Best New Restaurants 2015: The North End

Smoked meats shine at Ryan Nelson’s Nora barbecue restaurant.

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Photo by Tony Valainis

The North End’s meticulously faux-rough sheen, with its wall art that simulates the side of an old barn and carefully propped bourbon barrels, is just honest packaging. Because beneath this strategic decor beats the heart of a scrappy barbecue shack where brisket cooks for 12 hours in two onsite smokers, and the meats arrive as naked as God made them, with a caddy of four housemade sauces on the table to use at your own discretion. After a shaky start and a few questionable meals of parched proteins, the restaurant found its sweet spot. Sturdy, flame-crusted ribs and bacon-perfumed piles of pulled pork play into the meat-centric theme that owner Ryan Nelson credits, at least in part, to a trip he and his father took to central Texas to sample the Flintstones-style specialty of the region, including a three-hour wait to taste the no-frills meats at the famed Franklin Barbecue in Austin. The restaurateur’s sophomore venture shares a gourmet vision (and savvy clientele) with his 2013 achievement, Late Harvest Kitchen. That means you can start with an appetizer of charbroiled Bluepoints, get a side of bone marrow–laced jalapeño fries with your St. Louis spare ribs, and sample a flight of bourbons picked from a list that spans a full page. Somehow Nelson’s unexpected fusion of high and low culture seems as natural as a dollop of sticky-sweet rib jam on a scoop of mac ’n’ cheese.

Sound Bites

Concept: Swine and dine

Seats: 150 inside; 50 on patio

Owner: Ryan Nelson

Chef: Mitch McDaniel

Pedigree: Nelson parlayed his original Indianapolis post as executive chef of downtown’s The Oceanaire into a career in restaurant ownership when he opened Late Harvest Kitchen two years ago. The North End’s location once served as Cafe Nora and was eyed by Neal Brown (Libertine Liquor Bar, Pizzology) before Nelson purchased and remodeled it.

Try it if you like: King Ribs

Check it out: 1250 E. 86th St., 614-7427, thenorthendbbq.com

 

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