Cheap Eats 2007: Artie’s

With its knotty-pine walls and beamed ceiling, this Fairfax tavern has the feel of a party room in the Catskills. The smiling waitstaff who refill your soda before you finish it put you in mind of a chain restaurant­—in fact, Artie’s is part of the local Great American Restaurants group. But the food, which reflects influences ranging from the Eastern shore (katafi-crusted crab fritters) to Louisiana (penne with spicy shrimp and andouille sausage), is anything but factorylike.

Not all of the menu falls within the Cheap Eats budget, but if you’re in the mood for the $20 crab cakes, they and other entrées are big enough to share. There’s also a standout Caesar salad heavy on cracked pepper and coarse Reggiano, a hulking burger with barbecue sauce, sherried lobster bisque, and chicken paillard with wilted arugula and brown butter.

Even the fresh-bread basket is worthy of attention—depending on the day, it might be filled with warm, savory doughnuts and cheddar or walnut-raisin breads.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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