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Woodbridge, NJ

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Venue Review: Metropolis

A Tale of Uncertainty
(no rating)
Metropolis
By "NATHANIEL GLEN, THE GAZETTE"

The first thing a restaurant has to be is a storyteller. Whether it is through the name an owner picks, the ads that run or the façade that greets the street, a place must quickly, convincingly tell its story. What is it? What does it serve? How much does it cost? There should be intriguing clues at every step. If not, good luck getting people in the door.
That is the first problem with Metropolis, but by no means the last.
From the outside, the place a mystery: A big grayish box (formerly a video store and auction house) with drawn blinds, and a sign with a cityscape below and a rainbow above that reads “Metropolis.”
Is it a Greek place whose owners love “The Wizard of Oz”? A chic urban bistro with a Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” theme? A weird homage to Superman’s hometown specializing in Hawaiian food? We’re left to guess.
Booths line the wall. An ornate bar sits at the back. Small tables gather around a central dance fioor made of campy black, teal and yellow tiles under a big, turning disco ball. When we walked in, the otherwise empty restaurant was filled by bouncy House music.
My editor dined at Metropolis weeks before I did. He said he had a nice prime rib, decent soup and finallyfiigured out what the place was — a gay club.
He put an encouraging note on The Gazette’s dining blog saying “Maybe it’ll take up where (longtime west-side gay club) Hide & Seek left off.”
The owners saw the post and called The Gazette and talked to an editor at the Colorado Springs Independent, insisting that the place was not a gay bar but was “here for everybody.” The Independent wrote a snarky column suggesting The Gazette should get “a functioning gaydar.” But the same time, the Indy was running an announcement that the annual local Gay and Lesbian film festival would have its after party at Metropolis. Confusing.
Even part owner Jeff Chevalier is vague about the vision. “I don’t want it just to be a bar. I want it to be an experience — more upscale,” he said this week.
I’m telling you this not to argue that a place should be either gay or straight. I’m just saying if the owners and every food writer in town are confused about what it is, good luck to anyone else.
The mystery might not hurt if the place had the culinary chops, but the food ranges from OK bar fare to just plain bad.
The menu is already starting to implode under lack of business and chef turnover.
We tried to order mac and cheese from the kids menu but were told there no longer is a kids menu. I saw the breakfast menu on the back but was told breakfast was gone, too.
“I guess I’ll have the grilled ham and cheese,” my wife said.
“That’s gone, too,” the waiter shrugged.
So we waltzed through the remaining menu ordering a Philly cheese steak ($7.75), a guacamole burger ($8.95), French onion soup with salad ($7.75), bacon-wrapped jalapeños ($5.95) and chicken parmesan ($13).
Some things were better than others. None was worth coming back for. The burger with fresh guacamole packed with onions, and the Philly — both on massive French bread halves — were good enough. The French onion soup was no La Baguette, but it wasn’t bad. And the jalapeños were freshly made, not just food service freezer-to-fryer numbers. But from there, things went downhill.
The salad ($6.50), which was supposed to come with mixed greens, instead offered aging iceberg — and so little of it that it felt as if it were made by a lettuceaverse 8-year-old. The chicken sat on a bed of fettuccine, topped with a red sauce dominated by dried oregano.
Chevalier, who worked for years at the Penrose Room, says he plans big changes. He’s going to scrap the whole menu next month and start serving haute cuisine with table-side Caesar salad and Chateaubriand. He also has live music and dinner theater in the works. The first show’s theme is the Titanic. Let’s hope it isn’t a metaphor for the new menu.

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(no rating) 11/7/08 - NATHANIEL GLEN, THE GAZETTE

The first thing a restaurant has to be is a storyteller. Whether it is through the name an owner picks, the ads that run or the façade that greets the street, a place must quickly, convincingly tell its story. What is it? What does it serve? How much does it cost? There should be intriguing clues at every step. If not, good luck getting people in the door.

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