Kudos to the owner of this Highlands eatery for coming up with what I hereby propose is a virtually pun-proof name. Given the choice between corn qua praise (A bang-up job at bang!) & porn qua pan (for instance), a would-be wag sure is rhetorically caught between a bang and & a whimper.

As for registering benign enjoyment: merely middlingly killer wordsmith that I am, I’d best not go to great lengths attempting to pull off some elaborately humorous conceit involving hair—to wit, forelocks at that tricky in-between stage. But if I could, I would, since that’s about where bang! seems to be: no longer edgy fringe, not yet fully grown.

Certainly the space (for lack of a better word) suggests as much: with a streetfront kitchen emanating awkward chic, with its pair of dining rooms all snug, patchwork-hued & prone to wink-wink artsy touches like the vertical sign reading MARINATE in brushed-chrome letters, it’s as comfortably cool as, say, the downtown walk-up of some design student with a bright future & a striking resemblance to Parker Posey or Zooey Deschanel.

Ditto the repertoire. Indeed, “comfortably cool food” seems here rather more precise than “comfort food,” a label that, for all its admitted convenience, has for too long stuck so fast to so much as to be nearly meaningless—accounting indiscriminately for regional traditions & personal idiosyncracies alike, applying as easily to congee in Chinatown as grits in Chattanooga. Granted, there are a few inductees into the stateside hall of fame 1 could nominate sans asterisks—meatloaf, sure, & mashed potatoes, grilled cheese & corned-beef hash, etc.—but perusing bang!’s menu, I experienced as many flashbacks to grad-school potlucks as to the squash-patch-colored kitchen of my formative years: casual but heartfelt, quirky but barely. From the briefest of research, I get the sense it doesn’t change much, which if true is a shame for reasons I’ve touched upon w/r/t Black Pearl: repeat business needn’t mean repetitive business.

That said, the apparently signature hush puppies are indeed keepers, with a hot salty crust & a moistly corny interior. Though nothing like spicy, the jalapeño tartar sauce does give the slightest, nicest acidic twist to each dunked chunk.

Banghushpuppies

You’d think the potato croquette at the center of this here entree, being likewise a starch-starring sphere, would appeal equally. Instead, a tad too big, it essentially collapses under the weight of its own mush—taking the rest down with it: since it’s what distinguishes the otherwise clichéd combo of grilled shrimp, pureed corn & roasted red pepper on paper, in practice the whole thing falls a little flat.

Bangshrimp

By contrast, a pasta so nondescript it may as well be listed in invisible ink—penne with pesto, sausage & parmesan—really materializes with verve: a testament to the boldness of understatement, of the length to which a little goes, its shavings & crumbles & dollops & tubes just so.

Bangpasta

On that note, while bang! seems a bit strong, pfft is all wrong. Think I’ll nickname this quasi-funky little kitchen spark. That’s just dynamic enough.