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New and snazzy has its place in the restaurant world, but there’s just nothing like a real old-school steakhouse. Nothing trendy, nothing frou-frou — the kind of place where the only way you know what decade you’re in is from the vintages on the wine list.
Such an establishment is Coy’s Steakhouse, a Hot Springs institution for more than half a century. We can’t attest to what it looked like in the early days — our recent visit was actually our first — but the place exudes a timeless coziness. And although it’s also going for a fine-dining, elegant vibe, you’ll hear no sniffs from the hostess if you show up in shorts and flip-flops after a day at the races.
(Speaking of, if you go on a weekend during racing season, we highly recommend either making reservations or getting there before 6 p.m.)
The Old School announces itself in no uncertain terms shortly after you’re seated, when your server brings over a metal tin of warmed saltine crackers and a small carafe of Coy’s house dressing, a tasty, garlicky concoction the color of Thousand Island that’s also available for purchase by the pint.
That’s right, warmed-up saltines in a metal tin. With dressing.
Moving on to the appetizers, Coy’s menu is heavy on the tried-and-true: shrimp cocktail, fried cheese sticks, “Coy’s Famous Chicken Livers,” oysters on the half shell. We ordered the crab-stuffed mushrooms ($6.95) — essentially tiny crab cakes fitted into small mushroom caps. We don’t care for mushrooms in general, but our dining companion feels differently, and raved about these. Had the filling been served alone as crab cakes, he said, they would have been fantastic, but the mushroom cap added an extra layer of flavor that he loved.
Coy’s offers more than two dozen entrees, almost evenly divided between steak and seafood, with a sprinkling of chicken dishes and one lamb choice.
We felt almost duty bound to try a steak — not that that was an imposition. Choices include filet mignon, Chateaubriand, ribeye, prime rib, T-bone, tenderloin and three sirloin choices. We went for the bone-in strip sirloin ($26.95), with a glass of Kendall Jackson cabernet on the side. (Coy’s wine list has a decent number of choices by the glass, with lots of familiar names. There’s a larger variety available by the bottle.)
The steak was thick, juicy, extremely flavorful and cooked a perfect medium. We aren’t exaggerating when we say it was the best restaurant steak we’ve had in at least a couple of years. The menu didn’t specify a weight, but it was plenty big for our appetite — we ate until we were in physical pain, and still had a quarter of it left.
Our companion was less thrilled with his Norwegian salmon filet ($18.95). The cut itself was good, he said, as was the dill sauce served on the side, and it was cooked to the right doneness. But he would have preferred it to be a little lighter — there was a lot of butter involved, and he had, after all, ordered fish because he wasn’t in the mood for something as heavy as steak or lobster. On the other hand, he acknowledged, you don’t go to a place like Coy’s looking for health food.
Other fish options include Alaskan King Crab legs, broiled lobster tails, fried jumbo shrimp, two orange roughy dishes, and fried catfish.
Entrees come with the usual salad, potato or rice, and biscuits with honey. Ours were fine, although we regretted every bite when we had to stop eating our steak before it was all gone.
We were also duty-bound to try dessert, and fortunately our server wasn’t the type that minded letting us sit there for 15 or 20 minutes while we took a breather, even though the restaurant was packed by that point and there were people waiting in the lobby.
Again, you won’t find much off the beaten path in Coy’s choices: cheesecake, bread pudding, pecan pie. We chose the strawberry shortcake ($4.95), and as much pain as we were in from consuming dinner, we ate every bite. The strawberry slices swim in a pool of thick, syrupy juice, and the whole thing is dished over a homemade sweet biscuit. Our companion’s Chocolate Fudge Supreme — brownie, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge — pleased him well enough, but couldn’t tempt us away from our shortcake for a single bite.
300 Coy St., Hot Springs
Steaks are definitely the way to go at this legendary Hot Springs establishment. Get there early if you go during racing season.
5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Expensive. Full bar. Credit cards and reservations accepted.