Monday, November 11, 2013

Nan & Byron's - South End

Desperate for a new go-to dinner location, BFTB and I have been counting down the days for the doors to open at South End's new restaurant, Nan & Byron's. We both really like 5Church (the lamb burger is my favorite) and looked forward to trying what is, essentially, its swanky, southern, and more wallet-friendly cousin. Best of all (at least for me), Nan & Byron's is located in the old Vinnie's Raw Bar -a.k.a. within walking distance of both BFTB's condo and my office. If you live a little farther away, that's no big deal. Nan & Byron's is doing their best to keep the disastrous Dilworth/South End parking situation in check by not only having a large parking lot, but also offering complimentary valet parking. At present, the restaurant is only serving dinner and late night, but they plan to add both lunch and breakfast to their repertoire in the near future. We grabbed one of the last Saturday reservations they had available and headed over for a 9:30 P.M. dinner this past weekend.

Farmhouse Lemonade (left) and Corn on the Collins (right)

The dinner menu could best be described as a twist on southern comfort food and features simply named items, such as "chicken," "pie," and "fish." The prices were surprisingly low for such a chic restaurant -the cheapest main course option was $7.50 (Chicago Dog) and the most expensive was only $17.50 (Steak). Nan & Byron's also has a really impressive alcohol menu, with a ton of beer and cocktail options (all the drafts are from local breweries) as well as a good selection of red and white wines. Unfortunately, the alcohol isn't as budget friendly as the food, but BFTB and I were lured by the interesting-sounding concoctions and opted to start with some cocktails. I went with the Farmhouse Lemonade (Bacardi Limon, Strawberry Vodka, Limoncello, citrus juices, muddled fresh strawberries, and lemon) and BFTB opted to try the Corn on the Collins (Georgia Moon 100 Proof Corn Whiskey, citrus juices, soda water, and muddled fresh lemon). On paper, both drinks sounded drool-worthy, but mine tasted a little too sugary (but what was I expecting with that list of ingredients?) and BFTB's was skimpy on the alcohol (I've never said that about a drink featuring 100 proof liquor before). Otherwise, the fresh ingredients added up to some tasty-ish drinks, but they probably were not worth their $10+ price tag. However, I'm willing to chalk our issues up to first weekend-kinks and am already planning on going back in order to try the Sparkling Mojito (Prosecco, St. Germaine, muddled fresh mint and lime, and house made simple syrup) and the Refashioned (Bulleit Rye Bourbon, orange bitters, peach bitters, muddled fresh strawberry, orange, and cherries).

To start, BFTB and I ordered the smoked poblano cheese dip. Within a few minutes (seriously, the service was incredibly speedy), our server brought out a bowl of warm dip accompanied by crispy, thick-cut potato chips. Upon taking a bite, I was hit with a wave of delightful smokiness followed by the mild flavor of the poblano peppers. The cheese, while tasty, was really a secondary flavor, which I think is a refreshing change from typical restaurant quesos.

Smoked Poblano Cheese Dip

After we'd gorged ourselves on chips and dip, our server returned bearing more food. Apparently the restaurant serves some herbed popcorn rather than bread, but we weren't offered any (boo), so I resorted to creeping on our neighbor diners and listening to their thoughts on the 'corn (apparently it was tasty and cilantro-y). For our entrees, BFTB had selected the Meatloaf with a side of peas and carrots as well as a side of sweet potato fries and I went with the Farmhouse Burger, which consists of seasoned beef, smoked poblano cheese (apparently I couldn't get enough of the stuff), bacon, and house BBQ sauce, and a side of mojito fries. 

Although I hadn't been asked about my meat temperature preference, the burger was served exactly how I would have ordered it -a perfect medium with a warm pink center. Unfortunately, that was pretty much where its positive attributes ends. Although the menu says the beef is "seasoned," it was painfully bland. The bun was also so dense and ginormous that each bite felt like I was gnawing on a sticky hunk of bread dough. While I would have guessed that the delicious poblano cheese could make shoe leather taste glorious, it wasn't on the burger in enough of a quantity to drown out the mediocre meat and bun overload. In fact, I could barely taste any of the things I was most excited about -the cheese, BBQ sauce, and bacon. I decided that, unlike any burger I've ever eaten before (especially one topped with bacon, BBQ, and queso), this one needed a heavy-handed sprinkling of salt in order to taste edible. Just to keep my complaint train rolling, the lettuce was also weirdly soft, which made for a complete lack of any kind of textural contrast between the different ingredients. I did really enjoy the sweet, crispy, bread and butter-style pickle that topped the burger, although it clearly wouldn't be reason enough to get the burger again. My mojito fries, on the other hand, were crispy and exceptionally tasty. While I'm still not certain what the potatoes were topped with, the fries tasted salty, citrusy, and garlicky. 

Farmhouse Burger and Mojito Fries

While my entree was a disappointment, BFTB's was freaking outstanding. Our server let us know that the Meatloaf is currently Nan & Byron's most popular entree, and I can definitely see why. The substantial hunk of meat was rich, delightfully seasoned (hint: throw a little bit of that in the burger, N&B!!), crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and topped with a delicious blob of sriracha ketchup. I can't even remember the last time I contemplated eating meatloaf, but it's definitely back on my radar now and I can't wait to return and get my own order. The peas and carrots might have been a little lame on their own, but because they lined the bottom of the meatloaf, they became infused with delicious, meaty flavor and were really good. The sweet potato fries, which normally aren't my favorite form of fry, were also tasty, but were not as good as my mojito fries. 


Sweet Potato Fries

All in all, I am excited that Nan & Byron's is up and running and is, for the most part, offering tasty food, interesting drinks, and great service at an incredibly reasonable price point. Conceptually, the menu is outstanding, the restaurant just needs to work a little on execution. Regardless of the fact that burger was a bust and our drinks were a little watery/sugary, I still think the overall experience was pretty good and I can't wait to return and try some of the other cocktails and entrees. If I can somehow convince myself to order something other than the meatloaf on my next visit, I might check out the Pork (braised shoulder, baked beans, garlic herb crumbs) or the Pie (lamb stew, corn, peas, chives, mash potatoes). For now, Nan & Byron's gets a strong 7.5, but I have a feeling that this rating will only go up as the restaurant works out its initial issues.

Nan & Byron's on Urbanspoon

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