Saturday, June 12, 2010

Nick's Cafe--On the Other Side of China(town) is America.

I knew it existed, but I didn't quite know where Nick's Cafe (not to be confused with Nick's Coffee Shop ) actually was. One day I took a slightly different way into work and just happened to glance the right way and, to my surprise, there it was, just before Chinatown.

I decided to leave for work a little bit earlier yesterday and get some breakfast. I knew the building was small, but I had no idea until I stepped inside. It's all counter with a single table on the far side, but I don't think anyone is meant to sit there since it was piled with boxes when I walked in.

I'm not shy about taking pictures anymore unless it seems obtrusive to the other diners; in Nick's it definitely felt obtrusive. We were packed in. I was sandwiched between two groups of guys, one of which was arguing about the Lakers and the other about parachuting--not civilian parachuting but Airborne/knifing Nazis in the throat--parachuting. I think either party would have been a little edgy about a camera snapping photos.

On the other side of the counter were two cops, and its creepy taking pictures of cops. It's creepy for them; it's creepy for me. They only get their picture taken when they are doing something wrong or when they are being targeted by the evil South Africans from Lethal Weapon 2.

I waited for them to get up before surreptitiously taking this awful picture.

Let me also say that when I got the coffee at Nick's Cafe and it awesome, I knew I was off to a good start.

Nick's is only open until 2pm (Mon-Sat, not open on Sundays) so the menu only covers breakfast and lunch. It is a solid diner menu: a dozen different egg specials, pancakes, waffles, sandwiches and soup--sadly no desserts. I saw that their corned beef hash breakfast was made with "fresh ground beef," so I wanted to give it shot.

I have to say, that this was hands down the best corned beef hash I have had in California (the best overall was at Jam in Portland). It tasted fresh, as fresh as a brine-cured meat can be. This was so far beyond the canned stuff I've had at most restaurants as to actually taste almost unfamiliar as "corned beef hash." There were no cubes of potato and there was no dog food sliminess. The only negative thing I could say about it was that it was shade too greasy.

The potatoes at Nick's are also amazing. They are shredded so fine that they must crisp instantly on the griddle. The only thing I can really compare them to are Chinese crispy fried noodles.

My toast also came with a homemade apple and grape jelly (I think that's what it was). I also assume it was homemade because it wasn't sweet enough for store bought jam. They also make and sell their own salsa, but there was nothing on my plate that I thought salsa would improve, so I skipped it.

By the time I was halfway done with my breakfast, everyone else had cleared out and it was just the cook, the server and me. The server and I chatted about scooters and vacations and Fall weather. It was very pleasant.

I really fell in love with Nick's Cafe. I can see myself going there at least once every two weeks or so, or whenever I haul my butt out of bed early enough to go before work. It's working class; it's simple; it's delicious; it's what a diner is meant to be.

Food: Great.
Service: Friendly.
Price: $6-$9. (Cash only, but ATM on premises)
Pie: No pie.

Nick's Cafe
1300 N. Spring st.
Los Angeles CA 90012


David Allen said...

I visited Nick's last Saturday on your recommendation and was glad I did. Quaint place with great grub.

The hash was heavenly. Yes, it's a heavenly hash. Got fruit instead of the potatoes and was impressed by the care they took; two kinds of grapes, for instance, and a strawberry was sliced vertically six times.

Two additions to your review:

1) Coffee is free on weekends.

2) They're now open Sundays!

Nick's is transit-friendly, only a couple of blocks from the Chinatown stop on the Gold Line, so I'm sure I'll go back.

Anonymous said...

This place is fantastic. And even better....they're open until 7:00 every day but Monday, when they close at 2:00.