Nicholas Restaurant

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.

Vegan Mezza
Nicholas Platter 1

Baba Ganouj
Nicholas Baba

Pita
Nicholas Bread

Garbanzo plate
Nicholas Chickpeas

Mjadra
Nicholas lentil and rice

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Address: 318 SE Grand Ave. Portland, OR 97214
Mon.-Sat. 10am-9pm, Sun. 12pm-9pm

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8 responses to “Nicholas Restaurant

  1. Oh man, that first picture is killing me. I haven’t been to Nicholas in way too long. 😐 I wasn’t thrilled with the garbanzo thing either, so now I always just sub something else out for it.

  2. I love the chickpea thing…

    The place I love more than Nicholas’ however is Ya Hala on 80th and Stark (http://www.yahalarestaurant.com/). I was once told that a daughter of the Nicholas family ran it but don’t know if that is true.

    Regardless the place is even more vegan friendly than Nicholas’. They have trees marked on the menu next to all of the vegan stuff and are super accomodaing. The are totally worth the trip to the “outer” East side!

  3. Thanks, Alt Martha. We will definitely have a Ya Hala review in the future. Both of us have gone there and enjoyed it – particularly the fantasticly smoky and creamy baba ganouj. I must say that I’m dissapointed that their to-go orders include store-bought bread. For pita, my hands down favorite is Hoda’s on Belmont.

  4. Pingback: Arabian Breeze « Stumptown Vegans·

  5. I love Nicholas… Just so you know, the bother(son of Nicholas) runs Hodas but ya hala is run by someone else. Also the vegetarian mezza at Nicholas is totally vegan except for the falafal tatziki, which you can sub the tahini sauce for. You won’t get the majadra, but you will get spinach pie and manakish. Yum!

  6. I know (casually) the owner of Habibi and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t own Nicholas… pretty sure. But he did recently open a 2nd location DT and his brother is opening a place in (I think) Beaverton.

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