Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rate-A-Restaurant #202: Nickel Diner

Restaurant: The Nickel Diner

Location: 524 S. Main (Downtown)

Type of restaurant: Diner

We stipulated: We were planning to meet up with Friend of Franklin Avenue Eric Lynxwiler for breakfast... and I suggested Philippe's, since I love their fluffy fluffy pancakes. But then I discovered that it was the weekend of the Chinese New Year Parade, and figured we should probably avoid the Chinatown traffic. We'd been wanting to try the Nickel Diner, so that actually opened the door to try something new.

They stipulated: Sorry folks, this is 2009 -- nothing costs a nickel. (Above, that's an uncovered mural from long ago, not an actual menu from now.) Meanwhile, as they grow the business, for now the Nickel Diner is open just for breakfast and lunch, on Wednesdays through Sunday.

What we ordered: Mike (above) Not-quite-vegan Ranchero -- grilled tofu on tortillas with beans, cheese, avocado and salsa; $9.25

Maria: Polenta with maple syrup and a choice of bacon (which she chose), chicken apple sausage or ham; $5.50

Evan: Buttermilk pancakes (3); $6.50

and, of course, we bought to go...

Nickel Diner's famed Maple Glaze Bacon Donut.

High point: There was something tasty about that tofu (yes, for breakfast; I know, I like weird things) -- and I was actually pleased that they put regular cheese on it, although had I been vegan, I would have been concerned over the fact that it wasn't soy cheese, as billed in the menu. (Again, fine with me.) It's an interesting menu.

Low point: Well, I did find a hair in my dish -- but was hungry enough to let it go. (I'm very forgiving, apparently. Didn't even mention it to the waiter, perhaps because we were with someone and I didn't want to make a fuss.) I could have also used more coffee; my cup went empty for long periods of time.

Overall impression: There's a lot of promise in the Nickel Diner, and I'd love for it to evolve into Los Angeles' version of SF's Dottie's True Blue Cafe, one of our favorite eateries up there (and, coincidentally, also in a slightly sketchy neighborhood). Parking's a big problem, especially now that the city has upped the price of meters (we lucked out and parked at a broken one). And we could have used a bit more -- a bit more bacon, a bit more coffee.

Chance we'll go back: Yes, as I like the idea of the Nickel Diner a lot -- and would like to try more items before giving up on it. The Dutch Baby pancake sounds great, as does the french toast and blueberry pancakes... so I'll be back. Eventually.

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