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Holding the Mayo

[whitespace] Butter
Photograph by Farika

Come 'n Get It: Butter's two turntables and a microwave philosophy translates well to the drunken palate.

'Butter' and 'Blue' spread lightly on different sides of comfort food's bun

By Michael Stabile

I was reading the July 6 issue of the National Examiner, in which it was revealed that, in her effort to keep Brad, Jennifer Aniston has given up her favorite snack: mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread. (I myself gave up mayonnaise this past Jan. 1 in an effort to shed the five additional pounds a year that the average American packs on as a result of the chubby emulsion.) Jennifer, avatar of the chic trash trend, is uncannily similar in style to the fading 'comfort food' culinary obsession of the mid-'90s. On the one hand, she's a movie and television star sensation dating Mr. Pitt. On the other, she's a Long Island mall rat tucked into an expensive bandeau.

Which leads me to garlic mashed potatoes, Niman Ranch pork chops and other once homespun stylings now elevated to haute-cuisine status. Like Ms. Aniston, these meals are easily replicable and rarely can escape, no matter how well crafted or styled, their lower-class heritage. Which leads me to the Castro, which, in its infinite wisdom and abysmal taste, has adopted mediocre post-chain chains such as Pasta Pomodoro, Chow! and La Salsa with an unhindered rapidity that would make even Mia Farrow blanche.

The newest of these, Blue, is only marginally better than the rest. Unlike Pozole, whose space it now occupies, Blue avoids mediocre low-fat Mexican with a minorly annoying selection of high-fat American standards such as meatloaf, steak sandwiches and seafood salad. (The latter two, like many of Blue's dishes, contain either mayonnaise or its bastardized Italian cousin, aioli. Be forewarned.)

The fried calamari was tender and delicious, its burn on the back of my throat tempered by a hefty squeeze of lime. Chicken skewers came wading in a puddle of jalapeño jelly which was more sweet than hot, and way too orange to be all that appetizing. A flaky chicken pot pie had a fuller, fresher flavor than, say, a Stouffer's or Marie Callender's, but wasn't distinguished enough to transcend its humble roots.

As Roseanne knows, trash is trash no matter how you dress it up. The myth of the nerdy girl taking off her glasses and becoming a gorgeous starlet has fallen. Instead, if one is to escape humble beginnings, one must embrace ugliness and difference. Courtney Love is a good example. And a decade ago so was Cyndi Lauper. Kristen McMenamy, Sandra Bernhard--the list goes on and on. In the same vein, Butter identifies itself as a "white trash bistro" where the four main groups are sugar, caffeine, fat and alcohol. A margarine-yellow facade opens up into a space that is part bar, part garage and part trailer home. Out of a refurbished motor home, meals are served: White Castle burgers, SpaghettiOs, Swanson's TV dinners (Salisbury steak--YES!) and Tater Tots, to name a few options. All right, so it's not exactly Fleur de Lys. In fact, you might want to go somewhere else for dinner.

But at midnight, after several margaritas and a small grave's worth of cigarettes, I'll be damned if a plateful of mini cheeseburgers doesn't just hit the spot. At 9:30pm each night (well, the Wednesdays through Sundays that Butter is open), a DJ arrives sporting an eclectic mix of house and electronica in his milk crate of a record collection and entertains until Butter closes at 2am. The crowd tends to be a little too white cap and braided belt for my own personal taste, but given the block of 11th Street that it's on (hosting Wa-Ha-Ka!, Twenty Tank and DNA Lounge), I guess it's to be expected. Take two Chitosan tablets and gorge your heart out. Sparky's no more! .

Blue, 2337 Market St. 415.863.2583. Butter, 354 Eleventh St. 415.863.5964.

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From the July 19, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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