Painters' Restaurant specializes in lively local artwork, on the walls and on the plate. It's a colorful, entertaining spot with real personality.
Suiting the new season, this is the new Painters'. The first was ravaged by a fire in May 2012. For a while, the site was for sale. But it's back with a flavorful, all-purpose menu, if not the old pool table. And Painters' should appeal to the whole family, for its idiosyncrasies and buoyant style.
The seating arrangements go from taller bar chairs to booth sections that float in, plus your basic tables for two and four design, giving the crowded establishment a multilevel feel. Plenty of brown paper covers the tables, along with crayons in case you become inspired enough to contribute to the decor.
It's fun, with high-decibel background music reflecting the repertoire du jour. Adele and Taylor Swift were the most audible on a recent Saturday. Chef Luis Marin, meanwhile, seems like an energized orchestra leader in the open kitchen, turning out a wide variety of casual dishes.
Try his "bao of the day," which could be sweet-chile-glazed shrimp with Asian slaw on a stuffed steam bun. Sample the jumbo chicken wings, Buffalo style or Asian, with one of the many beers on tap. Nibble on nachos capped with pulled pork or shredded chicken. Keep grazing with BLT sliders and garlic-fueled mussels.
Marin sends out crisp, juicy buttermilk fried chicken; homey arroz con pollo; tasty, ample barbecued ribs; a savory, red-wine-braised pork chop osso buco; rosy, sesame-crusted ahi tuna with hoisin and hot mustard sauces; plump pan-seared sea scallops with parsnip puree; satisfying salads; grilled pizzas; a few pastas; and solid sides, including honey-glazed Brussels sprouts and a potato gratin. Yes, plenty of hamburgers, too.
Six of them are deemed "genius burgers," named for artists. Georgia O'Keeffe is honored with Swiss cheese, fried onions and bacon. David Hockney arrives with avocado; Andy Warhol, with feta, onion and cumin mayo; Henri Matisse, sadly with melted Brie. And Francis Bacon stays mercifully literal, with a spark of horseradish sauce. The Frida Kahlo Caliente brings guacamole, pico de gallo, chipotle mayo and cheese. O'Keeffe leads.
Desserts: crunchy, cinnamon-sugar-sweetened rice pudding zeppole, salted caramel cake, cheesecake and, of course, a make-it-yourself ice cream sandwich.