Welcome to the mid-20th century. In every way except for price, the Variety Restaurant shows no evidence that anything has changed in the world of dining-out for the last three score years. A dimly-lit dinner house with wood-paneled walls, paper placemats, and eclectic-personal-nautical-Grecian décor, it is entirely demode, off the radar screen of savvy foodies. But still, it’s thriving, thanks to a steadfast clientele of regulars who come for exuberantly large portions of steak and potatoes or seafood and potatoes preceded by a crisp iceberg lettuce salad along with saltines in cellophane. Waitresses are old-school. They neither introduce themselves by name nor offer the provenance of daily specials. By the second time I visited, I had earned the moniker “Hon’.” Square-meals eaters who appreciate genuine retro ambience without a jot of fashion will see the Variety as a rare gem.
Ribeye steaks are a house specialty, available in sizes from 10 to 20 ounces. The meat is choice, not prime (in the $20 range, not $50), aged enough to resonate with deep mineral potency, fork-tender, and full flavored. Satisfying beef! On the side comes either a huge, fluffy-centered baked potato or from-scratch French fries along with a few spongy hushpuppies.
The seafood menu is broad and inviting. I’ve enjoyed she-crab soup vibrant with spice and loaded with sweet meat, sparkling oysters on the half-shell, a plate-wide grilled salmon steak that was velvet-soft inside with crisp, caramelized edges, and a whole flounder with fine, flaky flesh. A medley of seafood can be had on the “King Fisherman’s Platter,” which runs about $22 at dinner and half that at lunch. (Lunch service is discontinued during summer months).
(Please pardon digital noise in some of the interior photos. It is dark enough inside the Variety that most were shot at ISO 50,000.)