It gets harder and harder to find a decent place to enjoy a good steak anymore. So many restaurants are too brightly lit, illuminating walls swarming with mismatched clutter. And what’s with all the new wait staffs being trained as overly chatty, syrupy-sweet anoyo-droids? Must they really introduce themselves when anyone who actually gives a damn can read their name badge? We suspect this is all done to distract you from how bland your dinner will be. If you’ve checked ‘yes’ to any of the above, then you need to follow the alt-crowd over to Art’s.
Burgundy Naugahyde booths surrounded by dark, wood-paneled walls (with only prints from turn-of-the-previous-century Riverside as décor), the dimly lit Art’s has been a local mainstay for decades. The wait staff greet you with a simple, warm smile and a “What can I get’cha, hon?” It’s a nice, quiet little place, fit for drinking, with a kitchen that turns out meals not to be missed.
There’s your standard bar fare, of course, including hot wings, potato skins and stuffed jalapenos (called “armadillo eggs”), but they also have a full menu serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it’s all upfront and straightforward—no fusion cuisine, and nothing smothered with trendy sauces; just good ol’ basic grub with various cuts of steak, grilled chicken breast, fantail shrimp, deli sandwiches, burgers, dogs, and so much more.
On Taco Tuesdays you can even get 75-cent tacos that are way bigger than you’d expect for such a pittancey price. A friend once quipped that they’re whiteboy tacos, which must refer to the seasoned ground beef served in a fried corn tortilla. Whatever—with just the perfect amount of grease, we’ll say they’re damn good whiteboy tacos, just make sure to ask for extra napkins. Moving on to even more white cuisine, the prime rib sandwich is tops, loaded with thinly-sliced rich and tender beef. It’s served on sourdough, but we’d suggest a French roll substitution that makes a good thing even better. Their burgers are a whopping eight ounces and chock full of juice, and their all-beef hot dogs weigh in at a quarter-pound—so tasty that you’ll swear off Weinerschnitzel for life, if you haven’t already. They’ve also got the best French fries around, made from wedge-sliced, unskinned baby Yukons.
But really, the steaks are what made us fall in love with Art’s. We don’t like going out for steak, usually, because most steakhouses’ concepts of “rare” translate into a thin ribbon in the middle that’s only slightly pink—if you’re lucky. Art’s, however, understands that when we say rare that we want steak swimming in a pool of bloody goodness—which we can then sop up with some baked potato. Oh, and cheese bread—thick-sliced French bread, lightly toasted and covered with a thick layer of gooey cheddar, not that powdered cheese-like abomination.
Ultimately, Art’s is really of another era—when no one cared about such irritants as cholesterol levels, and that’s why it’s such a culinary treasure (no, of course they don’t have a web site). And, not only would your dad love the place, but your granddad would drool over it, too.
Art’s Bar & Grill, 3357 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 683-9520. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the kitchen staying open till 11 p.m. Dinner for two: $30-$40.