Date: June 17, 2007
Times Visited: 5+
I find dining at Nicholas Restaurant to be a real treat. It’s cozy, authentic-feeling and tasting, quick and dare I say, cheap. And I mean cheap in the best way possible – which means pretty great food for a lower price than you may pay elsewhere. One meal, plus the freshly made pita, can certainly feed two, especially if it’s a vegan mezza of their Lebanese & Middle Eastern specialties.
Sure, the wait outside may appear overwhelming at first, but odds are high that you won’t find yourself waiting long. Recently I went with three other people, and even though there were about 15 people outside, we had a table in less than 10 minutes. Our table of four shared the vegan mezza platter for 2 ($17.50), and an order of baba ganouj, and we took home enough food for 2 additional servings.
The vegan mezza consists of what I would consider the best hummus in town: extremely creamy with a perfect balance of garlic and tahini, tabouli, falafel on top of tahini sauce, mjadra (which is cooked lentils and rice), a garbanzo plate and fresh pita bread. Now, the garbanzo plate of slightly soft chickpeas is something I find pleasant, if not a little plain. I also have to get the idea of chickpea overload out of my head in order to enjoy it. However, my partner did refuse to eat the leftovers, and it seemed to be the least favorite of my fellow diners. But truthfully, how could it stand up against the bigger than your head, two heads, probably even four heads warm pita bread? Pair a tear of the pita with hummus, or make your own mini falafel sandwich, and you know why I chose to go here for my birthday dinner last year. The falafel itself is great on its own, too. Nicholas certainly offers one of the reliably tastier falafel wraps in town, too.
The vegan mezza is not the only vegan meal available at Nicholas, either. There are many items marked “vegan” on the menu, and items that are available to be made vegan as well. These options include grape leaves, a veggie sandwich, Lebanese salad, spinach pie, shatta (which is a red hot pepper dish) and veggie kabobs.
Note that the owners also operate Habibi, downtown, which has a very similar menu although it is somewhat pricier. Personally, I prefer Nicholas for the environment, which helps make the meal. My only complaint is that the flies are annoying when the front is open in warmer weather, but it’s still worth the buzzing. My next visit is already in the works.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Address: 318 SE Grand Ave. Portland, OR 97214
Mon.-Sat. 10am-9pm, Sun. 12pm-9pm