Just around the corner from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, but far from the madding crowd, sits the kind of restaurant that embodies every child’s notion of fine dining: white tablecloths, dim lights, piano bar, roomy Naugahyde booths and, of course, grown-up food. Where other, lesser steak houses have failed, Bob Burns has thrived. For four decades it has served up luscious, fat-marbled steaks with no apologies and all the trimmings.
Maybe it’s such thoughtful touches as a noise-muffling cork ceiling and fresh daisies or mums on every table that have kept Bob Burns’ sizable dining room filled. More likely it’s the consistently high quality of what appears on your plate. While the restaurant pulls in a fair number of longtime faithful, it also attracts younger patrons eager to partake of its cheesy, yet utterly satisfying, old-school sophistication. The initial urge may be to snicker at the Scottish décor — the red-and-black tartan carpet and the waiters’ matching bow ties, the exaggerated thronelike seating, the coats of arms displayed like trophies alongside prints of men in kilts, have changed little since the restaurant opened in 1960. But no one’s complaining, so why meddle with a winning formula?
There are a few obvious interlopers among the dining options: ahi sashimi, penne with pesto, scallops in Cajun sauce. None provides reason to stray from the tried and true. Caesar salad is just right, with plenty of anchovies in a rich, creamy dressing. Oysters Rockefeller are buttery and scalding hot, the shrimp cocktail served “Mazatlán style” with a hearty slice of avocado. The filet mignon is large, supple and served to order (in addition to the requisite potato and an array of fresh steamed veggies). The double-cut Colorado lamb chops come beautifully charred, dressed in colored-paper booties.
One thing that has changed over the decades is the prices. Bob Burns is a spendy joint — the lamb chops will set you back 33 bucks, the filet 27 — but that includes soup or a generous salad served on pink-patterned china, and a choice of fries, baked potato, rice or a Cheddar cheese– stuffed potato that tastes remarkably like tortilla pie. And early diners can snag a bargain meal: salad or soup, entrée with veggies, beverage and dessert, all for under $15.
At evening’s end, the perfect touch: a Häagen-Dazs sundae dripping with rich dark-chocolate fudge, slivered almonds and freshly whipped cream. Maraschino cherry optional. 202 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 393-6777. Also in Woodland Hills at 21821 Oxnard St.; (818) 883-2145.