Monday, July 2, 2007

Nick's Coffee Shop- A cloud over my coffee.

Nick’s Coffee Shop is a local institution if you live in the Pico/La Cienega area. Personally, I must have driven past it a dozen or so times and it never caught my eye. Coming here on a Sunday at noon, my friend Paul and I, were foolishly unprepared for a long line. I’m spoiled having hit some of the quieter places to dine lately. I can’t remember the last time I had to wait for a table.

We checked out the menu while we waited. You'd be hard pressed to find something you DIDN'T want on this menu. It has an extensive menu that features diner favorites as well as interesting new takes on classics. Regular french toast wasn't good enough. They had jazz it up a bit. I settled on the Apple Walnut Bread French Toast with a side of grits while Paul got the Chilliburger.

Waiting outside in the hot sun, we saw several people walk up and be greeted by first name. This began to clue us in to the neighborhood nature of Nick’s Coffee Shop. I consider myself a House of Pies regular but nobody has ever greeted me by name. After waiting a half an hour for a table, we finally were seated. The garish colors of the outside are contrasted with the classic interior. Large leather booths and an intimate counter make Nick’s inside cozy and friendly. Once again this is a diner covered in photographs. Headshots of “Hey, it’s that guy!” and group photos and pictures of the owner, as well as a picture of the incomparable Rip Taylor. Damn I love what that man does with confetti.

While we waited roughly fifteen more minutes for a server to stop by and take our order we took time to read the cover page of the menu. It details the heart breaking story of the owners. Nick's had been around for a long time and was in danger of closing up shop. A woman who had been a waitress there years ago found out about the closing. Her husband and she put their life savings into turning it around. It was their love and devotion to each other and the neighborhood that really cemented Nick's Coffee Shop's position in the community. The wife passed away some years ago of cancer leaving an odd cloud of mourning hovering over the place.

Don't get me wrong it's not like it's a wake in there. It's lively and children laughing and sass being dispensed and all that. It is just once you read that story on the menu, you just feel the grief and the love tied into the place. That makes it hard to write less than a glowing review.... Note I said "hard" not impossible.

Finally, the waitress took our order. I inquired about the pie “Apple or cherry." she replied, "Wait, maybe it’s peach” Having made my own peach pie the day before, I ordered the apple pie. A lady worked the counter giving everyone some aforementioned sass along with their coffee. And as the Uncle Ruthie review framed on the wall next to me so elegantly stated “A rainbow of races are found at Nick’s” So if a racially diverse dining experience is what you want, this is your place. It's right there in print.

After a waiting period just a bit longer than "acceptable" and just shy of "my 30th birthday", we got our food. The grits were bland and watery which was disappointing since I hadn’t had grits in years. Luckily, my Apple Walnut Bread French Toast was worth the wait. The danger with any specialty bread that is naturally going to be a bit sweeter than normal, putting it through the french toasting process may make it unbearably sweet. Add syrup on that and you might have a recipe for instant diabetes. What I got at Nick’s was sweet but not too sweet. A quick swirl of syrup and it was nearly perfect. It was served with a small bowl of apple compote. The compote should’ve been heated but came room temperature. This kept the meal from being absolutely perfect. On a swing by by the waitress, I cancelled my pie since really, that would have bee gut busting to try to cram a pie in there as well.

Paul was pleased with his meal. At first he wasn' sure if there was an actual patty underneath all that chilli, but he soon found it. The crispy crinkle fries can be rare to find and are alwasy delicious. They remind me of school lunch room fries.

Here’s where our ordeal began. After finishing our meals. Clearly being finished. There was nothing left to nibble on my plate and Paul had done a decent job killing his meal and had pushed it forward. We waited for about fifteen minutes for our waitress to bring the check. When she didn’t, we asked for it. We then examined more of the pictures on the wall. A promotional still ofAthena Demos from Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming. As every true Battlestar geek will know, BSG:SC was the ill-fated “made on spec” sequel series from the late 90s that is unable to be shown legally anywhere. At least ten more minutes passed before she brought it. Paul said that if he were alone he would have walked out. Luckily he respects my craft (yes diner reviewing is a craft!) not to get me banned from some place.
So in conclusion, the food was overall great (skip the grits). The service not so much, but considering the service is described as top notch everywhere else Nick's has been user-reviewed, maybe we just went on an off day. Oddly the sad love story of the place might make it an excellent date place. Cancer, life savings, "rainbow of races" all make for great date fodder.

Price: $9-$15
Food: Great.
Service: Lacking
Pie: "Apple or cherry. Wait, maybe peach."

8536 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 652-3567

1 comment:

Paul said...

Instead of "lacking", I would have listed the service as "shitty".