This was my third visit to Nick’s on Broadway for Breakfast. Two of those times occurred before the expansion of the restaurant to include the bar and new entrance. They also apparently serve dinner now as well, which I hear is very good. All I remembered from my first two visits were that both times, I had to wait for 20 or more minutes to get seated and that the food was great. The first time, I went during lent, so I had the vegetarian tofu scramble. Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I don’t choose tofu and veggies often when dining out. Nonetheless, this dish was very well done with fried tofu, stir fried veggies, and fresh seasonings. The second time I went, Nick’s on Broadway revitalized my love of Eggs Benedict and hollandaise sauce after a harrowing experience at a restaurant in North Carolina called Crook’s Corner* that served the worst hollandaise sauce I have ever tasted (imagine an overly sour, lemon-infused, yellow mess on a plate that made you consider forcing yourself to vomit just so it wouldn’t be inside you anymore). Let’s get to the review of my third visit to Nick’s though…
Nick’s On Broadway
Providence, RI 02909
Ok… this is the part where I make some enemies. Before I begin this rant, just remember that I said the food was fantastic and that I am fully aware that Nick’s does just fine regardless of my opinion! As I mentioned before, this was my third visit to Nick’s, but this visit was different. The first thing I noticed when entering Nick’s was that, as usual, there was a wait. I can forgive a wait at a good restaurant, which is to be expected, but what I can’t forgive is the incredibly poor layout of the bar-side addition to Nick’s. They moved the entrance to the newer side of the restaurant and on that side, the bar is practically in the middle of the restaurant up against a dividing wall that they never took down when they expanded into the new space (see the picture below). The bar really should have been placed up against the right side wall, so that they could take down the dividing wall between the two sides of the restaurant and place a lot more seating.
While I was there, a significant number of people saw the wait (at that time 45 minutes or more) and immediately left. The amount of business that Nick’s loses by not being able to serve the customers who want to eat there is probably worth offering a few extra tables with a roomier redesign of the restaurant. More importantly, it is especially worth it to make seating more comfortable rather than the constant bumping of elbows into the backs of customers waiting to be seated who are pressed right up against you while you eat on the bar side. Even worse is when the poor servers can barely walk through the congested walk way on the right side of the restaurant because of the tight quarters.
The only thing that could have made the atmosphere more uncomfortable was if there was loud, awkward, pop music playing… oh wait, there was. The cramped space felt like being at a club where I imagined that any moment I would see a lot of gross guys trying to sneak up from behind unsuspecting ladies trying to dance in a circle. The volume of the place due to the loud music felt more like dinner than a breakfast or brunch. I could barely hear what was being said to me over the music and strangers yelling 5 inches from me. Call me old fashioned, but after a Saturday night, I would imagine that many people would prefer a quieter breakfast/brunch experience. I could be wrong, but I think this is all new and I prefer the old Nick’s atmosphere much, much more. Nick’s seems to have caught a case of the “trendies,” which is when a great place becomes a little too trendy for it’s own good.
My advice to customers: Get there very early in the morning to avoid a long wait (although on a Sunday that’s almost impossible), because otherwise it gets crowded and I’m tempted to say that it isn’t worth putting up with that mess (especially on the weekend) even though the food is very much up there in terms of quality. While they don’t take reservations for breakfast, it is rumored that they take reservations for dinner, so make sure to do that if you can.
Ok, let’s get back on the positive bandwagon. Everyone working at Nick’s was awesome. They were friendly, accommodating, and efficient. The hostess even offered people tea or coffee while they waited crammed like sardines in the entrance, so that was a really nice touch. The servers never snapped or complained about anyone blocking their way (and trust me, there were plenty of potential customers in the way). Our server took our order quickly, brought us coffee refills before we needed them, and made sure our food was still warm when it showed up before promptly bringing us the check. I can see why Nick’s received the tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2012.
It was highly recommended that I order the Cassoulet, which consisted of pork, beans, two eggs, and two pieces of grilled, buttery bread. They served the the meal in a bowl, so it looked fantastic (see below), smelled great, and had a surprising taste from what you might expect, but in the best way. The white beans (at least I think they were white beans) had a bunch of savory and sweet spices that I couldn’t quite place that sort of created a “gravy” that the beans lounged in. I ordered my eggs over easy because I thought they would mix well with the beans that way and the eggs came with a dollop of what was probably creme fraiche. The grilled bread was excellent and possibly one of my favorite parts of the dish. It had a nice crunch, but was also soft inside. The sort of stick shape made it great for dipping into the food. The only drawback I saw with my meal was that I expected the pork to actually consist of larger chunks of pork. Instead, the pieces of pork, which admittedly did add a lot of flavor, were little tiny pieces about the size of the beans. The description on the menu was a little misleading because a it said something like pork with beans, but this was more like really good “pork-and-beans” you would make while camping. Also, a cassoulet by the French definition seems to traditionally have larger pieces of meat in it, so I’m not sure that was the right name to use (although in Nick’s defense, any slow cooked bean casserole with some meat seems to loosely qualify as a cassoulet by American standards). Despite this though, I couldn’t finish my bowl and I mean that in a good way. It was a hearty, filling, and very tasty meal, which felt like breakfast, but could also pass for a hearty lunch (or brunch). I would recommend trying this dish for something a little different than usual breakfast/brunch fare, but that still hits the spot.
Simply put: Great, imaginative food, but horrible atmosphere in the morning. I would guess that it’s better during dinner time, but I can’t assume that it gets any less crowded because not only does Nick’s have a devout local following, but it deserves it for the quality of the food. I would easily recommend eating here because the service is great and the unique tastes are worth it, but I can’t say that Nick’s makes it inviting to do so.
Rating: A monkey marching band playing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
*A Note about Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina: This isn’t a terrible place. They just served a terrible dish on an otherwise good menu. The pancakes are especially good there. I would just avoid at all costs a dish they call the “Eggs New Bern,” which has the infamous hollandaise sauce I mentioned. Otherwise, I would recommend going here.
Well, it looks great. We moved up to the beautiful north country in California from the Bay Area where waiting in a restaurant is a pastime, and not one of my favorites. Not as much selection up here obviously but nice not have to sit on the person next to you’s head in order to eat your meal.
I agree with you completely! It seems like we sacrifice comfort/convenience for “quality” and culinary variety in the city, which may be a fair trade to most people. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for being able to enjoy a quality meal in a comfortable place.