The Nook Restaurant Review – Midtown, Atlanta, GA [First Impressions]

For the longest time, my previous rants on The Nook occupied the top spots on my popular posts list.  As that list is based on the number of page views (aka – number of times someone read(s) each post), it was a bit of a surprise.  Those writings were nothing more than news blurbs on the then yet to open restaurant.

But alas, I try to give the people what they want.  Given the Nook’s proximity to my pad, I hustled on over there just as soon as I got a chance.  I had to sample the food, the folk, and the booze.  Though this post is a week late, I took good notes and remember the meal well.

This new Midtown joint sits in one of the best spots for a horrible location.  No that’s not a typo. The Nook is located on Piedmont road just south of 14th street.  The plus side is that their patio faces the park.  The downside is that Piedmont Road is a one way street until it hits 14th (northbound).

A private lot and the nearby street parking help ease the pain; however, during the summer months, this will be a major frustration.  Park visitors come out in droves and the parking lot is tiny.  I would guesstimate that the lot can handle approximately 40% of the restaurant’s capacity.

The new owners took their time getting this place ready.  Formerly the Prince of Wales, the "British pub” ambiance is nowhere to be found.  I think they took a blow torch to the building!  The bar has been relocated, booths have been added, and the place has taken on a more upscale feel.  Make no mistake, it’s still a casual tavern … but it has gone the way of the post-graduate frat crowd… you know … boat shoes and un-tucked Polo Ts.  Though I skipped the Greek life, that’s not a dig. I myself wear that getup from time to time.

I’m not partial to either style.  As I’ve said before, I like variety in my life.  While this place seems to be a little more trendy than the previous tenant, the owners of the Nook had a clear goal for the décor.  Mission accomplished!  I am a big fan of what they did with the patio.  That entire side of the building has been turned into one big open door.  It helps to make the inside seem much bigger.  When you turn the corner and look out on the park, you just appreciate the spaciousness of it all.  In addition, the expansive doorway will help if this place gets hopping; there is enough space that you should be able to navigate a substantial crowd.

When Broderick and I stumbled in last Monday, we both liked the idea of sitting out on the deck.  As spring showed up a few days prior, the temperature was a bit brisk; but, that is something I really enjoy.  Our waitress, however, did not! Poor girl.  She was a cute and bubbly girl from Pennsylvania.  Despite her upbringing, the weather forced her to hide out inside for extended periods of time.  No bother, the service here was just fine for what we needed.  The usual opening week jitters showed up – a forgotten this, and overlooked that … nothing horrible.  The entire wait staff was very friendly and if our server wasn’t around to fix the problem, someone else was.  No complaints there!

The menu is exactly what I expected it to be: an over-hyped mishmash of concepts.  I know, I sound like a broken record … as if I’m predisposed to complain about something.  This here isn’t really a complaint; rather, I just want to make sure people have realistic expectations when they arrive.  The restaurant has glorified bar food – nothing more and nothing less.  Thank god they didn’t market themselves as a gastro pub.  It is about the atmosphere more than anything else.  That is a-okay with me.  Though it would be nice if the food was better, I’m perfectly happy with what I have seen to date.

As we sat down, I noticed the massive crowds from the previous weekend had dissipated.  Unfortunately, that crowd left little more than table scraps for me and Broderick to pick from.  The tavern was out of an awful lot of things.  I’m not sure how to feel about that.  On the one hand, it was still really early.  On the other hand, it’s not like they are sourcing high end produce.  Everything on the menu is pretty simple – so it should have been easy for them to think on their feet and recover.  I went to a newly opened restaurant this week (you know which one) and a similar problem arose. The owner wasn’t happy with the basil on hand.  He hoped in his car, sped over to Whole Foods and replenished the supply.  I’ll end this train of thought with one point: I’ve seen newly opened restaurants run out of an item or two.  At the Nook, they ran out of 60% of their menu!!!!!

Nonetheless, this isn’t BLT Steak, so let’s not treat them like they are.  Yes, The Nook has overpriced food, albeit ever so slightly.  But … the liquor prices are in line and the place is as much about the vibe as they are about anything else.

While we scratched our heads in an attempt to find something to eat, we made a beeline for the drinks.  As a hard liquor and wine guy, I never have trouble finding something to drink from a full bar.  There are also a handful of fru-fru cocktails that look interesting.  I didn’t pay any real attention to the beer selections.  You’ll have to go elsewhere for that 411.

It seems the restaurant is trying to stake their reputation on their “tatchos.”  These concoctions are your basic tot topped with a variety of toppings.  As the name implies, these are reminiscent of nachos.  Not surprisingly, your order includes a pile of frozen tatters that have been deep-fried and covered in stuff. Inspiring? Maybe not.  That said, they were just fine with me.

While we debated what to do for our entrées, we sampled an order of the Cajun totchos and the Philly totchos.  Both used the same white cheese sauce.  The Philly included steak, peppers, and onions.  Meanwhile, the Cajun tatters had shrimp, andouille sausage, and peppers.  Neither reminded me of their intended region of origin.  However, melted cheese, fried tots, and globs of toppings are pretty hard to mess up.

Midway through the tater piles, our waitress was finally able to extract an order out of us.  Still in the throws of the sub tour, the last thing I wanted was a sandwich.  However, the most appealing item they had available was a special scallop po’ boy.

The bread on this stuff was not good.  Though it did not offend, this was nothing more than generic brand bread that lacked good texture, composition, or freshness.  The condiments and included veggies did little to excite my palate.  As I dissected the food, I was pleasantly surprised with the scallops themselves.  Again, this isn’t anything fresh off the boat from Tsukiji fish market.  But, the lightly battered scallops seemed fresh (certainly fresher than the bread) and were soft and buoyant against the sauce.  I ended up eating them à la carte; however, had I not been so adamant about avoiding a sandwich, I would have gladly finished it as served.

It’s pretty obvious the food here has a pretty low ceiling.  I don’t think we were there on an off night for the kitchen.  You can sort of tell when someone shoots for the stars but comes up short.  I think the Nook is trying to serve passable food.  If you’ve eaten at Leon’s Full Service or The Book House, then you’ll know what to expect out of the Nook.

So while I don’t think anyone will take their culinary cues from the Nook; the atmosphere seems ripe for success.  Friendly service, a solid location, and passable food means that I’ll definitely take a stroll or two up there during the summer.

ATLANTA BLOGGERS ON THE NOOK AT PIEDMONT PARK:

The Nook On Piedmont Park Restaurant Address & Information:
1144 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30309 // P: (404)745-9222 // The Nook Website // The Nook Menu (pdf)
The Nook on Urbanspoon

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