Alibi V.24 No.33 • Aug 13-19, 2015 

Restaurant Review

Back to the Grill

Nob Hill Bar & Grill has grown into a local favorite

The Alibi first reviewed Nob Hill Bar & Grill right after it opened in 2008, when it burst onto the scene with considerable fanfare. Sad to say, we weren’t particularly impressed back then, finding little besides the ambience and cocktails to hold up as worthy of our readers’ time. “Enchanted as I was with the bar side of the operation, I was less captivated by the restaurant,” wrote Maren Tarro. “The service disappointed almost absolutely. Plates piled up, and neglect was the name of the game during my visits.” And yet, seven years later, the restaurant still stands on the corner of Bryn Mawr and Central. So the question is: How are things looking these days?

Dirty Burger
Dirty Burger
I stopped by a few times over the last couple of weeks to find out. First of all, the place looks just as fabulous as it did when we noted our affection for the atmosphere, replete with wood fixtures and sleek-backed booths. The enormous salt-water aquarium still hovers over the open kitchen, the bowed glass crystal-clear and the water sparkling clean. My waiter told me the original iconic lionfish had died some time back, but now two smaller replacements drift through the water, their poison-tipped spines resplendent as ever.

The service, I’m happy to say, was snappy; perhaps the management took Maren’s review to heart all those years ago, or maybe time and routine have merely conspired to iron out those early difficulties naturally. Either way, I had no complaints about speed or attentiveness. No plates piled up, no neglect was noted.

The full bar still offers a variety of cocktails, with an emphasis on the old school. The drink menu is fun to read, with mules and margaritas joining the likes of a Stone Face and a Ward Eight. I quickly discovered, though, that the Sazerac, a whiskey drink with a touch of absinthe, is my new go-to tipple. Given the drink’s relative rarity, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that the Grill’s is probably the best in town.

So now, with the old business out of the way, we can talk about the food. I’m a hamburger guy, no question, so on my first visit, I answered the siren call of the Dirty burger, a monument to burgological excess, especially with the optional Wagyu beef ($18! or a mere $15 for not-so-special beef). It is a sight to behold, a tower of burger that teeters and groans beneath a fried egg, frizzled onions, and a blend of Texas-style chile con queso and New Mexican green. It’s a flavor assault, and I mean that in a good way. But I have to say I don’t see any point in ordering the Wagyu beef for $3 extra. The fact is that you won’t taste it beneath everything else. Better to save the fancy cow for a burger on which it has an opportunity to shine.

I answered the siren call of the Dirty burger, a monument to burgological excess.

My companion opted for a more demure smoked chicken breast (also $18), though this too dabbled in excess. Notably, the breast came with a crown of heirloom tomatoes and roasted apricots, to better blend with the apricot chutney drizzled over the poultry. A bed of rice barley pilaf waited below to absorb the drippings. My stolen bite quickly turned into a second and, yes, a third before my fellow diner raised her fork in defense.

Grilled Salmon
Grilled salmon over roasted garlic mashed potatos
For my second visit, I went with a “surf” option, namely the salmon of the day. Obviously, the exact form of the salmon is changeable, as is the price. For this dinner, it came as a steak drizzled with a coconutty and buttery sauce with, perhaps, a hint of crab. The salmon steak itself was glorious, with just a touch of golden crust on its surface.

A new addition to the Grill’s lineup is a brunch menu on Sunday mornings, starting at 11am. Naturally, this means Mimosas are available, at the altogether ridiculously reasonable price of $2.50. The menu itself seems like one that’s still in the planning stages, but there are already some standouts. There’s a Monte Cristo sandwich ($15) that puts most others I’ve had to shame. It’s super-fried, as it should be, and comes with a slightly-spicy raspberry jam to dip it in. If you love fried things, then the donut holes ($8) should be next on your list. More akin to handmade fritters than the miniature puffs you’ll get at Dunkin’, these holes arrive in a cone with two sweet sauces, one chocolate and the other a vanilla-y icing. The Grill’s huevos rancheros ($12) are a sort of fusion twist on the classic dish, with chopped bell peppers joining the usual beans, potatoes and chile. The peppers add a pleasing crunch and the chile is hot and full of that good smokey flavor we Southwesterners crave.

So there you have it: Nob Hill Bar & Grill, no longer the new kid on the block, has evolved and become one of the more worthy of Nob Hill’s mainstays. Frankly, did it ever have any other choice? I mean, it’s right there in the name.

View in Alibi Chowtown Chowtown

3128 Central Ave. SE
(505) 266-4455

Hours: Mon: Closed Tue-Fri, Sun: 11am-9pm Sat: 11am-10pm
Vibe: High-end-dining featuring American cuisine with a cocktail lounge.
Alibi Recommends: The fried chicken, the meatloaf, and the barbacoa nachos.