Along the stretch of Davis Street in Oak Cliff where small brick homes bleed into businesses dealing in produce, piñatas and flowers, there's Nova. The exterior of the building has a commercial, mid-century vibe with its flat, elongated storefront and wall of windows. The design makes sense; before it was reincarnated as a gastropub, the building originally housed a Dairy Queen. But this building's Blizzard days are long gone. Since it opened in 2010, Nova has settled into its neighborly role by providing a space for locals to eat and imbibe into the wee hours.
Inside, the mid-century feel continues, but think less Design Within Reach and more classic diner. This diner, however, has gone to college and replaced its greasy spoons with some ambient lighting fixtures and comfortable bar stools. And a brunch menu.
The eight-dish menu covers the classics with options like Benedict, chilaquiles, egg white omelets and steak and eggs. While the prices are also typical of Dallas brunch entrees at $10 to $16, the drink specials are good enough to be loss leaders. Mojitos, Bloody Marys and Champagne and juice are $3.50 each, and none too shy on the booze, while specialty cocktails will set diners back a whopping $5.
But what to soak up all that alcohol with? That is the question. Well, that is a question. Another question might be, "Why do you drink so much before noon?" or "Have you ever considered getting help?" But let us not trouble our noggins with such philosophizing.
An order of chicken and waffles ($15) looked lovely. The drumstick and thigh were fried until coppery brown. Resting beneath the chicken was a thick, golden waffle bathed in a sauce of cinnamon and honey. A crown of microgreens did what microgreens always do by eliciting anticipation that yes, here was something special.
The actual dish proved more common. The chicken called for salt, especially when paired with that sweet cinnamon sauce. But for those who take their chicken and waffles with syrup instead of gravy, it made for a fine rendition. Was it worth the exponential price increase compared with the chicken and waffles passed through fast-food windows? The short answer is no. The long answer is that while eating chicken and waffles in one's car is a feast for the senses, something is to be said for the environment afforded by Nova, where live jazz and a covered patio reinforce brunch not as a meal but as a lifestyle choice.
The shrimp and grits ($15), though — oh, sweet baby child. Those who have had near-death experiences will report having looked upon the face of God. Their descriptions of his countenance often include "flecks of white" and "pink half-moons." What they are describing is shrimp and grits, people. Nova does a version that doesn't quite equal Hattie's but still delivers a piledriver when it comes to brunch competition.
The grits were everything a Southerner could want: cheesy, creamy and with enough chew to keep it interesting. Ideally, the shrimp would have been larger, but all was (mostly) forgotten when they combined with the grits and a thin, tomato-based andouille sausage gravy. Each bite delivered savory, salty goodness and was devoured until no morsel remained.
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Do not let the Dairy Queen shell fool you. The brunch menu, coupled with Nova's more-relaxing-than-a-fistful-of-benzos atmosphere, makes this place a great option for locals and the devoutly religious alike.*
*God's face does not actually appear in the grits.
Nova, 1417 W Davis St.