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 wait — you’ll get there soon enough.
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.
The appetizers are the most interesting part of the menu. Crab and artichoke dip, 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.
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 indifference.