Flatiron Bar and Diner
Blackened yellowfin tuna medallions over an apple and orange coulis at Flatiron. Photo by Michael A. Foley/Rycus Assoc.
This cozy downtown bar and restaurant on Nationwide Boulevard seems to be happily busy most of the time. It doesn’t hurt that lots of people come here to be with people they know. Like the mythical Cheers, Flatiron is a welcoming place, and the regulars help keep it humming.
Unlike the TV pub, though, this is a serious restaurant; the menu is ambitious, and the small kitchen puts out food with big flavors: Cajun, Creole, barbecue and Low Country (South Carolina coastal, mostly).
Let’s start with the housemade andouille sausage. The “hot link” is a pork sausage made with spices, garlic and, typically, wine and onions. The version here was better than good, and gave a powerful flavor boost to the house gumbo and other dishes.
The regular menu’s gumbo was made with a smoky-tasting darker roux, and it featured shrimp, chicken and sausage. It’s just the thing to warm your innards on a cold night. The place also makes its own chorizo, which was fattier, but tasty, and it shone in the yummy black bean chili, also on the regular menu.
New Orleans was capably represented by that gumbo and other dishes, such as crispy fried cornmeal battered shrimp or oysters in a tangy rémoulade. Those ingredients could make a fine po’ boy sandwich, if it weren’t for the bread Flatiron uses. In my view, a proper po’ boy is made with a soft white loaf—like a little not-so- crusty baguette. The key is that it softens with the rémoulade, lettuce and tomatoes. While the bread used here was good, the hearty and chewy texture defeated the purpose of the sandwich.
Sandwiches I would order again (and again) include a terrific burger with pepper jack cheese, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and ancho-chili spiked mayo. And I might start dreaming about the house-smoked salmon club sandwich, with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and mayo. The lovely salmon and bacon are a match made in heaven.
And then there was the barbecue. It won’t seriously challenge City Barbeque, but the pulled pork was very good and the ribs were well worth ordering. I was less impressed with the brisket, as the slices were neither as smoky nor as tender as I would have liked.
There was a real wine list with several good selections, many notable beers and a full bar. The chef offered some really good desserts, including an apple pie that your grandmother could have made if she really knew how to bake, and a really rich bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
One of the things I am sure the many regulars like is chef Steve Nicholson’s penchant for specials, which really are the entree part of the menu. There usually are several each day, and they change frequently. As I wrote this review, the home page of the website listed red beans and rice, catfish sauté with Tabasco cream sauce, three cheese ravioli with a tasso and mushroom sauce and a salmon and corn chowder. Yum. It’s no wonder people who know about this place keep coming back.
Flatiron Bar and Diner
129 E. Nationwide Blvd.
Price range: Appetizers $8.25-$9.50; soups and salads $4-$10.25; barbecue $8.75-$14.75; sandwiches $7.95-$10; desserts $5.
Hours: Monday through Wednesday 11 am to
10 pm, Thursday till 11 pm, Friday till midnight, Saturday 5 pm to midnight; closed Sunday.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Rating: *** 1⁄2