Posted On: 11/01/2005
In the St. Louis monthly/weekly/daily publication echo chamber, once a neighborhood is christened “revitalized,” “hip” or “up-and-coming,” perception universally trumps reality. Stick a new pan-Asian restaurant in an old storefront on Martin Luther King and suddenly, “The Ville is the next Dogtown!”
Are entertainment writers no better than real estate agents? (Full disclosure: Over the years, this columnist has often used such adjectives to describe neighborhoods. In retrospect, it’s lazy writing. No more.) Case in point: Maplewood.
As a kid, I remember being struck by the visual appeal of the two-story street-side retail of downtown Maplewood. I also remember noticing little foot traffic. Today, not much has changed. Downtown Maplewood still looks cool, but where the heck are the people? For having added Schlafly’s Bottleworks, Arthur Clay’s, Monarch and a few boutiques, downtown Maplewood is hardly ever lively. At night, the streets are empty. That’s potentially bad news, particularly for the not-yet-two-month-old Boogaloo, Maplewood’s latest bar/restaurant to grace the Manchester strip.
Boogaloo seems to be a place begging for good foot traffic outside its front doors. Driving, you won’t notice it. But if you were strolling from one boutique to the next and peeked inside 7344 Manchester Road, you’d be thoroughly impressed. This place looks like it should be in downtown St. Louis, not downtown Maplewood. Boogaloo is decorated with conversation piece after conversation piece – a padded, lizard-skin wall, many mirrors, chandeliers, swings as bar stools, nonsensical wall portraits. Although the early-to-clear restaurant side is colorfully decorated, the later-night bar/lounge’s look is relatively staid.
The restaurant side hums with diners (an even guy/girl mix of mostly white, inner-suburban, 30- to 50-year-olds), but the bar side is kind of dull for bumping nightlifers, primarily because it’s at most one-third full. Bar patrons, in comparison to restaurant patrons, seemed slightly more male, more racially diverse, more urban and 25 to 35 years old.
Dress is a few small notches above casual and a few small notches below fashionable. On a recent Friday night, half the people in the bar side came with me. I have yet to see the DJ booth in use. Like downtown Maplewood itself, with some more people, Boogaloo could be so much more. Thus, at this point in its young life, the low patron density leads me to dub Boogaloo an attractive space to take a date, not
make one. Nonetheless, said date would be thoroughly impressed with the authentic Cuban/Creole/Caribbean-themed menu. Bartender and wait staff are great.
There are seven beers on tap, but the selection isn’t all that creative. It’s mostly Schlafly. Other libations don’t really fit the Cuban/Creole/Caribbean details. Guinness? Sangria? Why not Red Stripe and daiquiris? The wine list is worth perusing, though.
The straight 411 …
Like downtown Maplewood, Boogaloo is promising and could genuinely be hip … if it only had more people.
Immaculate attention to detail separates Boogaloo from the other clubs that pop up to ride the wave of whatever scene is popular at the moment.
Chocolate-hued, crocodile-skin-textured walls and a deep earth-tone color palette set a lush and colorful stage for a relaxed night at this Maplewood restaurant and bar. Padded swings hang from the ceiling on the nonsmoking side and take the place of the typical bar stool – who doesn’t want to swing at a bar?
A friend of mine described it best by stating that as soon as you walk into Boogaloo, you are instantly comfortable. This is coming from a girl who is only comfortable at dive bars and backyard cookouts. It’s a bold statement and is truly indicative of the tranquil-yet-modish environment
The specialty drinks of the house are the classic mojito and one that is ginger-spiced, a flavorful new twist on the already famous original. I was impressed with the minty goodness the classic mojito left on my palate. I have it on high authority from a ginger-loving friend that the ginger mojito was amazing. I can’t comment on it personally as I despise ginger with every fiber of my being. Also try the house-made savory sangria, which meshes well with the Cuban-inspired cuisine.
After swinging at the bar for a while, we moved on to our table for dinner. We were seated at the front of the restaurant in a room with hand-painted murals and an open-air façade where we found ourselves surrounded by fairly well-dressed hipsters who ranged in age from college students to 50-year-old hepcats.
The environment was loud and buzzing, but not so much so that you couldn’t hear yourself think at your own table. A soothing Cuban beat played on in the background as a reminder that this is a place for a good time and not a high-stress meat market. An outside patio with heaters, prepared to ward off cold temperatures, is also available when the weather permits.
The cuisine, a blend of Cuban, Creole and Caribbean flavors, was reminiscent of the eats I had while visiting Jamaica. My friends and I feasted on Crispy Hearts of Palm with Sofrito Aïoli, Conch Fritters with Key Lime-Yogurt Sauce and Brazil Nut-encrusted Manchego Cheese with Red Pepper Romesco and Chimichurri Drizzle, which were all absolutely amazing. The food had a modern flavor that managed to combine the fuzzy feeling of a home-cooked meal with artful presentation.
The only downfall I found with Boogaloo was the ladies room, or the lack thereof. There is only one designated ladies room and one unisex bathroom. This would not be the best situation on a night filled with too many mojitos and a busy crowd.
The straight 411 …
For a swingin’ good time Boogaloo on in to … well, you get the point.
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