If an ethnic restaurant's credibility can be gauged by those who patronize it, consider this place very, very Romanian. Besides the check that's presented as you leave, there are few indications that Nelly's is a restaurant and not your Romanian buddy's living room: While taking my order, the waitress was interrupted by her son who rolled up on a skateboard and asked to borrow a penny. Fellow diners keep their eyes glued to flat-screen TVs that broadcast hits from (what else) the Romanian channel and chain-smoking men chat with Nelly herself (look for the glam little lady with an extravagantly piled coif) as she slings out cocktails, Romanian beer and little cups of coffee from behind the bar.
Expect a menu that's scant in size and heavy on the meat: Papa-bear-portion soups (most around $5) include meatball, beef vegetable and tripe. The flavorful broths beg for sopping-up action, so baskets of fluffy-as-can-be bread come in handy (my dining companion was moved to declare: "Dude, me and this bread are gonna go to town" as he eagerly commenced dunking). "From the Grill" selections (about $10) include skinless sausage, pork chops and fried chicken liver, along with non-meat items like a creamy, garlic-infused eggplant salad.
Fancy some Romanian tunes to complement your from-the-motherland meal? Swing by on weekend nights to witness live entertainment. Cash only.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg