Lights! Curtain! Audience?

At the Triple Door, the stage is set but the patrons are MIA.

Wild Ginger owners Ann and Rick Yoder's idea to create a classy venue for national jazz acts was an inspired one, and the Triple Door is a beautiful theater, swanker than even the newly revamped Jazz Alley. Renovated from the Embassy, a 1920s-era vaudeville hall, the new 230-seat theater has retained the grand art deco feel, complete with curved, high-backed banquettes. Trouble is, few people have seen the fruit of the Yoders' labor, disproving Kevin Costner's notorious theory—they built it, but the crowds haven't come. Dismayed that Costner could be wrong about something, we visited the Triple Door recently to find out if the food quality was to blame for the lack of enthusiasm. It wasn't. The dinner—which show goers enjoy stage front from their seats or upstairs in the Musicquarium lounge—is pretty good. We arrived during happy hour (4–7 p.m. and 10 p.m.–midnight daily), so we started with two items from the $3 bar menu. We were unable to find the breadcrumbs in the half-dozen "roasted mussels with paprika breadcrumbs," but they were doused in a butter sauce so agreeably salty that we didn't care. The grilled pork skewers were tender, flavorful, and ample for their three-buck price tag. The skewers could have benefited from a cool dipping sauce, such as tzatziki, but, according to our server, the kitchen had no such thing. (A word about the service: Granted, we passed up the theater to eat in the less upscale Musicquarium—we weren't interested in catching the $35-per-ticket theater entertainment that night, the Persuasions, a Motown-inspired a capella act—but still, our first server was neither attentive nor polite. For reasons unknown to us, she was replaced midmeal by a more adept and friendly server. Perhaps our first server was under the weather or, seeing as how we were two of only about 12 customers in the lounge during prime dinner hour, maybe she was bored with her job to the point of apathy.) We ordered a bottle of Southern French wine from the extensive wine list. The 2001 Roche Noire Corbières was pleasant. At $28, it was more than double the $12 it might sell for at a wine shop, but as restaurant markups go, it seemed a fair price. A Moroccan orange and olive salad ($7.95) was lightly dressed with a lovely sweet harissa. We were pleased with the entrée prices—$7.95 for a lamb chop, $10.95 for a flat iron steak—until they arrived, their sparsity prompting first gawking, then giggling, then variations on "Honey, they shrunk our dinner." The "steak" was five round slices of beef the size of good skipping stones stacked in the middle of a comically vast white plate. It tasted OK, though what we'd requested—medium rare—was just medium. The caramelized onions on which the micro slices rested were delicious. The lamb chop must have come from some rare breed of Lilliputian sheep—it was dwarfed by the sliced zucchini served aside it. The chop had been broiled yummily in garlic and fresh Moroccan-style herbs and seasonings, but I couldn't help feeling that I was nibbling on the succulent flesh of an underfed infant's thigh. Potatoes, if one cares for them, are sold separately—fried with garlic, olives, and pancetta ($5.95)—perhaps to cater to the Atkins folks who prefer their meat lonely. A dark chocolate crème brûlée ($4.95) and warm marionberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream ($7.50) deliciously made up for any caloric deficit. In all, it was a fine meal, and we had the lounge dining area almost to ourselves. A peek into the theater midshow was sad: Maybe 15 tables of the 50 or so available were occupied. Why? Maybe the Triple Door's not booking enough popular acts. Maybe local audiences haven't yet heard that Jazz Alley has a new competitor. We know it's not the food. We might even be inclined to stop in again for happy hour in the Musicquarium, though we'd wait to pay for theater tickets until a really good act comes along. Maybe Costner was partly right after all: If you book it, they will come.

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