ($5.95), but since pepper demand reportedly outstrips supply at Metropolis, we settled for beer-battered onion rings instead. The rings satisfy, but considering you pay $7.75 a plate, the cheap, bottled ranch dressing deeply disappoints.
As for entrees, tasty sandwich options include the Philly cheese steak ($7.75) and a hot, open-faced roast beef or turkey sandwich special with mashed potatoes and generous gravy ($4.95). Don't order the Italian meatball sandwich ($8.50) unless you really love dried oregano and cheap white bread.
My guacamole pepper jack burger ($8.95) arrived overcooked and sans guac. The waiter returned right away with apologies and a dish of brown-surfaced guac tinged with the tinny flavor of avocados too long naked. Neither the chicken Parmesan nor the Colorado baked salmon filet with lemon-dill-caper-white wine-cream sauce (whew!) proved memorable, except for their need of seasoning. The French onion soup ($4.50) was quite edible, but salads accompanying dinner specials haven't been this bad since iceberg lettuce, pale unripe tomatoes and bottled dressing went out of style.
And the pie. (Deep sigh.) The apples were fresh, but what else can I say? Saccharine sweet, no seasoning, gooey crust and uneven microwave reheating. Homemade isn't always well-made.
In the end, Metropolis seems an inviting place for a friendly mid-week drink when the TV's not on, a neat Art Deco makeover of a big box and a very slightly fabulous little nightclub. But the folks in the kitchen have a lot of work to do before the restaurant side of Metropolis' split personality shines through.