Sitting in the shadow of the Overtime Sports Bar & Grill on Dublin Boulevard, the Nook is aptly named. It's a small, comfortable neighborhood restaurant, one that's finding its way back from a bumpy spell.
After losing its liquor license a while back, the Nook switched to only breakfast and lunch service. It fell from one set of hands to another before being picked up by Allie Studor in October. Hers was the welcoming face on each of my visits.
The Nook's warm dining room displays the work of local artists, and the clothed tables are draped in white paper. Pointing out the crayons, Studor jokingly invited my daughter to color something to add to the collection. The friendliness matched what one would expect from a true, casual, neighborhood place.
Those crayons actually came in handy, since my other guest and I needed some time to scan the 50-plus items on the breakfast and lunch menu. Passing up salads, we settled on Philly steak and Monte Cristo "samiches" (both $7.99). Each was accompanied by a homemade cup of soup, fries or onion rings ($.69 extra). With a hit of salt, the vegetable soup got a thumbs-up; the rings, though crispy, scored average.
When the Monte arrived, my guest muttered, "More calories than any man needs in a day." But that didn't stop him from chowing down on the smoked turkey, shaved ham and melted Swiss cheese topped with mustard mango sauce and sandwiched between two slices of French toast. Sweet and savory already, the sandwich didn't need the berry dipping pure. The Philly hit the spot, with sweet sauted onions and peppers and gooey Swiss atop ribbons of tender roast beef in a spongy hoagie bun.
According to Studor, the Nook has long been known as a great breakfast place, and she has no plans to change that. She calls her pancakes "heaven on a plate," and with eight varieties, she's got options going for her. The breakfast menu, along with the usual suspects, also includes five different kinds of eggs Benedict.
Bistro dinners, served Thursday through Saturday, comprise the Nook's newest venture. Five bistro menus, each featuring a beef, chicken, pork, fish and vegetarian option, rotate weekly. The $14.99 dinners also include soup or salad, and the kids' offerings are steals at $3.99.
At dinner, my kids went for the grilled cheese and passed on the fries in favor of the fresh fruit. The healthy portions of berries, chopped apples, grapes, bananas and mandarin were gone in a flash. My tomato basil sole arrived perfectly cooked with fresh sliced tomatoes, and when I removed the overwhelming melted mozzarella, the fish proved solid.
The winner of the night was a thick, tender and juicy orange-glazed pork tenderloin, lightly dusted, pan-seared and then dressed in a glorious, not-too-sweet glaze. Meanwhile, the roasted garlic and mushroom soup was delicious, but a little gravy-like, while the herb-and-Parmesan-dusted vegetable medley that accompanies the bistro entres came a tad dry.
The Nook's take-out menu says, "We strive daily to earn your loyalty through providing the best service and fare possible." Studor and Co. seem to be on their way. And though they still lack a liquor license at least until dinner takes off you sure can't knock the sweet raspberry iced tea.