Drag Queen Time plus jerk

Bridgetown enlivens Mondays

During a recent visit to ultra-cool teaspace in Little Five Points, the owner, Scott Brown, insisted I read a short story in the current issue of Harper's Magazine. The story is a remarkable meditation on an alternate universe where time runs backward.

"Funny," I said to Wayne. "This story reminds me a little of our experience last night at Bridgetown Grill."

We'd been to Bridgetown (689 Peachtree St., 404-873-5361) for dinner and its Monday night drag cabaret. God bless drag queens. God bless the cracked, for they shall let in the light. (I think Leonard Cohen sings that.) But, Lord save us, their sense of time — DQT, or Drag Queen Time — is from another universe.

All the restaurant's promotional material says the show starts at 8 p.m., which really means "8:30-ish," as host Maxine Blue explained. And 8:30-ish actually means 8:45, as our waitress translated. And that means things don't really get going until 9 p.m. Do not bother to show up before 8 p.m.

Mixing drag queens and dinner is not altogether new in Atlanta. Kaya Bistro did it for a while, with the entertainers also waiting tables. Lucky Cheng's in New York, a gay bath house converted to a restaurant staffed with Asian drag queens, is rumored to be opening here.

Bridgetown hosts the Monday cabaret in a cavernous but festive room upstairs that features a huge tiled fireplace. The crowd was thin the night we went and this means you will almost certainly endure Maxine's personal taunting. She yammered, mainly hilariously, for 20 minutes before anyone performed.

Meanwhile, we picked at the remains of our dinner. The Bridgetown menu includes one of the most disarming statements I've encountered in quite a while: "Here at Bridgetown, we don't pretend to be authentic." Indeed, the food is an often bizarre fusion of Caribbean food. Where else are you going to find a Jamaican burrito or hummus made of black beans?

As cheap eats, the food works. But the restaurant is really pushing credibility when it charges about $15 for many dishes, with a few almost hitting $18. This kind of food should hover at $10-$12 generally. Our huge appetizer sampler ($9.99) included surprisingly good conch fritters, mojo- marinated chicken wings and fried calamari with jalapeno slices. Wayne's entree of chipotle shrimp ($14.99) was an impressive concoction. The shrimp, sauteed with chipotle peppers, were served in a gigantic bowl over sweet corn and mushrooms, under a light cream sauce with black beans and rice on the side.

His dish was far more interesting than my "world-famous jerk chicken," which turned out to be a very dry boneless breast served with a raspberry sauce that should be banished from the planet ($11.99). Good jerk chicken needs to be on the bone and should certainly not be dry. It should never be served with something I wouldn't put on pancakes during a famine.

The rest of the menu ranges from Cuban sandwiches ($8.49) and mango pork ($14.99) to jerk chicken pasta ($12.99) and tilapia tacos ($10.99).

As for the show, when it finally gets under way, it's great fun. The standout is Alicia Kelly. She goes far beyond female impersonation, doing things with her body that are astonishing, including a kind of head-to-toe vibration that is one of the most altering things I've ever seen without chemical assistance. Without waxing too strange, I mean to say that Alicia Kelly demonstrates the incredible transformational capacities of the gestural body. Tina Devore, a longtime Atlanta performer, puts the show together; the other cast members are Lauren LaMasters and Ashley Kruiz. There's no cover. Y'all take your mamas there for Christmas!

Here and there
It pains me to admit that Wayne has become a weekend resident of the Highlands area in North Carolina. His cabin, which I call "Unabomber Acres," is in the Scaly Mountain community, but the nearest restaurants are in Highlands or Clayton.

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner at Green Shutters in Clayton. This restaurant, located in an old farmhouse. has long been one of my favorites for straightforward Southern cooking, including state-of-the-art fried chicken and country ham. Unfortunately, you can't try it until spring "when the weather gets pretty," according to the owner, who closes the restaurant every winter. Call 706-782-3342.

The best restaurant by far in Highlands remains On the Verandah. The prices may astonish you but, hey, this is Buckhead in the mountains (and only 90 minutes from Atlanta). I recently had a great mixed grill of cherry-glazed venison, quail stuffed with Mission figs and smoked wild boar sausage ($28). Wayne had less interesting sea bass with a bland chile salsa topped with a teepee of fried parsnip chips ($26). I also sampled butternut squash bisque ($5.25).

Christmas has us by the throats again and I'm sorry to say that I will be spending the entire month of December in Atlanta. So, I'll be on a particularly aggressive lookout for especially horrible Christmas music played in restaurants. Please e-mail or call me with your own nominations. ... New: Red Chair on Amsterdam. You get comfort food and a video lounge. I'll be reviewing it shortly. Also, Thai Chili at Colony Square, longingly glimpsed on the way out, after an overpriced mediocre lunch at Wildwood.

Leave Cliff Bostock a voice mail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1504.??

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