Restaurant Review: Nan and Byron's
Charlotte's craft beer scene has exploded in recent years and at times it can feel like restaurants in the Queen City aren't keeping up. In this food review, I visit Nan and Byron's on South Boulevard and see if they have what it takes to fit in on the eclectic collection of restaurants that have popped up around the light rail line.
Nan and Byron's is a comfortable yet trendy restaurant located in the former Vinnie's Raw Bar building on South Boulevard. The inside of the restaurant is outstanding and is what I would call modern Southern gothic. We visited during Charlotte Restaurant Week, also known as Queen's Feast, and had only a minimal wait past our reservation time – not something that can be said for all the places I visited that week.
The bar is beautiful and takes up a good portion of the main room. There's a few tables immediately past the hostess' podium and a second much roomier dining hall right beyond that. Nan and Byron's is owned by the same people who brought us 5Church, another one of Charlotte's newest and trendiest restaurants. Think of Nan and Byron's as 5Church's younger brother. It's a little rowdier and the food is a little more casual. That being said, the atmosphere alone is something Charlotte needs more of. It's not too imposing and casual enough where I'd feel comfortable stopping by after work for a drink.
Tables at Nan and Byron's are a tad bit close together and the restaurant is very loud. The crowd was mixed; dress was as well.
Speaking of drinks, Nan and Byron's has quite the selection. I'm not a fan of beer at all, in fact it makes me ill to drink it. I was pleased to see an extensive cocktail list. Some that stood out to me were the Southern Coffee, which is bourbon, Kahlua and bitters served martini-style. Also appealing was the Dancing Cranberries, featuring everyone's favorite Prosecco, white cranberry juice and dried cranberries.
I'll have to return in order to sample the cocktail menu as the Queen's Feast included a call drink or wine. I went for the Row Eleven Pinot Noir from Sonoma, which went down just fine.
For appetizers, we started with the poblano cheese dip and chips as well as one of the highlights of the meal: Train Wreck Fries. The cheese dip was alright, nothing too special and ever so bland. The Train Wreck Fries, though we difficult to stop eating. The portion was huge. For $10, you get french fries topped with their rich, smoky chili, poblano cheese (oddly enough), sriracha ranch and scallions. This was one of those appetizers that we just couldn't push away from the table. When I return, the deviled eggs are calling my name.
One of the most impressive aspects of Nan and Byron's was the simplicity and confidence the main menu presented. Entrees are listed by the primary ingredient. For example, you order "Chicken," but the dish is a roasted Peruvian chicken served with spicy green sauce and two sides. Or, you might indulge in "Pork," which is a braised shoulder along side baked beans and garlic herb crumbs.
My choice for the evening was the Meatloaf. Normally not a dish I would order anywhere, but the draw for me was that it was ground beef. I do not eat the ground beef and pork mixture that you typically see served in meatloaf. Accompanying the hefty slice of meatloaf was sriracha ketchup, a red wine sauce and two sides. Choosing side dishes is often difficult in a southern restaurant because I normally want them all. This night, I settled on sautéed corn and mashed potatoes.
The ketchup definitely had a strong kick, and I slightly regret slathering it all over the meatloaf before I tried it. At times, it was so spicy that it bordered on pain. Lesson learned. The red wine sauce, however, I would consider ordering a second side of to pour over the mashed potatoes. The corn was buttery and delicious and every so often I'd get a sautéed onion which put this side dish on the top of my list for next time.
Our visit to Nan and Byron's was during Charlotte Restauant Week. We had reservations prior to visiting, and waited only about five minutes past our reservation time.
At times our meal felt rushed. While I completely understand that Charlotte restaurants experience quite an increase in traffic during restaurant week, for many diners, like myself, this is their first impression. At what point does expeditious service become pushy?
The main way this manifested at Nan and Byron's was by the waiter wanting to take the entire order – drink to dessert – at one time. Doing this removes the lesisure from the meal, and quite honestly makes me feel like I'm in an A&W Cafeteria. Remember those?
However, everyone we encountered was great. A little bit more table side manner and less cattle herding would be appreciated.
A few years ago, the trend in Charlotte restaurant desserts was chocolate lava cake. It was epidemic. My guess is that chefs thought Charlotte diners would marvel at the chocolate that flowed from the side of a cake once they cut in to it. I’m happy that fad has passed. I was happy to see a couple of choices at Nan and Byron’s.
My selection was the apple cranberry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream. There was plenty of fruit in the cobbler and the ice cream was pretty standard. One thing I’ve noticed at both Nan and Byron’s and 5Church is that the desserts always come out blazing hot – almost as if they’d been microwaved. Perhaps a change in presentation, with the ice cream and cobbler separate on a longer plate would prevent the ice cream from melting into oblivion.
Nan and Byron’s is just what Charlotte needs. I appreciated the inspired menu and energetic atmosphere. On my next visit, I’d look for a more relaxed pace to the meal and desserts that are fresh. Overall, it was a great meal and I can’t wait to return.