Cozy, friendly environment

SPRINGFIELD – Before George & Violet’s Steakhouse took root three years ago on Springfield’s Main Street its spirit was born in Spain. That was where Ross Arce, general manager and co-owner, taught English as a second language. 

“I came back invigorated from that experience,” Arce said. The Portland native who earned a degree in English Literature at the University of Oregon in 2006, said an enduring impression of Spain during his time there was the country’s common view around food. 

“Food was a vessel for getting together with friends and family,” he explained. “Food and drink were important factors but it was the company, the laughter and enjoyment of one another that was the main thing. Everyone put down their cell phones and enjoyed each other’s presence.” 

Chef Andrew Francisco, right, with owner Ross Arce.

After returning to Oregon, Arce followed his muse and evolved from budding teacher to restaurant entrepreneur. “I wanted to recreate that Spanish restaurant and tavern feeling where everybody is welcome and there’s a range of choices to fit all budgets,” he said.  

Three years ago he teamed up with chef Andrew Francisco, and the two created George & Violet’s Steakhouse where a dive bar called Jim’s Landing used to be. That area of Main Street is different today with a cluster of neighborhood-style food and fermentation ventures prospering.

After earning an impressive resume as a chef internationally, Francisco has landed in Oregon and is the culinary artist behind the restaurant’s offerings. The establishment is also named for his kids. George, who is now 12, and Violet, 10. He loves the Springfield venture and sources local grass-fed beef and organic produce. He gets the full primal cut and does all butchering in-house, with trim from the steaks turned into less expensive dishes. Everything is made from scratch and Francisco transforms it all into a nice selection of straightforward seasonal dishes. 

But the special bull’s-eye these two are trying to hit with patrons is offering a warm, casual dining experience, seeped in classic American steakhouse, with that appealing Spanish spirit of great food and even greater pleasure in sharing it. 

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Butters and ... vegetarians?

Steak butters: Chef Francisco offers a choice of two out of three butters that he concocts to go with your steaks. Veteran diners bargain with the waiter to try all three – horseradish brown butter, blue cheese butter, and hazelnut miso butter. Of course, there is a fourth choice. And it’s one Chef Francisco and Arce highly recommend – just enjoy your meat in its own primal juices and savor that unadorned. 

Vegeterians: Why in the world would a vegetarian get caught in a steakhouse? After chuckling with his interviewer at the prospect, Arce made the case for how a vegetarian and meat eater companion can happily compromise. “It happens here,” he affirmed. He pointed to the vegetable and salad selections, and added: “First thing, you have to have enough non-meat choices available. Consider something substantial, like a baked potato, as your entree. We can hold the bacon, and you still get a wonderful potato with terrific flavor and plenty of accompanying greens.” Arce promises his staff will get creative to work it out so you have just as satisfying a meal as your meat eater chow buddy.

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Options to serve any budget

With a smile, Arce gave an example of the “something for everyone” approach. Maybe you have deep pockets tonight and/or a meal companion you want to impress. Like a heat-seeking missile, you’ll likely go for the tenderloin (or rib eye or New York strip) and a choice of great Old World wines from France or Italy. “That will put you at $125 to $200 per person,” Arce said. “Or get a steak burger and fries (most popular menu choice) and a glass of Pinot, and that will be less than $30 a person.” Other choices at the same price are cheeseburger and fries and Reuben and fries.

Chef Andrew Francisco

There’s other good choices at this tier as well, including pork chops, chicken thighs, or the increasingly popular steak frites. Salads on the side include sauteed asparagus and beet salad with goat cheese. 

“Whatever your choice, you’re going to get delicious food,” Arce said.