After a wonderful Saturday evening enjoying some of the finest classical music offered by the South Carolina Philharmonic, my husband and I (all dressed up in our formal attire) decided we should continue the celebration with an equally appropriate sophisticated restaurant. We had often seen people dressed up on our visits to Gervais and Vine but seeing as how we had been their recently, we decided to seek out a different place. After careful consideration we decided on Nonnah’s. This restaurant is located in the heart of the Vista and very close to the Koger Center, which is where we were coming from.

Nonnah’s is famous for their desserts and coffee, being voted “Best of Columbia” by several publications every year since their 1996 grand opening. We had been to this café-style restaurant many times for their seven layer cakes, rich cheesecakes, and an occasional glass of port, but we had never eaten from the dinner side of the menu.

We were lucky to beat the late-night rush. Shortly after 9pm, the small establishment quickly filled up. While most area restaurants are filled by 7pm, Nonnah’s handles the after-dinner crowd, advertising a kitchen that stays open late. While the doors open as early as 5pm, they remain open until 11pm Mon.-Thurs. and as late as 12:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights.

We started by ordering a bottle of Clean Slate Riesling. It was a tad sweeter than I would prefer, but it made an excellent pairing with the lobster tail I ordered. We were a bit taken aback by the wait we were subjected to once we were seated. It took about 20 minutes for us to put in our order and at least another 45 minutes to get our food. For this reason, I would suggest ordering a salad or appetizer. The menu’s strawberry & feta salad and caramel brie sounded more like desserts than appetizers, but I regretted not ordering one or the other while I waited.

When my lobster tail arrived, I was sad to see that the twice-baked potato that was advertised as a side had been swapped for garlic mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes, however, ended up being the best tasting thing on the plate. The other side item, zucchini, was just bland and flavorless; absolutely no seasoning went into them. It’s as if they were just cooked in water and tossed on the plate. The lobster tail was equally flavorless and disappointing. Even the side of melted butter couldn’t help salvage the pricy meal. I started to wonder if the chef was out sick tonight and the S.A. had been called in frantically to take his place.

My husband’s food was a tad better. He had ordered the shrimp skewers described on the menu as “grilled shrimp marinated in Italian spices, served with wild rice and asparagus spears”. The best thing on his plate was the wild rice, also a side. After trying my bland food, I was surprised that the rice was even a little too salty for my liking. The asparagus was bland again, however; I would have preferred my husband’s home-cooked asparagus over the one served here. While I did not try the shrimp, my husband found it to have good flavor, but also found it tough and overcooked. I give this dinner 2 stars out of 5. The food was bland and the wait was long.

Nonnah’s overall rating, however, goes up to a 4 when you factor in their desserts. On this particular evening we were too full for dessert but took a piece of lemon cake home to be enjoyed later. It had a lovely butter cream icing on the outside in a decorative lattice design. Between it’s four layers of cake sat a thick, rich, lemon sauce which was my favorite part. On other occasions I have had the Chocolate Chocolate Cake which was so dense with chocolate that it took me three days to finish one piece. My husband loves Nonnah’s Chocolate Espresso Torte; it is smaller in size compared to their other desserts, but the sheer richness of it can make it last longer than their largest slice of cake. My favorite so far has got to be the Deep Dish Apple Praline Pie, served warm with your choice of vanilla ice cream or fat-free frozen yogurt (but at this point, who are we kidding). The praline topping makes all the difference here.

Overall, I am still a fan of Nonnah’s with its elegant, romantic atmosphere in the main dining room and it’s eclectic, colorful gallery room where you can sit and enjoy some of the local area artist’s works (each price listed and ready for the buying). With two bars and gourmet coffees it is a great after-show or after-dinner place to enjoy a cup of coffee or a cordial. And even though dinner was not their strong suit, I would still be willing to give their lunch menu a try sometime. If nothing else, go there for dessert and indulge in that sweet tooth.

Nonnah’s 930 Gervais St.Columbia, SC

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