News & Politics

April 2004: Artie’s

Artie's is shipshape. The main dining room sparkles with the theme of cigar-shaped wooden speedboats. There are spiffy models and colorful murals. Most surfaces, including the tabletops and the dividers between the comfortable booths, are the kind of highly polished wood that was the hallmark of racing and pleasure boats before the advent of fiberglass.

Service is a plus. The competence of the young servers is impressive. Before pouring the wine, for example, a waiter wiped the top of the bottle with a clean napkin. Servers are knowledgeable about the food and wine–if asked for a recommendation, they answer thoughtfully. When something goes wrong, such as a delay in seating a party, the hostesses apologize.

The menu is not long or innovative, but it has variety. The cooking is more hearty American than Modern American. It is not cheap–main courses are $11 to $29. With a few exceptions, such as filet mignon, the portions are large. Ingredients are good, and the food is cooked with care. Over the course of five visits, no dish came to the table cooked other than the way it was ordered or should have been cooked. Pasta, even angel-hair pasta, was not overcooked. It's a kitchen with a mission.

The major complaint–and it might not be considered a defect by everyone–is that several of the dishes were on the sweet side. For example, a pecan-encrusted trout was topped with brown-sugar-coated pecans. The good baby back ribs came with a noticeably sweet sauce, and roast pork tenderloin, listed as coated with a citrus chipotle glaze, also had a sweet cast.

There are plenty of dishes to savor. The soup of the day has been consistently good, whether it was the roast chicken tortilla, the lobster bisque, or the crab-and-corn chowder.

Another winner is the blue-crab fritters coated with a tangle of crisp phyllo, a grilled corn salsa, and spicy lobster-ginger butter. The diner assembles the bruschetta from the ingredients supplied–diced green and yellow tomato and fresh mozzarella with basil share a plate with toast from first-rate bread.

Salads are very good, including field greens and Bibb lettuce with a balsamic vinaigrette and a mixed chopped salad.

The star of the menu, available only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, is a big blackened prime rib served on the bone. It rivals the product of the better steakhouses. Other good choices were the sautéed chicken paillard, really a breast of chicken rather than the flattened paillard; jambalaya pasta with penne, sautéed shrimp, andouille sausage, and chicken; and a grilled rockfish on soft polenta.

The shoestring fries are not house-made but are very good. The baked potatoes likewise deserve applause. The creamy coleslaw, however, is overloaded with mayonnaise.

The wine list is short but well chosen and reasonably priced. Hogue Chardonnay and Kendall-Jackson Cabernet-Shiraz are $19 a bottle. It is worth saving room for dessert. Try the deep-dish apple-pecan pie or the warm flourless chocolate waffle, both with excellent house-made vanilla ice cream.

Artie's is very popular. Like its sibling, Carlyle Grand Café, it generally does not take reservations but encourages diners to call a couple of hours ahead to get on the wait list. It's better than nothing, but an arrival as scheduled on a busy weekend evening still meant a 30-minute wait.

ATMOSPHERE: Attractive and friendly with a touch of luxury.

FOOD: Very good.

SERVICE: Excellent–impressive performance by a young serving staff.

PRICE: Dinner entrées $12 to $29, luncheon entrées $8 to $19. Dinner for two: $65.

VALUE: Good.

BOTTOM LINE: A very good restaurant for a night out or a quick meal at lunch or after work.