4775 Lake Avenue, Charlotte
Visited May 27, 2010
Written by Tyler
Our quest to find the best barbecue on the west side took us historic Charlotte and Nola’s BBQ, a short walk from Ontario Beach Park and the Port of Rochester at the northern tip of the city.
Nola’s is known for its live entertainment, with at least four bands per week starting in late May and through the summer, performing on an outdoor stage. There is normally entertainment indoors two nights of the week during the rest of the year, according to Nola’s calendar online.
There was no entertainment the Thursday evening of our visit, but we were excited to try some more barbecue. Greg and I brought our friends Kameron and Tim on this stop.
We parked at the ferry terminal across and street and took the short walk to Nola’s, where everyone was seated outdoors on this evening. We would have preferred to sit inside, but didn’t have the option to. The building looks relatively large (a pretty good replica of a New Orleans-style building) and I assume there is indoor seating available when necessary.
The tables and chairs were made of hard plastic and weren’t particularly clean or comfortable. The service was friendly, but fairly slow.
Despite some of these slight annoyances, we were all pleased with the variety of choices on the menu, including many Cajun entrees like jambalaya, gumbo and various seafood that aren’t too common in the Rochester area.
I ordered the Voodoo Chicken sandwich, a Cajun grilled chicken topped with chicken and sausage jambalaya and a side of red beans and rice. The chicken tasted good, but didn’t seem particularly Cajun. The jambalaya was also good, and it’s always good to try something different, but it was kind of sloppy and didn't blend with the sandwich as much as I’d hoped.
Kameron ordered the B.B. King Burger, which was topped with grilled ham, Swiss cheese and barbecue sauce, plus he threw on a couple of Tim’s onion rings. Kameron said any burger with ham on it is a must-have for him.
He also ordered crab cakes, which aren’t too common around here, plus sides of red beans and rice, and cheddar mashed potatoes. Kameron was mostly pleased with his unique meal, but said the sides could use some work. Kameron and I agreed that the red beans and rice – which was more a layer of tomato-saucy red beans on top of a layer of rice – was more stew-like than we had hoped.
Tim ordered a Blue Cajun Burger, topped with bleu cheese and bacon, with a side of onion rings. He ate it, but wasn’t impressed and said it wasn’t one of the best burgers he had ever had.
Greg ordered the BBQ Beef Brisket sandwich topped with barbecue sauce, peppers, onions and cheese. He said the actual brisket could have been thicker and cleaner cut, but said it was tasty (crispy and almost caramelized on the outside, yet tender) nonetheless.
Greg said the sandwich wasn’t worth $9 and wasn’t impressed by its composition, but overall it was good and something he would eat again.
“(The toppings) were plenty, but were just kind of thrown on with no regard to proper sandwich construction, thus making it quite messy to eat,” he said. “The peppers and onions were good with the brisket and the sauce, but could have used some sort of seasoning.
“However the addition of cheese and veggies to a brisket sandwich is a new experience for me, and I would be more than willing to try it again.”
It would definitely be interesting to go back on a livelier night, when there is entertainment, and see how close Nola’s is to the New Orleans aura it tries to replicate. Greg heard from a friend Nola’s was packed later in the evening when there was entertainment.
We would have preferred to sit inside and the service could use some work, but the unique variety of choices would bring us back, at least for takeout.
Service/Atmosphere: Friendly, but fairly slow service. The atmosphere was pretty good because Charlotte is already such a unique setting, and I imagine it would probably be pretty cool to be there for live entertainment.
Food: The components may not always blend together perfectly, but the individual items are good and the choices are relatively unique with good variety.
Value: Decent, though not quite the bang for the buck we expected.
Overall: It didn’t meet our overall expectations, but I’d definitely eat Nola’s food again.
Visit online: http://www.nolasweb.com/index.html