At the Table: Work-in-progress Artis in Schenectady worth the wait

SCHENECTADY — After five months, the seesaw nature of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make me hesitant to dine indoors. Fortunately, the season lends itself to enjoying meals outdoors, whether it’s takeout at home or on a patio at the venue.

I was flipping through the internet under “recently opened restaurants.” I had heard the name “Artis” and wanted to track it down. Because it was new, its online information was sketchy; nevertheless I persisted.

Billed as “Artis Southern Cuisine & Steakhouse,” I was intrigued by just the name. So we pieced together segments of the menus we found online and ordered via Uber Eats (yup, you can get a ride and a meal from the same outfit — a blessing in these days of masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing). We had been curious about how delivery would affect the variables governing takeout.

Dinner guest completed the online form, which included charges not only for the food and tax, but also for a service fee ($5.78), a delivery fee ($1.99) and a deliveryperson tip ($7.40), according to the receipt downloaded a little while later. I’m wondering whether or not anything equivalent to a tip for the restaurant was included.

During the online ordering, the arrival time of our meal changed three times, a little later with each update. Delivery of the food was approximately an hour later than originally scheduled, though we were alerted with each change.

So what of the food? In a word, it was very good. I wish we had been able to enjoy our meal at the venue itself, but online photos depicted happy diners elbow-to-elbow at large tables without a mask in sight, and we were scared off. Artis does make it clear, however, that COVID-19 guidelines are in place, although the photos did not support their lengthy online declaration.

My guest ordered Beef Ribs (make that “Rib,” but it was the meat of two ribs on a single bone, $17 with two side dishes). From a list of nine sides (mac/ cheese, potato salad, fried cabbage, baked beans, macaroni salad, collard greens, coconut rice and beans, sweet potato casserole and a side salad, sold separately as well for $3 or $5), Guest chose collard greens and coconut rice.

I requested the sweet potato casserole and the mac and cheese with my entrée of Fried Haddock ($15). However, when the food was delivered, we discovered the pairs of sides had been reversed. This was no problem for us because we always share.

My guest also ordered a house salad ($6.50), which was superfluous because he could have had one as a side with his entrée. The winner of the evening was the beef rib. One rib bone with meat enough for two ribs. The old description rang true: The meat was so tender it fell off the bone. There was enough to share for dinner and enough remaining to enjoy the next day.

It was the first time my guest had tried coconut rice. He remarked that the slight sweetness provided an unusual but pleasant complement to the tangy sauced rib. The collard greens surprised his taste buds with a hint of cloves.

My pan-fried haddock (whiting, as it was described elsewhere on the menu) was slightly blackened, but was neither overly seasoned nor greasy. Along with some of the best mac and cheese I have ever enjoyed, the dinner was a winner. The sweet potato casserole was not composed of sliced, but rather slightly mashed sweet potatoes. Topped with slightly melted mini marshmallows, I had the feeling the dish couldn’t make up its mind — solid or semi-mashed, side vegetable or dessert. The dish may have been representative of a particular area in the South, or a recipe from Grandma.

To open a restaurant in these unsettled times is an act of bravery. Artis is incomplete.

Only a 6-ounce NY strip steak ($20) is offered on the “Steakhouse” menu, albeit it can be ordered paired with shrimp ($24), snow crab legs ($32) or a lobster tail ($42).

Experience will polish the venue’s rough edges. But judging from the variety of items on the menu and the quality of the food we sampled, in time, Artis Southern Cuisine & Steakhouse could quickly become a local treasure.

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