Rating: 4.75 cows
Manhattan Beach is known for many things, most notably its pier and relentless beach culture. We’re not saying these are incompatible with great steak, but it’s certainly not the first thing that comes to mind. There are some classic steakhouses dotting the beach cities of Southern California, most of which cater to the beach bum or tourist crowd, but which don’t really take their steak seriously. The Arthur J is not one of those places.
Set amongst the posh retail district and restrictive parking meters—other things Manhattan Beach is known for—on Manhattan Avenue, The Arthur J carries the name of the man who spent much of his time in this part of town and founded local favorite The Kettle. His children run the business now, and have tapped Devid LeFevre to run the steakhouse kitchen.
As you enter the small space, the bar is immediately in front of you, with two large TVs behind the bar that seem even bigger given the diminutive space. Their glow evokes a slightly more casual vibe than we were expecting, but it was a little reminder that, yes, we’re still in a beach town.
The cocktail menu features house twists on classics, though we found the Brannigan’s Boots—their version of the Old Fashioned—to be hit or miss.
The dining room is about the same size as the bar, but with more seating. The service arrived quickly and attentively. It was a taste of things to come. While working through the wine list to make sure we got the right bottle, the waiter deferred to the sommelier when our initial choice was unavailable.
Let’s get on to the food. We started things off with the caesar salad, mushroom soup, and bison & pork chili. All three were fantastic. The caesar was exceptionally fresh and they get extra points for what tasted like a homemade dressing and real anchovies. It’s not often that a caesar salad stands out, but this one did. The only drawback was the price, which for $14 was perhaps the most expensive caesar we’ve had thus far.
The steak menu is more than adequate, featuring Angus and USDA Prime cuts, as well as a tomahawk and porterhouse for two, and of course a Wagyu option (Kagoshima prefecture). All the stars are here, and we partook of the filet, strip, and rib eye, all cooked “rare plus”. For the side dishes we went with the mashers, brussels sprouts, mac and cheese, and of course the fries.
Steak is the reason we came, and the steaks definitely stole the show. They had fantastic charring all over, and the flavor was absolutely outstanding. All of us were impressed with the tenderness, and expert cooking. Each steak comes with a sauce of your choice, but we all felt they were really just novel distractions. We’ve said this before, but a great steak needs no sauce. None of the steaks we ate were enhanced by the sauces.
The only blemish on the steak came with the rib eye. It arrived decidedly overcooked, and while it was still tasty, it wasn’t living up to its potential. We commented to the waiter, and he insisted on a replacement, and even let us keep the first steak while the other was cooked up. It arrived quickly and was every bit as delicious as the others—and that’s saying a lot.
The side dishes were also very good. Of particular note were the mashed potatoes, so drowned in butter that you could barely eat more than a few bites. We shared one order amongst the 4 of us and only just managed to finish it. The brussels sprouts were quite good too, and while the mac and cheese was good, it was the least interesting. What about the fries, you ask?
We have a bit of a history with steakhouse fries. They’re on just about every menu, and they are always a disappointment. Always. Every time. But we order them anyway. And so the fantasy of paying $8-10 for sticks of fried potatoes that we actually want to order again remains as elusive as ever. Until now. Ladies and gentlemen, these ARE the fries we’re looking for. Cooked in beef fat and dusted with malt vinegar, these steak fries are flat out delicious. They have a perfect ratio of surface area to volume, with a deep salty flavor courtesy of the beef fat. Oh yes. We finally found steakhouse french fry nirvana!
We weren’t all that hungry for dessert, so the plan was to split the apple tart, but we were surprised with a trio of ice cream and sorbet as compensation for our wayward rib eye. The salted caramel and mango sorbet were delectable, while the chocolate sorbet was a little less so. Maybe there’s a reason that sorbet is typically reserved for fruit (it was still pretty good).
All told, this was a fantastic experience and none of us would hesitate to come back if the opportunity arose. The food was incredible and the service was great. As for the value, you’re definitely not dining here if you’re on a strict budget, however their prices ($45-55 as of this writing) are comparable to most, and we enjoyed our food here more than most. Do your stomach a favor and get yourself over to The Arthur J.