I have ventured over to Ryan Nelson’s new place, The North End, a couple of times since it opened—the first time for lunch and the second time for dinner. First of all, judging by the Monday night crowd at dinnertime, this neighborhood has been desperate for somewhere like this to go. It’s nice not to have Nora continue to be such a desert of independent, casual restaurants. So much fast food in this area.
At my lunch I had the Carolina pulled pork sandwich ($8), which came with 1 side. I went with potato salad because that is usually my go to with barbecue. The pork was okay. It’s the kind of pulled pork that has a lot of the crisp “bark” on it. So it kind of depends on whether you like that or not. They serve 4 sauces—a sweet molasses based sauce, a classic BBQ sauce, a spicier version and a vinegar/mustard-based sauce. You needed the sauce for sure to get the pork juicy. The sandwiches also come dressed with a house made cole slaw, which is a bit creamy and has a bit of vinegar. It was nice with the meat and sauce I thought. Was it my favorite pulled pork? No, it’s a tad dry for me. The potato salad is a write off though, it was also super dry and bland. Just seemed liked chunks of potato with a bit of mustard. Needed some creaminess and some more zip. I appreciated the wedge of boiled egg to mix in, but still could have used a little more pizazz. On both visits, I had the cornbread as a dessert ($3 as a separate side). It’s very sweet and topped with a nice mound of maple Bourbon butter. I really enjoyed it as a small dessert though (and so did my son). The first time they served it in a little iron skillet, which gave it a little more crisp edges, which I liked. They didn’t on the second visit.
At dinner, we were with another family, and took the opportunity to try a bunch of the appetizers, which all sounded very appealing. Probably my favorite was the smoked Alaskan salmon dip ($8)—it was a creamy dip with lots of salmon in it as well as capers and chives. It was seasoned well and was served with thick housemade potato chips. A great combination. And when I squeezed a couple of lemons from the broiled oysters on top, it was perfection.
The oysters ($12 for 6) themselves weren’t bad. They were small oysters (my favorite) but were almost overwhelmed by the amount of broiled parmesan cheese on top. The cheese had sort of hardened into one large piece of cheese on top on some of them and a lot of the garlic butter had spilled out of the oysters before they were served. For the price point, I think I would just stick with the salmon dip.
Based on several recommendations, we also had the house battered onion rings with remoulade ($7). These were my biggest disappointment of the appetizers. These are the really big kind of onion rings, which don’t tend to be my favorite kind anyway, but if they have a really nice crunchy batter, I won’t care. Here, the batter wasn’t crunchy at all—very soft. I liked the drizzled remoulade that was on them (although didn’t help with the softness) and asked for some more on the side. I don’t know, maybe it was just an off night on these because like I said, a lot of people have recommended them to me.
For dinner, I wanted to try something new and went with the chicken ($15). It is a half roasted chicken and was spectacular. The smoked meat was so tender--it was amazing. The skin on the chicken was crisp and seasoned. Dipping the meat in the sauces was barely even necessary, but I enjoyed all of them. A bit of classic mixed with spicy is probably my favorite, but I went back and forth with the mustard sauce because I liked the acidity of it. After my son had eaten half his pulled pork sandwich, he tried my chicken and then proceeded to pick it to the bone. Every time we drive by now, he asks when we will go back and get more of the chicken.
For sides this time (the entrées come with 2 sides), I had the mac and cheese and the collard greens. The collards were good. Tender with the right amount of porky bits and vinegar. The mac and cheese is also very good (probably my favorite side if I were choosing). It was creamy and topped with a slightly sweet, slightly smoky, rib jam that gave it extra texture and depth. Although my son had the fries as his side, which were tossed in bone marrow butter and jalapenos and they were quite delicious as well. Decadent, but good. They were certainly hubby’s favorite side.
Speaking of, hubby decided to go with another of the appetizers as his main dish, the shrimp and grits ($10). He figured he would eat off our plates, and he did. The shrimp and grits were good as well. The shrimp wasn’t overcooked and the grits were cheesy with white cheddar mixed in. There were some hunks of tasso ham and some fresh tomatoes as well. It was a large appetizer for sure.
All in all, I think now that I have been a few times and found a couple of things we all really like, it will be a nice family-friendly place to put in the rotation that is near us. I can tell you what my son and I will be splitting—that chicken. Delicious.
The North End
1250 E. 86th Street