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Arbuckle's Bistro no laughing matter

October 23, 2010|By Lance A. Wawer
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

So, a horse walks into a bar and the bartender says "Why the long face?"

The first time I heard that joke it made me chuckle. For days later it put a smile on my face when I thought about it. Because of the genius of its simplicity, combined with its offbeat sensibility, it has become one of my favorite jokes of all time. I am having a similar reaction to my experience at Arbuckle's Bistro in Burbank.

Arbuckle's is the restaurant attached to the recently opened "Flappers Comedy Club" and sports a clean and clever 1920s/Prohibition-era theme. Prices are reasonable (entrees range from $9 to $23), and the overall experience is far better than one could expect at a similarly priced Chili's or Fridays.

There is a full bar with several theme-related cocktails (and non-alcoholic drinks) such as "The 21st Amendment Long Island Iced Tea," "Dirty Bathtub" and "18th Amendment Shirley Temple" — all available with a souvenir glass for $3 extra. The wine list is decent but limited to a few wineries. A pleasant surprise was that they chose to keep the decor clean and comfortable, providing more of a transport to a 1920s environment than a dependence on a kitschy display of memorabilia.

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The menu consists primarily of comfort food ranging from half-pound burgers, meatloaf and roasted chicken to wood-fired pizza, chicken wings and French onion soup. Beyond that, however, are some delightful twists.

I started with the intriguingly named "Black and Blue Steak Salad." A wonderful concoction of mixed greens, blackened steak, honey-roasted peanuts, crumbled gorgonzola cheese and dried cranberries topped with a house-made "whiskey" dressing, it proved to be an eye-opener. The steak was prepared perfectly (blackened well but not overpoweringly seasoned). The earthiness of the gorgonzola played beautifully off of the sweetness of the peanuts and tartness of the cranberries. The balance of textures was terrific, and the whiskey dressing was a revelation. At $13 it could serve as either a starter or an entree.

Being a sucker for meat on a stick, I went back to the appetizer menu for my entree. The grilled chicken and steak skewers were exactly what I was looking for and then some. Grilled perfectly with just the right amount of char, they were complemented by a terrific bourbon dipping sauce and a side of "Chef Drew's green slaw" that I wish was available in bulk.

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