Then we walked into the 2-month-old Tomfooleries in the new Zona Rosa shopping district and saw some things that were more horrifying than anything the special-effects crew for Alien vs. Predator could have created. A couple of leathery middle-aged women in tube tops. Waitresses in midriff-baring tops exposing cellulite. And a pretty but brazenly rude Britney Spears look-alike bar waitress. "I'm sorry," she told us when we asked if we could wait at a table in the bar if we ordered some drinks. "Those tables are reserved for customers who actually order from the menu." Her malicious tone left the four of us speechless.
"Let this be a valuable lesson to you, Johnny," Gia whispered to her son. "A pretty face can sometimes be masking a nasty old alien from another planet."
We were, it should be said, strangers in a strange land ourselves. The four of us had driven from midtown out to the northwest corner of Interstate 29 and Barry Road, where Zona Rosa stands all shiny and new (but with electrical glitches that left half of the letters in the illuminated store signs dark). This contrived village of mostly corporate chain shops and restaurants is attractive enough, but it's still a standard-issue mall, with a retail mix clearly skewed to the under-30 shopper.
Depending on which hour you hit the noisy, bustling Tomfooleries, it's either packed with young families and baby boomers or, later, a rowdy younger crowd huddled in the smoky bar, where live bands play five nights a week.
After our unpleasantness with the bitchy Britney Sneers, we decided to continue waiting for a table by sitting outside, watching customers push in and out of the glass entrance doors. "I think this is the only restaurant in Zona Rosa that isn't a national chain operation," Lisa said, noting that we'd passed a Mimi's Café, an Outback Steakhouse, a Rib Crib, and Abuela's Mexican Food Embassy.
This Tomfooleries is only the second location that Barton and Shelly Bloom have opened since they hit pay dirt with their original site on the Plaza 13 years ago. Their formula was simple: Serve seductive food and cocktails in a dimly lighted, intimate environment, and keep the kitchen open long after their rivals had closed for the night.
Barton Bloom lightened his design for this Tomfooleries, calling for a lot more windows and a carpeted second-floor "loft," which I found vastly more comfortable than the cacophonous, concrete-floored ground level. (Bloom calls that décor "warehouse chic.")
Settled at a comfortable table upstairs, we perused the most recent incarnation of the Tomfooleries menu. Most of the restaurant's signature items remained, including the fried dill pickles, the peanut-butter-fried-chicken salad and the rich desserts. Like its Plaza namesake, the prices were decent and the portions big.
We encouraged little Johnny, who typically orders the most expensive entrée on a menu, to try one of the skillet pizzas. I told him that it was the Predator alien's favorite dish. He didn't believe me, but he did like the Tomfooleries version of a Margarita pizza, simply called the Roma Tomato, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella pie, which was rich with bubbly melted mozzarella and an excellent basil pesto. Lisa, a strict vegetarian, adored the crumbly Birkenstock urger, a pan-grilled patty of fresh vegetables topped with marinated red onions. She griped about her side dish, though. "The jicama cole slaw was totally flavorless. "