WHAT I'M GOING to say may sound like an insult, but it's not. The new dinner menu at Tasty n Sons reminds me of classy Applebee's.
After 5:30 pm, Tasty n Sons transforms into the magical, idealized, scrumptious version of Applebee's depicted in commercials. It's a place where you can hang with friends over (super-balanced) cocktails or a pint of (local craft) beer and eat (OMG so good) Alabama barbecue chicken, without spending a ton of cash. It won't win any Michelin stars, but the execution and food will win plenty of hearts.
Prior to December, I had braved Tasty n Sons' ridiculous wait times for shakshuka and chocolate potato doughnuts, but I had never had dinner there. It was a missing spot on my map, eclipsed in my mind by the steak-centric greatness at downtown's Tasty n Alder.
Last November, on the heels of opening the so-so Mediterranean Exploration Company in the Pearl, restaurateur John Gorham shut down Tasty n Sons' for two weeks, reopening with a small remodel and revamped dinner service. (The blessed brunch remains mostly the same.)
The old crimson cinderblock walls were painted a light gray, opening up the narrow dining room, while the bar area is ever so slightly bigger, giving you the option to have a good sit-down meal in either space.
The menu is largely Americana, served up family-style, and flitting from clam chowder and linguine with ragu to fried chicken and tasty mussel frites with a super garlicky aioli.
A great meal should start with Carolina peel 'n' eat shrimp ($13), dusted heavily with spices, and mercifully served with hot, moistened (sorry for using that word, folks!) napkins with lemon for your fingers. Nightly specials are worth a peek, especially the Alabama barbecue chicken ($17). It's currently available only on Mondays, but it belongs on deck daily. It's a juicy platter of bird, cut into quarters and served with coleslaw and pickles on the side. The real beauty comes from the white barbecue sauce, a vinegar mayonnaise blend with a nice bite of horseradish.
The real business of deliciousness starts with the mains and sides. The "Mains 'n' Twos" portion of the menu offers homey country cooking like vegetable potpie or Cajun meatloaf, along with two sides ($17-22). It easily feeds two, especially if you throw in an extra side for $6. You'll want to do this, because the sides nearly eclipsed their meaty companions (skip the slimy okra). The mac 'n' cheese, served in a mini cast-iron pan, boasts great toasted cheese crusties on the edges. Broccolini, often bitter and burnt in restaurants, was just the right level of crispy and sprinkled with salty cheese. And a shoutout to the prep cooks who make the stock for the insanely savory cheesy grits—we nearly ordered a second pan.
With such a range, it's only to be expected that a few items weren't up to snuff. Let's be real about what was billed as Cast Iron Cassoulet à la Bouvier ($18) on the menu: It's just fancy, oversweet American baked beans. The barbecue pork ribs ($22) were just meh, with no real smoky bark to speak of. A pastrami coppa steak ($18) had great New York deli flavor, but the meat itself was far too chewy.
The waitstaff were knowledgeable, steering us toward Aunt Paula's French toast sundae ($9), a towering monument to caramel, walnuts, bananas, and breakfast food. Unlike Applebee's employees, they also aren't required to wear a minimum amount of flair, unless you count topknots and large glasses.
Dinner (reviewed): Sun-Thurs 5:30–10 pm, Fri-Sat 5:30–11 pm. Brunch daily 9 am–2:30 pm. Happy hour daily 2:30-5 pm. Call ahead for large groups.