While offering a decent raw bar, the rest of Awful Arthur's seafood fare seems to have run aground.
It's a tricky thing to live inland and want good seafood. Only a handful of places really shell it out. Unfortunately, isn't one of them. While they claim to bring the beach to you if you can't get there yourself, our advice is to wait you'll get there soon enough.
While Awful Arthur's doesn't claim to offer fine dining, it does claim to have a unique experience (available at five locations, all inland). After two recent visits to the downtown spot, we're still not sure what experience they're talking about.
Loud music isn't unique. Arctic temperatures aren't exactly unique either, though being told just to cover the vent with our menus if we were cold was new. Punky beer I've had before. The impact of any one of these irritations, even all of them together, could be reduced, of course, by an extraordinarily high-quality menu.
Ah, well. It's not that the food is bad at Awful Arthur's. On the contrary, the raw oysters and steamed middleneck clams were sweet, salty and delicious. On another visit, the mussels were clean and sweet, too. But the raw bar constitutes the only reason we'll consider a return trip.
[image-1](Stacy Warner / richmond.com) Overall, the remaining preparations are dull, uneven, and seem to be slapped together and presented without any creativity, imagination or skill. Our six oysters seemed awfully lonesome on their giant plate garnished with a torn scrap of cabbage and a lemon wedge. Our four plastic Nyquil cups of butter and cocktail sauce for the clams came on an equally large plate with the same cabbage scrap garnish.
The appetizers are the most interesting part of the menu. Crab and artichoke dip, shrimp wrapped bacon (actually, it's bacon-wrapped shrimp), Mediterranean mussels and oysters Rockefeller all look good. My corn and tomato chowder was excellent. We also ordered fried calamari, which was very good and served with a thick and chunky marinara sauce.
The marinara sauce does double duty in the mussels marinara, which we ordered on another visit. Though the mussels were good, the noodles were gummy and overcooked and the sauce fell short because the intact garlic cloves were raw and failed to make any useful contribution to the sauce.
On a different night, the same gummy noodles showed up in the seafood Alfredo, which had so much sauce it was more like lugubrious Alfredo soup with noodles and a strange burnt flavor. What's more, the scallops weren't cooked all the way through leading us to wonder if they previously had been frozen.
[image-2](Stacy Warner / richmond.com) Hoping for better luck from the seafood specials list, one of our party ordered the fish of the day swordfish. She got it blackened. We could forgive the heavy hand on the salt in the blackening seasoning, but the cut of swordfish was mighty thin.
While Awful Arthur's isn't exactly a chain restaurant, it sure does feel like it. And the food does a good job of resembling it. Which makes us wonder where it got off track from heady days of its youth back in 1991.
We may return for a Thursday bucket night, or a Tuesday all-you-can-eat snow crab feast. The raw bar, while not unique, has better variety than almost anywhere else in Richmond. But when it comes to the rest of the menu Awful Arthur's seems adrift and, we fear, run aground on the shoals of