"Stand By Me," the rendition by Ben E. King, plays smoothly in the background, and while it is midday, the lights are low and the relaxing atmosphere put me at ease in the midst of my busy Monday.
NSB Bar & Grill, previously known as North Shore Bistro, is nestled in the River Point Shopping Center in Bayside, on North Port Washington Road. Featuring a variety of choices, you won't find a plain ol' pizza here.
We were seated in a large, half-circle booth in the corner of the restaurant, which offered a nice view of the whole place – and of the vast array of liquor choices displayed behind the bar. Half a dozen other patrons chattered casually over their lunch, and the music shifted from smooth oldies to a selection peppered with slow pop songs.
Then I was introduced to Josh Jonas – not a long-lost, forgotten Jonas brother – my 24-year-old server from Milwaukee. His recommendation for a glass of wine was the Bridlewood Pinot Grigio, but I'm more of a sweeter wine fan, so I opted for the German Riesling by J.J. Muller. Very light and fruity, this was not your typical wine to pair with a burger, but the slight apple flavor was crisp and refreshing.
As for the food, I have a rule I've set for myself regarding this Eat Local column: I have to try something new. And new I found, because I've never eaten buffalo before. The buffalo came in burger form, smothered in fresh mozarella cheese, chipotle aioli and wilted spinach. Lucky for me, Josh was well-educated on the ingredients because I had no clue what aioli was.
"Honestly, it's a fancy flavored mayo," he said.
Josh asked how I wanted the meat prepared, and while I usually say medium, he suggested I order it medium-rare because buffalo meat is so lean, it tends to cook more quickly and dry out.
A great suggestion because the meat was just barely pink, and it even tasted lean. It's strange to eat a burger that isn't just oozing with fat, but it's nice to eat a burger and not feel bad about it.
The mozarella was in small, oddly formed clumps and very creamy. The aioli had a distinctly smoky flavor with a little zing at the end. Purple onions and a ripe tomato complemented the freshness of the meat, adding an even wider array of flavors.
The wilted spinach was different for me. While I prefer spinach over lettuce on almost any occasion, I'd never had it wilted before. The leaves were warm and sort of squished when I bit down. While I liked it, I think I would have prefered it to be crispy and uncooked.
Since I didn't have a tape measure, I used a standard pen to try and figure out how tall this burger was, and it was nearly the same height, so they sure don't skimp on size here.
While I worked on the monster burger, accompanied by a side salad and a pickle, my eyes worked their way around the room. Another waiter was bringing out the dessert tray, and it was immense.
Josh recommended the coconut cream pie, but my burger was so filling I just couldn't make dessert. NSB also has many ice cream drinks and a wide array of liquor options for those looking for a liquid dessert menu.
Despite the upscale atmosphere and stellar service, the prices reflect a more reasonable approach to dinning in the North Shore.
The buffalo burger was $13, and the glass of Riesling was $6. Taking a quick inventory of the menu, the most expensive item is the braised short ribs and sea scallops at $25 a plate, but most items on the menu range $15 to $20 for a full entree and $10 to $15 for a burger or sandwhich.
For a full copy of the menu, please visit the NSB website here.
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Editor's Note: The original version of this story said the previous name of NSB Bar & Grill was North Shore Bar & Grill. The previous name was North Shore Bistro.