I’m not going to lie about this: I miss Artesano. It was a favorite. This does not mean that I don’t like Steak & Bourbon, its recent successor under the same management. But steakhouses are a dime a dozen around here. Serious Spanish tapas eateries are thin on the ground, so the loss of a favorite is a significant hit.
All my whining won’t bring Artesano back, I know, so let’s move on. We dropped in to Steak & Bourbon with a group of friends the other night and had a fine time.
If you were a fan of Artesano, you’ll be happy to know that the look of the establishment hasn’t changed dramatically since the changeover last month, and Artesano’s service and kitchen staff, including Chef Jason Smith, remain in place. Subtle changes in decor add a touch of classic steakhouse look and feel.
A gallery of black-and-white photos of ‘60s-era celebs, historic shots and other memorabilia now cover the walls, but a couple of Artesano’s old bull head statues remain. An open kitchen with a wood-burning fireplace and a long bar well stocked with bourbon flank the main dining room.
The menu is not overly long, but it covers the steakhouse basics. Thirteen appetizers, soups, and salads start at $10 (for a brace of steak and cheese hand pies in puff pastry, which I highly recommend, or spinach and artichoke dip, and most of the salads). Or you can kick off your meal at a higher price with a $16 bowl of yellowfin tuna poke or a $20 steak tenderloin medallion salad.
Steaks are Certified Angus beef aged at least 21 days, served with your choice of spud (potato-based side). Six steak options range from $25 (for steak and frites) to $49 (for a 24-ounce bone-in cowboy cut). Four burgers (okay, one of them is a crab cake burger) are $15 to $18, and, if you’d really rather have something other than steak, a short list of other entrees includes pan-roasted chicken ($24), verlasso salmon ($30), short rib pot roast ($25), and seared sashimi grade tuna ($19).
An impressive array of bourbon makes an impressive display behind the bar. I count 70 bourbons on the drinks menu, clustered in price between $8 and $16 for a shot; one is also invited to summon the reserve bourbon list, although I didn’t dare. A half-dozen three-taste bourbon flights are on offer from $15 to $21, and there’s also an interesting wine list, a short beer list, and a selection of cocktails to choose from. We sipped tall, refreshing drinks: a mojito ($9) made with Marti Plata Panamanian rum, and a 1792 bourbon punch ($11) fashioned from a fruity mix of booze with grapefruit juice, sweet vermouth, grenadine, lemon, and cherries.
An heirloom tomato and burrata salad ($12) looked beautiful, a long plate lined up with big chunks of pale-pink tomato slathered with the creamy innards of burrata cheese, mozzarella’s more portly brother, covered with halved red and yellow grape tomatoes, torn fresh basil leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil and aged balsamic. This all looked great but the tomatoes were hard, pale and flavorless, out-of-season fruit. Let’s hold this one until ripe and juicy local tomatoes arrive next month.
Striving for economy, we chose the smallest and most affordable steak option, steak and frites ($25), pictured at the top of the page. It came out well on the raw side of the medium-rare that we ordered, with a seared exterior and bleeding, sushi-grade interior. Not that I’m complaining, but we weren’t excited about gristly bits and fat. A thick, peppery sauce au poivre came alongside. Frites were thin-cut, salty, and crisply fried.
Our friend Dan said his 14-ounce rib eye steak ($34) was marred by a lot of gristle and other inedible bits, and its spice rub didn’t penetrate the meat. Nevertheless, he enjoyed the flavorful steak.
Sides of thick, crisp-tender maple glazed carrots and raclette cheese-covered fingerling potatoes ($7 each) were fine; creamed spinach, a steakhouse classic, was seared too long under the broiler and, sadly, overcooked.
A golden square of bourbon bread pudding ($10) was topped with mixed berries and a purple flower; a small scoop of rich vanilla ice cream and a serving pitcher of white sauce came alongside. Our friend Peggy’s towering multilayer chocolate cake ($10) was huge, loaded with dark chocolate flavor, and plated on a succulent chocolate sauce.
Our tab for two came to $88, plus a 20 percent tip built in for parties of six or more; I added another $5 for our server, Jessica, who managed to be both attentive and unobtrusive in spite of plenty of tables to keep her busy.
Steak & Bourbon
1321 Herr Lane, Suite 130
Robin Garr’s rating: 76 points
Noise level: The room was filled to capacity, making it was difficult to converse past your immediate neighbor. (The average sound level was 82dB, the sound of loud singing, with peaks to 90dB, the sound of a motorcycle.)
Accessibility: The restaurant and the restrooms are accessible to wheelchair users, but much of the seating is in booths, so wheelchair users might ask for a table with chairs that can be moved out of the way.