First Bite offers an opinionated peek at a restaurant that opened in the past month or so, based on one meal.
THE FOOD: Think neighborhood bistro, simple and affectionate, and you've got Nolia, from owners Pamela Marcotte and Avi Kendi, in the serial-restaurant spot at Caswell and Seventh in Elizabeth ( Solera, Pearl, Ethan's).
A short but diverse menu includes such homey fare as a pimento cheese plate and braised short ribs over collards and grits, and such contemporary offerings as seared salmon over shaved fennel with sliced fingerlings and a blood orange reduction.
I loved my market salad with N.C. goat cheese and beets, and the salmon was marvelous and moist. The ribs' accompanying grits were congealed but the meat was tasty. The kids' menu includes sweet potatoes with burger patties, and fruit cups.
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THE LOOK: Stripped down, with family photographs (both Marcotte's and her boyfriend's – the native-Charlottean Osbornes), butcher paper on tables and alt-rock on the sound system.
THE SERVERS: Casual and warm, with long aprons and quick smiles, the young women who waited on us were still learning the menu, but tracked down answers to questions.
QUIRKS OF NOTE: A note at the bottom of each menu tells you, “Mary Emma and Charlotte say please enjoy your food.” Those are the daughters of consulting chef Chris Holloway, a childhood friend of Marcotte. She relocated from New York to run Nolia.
DETAILS: 366 N. Caswell Road; 704-376-1515; noliarestaurant.com. Lunch (entrées $5-$9) weekdays, dinner ($8-$23) Monday-Saturday.