When it comes to steakhouses in the Triangle, people usually mention Angus Barn, Sullivan’s, Ruth Chris or maybe Flemings. I’m typically not a huge fan of them because they offer pretty basic food at usually, a pretty steep price. But they are great for celebrations because who can argue with the basics of meat and potatoes paired with great service? Which is usually what you get at a steakhouse. As luck would have it, a friend’s birthday celebration brought me out to the new NanaSteak in downtown Durham. And here’s how it went down, the good, the not so good and everything else…
If you haven’t been to downtown Durham or DPAC recently, you are IN for a surprise. I’m in the neighborhood pretty frequently and was still shocked at what I saw. I spent about 20 minutes trying to find NanaSteak and confess that I’m often confused trying to find businesses on Blackwell Street and the American Tobacco Center. But you can NOT miss the new Aloft Hotel next to the greens by DPAC. I snapped a couple of pictures and continued down Blackwell to find NanaSteak with no success. I eventually backtrack and take a closer look at the Aloft Hotel. And way on the bottom left I notice the discrete signage for NanaSteak on the 1st floor of the Aloft building, a-ha! On the bottom floor with the large glass panes you’ll find the sunken entrance across the green and a LONG way off from Blackwell. The signage is much more visible at night, trust me!
Inside NanaSteak you’ll immediately be struck by the classic feel to the space. There’s a beautiful polished wood bar up front in the first dining room with crystal chandelier overhead. Reminds me a bit of Bar Virgile. The patrons at NanaSteak are a bit older, befitting a steak house. Probably in the 30 – 60 year old range. The hostess brings me back into the 2nd dining room which is large and open, to a flight of stairs leading to the events space. There, past a display of wine bottles, we’ve got a table for 14 set up, woo-hoo success!
Eventually our whole group filters in, including the happy birthday girl. We’ve got one wait-person for the table which should be interesting since NanaSteak has only been for 3 months or so. The menu at NanaSteak is pretty short like most steakhouses. Nine or so apps, 3 pastas and a slew of roasted meats and seafood paired with a handful of sides and vegetables. Prices at NanaSteak are actually pretty reasonable for the basic Certified Angus Beef ($25 to $35) but bump into the higher range for grass-fed beef, $40 to $55. While most of the meal is a la carte you do get one veggie with your main which is definitely a plus! I order up some fried oysters, a 12 oz. ribeye along with some bearnaise sauce, creamed greens and truffled cauliflower.
The apps come out and it’s a decent plate of small fried oysters (corn meal coating, I think). This dish is a bit different served up with some light broth and pork belly. I like it but the broth softens up the fried coating and the pork belly, while nice, seems like a throw-in which doesn’t necessarily enhance the oysters. The plate of mussels brought to the table look quite good, too…
Service is a bit slow here but we’re talking about a Saturday night at prime time for a group of 14, ouch. It takes a while for our mains and when they do come out, there’s definitely some confusion as to who gets what. But eventually my rib-eye steak shows up and she looks great! A deep cross-hatch sear on both sides, cup of bearnaise and large helping of cauliflower fill out the plate. I bite into the steak and the meat is tender and fatty, no surprise for this cut. The truffled cauliflower is nicely done and has that back-end umami from the truffle sauce, delish. My only concern is that it’s served a bit messily on the steak’s juice. I’m assuming the rib-eye was rested before serving which is the right thing to do but the cauliflower mixed into the juices doesn’t look great. I would have preferred the cauliflower served in its own dish. And the bearnaise sauce was solid and buttery but you can probably pass on it given the quality and taste of the bare steak here.
We wrap up our meal grab our checks and need to head out to our next destination. It’s been a 2 hour plus meal but we did bring a large party in. Overall NanaSteak is doing a pretty decent job at bringing a reasonably priced steak house to Durham. And given its premium location as THE closest restaurant to the DPAC, I’m relatively certain it will do great. Was the experience perfect? No it wasn’t but given the slightly lower prices I think the miscues are forgivable. And Nana Steak is still relatively new so here’s to continued evolution and improvement. So thank you NanaSteak for the delicious evening, I’m already looking forward to my next DPAC show and dinner here!