In With the Old

Hop in the Wayback Machine for a trip to the Wedgwood Broiler.

A SIGN AT THE front register of the Wedgwood Broiler explains the restaurant's three-martini limit, clearly a necessary measure to counter the rowdiness and table dancing that might otherwise occur. The restaurant is a hot spot, albeit for a clientele whose median age could very well be 65—which seems appropriate, since the menu is stuck in '65, the year it opened. The Broiler turned 40 this year, and my friend Angela, who used to live in the neighborhood, told me that the parking lot is full almost every night. When Angela and I arrived for our first Sunday dinner at the Broiler, the main dining room was abuzz with talk, mostly between gray-haired husbands and wives. Soon enough, however, a young couple claimed a table and brooded in silence through their meal. They didn't get it. You come to the Broiler to eat and complain. Out loud! There's no room for quiet brooding. Hip replacement? Bad hearing aid? Gastroenteritis? That's something to brood about, sonny. On a subsequent visit, Angela and I checked out the Broiler's well-lit bar, which was packed on a Friday night with ordinary folks, both the nichelike wall booths and the bar just full of them. It was a comforting change from the low lighting, high cool, and constant hottie parade that characterize our usual haunts. This is one of those rare date spots where the snarky and the sincere can have an equally good time. I certainly did, sipping what might be the girliest drink ever mixed—Midori, Malibu, banana liqueur, and pineapple juice over ice, which the Broiler calls "Jungle Juice" ($5.25)—and people-watching like crazy. The Broiler's cuisine might be most aptly described as comfy kitsch. Here you can order an ur-Atkins meal: a ground beef patty with cottage cheese and fruit ($7.25 for a 5-ounce patty, $8.75 for 8 ounces). In addition to a full array of steak dinners (from a 6-ounce top sirloin for $11.95 to an 18-ounce filet mignon for $36.95), the menu features clam strips ($4.25), a personal weakness of mine, each (delightfully!) more breading than clam and served with both tartar and cocktail sauces. The delicious onion rings ($4.75), too, are state-fair quality: crunchy, golden, greasy, and in no need of ketchup, though after one bite, the onion in each ring slides right out. No matter. You order them as much for the tasty breading as for its contents. Hoping to give the kitchen a chance to truly shine, I ordered the broiled halibut ($14.95). Lightly charred, it tasted strongly of the broiler. The generous filet was extremely tender and juicy; it didn't need its hollandaise sauce, though it did benefit from a touch of sweet tartar here and there. The too-crunchy rice pilaf and unremarkable broccoli added food groups but little pizzazz. My friend's Caesar salad ($6.25 large, $4.25 small) was crisp, flavorful, and filling. My dinner salad ($3.75), topped with Alaskan bay shrimp ($3.25 extra), came with cheese nips—tucked into the salad itself! Her appetite only just whetted by the onion rings and salad, Angela indulged in a hot-fudge sundae, which the Broiler serves in two sizes: regular ($3.75) and super ($6). Hers was the former, and it was plenty. A tiny pitcher of chocolate fudge arrived alongside the overflowing dish of ice cream and whipped cream, with—you guessed it—a cherry on top. As she dressed the sundae with fudge, I saw in her eyes the childlike glee that only a retro dessert can produce. The Broiler, bless its heart, is the real McCoy. May it live at least as long as its regulars. The Wedgwood Broiler, 8230 35th Ave. N.E., 206-523-1115, WEDGWOOD. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs.; 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat.

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