Food :: Artistic license

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May 10, 2010 // UPDATED 8:09 am - May 10, 2010
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar
There comes a time in the life of a carnivore (well, this one, anyway) when you crave a big ol’ hunk of beef but are fed up with the equally industrial-size price tag many a steakhouse imposes — you know, where everything is a la carte, down to the salt and pepper — not to mention the security clearance required to snag a table and the imperial attitude of the wait staff, all of whom sport far better haircuts. That’s your signal to flee to Nordeast, where none of the above would fly.

There, Erté serves beef without attitude — a House of Charity masquerading as a supper club. As befits its artistic namesake, the atmosphere is subtly swank and the waitresses — former Girl Scouts, I’m convinced — are on your side; they treat you like guests of honor at the family dinner table.

And the beef! It’s tender and tasty: What more could you ask? Well, soup or salad, I suppose, and that’s included in the gentle price tag, too. So’s the little gift of olives and peppers, along with the bread basket that hits the table while you’re glancing at the menu.

The house steak, a 10-ounce prime sirloin ($17.50), thick-cut and juicy, hit the spot. So did the meaty brisket ($16.50), born of Angus pedigree, slow-baked all day along with mushrooms, onions and a whiff of garlic, then sliced up and re-roasted until cutlery becomes a mere table decoration. It’s served with honey-kissed coins of carrots and spuds mashed up with chives and sour cream (called, unfortunately, “hunny bunny” and “le smush” respectively. Where are the language police when you need them?).

Erte’s house salad proved half the garden patch in girth, and a house-made Green Goddess dressing offered a lovely throwback to the glory days of roadhouse dining. My companion chose the soup instead — this evening, a squash bisque studded with sweet apple chunks and sturdy bits of bacon. Surely the vice squad needs to be aware of the danger this dish presents.

We’d started our meal with a trio of crab “miniwiches” (here we go again. Is English still a second language on this intersection?). Three fluffy burger buns came topped with lettuce, tomato, and moist, plump patties in which crabmeat was a featured player, sided with a mild, suave homemade tartar sauce and crispy refrigerator pickles — the best thing to happen to a cucumber in ages.

By dumb luck, we’d arrived on a Tuesday, when wine is half-priced (Mondays, too), so our bottle of zinfandel tasted all the better with the beef. Next time (and trust me, there’ll be a next time mighty soon), I’d add a side of creamed spinach to the lineup and maybe the au gratins, too, enriched with caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese. And hey, maybe a martini in the adjoining Peacock Lounge, where live music on weekends rounds out the welcome.

329 13th Ave. NE